This threefold cord is wonderfully strong when each of its strands is woven rightly with the others. The first is doubtless most wonderful of all, in many respects, but the child of God does well to cultivate deeply his appreciation of all of these precious endowments of a loving God and Father.
A concordance will show us that peace is spoken of in Scripture far more often than the others; and that both peace and mercy have a much larger place in the Old Testament than in the New; while grace holds the largest place in the New. This has much to teach us. Is it not peace for which man naturally yearns the most deeply?
Does not the Old Testament, in all of its testing of human nature, lay bare to us the painful struggle through which man grasps for the peace that constantly eludes him? Doubtless the word is used greatly in the Old Testament in reference to man’s temporal relationships with man, and merely in connection with material circumstance, but the entire history bears its depressing witness that settled, stable peace of this kind is a mere idealistic vision, hopeless of being reached on earth, until the blessed Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, establishes His own kingdom.
But how much higher and sweeter that peace which has been made by the blood of the cross of Christ (Colossians 1:20). The believer is the eternal possessor of this peace: “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:13). No longer does he grasp for it: he has it. Yet this peace from God and with God would be impossible apart from the mercy of God.
Why is there no peace on earth? Because of man’s sin. It is this that makes him more and more miserable, more self-centered, more grasping, more intolerant of others, more hard and stubborn. And not until he is brought down (though by means of his troubles) to honestly take the place of the publican, who prayed honestly, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13), will he know true peace; for this is the peace of God’s forgiving mercy.
But little as one may realize it at first, this wonderful transaction of the soul with God involves more than mercy and peace. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4–7). Let us observe here that God’s rich mercy is because of His great love. Love is His very nature, and love acts in mercy toward a wretched sinner, even when dead in sins, moving God’s heart to work in the most helpful way possible. Mercy is that tender compassion of God toward the deep need of the soul in its circumstances of misery or of guilt. Mercy can forgive and delights to do so.
However, immediately the apostle speaks of our being quickened together with Christ,” he adds “(by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
If in mercy God has looked upon us and given life when we were dead in sins, His grace has gone further still, conferring upon us favor that lifts us far above all our former circumstances, saving us, delivering into a realm of perfect joy and peace, circumstances of heavenly blessing, in Christ. This is more than compassionate mercy. For a mere humanitarian could show mercy to another who was in dire circumstances, clothe him, feed him, perhaps give him work, but to take him to his own home as his own son and invest him with his own wealth would be a far different matter. This is what grace does: It not only forgives; it provides abundant blessing on a far higher level than the circumstances out of which it delivers. Is this not the reason that grace is much more markedly a subject of the New Testament than of the Old? For the Old Testament regards man as on an earthly level, no doubt in need of peace, in need of mercy, but never knowing the grace that is the marvelous result of the death of Christ for sinners. The New Testament reveals the fulness of the heart of God in wondrous desire to have guilty sinners not only redeemed from their bitter bondage and misery but brought in peace into the very circumstances of heaven, the immediate presence of God, known as Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In an absolute and full sense then, the believer knows God’s grace, mercy, and peace as his eternal possession by virtue of the death of Christ on his behalf.
Yet Paul, in greeting Timothy, his child in the faith, wishes him “Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2). Does it not teach us that the believer has constant need of appropriating in practice those things that are truly his in principle? If, for instance, we know the preciousness of peace with God, this does not guarantee our constant enjoyment of “the peace of God.” For this our hearts must be set on the proper Object, our souls must be in a state of lowly receiving Himself our daily supply for our daily need; for it means the tranquility of soul that rests thankfully in calm submission to the will of God.
Does the Lord Jesus not speak of this when He says, “My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27)? This was a peace that could meet circumstances of unutterable sorrow, of cruel injustice from ungodly men, yet with calm, unshaken confidence and holy submission. May our souls know this far more than we do!
But for ourselves, in our present state, how is this possible without the mercy of God? Indeed, constantly we need this compassion of His heart that comforts, helps, and encourages us when pressures increase and tend to cast down the soul. Is it not wonderful to know the sympathizing, tender care of our merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God? We must seek this daily, if our souls are to derive comfort from it, or rather, we must seek Him, and thus learn the sweet, pure blessedness of His sympathy and care.
As we have seen, however, grace is higher yet. Grace is the active, energetic favor of God which delights to fill our cup to overflowing, “abundantly above all we can ask or think.” If we have known it in principle, we ought also to know it in daily practice; and by this we should be in practice lifted up above our circumstances. Grace is a power which Paul found sufficient to strengthen his soul to bear “infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, distresses, for Christ’s sake,” and to do so most gladly (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). Grace enabled him to preach “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7), and to serve God acceptably (Hebrews 12:8). It is the active, positive power for good: for having brought salvation, it also teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11, 12). Let us think then of grace, not merely as an attitude of kindness on God’s part, but as His great, active favor in furnishing us with every provision for our purest good.
It is well that every one of us should linger long and drink deeply of the fresh fountain of “the grace of God” with its fullness of provision; “the tender mercy of our God,” bearing its sweetness of comfort; and “the peace of God” with its quietness of contentment.