A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.
Ch. 14: The Mercy of God-
In the last post on ch. 13 of Pink's book, the topic was the grace of God. Pink made the claim that grace is a special, saving grace given only to the elect. Of course, being a negative claim, was rather hard to prove, but he did give a lot of verses that supported the idea that grace was saving and sovereign.
What is the difference between mercy and grace?
Wherein differs the "mercy of God from His grace"? The mercy of God has its spring in the Divine goodness. The first issue of God’s goodness is His benignity or bounty, by which He gives liberally to His creatures as creatures; thus has He given being and life to all things. The second issue of God’s goodness is His mercy, which denotes the ready inclination of God to relieve the misery of fallen creatures. Thus, "mercy" presupposes sin.
Though it may not be easy at the first consideration to perceive a real difference between the grace and the mercy of God, it helps us thereto if we carefully ponder His dealings with the unfallen angels. He has never exercised mercy toward them, for they have never stood in any need thereof, not having sinned or come beneath the effects of the curse. Yet, they certainly are the objects of God’s free and sovereign grace. First, because of His election of them from out of the whole angelic race (I Tim. 5:21). Second, and in consequence of their election, because of His preservation of them from apostasy, when Satan rebelled and dragged down with him one-third of the celestial hosts (Rev. 12:4). Third, in making Christ their Head (Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22), whereby they are eternally secured in the holy condition in which they were created. Fourth, because of the exalted position which has been assigned them: to live in God’s immediate presence (Dan. 7:10), to serve Him constantly in His heavenly temple, to receive honorable commissions from Him (Heb. 1:14). This is abundant grace toward them but "mercy" it is not.
Definitely a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around. It seems that grace is freely given. Elect angels receive grace. Elect humans receive grace. And all things (all creation) receives mercy (Psalm 145:9).
Pink makes the distinction between a general mercy given to all creation to help them survive, a special mercy given to all humans (sun to rise on the evil and the good, rain on just and unjust Matthew 5:45). And finally a sovereign mercy, akin to the saving grace, given to the elect.
The mercy given to the reprobates is a temporal mercy, confined to this present life. And in response to the question, “but doesn't God's mercy last forever?” Pink answers “yes, but how God dispesnses that mercy is up to Him.” God has mercy on whom He has mercy.
So here's the question that I have. With these temporal mercies (rain, sun, existence), isn't the fact that the non-elect don't respond with thanksgiving a further condemnation upon them? Like when Jesus goes into some towns, heals some people and gets thrown out, he pronounces woes upon them. Matthew 11:20-24.
20Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you."
Can we argue the same thing for those lesser gifts of mercy through the sun and the rain? I don't see why not, since they are, according to Romans 1, demonstrations God's divine nature that leave us without excuse. Is it still mercy? Well, if the Bible says so =p. Certainly similar to the act of patience.Steve Hays posted an interesting and related post on common grace.
But going back to the chapter itself, there was something here that I thought was rather brilliant. Pink writes, “Even the casting of the reprobate into the Lake of Fire is an act of mercy.” He points us to three viewpoints: 1) From God's side, it is an act of justice, vindicating His honor. From the side of the reprobates (the non-elect), it's an act of equity, when they are made to suffer the due reward of their iniquities, but from the side of the elect, it's an act of mercy, whereby the elect are rescued from the blasphemy and filth of the reprobates. This was awe inspiring (and a little scary!), but definitely biblical. I was immediately reminded of Lot's rescue in 2 Peter 2:4-10. Wow!
Pink also draws on a large amount of biblical support for the above inference as well. God's judgment upon Pharaoh, David's enemies, the great whore of Babylon, all as examples of his mercy.
let us note how vain is the presumptuous hope of the wicked, who, notwithstanding their continued defiance of God, nevertheless count upon His being merciful to them. How many there are who say, I do not believe that God will ever cast me into Hell; He is too merciful. Such a hope is a viper, which if cherished in their bosoms will sting them to death. God is a God of justice as well as mercy, and He has expressly declared that He will "by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:7). Yea, He has said, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God" (Ps. 9:17). As well might men reason: I do not believe that if filth be allowed to accumulate and sewerage become stagnant and people deprive themselves of fresh air, that a merciful God will let them fall a prey to a deadly fever. The fact is that those who neglect the laws of health are carried away by disease, notwithstanding God’s mercy. Equally true is it that those who neglect the laws of spiritual health shall forever suffer the Second Death.
Terrifying. Reminder to self: don't presume upon God's mercies. Flee to Christ. Take care of my spiritual health.
Labels: Attributes of God