MERCY AND TRUTH MUST MEET TOGETHER
The proverbs record, “by mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of Yahweh depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:6).
To the mind of man, it is an irreconcilable paradox that iniquity could be purged by the bringing together of these two mutually exclusive principles, mercy and truth. But in God’s purpose of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, the psalmist tells us “his salvation is nigh them that fear him… Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:9–10). Unless both mercy and truth meet together when the ecclesia deals with cases of sin and repentance then the power of God’s healing will not be present.
We know that forgiveness and our forgiving others is conditional on our confessing and forsaking our sins (Psalm 130:3–4; 1 John 1:17; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 1:9; Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34; Matthew 6:15; 2 Corinthians 2:10; Matthew 18:33). Why should God forgive us for Christ’s sake? We believe that God does, but why is this forgiveness in the end extended to some and not to others?
“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
The measure of our Lord’s intercession on our behalf is the measure of our doing the will of our heavenly Father. To do His will is to be found doing the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. To what measure we do his work, then to that measure Christ abides in us (John 15:7); to that extent the Lord Jesus Christ can bear our sicknesses (i.e. iniquities, Matthew 8:17) and be sympathetic with our desperate pleas for help. But unmercifulness and our refusal to “seek that which is lost” (Matthew 18:12) or our unwillingness to fellowship God’s will of desiring not to see one of his little ones perish, will at last exclude us from abiding with Christ for ever more.
A brother or sister, who has earnestly sought righteousness, stringently keeping themselves from sin, may deplore the sins of the offender, especially when their sin is one of weakness and ungodliness. It is not by accident that the Lord places beside this indispensable beatitude of “righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) which characterises God’s children, the beatitude of “the merciful”, who shall “attain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). This attribute, gives the children of God, a beauty and nobility which shall be perpetuated in the kingdom age as the characteristics of the king/priests who reign with Christ.
This glorious attribute finds its outworking in the saints’ lives now in their attitude to those who are sick because of sin, even as their Lord gave them an example. “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converts a sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20). The apostle Peter adds, “above all things have fervent love among yourselves: for love shall cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
So the sins of the offender are covered over by the Lord Jesus Christ, Yahweh’s appointed propitiation or mercy seat, which under the Mosaic pattern covered the ark in which lay God’s truth, written in stone. Their sins are purged and cleansed, but associated with this saving work, like the palsied man’s friends, are those who as “workers together with God” in the fulfilling of his will, receive the forgiveness of their sins also. This rests upon the divine principle… “With what judgement you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2).
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? Or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison and came unto thee? And the king shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:37–40).
Now Yahweh wants us as his children, to truly appreciate these principles, and to do that, he tests us in many ways through relationships and ecclesial problems. The only way we can resolve these is by beholding he who was “the Word made flesh”, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). To behold this glory is to behold his grace and truth which is our salvation; it is a marrying together of grace (mercy, undeserved lovingkindness) and truth (the revelation of what God is, the “true light” John 1:9). This marrying together of grace and truth vindicates Yahweh’s righteousness, and upon the acknowledgement of this and the forsaking of sin, grace is extended. Therefore divorce and remarriage cases for reasons other than the exception, as with marriages contracted outside of the truth, must not be dealt with in such a way that grace and mercy overlook or minimise transgression! As we stated in the introduction on page 3; Yahweh must be seen to be just in all He commands and in all His ways. The recognition of God’s righteousness is the basis and first condition of divine mercy and forgiveness. In this process however, under the stress of ecclesial or personal problems we must not forget the most fundamental of all gospel truths—Christ came and died to save sinners. It is the attitude of mind of brethren and sisters who have sinned and yet now seek mercy, which must be evaluated by the ecclesia, to the best of their capacity. In the end it is our inability to fully appreciate the circumstances offenders have endured, and an awareness of our own failings and weaknesses that should prompt us to err on the side of mercy, for we are very much in need of mercy ourselves. As the apostle James states, “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgement without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgement” (James 2:12–13). If the law of “grace and truth” has been the measure of our lives, in which mercy has rejoiced (gloried or boasted) against judgement, in our dealings with our fellow man, then that will be the measure of our judgement when we stand before our Lord.
The hard though transforming path to take is the individual and the ecclesia striving to make plain God’s principles of mercy and truth, for it involves so much determination, patience, love and humility. The individual and ecclesia may also be easily misunderstood while faithfully striving to follow this correct path, even as their Lord was misunderstood. He was condemned for doing so and he had the power to physically prove his divinely bestowed prerogative in perfectly making plain God’s principles of mercy and truth to forgive sins, as in the case of the palsied man. Matthew records the multitudes upon seeing this miracle, “marvelled and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (Matthew 9:8).