Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (I Corinthians 1:1-4) NIV
Paul begins and ends every letter he wrote with this or a very similar phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus.” (I Corinthians 1:3). Paul’s letters to Timothy include, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (I Timothy 1:2). Why did Paul use these and similar phrases to begin and end all of his letters to churches and to individuals? What purpose does repetition accomplish?
Let’s look at another phrase repeated often in the Old Testament writings, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6). Moses is the first one to write these words, but David repeats them in the Psalms, Jonah quotes them back to God and they are in other places as well. Repetition of a thought or concept helps to cement that concept in our minds, hearts and souls. We often need this type of reminder.
Paul begins and ends his letters with the concept of grace – given to us by God, because it is extremely important that we remember daily, even hourly – the cost Jesus paid on the cross for our sins. God has extended grace to us – as believers – in Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Paul wants the church at Corinth to remember that they are grounded in grace as believers in Jesus as their Lord and savior. Before he says anything else to them, he sets the ground rules, he states the foundation of their faith, and then he goes on, “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus,” (I Corinthians 1:4).
The beginning of the letter to the Corinthian church reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son we just studied last week. In that story, both sons are offered grace by a compassionate, loving, patient, forgiving and gracious father. The father in the parable is a picture of how God does the same for you and me.
How might you demonstrate grace to someone this week? Perhaps the next time you are in a conflict conversation, you might try beginning the conversation with extending grace to the other person. Pray about who you need to show grace to in your relationships.