Sunday, 21 June 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 2 John -3
John has just opened the letter by noting his addressee. Along with that, he has explained the circumstances of the love which is conveyed with the letter. It is “because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever.” Only now, with that understood, he gives his main salutation. In this, he includes points of doctrine which are as substantial as the greeting itself. He begins with, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you.”
So far, John follows a format used in letters throughout the ages – identify yourself, acknowledge the recipient, and then provide a greeting before engaging in the content of the letter. This verse is the main greeting. However, unlike most greetings which state a wish (such as “I hope and pray you will be blessed”), he uses a prediction in the future tense for those he is addressing.
The verb is in the future tense, “will be.” This is the assurance we have in Christ, and it is therefore something we can all use in our future letters, never fearing that anything less will be the result in the lives of the saved believers we correspond with. And what is it that will be with us? Three things are identified –
Grace. It is the Greek word charis. It is unmerited favor. The word gives the sense of leaning toward another in order to share a benefit. One can think of inclining toward a person in favor, or to endow a blessing. The word is normally used concerning the Lord’s favor, as it is here.
Mercy – The Greek is eleos. It gives the sense of covenant loyalty, and thus, compassion. It is the compassion of God which provides both clemency from sin and eternal life in place of condemnation. The word is used 27 times in the New Testament, and yet, this is the only time it is seen in all of John’s writings. Further, this is its last use in Scripture. Understanding this word, in connection with grace, is actually rather important. And so, it is good to cite Vincent’s Word Studies explanation of it here. Though long, the explanation is most beneficial –
“Mercy is kindness and goodwill toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them. Trench observes: ‘In the Divine mind, and in the order of our salvation as conceived therein, the mercy precedes the grace. God so loved the world with a pitying love (herein was the mercy), that He gave His only-begotten Son (herein the grace), that the world through Him might be saved. But in the order of the manifestation of God’s purposes of salvation, the grace must go before the mercy and make way for it. It is true that the same persons are the subjects of both, being at once the guilty and the miserable; yet the righteousness of God, which it is quite as necessary should be maintained as His love, demands that the guilt should be done away before the misery can be assuaged; only the forgiven may be blessed. He must pardon before He can heal…. From this it follows that in each of the apostolic salutations where these words occur, grace precedes mercy.’”
Peace. It is the Greek word eiréné. It signifies quiet or rest. However, coming from John, who is Jewish, he would be thinking of the deeper peace, or shalom, conveyed by the Hebrew people. That goes beyond the peace and quiet to a state of wholeness. It is a state where all of the essential points of a matter (life) are properly joined together. Thus, it is a state of harmony and which has no lack. It is the state of perfect wholeness from God when sin and misery are eliminated in our glorification.
As noted, the verb for these is in the future tense. These “will be with you from God the Father.” Some texts say, “with us,” rather than, “with you.” Either way, what is conveyed remains the same. The addressees are to receive these things. As far as the Greek, it simply reads, “God Father.” There is no article. However, there will be an article before both “Son” and “Father” in the words to come. Therefore, John is conveying the thought of “God our Father.” He is the Father of His people who have been brought into the covenant through Christ.
John next says, “and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” In the Greek, John uses the preposition “from” before both “God the Father” and “the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is to clearly show the relation of both to the people of God. They are separate personalities. This blessing of grace, mercy, and peace is received from both Sources out of the single Godhead. By referring to both in this way, John acknowledges the distinctiveness of the Father and the Son, and yet they both possess equal authority to grant such things. Each provides the blessings based on His particular working within the Godhead.
The reason for being so specific here is certainly to support the truth of the incarnation of Christ, which he will clearly deal with in verses 7 and 10. In his gospel and in his first epistle, John went to great lengths to ensure that the dual nature of Christ – being fully God and fully Man – was highlighted. To deny either of these principles then defines the term “antichrist,” as he will again note in verse 7 of this letter.
John next describes “the Lord Jesus Christ,” by saying, “the Son of the Father.” The phrase, as used in the Greek, is not found anywhere else. The Father/Son relationship is described in numerous ways, but the wording here – tou Huiou tou Patros – is unique. This is to clearly indicate – without any equivocation – that Jesus Christ is fully God. As both are God, both can bestow the grace, mercy, and peace upon believers individually from within the Godhead. John’s words intimately connect the Father and the Son, and yet they also show a distinction between the two.
John then finishes with another combination of words not seen elsewhere, en alētheia kai agapē, or “in truth and love.” Saying this sets the tone for the coming words of verses 4-6. However, the words also extend beyond those verses in the sense that those who deny the dual nature of Christ do “not have God” (verse 9), and are therefore excluded from the words of this salutation. Because this is so, John will tell true believers how they are to be dealt with.
As an important note, the words “in truth and love” are connected with “grace, mercy, and peace will be with you.” Because of the length of the verse, one might assume that “in truth and love” belonged to the Sonship of Christ in relation to the Father, but that is not John’s intent. God – both Father and Son – will extend these blessings of grace, mercy, and peace to His people in truth and love.
Life application: It is unreasonable to assume, as the Gnostics whom he commonly refutes in his letters, that Jesus is somehow subordinate to, or essentially separate from, the Father. Rather, they are co-equal, and they are distinct entities within one Essence.
The comforting part of what John says here is that both members are providing what we need in relation to grace, mercy, and peace through their eternal counsel. In this, these things exist right now, and yet they will be forthcoming for all eternity as well. There is no time that these do not extend to God’s people, and therefore, there is no time that God’s people are apart from the issuance of them. In other words, the doctrine of eternal salvation is implicitly seen in this salutation. Thank God for what He has done, and for what He is doing, for us.
O God! To read the words of the Bible, and to know that we are included in such marvelous promises because of Christ Jesus is a perfect blessing upon our souls. It is as if receiving cold water on a hot day to know that the future holds the absolute surety of Grace, Mercy, and Peace for us as we await the coming of Jesus in this difficult and sin-stained world. And so, we say, “Come Lord Jesus!” Amen.