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Bible verses about Mercy
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Perhaps because the Bible is so readily available in the Western world, our culture admires mercy. Ancient Rome did not share our admiration. Romans spoke of four cardinal virtues: wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage—but not mercy. The Interpreter's Bible states that the Romans despised pity! The Greeks held similar views, thinking that mercy indicated weakness rather than strength. Aristotle wrote that pity was a troublesome emotion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

The New Testament instructs us in a number of places not to judge our brother. This does not mean we should not judge at all; a broader view of this subject shows we should be cautious and not condemn. We must judge, because making choices and acting upon them requires judgment. When we must judge a brother, we must remember that we really know very little about his situation. This plays a large role in skewing our judgment.

This is where mercy enters. We must judge people from the inside out, as it were. There are reasons why they—and we—act as we do. If we knew their reason(s), we could much more easily understand, sympathize, forgive, be patient and tolerant toward them—or for that matter, be harder on them if need be. When we take this approach, both justice and mercy are tempered by clearer understanding of another's words, attitudes, and conduct.

A French proverb states, "To know all is to forgive all." This saying is somewhat similar to the more commonly known, "There but for the grace of God go I." They touch upon the general truth that, if we really look inside another person deeply and clearly enough, we begin to see ourselves reflected in them. The circumstances, chronology, and specific situations may be somewhat different, but the human nature expressed in them will be the same. Once we recognize this, it greatly tempers our judgment of the other and almost automatically activates the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Forgiveness or mercy follows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

God links mercy and truth on several occasions:

  • "Mercy and truth have met together" (Psalm 85:10).
  • "Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man" (Proverbs 3:3-4).
  • "In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity" (Proverbs 16:6).
  • "Mercy and truth preserve the king" (Proverbs 20:28).
  • "In mercy the throne will be established; and One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David" (Isaiah 16:5).

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

Genesis 2:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we read in Genesis 2:17, do we not subconsciously read into it, "Yes, but He does not really mean that. He means we will eventually die"? We soften it, expecting that God will not carry through with what He literally says.

The Keil-Delitzsch Commentary says about this verse, "That in the day that you eat thereof you shall die." It means as soon as he ate, he would die. The Keil-Delitzsch is a very conservative commentary. The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, which is one of the most liberal commentaries, says, "Death would follow immediately!" From one of the most conservative commentaries, Keil-Delitzsch, to one of the most liberal, The Interpreter's Bible Commentary, they agree the verse says that when they touched that tree, thus showing the intent of their heart, they would die.

In the beginning, at creation, all sin is deemed as worthy of death. Every sin is a capital offense. In creation, God was not obligated in any way to give life to you or me. Life is a gift that puts us under obligation, and that obligation is stated, or at least implied very strongly, right when man is being created. God gave life to man and put him under the obligation of being the image-bearer of God (Genesis 1:26). That is why we were created.

In chapter 2, we are further obligated by God's command to take of the Tree of Life, and not the other tree. The implication there is that only God knows how we are to live in order to fill our obligation to be the image-bearer of God. We have to learn that the root of sin lies in the desire of men to live their lives in self-centered independence from God. This is what keeps us from being the image-bearers of God that He intended us to be. If we deviate from this, have we not broken our obligation to God? If we deviate from this—if we go from the path, if we miss the mark—we have sinned. We have broken our obligation to mirror and reflect the holiness of God.

Implied by the name “Tree of Life,” God is telling us that we do not intrinsically possess the kind of life that God has, and that if we want that kind of life, it must be added. It is added through what the Tree of Life symbolized. What if we do not meet our obligations? We forfeit the gift of life when we sin.

Is God unfair if something is so clearly stated? Do we see why He commands us to choose life? He sets before us two different ways. He commands us to go in a certain direction, because if we go in the other direction we have broken our obligation to be image-bearers, and then He is not obligated any longer after that to continue our lives. He is under no obligation to continue the life that He gave to us as a gift. God is not acting unfairly nor with injustice, for the commands are very clear.

When the penalty was stated to Adam and Eve, did God say, "If you sin, some day you will die"? No. The penalty is clearly stated to be instant death, just as suddenly as it fell on Nadab and Abihu, and on Ananias and Sapphira, and Uzza.

Let us look at this realistically and let us not try to soften what God very clearly and literally says. He meant the death penalty in the fullest sense of the word. The only reason they lived was because it was right at that point that God extended grace. God was no longer obligated to continue their life.

They had broken His Word, deviated from the path, and the just thing for God to have done would have been to kill them just as He did Uzza. That is not what He did though. Instead, He gave them mercy, and He gave them grace. There is a saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied," but not always so. In this case with Adam and Eve, the full measure of justice was delayed for grace to have time to work.

We need to be thinking of this in relation to ourselves, because He is establishing a pattern. Justice was delayed so grace would have time to work. In this case, the delay of justice was not the denial of justice, but the establishing of mercy and grace. So right at the very beginning of the Book, in its third chapter, grace is introduced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Genesis 18:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's justice is according to His righteousness, His holy character. Psalm 119:172 defines righteousness, stating "All Your commandments are righteousness." Those commandments reflect in writing the character of God.

What God does is always consistent with who and what He is, and what He has written. His righteousness is absolute purity. He is utterly incapable of an unholy, unrighteous, unjust act. For God to act unfairly, He would simply have to cease being God. It is totally impossible for Him to commit an injustice.

When Abraham uses the word "righteous" in verse 23, he is not saying, "Would You destroy the sinless with the wicked?" He means people who, through their fear of God and being conscientious, have kept themselves free from the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's concern was that there were people in the city we might consider to be really good citizens. They were not sinless, but if there was a fear of God in them, maybe they were trying with all their might to obey God, but they were caught up simply in being in the environment which God had decided He was going to destroy.

God does not always act with justice; sometimes He acts with mercy. That is what He did with Lot and his family. God acted with justice against the city because it was so corrupt, so evil, so filled with sin that it even offended God's sense of what is right and wrong. It even offended God's patience, His longsuffering. And so in justice He wiped the city off the map, but in grace and mercy He spared Lot, his wife, and two children.

Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, because injustice would violate righteousness, and God always acts according to His holy character, which is total righteousness. Therefore mercy, which manifests kindness and grace, does no violence to righteousness, and we may see non-justice in God—which is mercy—but we never see injustice in God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Exodus 7:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God laid His hands on Egypt in divine judgment by sending plagues. When trying a blasphemer, each witness placed his hands upon the guilty person to signify his acceptance of the verdict. Conversely, when a victim was spared death—as when God commanded Abraham not to sacrifice Isaac or when He allowed the leaders of Israel to see Him without dying—mercy is described as hands not being laid on the spared victim.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Laying On of Hands


 

Exodus 20:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A well-known use of "mercy" is that God calls the lid of the Ark of the Covenant the "mercy seat." The Israelites transported the ark, a gilt chest containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, wherever they journeyed. Normally, it remained in the holy of holies, where God symbolically resided, first in the Tabernacle and later in Solomon's Temple.

The mercy seat symbolizes God's throne, where He judges men's conduct, and its name reflects the basic nature of His judgments, which always rest on mercy. This does not mean that God is soft-headed in judgment, carelessly overlooking men's sins. Even so, it is God's nature to be merciful rather than severe, acrimonious, implacable, and vengeful. Unlike men, God finds ways to change men so He can be merciful.

God's judgments always contain a perfect balance of justice and mercy. Though He mercifully forgives a repentant sinner, the sinner does not escape without some measure of painful judgment. In any given circumstance requiring a judgment between justice and mercy, men's judgment may be "all over the map," but God's judgment, tending toward mercy, will be perfect.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Exodus 34:5-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God expounds eleven attributes: YHWH, El, the Merciful One, the Gracious One, the Longsuffering One, the Mighty One, the Kind and Loving One, the True One, the One who Preserves Kindness, the Forgiving One, and the Chastising One.

God gives Moses, not so much a vision of His power and majesty, but of His love, of how He relates to His creation. The real glory of God is His character, His nature, especially toward His children. His names are signposts of His nature, reminders of what we can expect Him to do as we live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 34:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God was preaching him a sermon on what He is. The names of God describe Him. They tell us what God is, what He does, and what He will do for us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Proverbs 21:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus vividly captures the essence of this valuable principle in concluding the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (Matthew 18:35). Could this be a major reason why we are not as blessed as we desire to be?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Isaiah 40:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though God's normal activity involves far more mercy than justice, we have to operate with the understanding, the conviction, that God owes us nothing. He knows exactly what is happening. If He allows a tower to fall on our heads this afternoon, we cannot claim any injustice on God's part. He has already given us so much mercy that it is beyond our understanding.

All of us receive injustices from the hand of men, and we do not deal anywhere near as fairly with each other as we should. We want everything in our dealings with others to go favorably for us, for that is what we feel is fair. Israel is saying a similar thing here.

One thing is certain, however: None of us has ever received the slightest injustice from the hand of God. As we grow in understanding and humility, we begin to see that we have received an overwhelming abundance of grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Jonah 4:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's patience delays His wrath, allowing time for good to occur. We should also note the other qualities patience is combined with here and in Exodus 34:6. In combination with patience, the qualities of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, goodness, and truth allow God to work with people so they can remain alive and eventually transform into His image. If God struck out at people just as short-fused humans frequently do, no one would be alive today. Jonah, in a typically human reaction, wanted God to wipe the sinners of Nineveh, Israel's enemy, off the face of the earth!

Nineveh was undoubtedly just as full of sinners as Israel. But God, bearing patiently with them in their ignorance, sent Jonah to proclaim His warning message to them: Destruction would fall on them in forty days. They, however, believed the message, proclaimed a fast, prayed mightily to God, repented, and turned from their evil ways. Their repentance may not have been Davidic, but under the circumstances God was pleased.

II Peter 3:9 affirms that God still operates in the same manner:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Romans 2:3-6 discusses the same theme on a more personal basis, warning us that we should not abuse God's patience by viewing it as inattention, indulgence or mere tolerance. Solomon warns of the same perversity of nature that reveals itself in those lacking faith (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13). Clearly, God's patience is exercised so He can work on the situation and produce repentance. All too frequently, though, His goodness and patience are abused through stubbornness or neglect. Be assured, God is aware, and there comes a time when His patience is exhausted and His judgment falls if the change God expected does not occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Patience


 

Matthew 5:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We must not be misled into believing that, because Jesus says that the merciful will obtain mercy, this somehow proves salvation by works. Nothing anywhere in the Bible supports this conclusion. Jesus does not describe the foundation of a sinner's hope of receiving God's mercy but traces the spiritual features of His people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Matthew 5:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

English language dictionaries are of limited help in understanding this mercy's biblical usage. In English "mercy" is normally used to mean showing compassion, forbearance, pity, sympathy, forgiveness, kindness, tenderheartedness, or liberality or refraining from harming or punishing offenders or enemies. These synonyms give us some insight on this word; they all express how a merciful person might act. However, none of them specifically pictures what biblical mercy is because the scriptural concept is virtually untranslatable into a single English word.

The Greek word used in Matthew 5:7, eleemon, means essentially the same as its English counterpart, "merciful." However, in all likelihood Jesus spoke in Aramaic, and the idea behind His statement about mercy come from Old Testament—that is, Hebrew—usage and teaching. The word He would have used is the Hebrew and Aramaic chesed.

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible commentary on Matthew states regarding this word:

It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for some in trouble. Chesedh [sic], mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person's skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.

Clearly this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will. It denotes a sympathy which is not given, as it were, from outside, but which comes from a deliberate identification with the other person, until we see things as he sees them, and feel things as he feels them. This is sympathy in the literal sense of the word. Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means to experience or to suffer. Sympathy means experiencing things together with the other person, literally going through what he is going through. (p. 103)

Much easier said than done! Having a sense of another's feelings to this degree is very difficult to do because we are normally so self-concerned, so aware of our own feelings, that sensitivity for others to this depth often requires a great effort of the will. Normally, when we feel sorry for someone, it is an exclusively external act because we do not make the effort to get inside another's mind and heart until we can see and feel things as he does. It is not easy to walk in another person's shoes.

The world, from which we have all come, is true to its nature; it is unmerciful. The world prefers to insulate itself against the pains and calamities of others. It finds revenge delicious and forgiveness tame and unsatisfying.

This is where we all begin. Indeed, all too often in the church, worldliness is hardly dormant, revealing itself in acts that show some degree of cruelty. Usually, these cruelties are delivered verbally, but all too frequently, brethren simply ignore the real needs of others.

The mercy Jesus teaches is not humanly derived. He says in Matthew 6:14, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you." This occurs, not because we can merit mercy by being merciful or forgiving of others, but because we cannot receive the mercy and forgiveness of God unless we repent. We cannot claim to have repented of our sins if we are unmerciful towards the sins of others.

The truly merciful are too aware of their own sins to deal with others in sharp condemnation, so they constrain themselves to deal humbly and kindly with those in need. Nothing moves us to forgive others like the amazing realization that God has forgiven our sins. Mercy in God's children begins by experiencing His forgiveness of them, and perhaps nothing proves more convincingly that we have been forgiven than our readiness to forgive.

Recognizing God's mercy is a key element in motivating our expressions of mercy. Too many people today, even in the church, possess a "welfare mentality." They go through life with little or no gratitude, thinking they deserve the handouts of governments or private citizens. Ingratitude is vital to understanding this because, as long as one is unthankful, his thoughts will center on himself. The merciful person is sensitive to others' needs and takes action to supply them. An ungrateful person, though, insulates himself from others' pains because he is too focused on his own perceived miseries.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Matthew 6:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word in the New King James Version rendered "charitable deeds," and in the King James, "alms," is best translated as "mercifulness" or "mercy." There are some who believe the word should actually be "righteousness." This comes from the Hebrew concept of good deeds or alms. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used most often for the idea is sadaka, translated most often as "righteousness." Rather than saying "doing good deeds," the Hebrews would say "doing righteousness."

The idea here is obviously righteous acts—good works. The Greeks did not have a word that worked exactly, and so Matthew chose the word that means "mercies."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'If I Have Not Charity'


 

Matthew 6:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus compares our sins to debts. We have violated our obligation of being obedient to God, and this exposes us to the penalty that results from that violation. To teach us the lesson of forgiveness, God bases how He forgives us by the forgiveness we extend to others!

Those who come before Him unwilling to forgive others cannot expect God to show them the love and mercy they desire. God will not show them the mercy and love they will not extend to others! If we forgive others when they injure us, our Father will forgive us.

How are we to conduct ourselves in forgiving others? We must forgive, even if the offender does not ask to be forgiven. We should treat the one who has injured or offended us with kindness, not harboring any grudge or speaking of that individual condemningly. We should always be ready to do him good if the opportunity arises. This is a tall order!

Why act this way when it goes so strongly against human nature? First, it produces peace. Second, it sets the example for the offending individual—and for everyone else—of what God considers right and proper.

Does forgiveness of a person fighting a recurring problem mean that we should place complete trust in him in the area of his problem? With many problems—poor money handling, gossip, lying, stealing, and sexual sins, to name a few—we need to see a track record of overcoming before considering him trustworthy, but we can still be understanding, forgiving, and encouraging.

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

Matthew 9:10-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In saying that He desires mercy and not sacrifice, Jesus is teaching that He prefers it when people practice mercy and not blindly follow ritual. He is not condemning the laws of sacrifice that He set up for Israel to practice until He fulfilled them, but explaining that He is more pleased with acts of forgiveness and kindness than strict external compliance to the law.

He is telling the Pharisees that, though they were exacting in keeping the letter of the law, they had completely missed its intent. In Matthew 23:23, He reminds them of this very point: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

It is good and right to tithe to God, even to be exacting in our accounting, but not at the expense of the far more important matters of justice, mercy, and faith! These weightier matters are a Christian's priorities, so if a question of "What do I do?" ever comes up between practicing them and keeping the strict letter of the law, our judgment should lean toward these Christian virtues. If we can do both, all the better!

Jesus Christ is the personification of mercy. Exodus 25:17-22 describes the Mercy Seat constructed in the wilderness. Essentially, it was the golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant, on which were figures of two cherubim facing each other with their wings stretched out, covering the Mercy Seat. God, the pre-incarnate Christ, says in verse 22, "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony." The Mercy Seat represented God in His dealings with sinful humanity, and the chief element He employs is mercy.

Now notice Romans 3:23-25:

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed. . . .

This passage tells us that Jesus Christ is our Mercy Seat, but the translators have hidden it. "Propitiation" (Greek hilasterios) in verse 25 is literally "place of conciliation or expiation" or "Mercy Seat." The Septuagint used hilasterios to translate the Hebrew noun kapporeth ("Mercy Seat"). This Hebrew word's root is kapar meaning "to cover" or "to conceal." This illustrates that the nature of God is to be merciful.

The apostle Peter writes in I Peter 2:21 that we are to follow in Christ's steps, thus as Jesus Christ is merciful, we also are to show mercy in our judgments.

John O. Reid
Mercy: The Better Option


 

Matthew 12:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Matthew 12:1-8 adds yet another example of Sabbath encounters Jesus had with the Pharisees. According to the Pharisees, the disciples reaped, threshed, and winnowed the grain; they were guilty of preparing a meal. What was the disciples' motivation? They were traveling, hungry, and had no place to prepare a meal. They were young and strong and could have fasted without harm, but because it was a Sabbath, Jesus drew attention to one of the Sabbath's main purposes. It is a day of mercy.

Christ draws his justification from I Samuel 21:1-6. He reasons that, if David under unusual circumstances could allay his hunger by eating bread consecrated for holy use, then the disciples could also legitimately provide for their needs in unusual circumstances. The emphasis here is on "unusual." How many times did David flee for His life and find himself hungry near the Tabernacle? It happened at least once, but even for a man of war like David, such situations occurred only rarely.

The overall lesson is that God does not intend His law to deprive but to ensure life. If the need arises, we should not feel conscience-stricken to use the Sabbath in a way that would not normally be lawful. Christ admits David's actions were not normally lawful, and neither were the disciples'—except for the circumstances. In this case, they were blameless BECAUSE A LARGER OBLIGATION OVERRULED THE LETTER OF THE LAW. In this circumstance, mercy is more important than sacrificing a meal. Holy bread or holy time can be used exceptionally to sustain life and serve God.

Christ takes advantage of the situation to teach another connected lesson. He draws attention to the extent of the priests' Sabbath labors in the Temple. Their work actually doubled on the Sabbath because of the number of sacrifices God required, yet they were guiltless. Why? They were involved in God's creative, redemptive work, as Christ explains in John 5, 7, and 9. They fulfilled a purpose of the Sabbath that someone had to do.

Because of the disciple's involvement in the work of God, circumstances dictated a profaning of the Sabbath. From this, we can understand that LOVING SERVICE IS GREATER THAN RITUAL FULFILLMENT. What is mercy? It is a helpful act where and when it is needed. It is an act of loving encouragement, comfort, pity, and sympathy for the distressed. It is the relieving of a burden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Matthew 12:5-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This stems from the instructions given in Leviticus 24:5-9:

And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. [This is the showbread (I Samuel 21), the subject under discussion in Matthew 12.] You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in the holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire, by a perpetual statute.

These five verses together with I Samuel 21 explain that, not only did the priests put the bread in the sanctuary, but they also baked it on the Sabbath. Thus, it was hot when they put it in the Holy Place on the Sabbath—right out of the oven. Was it lawful for a woman, in the ordinary course of her household responsibilities, to bake twelve loaves of bread on the Sabbath? It was not. This is the illustration that Jesus utilizes in Matthew 12.

"The priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless." They not only did these things, they were also made sacrifices on that day, which consisted of a great deal of labor. Why, then, were they "blameless"? For the same reason that Jesus justified healing on the Sabbath (in John 5) and the same reason that the priests were blameless for circumcising on the Sabbath: They were doing the work of God, the work of salvation. They were fulfilling a purpose on the Sabbath that somebody had to do. This is the issue throughout John 5, 7, and 9.

Christ is greater than the Temple. He is the Head of God's spiritual Temple. He is its High Priest, and the disciples are His priests in training, His agents! Thus, their Sabbath ministry intensifies, even as Jesus' does. Were they justified, then, in eating on the Sabbath? Absolutely! They were justified because of the circumstances and the offices they were now holding in God's spiritual Temple!

So, the circumstances dictated a "profaning of the Sabbath" because of their involvement in the work of God. Loving service is greater than ritual fulfillment. What loving services were Jesus and His disciples performing on the Sabbath? They were teaching God's way. They were healing people. Now, what is mercy? Mercy is doing helpful acts: acts of love, aid, comfort, pity, and sympathy for other's distress. All these works help relieve a person of a burden.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)


 

Matthew 18:15-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Understanding our frame, God leans toward mercy. Three times He repeats, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7).

He gets personal about it as well. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus names mercy as one of the primary beatitudes, or "attitudes to be in": "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Here, in a very personal and positive setting, we begin to see mercy's cause-and-effect principle: Show mercy and you will obtain mercy.

Christ drew this principle from the attitude the unchangeable God has always maintained. Speaking of Him, the twin quotes from Psalm 18:25 and II Samuel 22:26 echo the beatitude: "With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful."

Not only is God of the mind to be merciful, He expects it of us, even requires it of us. Notice how the tenor of Micah 6:8 becomes more intense, though remaining positive: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" This moves from a simple cause-and-effect principle to an absolute requirement.

We need to examine Matthew 18 in this light. With mercy and forgiveness in mind, Christ outlines His instruction on how to deal with those who sin against us. We show mercy by not escalating the problem beyond the sinning individual, if possible. Discuss it with him alone! We are not to bandy about anyone's sins. Doing so only makes it more difficult for the offender to swallow his pride and repent, for, by admitting his wrong, he is "losing face" with many who know the story. The object—never forget—is to gain our brother, not to gain vengeance or vindication for ourselves.

If the offender does not listen, then we are to take one or two other witnesses. Again, if at all possible, we should keep the situation from escalating beyond that. Do we like our transgressions spread all over the church? Only in extreme intransigence should we take the problem to the whole brotherhood, or to the ministry as their administrative representatives.

After this step-by-step instruction, Christ underlines the thought by showing that we should forgive—show mercy and extend grace—even up to 490 times a day to the same person (verses 21-22)! In other words, like God, our mercy should endure forever, since 490 times a day suggests "infinitely." It is almost impossible to offend that many times in such a limited period, especially if connected with real repentance.

Jesus then relates the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant who, though forgiven of enormous debt, threw a fellow servant in jail for not repaying a pittance. Christ then gives a stern warning: If you are merciless to your brother, expect like treatment from your heavenly Father. So, not only is mercy a good idea, God requires it, and severe penalties will fall upon us if we refuse to extend it.

James makes it even more emphatic! "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). The apostle links the fair and impartial judgment of God directly with mercy or grace, for one without the other spells death for every sinner.

Frequently, we may state our willingness to forgive a brother or sister—but "only if they apologize!" What magnanimous largesse! What unassailable righteousness! "If they grovel, I will deign to forgive." No, what sickening, superior patronization! Mercy or grace need not always be contingent on the offender's apology or repentance.

Did not Christ ask His Father to forgive his assassins, "for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34)? This was not some minor social infraction or everyday offense in life, but the crime of the ages! They were certainly of no mind to repent or feel any remorse, yet He willingly turned the other cheek, taking every despicable sin of all mankind on Himself in abject humility without a whisper of protest!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

Matthew 18:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter had a definite rationale for saying "seven times." The Jews had ruled that one could only be forgiven three times, but never a fourth. Realizing Jesus would show more mercy than the Jews, he must have thought seven times was more than fair.

Christ's response shows how important forgiveness is. "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (verse 22). He means that we are not to limit our forgiveness to a specific number of times. As often as someone offends us and asks forgiveness, we should extend it. Further, even if he does not ask forgiveness, we should forgive him and treat him properly, setting the right example.

John O. Reid
Forgiveness


 

Matthew 18:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Forgiveness is a matter of mercy and conduct. The Jews taught that a man was to forgive another three times but not four. Peter more than doubles this, asking if forgiveness should be extended so far. Jesus' answer tells us we should not limit our forgiveness to any fixed number. As often as a brother injures us and asks forgiveness, we should forgive him (Luke 17:4). It is his duty to ask forgiveness. If he does this, we have a duty to declare that we forgive him and to treat him accordingly. Even if he does not ask for forgiveness, we are still not at liberty to take revenge, but we should treat him kindly and do him good. It is a Christian's duty to forgive others (Colossians 3:13).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Matthew 18:25-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The indebted servant has no assets, so his master commands all that he has to be sold, including his wife and children. By ancient custom, a creditor could sell a debtor, with his family, into servitude for a time sufficient to pay a debt. Hearing this, the servant falls down before him in a seemingly humble and earnest manner, entreating him to have patience with him. The king sees his distressed condition and has compassion on his family, forgiving him of the whole debt. God's forgiveness of humble, repentant human beings is an act of mercy and compassion that we are to emulate (Zechariah 7:9-10; I Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:32). Like this servant, we owe God more than we can ever repay.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant


 

Matthew 23:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Interestingly, of the three "weightier matters" Christ says to focus on—judgment, mercy, and faith—only one is even mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Mercy is not listed as one of the Ten or emphasized as a major tenet but as a blessing from God to the thousands who keep His law (Exodus 20:6).

How then, do these three virtues carry such weight with the law? The Pharisees were in horrendous spiritual condition. Notice that Christ did not simply say, "You are breaking the law—keep it!" They had the law, and they allegedly kept it, ever so minutely. The problem was that they had completely lost the meaning and purpose of the law! Rather than it being a joy and benefit to them, it had become a burden grievous to be borne and unhealthy to their spiritual state.

God intends the law to be "the law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12). If a person looks into it and obeys, he is liberated from guilt, shame, feelings of worthlessness, self-pity, abandonment, and loneliness. In short, we can only obtain joy and happiness when we keep the law with God's intended spirit and attitude. Any other use of the law or the breaking of it leads to negative effects that preclude joy and happiness.

They had taken what Jesus and His Father had instituted as a blessing and turned it into a curse. Paul, "a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee" (Acts 23:6) recognized how the law could become an enemy: "And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death" (Romans 7:10). When the law is applied wrongly, the consequences are always destructive.

The scribes and Pharisees used the law on others like a club and perverted it for their own selfish gain. "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble" (James 1:27). How could anyone, by any stretch of the imagination, reason a way to turn this around to the point he could turn widows and orphans out of their homes, then stand in the streets as if righteous, making long prayers to God?

Is it any wonder Christ denounces them so harshly? Considering the content and repetition in His vilification, Jesus Christ is as incensed at them as perhaps anyone He ever addresses in the Bible, Old or New Testament. After calling them snakes in Matthew 23:33, He questions if there is any way they can escape eternal damnation!

Yet in His righteous anger, He still gives them insight on how to correct their course, to put them back on track regarding the spirit and attitude necessary to keep the law properly. Christ intends His instruction to cause us to think through three basic elements of the purpose of that law and how it should work to man's good.

To the Pharisees, He did not explain the relationship of judgment, mercy, and faith to the law. Why cast His pearls before swine? But if they would make the effort, He gave them a clue about how to straighten out their thinking. In so doing, they would re-establish the law's purpose and meaning and gain correct perspective in how to keep it. History shows they did not take the hint.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 1): Introduction


 

Matthew 23:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Each of the Ten Commandments can be considered a "weighty" part of the law. The statutes, precepts, and judgments, rendered by God and Moses and added to the scriptural record, are not as weighty as the law itself, but are still important, since they show how we should interpret and apply the law.

Christ singled out judgment, mercy, and faith as the weightier matters of the law. Why? Since we are discussing judgment here, why is it so weighty? Though the law itself is very important, we can perhaps consider judgment or justice to be even weightier, for it is the aim and purpose of the law. The law's very purpose is to make sure justice is done!

Since God is the very embodiment of love and justice to all without partiality, He did not need the law codified for Himself. We need it, along with all the precepts, statutes, and judgments based on it because we do not yet have His mind. So He gave us the Bible, which contains enough of God's mind for us to strive toward perfection with it as our daily guide, helping us learn to judge righteous judgment. Within its pages God has written enough laws, principles, and circumstances for us to determine the proper course of action in any situation: Which Scripture applies here and now? Do we answer this fool according to his folly or not (Proverbs 26:4-5)? Can we judge him a fool at all (Matthew 5:22)?

The problem is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Hold any of our lives up before the pages of the Bible, and we fall far short. If justice were truly done, we would all die eternally, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That is harsh reality. But God is merciful and gives us time and help to correct our course.

The Pharisees tried to live perfectly sinless lives and came to judge anyone falling short of their expectations as far beneath them. Not only had they perverted justice through hypocrisy and partiality, but they had also completely lost the next weighty matter Christ urged them to consider: mercy.

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 2): Judgment


 

Matthew 23:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why is mercy so weighty? Those who teach "grace only" apart from the law do not even see a need for mercy, since, to them, grace cancels any need for mercy. By their definition, mercy is automatic once they are "saved"! In theory, they can breeze through a "happy, happy, joy, joy" life with no fear of eternal consequences.

If that were true, why did Christ not make "grace" one of the weighty matters and leave out mercy? The Pharisees believed in keeping the law perfectly and being saved as a result. Modern Christianity teaches the law is done away, and all they need is saving grace, given when they "accept the Lord." Neither of these opposing approaches will work!

Staff
The Weightier Matters (Part 3): Mercy


 

Matthew 23:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Judgment, mercy, and faith" can be paraphrased to make them easier to understand. Judgment means "being fair and even-handed in judgment." Mercy means "being compassionate and kind in action," and faith means "being loyal to God in keeping His law." Justice is a more accurate, modern translation of "judgment," and "faith" might be better rendered faithfulness or trust. Thus, Jesus is speaking about justice, compassion, and faithfulness (or loyalty).

Jesus applied these concepts in confronting the Pharisees because they had reached a tragically wrong conclusion regarding the intent of God's laws.

Weightier means "more important," "central," or "more decisive" as compared to what is peripheral or secondary. Thus, the intent of God's law is to produce justice, compassion and kindness, and loyalty to God. Of course, the major thing that will be produced is a right relationship with God and men, and character will be built.

The Pharisees were guilty of a massive distortion of God's will, or what could even be called God's pleasure, and in their zeal to be absolutely correct, they corrupted those they were leading. Their problem was their attitude toward law, one opposite from most people's. Most people tend to become looser and more liberal in their application of law, but for some strange reason, the Pharisees corrupted the law in the complete other direction. God felt it necessary to correct this corruption so that we would understand that it is equally perverse.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Matthew 25:34-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we show pity, compassion, and kindness to those in difficult straits, we are practicing the merciful attitude that God expects each of His children to exhibit at all times. Of course, He does not want us to be so soft-hearted that we become an easy mark for those who would take advantage of us, but He does want us to develop a keen sense of discernment that realizes when mercy is a better option than the strict application of rules.

Undoubtedly, each of us would lend a helping hand to another who was in physical need, but there are other situations in which a physical need is not apparent that also require us to extend mercy. Particularly, we need to learn to employ mercy in our dealings with each other on a daily basis. To put it into today's language, everyone has bad-hair days, and on some days, even a normally lovable person can be very difficult to live with.

Age differences lend themselves to misunderstandings. We may still carry prejudices that rear their ugly heads from time to time, causing friction. Oftentimes, we just do not think before we speak. Mistakes made in the past can seem to hang over us like a cloud and never go away, and thus we do not feel forgiven, affecting our attitudes. And of course, we all have different backgrounds and came from situations in which we perhaps lived our lives in certain shameful ways. Each of these problems can ignite trouble with our closest family members and friends.

The problem that all of us face in making righteous judgments is that we cannot see into the other person's heart; we do not really know their intentions and attitudes. We have a hard enough time understanding ourselves, let alone someone else! In Jesus' comments about judgment in His Sermon on the Mount, He cautions us about being too critical: "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3). Therefore, if we have to make a judgment call, it is far better to lean toward patience, forbearance, and mercy.

So, when we find ourselves offended by anyone, rather than responding in kind, we should apply the principle of giving a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1), turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), and extending tender mercies (Colossians 3:12).

Satan would like us to hang on to evil thoughts about another, to hold a grudge against a brother, or to arrive at church with a resentful attitude toward a fellow Christian, but Jesus Christ wants us to remember Matthew 18:35: "So My heavenly Father will [pass judgment against] you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Just as He forgave each of us from the heart, He wants us to learn to forgive others in the same generous, merciful way.

In my forty-plus years in the church, I have made almost all of the mistakes a person can make with his mouth, and realizing this, I have truly appreciated those who have extended mercy and forgiveness to me. They have taught me a great lesson by their spiritual maturity: that I, too, had better extend mercy and kindness to others.

What does God require of us? He tells us plainly in Micah 6:8: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

John O. Reid
Mercy: The Better Option


 

Luke 1:77-79  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.

Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.

Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?

One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.

Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?

This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Luke 4:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Sabbath is so significant that Jesus' ministry formally began on a Sabbath and ended on a preparation day just before another Sabbath (John 19:31)! We see Him open His ministry in Luke 4:16-19, where He gives His mission statement. By quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 in His inaugural sermon, Jesus identifies His mission as setting people free from bondage. He specifically mentions freeing the poor (weak, without power), brokenhearted, captive, blind, and oppressed.

"The acceptable year of the LORD" is not when God is acceptable to us, but when God, in His sovereign mercy, moves to make us acceptable to Him. It is a time when He chooses to deliver people. More specifically, it refers to two Old Testament institutions, either the seventh year land Sabbath or the Jubilee year. Israelites considered these years liberators of the oppressed. During them, the land lay fallow and what food it produced on its own went to the poor, dispossessed, and animals. Slaves were freed and debts remitted. During Jubilee years, debtors received back their land lost due to mismanagement.

Jesus says in verse 21, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." It was a Sabbath, and through the typology, Christ is clearly showing that His redemptive mission included the liberating intent of the Sabbaths, weekly and annual. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says, "The Sabbath was made for man." God made it to equip us to come out of spiritual slavery—and even more so, to help us in staying out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Luke 10:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Following the moral to the parable—the command to love our neighbor as ourselves—Jesus encourages the lawyer to "go and do likewise." Helping the needy without asking first who he is and what his relationship is to us fulfills this. The Samaritan proves himself a neighbor by his unprejudiced mercy and compassion (Proverbs 14:21; Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 6:7-10). Without distinction of race, nationality, or religion, the human being that we affect good or bad by our conduct is our neighbor. More specifically in light of this parable, he who needs our aid, no matter who he is, is our neighbor. The question, then, should not be "Who is my neighbor?" but "Are we neighborly?" Are we friendly, kind, helpful, considerate, caring, cooperative, amicable, merciful, and compassionate? Do we love our fellow human beings more than ourselves?

Jesus Christ is the quintessential good neighbor, and His example is the one to imitate. He saw a world of sinners robbed of their potential, stripped of spiritual ideals, wounded by sins, and unable to rise by themselves from their beaten state. He came down to where the sinners are and gave mankind a corresponding act of mercy, seen in type in the good Samaritan. Through His death and resurrection, He covers our nakedness, binds up our wounds, and heals them. He puts us in the safety of His church and provides for our physical and spiritual needs. God gives us abundantly more than we ask.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Samaritan


 

Luke 10:33-37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A parable is not a news report. However, in a real-life situation, a priest or a Levite might have widely varying feelings when confronted with such a situation. They might range from aversion and/or fear that a similar tragedy might happen to him if he remained in the area to sympathy and commiseration. Jesus does not explore this angle, but we can understand the possibility because we also are not unmoved by another's plight. We are not cold marble statues without feelings.

Jesus does not mention what the priest and Levite specifically felt, but He clearly shows that mercy began with the Samaritan feeling compassion for the wounded man. Then, the Samaritan made a number of sacrifices to meet the miserable man's needs. How frequently are we moved to make some small sacrifice toward relieving another's misery, but never mercifully follow through?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Luke 13:10-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Luke 13:10-17, Christ heals another chronically ill person on the Sabbath. This time, though, He did not wait for anyone to ask Him questions. The episode plainly discloses the redeeming and liberating intention of God's Sabbath. When Jesus says, "You are loosed," the ruler of the synagogue reacts immediately because to him the Sabbath meant rules to obey rather than people to love.

Jesus replies in verses 15-16 by emphasizing the Sabbath principle:

The Lord then answered him and said, "Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?"

Christ makes a play on words here. He uses the same verb, "loose," to describe the ox and donkey as He does the woman being "loosed" from Satan through healing.

Jesus acts against the tradition of the Pharisees, but no where challenges the binding obligation of keeping the Sabbath. Rather, His example shows that we should make merciful evaluations to help others cast off their heavy burdens. He argues for living the true values.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 2:1-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first miracle Jesus Christ performs during His ministry is changing water into wine at a marriage feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). When we compare what Christ and Moses each did with water, Jesus' miracle shows the contrast between law and grace. Moses changes water to blood, and Christ changes it into wine. Earlier, in John 1:17, the apostle John writes, "For the law was given through Moses, [and] grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." Moses' turning of water into blood suggests judgment (Exodus 7:14-17), while Jesus' turning of water into wine implies generosity and joy. In John 3:17, John comments, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world [what the law does to sinners], but that the world through Him might be saved [what grace does for those who repent]."

This miracle demonstrates at the earliest possible time that Christ's ministry would be one of grace and truth, as an extension and complement of the Law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17-19). Jesus had come to fulfill God's law, that is, to teach it and live it as an example of how to apply it to everyday life (Luke 24:44-45).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part One)


 

John 7:22-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show how far out of proportion the Jews' judgment was relative to the value of circumstances. In their judgment, not carrying a pallet and making clay on the Sabbath were more important than healing someone. Jesus, therefore, tries to correct them.

The Jews considered circumcision a lawful Sabbath activity. The Bible never directly says why because everyone understood. They considered circumcision a redemptive act, even as we consider baptism a redemptive act and baptize on the Sabbath. The Jews judged it proper to excise one of the 248 body parts to save the whole man.

Christ reasons that the works of salvation are accomplished, not only by the Father, but also by His servants (for example, the priests who performed circumcisions). To Christ, God's true Servant, the Sabbath is the day to work for the salvation of the whole man, physically and spiritually. If it is legal to cut off part of a boy's body on the Sabbath to satisfy the Old Covenant, they have no reason to be angry with Him for mercifully restoring a person to wholeness on the Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Romans 3:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul further drives home the point that no one can earn justification or boast about having received it through his own effort. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith." No one can ever brag about having been so obedient or having done so many good works that God just had to grant him eternal life. No one will ever be able to boast that he "earned" his way into the Kingdom of God! All those who enter the Kingdom will have done so solely because God extended His mercy to them and forgave their sins through their faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 5:20-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Grace reigns supreme over law, sin, and death. Because God is gracious and the supreme sovereign over His creation, and because He is supreme over law as its Giver and can resurrect whom He chooses, grace is His to give freely as He pleases. Grace is supreme over the others because God has willed it so and gives it to whomsoever He chooses.

Because grace is a gift, it can neither be demanded nor earned (it can, however, be requested). Therefore salvation must be by grace. Because of this, even the greatest sinner is not beyond the reach of His mercy. Conversely, because salvation is by grace, all boasting is likewise excluded.

For example, Isaac receives grace, but Ishmael is cast out with his mother. Jacob receives the inheritance and blessing, but Esau is in reality cursed. God chooses to have Christ born in the tiny town of Bethlehem, not at the Temple or even in the capital city, Jerusalem. He could have sent angels to announce His Son's birth in every capital of every nation on earth, or at least to announce it to the religious leaders among the Jews. Instead, He chooses to invite common shepherds and foreign magi for that peculiar honor.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Three


 

Galatians 5:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Chrestotes in Greek and hesed in Hebrew are most frequently translated into the English word "kindness." Chrestotes, according to The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, p. 1482, means

benignity, kindness, usefulness. It often occurs with philanthropy; forbearance, and is the opposite of severity or cutting something short and quickly. . . . Chrestotes is translated "good," "kindness," "gentleness." It is the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would be harsh and austere. . . . The word is descriptive of one's disposition and does not necessarily entail acts of goodness.

William Barclay, in The Daily Bible Study Series on Galatians 5:22, p. 51, adds that the Rheims Version translates chrestotes in II Corinthians 6:6 as "sweetness"; that Christ describes His yoke in Matthew 11:30 as chrestos, meaning that it does not chafe; and that the Greeks would describe wine as chrestos, that is, mellow. With these illustrations, it becomes clear that this word emphasizes the spirit in which an act is done.

Hesed is more complex, an especially rich word that is at times translated as "lovingkindness," "mercy," "love," "grace," and even "loyalty" and "devotion" in some modern versions. Some modern critics argue that the word suggests loyalty, something given because of obligation, because the writers sometimes use it in a context with a covenant relationship, such as God's covenant with Israel or a marriage.

Other scholars review the same material and agree that relationships are present (love almost necessitates a subject-object relation), but assert that hesed (love, mercy, kindness, etc.) is freely given. Freedom of decision to give is essential. The help given by the person showing mercy or kindness is done freely. This seems to be the correct usage because the other can reduce love, mercy, and kindness to a merely obligatory, mechanical, legal act rather than an act of free-moral agency of the heart.

A Pharisee could meet the legal demands of a covenant obligation, but the New Covenant requires a spirit considerably higher (Matthew 5:20). The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 306, quotes Hebrew scholar Dom Rembert Sorg as writing that hesed is "really the Old Testament reflex [reflected image, likeness, or reproduction] of 'God is love.'"

God's love is hardly just obligatory, given all the expressions of feeling for Israel and the church accounted to Him in the Scriptures. Thus these two words, rich in meaning and usage, clearly reveal that kindness is an active quality God greatly desires His children to exhibit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

Ephesians 4:2-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With admonitions like these, we step into the intimate personal relationships within a congregation or family. They show that unity depends more upon the exercise of the members' moral qualities than the structure of the institution. Paul shows in Ephesians that the life we are called to live is characterized by five qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, the last of which embraces the preceding four and is the crown of all virtues. Each of these qualities enables us to act in mercy and live at peace. God's Spirit empowers us to use these qualities to overcome the ill will and the bitter, passionate rages that lead to clamorous slander, destroying reputations.

Such ill will and rage hardly promote kindness, compassion, and acting in grace toward each other. "Acting in grace" is an acceptable translation of the Greek word, charizomai, rendered "forgiving" in Ephesians 4:32. Acting in grace catches the essence of how God has acted toward us and our sin against Him. And because He has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).

Mercy begins with the way we feel about or toward each other and moves toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (I John 4:11). Thus, we are bound to forbear with one another and act kindly, in mercy. Anybody focused on himself as the center of the universe will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others, and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. It is no wonder, then, why so much divorce occurs, as well as division in other areas of life. A focus on the self does not allow much room for humble, kind, and compassionate thoughts of service for others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Hebrews 2:16-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Barclay comments: "He came as a man; he came seeing things with men's eyes, feeling things with men's feelings, thinking things with men's minds. God knows what life is like, because God came right inside life" (p. 104). Jesus Christ is not remote, detached, and disinterested, nor insulated and isolated from our lives. He knows our frame; He knows that we are but dust. He can see in us a reflection of what He experienced as a man. He can thus extend mercy to us, completely understanding what we are going through.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

James 2:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

James highlights the importance of mercy in keeping the spirit of the law. He exhorts us to speak and act as those who are to be judged by "a law of liberty," so that he sets no limit to the range of the law—meaning it covers all aspects of life.

In James 4:11, he warns us against speaking against the law or judging the law, that is, to assume the place of judge instead of "doer of the law." Our efforts should not be in judging someone else and whether or not they are keeping the law. However, we should be looking inwardly to determine whether or not we are doing what is required—not only in the letter of the law but especially in it spirit.

James would not have used such language unless he had a profound conviction of the perfection of the law as a rule of life for the saints redeemed from its condemnation. Thus, we can call it the perfect law of liberty—the royal law. Many Christians do not look at the law of God as being perfect. They pick and choose which parts of the law they will obey, ones they feel most comfortable with, and they ignore the rest. Yet the apostle says in James 2:10 that if we break one, we break them all.

All sin is lawlessness, as I John 3:4 states, and the sum of all lawkeeping is love of God and love of the brethren (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10), so the summary of the old law is echoed and endorsed. And it is continued—because Christ did not come to destroy the law but to magnify it (Matthew 5:17-18; Isaiah 42:21).

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Jude 1:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jude wishes upon his readers specific blessings. His salutation is not the same as the apostle Paul and some of the other writers used. He specifically chooses "mercy, peace, and love," as all three are vital in times of apostasy.

He asks for mercy because they probably needed to repent. His whole reason for writing the epistle stems from the fact that they had begun to get lax, allowing false teachers and false teachings in. They needed God's mercy as they began to repent.

He wishes them peace because, obviously, a major result of apostasy is war and division. Remember, his brother writes in James 3:18 that the fruits of righteousness are produced in peace, and these people were not producing the fruits of righteousness for two reasons: false teachings and war. Thus, they needed peace

Finally, he includes "love," the prime virtue. They needed love because it would take love to resolve this situation—and not just love for God but love for one another. This is the agape form of love, not just phileo— not just caring for one another but setting the mind to do God's will for each other and for God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Find more Bible verses about Mercy:
Mercy {Nave's}
Mercy {Torrey's}
 




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