The Christian Counter Culture (Part 5)
God Has Made His People Merciful
Truth Taught- Because God has extended mercy to us we have been changed into merciful people who must extend mercy to others.
If we are going to really understand what mercy is especially God’s mercy we must have a solid grasp on why we so desperately need His mercy. No one does this better than the Apostle Paul in the beginning of Romans.
In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul begins his teaching by first covering the fact that all humans are in a desperate situation. He begins this section of the Book that extends from 1:18 to 3:20. In these pages he covers some very important points and not too many are pleasant to hear but he knows, they are vital to hear.
Romans 1:18 (ESV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Romans 1:21–23 (ESV)
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:26 (ESV)
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions…
Romans 1:28 (ESV)
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
Paul goes on through Chapter 2 and gets to 3 and explains that all humans have sinned and are rightly under the wrath of God. Then he goes on to explain that even good works can’t fix the problem.
So, he begins the Book of Romans with exceedingly bad news. So bad that it is hopeless; so bad there is nothing that can be done.
Romans 3:9–18 (ESV)
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Realizing that we deserve only condemnation (Rom. 3:23; 6:23) is essential for understanding what the Bible means when it refers to God as “merciful and gracious” (Ps. 103:8–12). In our day, many people want to talk only about the Lord’s mercy and grace, which are expressions of His love for sinners. Yet these concepts are meaningless if we do not look at them in relation to our wickedness.
So, the Apostle wants to make sure we realize our plight before God. We need to be taken down to the depths of these truths before mercy and grace are meaningful. We have to know our utter lostness before the Gospel is good news.
Now we read Romans a little further and discover the amazing mercy and grace of God given to poor hopeless sinners…
Romans 8:28–30 (ESV)
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
So, as we continue through Romans we discover that we are wretched sinners deserving God’s just and righteous wrath and that God rather than sending judgment to His people has sent Jesus to His people in order that He can send mercy and grace for salvation. Praise God that He is merciful and gracious!
Matthew 5:2–12 (ESV)
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Today, I’d like to look briefly at verse 7…
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
What is mercy? The great Bible scholar Richard Lenskigives us some help. Mercy is compassion for people in need. Lenski helpfully distinguishes it from grace: The noun eleos (mercy)…always deals with what we see of pain, misery, distress, these results of sin; and charis (grace) always deals with the sin and guilt itself. The one extends relief, the other pardon; the one cures, heals, helps, the other cleanses and reinstates.
We might say it this way: grace extends relief from sin and mercy extends relief from sin’s consequences.
So, Jesus teaches all of His followers to extend mercy (the relief of sin’s consequences to others) and His point is when we do this, we will be most happy.
1. Happy are the Merciful
Jesus states this truth to show us just how radically different Christians are to be toward others who are suffering than the world is. The world walks past the suffering turning their heads the other way. To engage in the act of mercy is more trouble than it’s worth according to the lost world around us. For them things like revenge and getting even are happy acts not forgiveness and definitely not mercy. So, Jesus’ command to show mercy is a command the world hates.
Luke 10:25–37 (ESV)
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
We can learn a great deal from this parable. We learn mercy is the act that flows from compassion. We learn that the neighbor to the injured was the one who showed him mercy.
The word translated in verse 7 as merciful means just as it is translated, not the acts of mercy but the person who is bent toward mercy. Merciful describes the person who has received God’s mercy.
There is a huge difference between having compassion and actually doing something to help. It’s the help that we call mercy. Feeling sorry for someone is not mercy. Having compassion on someone is not mercy. Having compassion and letting your aid flow from compassion is mercy.
How important is mercy?
On another occasion while Jesus was eating with tax collectors and sinners a Pharisee asked the disciples a question. Why does your Teacher eat with sinners? Jesus overheard and answered…
Matthew 9:12–13 (ESV)
12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Our Lord’s point here is that the Pharisees thought they were right with God because of their conformity to manmade rules and their regular sacrifices. Jesus told them that God desires mercy shown to others not a strict religious system. In fact, Jesus went on to teach that His ministry is all about extending mercy to others…
For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners
I pray you are thankful that God is a God of mercy. God feels compassion for the lost and moves in mercy to extend help to His people.
2. Why is it So Important That We Extend Mercy to Others?
We could respond, well it’s so important because Jesus commands us to extend mercy to others. This is true and absolutely right. He goes further to not just command it but to persuade us through reason and compassion.
Extending mercy to others is so important for all believers because we are the recipients of God’s mercy. He felt compassion for us and extended mercy and not only mercy but also grace. In light of our receiving mercy we too should have compassionate hearts to also extend mercy to others.
Matthew 18:21–35 (ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
So, Jesus teaches us that true mercy must flow from a forgiven heart. When we experience God’s mercy in forgiveness of thousands of sins we have committed against Him then this should be the foundation for our compassion and forgiveness.
It’s so important to extend mercy because we have received mercy from God. When we show mercy we are manifesting the fact that we are being conformed to the image of Christ and like Jesus we too are extending mercy to others.
Let’s look at a few examples of Jesus being moved by compassion to show mercy to others…
Matthew 9:36–38 (ESV)
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Matthew 14:14 (ESV)
14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 20:34 (ESV)
34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
These are just a few examples but we can see that Jesus felt compassion for these people and then took action to forgive and heal them. We cannot heal anyone but we can do good things for people and we can forgive others. When we do these acts of compassion we are doing what Jesus did.
3. Those Who Extend Mercy Will Receive Mercy
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
When you live a life as a Christian of generous mercy you may not get anything in return from those who have received mercy from you. That should never be our motivation. Our motivation must be to live a life God desires us to live. A life of mercy and forgiveness toward others is in many ways proof that we have received mercy from God.
There are those who would try to teach that this verse proves that in order to receive God’s mercy we must first extend mercy to others. This is nothing short of a works salvation. In the world of causality, there is causal ground (you do something which causes God to do something) and occasional ground (God does everything on every side). Here in Matthew 5:7 we see Jesus’ meaning. All events are caused directly by God. It is not that the first event causes God to construct the second event: rather, God first causes one and then the other. God has shown us mercy this causes us to show others mercy and God shows us even more mercy. It all comes as a blessing from God and Him alone.
Exodus 34:6 (ESV)
6 TheLordpassed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
We will be most happy as we become merciful through grace and extend mercy through compassion because mercy is one of God’s defining traits. We are more like our Lord when we show others mercy and this will make us very happy.
Pray, thanking God for the mercy He has shown you in Jesus Christ. He doesn’t count our sins against us. Is there someone God would want you to show mercy to? If the answer is yes, what could you do to show them mercy?
Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary
A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles
A Gospel of Matthew by France
Matthew by Craig Bloomberg
Matthew by Doriani
Matthew by Charles Price
Matthew by Leon Morris
Blue Letter Bible
Richard Charles Henry Lenski (September 14, 1864 – August 14, 1936) was a German-born American-naturalized Lutheran pastor, scholar, and author who published a series of Lutheran New Testament commentaries.