Plumbing the depths of mercy and grace
I was thinking today about the difficulty we have in truly understanding the extent of God’s mercy and grace toward his children.
Let’s start with some definitions: By mercy, I’m referring to God’s love expressed in his not treating us as we deserve to be treated. By grace, I’m referring to God’s love expressed in his giving us what we don’t deserve to receive. The Newsboys say it well…
When we don’t get what we deserve… it’s a real good thing…
When we get what we don’t deserve… it’s a real good thing…
The first line is mercy; the second is grace.
Now, the problem lies in trying to comprehend the extent of God’s mercy and grace to us. In order to fully grasp God’s mercy, we must be able to fully comprehend what we deserve from God. Because we have difficulty fully grasping the wrath of God against sin, we struggle to fully appreciate the mercy God shows us when he saves us from that wrath.
There are two primary places we can look in order to grasp more fully God’s mercy: The Cross of Christ, where God’s wrath was put on Jesus as our substitute, and Hell, where God’s wrath will be poured out on unrepentant sinners for all eternity. Both of these are revealed to us in the Scripture, and we have access to them as we meditate on Scripture and are taught by the Holy Spirit.
Likewise, in order to fully grasp God’s grace, we must be able to fully comprehend what we have received from God. I believe that just as we struggle to comprehend God’s wrath, we also struggle to fully appreciate just what we have received in our salvation.
Our salvation is so much more than just God’s merciful forgiveness of our sins. He doesn’t just forgive us and then let us start over again to prove our ability to serve him and follow him as our God. He heaps upon us blessing after blessing, by virtue of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we receive what Jesus deserves. This is the “spiritual inheritance” that is mentioned so often in the Bible.
Only in eternity will we be able to fully grasp God’s grace because we will experience in heaven the fullness of our salvation. We will receive our spiritual inheritance that right now is “kept in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:4).
Only in eternity will we be able to fully grasp God’s mercy because we will witness God’s righteous judgment of unbelievers. Revelation 14:9-10 says,
9 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
We will be “in Christ” for all eternity, and in his presence, we will see what we deserve to receive, and I believe we will appreciate the cross as never before. This idea seemed very radical to me when I first read it in one of Jonathan Edward’s sermons, but I believe Edwards is faithfully teaching us what God has revealed in his Word.