Thankful (Part 3): Thankful for God’s Mercy

Thankful

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

As Paul wrote to Timothy, he told of his own background as a persecutor of the church and how he considered himself as the “chief” of sinners (KJV). Yet he was able to be forgiven and become a part of the Lord’s work because of the mercy that was shown to him. He explained to Timothy that the Lord’s treatment of him is an example for all believers. As Paul received mercy, we also receive mercy from God. As Paul thanked the Lord for this, we are to be thankful for God’s mercy as well.

The Gift of God’s Mercy

Strong’s defines the word translated mercy as “to have compassion, pity on.” This is related to grace. Grace is when God gives us what we do not deserve; mercy is when God does NOT give us what we DO deserve. When punishment is deserved, mercy is the motivation behind God withholding or delaying it.

This is necessarily tied to salvation. Since we deserve punishment for our sins (Romans 6:23), God’s mercy leads Him to delay this punishment so we have time to repent and enjoy the salvation He offers. Paul wrote, “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” (Titus 3:5). Peter described it this way: “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” (1 Peter 1:3). From these two verses, we see that we are saved by mercy and have a living hope of the resurrection. As we noticed at the beginning, Paul’s life was an example of God’s mercy to give hope to all who believe (1 Timothy 1:15-16). If he could receive God’s mercy and be saved, anyone can be.

Without God’s mercy, we would have no hope. Paul explained to the brethren in Ephesus that mercy was the reason why they were able to be alive in Christ after first being dead in sin: “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)” (Ephesians 2:4-5). When we are “separate from Christ,” we have “no hope” (Ephesians 2:12).

We Must Accept God’s Mercy

As Paul explained to the saints in Rome, God’s kindness (in this context, this is the same idea as mercy) is meant to lead us to repentance: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). We have all sinned (Romans 3:23), but we need to turn from our sin and “not let sin reign in [our] mortal body” and “not go on presenting the members of [our] body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness” (Romans 6:12-13). As we work to put away sin from our lives, we are also to pray to God to be merciful and forgive us, just as the tax collector did in Jesus’ parable: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).

However, not everyone will accept God’s mercy. After indicating that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance, Paul went on to say, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Just because God’s mercy is offered does not mean that everyone will take advantage of it.

In order to receive God’s mercy, we must also show mercy to others. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). This implies two things:

  • We are to forgive others when they sin against us – In teaching about prayer, Jesus said, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). When our brother sins against us and repents, even if he does this “seven times a day,” we are to forgive him (Luke 17:3-4).
  • We are not to hold a grudge against others – James wrote, “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9, KJV). If God will not continue to hold our sins against us after we repent, we must not do that to others either.

Therefore, accepting God’s mercy is done by responding appropriately to Him through repentance and obedience and by showing mercy to others.

We Must Appreciate God’s Mercy

Recognizing the value of God’s mercy begins with acknowledging our own sin. John wrote, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23), making us deserving of spiritual death (Romans 6:23). We have not suffered that fate yet because God is merciful.

However, this is about more than just the mercy that has been extended to us individually. If God was not a merciful God, we would not have even had a chance to live, let alone be saved. What would have happened if God was not merciful? Or if He stopped being merciful to man?

  • Adam and Eve would have been killed in the Garden after eating the forbidden fruit. The penalty for violating this command was that “the day that [they] eat from it [they] will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Yet their physical death, while it would come, did not come immediately (Genesis 3:19).
  • All mankind would have been destroyed in the flood (Genesis 6:5-7). “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). However, even though Noah was “a righteous man” (Genesis 6:9), he was not a sinless man. Yet he – and the future of mankind with him – was still able to be saved.
  • The nation of Israel would have been destroyed for their rebellion against God (Ezekiel 6:1-7). However, God promised to “leave a remnant” (Ezekiel 6:8) through which the promise of Christ could be fulfilled (Genesis 22:18).
  • Jesus would not have gone to the cross. Instead, He would have been delivered by an army of “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53) that would have been powerful enough to destroy all the inhabitants of the earth.*
  • This world would have been destroyed long ago. Yet regarding the day of destruction at the end of the world, Peter said, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God has shown His mercy to us individually and to mankind collectively. This is what allows us to have hope in spite of our sin.

We Must Demonstrate Gratitude

God’s mercy is necessary because of our sin. We are to accept it by turning to God and obeying Him and we must always appreciate this gift. How can we show our gratitude?

  1. Thank God for the mercy that He has shown to us and to all mankind – In the passage we noticed at the beginning, Paul described His prayer to Christ: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13). We may not have committed the same sins as Paul, but we have all sinned. Therefore, we need to express gratitude to the Lord in prayer just as the apostle did.
  2. Give up sin and obey the Lord – As we noticed earlier, Paul wrote, “The kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4). Rather than “continue in sin,” we are to “consider [ourselves] to be dead to sin” (Romans 6:11) and become “obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which [we] were committed” (Romans 6:17).
  3. Show mercy to others – Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). As Jesus explained in His rebuke of the scribes and Pharisees, obedience without mercy is not pleasing to God: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). Obedience is important, but it is not a substitute to showing mercy to others.

If we fail to demonstrate gratitude, we will begin to forget why God’s mercy is so important (because of our sin). When this happens, sin will seem less severe and we will be tempted to continue in it.

Conclusion

We are worthy of punishment for our sins, yet God is merciful. He has delayed punishment so that we have time to repent. Let us take advantage of His kindness and patience and be obedient to Him now so we can be saved.

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* For more on this point, see the article, Twelve Legions of Angels.


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