1 Timothy 1:2
To Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
There is always some interest in the first or the last of anything — an interest in proportion to the importance of that which is begun or ended, A birth or a death, each creates a sensation peculiar to itself, distinct from any other event; they are the beginning and the ending of that most solemn mystery, life. Viewed in the light of eternity, there is something peculiarly altering in the first or the last act of a Christian ministry. This text presents in summary the leading doctrines of the gospel — "Grace, mercy, and peace" — grace as the origin, mercy as the development, and peace as the result of man's salvation.
I. There is, then, first of all, THE GRACE THAT ORIGINATES. Grace is the Alpha of all salvation. It is grace in the eternal counsel, grace in the Divine election, grace in the heavenly calling, grace in the individual conversion, grace in every gift of the Holy Ghost, grace in the conviction of sin that realizes its danger, in the godly repentance that mourns over it. It is grace that transplants the flower from the wilderness into the garden of the Lord, waters it with the clews of heaven, and makes it bud and bloom, and so shed its sweetness all around, that even in decay and death its scent survives imperishable. It is grace that gives the lowly man his humility, the loving man his kindly affections, the benevolent man his charity, the zealous man his ardour, the young Christian his spiritual strength, the old Christian his experience, the suffering Christian his patience, and the dying Christian his support. Thus the first practical inquiry, that enables us to ascertain our own state before God, is, Have we realized the truth, not as a mere point in theology, but as a point in personal feeling, that "in me, that is, in my flesh," in my natural character or capacity, "dwelleth no good thing" that without Christ we are nothing, can do nothing?
II. There is, secondly, THE MERCY THAT DEVELOPES THE COUNSEL OF REDEMPTION. As grace is something that is given as a gratuity, that is neither merited, nor purchased, nor obtainable by other means, nor deserved, nor even desired, so mercy involves an absolute demerit — not merely a negation, but a disqualifying clause. Grace might be applicable to an order of beings to which mercy was not applicable. I say, mercy involves an absolute demerit. A judgment incurred, but respited — a forbearing stroke, where the blow was not only merited but provoked and challenged! Hence it is described by the terms, "the longsuffering of God," "the forbearance of God." And yet the word mercy still implies a victim. If no penalty of an earthly law, for instance, were ever inflicted upon any man, as was the case with some of our own laws till of late years, the suspension of such a law would be no mercy to any man, it would be practically disannulled, and the idea of mercy under such a statute would merge into repeal. It is when some men actually suffer the penalty from which others are exempted by the interposition of the sovereign, that the mercy is said to be shown to those who are exempted. When a criminal sees another man suffering the death to which his guilt had condemned himself, he understands then the royal prerogative of mercy. It is so with the sinner. Mercy is the great development of the love of God. It is not the exercise of a Divine attribute, which, like His power or wisdom, cost the Father nothing. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that all who believe in Him should not perish." This was the Father's sacrifice, of which Abraham's was the figure, just as Isaac's self-submission was a type of the Son's. An act of mercy costs earthly princes nothing beyond the word pardon; ii cost the King of kings the immolation of His Son, "whom He had appointed Heir of all things." Who is to wonder, then, at the magnificent things Which are said in Scripture about the mercy of God? Mercy gave birth to the "Man of sorrows"; mercy clothed the Heir of heaven in coarse Galilean raiment, as a poor man among the poor; mercy made Him toil, and hunger, and thirst, and travail, and suffer, and die; mercy rose with Him from the grave; mercy speaks by Him from the seat of intercession, and promises to come again in glory, to gather His elect, and to establish His kingdom. Mercy is the main element, the uniform ingredient, in every act of grace, It was mercy that fixed our own native lot in a land of light, and Christian ordinances, and social privileges, instead of among howling savages, with minds as dark and bare as their disfigured bodies; it was mercy that provided some of us with the goodly heritage of pious parents, however little we may have profited by their example and prayers; it was mercy, if our hearts were reached at last, if we turned to "flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold upon eternal life." It is mercy still, O Lord, that we are living this day to praise Thee, that health, reason, strength, apprehension, and multiplied opportunities, and means of grace, and channels of good works by which we shall glorify Thee, and benefit ourselves and others, are yet spared to us. It is mercy, in short, that meets us in the hour of sorrow, and whispers consolation. Hence the next practical test of our condition in the sight of God is — Have we felt our need of mercy? Have we realized our lost, wretched, forlorn condition without a Mediator?
III. Thus mercy, joining hands with grace, like the outstretched wings of the cherubim that met over the ark, crown and complete God's covenant with His people; and finally THEY PUBLISH "PEACE" — PEACE BETWEEN THEM. This was our closing proposition. The seal and consummation of the plan of redemption is peace. Have you remarked, that the angels singing from heaven called it "peace on earth"? that is, peace here, peace now; not simply that poetical peace in the grave, of which some men sing, or the peace in heaven to which the believer aspires, but something that he has in his heart at once; and that is called by the angels "peace on earth" — peace at once, peace with all men, peace with ourselves. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; the end of that man is peace." The external incidents of life no longer break the calm of the full assurance of faith, or hope, or understanding, in the life of the believer; but "when a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh his enemies to be at peace with him." "The God of peace beats down Satan under your feet shortly." The Son of peace is an abiding and delightful guest in your dwellings; your vision of peace is not like Jerusalem's, hidden from your eyes, but fixes a distinct, lofty, lovely impression upon your minds — like an horizon that seems to fence in and shield us with the clouds of heaven, yet opens heaven itself to the far-seeing gaze of faith. The world in its own way is seeking for this peace; amid all its pleasures and cunning variations of pleasure and amusement it is seeking, over the wreck of every present enjoyment, the peace which it hopes to find in the future. It is seeking it where the poor disconsolate Elisha sought his master — in the wilderness, instead of looking up to heaven where he was gone. And hence the search is vain; men do not find it.
(J. B. Owen, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.