My God of Mercy
Text: Ephesians 2:1-10
I. Several years ago I taught High School math and science in a private school
A. As happens occasionally, one student copied from another and turned in the assignment.
1. The school’s policy was to give zero grades to both the cheater and the one cheated from.
a. It was felt fair because it was difficult to determine who was the originator
b. It also placed responsibility on retaining control over your own material.
2. The principle allowed the teachers to modify the policy as seen fit
B. I informed both boys that I caught them, that they received a zero, and that they were to write a short paper on a set of verses that I gave them.
1. To the one that I was fairly certain cheated, I gave a list of verses on the subject of laziness.
2. To the other I gave a shorter list of verses on responsibility.
C. When they turned in the assignments, I asked each privately what they had learned.
1. The cheater took the opportunity to complain that I had given him a longer list of verses. He told me how unfair life was for him.
2. The other won’t look at me, but humbly explain that he realized that he bore responsibility because he let the other boy “borrow” his notebook that contained the finished assignment.
D. I told the second boy that I was restoring his grade.
1. He look at me in surprise! “You don’t have to do that! I was wrong.”
2. “Yes, you were,” I told him, “and you are exactly right, I don’t have to do this; but I am going to do it because I want you to learn another lesson: I want you to understand what ‘mercy’ is all about.”
II. Mercy balances justice
A. Law breaking demands judgment, but mercy overrides - James 2:11-13
1. It has been a fad to handle serious problems with “zero-tolerance” policies.
2. For example, there is a problem with weapons in schools, to the school issues a “zero-tolerance” plan.
a. “Any student caught with a knife with a blade over one inch will be suspended for the rest of the year.”
b. It sounds good until an honor student was brought in because she had a butter knife in her lunch bag to spread peanut butter on some crackers.
c. It was a knife. It had a blade. It was a zero-tolerance plan. So the girl was suspended.
d. But the policy was foolish and the school looked foolish, not because knives should be allowed in schools, but because “zero-tolerance” means no mercy.
B. Mercy means giving less than what was deserved - Psalm 103:6-14
1. Consider the fact that we all sin - Romans 3:23
2. The consequence of sin is death - Romans 6:23
3. A zero-tolerance plan for sin would mean that no one would survive. Pure justice would demand our death.
C. But God doesn’t enjoy punishing the wicked - Ezekiel 33:11; II Peter 3:9
D. God delights in extending mercy - Jeremiah 9:24; Micah 7:18-20
III. It is the Judge, God, who determines who receives mercy
A. You might sigh in relief and say that God, then, will save me even when I sin. There is no need to change! - Romans 6:1-2
B. The flaw is that the one who wants mercy is deciding he is going to get mercy.
C. God gives mercy as He decides
1. Exodus 33:19 - God’s declaration
2. Romans 9:15-16 - The application is that mercy is God’s choice, not man’s
D. Jonah once thought to manipulate God’s mercy in a negative way
1. God told him to preach to the people of Nineveh
2. But Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed, so he ran
3. He thought that if Nineveh didn’t hear about their danger, then God would not have an opportunity to extend mercy - Jonah 4:2
4. Nineveh received mercy because they turned from their sins and Jonah couldn’t stand it.
5. But part of the point is that Jonah couldn’t stand in God’s way. It was God who decided who would receive mercy, not Jonah.
IV. Mercy doesn’t eliminate justice
A. God is full of mercy - I Timothy 1:14
1. Israel was thought that God’s love is eternal - Jeremiah 31:3
2. Hence God offers the hope of salvation - I Peter 1:3
3. It was the reason for Jesus’ coming. Not to condemn the world – it already stood condemned. He came to save it - John 3:17
B. So if God wants the world saved and Jesus paid the debt of sin, why doesn’t God just declare everyone saved?
1. Because it wouldn’t be just!
2. Recall that justice requires that sin is punished - Hebrews 2:2
3. God will not pervert justice - Job 34:10-12
4. It would not be just to save sinners
5. So God balances justice and mercy - Exodus 34:6-7
C. The problem is sin. God wants to show mercy, but sin requires just action
1. The solution is to offer a way for sin to be removed, or forgiven - Ephesians 2:4-7
2. Jesus paid the debt of sin - Romans 5:8-10
a. Notice the word “justified”
b. God could justly save us because Jesus offered His life on our behalf.
3. God then gave requirements needed to benefit from that gift
a. The requirements sort out the righteous from the wicked
b. II Thessalonians 2:13 - People are chosen through sanctification (purified from sin) and belief in the truth.
c. Ephesians 2:8 - Saved through faith
d. Saved by turning away from sin - Ezekiel 18:30-32; Luke 13:3, 5
e. Saved by confession - Romans 10:8-10
f. Saved by baptism - Romans 6:3-7; I Peter 3:21
g. Saved by obedience - Hebrews 5:9
D. Some object saying that this means we are earning our salvation
1. Not at all. Our works as we noted have earned us death.
a. We are not saved by our works because they remain insufficient to save us - II Timothy 1:9
b. We are most fortunate that God is not saving us according to our deeds - Titus 3:4-7
c. If it was by our works, then who could be saved? - Matthew 19:25-26
2. The standard then is not our works, but the works God requires of us - Ephesians 2:8-10
a. Taken by themselves, those things cannot save. They do not alleviate the problem.
b. It is Jesus shed blood that takes care of the problem and saves.
c. But justice is satisfied because something within our capability is used to determine what is beyond our ability - Luke 16:10
E. Justice, though, demands more. To be just, mercy must be applied equally
1. The Jews thought that they should be saved because they descended from Abraham.
a. But because they sinned, God gave salvation to the Gentiles.
b. But to be fair, that same salvation remains open to the Jews
c. Romans 11:30-32
2. Gentiles are saved in the same manner as the Jews - Acts 15:11
3. So the promise is not just for some - Romans 4:11
4. It is extended to all men - Titus 2:11
5. If God picked the individuals who would be saved and condemned those who would be lost in advance, then it wouldn’t be fair.
a. The choice would be arbitrary.
b. But by offering the same conditions to all men, conditions that all men could handle, then justice is satisfied.
c. God chose, not the individuals, but the type of person He would save.
d. By demonstrating the proper character through obedience in small demands, God can justly show mercy on the type of people He wants to save - Ephesians 1:7-14
V. Mercy is shown in delay
A. Have you ever thought what would happen if God zapped us when we broke His law?
1. Mankind would quickly cease to exist.
2. In fact, we wouldn’t have made it past Adam and Eve, would we?
B. Romans 2:4 - God shows mercy by His forbearance and patience
1. He wants people saved, so He gives them opportunities to repent
2. It is the reason this world continues to this point - II Peter 3:9
C. Psalm 86:5 - God is ready to forgive
D. Don’t waste the opportunity