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—NIV)

Within our lifetimes greetings have changed with the advent of e-mail, instant messaging, texting and twittering. Our communication has become ever more perfunctory and truncated. We don’t even write “Dear John” letters anymore.

Even in Christian circles our greetings are with curt superficiality. Rarely do we retain a spiritual agenda in our talk, and when we do we fail to go very deep. We may get to the point in the conversation where we offer to pray for another but stop short of telling them specifically what we are asking God to do, let alone actually pray with them right then and there. If the letters of Paul are any indication of the early church, we have lost something very precious in the life of the modern church.

Paul characteristically greets individuals differently than he does churches in the New Testament. He introduces himself and addresses to whom he writes in all his letters. But to individuals he greets them with something of a prayer and simultaneously an expression of blessing as he wishes them grace, mercy and peace. John has a very similar greeting in his second epistle (again, written to an individual—the elect lady). It may have been a formulaic greeting common among the saints but the sentiments are uncommon. An unsaved person could only hope for such a benefit! Allow me to explain what I mean by a quick review of these blessed terms.

The source of the benefit is God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. A Father’s love and a Son’s sacrifice are in view all in “God-size” capacity. Grace is the manner in which God bears Himself toward the believer. Grace is greater than love for it is love in action. It is favor done by one for another, spontaneous and generous with no expectation of return. It is illustrated by God’s free gift of forgiveness. It is this which sanctifies the saint more and more in the walk of life.

Mercy is tasked with dealing with all manner of human misery as a consequence of sin. It is a pitying love much like the phrase “God so loved the world.” This term is expressive of the balm for the ailing soul of a saint beset by the cares of this life awaiting the final glorification. Mercy enfolds the saint with divine arms of love.

Peace speaks of that which has been bound together after having been separated. It is characterized by tranquility, comfort and well-being. It is the sense of satisfaction with our Lord and satisfaction with our life based upon trusting God’s work of grace and mercy in our behalf.

Do you see what I mean when I say that an unsaved person can only hope for such certainty in relationship with his Creator? Every genuine believer regularly needs a reminder of his unique privilege and provision in the favor of the Almighty. It was true in Paul’s day and so it is true in our day.

The next time you write a note to a brother or sister in Christ try to weave in this prayer of blessing as a reminder of God’s providential love. But do not stop with letter writing. What about how you greet another believer? And what about including these words in your prayers for each other? Trust and obey.