Ephesians closes with two brief blessings that pull together the main themes of the letter. Peace and grace were common greetings in both the Jewish and Asian communities, but these words are much more than well-wishes. The good news in this letter is the divine grace that brings peace to the world.
Ephesians 6 23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
Peace in this letter means ending hostilities on earth (2:14-17). Peace for humanity arrived in the divinely appointed person who is our peace (2:14). He deserves that title because he dismantled the distinction between those who were God’s people and those who were not, creating one new humanity in himself (2:15), reunifying us all in his kingship by proclaiming his declaration of peace for the people who were close to God and for the people who were not (2:17), combining us all as fellow citizens of God’s reign (2:19). The community that embodies his kingship makes every effort to maintain this bond of peace in the power of the Spirit (4:3). This community takes the good news of peace into every municipality it enters (6:15).
This peace makes us brothers and sisters (6:23) because we are a single family in the Messiah. His Father is our Father. He’s now the Father from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name (3:15).
Being adopted (1:5) into this family is receiving God’s love with faith. Our eternal sovereign expressed his faithful love for the people of earth by giving us the ruler he appointed for humanity, the Lord, Jesus Christ. God calls us into his kingship (1:18; 4:1) — calling us out of the darkness of our death, into the brilliance of the Messiah’s reign (4:14). That’s how we participate in the love with faith that comes from our heavenly sovereign and his appointed ruler over earth (God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ).
Grace is a wish for well-being, but it’s so much more when it describes the overflow of divine benevolence to his earthly realm in the gift of his Son. Jesus Christ our Lord is repeated again in verse 24 not merely to pile up phrases but to underscore that God’s generosity (grace) towards us is a person: Jesus, God’s anointed ruler (Christ), ruler of all humanity (our Lord). That is the gospel, the good news of peace, our heavenly sovereign appointment of a new leader to bring us all together under his reign, as a kingdom of God.
The final word of this letter is aphtharsia, meaning something like incorruptibly, not subject to decay (BDAG). Bible students puzzle over what it refers to: our undying love towards Christ, his undying grace towards us, or something future (TDNT). Whichever way you cut it, the heart of what never decays is Christ’s kingship. That’s the inheritance God has given us, the fulfilment of God’s plans for the world, the enduring hope of the letter’s opening (1:1-14). Christ can deliver peace and grace to the world, because his authority rests on the divine decree that always endures. It never decays. It’s aphtharsia.
The two closing verses, then, sum up the gospel declaration of this letter. Now we can appreciate the depth of meaning we didn’t quite grasp when we began the letter:
Ephesians 1 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
What others are saying
John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015), 566 (emphasis original):
The starting point [for “grace” in Paul’s letters] is the framing of the Christ-event as gift. Christ’s death “for our sins” (e.g., 1 Cor 15:3–4) is interpreted by Paul in the language of gift (God’s gift of his Son, or Christ’s gift of himself). The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are thus, for Paul, the focal point of divine beneficence: the witness of Scripture and the history and identity of Israel are interpreted in this light. Grace is discovered in an event, not in the general benevolence of God, and its focal expression lies not in creation nor in any other divine gift, but in the gift of Christ, which constitutes for Paul the Gift.
We’ve covered all of Ephesians in 50+ posts. See Scripture Index to find a verse. Next week we’ll offer a free commentary on Ephesians (based on these posts).