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Mercy of God

The goodness or love of God shown to those who are in misery or distress, irrespective of their deserts. - Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology

The Scope of God's Mercy

Please see notes on the Grace of God for more information on the scope of God's Mercy. A.W. Pink does a good job explaining that God's mercy presupposes sin. For example, we would never think of God as showing mercy to His elect angels (unfallen angels). However, God has shown grace to them by electing them and perserving them in perfect obedience and love toward God. Mercy is the removal of God's wrath or judgement to those who deserve it. Mercy is an eternal volition of God. Mercy also presupposes sin.

A.W. Pink does venture into the error of common grace by saying, "there is a general mercy of God, which is extended not only to all men, believers and unbelievers alike, but also to the entire creation." (p 92-93 The Attributes of GOD, Baker Books). He states Ps. 145:9 as a support of this concept, "The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works." Does God then change His intention toward the reprobate from one of mercy to one of just wrath? Obviously, this would destroy the immutability of God. The "all" in this passage is all God's elect. Otherwise, the psalmist would be contradicting his own words in Ps. 92:7 "When the wicked spring up like grass, And when all the workers of iniquity flourish, It is that they may be destroyed forever." We could hardly say that the reprobate's flourishing is evidence of God's intention to show mercy.

What We Deserve

To properly understand God's mercy, we must first understand the biblical concept of justice. This can be very difficult for us to comprehend because we are unable to grasp the magnitude of our own wretchedness and the magnitude of God's holiness.

R.C. Sproul in "The Holiness of God" draws from his experience as a professor and provides an illustration of justice. His students had become so accustomed to Professor Sproul's mercy in extending the due date of term papers that they started to call it "fairness".

All sinners are the same. We grow so accustomed to God's mercy that when He reveals His justice, it shocks us.
  • Read Lev. 10:1-7. How did Nadab and Abihu offend God?
  • Read 2 Samuel 6:1-7. What sin had Uzzah committed against God?
  • Perfect justice requires the punishment to fit the crime. How does the infinite holiness of God increase the magnitude of one small offense towards Him?
  • What do each of our sins deserve? Why?

Scriptural Support: