Merciful God – How does God's mercy correlate with other attributes?
Our merciful God is perfect. His attributes (or perfections) are not "parts" of Him. Each one describes His total being. Even if we study all His attributes, we still cannot fully understand Him. As a finite being, it is impossible to fully understand the infinite God or His mercy.
Dr. Norman Geisler writes: "Mercy flows from God's attribute of goodness (or love) as grounded in His infinity and immutability. Since God is unlimited and unchangeable, then, given that He is good, He must be infinitely and unchangeably good. Since mercy flows from God's goodness, and since God is infinite, it follows that God is infinitely and unchangeably merciful. It is of His very nature to show mercy; He cannot not be merciful. As God is a necessary Being, even so He must of necessity be merciful. Were He not merciful, He would not be essentially good or loving. God is not arbitrarily merciful."1
Merciful God – How does God's mercy differ from His grace?
When we consider our merciful God, we often confuse the terms mercy and grace. While similar in meaning, they are two different ideas. Mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve. Grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we don't deserve it. It is unmerited favor.
Since we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), we deserve death (Romans 6:23), so every day we live is an act of mercy from God. On the other hand, we deserve nothing from God. Any good thing that comes into our life is a result of the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5).
Salvation is a great illustration of both mercy and grace! Because we are sinners, we deserve judgment. However if we receive Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life, we receive grace. Hebrews 4:16 declares, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
We can cry to God for mercy, asking Him to withhold the judgment we deserve and instead grant to us the forgiveness we in no way have earned. Psalm 51:1-2 shares how David cried out, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."
Ephesians 2:7-9 says, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
1 Geisler, Dr. Norman. Systematic Theology, 389.
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