"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:1-2).
The Apostle Paul saluted the believers in Ephesus of his day with grace and peace from the Father and the Son. Paul also broadened the scope of his declaration to include all Christians everywhere and in every age - "the faithful in Christ Jesus." Thus, believers live their lives in the atmosphere of Divine favor, and in the loving good will of the God affectionately committed to our best interests.
We must remember and affirm this attitude of God toward us. Nothing changes His sensibility of grace and peace because the bestowal is based not upon our doings, but rather the doings of our Savior on the cross of Calvary and His intercessory priesthood in Heaven for us. "Christ died for our sins... "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). Grace and peace are forevermore ours because the Lord Jesus knew wrath and anguish, and because His presence at the right hand of God forevermore bears witness to the blessed truth that we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).
Certainly this does not preclude Divine displeasure regarding our doings. My mother used to tell me, "Glen, I always love you. But I don't always like you." By this she meant that that I could always be sure of her devotion, affection, and commitment to me as a person. My attitudes, words, and actions, however, were not always worthy of acceptance. Indeed, there were plenty of times when she didn't accept them (thank the Lord!), and I still wince a bit when remembering those occasions. Never, however, was there a moment of doubt in my heart and mind concerning my mother's love, and the grace and peace that so clearly pervaded her heart for me. In the same manner, God's favor toward His trusting children in Christ abides forever as the freely bestowed attitude of grace and peace toward us that fills His heart. Our Lord does not, however, accept all our attitudes, words, and actions. "We labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:9-10).
Understanding the distinction is challenging, but necessary. We are accepted in Christ regarding our person. Conversely, our works are accepted only if they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit's working in us "to will and do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Maintaining this dual awareness will both encourage and temper us, leading to secure and loving relationship with our Heavenly Father, and reverent determination to "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6). Both the mercy seat and the judgment seat must pervade our Christian sensibilities, and as they do, grace and peace will fill our hearts and direct our steps.
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."