Ephesians 6:23-24, “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.”
In the last devotional I mentioned that while we often blow past the opening and closing words of New Testament letters, we need to check our hearts and take the time to ponder them because every single word of the Bible is God-breathed and filled with glory. In this spirit, I drew three insights out of Ephesians 6:21-22, and in this devotional, I’d like to draw four more insights out of Ephesians 6:23-24. While each of these insights has value of their own, my greater agenda in presenting them is to help us see the glory that is contained in all of God’s words that we might grow in the desire to ponder and delight in them all the days of our lives.
Brothers and Sisters
Paul writes, “Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:23-24). First, the Greek word here for “brothers” often means “brothers and sisters,” for as it is with Spanish when Greeks addressed a group of men and women they did so by using masculine words like “brothers” or “men.” This was not, and is not, an issue of sexism but rather a reality of how many languages function. I point this out because I want to ensure that all of you understand that Paul has all the believers in Ephesus in mind whether men or women. He is saying, “Peace be to the brothers and sisters,” and we should hear his words as such.
The Peace of God in Christ
With this in mind, let’s think about the words “peace, love, and grace.” Words like these are not simply formulaic words that sound good at the beginning and ending of a letter. To the contrary, words like these are profound, for in them the entirety of the gospel is contained. For example, with regard to the word “peace,” we have to ask what kind of peace Paul has in mind. To answer, let’s consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:11-18.
Paul writes, “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him, we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
So, the peace Paul prayed over the Ephesian church, and by extension over all who believe, is the peace of God from Jesus Christ that was purchased on the cross and causes us to be reconciled with God and one another. The peace he prayed over the Ephesian church was not superficial and merely emotional, but infinitely deep and anchored in Christ. This is what I mean when I say that the entirety of the gospel is contained in words like “peace, love, and grace,” and therefore we have to discipline ourselves not to pass over them quickly. In this spirit, I encourage you to take some time, look up the words “peace, love, and grace” in Ephesians and elsewhere, and pray for eyes to see the depth of meaning and application that are contained in them.
Love with Faith
In addition to the peace of God in Christ, Paul prays for “love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This carefully crafted phrase has in mind not just the feelings or activities involved with love but the very root of love. That is, Paul is asking God to give his people the kind of love that looks to God, is rooted in God, derives from God, is sustained by God, and is filled with the power of God through the Holy Spirit. Paul is praying for a love that is not merely human, but that flows from God through our Lord Jesus Christ and “glues” the body of Christ together.
For instance, if someone asked me, “Do you love your wife?” I could answer, “Yes, I love my wife—she was chosen by God before the foundation of the world. She was adopted by God through Jesus Christ. She was redeemed by the blood of Christ so that all her sins were forgiven. She was lavished with grace in Christ so that she’s come to know something of the mystery of what God is doing in Christ. She was sealed with the promised Holy Spirit and therefore has the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead at work in her. She is a part of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the temple of the Lord; and she was given to me as a life-long partner that I might learn to love her as Christ loves the church so that my love for her might be a visible display of how Jesus feels for the church and how he treats her as well. So yes, I love my wife!”
Friends, that’s the way “love with faith” thinks. It looks to God and learns to think like God and see like God and love with the love of God. Love with faith is not a normal love, rather, it’s a divine, blood-bought, Spirit-empowered love, and as we love each other with it, this love literally becomes the glue that holds us together. God is building his church into a holy temple for himself (Ephesians 2:22), and the thing that bonds us together is “love with faith.” So again, the words “love with faith” are not formulaic words. To the contrary, the fullness of the gospel is embedded in them.
Grace be with All
Finally, Paul writes, “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” The word for “incorruptible” here means “not to be subject to decay or death,” so Paul has in mind here a love that never fades away or spoils, and that cannot die. Therefore, he’s praying that grace like this will be with all who loves the Lord Jesus Christ like this, but the question is, who can love the Lord Jesus Christ like this?
The answer comes from the entire flow of the letter to the Ephesians: those who love Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love are those who have been chosen and adopted and forgiven and sealed and raised up with Christ and seated with Christ in the heavenly places by God. In other words, those who love Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love do so because they have been loved by God with an everlasting love. Our love for him, as imperfect and fallible as it seems, can never decay or die because it’s his love pulsing into and through us back to himself, and the love of God can never die. Just as the earth sends a small ray of light back to the sun from which it received its light, so our hearts love him with a love that we received from him, and that’s why it’s incorruptible. So, in the end, Paul is saying something like this: “Grace be with all those in whom the grace of God is already at work in Christ.”
With this trilogy of peace, love with faith, and grace, Paul prays upon us all the benefits of the gospel in Christ so that we’ll join him, from the heart, in saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And with this trilogy of words, which are much more than formulaic, he ties the whole of his letter together and brings it to a close—amen.
Friends, all of the words of God are God-breathed and filled with glory. I hope that if you’ve gained anything from the seven insights I’ve offered in the last two devotionals, it is this. And I hope you’ve been inspired to take all of God’s words seriously and mine them for the glory that is there, even in the opening and closing words of letters like Ephesians.
Charles Handren is pastor and author currently residing in Saint Michael, Minnesota. His wife Kimberly (1991) is a Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher, and his daughter, Rachel (1994), owns and operates a dance studio in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Charles enjoys reading, cycling, hiking, and traveling. He holds degrees from California Baptist University (Riverside, California) and the American Baptist Seminary of the West (Berkeley, California), and is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Illinois). Check out his blog at www.onework629.blogspot.com.