To Timothy, a true son in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2—NKJV)

Words have power only if they are backed up by character. We all know this intuitively. If we ignore this precept by willing ourselves to be fooled by a speaker, we ignore it to our own peril and there will be consequences (John 8:44).

Our sense of the trustworthiness of words is measured by our sense of confidence in the person speaking them. Sometimes we extend a willingness to accept the veracity of words (until proven false) of a person because of their position (i.e., being an expert, holding a public office, serving as a pastor or teacher). However, our greatest confidence will be willingly bestowed upon the words of someone we know by experience to be true to their word.

In order for our words to be a blessing and to bless others we need to remember that the forcefulness, effectiveness, and worth of our words is directly proportionate to the character that backs them up, just as our dollar’s buying power is directly related to the value of gold and stability that backs it up. Our words can be golden or our words can be inflated wind dependent upon our character.

In our verse Paul is greeting Timothy, his disciple, with a customary greeting among Christians, as evidenced by how many times he uses this phrase in his writings. These words are golden, not just wind. His words of blessing are based upon the character of God, the One who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). These words well up from the heart of Paul who had first hand experience of the grace, mercy, and peace from God. His experience in the grace of God leads him to wish and pray for the same blessing of personal experience in the life of Timothy.

Three terms appear in the text are used to outline the parameters of the blessing. These words only have a vague meaning to our 21st century, American ears. We would do well to examine the meaning of each word as defined by the sterling character of Almighty God. As always, it is His character which determines their meaning for us as we apply these words to our world.

The first blessing is grace. The word means “favor done by one to another.” It is spontaneous, generous and free. There is no expectation of return. Divine forgiveness is a fine illustration of this word as defined by the character of God. He sent His sinless Son, Jesus, to bear on His shoulders our sin-guiltiness to the cross and there He died in our place so that we might live through faith. This forgiveness is made possible because His death satisfied the wrath of God aimed at us because of our sin (Ephesians 2:8–10). Grace is greater than “love” because it is “love in action.”

The second blessing is mercy. Mercy is pitying love (“God so loved the world,” John 3:16). Misery is the consequence of sin and mercy deals with misery.

The third blessing is peace. Peace is the tranquility, comfort, and well-being brought about by acting grace and pitying love. It is the product of the work of satisfying restoration of those who once were separated and are now bound together in mutual covenant (Romans 5:1).

These three words of blessing ought to meaningfully flow from our lips to others backed up by first-hand experience of receiving the benefits of these blessings from God. Parents, are your words filled with and tempered by blessings for your children? Neighbors and co-workers, are your words backed up by impeccable character? Do you realize that character matters to God and so it ought to matter to us? Live truth and expect truth from others. Trust and obey.