In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he commends grace, and peace, and adds mercy to make it a triad of blessings. He repeats that greeting in the second verse of his second letter. He writes, “To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Stott says, “We may perhaps summarize these three blessings of God’s love as being grace to the worthless, mercy to the helpless, and peace to the restless, while ‘God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord’ together constitute the one spring from which this threefold stream flows forth.”[1]

Paul’s mention of mercy in his two letters to Timothy is compelling. Paul knew God’s mercy. He persecuted the church and participated in Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts chapter seven. Who knows how many more lives were affected by Paul’s attack on the believers before his conversion? He referred to himself at one point as the “chief of sinners.” That was in his first letter to Timothy. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” At the beginning of Paul’s writing ministry in the book of Galatians, he defends himself as equal to all the Apostles, even Peter. In later books he calls himself “The least of the Apostles” (See 1 Corinthians 15:9). In Ephesians 3:18, he calls himself “the least of all the Saints.” But in the Epistles of Timothy, which were written just before his death, he refers to himself as the greatest of all sinners. I wonder if maturing in our faith may not be becoming better and better but just the opposite. Growing up entails a clear view of oneself in the presence of a perfectly holy God. Jesus told the story of the woman caught in adultery and publicly displayed by the religious leaders. They expected Jesus to have her stoned to death as the law required. Jesus hand them a stone and said, “you who are without sin, should cast the first stone.” The interesting ending of the story shows the crowd dispersing starting from the oldest. Isn’t it age and maturity that results in seeing ourselves as we really are?

I have received God’s mercy. He has forgiven many sins and even today helps me find forgiveness in my daily weaknesses. One commentator makes an interesting application regarding mercy. He writes, “God’s people often plead for his mercy (Gen. 43:14; Ps. 51:1). In the Gospels, Jesus’ mercy moved him to heal the sick (Matt. 9:13; 12:7; 15:22; 20:30). For Paul, God’s mercy brings salvation to sinners (Rom. 9:15). Peace and mercy are divine gifts that become elements of a disciple’s life. We then offer them to others, as Paul does here. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the merciful.… Blessed are the peacemakers’ (Matt. 5:7–9). If we taste God’s mercy, we should also long to show mercy.”[2]

[1] Stott, John R. W. 1973. Guard the Gospel the Message of 2 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Doriani, Daniel M., and Richard D. Phillips. 2020. 2 Timothy & Titus. Edited by Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani. Reformed Expository Commentary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.