When Paul writes letters to the churches, he often greets them as he in Colossians–with a wish of grace and peace. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father”( Col 1:1-2). But how do we receive this grace? How do we experience this peace?
In the movie, Camelot, King Arthur is betrayed by the two people he loves the most—his wife, Guinevere, and his closest friend, Lancelot. They betray him by having an affair together. She was discovered and put on trial and found guilty of treason to her king. Her punishment? She is condemned to be burned at the stake. The king was torn by what was happening. He loved her, yet the law found her guilty. He wanted to show mercy but had to be just. On the day of her execution, as the solider was lighting the pyre over which she stood, a court official approached a very emotional Arthur. He asks him, “Your Majesty, why not ignore the verdict and pardon her? But you can’t do that, can you? If she dies your life is over. If she lives your life is a fraud. Kill the queen or kill the law.” That was the predicament of King Arthur.
But that wasn’t the predicament of God. God didn’t have to choose between justice or mercy. He couldn’t have chosen even if he wanted to—he’s God. He’s the very embodiment of justness and the perfection of mercy. Furthermore, God is never merciful at the expense of his justice. Both of these things come together at the cross. There perfect justice is meted out and perfect mercy is shown. The punishment we’ve incurred for our sins is poured out on Christ. And since our judgment is satisfied in his death, God is free to show mercy to us, forgiving our sins counting them paid for by Christ. God remains just.
Thus salvation—life with God—is never something we earn. It’s not something we have a right to. It’s something that comes to us by God’s grace. It his gift to sinners, free and undeserved, when we put our faith in Christ; when we look to him and believe that only he can make us right with God.
And what is the result? Peace. This isn’t the kind of peace that John Lennon sang about. This isn’t the kind of peace from war that we should all give a chance. No, this is more than that. This is the Old Testament idea of shalom. It’s about wholeness; about physical and spiritual well-being. This is the result of believing the message of the gospel, of trusting your life to Christ—there is peace with God.
In the end, Christian grace and peace are both rooted in the gospel. Grace is God’s undeserved favor. It’s us receiving from God what we don’t deserve, and it’s always based on the work of Christ for his people. This is why some have created the acrostic for grace with these words: God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This is how sinners receive a salvation of grace and peace–spiritual rest with the Almighty. They receive it through Jesus Christ who willingly went to the cross and gave his life for them at the Father’s command.
How superior is the kingdom of God to the kingdom of Arthur!