Letter writing has become a thing of the past. We have lost this art to emails, texts, PMs, DMs, and communicating through social media. I needed to write a letter to my uncle, and I procrastinated for weeks. Why? Because my handwriting has become almost illegible from years of neglect. Think about it: other than your signature, do you do much long handwriting anymore?
Reading Paul’s carefully crafted letters is like stepping back in time. There is a letter writing etiquette that is foreign to us, especially in the greetings. Today’s reading is no exception, as we see Paul working hard in the beginning sentences to establish his “street credentials” with the churches in Galatia. We can feel his passion for his churches and his desire even in the greeting to establish the fact that he has a God-appointed mission that was not the work of any human council or board. By establishing himself as approved by God, he hoped to engender the trust and respect of the Christians who would read this letter.
Galatians 5:1-5 (Common English Bible)
From Paul, an apostle who is not sent from human authority or commissioned through human agency, but sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; 2 and from all the brothers and sisters with me.
To the churches in Galatia.
3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.4 He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
5 To God be the glory forever and always! Amen.
This is a marvelous reminder to us when we take a stand and proclaim the good news of Christ. We are also divinely appointed to this task and that appointment comes with God’s strength and power. Whether it is volunteering to hold a baby in the church nursery, preaching from a pulpit, or leading an international mission trip, the credentials we bring as people who have been tasked by God help people to trust and receive our ministry. When we proclaim Christ, we are not alone.
Note the beautiful language in verse 3 where Paul gives his apostolic greeting with the words “grace and peace to you.” He used this phrase five times in the New Testament, and one could argue that “grace and peace” describe Christianity in a nutshell. Grace, from the Greek, and peace, from the Hebrew, consolidate everything we know and want to share about the life Christians lead. We are the blessed recipients of Christ’s grace, an undeserved favor that is bestowed upon us in the form of unconditional, forgiving love. And peace is what Christ came to give us, confirmed in the fourteenth chapter of John: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you” (John 14:27, Common English Bible). Could we find any better credentials than this?
Paul ends his greeting by outlining Christ’s credentials. His letters always focused on the centrality of the cross, and he clearly explains that Christ gave himself for our sins. It is by this authority and the authority of the will of God that we go out into the world in Jesus’ name, and for Jesus’ sake. Is God calling you to use your own street cred in your witness? Take the authority and go.
Greetings by Michelle Robertson