November 2020

 

His Great Mercy

by Tom McLemore

 

        There are many reasons for worshiping, blessing, praising God, viz., his being our Creator, his power, his majesty, his wonderful works, etc.  Our lesson today calls us to worship him also for his great mercy, i.e., his pity, his kindness, his concern for us in our need.

        How we need his mercy!  Dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind....separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:1-4, 12).

        In 1 Peter 1:3-5,  Peter exclaimed, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God’ s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

 

The FATHER of Mercies 

 

        Our God is the Father of mercies!  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort...” (2 Corinthians 1:3).  Mercy is his name.  “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious...”  (Exodus 34:6).  He is rich in mercy for his great love (Ephesians 2:4).  His mercy is as rich as his love is great.  And we know how great his love is!  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16); cf. Psa. 117.

        The riches of his mercies are inexhaustible.  “The steadfast love of the LORD  never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22).  “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever” (Psalm 136:1). 

        The Lord’s purpose and plan have always been all about showing mercy.  “What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part?  By no means!  For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy upon whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.  So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.  For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy upon whomsoever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills....Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy.  For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Romans 9:14-18; 11:30-32).

 

The FAMILY of Mercy

 

        He is called the Father of mercies because he begets children out of his mercy.  Again, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By his great mercy we have been born anew...”  (1 Peter 1:3).  Among other things, the identity of the church is the people who have received mercy.  “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).   “Those who have received mercy” might be considered our standard identification as individuals and corporately.  When someone asks us about our church membership, one thing we may say is “I belong to the church of those who have received mercy.”  When someone asks us about our salvation, we may reply, “I am one who has received mercy.”

        People are begotten into the family of mercy in baptism.  Jesus told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God....Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Sprit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5).  To be born anew means becoming a child of God. 

        Though Paul does not write the terms “born anew,” he declares precisely the same truth as Jesus spoke.  “[F]or in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27).  Paul does state that “...if any one is in Christ [and we have seen that we come to be “in Christ” through being baptized] he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

        So then, without question, the mercy of God is in baptism!   This principle is reinforced by considering the blessing of the new covenant, viz., “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).  And when does one receive the mercy of God with respect to forgiveness of sins?  In baptism.  “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:38).     It is absolutely amazing how this coalesces with what Paul wrote in Titus 3:5–“[H]e saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit...”  Here we have mercy, regeneration, salvation (forgiveness), and the Holy Spirit, and all in connection with baptism!  Want mercy?  You must be baptized.

        Mercy becomes a major part of the family trait...the family resemblance.  “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).  Jesus, the Son of God,  manifested it.   For instance, “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched [the leper], and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’” (Mark 1:41).  “As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:34).  As he was being crucified at the place which is called The Skull, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

        We also, as God’s children, must manifest it.  “[A]nd be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When Jesus taught the parable of the good Samaritan in answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” he described a priest and a Levite who showed no mercy and a Samaritan who was moved with compassion.  Then he asked his questioner, “Which of these three proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).  This is mercy’s mandate for every child of God!  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).  “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).  “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (James 3:17).

 

The FORTUNE of Mercy

 

        Children in the FAMILY of mercy, children of the FATHER of mercies, stand to inherit the FORTUNE of mercy!  Loving parents want to leave their children an inheritance.  Parents often worry about not having something to leave and about whether their children will use it wisely.  Children worry that there may not be any inheritance. 

        Being children of the Father of mercies means eternal inheritance with no need to be anxious.  The very nature of the inheritance itself means that there is no anxiety about it.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

        The very nature of our hope means the elimination of anxiety about our inheritance, for our hope is a living hope.  Our hope is Christ Jesus himself!  Christ, our hope, lives, and he lives in us. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).  “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me...” (Galatians 2:20). 

        Christ Jesus our hope will come again (John 14:1).  And he will come with mercy.   Children in the family of mercy “...wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21).  Yet, our inheritance is conditional upon our faith (1 Peter 1:5).

        Children of the Father of mercies have everything for which to love, worship, praise, and serve him...not least of all is his great mercy!  Want mercy?  Be baptized into God’s mercy.  Think you are too sinful for God to be merciful?  Consider Paul! (1 Timothy 1:13, 16).  Think you do not need mercy?  Think again  (Revelation 3:17, 18)!  Need mercy as a child of God?  It is yours for the asking (Luke 18:33; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 1:9).  Praise be unto God for his great mercy!

 

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