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Mercy and Grace

 

The title of this sermon is Mercy and Grace. They are two words and two subjects commonly used today but their meanings are often misunderstood or under-appreciated. Mercy and Grace are really sisters. They're not identical twins but they are very close sisters, nonetheless. They are almost constantly found together and if one is encountered by herself, the other is not far away. Let's look at their meanings.

 

Mercy is defined by Webster's Dictionary as: 1) compassion or forbearance shown to an offender or subject; clemency or kindness extended to someone instead of strictness or severity; 2) a blessing regarded as an act of divine favor or compassion; 3) relief of distress; compassion shown to victims of misfortune.

Grace is defined by Webster's Dictionary as: 1) benificence or generosity shown by God to man; especially divine favor unmerited by man: the mercy of God as distinguished from his justice; 2) a short prayer either asking a blessing before or giving thanks after a meal; 3) disposition to kindness, favor, clemency or compassion: benign goodwill; the display of kindly treatment usually on the part of a superior.

So, you see, the English language definitions are quite similar. More importantly, we need to see how Mercy and Grace are defined and used by God. To do that, we need to go to God's word and look at the original language definitions.

 

Godís Definitions

The Hebrew word most often translated "mercy" in the Old Testament is Strong's #7356. racham, and is defined by Strong's Hebrew Dictionary as compassion; by extension, it is the womb (as cherishing the foetus); by implication, it is a maiden. Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines racham as: to love, to love deeply, to have mercy, to be compassionate, to have tender affection, to have compassion. It is from #7358. rechem, which is defined by the New American Standard Dictionary as: the womb.

Another word translated as "mercy" is Strong's #2603 chanan and is defined by Strong's Hebrew Dictionary as: to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow; or to implore (that is, to move to favor by petition). It is defined by the New American Standard Dictionary as: to show favor or to be gracious.

Another word sometimes translated "mercy" but more often "lovingkindness" is Strong's #2617: chesed, which is defined as goodness or kindness. It is from #2616: chasad, to be good or kind.

In the New Testament, there are two words most often translated "mercy." The first is Strong's #1656: eleos, mercy, pity, or compassion. It is used as a noun and is the thing, itself. The other word has its source in eleos and is Strong's #1653: eleew, to have pity or mercy on, to show mercy. It is used as a verb and is the act of having or showing mercy.

According to Unger's Bible Dictionary, "mercy" is defined as: "a form of love determined by the state or condition of its objects. Their state is one of suffering and need, while they may be unworthy or ill-deserving. Mercy is, at once the disposition of love respecting such, and the kindly ministry of love for their relief."

 

Examples of Mercy

Beginning in Exodus 34:6, we can see examples of how mercy is a very part of God's nature.

(Exo 34:6-7 KJV) And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, {7} Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

In Deuteronomy 4:31, we can see that mercy and compassion are an integral part of God's character. They are what he is and how he behaves.

(Deu 4:31 NASB) "For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

In the Psalms, as David speaks of the great, steadfast qualities of God in Psalms 62, lovingkindness or mercy is among them. In fact, they belong to God.

(Psa 62:11-12 KJV) God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God. {12} Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou rendereth to every man according to his work.

Throughout the Psalms, there is verse after verse that extols the mercy of God.

(Psa 52:8 KJV) But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

(Psa 86:5 KJV) For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

(Psa 108:4 KJV) For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.

(Psa 145:8-9 NASB) The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. {9} The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.

In the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 1:3, Paul also speaks of the mercy of God as being available for our comfort in time of trial.

(2 Cor 1:3-4 NASB) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; {4} who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Notice the continual giving nature of God's mercy. It is extended to us as comfort in a manner such that we can then use it to comfort others who are suffering affliction. It is not only for ourselves. It is focused outward. It is a continual outpouring to others.

In Ephesians 2:4, Paul continues to speak of mercy as something which God possesses in abundance and he continues to link the intertwining nature of mercy and love.

(Eph 2:4 NASB) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

James also emphasizes the abundance of God's mercy in James 5:11.

(James 5:11 NASB) Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

Even Moses, while crying out to God on the behalf of guilty Israel, appealed time and again to God's great mercy, as we read in Numbers 14:17.

(Num 14:17-19 KJV) And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my LORD be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, {18} The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. {19} Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.

As we saw before, notice again how forgiveness is tied to mercy.

At the dedication of the first temple in Jerusalem, Solomon praised God before all the people and he spoke of God's abundant mercy in relation to the covenant which God established with his servants.

(1 Ki 8:23 KJV) And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:

In Nehemiah 1:5, mercy is again tied to the covenant established by God and embodied by God's commandments.

(Neh 1:5 KJV) And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

In Proverbs 3:1, Solomon is imparting wisdom and experience to his son. His advice is to make mercy an integral part of your life.

(Prov 3:1-4 KJV) My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: {2} For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. {3} Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: {4} So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

So, how do you find favor and good understanding both in the sight of God and of man? It is by not forgetting God's commandments, and by retaining mercy and truth all your life.

Solomon continues imparting wisdom to his son (and to us) in Proverbs 14:21.

(Prov 14:21-22 KJV) He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. {22} Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.

Even after the rebellion of Judah against God which resulted in their captivity in Babylon, Ezra spoke of God's mercy in Ezra 9:9.

(Ezra 9:9 KJV) For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.

In Luke 1:46, when Mary was pregnant with Jesus and went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, even Mary spoke with boldness of the mercy of God.

(Luke 1:46-54 NASB) And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, {47} And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. {48} "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. {49} "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. {50} "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. {51} "He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. {52} "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. {53} "HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; AND SENT AWAY THE RICH EMPTY-HANDED. {54} "He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy,

Even as God is full of mercy, so are we to be full of mercy. That is what God requires of us and that is what God stated through the prophet Micah in Micah 6:8.

(Micah 6:8 KJV) He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

 

Christ Embodied Mercy

In Matthew 5:7, where Christ spoke the beatitudes, which were the amplification of the law of God, Jesus spoke directly of the necessity for his followers to both possess and administer mercy.

(Mat 5:7 KJV) Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

A little later in Luke 6:20, Christ was talking about merciful behavior to his disciples.

(Luke 6:20-35 NASB) And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. {21} "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. {22} "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. {23} "Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. {24} "But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. {25} "Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. {26} "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets. {27} "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. {29} "Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. {31} "And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. {32} "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. {33} "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} "And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. {35} "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

In the very next verse, Christ gave an indisputable command to be merciful. In fact, he linked our required behavior with that of the behavior and very nature of God the Father.

(Luke 6:36 KJV) Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Even Christ had to have mercy, as the author of Hebrews states in Heb 2:17.

(Heb 2:17 NASB) Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

So, you see that in order to be an acceptable sacrifice to God for our sins, Christ had to be both full of mercy and full of faith.

In James 3: 13, James really hits the nail on the head when he states the true source of mercy.

(James 3:13-17 NASB) Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. {14} But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. {15} This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. {16} For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. {17} But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Read verse 17 again: "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." Are you full of mercy and good fruits? Are you consistent and unwavering or do you run hot and cold with hypocrisy? That's really the key. God wants us to be consistent and full of mercy and good fruits. In fact, by linking mercy with good fruits, God shows us that we are to put that mercy into action by applying it through good deeds or, what he terms as "good fruits."

We've seen that mercy is a part of God's character and very being. God is full of mercy. So, we, as God's people, are also to be full of mercy. We are to possess it and apply it in our lives and put it into practice daily in our contact with other people consistently.

 

Grace Defined

What about that other sister, Grace? Let's examine grace. We'll see that it's never very far away from mercy.

We read earlier that one English dictionary defined grace as: "benificence or generosity shown by God to man; especially divine favor unmerited by man: the mercy of God as distinguished from his justice."

Nelson's Bible Dictionary defines "grace" as: "Favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that same person deserves."

In the Old Testament of the King James Version of the Bible, the English word "grace" is translated thirty-nine times. In the New American Standard Version of the Bible, the English word "grace" is only translated eight times. Virtually all other thirty-one times, the Hebrew word is translated "favor." Why the difference? Let's look at the meaning.

The Hebrew word most often translated "grace" in the King James' Version is Strong's #2580. chen; graciousness, kindness, favor. In the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, its meaning is given as "favor, grace, charm." In the New American Standard Dictionary, the Hebrew word chen is defined as coming from the root chanan, Strong's #2603, which is to show favor, or to be gracious. In most cases in the Old Testament, the context shows us it is used in a manner implying the showing of favor.

In the New Testament, the English word translated "grace" is used more than 120 times. In almost every instance, it is translated from the Greek word charis, Strong's #5485 and Strong's Greek Dictionary defines it as "graciousness of manner or act; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude."

Thayer's Greek Dictionary brings out even more shades of meaning. It says grace is: "what affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness; grace is good will, loving-kindness, favor; grace is used of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues." That's quite a long definition but you can see that the Greek word charis is full of meaning.

 

Examples of Grace

In Deuteronomy 4:5, the greatest of gifts which showed the grace of God to Israel was the giving of his laws, his statutes, and his judgments to his chosen people and their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.

(Deu 4:5-8 NASB) "See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. {6} "So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' {7} "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? {8} "Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

Continue in verse 33:

(Deu 4:33-40 NASB) "Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? {34} "Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? {35} "To you it was shown that you might know that the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him. {36} "Out of the heavens He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. {37} "Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, {38} driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today. {39} "Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other. {40} "So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time."

 

You can see that the concept of God's grace, spoken of largely in the Old Testament as God's favor, takes on more depth and has even more spiritual implications in the New Testament. Those spiritual implications of God's grace are developed most keenly in the writings of the apostle Paul. Paul spends quite of bit of time linking God's grace and mercy in the book of Romans. In Romans 3:19, Paul compares the ultimate goal of salvation and eternal life supposedly "earned" through the keeping of the law of God with that same salvation given as a gift through the grace of God.

(Rom 3:19-26 NASB) Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; {20} because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. {21} But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, {22} even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; {23} for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, {24} being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

 

Unmerited Favor comes from the Father

Grace is a gift from God the Father. It is not earned as one would expect payment. It is not an obligation incurred by God for something we have done. It is a gift; but what is a gift? A gift is something freely, or shall we say voluntarily, given from the giver to the recipient. This concept is further expounded in Romans, chapters five, six and seven.

(Rom 5:1-12 NASB) Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. {3} And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; {4} and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; {5} and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. {6} For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. {7} For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. {8} But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. {9} Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. {10} For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. {11} And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. {12} Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Does Paul nullify the law of God? Look at chapter six.

(Rom 6:1 NASB) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? {2} May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? {3} Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? {4} Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. {5} For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, {6} knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; {7} for he who has died is freed from sin. {8} Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, {9} knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. {10} For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. {11} Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. {12} Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, {13} and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. {14} For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. {15} What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! {16} Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? {17} But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, {18} and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. {19} I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. {20} For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. {21} Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. {22} But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. {23} For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Look at that last verse again. Verse 23 says "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Wages are something paid to workers for performing tasks for a master (or employer). When the tasks or desires of the master are performed by the servants, the master takes on the burden of a debt or obligation to pay something for the services rendered. It is not so with eternal life. Verse 23 is a plain, declarative statement. It says eternal life is the "free gift of God." It is not a burden or obligation incurred by God which he is forced to pay. It is a voluntary gift. On the other hand, death is the automatic payment administered by the law of God for the services of sin performed by any of his servants.

Continue in chapter seven.

(Rom 7:5 NASB) For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. {6} But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. {7} What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." {8} But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. {9} And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; {10} and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; {11} for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. {12} So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. {13} Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. {14} For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. {15} For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. {16} But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. {17} So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. {18} For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. {19} For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. {20} But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. {21} I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. {22} For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, {23} but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. {24} Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? {25} Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Notice that. Paul says that, for the Christian, there are two ways of life and the lifelong struggle that the Christian must battle: the way of the flesh serving the law of sin and the way of the mind serving the law of God. Does that sound like Paul is doing away with the law of God? If that were the case, why would Paul voluntarily admit that it was his goal for his mind to serve the law of God?

(Rom 8:1-17 NASB) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. {2} For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. {3} For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, {4} in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. {5} For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. {6} For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, {7} because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; {8} and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. {9} However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. {10} And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. {11} But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you. {12} So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- {13} for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. {14} For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. {15} For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" {16} The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, {17} and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

We have received that spirit of adoption from God the Father through his agent and son, Jesus Christ, as we can read in Ephesians 1:3.

(Eph 1:3-8 NASB) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, {4} just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love {5} He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, {6} to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. {7} In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, {8} which He lavished upon us.

That spirit of adoption was decided by the Father before the foundation of the world. We see it amplified and put into action, though, by the mercy and grace of God to redeem us (or buy us back) from the state of death in which we had placed ourselves through our former lives of sin. We can see that in Ephesians 2:1.

(Eph 2:1-10 NASB) And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, {2} in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. {3} Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. {4} But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, {5} even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), {6} and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, {7} in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. {8} For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; {9} not as a result of works, that no one should boast. {10} For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Now, that's what we are supposed to do. Notice the direct statement in verse ten: we are the workmanship of God the Father. Why did the workman create us? God created us in Christ Jesus for good works that we should continue to walk in those good works all life long.

Many people think life is hard. Depending upon circumstances, life can be hard but many people can bring difficulty upon themselves by their mindset, focusing inwardly on their problems. That attitude is selfishness. We just read that we are the workmanship of our Father, created in Christ Jesus, with a duty to do good works. As our eyes have been opened and we have received the free gift of the Father embodied in the knowledge and faith that comes from God, so we are to live by the standards of our Father in dispensing good works all our lives. We are to be focused outwardly, seeking the good of others.

(1 Pet 3:8-18 NASB) To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; {9} not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. {10} For, "LET HIM WHO MEANS TO LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING GUILE. {11} "AND LET HIM TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; LET HIM SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. {12} "FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE UPON THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL." {13} And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? {14} But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, {15} but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; {16} and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. {17} For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. {18} For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

In Titus 2:11, Paul also makes reference to the same sacrifice made for us and to the same duty-bound obligations we each have in living lives of thanks for that grace extended to us.

(Titus 2:11-14 NASB) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, {12} instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, {13} looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; {14} who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

 

Our Obligations

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul tells us what God has provided for us and what God expects of us.

(Eph 4:11-29 NASB) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, {12} for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; {13} until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. {14} As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; {15} but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, {16} from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. {17} This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, {18} being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; {19} and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. {20} But you did not learn Christ in this way, {21} if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, {22} that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, {23} and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, {24} and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. {25} Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. {26} BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, {27} and do not give the devil an opportunity. {28} Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need. {29} Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

So, who needs mercy? Who needs grace? We all need them. It is through the mercy of God that we are granted favor, forgiven of sin, and restored to a state of righteousness or justification in accord with God's righteous standards. It is through God's grace that our Father will voluntarily give us the ultimate gift of eternal life and salvation; not because we deserve it or because we have earned it. The freedom that comes from our undeserving condition does not mean, however, that we are free to act in just any old manner that shows disregard or contempt for the standards of God's righteousness. Indeed, we are to uphold the standards of our righteous Father. Remember what we read in Romans 6:1.

(Rom 6:1-2 NASB) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? {2} May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

So, always be mindful of the wonderful gifts of God and remember the words of Christ as stated in John 8 to the woman caught in the act of adultery: "Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on, sin no more."

 

 

 

Sermon given by Philip Edwards

November 24, 2007

 

 

Studies in the Word of God
 

Church of God Most High
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Tucson, AZ 85752-9741
USA

 

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