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1Timothy 1:1-2



To Timothy, my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (verse 2)

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I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Paul’s young friend, Timothy. The reason is obvious – he’s my namesake. But he also needed encouragement from Paul, again and again, because of his youth. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” Paul tells him (4:12). I, too, started ministry young – I’m not so much anymore, but the connection with young Tim stuck. He comes across as timid, needing to be strengthened in the calling he has received. So often I can identify.


His name has God himself interwoven into it – “Theos.” “Timotheos”means “honouring God.” It’s a high calling. I, too, feel it.


And so I am intrigued that Paul inserts an extra word into his letter’s standard greeting, specially geared for Timothy’s ears. “Mercy.”Sandwiched between the two good words he uses in the salutation of every single one of his letters (“grace” and “peace”), Paul inserts this additional word. “Mercy.” He does this in only one other of his letters – significantly, it’s in his second epistle to this same young, timid minister of Christ.


What was it about Timothy that called forth this additional word from Paul’s pen? “Grace” and “peace” are powerful foundations for anyone seeking to serve Christ Jesus. But “mercy”speaks specifically to that ongoing awareness of the weight of our own sin apart from Christ. If “grace” speaks to the wonder of receiving what we don’t deserve, “mercy” speaks to the joyful release of not receiving what we most certainly did deserve. Judgement has been turned aside. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) – this is “mercy.”


I wonder if Timothy specially struggled with knowing, deeply and fully, that he was forgiven. Did this play into his timidity, yielding an ever-intruding pang of unworthiness from his past? We don’t know. But we do know that Paul expressly speaks over him this powerful word. “Mercy.”


Paul, of course, knows this word’s wonder in his own life. Twice over in the next verses he makes reference to it. “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy” (verse 13). “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy” (verses 15-16). Guilt, and the judgement attached to it, was put aside. Paul revels in the mercy. He speaks it over Timothy.


He speaks it over me. Sandwiched between grace and peace, I receive it with eager hands. It’s the basis for life and ministry. “Therefore, I urge you,” says Paul, “by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).


“Mercy” – from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. May it pour forth.

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Father, I receive your mercy afresh right now. Released from sin, washed clean from guilt, I have not received from your hand what I deserved. Instead, like Timothy, I have been called into your service. By your mercies, I offer myself to you, once again.

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Reflect: Paul knew well the wrongs from which he’d been released. Take some quiet moments to remember the depths of your own forgiveness. Stand in the solid footing of Mercy.

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