A Wonderful Greeting
Text: Jude 2
"May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you."
Last Sunday evening, in looking at the way in which Jude addressed his letter, we were made to consider some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith – it wasn’t quite the a, b, c of the faith but it was the c, b, k. and we noted that the Christian is a highly privileged person who has been called by God is beloved of God and who is being kept by God for Jesus Christ.
Now this evening we move on to think about the manner in which Jude greeted those to whom he wrote. His greeting expressed what was his heartfelt desire for them.
When we read the letters in that are contained in the NT we quickly realise that the way they did things then are not quite the same as we do things now. In our letters we begin with a "dear friend" or something similar and we don’t add our name until we’ve finished and are signing off. NT letters regularly begin with the author identifying himself before he identifies who his intended readers are. With that out of the way one more thing remains to be done before he launches into the body of his letter – he expresses his greetings and this usually in the form of a blessing he desires to see brought into the life of his readers.
There are just a handful of different greetings that are used in the letters of the NT the most widely used by far is that of "Grace to you and peace" which you will find in Rom; 1+2 Cor; Gal; Eph; Phil; Col; 1+2 Thess; Tit; Philem; 1+2 Pet and Rev.
A slightly longer form is used in three more letters. In 1+2 Tim and 2Jn we find "Grace, mercy, and peace".
The form of greeting that appears here in the letter of Jude is unique. John Benton suggests that "mercy and peace" was a well-known Jewish form of greeting in the first century and that Jude Christianises it a little further by adding that essentially Christian word – agape/love.
As we come across little phrases like this one it is easy for us to rush on past. We can all too easily treat them as mere formalities, necessary literary constructs perhaps but having little to say to us – so we press on to the real substance of the letter. But when we do that we miss out on some rich fare indeed.
Jude’s greeting contains truth that will nourish us and help orient us both in our own lives and in our relating to and praying for our Christian brothers and sisters. So, we’re going to slow down this evening and just take our time as we consider Jude’s spiritually rich greeting.
The three elements that constitute Jude’s desires for his readers are not self-acquired virtues, each of them are the gracious gifts of our God which work wonderful transformations in our lives.
As Jude expresses his spiritual desires for his readers he begins with mercy and it is a great place to begin.
Mercy is quite simply God not giving us what we deserve. It is not that God is ignorant of our situation and our condition – quite the reverse in fact – being fully aware of our parlous state as rebels he nevertheless looks upon our situation with compassionate pity. And how necessary this is!
Sin calls for judgment and if God did not show mercy then every sinner would utterly and irretrievably lost. But the glorious truth contained in this greeting is that God does indeed spare us and that not for anything we have done but because of what Christ has done for us – this is mercy and it is extraordinary.
I wonder if you’ve ever looked at the mess someone you know or someone you have heard about has got themselves into in their lives and you’ve quietly thought to yourself "Well, they had it coming. They brought it on themselves."
Such an attitude, such a reaction, while perfectly understandable is nonetheless the complete opposite of mercy and how we ought to praise God that he didn’t do that but dealt with us according to his great mercy and refused to condemn us as our sins deserved.
There is an old story of a desperate mother seeking an audience with the Emperor Napoleon to beg for a pardon for her son. As she pleaded for his life, Napoleon reminded her that her son had committed not one but two capital offenses and justice demanded the death penalty. She responded, "But I don’t ask for justice. I plead for mercy." "In light of what he has done he does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied. "Sir," the woman begged, "It would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask." "Then he shall have mercy," the emperor declared, and spared the young man’s life.
That is mercy and how relevant and appropriate it is to our lives! And in the economy of God it is so often accompanied by grace. Mercy and grace are not the same thing but frequently go together interlocking and intermeshing with each other:
God’s mercy is his NOT giving sinners what they DO DESERVE.
God’s grace is his POSITIVELY GIVING sinners what they DO NOT DESERVE.
While Jude doesn’t explicitly mention grace in his greetings he does nevertheless speak of other positive blessings to follow upon the mercy of God.
When our sin has been dealt with the cause of our enmity with God has been removed and peace is now what characterises our relationship with God. We must however be careful not to view of peace as though it were nothing but an absence of hostility.
In the OT the idea of peace was linked with that state of wholeness and completeness that would be brought about when God consummated his promises. Isaiah spoke in glowing terms of such a time when
Is.32:15-18 "the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places."
What blessing the people of God forfeited by their rebellion!
Is.48:18 "Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;"
Isaiah’s understanding of peace filled him with joy:
Is.52:7 "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
And he knew at what a cost it had been secured:
Is.53:5 "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."
And of course we know that these promises find their "yes" in Jesus Christ:
2Cor.1:20 "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."
The peace that Jude writes of and that the Christian knows in his experience is multifaceted:
It is peace with God
It is peace with others
It is peace with oneself, with a conscience at rest
The NT continues to build upon the foundations laid in the OT, by emphasising just how positive this peace actually is because goes so far as to involve our adoption into God’s family!
And this leads us on to love.
Love in the Bible is so much more than a mere feeling – it is a commitment of the will to seek the ultimate good of another.
The Christian is loved by God and this fact has great consequences.
When the Christian receives God’s love poured out upon him in Jesus Christ great changes are effected in his life. Do you remember what the first and the greatest commandment is?
In Matthew’s gospel we read:
Mt.22:37 "And (Jesus)... "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.""
Well the natural outworking of God’s love when it is experienced by the Christian is to produce a responsive love for God in return:
1Jn.4:10, 19 "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins... We love because he first loved us."
But this response of a genuine respectful love is by no means the end of the matter either. The Christian is also made channel of this love of God so that, flowing through him, others too may be affected; firstly love will characterise the relations between believing men and women and secondly, it will flow on as the Christian is enabled to fulfil the second great commandment of the law:
Mt.22:39 "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."
Mercy, peace and love were the things that Jude desired for his readers and his desire was not limited in scope. Jude set his sights high and ardently desired that these qualities of mercy, peace and love not simply be given but longed for them to be multiplied in the lives of those to whom he wrote. This implies at least two truths that are important for us to grasp:
Every Christian already experiences in some measure these things the moment he/she believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour
Every Christian is to grow in their experience of these blessings. God’s people ought to seek increasing levels of God’s goodness
Listen to how various different translations try to bring this out for us:
AV. “Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.”
Common English Bible “May you have more and more mercy, peace, and love.”
Contemporary English Version “I pray that God will greatly bless you with kindness, peace, and love!”
God’s Word Translation “May mercy, peace, and love fill your lives!”
Good News Bible “May mercy, peace, and love be yours in full measure.”
International Standard Version “May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance!”
JB Phillips “may you ever experience more and more of mercy, peace and love!”
Living Bible “May you be given more and more of God’s kindness, peace, and love.”
Mounce “May mercy, peace, and love be yours · in ever increasing measure.”
New English Translation “May mercy, peace, and love be lavished on you!”
The Passion Translation “May God’s mercy, peace, and love cascade over you!”
The Voice “Kindness, peace, love—may they never stop blooming in you and from you.”
Here is something that we can imitate in our own prayer lives. Here are things for which you can always confidently pray for when you pray for your fellow believer for none of them are so full of God’s mercy, God’s peace and God’s love that they don’t need any more.
And what about you? Are you continuing to grow in your understanding and more importantly perhaps in your experience of these things?
It is a great thing to be a Christian:
The world is bound for hell but the Christian has received mercy
The world is in rebellion against God but the Christian is now at peace with him
The world is passing away but the Christian is guided by God’s love to eternal life
Oh yes, it is a great thing to be a Christian but there is something more to be said: it is a greater thing to be a growing Christian. Are you a growing Christian? Do you want to be?
"May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you."