Bible Study Series
Contemplating the Almighty
The Divine Mercy
How well do you know God’s mercy?
1) Mercy is
a) compassion towards those who are afflicted or in rebellionfflicted or in rebellion
b) a desire to give the very best for the longest amount of time
c) being able to see spiritual matters clearly
a) cancels out the eternal debt of a sin
b) lessens the eternal debt of a sin
c) delays the eternal debt of a sin
3) Suffering and affliction here on Earth
a) can substitute for divine judgment
b) if bad enough can get someone into Heaven by itself
c) has no affect on the penalty of our sins
4) The immediate negative consequence of our sin on the Earth
a) can be delayed or eliminated by mercy
b) will always occur no matter what
c) can be delayed by mercy but will catch up to us eventually
5) The free gift of salvation
a) has nothing to do with mercy and is purely an act of love
b) is a combination of God’s love and grace but not mercy
c) is the supreme act of mercy
6) God is rich in mercy towards us because we are rich in
a) sin and affliction
b) obedience and good deeds
c) complaining and whining
7) When we do not get mercy
a) we should demand it
b) realize that in view of our sins that we cannot complain
c) we should realize that God has abandoned us and beg Him to come back to us
8) Mercy allows us
a) time to repent
b) to sin more with impunity
c) forget about that sin since nothing bad came from it
9) When someone sins against us
a) we should always be merciful and forget about it
b) we should always expect them to make up for it big time
c) consider if the situation would best be served by being merciful and then be so if it does
10) When God has shown us mercy we should
a) repent of our sin and worship Him
b) try to figure out what caused His mercy and do it again so that we ca c) do nothing because it was God’s choice and not ours
In undertaking this great theme of divine mercy, it might be best to distinguish several of His attributes, these being: His mercy, His patience, His love, and His grace. All emanate from the same inexhaustible heart; all are richly lavished upon His children. They are worthy of our greatest praise, deserving of our deepest meditation. No person can grow in understanding of these areas without drawing nearer to God.
Mercy is the compassion of the Most High as directed toward objects of misery and affliction. Patience is long suffering toward objects of rebellion. Love is the motivation to give the very best for the utmost longest and underlies all of His actions. Grace is the action taken by which He bestows all that His love actuates Him to do. Of these, the only on necessarily restricted in full application to His children is that of grace. It can have no unrestrained function until the holy demands against sin have been satisfied. The others have most definitely been experienced by all mankind. No man can correctly assert that God has not shown them mercy or patience or has not loved them unconditionally. d them unconditionally.
Mercy can be proven in God by His withholding the immediate consequences of our sin. “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” What we deserve and what we receive may be two entirely different things. It is not, however, a removal of judgment. Retribution must always be the wages of sin. Payment is ultimately necessary, be it Christ on the cross or us eternally in hell. Mercy can never substitute for the divine payment required for our transgressions.
It is vital to understand, also, that suffering in this present life does not substitute for the torment required in hell for sins. Any present affliction pales in comparison to the torment in hell involving infernal punishment and complete, eternal separation from God. The hopelessly damned will consider their greatest misery here to be a relief compared to what they are doomed to in hell forever. The divine judgment for sin cannot be equated nor satisfied by any present affliction or misery. To think otherwise has lead to the profanities of asceticism and penance. God has said, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings for sin Thou has not desired, nor hast Thou taken pleasure in them.” The purpose of Christ is that “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” To introduce personal affliction into the scheme of salvation is not merely to underestimate the impact of sin upon the holiness of God, but to slander all of His promises regarding grace. The total requirements fulfilled by the spotless Lamb of God cannot be accomplished in whole or in part by any condition or endeavor by us.
There is a tremendous difference between what we presently reap from our sin and the immeasurable divine judgment demanded by an outraged and holy God. The first effects its consequences in the present sphere of time and life; the second requires eternity. One functions on the principle of reaping what we sow; the other is consequent of intensely offending absolute holiness. The former has no bearing on a person’s judicial position before God. As all stand either wholly condemned or wholly justified, there can be absolutely no degrees therein. The latter is our judicial poison before the Almighty. Mercy may preclude the first, but not the second. Though both are sin, they cannot and must not be combined. To do so denies the necessity of the absolute vicariousness of Christ’s death. The first all experience; the second is reserved only for the unregenerate. The remission for the first is mercy; the remedy for the second is only believing on Christ unto salvation. Specific repentance may often remit the former; a turning to God from idols is necessary for the latter.
This distinction is evident in the position of a Christian. Though we are totally free from the divine judgment required of sin, we are not necessarily released from its present consequences. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption from the flesh, but we shall never come into judgment. We experience discipline and we are called to zealously repent of our transgressions. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we still will often yield to temptation. All of the divine requirements for the penalty of our sin have been met by Christ; however, that same sin which was crushed on the cross with our Savior may still have present consequences after we commit it. It can have no influence, though, on our eternal merit. It is vital for the believer to recognize this distinction. The concept of paying for our sins, in any way whatsoever here and now, is a gross misunderstanding of scripture and of God. It is an extreme, grave example of pride and demonstrates a greater perversion and misjudgment of the wrath exacted against our rebellion. That wrath is as great as His ineffable holiness is to our sinful nature.
Mercy alone can never remove the divine penalty for our sin. If this were possible for one sin or in one instance, then it necessarily would be for all. This being the case, then Christ would not have been required to die and, therefore, would have been the spotless Lamb of God given in vain. However, the crushing of the Savior for our iniquity was an act of infinite mercy toward us. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come, He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” And again, Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” The giving of Christ for our sins was the supreme act of mercy. God witnessed the pain and torment of man and so provided the ultimate solution-the free gift of eternal life. It could have been by no other way.
Divine mercy heard “the groaning of prisoner; to se free those who were doomed to death.” Satan would “not allow his prisoners to go home” but the omnipotent Savior said “to those who are bound, ‘Go forth!’” It is to God’s supreme glory that He was not deaf to our groaning, to our deserved state. We were the prisoners. Compassion freed us who were wholly impotent to liberate ourselves from a cruel taskmaster.
The testimony of the Scriptures clearly proclaims this great truth of His mercy. With deep veneration, Mary averted, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.” Zacharias likewise, declared of his son’s calling, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And Peter writes to the churches, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The mercy of God is stupendous in its realty to His saints. Those whose hearts have been enlightened to the goodness of the Lord proclaim “O praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise Him all ye people. For His merciful kindness is great toward us; and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord.”
Mercy can never be earned. Its very necessity is evoked by unworthiness, not by worthiness, else there would be no need for it. Because we have sinned, we need mercy not because we have obeyed. The only qualification for mercy is affliction. We are a weak and fearful people. Our worldly foundations can crumble quickly. We can easily despair and lose hope. Our constitution may be considered to be at best frail. God is rich in mercy because we are rich in affliction. Mercy flows from a hear of infinite love and compassion unto those of despairing and deserved misery. Scriptures says that “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” The Lord is not cold and calculating but is an intelligent being who fully realizes the condition of His creatures. As a result, His affections are directed by His ever loving sovereignty, “’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who guns, but on God who has mercy.” It must again be emphasized that mercy cannot be earned nor deserved. No excellence on our part elicits its application. Rather, its dependency lies in the greatness of God. We are its unworthy recipients. This, however, should produce no insecurity since our god is the Father of mercies” who is “rich in mercy.” Our confidence, as always, rests in the greatness of God.
If God does not show us mercy in a particular situation, on what grounds do we have to dispute? Lamentations 3:39 reads, “Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? Who whom and in what way God shows mercy is justly determined by Him. The need for mercy is brought forth by the effects of sin and rebellion. How perverted the creature who sins against His Creator and then demands and expects mercy from the just consequences of such. As has been emphasized much, our condition should be much worse then it is now. The attitude is often, “Why dost Thou stand afar off, O Lord? Why dost Thou hide Thyself in times of trouble, rather then humbly confessing?” “I have sinned against the Lord.” How dare we think that we should be allowed to continue in the deceitful pleasures of our sin and then expect mercy when the despairing consequences result. We are called to repent and obey, not expect and demand that which we do not deserve.
Not all affliction, however, is directly resulting from transgression on our part. Adversaries will come against the Lord’s people. The righteous are persecuted. The wicked will always seek to abuse the children of God. In these instances, he affliction arises from righteousness rather than from sin. The scriptures abound with such incidences and 2 Timothy 3:12 promises, “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Here too, though, the divine mercy seeks out the troubled to give rest to their souls. The Lord is a fortress, a refuge, a shield. Even a casual reading of the Psalms should impress our hearts with this realty. The mercy of God is the salvation of His people from the storms of adversity. Though all may roar and shake around us, we shall always stand firm on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ. “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Three. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”
The unregenerate man stands before the Almighty without righteous, without understanding, without seeking God. This person is useless, doing no good. He is alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds and though He may bitterly deny it, he stands on nothing save the love and mercy of the Most High. His destiny is one of agonizing terror forever in utter darkness apart from God, apart from hope. He deserves nothing better then to be hurled instantly into hell as his just retribution. The intense, bitter torment of Gehenna is his fate. He is wholly impotent to alter this destiny. It is what he has earned. What stays the execution? By what means is the doomed preserved from perishing? The scriptures herald, “For His merciful kindness is great toward us.” The damned, instead of getting what they deserve, may be given the opportunity to stand forever in the presence of the High and Holy God. Condemnation may be wholly replaced with justification. Shame may be replaced with glory. Hell may be replaced with heaven. This is pure mercy. A destiny of being forever with God in wholehearted worship with the host of saints and angels rather than stark, abject fear alone forever in darkness-this is pure mercy. “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” God’s response to the repentant who is clothed with sin and shame is, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one that comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” This person is us. The Lord has shown us unsurpassed and tremendous mercy. How can we not worship a God such as this?
Our attitude of expectation and greed is truly amazing. God has blessed us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” but we cry out for more. He has promised to supply all our needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” but we complain that we are unfulfilled. He promises that “in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary,” but we demand immediate results. God is so exceedingly good to us but we refuse to trust Him and to be content. How often in our troubles has He been here to help. He is indeed “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction.” We must learn to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord saying, ‘For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever,’ that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.” May our hearts be always like this.
What does God’s mercy mean to us?
Aligning ourselves not with the advantageous but with the lowly
Many times in church you can see people line up in front of the pastor to tell him what is going on in their lives and there is not necessarily anything wrong with that. But if there is someone sitting by themselves or who is hurting or who is on the low end of society do we ever see people lined up in front of them to minister to him? This would be called mercy.
Much of Jesus’ life was filled with opposition, ridicule, and disbelief, but there was one time where the crowds were behind Him cheering Him on. He was about to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey while they screamed, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 20:29-34). In this midst of all of this fanfare there was an interruption. Two blind beggars who could not even see the sun in the sky managed to stop the Son of God. There may be times when we are on our way to doing something great for God, but then someone who is needy interrupts us. When things are going poorly there is always the danger of focusing on how circumstances are affecting us and when things are going well there is always the danger of being caught up in the rush. Jesus did not get blinded by this. He never forget those who were hurting. There is always time to stop and show mercy. to stop and show mercy.
In Matthew 25:35-40.we see an amazing fact about God. He associates with the lowly, with the poor, with the hurting, with the sick. When a king is parading in all of his regality before his adoring people God does not look upon him and say, “That’s my boy!” But a dirty beggar who is crying out for pennies so that he can live; who has been outcast from society and is covered with sores; this is the person that God sees and says, “There I am along side that person feeling his pain.” When Jesus came to the earth He didn’t experience riches and pomp. He wept in the dust with sisters whose brother had died. He touched a leper whose life was worth less than nothing to most people. Who were the people that Jesus associated with? –A widow whose only son was dead, a woman with a hemorrhage for 25 years, a paralytic who had to be carried on a stretcher, two blind beggars on the There are people begging for mercy all around us. Do we step over them while going to church?
Because of the necessity of God’s mercy we can never demand anything from God
Mercy is not a nice extra that God provides. Because we are so sinful it is a necessary favor. God’s mercy directs our eyes from ourselves and what we think we deserve to falling vulnerable on the mercy of God. What does God owe us? Who are we that we should blame God for anything? We are sinners. We should not be demanding blessings from God. Instead, we should be begging from God His mercy.
Though we should fear sin we do not have to be obsessed by avoiding it
Throughout Christian history there have been groups of people who went to extremes to avoid contamination or temptation by sin. God does call us to holiness and to avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22) but not to the degree that it stagnates the rest of our lives.
Though it is not a license to sin but God knows who and what we are and understands that we are weak and will sin. Psalm 78:38-39 reads, “But He, being compassionate [merciful], forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; and often He restrained His anger and did not arouse all His wrath. Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” does no It is because God is merciful that we do not have to spend our every waking moment trying to avoid sin but can focus rather on being holy.
Answers to quiz
2) c 1) a
Philip is a good friend of yours and is a Christian, but he has a short temper. If he feels that he is being slighted or wronged in even the most minor way he becomes furious. He becomes insulting and threatening and will hold a grudge forever. He will do this even in public with strangers. He is estranged from both of his parents and once had a very short-lived marriage. There have been a number of times that he has blown up at you, but since you know what he is like you just brush it off and do not take it personally. Lately, though, he feels that the leaders in the church that you both attend have slighted him by him by not asking him to co-lead a ministry in an area that is very dear to him. As a consequence he has confronted several of them in a way that was overly hostile. One of those leaders took you aside last week to tell you that the church is thinking of asking Philip to leave. You know that should this happen Philip will explode and cause all kinds of problems in the church. You are the only person whom he trusts and so you feel that it is your responsibility to help him with his anger problem. Would you tell him about what the church leader told you? Why or why not? What would you tell him about how to control his anger? What can you tell him about God’s mercy that might help him?
1) In addition to the ones discussed above, what are some other assurances that God’s mercy means to us?uo;s mercy means to us?
2) How do you define God’s mercy?
3) Why is God’s mercy important?
4) Describe some real examples of God’s mercy in your own life.
5) Why is it important for us to show mercy to others?
6) What are some ways that we can show mercy to others?
7) Someone is always complaining about how God does not do what he or she wants. How does the fact of God’s mercy rebuke this attitude?
8) What are some people in the Bible that God showed mercy to and how?
9) When someone sins against you should you always initially show mercy?
10) Someone says to you, “My brother who always led a clean life went to a party, got drunk, and had sex for the first and only time in his life. He later died of AIDS because of that one time. Where was God’s mercy there?” What would you say?
11) Are mercy and justice completely incompatible?
12) What is the difference between mercy and forgiveness?
Copyright Bob La Forge 2011 email: firstname.lastname@example.org