When my mother shouted my full name across the house, it wasn’t always because I was in trouble. I find myself shouting my children’s names just to be silly at times. In fact, I like the idea of confusing them by every once in a while hollering their full names just to bring them near so I can bear hug them. It doesn’t always have to set a bad tone.
As I noted earlier, Paul was going to great lengths to set a good tone. Now that all of the people have been included in Paul’s letter with a loving refrain, he then greets them collectively by saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phile. 1:3). What could be better than that?
This greeting was Paul’s conventional greeting. He used it in all of his letters. But it doesn’t mean that it was superfluous. A typical Jewish greeting, even to this day, is “Shalom” which is the word “peace.” Paul understood peace to be found in Christ. He wrote this to the church in Rome:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:1-11)
Peace is a product of grace. Grace is described here as the generous gift of reconciliation that God freely gave to us while we were sinners. As Paul said, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We are justified by his blood and “saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom. 5:9). Such wrath is stored up for the enemies of the Lord. Without grace we remain His enemies and await His righteous wrath.
The words justice, righteousness, and wrath should stir up emotions of fear in all who have transgressed God’s law. That would be everyone, including those who are reading this now. We who are in Him, however, and reminded of the grave future that was once stored up for us, can now have peace, having been reconciled by God’s grace.
We have peace because through Christ we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. A greeting like this, coming from one who is imprisoned for Christ’s sake, is very significant. In light of his rejoicing during his suffering, we should rejoice for suffering less. James said in the benediction of his letter, those who are suffering should pray and those who are not suffering should sing praise (Jas. 5:13). Philemon, no doubt, understood this.
And as if the greeting could not be more significant, Paul points out that this grace and peace comes “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phile. 1:3). This means that this grace is divine and so is the peace that it produces because it comes from the Lord.
Passively speaking, although it was likely intentional, Paul makes a connection between God the Father and Jesus Christ. Such a remark would be blasphemous if Jesus were just an angel or a good man. But Paul was constantly debating with the Jews in the city temples, before he committed his ministry to the Gentiles, that Jesus was more than a man. Jesus was deity. Jesus was God! He still is.
Not to be redundant, but the word “our” is used again. It was not always used this way in Paul’s letters. In fact, this is the only personal letter in which he uses it. This is to point out that God was not only the Father of all who believe, He was the Father of Jesus. To the people, especially the Jews, referring to Jesus as God’s son was declaring that they had the same nature. Jesus was as much God as His Father was.
This phrase was important and carried a lot of theology. It taught that Jesus is God. And with grace and peace being the divine gift that Jesus gives through His atoning work on the cross, Paul is making a bold statement. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob graced us with Himself and reconciled us to Himself. So now we have peace, “Shalom.”
And this is not to mention that God is referenced as “our Father” since we are in Christ. Once more, Paul continues with his brotherly tone, calling all of the beloved together in grace and peace for the sake of Onesimus’ forgiveness.
From the book, Forgiveness: A Commentary on Philemon, by Jacob Abshire