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Apostasy in the Last Days (3)

“Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied!”  Jude 2.

THE SALUTATION. This is more than the expected, nice, polite intro­duction to a letter. It is Scripture, given by inspiration of God, and is therefore profitable. For we, too, live in these last days of the Church afflicted with apostasy. What shall be our comfort, since we are not only unable to escape such last-day affliction, but must endure it? Exactly this: not only the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man on behalf of the churches, but a divine, unconditional effectual com­mand—Mercy to you and peace and love be multiplied! This is the sort of command that when the Lord speaks it, it is accomplished; whatever He com­mands, it occurs and stands fast. Pm. 33:9. Does He command that all these mercies shall sustain us in these last days? Then they most certainly shall be our source of strength in the evil day! What we have here is the comfort God commands (ordains) for us. In that connection we consider (1) the content of the commanded comfort, “mercy, peace and love,’’ and (2) the abun­dance of it, “be multiplied.’’

THE CONTENT. Mercy. First of all, mercy is what God is, then what God gives. Mercy is that attribute of God according to which He is in Himself absolutely the Most Blessed One, the eternally happy God, who purposes to make His people everlast­ingly blessed, forever happy in coven­ant fellowship with Him. Therefore, it is highly improper to speak of “com­mon mercy’’, for God in His very nature is the highest and only good, who knows and loves Himself as the Most Blessed One forever. Nor can God’s name, nature or essence be profaned or rendered common. God always remains God. He is immutably the God of mercy. To conceptionally make mercy common is to blaspheme God’s name. For mercy is an attribute of His name. Neither is the divine attitude of mercy common. Read Psalm 136. God’s rich earthly gifts are not to be compared to nor equated with His free, sovereign, discriminating mercy. To speak of a non-saving mercy is to speak of a non-mercy. But a mercy that is no mercy is not only intellectually intolerable but unimaginable. Mercy is particular, that is, to the elect only.

John Gill, correctly distinguishing the decree of election as the decree of the end and the decree of the means, sees, however, the divine love in the end, but mercy in the means to the end. For he sees the objects of love as the glorified (unfallen) elect, while the objects of mercy are the miserable (fallen). He illustrates this in the holy angels, objects of God’s love, but not objects of God’s mercy, since they were never miserable. But the divine attri­bute of mercy reveals God the ever Blessed One and never miserable. In the decree of the end, God ordains all His glorified (unfallen) elect, rational- moral creatures, men and angels, according to our conception of mercy, to the state of perfect blessedness forever. Therefore, we cannot accept Gill’s distinction at this point between love and mercy. As to the decree of the means, mercy continues to be shown the elect through the way of sin (the Fall) and grace. This means that mercy is not only electing mercy, covenant mercy, but also redeeming mercy, pardoning mercy, forgiving mercy and complete saving mercy. Tit. 3:5. All this mercy we need and have to cause us to stand in these last days of “the (great) falling away.”

PEACE. This concept may be defined as wholeness, soundness, health, well-being, prosperity, security, safety, I Thess. 5:3, good (of every kind: peace as opposed to war, concord as opposed to strife, peace as opposed to evil, Isa. 45:7). Peace is expressed in greeting: “Peace be unto you,’’ Lk. 24:36, in dismissal: “Go in peace,’’ Mk. 5:34, in benediction: “the Lord give you peace,’’ Num. 6:26; “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,” Rom. 15:13; “the Lord of peace give you peace at all times in all ways,’’ II Thes. 3:16.

“Mine own familiar (intimate) friend’’ (Ps. 41:9) is “the man of my peace” (Hebrew). God is “the God of peace” (Heb. 13), His gospel is the gospel of peace, Eph. 6:15; His Son is our peace, Eph. 2:14; He is Melchizedek, the King of peace, Heb. 7:2. The peace of Christ is His gift to us: “My peace I give unto you. These things have I spoken to you that in Me ye may have peace,” Jn. 14:27, 16:33. God thinks thoughts of peace toward His people, Jer. 29:11. Expecting peace while living in sin is self-deception. Jer. 8:11. Peace is not for the wicked. Isa. 57:21. God’s covenant is a covenant of peace. Isa. 54:10. Proclaim­ed of the gospel publish peace. Isa. 52:7. The promised Messiah is the Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6. He promises to bless His people with peace. Pm. 29:11. The increase of His government and peace shall have no end. Isa. 9:7. The “meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Pm. 37:11. Jerusalem’s peace shall be like a river. Isa. 66:12. Peace shall be within the walls of (the new) Jerusalem. Pm. 122:7. In His temple God gives peace. Hagg. 2:9. Saints go into it with joy and are led from it with peace. Isa. 55:12. The very officers of Israel shall be peace. Isa. 60:17. God shall extend and speak peace to the heathen. Zech. 9:10. Right now, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5:1. With the apostasy already upon us (Jude 3-4), the history of apostasy a warning to us (5-7) and apostate teachers corrupting souls in the churches (8-19), what would we ever do if peace were not multiplied to us!

LOVE. The love of God is first. The first and principle object of His love is Himself. Because God is perfectly pure, holy, just and good, arrayed in eternal glory, He loves Himself as the only good, and has made Himself and His own glory the ultimate end of all things in heaven, earth, grace and providence. God is attracted to Himself as to no other. He needs no other to love or be loved. He delights in contemplating Himself, His infinite nature and lovely attributes. He needs nothing and no one outside Himself to increase His happiness. He lives within His own triune being among the three divine Persons of the Godhead in mutual and eternal love. The Father loves the Son through (never apart from) the Spirit, and loves the Spirit in the Son. The Son loves the Father through the Spirit, and loves the Spirit through the Father. The Spirit loves the Father through the Son, and loves the Son in the Father. God is the overflowing Fountain of all good, the infinite Source of love. The love in the text then is God’s love to us, rather than our love for God. This is more in keeping with the effectual prayer that “love be multiplied unto you”—the same as in I Pet. 1:2 and II Pet. 1:2, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you.” Grace, peace and love are not virtues in us which we are to multiply Godward. It is rather, may these be multiplied to you. The verb is passive. God alone is the active performer of this blessed multiplication. Mercy mul­tiplied! Is that not the only saving good that shall keep our heads above all the raging waves of apostasy? “And love be multiplied!” Then in these last days, though all men about us fall away and we only are left, God’s unfailing love to us shall not diminish but increase.

THE ABUNDANCE. Mercy, peace and love be multiplied unto you! This is not a command underscoring our responsibility to God, but an expression of what God commands for us. “The Lord shall command the blessing on thee” (Deut. 28:8). “The Lord will command His lovingkindness (lit., mercy) in the daytime” unto me. (Pm. 42:8). The Lord multiplies unto us the unsearchable riches of Christ. God is rich in mercy because of His great love wherewith He loved us. (Eph. 2:4). His love to us is so multiplied that it “passeth knowledge.” (Eph. 3:19). Blessings multiplied are greater than those which come by added increase. The latter come one after another. Then there is an increase of two. But two multiplied by two (or by three!) is so much richer! God gives mercy, peace and love multiplied, squared and cubed!

Apostates creep in and lurk every­where. They threaten the whole cause of the true church. The Lord commands not, Get up and fight them, but, “Mercy and peace and love be multiplied unto you.” God’s blessing on His people will be the defeat of the enemy. God’s blessing on His people shall preserve them from modern corruptions. There is a tidal wave of fearful wickedness out there in the world, as the current political activity reveals. We expect that of the world. The sad thing of it is, the very same vileness is sweeping through the churches. The enemy is strong, but best of all, God is with us. Our safety is in Prince Emmanuel. The Diabolonians fear Him and His mighty power worse than anything. Apostasy runs rampant in and through the visible churches. There is a terrible infection killing off many. Our best protection is in the sovereign mercy of Christ’s blood; in the confidence that “the Lord will give blessing and strength to His people; the Lord all His people will comfort with peace”; and in a sense of the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Spirit. Yet there is more assur­ance and comfort, while so many are falling away. Read verses 20-23 and go in the way of that charted devotion. Then you will know that the benedic­tion (verses 24, 25) applies to you, making you to differ.