The Three Sweetest Words

II Jn 1:1-3

1 THE ELDER, To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. (NKJ)

You might think that the three sweetest words are I love you. But I think that the sweetest words in any language are grace, mercy and peace.

These are not words that John uses much in his writings. Grace occurs elsewhere in John only in Jn 1:14,16-17; 3 Jn 4; Rev 1:4; 22:21. I never did realize that before and it kind of struck me as unusual. But it does tell me that when John uses the this common blessing that he is not just rambling, since this is the only place in John's writings were it is found.

But the combination of these three words, Grace, mercy and peace is very significatnt. Listen to what some of the commentators say.

Grace. The favor of God toward sinners. The word occurs elsewhere in John only in <Jn 1:14,16-17; 3 Jn 4; Rev 1:4; 22:21>. Mercy is the compassion of God for us in our misery. John uses this word only here. Peace is the resultant state of wholeness when sin and misery are removed. From God . . . and from the Lord. (from Wycliffe Commentary)

[Grace ... mercy ... peace.] "Grace" covers men's sins; "mercy," their miseries. Grace must first do away with guilt before misery can be relieved by mercy. Therefore grace stands before mercy. Peace is the result of both; therefore stands third. Casting all our care on the Lord, with thanksgiving, maintains this peace <Phil. 4:6-7>. (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

(1.) grace-- divine favour and good-will, the spring of all good things: it is grace indeed that any spiritual blessing should be conferred on sinful mortals.

(2.) mercy-- free pardon and forgiveness; those who are already rich in grace have need of continual forgiveness.

(3.) peace-- tranquility of spirit and serenity of conscience, in an assured reconciliation with God, together with all safe and sanctified outward prosperity. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary)

Similar greetings are used by Paul and Peter, but there is one difference. In those greetings or benedictions, there is no verb used. The writer simply says grace, peace and mercy on you.

But John uses a verb with the greeting. And the verb stands in the emphatic position in the sentence. In the Greek it goes like this. Be with you, grace, mercy, peace form God the Father and from Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in truth and love.

What this means is that in most place where similar greetings are use it is more of a wish than anything else. We wish that you might have grace, mercy and peace.

John on the other hand confirms this greeting as being beyond doubt that it will come to pass. The verb in is in the middle voice which means that the subjects are being acted upon. John is saying, "To you will be grace, mercy, and peace, from God etc.

But why do I say that grace, mercy, and peace are the three sweetest words in the human language?

  1. Grace
    1. This is first because in God's view nothing else can proceed until grace is set in motion.
    2. Remember what grace means, unmerited favor.
      1. It is that not only do we not deserve what grace provides, we actually deserve the opposite.
      2. Grace provides mercy when were deserve justice and judgement, condemnation for our sinful lives.
      3. Grace provides forgiveness when we deserve only accountability and reprimands.
    3. But grace, for God, is never free.
      1. It cost God the suffering and death of His Son so that He might extend grace.
      2. For although an unjust judge might allow the guilty to go free, God's justice demands retribution for our sins.
      3. There for God's grace called not only for mercy but for justice and that was accomplished when Jesus took our place on Calvary.
    4. There is a little acronym that helps bring this into focus.
    5. It is God's Riches at Christ Expense.
    6. Grace is not like a rich man parting with a little of his fortune in order to make other rich, for there is no sense of justice or guilt in that.
    7. Grace is never needed where there is no guilt.
    8. We sing that old song on 288 in our hymnal.
      1. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost , but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
      2. John Newton knew God's grace for he knew that he was a terrible sinner.
      3. But God saved old John Newton and made him a preacher of righteousness.
    9. Grace is the sweetest word for when I deserve nothing but the wrath of the Almighty God, when I know that He is too holy to look upon such a sinner as myself, when I know that even the smallest sin separates me from God and confines me to an eternal hell as a willful rebel against His perfectly holy will, when I know all that, I am filled with joy to know that instead, He has extended to me His grace.
  2. Mercy
    1. We often think of mercy as preceding grace, and in man's view of things that seems the most natural.
      1. But in reality it is not.
      2. God could and would have no mercy on us except that He determined to be gracious to us.
        1. Some people think, well God had to be merciful, He had no other choice.
        2. But you must understand, that if that is true it removes the whole concept of grace.
        3. Also Jude and Peter tell us very plainly about the angels who rebelled who were never offered mercy because there is no indication that God ever extended grace to them.
      3. Remember the acronym, God's Riches at Christ's Expense.
      4. Had Christ not suffered, we could have no mercy.
    2. Now in mercy God took away our guilt and sin and instead gave us the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
    3. He made partakers of the Divine Nature.
    4. He implanted in us His Holy Spirit.
    5. But we must not forget that mercy is something we need every day.
      1. Some days I need it more than others.
      2. I need God's mercy when I get into things that I should have stayed away from.
      3. I need God's mercy when I fall short of what God expects of me.
      4. Next to grace, mercy is the sweetest word I know.
  3. Peace
    1. Peace is a result of grace and mercy.
      1. Peace never just comes on its own.
      2. Peace is not brought by what many people think will give peace.
      3. I heard of a multimillionaire the other day who spends the day in front of the computer screen fearful of how much he would loose today.
      4. One of the strangest cases in recent history is that of Howard Hughes.
        1. He spent the last years of his life as a recluse, afraid to leave his sanitary confines, not even allowing his finger nails and toe nails to be cut lest they nip him and an infection take his life.
        2. Billions of dollars could not bring peace.
    2. Peace cannot be purchased, or manipulated.
      1. Isa 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. (NKJ)
      2. Isa 57:19-21 "I create the fruit of the lips: peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near," says the LORD, "And I will heal him." But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." (NKJ)
      3. Phil 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (NKJ)
    3. No God; No Peace - Know God; Know Peace

Do you have peace because you have experienced the grace and mercy of God?

Or have you let the world rob you your joy by the trials in you life?

If you do not know God in the person of Jesus Christ, you can know Him today and because of His GRACE, God's Riches At Christ Expense, you can have mercy and real peace.

During the late 1800s English evangelist Henry Moorhouse made several trips to America to preach. On one of these occasions, he was taking a walk through a poor section of the city when he noticed a small boy coming out of a store with a pitcher of milk. Just then, the boy sliped and fell, breaking the pitcher and spilling the milk all over the sidewalk. Moorhouse rushed to the youngster's side and found him unhurt but terrified. "My mamma'll whip me!" he cried. The preacher suggested that they try to put the pitcher back together, but the pieces of glass would not stay together. The boy kept crying. Finally Moorhouse picked up the youngster and carried him to a nearby store where the preacher purchased a new pitcher. Then he returned to the dairy store and had the pitcher washed and filled with milk. With that done, he carried both the boy and the pitcher home. Putting the youngster down on his front porch, Moorhouse handed him the pitcher and asked, "Now will your mama whip you?" A wide smile spread upon his tear-stained face, "Aw, no sir, 'cause it's a lot better pitcher than we had before."


This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at