Grace and Peace
Grace and peace are the two things the authors of the New Testament most consistently emphasize in their greetings to New Testament believers. Those authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, want their readers to know grace and peace are the most basic and most valuable possessions they have as believers in Jesus Christ.
The salutation "Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ," or some close form of it, occurs in 16 of the 27 New Testament books. It is Paul's usual salutation, but it is not unique to him. Peter also uses it in both of his letters:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.as does John in his second epistle and in the Apocalypse:
(1 Peter 1:1-2)
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord...
(2 Peter 1:1-2)
The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
In his lectures on Galatians, Luther has this to say about grace and peace:
(2 John 1-3)
John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood...
Grace and peace—these two words embrace the whole of Christianity. Grace forgives sin, and peace stills the conscience. The two devils who plague us are sin and conscience, the power of the Law and the sting of sin (1Cor. 15:56). But Christ has conquered these two monsters and trodden them underfoot, both in this age and in the age to come. The world does not know this; therefore it cannot teach anything sure about how to overcome sin, conscience, and death. Only Christians have this kind of teaching and are equipped and armed with it, so that they can overcome sin, despair, and eternal death. It is a teaching that is given only by God; it does not proceed from free will, nor was it invented by human reason or wisdom.All believers should have that grace and peace - the grace and peace given by God through Jesus. I have that grace and peace today, and I know it to be of great power. I did not have that grace and peace as a Pentecostal, and that is why I left Pentecostalism for Lutheranism. It had become obvious to me that Pentecostalism was not delivering grace and peace, and in fact, it was not even delivering that which it claimed to deliver, power to do signs and wonders.
These two words, “grace” and “peace,” contain a summary of all of Christianity. Grace contains the forgiveness of sins, a joyful peace, and a quiet conscience. But peace is impossible unless sin has first been forgiven, for the Law accuses and terrifies the conscience on account of sin. And the sin that the conscience feels cannot be removed by pilgrimages, vigils, labors, efforts, vows, or any other works; in fact, sin is increased by works. The more we work and sweat to extricate ourselves from sin, the worse off we are. For there is no way to remove sin except by grace. This deserves careful notice. For the words are easy; but in temptation it is the hardest thing possible to be surely persuaded in our hearts that we have the forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone, entirely apart from any other means in heaven or on earth.
Because the world does not understand this doctrine, it neither can nor will tolerate it. It brags about free will, about our powers, about our works—all these as means by which to earn and attain grace and peace, that is, the forgiveness of sins and a joyful conscience. But the conscience cannot be quiet and joyful unless it has peace through this grace, that is, through the forgiveness of sins promised in Christ. Many have worked hard, inventing various religious orders and disciplines, to find peace and a quiet conscience; but instead they have plunged even more deeply into even greater misery, for such tactics are merely ways of multiplying doubt and despair. Therefore your bones and mine will know no rest until we hear the Word of grace and cling to it firmly and faithfully.
(Martin Luther, Luther's works, vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4; J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, ed., Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis.)
It is still obvious to me that Pentecostals do not know grace and peace. They bear witness to it themselves. They bear witness that they don't know what to look for in their Christian life and are looking for the wrong things. Below is a posting that I've copied verbatim from the "Community Chapel Gathering" Web site. It expresses almost exactly the realities of Pentecostalism that I began to wake up to more than ten years ago and which eventually led me out of Pentecostalism.
I don't include the name of the author, for the person or the name of the person is not the important thing here. I don't know this lady and I didn't know her during my Chapel years. The point is that her experience of Pentecostalism is exactly what mine was and she expresses in almost exactly the same words I used at the time and would still use today.
Speaking in Tongues is the sign of what?
My comments on the CCG posting above:
Posted by xxxxx on 5/6/2006, 12:02 pm
Most of the questions I have asked and comments I have made on this subject have come from one of the deepest anguishes of my Christian life:
I speak in tongues from on high, but I do not have POWER from on high!
Sometimes I don't pay attention to this and sometimes I can hardly stand it. I don't even feel like I am really a "little Christ" at all.
Just because we are used to it, doesn't mean it is OK.
When I lay hands on people they don't get healed.
When I pray for people, their problems aren't solved.
When I rebuke demons they don't leave.
I can't even overcome some of the simplest of self-control issues.
I don't have wisdom in difficult circumstances.
I do not have the boldness that comes from God - only that which comes from me or my anger.
I have never had a vision (part of what Peter said about "This is that which was spoken of . . .")
I have never been slain in the spirit (by the way, is this scriptural? - said tongue in cheek!)
I have never been responsible for a miracle.
I have never been involved in a "greater things . . " moment.
What kind of Christianity is this?
(Picture here: arms flailing, pacing, saliva spouting, vocal intonations desperate, taking no breaths and all that . . .)
I don't think is is supposed to be this way!
So, when I ask us all about speaking in tongues, what I am really asking us to think about is "Do we have the thing that tongues is supposed to be the sign of?"
(OK, now calming to a gentle tear falling down my cheek)
What are we all to do?
I don't know, but I know I will never be happy with just speaking in tongues. I want so much more out of this Christian life. I want more than to understand how to study and how to understand the scriptures that have already been written!
I want to BE scripture!
Acts was just the beginning of the Church age! We aren't supposed to be like what Jesus WAS, but what he IS!
In one way, I believe that we "do greater things" in that we lead people to salvation. Jesus could never do this while he was alive the first time. Bringing someone into fellowship with the living God is truly the greatest event in the universe and healing their bodies and calming seas is nothing compared. I used to say that I thought ministering salvation to people was the fulfillment of that promise.
I don't believe that anymore - not that it isn't part of it. But now I see that I am still not fully saved.
I have not been saved from my sins much more than Abraham. My salvation is still by faith in the sacrifice of a lamb. But all my sins and flesh are still hanging on desperately!
And where is the power - the power that says, "if you cannot believe what I say, believe in the works that I do."
This is a desperate enigma of the Christian Church today and most especially in America.
I have heard amazing stories about missions to other countries; India and Africa and Mexico; people being raised from the dead, blind eyes seeing, lame walking, etc.
I don't know why it's not happening in the whole church, I don't know why it is not happening in my life. There are many suppositions and partial answers, but the bottom line is this:
The church strikes fear in the hearts of very few. People do not have to believe the words we say and there are hardly any works (that are supernaturally different from a community service organization) for them to look to as an alternative.
I cannot help shed tears when I think about this too long. It troubles me deeply.
These thoughts have been the foundation of questionings about tongues. No mathmatical, reasonable, greek and hebrew studies, examples or precedents mean much to me if I (and those I hang with) don't really have what tongues is the sign of.
Lest you get me wrong - I have deep respect for the study of the Bible and those who have dedicated so much time to it. I love the word of God and understanding much of it is even the foundation for my anguish on this subject.
Blessing to all of you!
This dear Christian lady has been deceived as to the nature and purpose of her faith. She is insecure; she doesn't even know if she is "fully saved." All because she, totally conditioned by Pentecostalism, is seeking the wrong kind of power. She doesn't know the power of God's grace and peace in Jesus and instead will accept only the power of signs and wonders.
This ignorance is what results in the instability and insecurity that I've written of in the past. This ignorance leaves Pentecostals open to chasing after every "ministry" where signs and wonders are said to be occurring. They accept every oddball doctrine out there if only the preachers of it are producing signs and wonders or powerful emotional experiences said to show the presence of God. As a result Pentecostals frequently crash and burn when those doctrines lead them right outside of Biblical faith and into some very dangerous practices in order to sustain what they think is the demonstration of God's power.
Or they think they aren't "yielded enough," haven't given up enough of themselves or their possessions, or must do more works of self-denial to prove themselves desperate enough in order to claim what they think are the only true marks of genuine faith. So much dependence on themselves instead of on Christ's finished work for them!
Pentecostals always think they haven't done enough or prayed enough because they aren't experiencing God's presence in the way they expect - the false way taught by fanatical, misled Pentecostal preachers. They live under a continual burden of guilt because the signs and wonders they expect from the model of Christianity they have been taught should be "normal" never in fact happen, except in reports from third world countries (which they don't personally know are really true anyway) and in crusades where emotions are whipped up by revivalistic techniques that can't be sustained in everyday life.
This is why Pentecostalism is not healthy, why I have come out of it, and why I continue to say that it was a major wrong turn in the history of the church. The authentic power of signs and wonders was only temporary. Looking for it today is mistaken. Demonstrations of that kind of power served to authenticate the apostles as true ministers of the Gospel of Christ and to establish the church before the authority of the written New Testament existed. The time for that kind of power is past - we now have the Word's authority in the written New Testament. The power it delivers in the grace and peace of Jesus is the permanent power of God's church.