Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-2 (text at the bottom of the post)
The Apostle Paul opened his letter with a greeting to the Church, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Paul’s day, the standard greeting is “be happy” or “happiness!”1 It is a common greeting, and there is nothing wrong with it,2 but Paul replaced this common greeting “to be happy” with a similar-sounding word “grace.”3 Furthermore, his wishes was that grace and peace4 from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with the people receiving his letter.
We are doing a somewhat similar thing today when we say “have a blessed day” rather than “have a great day,” or when we replace “Happy Birthday” with “have a blessed Birthday.” On one hand, we can think of this as not being a big deal but just a different way of expressing greetings. On the other hand, if you really think about the state of blessedness from God, such simple replacement does carry a significance. It brings us to a conscious awareness that God is in our lives.
Common greetings can be so general and sometimes ambiguous:
I have said in the past to young people “have a wonderful evening at the prom.” They smiled and left. But then I could not help thinking, “why did they smile like that? Have they misunderstood me?” I didn’t mean that! I didn’t mean THAT wonderful! Well, what did I mean then? Did I not wish them to have a wonderful time? No, no, no, that is not what I meant either. I mean, yes, yes, yes, I did wish they had a wonderful time, but maybe we were thinking about “wonderful” differently?
Or more often than that, I have said to those entering college to “have fun in college.” I think college years are beautiful years, and I do sincerely wish everyone entering college to enjoy this special period of time in their lives. We make new friends, we learn new things, we handle things on our own, we manage our own time, we study, we socialize, we play games, we travel with friends, and we do have fun. Study is very important, but there are plenty of fun things people do in college beside studying. I certainly do not wish my young friends to have a dull college life or college years without fun.
But I did not mean fun without boundary, fun without God either. What I really meant to say was wonderful evening and fun days under the blessing of God.
Of course, a change in wording does not mean much in itself, and I am not suggesting that we should not use general greetings like “have a great day” from now on, but perhaps Paul’s change from a standard greeting to one that is God related can serve as a reminder that our life and our living are always related to Him. We are God’s people, and hopefully we all have said to God as David did, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” (Psa 16:2 TNIV)
So where ever you are and whatever you do or planning to do in the future, I wish you a happy day, a great future, and a wonderful life. Maybe I should also change my wording: I wish you a blessed happy day, a blessed great future, and a blessed wonderful life!
May the grace and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:1-2 TNIV)
- Chairen, or χαίρειν in Greek, which in verb form carries the meaning of “to be in a state of happiness and well-being, rejoice, be glad,” see Bauer, Walter, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), entry 7866.1. ↩
- We see a couple of such usage in the New Testament: a letter from a commander to a governor (Acts 23:26), and the greeting from James the brother of Jesus (Jam 1:1), but you have to use Greek to see the word χαίρειν, appearing at the end of both verses. ↩
- Charis, or χάρις in Greek ↩
- “Peace,” eirene (εἰρήνη) in Greek, Shalom ( שָׁל֣וֹם) in Hebrew, is a common/standard greeting in the Jewish community in Paul’s time, and even today. ↩