And we declare to you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made to the fathers,…
The words do not seem in themselves to have the nature of a Messianic prediction. To those, however, whose minds were full to overflowing with the writings of the prophets, they would be pregnant with meaning. What were the "sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3) but the "everlasting covenant" of mercy which was to find its fulfilment in One who should be "a leader and commander to the people"? We may well believe that the few words quoted recalled to St. Paul and to his hearers the whole of that wonderful chapter which opens with "He, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." The Greek word for "mercies" is the same adjective as that translated "holy" in the next verse, "holiness" being identified with "mercy," and so forms a connecting link with the prophecy cited in the next verse.
Sure mercies: — Consider —
I. WHAT THESE MERCIES ARE.
1. The knowledge of God in Christ. "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts," etc. Great is this mercy. By this alone we are delivered from idolatry. No man can worship the true God, except in Jesus Christ. The poor ignorant heathen is not the only idolater. The Deist, Rationalist, the man that flatters himself that above all men he is the farthest removed from idolatry, is nevertheless worshipping an idol, which he himself creates — the imagination of his own heart.
2. Forgiveness of sin by Christ. The present completeness of this blessing is the distinguishing feature of true religion from all false religion whatever. And therefore the very outset, the very A B C of the gospel, is, "By this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins."
3. Renewal of heart in Christ. Unto the perfection of man's happiness, association is indispensable. Man cannot live alone; fellowship with God there cannot be without holiness of heart, leading to sincere obedience. Here, then, is a great mercy — that the man to whom God has given the knowledge of Himself, and to whom He has proclaimed forgiveness of sins, shall also experience in himself such a renewal of his affections, that, instead of shrinking from God, he shall now find a congeniality, a sympathy, an association, and begin to find a happiness of companionship, without which no man can really be happy. These are some of the mercies spoken of in this text. And they are at the same time, as you may observe in the margin of your Bibles, "holy or just things." They are "holy" —
(1) Or God would never have done them.
(2) As the purchase of the holy One.
(3) As procured according to law.
(4) In their results.
II. HOW THESE MERCIES ARE OBTAINED. In answer to this inquiry, consult the prophecy in Isaiah 55, the passage referred to by the apostle. Here is a threefold exhortation to hear: the first in connection with the satisfying of the soul — "Hearken diligently, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself"; the second in connection with coming to the Lord — "Incline your ear and come unto Me"; the third in connection with everlasting life thus given — "Hear, and your soul shall live." Now, mark these: "hearken" — "incline your ear" — "hear." They are all explained by that great truth which the apostle proclaims when he says, "Faith cometh by hearing." We have all these mercies by faith, because we have Christ by faith, and in no other way. God has appointed this medium in order that the attainment might be manifestly of grace — not of study, not of time, not of hereditary descent, not of instruction by man. Now, see what is attained by the appointment of this medium. It is confidence. Faith is confidence; faith places God and man in their proper places — God in authority, man in dependence. Man fell through an attempt to be independent. Man is recovered through a willingness to be dependent. This is attained through the appointment of faith as the medium through which the blessings are conveyed; and "faith comes by hearing" — hearing "the Word of God." Hence the importance of the ministry of the Word. You cannot have the Word proclaimed without a voice to proclaim it; you cannot have a voice without a man to raise it; you cannot have a man without sustenance and support.
III. THE DESCRIPTION HERE GIVEN OF THESE MERCIES. "Sure."
1. They are infallibly "sure" to rest on all for whom they were designed.
2. They are immutably "sure" to all on whom they rest.
(H. McNeile, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,