What God is Like (Musings on the character of God) #8

Full of mercy…

I want to say again that it’s not my intent to dissect God, like a frog, into pieces so we can study him. Nothing life-changingly good comes from anyone’s attempt to take him apart and examine him. I simply want to know him as best I can the way he actually is. We’re not trying to build a God-model out of a box of parts. These qualities of his that we’re talking about don’t so much add up to be God. These aren’t “God’s parts” as much as they are a few of the things about his ineffable character about which he chose to grant us a glimpse.

There’s not way that he’s shared everything about himself with us. We wouldn’t be able to contain it if he did. There are still zillions of “secret things” about the Lord that he hasn’t revealed us (Deuteronomy 29:29) and maybe, even in the eternal state, he never will. He’s always going to be bigger than we can comprehend.

“The Lord is good to all: his tender mercies are over all his works!  

Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”

(Psalm 145:9; 23:6)

Fortunately for us, one of the things about himself that God is quite explicit is that he’s merciful. I revel in his mercy every time I think about how amazing it is that know I get to know anything at all about him. That I am sane – sort of – instead of committed to Bellevue is an act of mercy on God’s part. That I am not in prison, not friendless, not dead – it’s all due to God’s mercy that keeps washing over me.

Mercy and grace

The Bible writers often spoke of God’s “grace and mercy” in the same breath as if sisters. At face value mercy and grace might look like synonyms but, judging by their usage in the Bible and their relative definitions, I think there are noteworthy distinctions between them. They both convey that we’re undeserving of their benefits and both are essential for our spiritual rescue, but mercy and grace, though related closely to each other, are not really the same thing.

Grace is something that God had and that he’s happy to distribute free of charge. I like the acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense or better yet, God’s Righteousness And Corresponding Enablement. Grace is:  Jesus for us and Jesus in us.

But if we’re talking about what God is like, in my opinion, grace is not on the list. Grace is more about something God has than who he is. Mercy, on the other hand, is an aspect of his personality, what he’s like. God’s mercy is part of who he is and grace is what he gives because of who he is. Mercy is God’s disposition while grace is what his disposition disposes him to distribute. Because he’s saturated and spilling over with mercy he hands out grace like candy.

Because God is merciful he gives grace.

[More on mercy next time…]

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