1) Letters are a written message sent as a means of communication between persons separated by distance.
2) Letters in the Bible consist of two categories:
a) Letters mentioned and sometimes found in Bible books.
b) Books of the Bible that are themselves letters:
- The Roman Empire had a postal service, but it did not include personal letters.
- Paul’s letters were carried by messengers (Phil. 2:25; Col. 4:7-8).
- Most of Paul’s letters were designed to be read to entire churches.
Colossians 4:16 instructed the Colossian church to read the letter and to pass it along to the Laodicean church.
Col 4:16, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.”
The Colossians were also told to read the letter that Paul had written to the Laodiceans.
Paul wrote other letters that were circulated and have not survived, because they were not Divinely inspired.
Perhaps two such letters are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9 and 2 Corinthians 7:8.
1 Cor 5:9, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;”
2 Cor 7:8, “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while.”
Did you know that what we call 2nd Corinthians is really 3rd Corinthians?
- The word “salutations” comes from the Greek verb:
Á – A (a particle of Union) = of the first.
σπάω / spao = is a primary verb; “To draw:—draw (out), First to draw out. To greet, welcome, or salute.”
At the closing of a letter, it comes to mean; “to embrace them, took leave of them, bid them farewell.”
- The Pharisaic Jews loved salutations in public places (Mt 23:7; Mk 12:38; Lk 11:43; 20:46).
Mark 12:38 (NASB), “In His teaching He was saying: “Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places.”
Luke 11: 43 (RSV), “Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places.”
Luke 20:46 (NLT), “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they love to parade in flowing robes and to have everyone bow to them as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and at banquets.”
Often these salutations were very elaborate, involving much time in prostrations, embracing, etc.
Jesus critiqued the Pharisees for practicing long, protracted, deferential salutations (Mark 12:37b-40; Luke 20:45-47; compare Matt. 23:1-36).
When Jesus therefore sent out the Seventy-two, He forbade salutation practicing such public displays (Lk 10:4).
When Jesus said, “Greet no one on the way,” He was instructing them to be absorbed in one supreme interest, which would not permit them to lose time in idle ceremonies.
The work on which the disciples were sent forth was one of urgency, which left no time for empty compliments and prolonged greetings.
Though He ordinarily encouraged proper civilities of this sort (Mt 5:47; 10:12).
Instead, Jesus endorsed a salutation when it signified the long-awaited presence of messianic “peace” [Hebrew, shalom – שָׁלוֹם (shaw-lome’)], that is the “peace” of the kingdom of God (Luke 10:5-13; 19:42; John 14:27; 20:21; Mark 15:18; compare Luke 2:14, 29).
Paul, as do other New Testament authors, also transformed the salutation to speak of newness brought on by the cross and resurrection. The typical greeting in Greek letters was the infinitive “to rejoice” (charein). Paul never opened his letters with this greeting; instead, the apostle fused the Greek word for the typical Hebrew blessing, “Peace” (einrene), with the noun form of the Greek blessing, “Grace” (charis), to yield the distinctly Christian salutation: “Grace and Peace” (charis kai eirene). By such a subtle change in the form of Greek letter writing, Paul was able to invoke the range of apostolic blessings found in Jesus: mercy from God (“grace”) and eternal well-being from God’s presence (“peace”).
Shalom = einrene: Peace and prosperity = The safety of Divine protection and the restfulness of human friendship.
(Heb. barak, in some forms “to bless”; shalom, “well, happy,” to be
“friendly;” Gk. aspasmos, a “greeting”). The friendly greeting that in ancient
as in modern times took place when meeting or parting.
Salutations may be classed under two heads:
Conversational and Epistolary.
The salutation at meeting consisted in early times of various expressions of blessing, such as: “May God be gracious to you” (Genesis 43:29); “May you be blessed of the Lord” (Ruth 3:10; cf. 1 Samuel 15:13); “May the Lord be with you,” “May the Lord bless you” (Ruth 2:4); “The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 129:8). Hence, the term bless received the secondary sense of “salute.” The Hebrew term used in these instances (shalom) has no special reference to “peace,” but to general well-being, and strictly answers to our “welfare.”
The salutation at parting consisted originally of a simple blessing (Genesis 24:60; 28:1; 47:10; Joshua 22:6), but in later times, the term shalom was introduced here also in the form of: “Go in peace,” or rather “Farewell” (1 Samuel 1:17; 20:42; 2 Samuel 15:9).
The epistolary salutations in the period subsequent to the Old Testament were framed on the model of the Latin style; the addition of the term peace may, however, be regarded as a vestige of the old Hebrew form (2 Maccabees 1:1). The writer placed his own name first, and then that of the person whom he saluted; it was only in special cases that this order was reversed (2 Maccabees 1:1; 9:19; 1 Esdr. 6:7). A combination of the first and third persons in the terms of the salutation was not unfrequent (Galatians 1:1-2; Philemon 1; 2 Peter 1:1). A form of prayer for spiritual mercies was also used. The concluding salutation consisted occasionally of a translation of the Lat. valete (Acts 15:29; 23:30) but more generally of the term aspazomai, “I salute,” or the cognate substantive, accompanied by a prayer for peace or grace.
In Paul’s opening greeting, these terms always occur in this order, witnessing to the truth that peace cannot be experienced apart from the prior experience of God’s grace.
Ephesians begins with a benediction (a prayer for God’s blessing or an affirmation that God’s blessing is at hand) rather than a prayer of thanksgiving.
The greetings of Hellenistic letters typically contained a prayer for the health of the recipients. 3 John 2 provides the best New Testament example: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.”
2 Sam 20:9; Matt 26:49
Gen 18:2; Gen 19:1-2; Gen 23:7; Gen 27:29; Gen 33:3; Gen 37:10; Gen 41:43; Gen 43:26; Gen 43:28; Gen 49:8; 1 Sam 25:23; 2 Sam 18:28; 1 Kings 1:16; Esther 8:3; Matt 2:11; Mark 5:22
“God be gracious unto thee.”
1 Sam 25:6
“Art thou in health, my brother?”
2 Sam 20:9
“Peace to this house.”
“Peace unto you.”
From a master to his servants, “The Lord be with you.”
Servants to their masters, “The Lord bless thee.”
1 Cor 16:21; 2 Cor 13:13; Col 4:18; Phil 4:21; 2 Thess 3:17; 2 John 1:13; 3 John 1:14
Chairo – χαίρω: Verb
Send greeting, greeting – (Acts 15:23; 23:26; Jas 1:1; 2 John 10:11).
Aspasmos – ἀσπασμός: Noun
A greeting, greetings, embrace, salutation.
A greeting which might be given in person, orally (Matt 23:7; Mark 12:38; Lk 1:29, 41, 44; 11:43; 20:46), or in writing, usually at the close of a letter (1 Cor 16:21; Col 4:18; 2 Thess 3:17).
Χαίρειν “greeting,” – χαράn “joy” in Jas 1:1, ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν μεγάλην σφόδρα – “they rejoice with joy exceedingly,” Mat 2:10).
1 Thessalonians – 1:1, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”
Written: 51 AD
Paul does not identify himself as an apostle here, because he does not have to establish his authority with the Thessalonicans.
He addresses the newly established Church, giving honor to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul establishes the grace policy of God and prosperity blessings. The order in which he used them is significant. Before there can be any genuine peace, there must be a personal response to God’s grace.
ἐν Θεῷ Πατρὶ καὶ Κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ·
en Theo Patri kai Kurio Iesou Christo.
“In God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Thessalonians – 1:1-2, “Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 51 – 52 AD
Same as in 1 Thess. but adds:
ἐν Θεῷ Πατρὶ ἡμῶν καὶ Κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ·
en theo patri hemon kai kurio Iesou Christo.
“In God the Father our (of us) and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- A more intimate relationship of the Church, Paul and the Father. Because he uses the word ἡμῶν – hémón (hay-mone’) which is the Genitive plural personal pronoun of ἐγώ – ego = Us, Our (company), We.
- The identification of the source of the various categories of grace and blessings bestowed on man. Common/Efficacious Grace, Logistical Grace, Super Grace, Ultra Super Grace, Dying Grace, Surpassing Grace.
1 Corinthians 1:1-3 – “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 54 – 56 AD
Paul was predestined to be an apostle.
Here Paul emphasizes the Positional Sanctification of the believer.
- Positional, Experiential, Ultimate.
Who were Predestine to the calling of salvation.
- Omniscience, Foreknowledge, Predestination, (calling), Election.
2 Corinthians 1:1-2 – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 55 – 57 AD
“Throughout Achaia.” This shows that this letter, as the other letters are to be also, is not only for the church at Corinth, but to all the churches in the region at the time.
Galatians 1:1-4 – “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 2and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.”
Written: 55 – 57 AD
Here the Holy Spirit adds (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead).
Apparently, the Irish needed more authenticity of Paul’s ministry and apostleship. The Judaizers who “bewitched” the Galatians (3:1-5) were telling them that Paul’s apostleship and message were not trustworthy, because he lacked official endorsement from Jerusalem. He had to identify that his authority was not by man but through Jesus Christ and the Father. He also had to identify the authority of the Father “who raised Him from the dead,” thereby, establishing the authority of the Trinity as well.
(Note Paul’s use of “not neither” in vv. 1, 12, and 17.)
In this letter, he only mentions “all the brethren which are with me.” This has the effect of making Paul more prominent, and was done intentionally.
“From God our (hemon) Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. The one preposition governs both nouns, and thereby shows the essential unity of Father and Son.
Romans 1:1-7 – “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 56 – 58 AD
Bond Servant/Slave = One subject to the will and wholly at the disposal of another.
Paul has not visited Rome at this time and thus addresses a church with which he has had no personal contact. Therefore, Paul presents his credentials, first by indicating that he is a “bond servant,” and then by noting that he is “called to be an apostle.”
“set apart” (aphorismenos: Perfect, Passive Participle = consecrated, commissioned).
He did not set himself apart from mingling freely with all levels of pagan society. It was a setting apart to something that occurs to the believer through commitment and dedication, not from things in isolation like the Pharisees.
Interestingly the word “Pharisee” means, “separated one,” in the sense of being isolated and segregated.
Philemon 1:1-3 – “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, 2and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 61 AD
Paul reminds Philemon of the price he himself was paying, as the prisoner of Christ, not of Rome, and that he was not ashamed of his chains.
“Beloved brother” shows a more intimate relationship between Paul and Philemon.
Philemon was a “fellow worker” for his efforts of establishing the Colossae congregation within his home, as Paul had established assemblies in various cities (and is in Ephesus at this time).
Church buildings were not mentioned until the 3rd century AD. Typically, they met in houses prior to that time. Rom 6:15; Col 4:15; Philemon 2
“Fellow soldier,” signifying the warriors of the angelic conflict in Colossae. It is interesting to note that Paul does not address congregations as soldiers, but he does to individuals, like Timothy and Archippus, signifying great honor and rank of spiritual maturity and possibly noting their role as Pastor/Teacher. (Col 4:17)
Ephesians 1:1-2 – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 61 – 62 AD (prison epistle)
Here he notes that his authority is the Divine sovereign will of God, therefore, having absolutely nothing to do with his own merits.
Ephesians begins with a benediction rather than a prayer of thanksgiving.
Saints = Anointed ones, those set apart, those sanctified. (Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit – another trinity verse.)
Faithful in Christ – Mature believers.
Philippians 1:1-2 – “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Christ Jesus. To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Written: 61 – 62 AD (prison epistle)
Paul called himself a “slave” in this letter rather than an apostle as in his other letters. This suggests that Paul felt close to the church at Philippi and did not need to remind them of his authority as an apostle but rather established his Christian walk.
He also mentions the Pastors and Deacons. This is the first of Paul’s letters in which they are greeted separately. As long as the apostles were constantly visiting the new churches, regular elders were not needed. These visits were becoming less frequent however, and as some of the apostles died or were unable to travel, the need for regular, permanent elders arose. Thus, the three pastoral letters following this one gave instructions for the appointment of elders and deacons. This implies that the elders and deacons were to take over the job that the apostles had been doing to this point.
Once the apostles had all died, one of the Elders was appointed over the others and became the head of that local assembly.
Colossians 1:1-2 – “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
Written: 61 – 62 AD
Here Paul establishes his authority and that by the sovereign will of God the Father.
This after Paul experienced first-hand the wills of God, which landed him in Rome and in prison.
Divine Wills: Directive, Permissive, and Overruling.
He also establishes the Colossians diligence and perseverance as reported by Epaphras.
1 Timothy 1:1-2 – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, 2to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Written: 63 AD (prison pastoral epistle)
Timothy was Pastoring Ephesus by God’s commission as Paul was an apostle by commission.
Paul was writing Timothy to straighten him out from a doctrinal standpoint and exhort him to continue the battle. Paul identifies the chain of command, and therefore his authority over Timothy at this time.
Grace is for all but emphasizes the believer and their present and future opportunities provided by God.
Mercy is what God has done for us in the past. For the unbeliever and those in sin or the sin nature (Righteousness plus Justice plus Love), speaking of the recovery that is available to Timothy through God’s Love based on what “God our Savior” did for him in the past.
Peace is for the spiritual believer who is grace orientated and enters into God’s rest.
Titus 1:1-4 – “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, 4to Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”
Written: 63 – 65 AD (prison pastoral epistle)
This salutation is a statement of the place of the Word of God in the life of the local church.
2 Timothy 1:1-2 – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Written: 66 – 68 AD
Hebrews 1:1-4 – “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”
Written: 64 – 68 AD
Hebrews on the other hand, begins like a sermon and ends like a letter.
Heb 13:23, “Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you.”