Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2
Thesis: The prerogative of mercy is exclusively God's.
Introduction: Last week we looked into Paul's question of whether the promises of God, being rooted in the divine prerogative and totally isolated from human performance issues, constitute some form of "unrighteousness". For Paul this is an absolutely impossible reality, but for most human beings it is a question that needs to be answered. So, in our study last week we addressed the issues of "righteousness" and "love" and saw that "righteousness" is a "Justice" issue and "Love" has nothing to do with "Justice". "Justice" issues are completely absorbed with "performance" issues. "Love" issues are completely absorbed with the "Lover's" commitment to producing "Life" for the "beloved".
Also in that study we looked at the inescapability of "selectivity" in "love". In a perfect world, choices between objects of love are immaterial because all love with a total selflessness that is unqualified and unbounded. But, in a world where sin is permitted and, at least temporarily, tolerated, choices between objects of love become inescapable. What will mean "Life" for one will mean "Death" for the other. In a perfect world, "Love" is totally dominant; in a fallen world, "Hate" takes up a counter-balancing position.
The question that Paul raised regarding whether this constitutes "unrighteousness" with God is inevitable in a fallen world for one reason: because love is deficient in many, the willingness to be an instrument of "Life" for others is seriously eroded and any "force" applied to the unwilling is invariably met by charges of "illegitimacy" or, as Paul would have it, "unrighteousness".
This needs to be understood: it is only the unloving who complain about their "assignment" from God. Jesus did not whine about how "unfair" it was for Him to have to be the "Redeemer", and no one who has any integrity can claim to be as "loving" as Jesus was and still accuse the Father of "not being fair".
This evening we are going to go one step further and look into Paul's counter-argument regarding those who would, in spite of their own serious unrighteousness, accuse God of being "unrighteous".
November 11, 2008
- I. God's Declaration to Moses.
- A. The "for" introduces Paul's rationale.
- 1. The major question: how does God's declaration of His own prerogative erase the charge of "unrighteousness in God"?
- 2. The elements of the answer involve several details.
- a. First is the issue we studied last time: "righteousness" has to do with "Justice" and "works" issues.
- b. Second is the issue we also considered last time: "love" has nothing to do with "Justice" and "performance" issues (unless, as in the case of Isaac's "love" for Esau, the one "loving" has misappropriated "love" and placed it in service to "lust").
- c. Third is the issue that we only briefly considered in respect to "the purpose of God" that is handled by God by means of "election" ("Love" in a fallen universe addressed by "Promise" is inescapably "selective").
- d. Fourth is whatever relationship "Mercy" has to "Justice" and "Love".
- B. The content of the declaration.
- 1. Stated twice in the same form with a distinction between the main descriptive verbs.
- a. If I decide to show mercy (this is the impact of the subjunctive mood), I will do it (this is the impact of the future tense) on my terms.
- 1) Showing mercy involves the overt activity of giving what is needed.
- 2) Showing mercy is a consequence of a "Life" focus (meaning it is related to "Love").
- b. If I decide to be compassionate, I will do it on my terms.
- 1) Being compassionate involves the inner motivations of "mercy".
- 2) Compassion typically generates a greater "scenario of need" (the difference between seeing a problem as a minor cut or seeing it as a massive, crushing threat).
- 2. Emphatic about the issue of "prerogative".
- a. Invariably, the issue of "prerogative" is the issue of "whose" decision it is that will guide the on-going developments.
- b. In a fallen world, this is the point of contention between sinners and sinners and God and sinners.
- c. It is not "unrighteous" of the only non-sinner in the mix to declare that He will be the one who makes the decisions.
- 1) The only issue here is this: Is God a non-sinner (is there unrighteousness with God)?
- 2) If He is, all bets are off, but if He is not, no one else is qualified as He is.
- 3) This is the reason Paul brought the issue up.
- II. The Issue of "Mercy"
- A. It, like "Love" is significantly disconnected from "Justice" and "performance" issues.
- 1. It is not as radically disconnected because the focus of "mercy" is giving what is needed for "Life", not whether the giving is tied to whether a person deserves it.
- 2. But the addition of "compassion" moves the "disconnect" significantly in the direction of "Love" because compassion has to do with inner, emotional turmoil over a bad situation without regard for the cause of the situation.
- B. Thus, under the prior theses of "purpose", "promises made", and "compelled selectivity", "mercy" is "optional" in regard to specific situations and persons.