SEARCH THE ARCHIVE

? SEARCH TIPS
Exact phrase, enclose in quotes:
“keyword phrase here”
Multiple words, separate with commas:
keyword, keyword

Is not God then also merciful? 

God is indeed merciful, but also just; therefore his justice requires, that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day IV, Question 11


Unduly harsh? 

The mercy of God now enters into the discussion; mercy for the guilty and depraved sinner, lost in sin. One might expect that at this point the song of salvation would burst forth in all its rapture. Yet when we read the answer to the question concerning God’s mercy, we find that our Catechism still speaks almost only of God’s justice. We ask, “Is not God then also merciful?”; and the answer we receive is, Yes, but wait a moment, let us not forget God’s justice. Is not this unduly harsh? 

Imagine, one might argue, that the prodigal son leaves. the swine’s trough and returns’ to father’s house, repeating to himself over and over again the confession, “Father, I have sinned. I am not worthy to be called thy son,” only to be rebuffed by father’s stern rebuke, “Hold on, before you cry on my shoulder, remember that you have squandered my goods, disgraced my name, and have deeply offended me!” Or again, imagine that the Philippian jailer had come to Paul and Silas with the humble plea, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, and would receive the answer: “Do? You can do nothing. You must understand that God’s justice must be satisfied. God has the perfect right to cast you into hell for your sins!” We ask, Did not the repentant publican go home justified after breathing the simple prayer for mercy at the temple door? We all agree, drawing from our own experience, that God never deals with us in that cold manner. Jesus, Who calls the weary and heavy laden to seek their refuge in Him, has never yet turned away one seeking soul; not as much as held him at arm’s length. 

We must understand that our Catechism is not discussing God’s dealings with the repentant sinner. This is a confession. You and I are being instructed from the Scriptures in the wonder of our salvation. We are speaking out of the conviction of that instruction concerning our only comfort as we live and when we die. Already we have faced the bitter consequences of our fall in Adam, confessing that we are by nature dead in sin, capable only of sin. Humbly we bow under the burden of our guilt, acknowledging that God is just in demanding that we love Him, even though loving Him is contrary to our depraved nature. With penitent tears we confess that God is just in punishing sin, both in this life and in hell. We say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Therefore we also approach the subject of God’s mercy with humble fear and reverence. We are not belaboring the point of God’s justice, but we need a proper perspective in understanding God’s mercy. God is merciful; yea, boundless in mercy, yet never at the expense of His justice. That I know. That I must learn ever. more fully every day. Perish the thought that our Catechism should be unduly harsh with God or with us at this point. 

A Necessary Reminder. 

Mercy is always just! An unjust mercy is a contradiction in terms. Injustice is always cruel, no matter who is responsible for it. Justice belongs to the light; injustice belongs to darkness. 

Think, for example, of a husband whose wife is unfaithful to him. Imagine that this husband would say out of the generosity of his heart, “I love my wife so much that I want her to enjoy herself.” Imagine if this wife were to return to her husband, acting as if nothing had happened, and he were to receive her with open arms. Would that be love? Would he be showing mercy to her? 

Or think of a parent who allows his child to go where he wills, come home when he pleases, eat and sleep when fancy dictates, use foul language, indulge in every sort of, sin freely. Does that parent actually love his child? Is he kind, merciful to him? When that child gets himself into serious trouble with the law or finds himself unhappily married, will he thank his parent for his indulgence? When parent and child meet in hell will the child still appreciate the kindness bestowed on him? 

Does God look with approval upon the leniency of our courts of law? Is the judge who allows rapists, arsonists, thieves, and murderers to roam our streets a worthy minister of God, carrying out God’s justice? Do governors who parole dangerous characters show mercy to the innocent? 

All of this applies much more to God, Who is very GOD. The churches of our day lay a strong emphasis upon God’s love. They teach that God loves all men, even though these men are sinners who hate God and violate every precept. God seems to ignore their blasphemies, makes light of their sins, allows them to heap insult upon insult against Him. With a brush of the hand He says, as it were, “I love you anyway.” 

It has been said in times past that Arminians rode into the churches on the wings of song. Such songs as “Jesus is Tenderly Calling You Home,” or “Throw out the Life Line” struck a strong appeal without much thought as to the contents. Today it can well be said that the denial of God’s justice comes singing into the churches. Many hymns that are sung today lay a strong emphasis upon Jesus, at the expense of God’s holiness and righteousness. The impression is left that Jesus is meek and gentle, but God is Someone awesome and fearful. In many circles children are taught to pray to Jesus rather than to God; yet we find very few prayers in Scripture that are addressed directly to Jesus. 

God’s Mercy. 

Mercy is a magnificent virtue, especially when it applies to God. God’s mercy is rooted in His eternal goodness. God’s eternal goodness, in turn, is rooted in His holiness. Let it be said with fear and adoration, God is good. He is light, in Whom is no darkness whatever. God’s holiness is His eternal devotion to Himself as the only Good, the infinite fulness of eternal perfections. This holiness radiates from His divine Being in a dazzling brightness that far surpasses the blinding light of the sun at noonday. God’s holiness radiates upon us in righteousness, justice, knowledge,wisdom, truth, power, grace, love, mercy, long suffering, and endless compassion. 

Truly God is good to Israel. In sovereign good pleasure God has chosen unto Himself a people in Christ Jesus, to show forth the praises of His glorious Name. God predestinates this people unto heavenly perfection in the new creation, to bear His image and likeness as sons and daughters, that they may live with Him in intimate fellowship of love forever. On the dark background of a history of sin, curse, and death for the workers of iniquity, God reveals the glorious light of salvation for the objects of His love in Christ. Or, we can express it this way, all things are rapidly working toward the final theodicy, the final revelation of the justice of God in punishing the wicked with eternal damnation, and redeeming His people unto heavenly glory. The eternal God declares: “For I, Jehovah thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and. showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” 

Mercy is God’s love to the wretched, the miserable. Mercy implies need for help in distress, need to be delivered from that distress and to be brought into covenant fellowship with the living God. God sent His Son into the world to save sinners. The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the good Shepherd Who committed Himself to torments of hell, that out of the depths of hell He might raise the cry, “Behold, I have found My sheep.” He enters the desert waste of this world by His Spirit to draw His sheep to Himself, gathers them in His arms, and. carries them to the sheepfold above. Mercy is, therefore, that attribute of God’s goodness, whereby He delivers the guilty, lost sinner from sin and death, and brings him into covenant fellowship with Himself in His glory! That is God’s mercy, full and free! 

A Just Mercy. 

Our Book of Instruction teaches us, that “God’s justice requires, that sin against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.” 

If this were not the case, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ would be a horrible travesty. My God informs me, that Zion must be redeemed with justice. My sin, your sin, even the smallest sin is committed against our God. We dishonor His glorious name, we squander His gifts, we transgress the very precepts that are for our life. Sin is sin against the most high majesty of our God. Each sin of each one of us, even a countless number of sins had to be punished with the extreme penalty of God’s eternal “Depart from Me, thou worker of iniquity.” Christ bore that penalty on the cross under the righteous wrath of the Holy One. He bore it, and bore it away, forever. God gave His Son. God’s Son, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for His sheep. God wounded Him for our transgressions, bruised Him for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Truly Justice and Mercy kiss each other at the cross by the wonder of God’s grace. Stand in awe, and marvel! 

As if that were a small thing, God’s justice and mercy still meet in the exalted Christ every day, as long as the world continues. In that familiar Song of Triumph inRomans 8, we join with the apostle to cry out: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Our Mediator and Advocate is now in the sanctuary interceding for us. How would we ever dare to pray, ever dare to ask for the smallest benefit of God, or ask for mercy, if it were not for the confidence that we have access to the throne of mercy through our merciful High priest, Jesus Christ, the Righteous, Who pleads that we be heard on the basis of His merit? He prays the Father to bless us out of heaven, and He is heard. It is His intercession that brings streams of blessings, like a mighty river, bestowing upon us far more than we can ask or think. 

We need only consider our personal experience. No sinner has ever been saved by the unscriptural, deceptive lie: God loves all men. God loves you as a sinner. The sweet singer of old speaks from his own experience in the oft-repeated Psalm 116, as also in Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee., O Lord. Lord, hear my voice. . . . If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. . . . Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” 

One might ask: Why does this world continue to exist year after year, even while wickedness abounds? The answer is, that God is long-suffering toward His people. Not one of them must perish. The end comes when the last elect is prepared for glory.

Therefore we have this confidence, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10). All human works will be burned like straw and stubble, but Christ, the righteous Judge, will see His own work in His people, and reward each one of them accordingly, in strictest justice and wondrous mercy. 

“Of mercy and of justice my thankful song shall be: 

O Lord, in joyful praises my song shall rise to Thee.”

 

Is not God then also merciful? 

God is indeed merciful, but also just; therefore his justice requires, that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day IV, Question 11


Unduly harsh? 

The mercy of God now enters into the discussion; mercy for the guilty and depraved sinner, lost in sin. One might expect that at this point the song of salvation would burst forth in all its rapture. Yet when we read the answer to the question concerning God’s mercy, we find that our Catechism still speaks almost only of God’s justice. We ask, “Is not God then also merciful?”; and the answer we receive is, Yes, but wait a moment, let us not forget God’s justice. Is not this unduly harsh? 

Imagine, one might argue, that the prodigal son leaves. the swine’s trough and returns’ to father’s house, repeating to himself over and over again the confession, “Father, I have sinned. I am not worthy to be called thy son,” only to be rebuffed by father’s stern rebuke, “Hold on, before you cry on my shoulder, remember that you have squandered my goods, disgraced my name, and have deeply offended me!” Or again, imagine that the Philippian jailer had come to Paul and Silas with the humble plea, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, and would receive the answer: “Do? You can do nothing. You must understand that God’s justice must be satisfied. God has the perfect right to cast you into hell for your sins!” We ask, Did not the repentant publican go home justified after breathing the simple prayer for mercy at the temple door? We all agree, drawing from our own experience, that God never deals with us in that cold manner. Jesus, Who calls the weary and heavy laden to seek their refuge in Him, has never yet turned away one seeking soul; not as much as held him at arm’s length. 

We must understand that our Catechism is not discussing God’s dealings with the repentant sinner. This is a confession. You and I are being instructed from the Scriptures in the wonder of our salvation. We are speaking out of the conviction of that instruction concerning our only comfort as we live and when we die. Already we have faced the bitter consequences of our fall in Adam, confessing that we are by nature dead in sin, capable only of sin. Humbly we bow under the burden of our guilt, acknowledging that God is just in demanding that we love Him, even though loving Him is contrary to our depraved nature. With penitent tears we confess that God is just in punishing sin, both in this life and in hell. We say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Therefore we also approach the subject of God’s mercy with humble fear and reverence. We are not belaboring the point of God’s justice, but we need a proper perspective in understanding God’s mercy. God is merciful; yea, boundless in mercy, yet never at the expense of His justice. That I know. That I must learn ever. more fully every day. Perish the thought that our Catechism should be unduly harsh with God or with us at this point. 

A Necessary Reminder. 

Mercy is always just! An unjust mercy is a contradiction in terms. Injustice is always cruel, no matter who is responsible for it. Justice belongs to the light; injustice belongs to darkness. 

Think, for example, of a husband whose wife is unfaithful to him. Imagine that this husband would say out of the generosity of his heart, “I love my wife so much that I want her to enjoy herself.” Imagine if this wife were to return to her husband, acting as if nothing had happened, and he were to receive her with open arms. Would that be love? Would he be showing mercy to her? 

Or think of a parent who allows his child to go where he wills, come home when he pleases, eat and sleep when fancy dictates, use foul language, indulge in every sort of, sin freely. Does that parent actually love his child? Is he kind, merciful to him? When that child gets himself into serious trouble with the law or finds himself unhappily married, will he thank his parent for his indulgence? When parent and child meet in hell will the child still appreciate the kindness bestowed on him? 

Does God look with approval upon the leniency of our courts of law? Is the judge who allows rapists, arsonists, thieves, and murderers to roam our streets a worthy minister of God, carrying out God’s justice? Do governors who parole dangerous characters show mercy to the innocent? 

All of this applies much more to God, Who is very GOD. The churches of our day lay a strong emphasis upon God’s love. They teach that God loves all men, even though these men are sinners who hate God and violate every precept. God seems to ignore their blasphemies, makes light of their sins, allows them to heap insult upon insult against Him. With a brush of the hand He says, as it were, “I love you anyway.” 

It has been said in times past that Arminians rode into the churches on the wings of song. Such songs as “Jesus is Tenderly Calling You Home,” or “Throw out the Life Line” struck a strong appeal without much thought as to the contents. Today it can well be said that the denial of God’s justice comes singing into the churches. Many hymns that are sung today lay a strong emphasis upon Jesus, at the expense of God’s holiness and righteousness. The impression is left that Jesus is meek and gentle, but God is Someone awesome and fearful. In many circles children are taught to pray to Jesus rather than to God; yet we find very few prayers in Scripture that are addressed directly to Jesus. 

God’s Mercy. 

Mercy is a magnificent virtue, especially when it applies to God. God’s mercy is rooted in His eternal goodness. God’s eternal goodness, in turn, is rooted in His holiness. Let it be said with fear and adoration, God is good. He is light, in Whom is no darkness whatever. God’s holiness is His eternal devotion to Himself as the only Good, the infinite fulness of eternal perfections. This holiness radiates from His divine Being in a dazzling brightness that far surpasses the blinding light of the sun at noonday. God’s holiness radiates upon us in righteousness, justice, knowledge,wisdom, truth, power, grace, love, mercy, long suffering, and endless compassion. 

Truly God is good to Israel. In sovereign good pleasure God has chosen unto Himself a people in Christ Jesus, to show forth the praises of His glorious Name. God predestinates this people unto heavenly perfection in the new creation, to bear His image and likeness as sons and daughters, that they may live with Him in intimate fellowship of love forever. On the dark background of a history of sin, curse, and death for the workers of iniquity, God reveals the glorious light of salvation for the objects of His love in Christ. Or, we can express it this way, all things are rapidly working toward the final theodicy, the final revelation of the justice of God in punishing the wicked with eternal damnation, and redeeming His people unto heavenly glory. The eternal God declares: “For I, Jehovah thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and. showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” 

Mercy is God’s love to the wretched, the miserable. Mercy implies need for help in distress, need to be delivered from that distress and to be brought into covenant fellowship with the living God. God sent His Son into the world to save sinners. The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. He is the good Shepherd Who committed Himself to torments of hell, that out of the depths of hell He might raise the cry, “Behold, I have found My sheep.” He enters the desert waste of this world by His Spirit to draw His sheep to Himself, gathers them in His arms, and. carries them to the sheepfold above. Mercy is, therefore, that attribute of God’s goodness, whereby He delivers the guilty, lost sinner from sin and death, and brings him into covenant fellowship with Himself in His glory! That is God’s mercy, full and free! 

A Just Mercy. 

Our Book of Instruction teaches us, that “God’s justice requires, that sin against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.” 

If this were not the case, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ would be a horrible travesty. My God informs me, that Zion must be redeemed with justice. My sin, your sin, even the smallest sin is committed against our God. We dishonor His glorious name, we squander His gifts, we transgress the very precepts that are for our life. Sin is sin against the most high majesty of our God. Each sin of each one of us, even a countless number of sins had to be punished with the extreme penalty of God’s eternal “Depart from Me, thou worker of iniquity.” Christ bore that penalty on the cross under the righteous wrath of the Holy One. He bore it, and bore it away, forever. God gave His Son. God’s Son, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for His sheep. God wounded Him for our transgressions, bruised Him for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Truly Justice and Mercy kiss each other at the cross by the wonder of God’s grace. Stand in awe, and marvel! 

As if that were a small thing, God’s justice and mercy still meet in the exalted Christ every day, as long as the world continues. In that familiar Song of Triumph inRomans 8, we join with the apostle to cry out: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Our Mediator and Advocate is now in the sanctuary interceding for us. How would we ever dare to pray, ever dare to ask for the smallest benefit of God, or ask for mercy, if it were not for the confidence that we have access to the throne of mercy through our merciful High priest, Jesus Christ, the Righteous, Who pleads that we be heard on the basis of His merit? He prays the Father to bless us out of heaven, and He is heard. It is His intercession that brings streams of blessings, like a mighty river, bestowing upon us far more than we can ask or think. 

We need only consider our personal experience. No sinner has ever been saved by the unscriptural, deceptive lie: God loves all men. God loves you as a sinner. The sweet singer of old speaks from his own experience in the oft-repeated Psalm 116, as also in Psalm 130, “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee., O Lord. Lord, hear my voice. . . . If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. . . . Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” 

One might ask: Why does this world continue to exist year after year, even while wickedness abounds? The answer is, that God is long-suffering toward His people. Not one of them must perish. The end comes when the last elect is prepared for glory.

Therefore we have this confidence, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10). All human works will be burned like straw and stubble, but Christ, the righteous Judge, will see His own work in His people, and reward each one of them accordingly, in strictest justice and wondrous mercy. 

“Of mercy and of justice my thankful song shall be: 

O Lord, in joyful praises my song shall rise to Thee.”