Conditional Mercy Ps. 18:25 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In Ps 18:25 David says, “With the merciful that wilt shew thyself merciful.” God’s mercy is conditional mercy.
We know that God is merciful from Ex 34:6. But we sometimes confuse God’s mercy with his love and get the idea that his unconditional love for the world in Jn 3:16 is equivalent to his mercy. And that’s not so. God’s mercy is conditional mercy. Notice these instances of God’s conditional mercy. God’s mercy is granted on:
The condition of his will – Rom 9:15, 18 – it’s the Lord’s mercy and he will extend it to whom he will, when he will. In other words, you can’t put God in a box and limit his mercy to a finite set of conditions. However, when his mercy is connected to salvation [Titus 3:5] it is always extended to those whose faith is in the finished work of Jesus Christ on Calvary [1 Tim 1:12-16].
The condition of mercy – Ps 18:25 – God shows himself merciful to the merciful. By contrast, David says, “… and with the forward thou wilt shew thyself forward,” [Ps 18:26]. God doesn’t reserve Jesus Christ from anyone. But he reserves his mercy for the merciful.
The condition of truth – Prov 16:6 – mercy and truth are a match for each other. When you approach the Lord in truth, he purges your iniquity according to his mercy. When you are not truthful with God about your sin, you find mercy lacking to purge your sin. It’s not a good idea to seek mercy from the Lord when you are lying [Acts 5:1-5; 1 Sam 15:24-26].
The condition of humility – Lk 18:9-14 – in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the publican received the mercy for which he prayed because he humbled himself. The Pharisee didn’t receive mercy because he exalted himself.
The condition of repentance – Matt 9:13 – the Lord’s desire is to have mercy; but he extends it when sinners repent. A good example of this is the prodigal son in Lk 15:11-24. The prodigal son acknowledged that he had sinned against heaven and against his father. He was willing to take the place of a servant because he was no longer worthy to be his son. And his father extended him mercy, just like God does with us when we repent.
The condition of righteousness – Hos 10:12 – Hosea told Israel that if they would sow in righteousness they would reap in mercy. Of course, the Lord’s righteousness, freely given to us at salvation, is fulfilled righteousness. It’s Jesus’ righteousness that allows us to be justified before God when we get saved. So, there’s a bit of a doctrinal difference in Hos 10:12 and in our New Testament salvation. Nevertheless, we mention Hos 10:12 to emphasize that, after you are truthful with God, humble and repentant, and after he extends his mercy to you, you should turn from your ways and follow righteousness. For, by sowing righteousness you reap mercy. We are never without a need for God’s mercy.
Conclusion: don’t assume that because God is love, he extends his mercy unconditionally. He doesn’t. His mercy is conditional. There are certain conditions under which the Lord will be merciful. And don’t mistake his forbearance for mercy. There are many Christians today living in absolute disobedience to the words of God who think God is being merciful to them in their sin. He’s not. He is forbearing. Turn back to the Lord in truth, humility and repentance and live in righteousness. These are the conditions of God’s mercy.