God Loves to Show Mercy
March 31, 2023
-Dr. J. Vernon McGee, from our 2 Corinthians Bible Companion
If you wonder if the first century church had issues, then take a look at Corinth. This young church struggled to know how to live pure, godly lives in a corrupt culture.
In the first letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul called them out on a serious sin issue that was keeping them from growing up in the Lord. But when they got Paul’s letter, they wised up and responded well to his correction. Just one person was still causing trouble. Paul then wrote 2 Corinthians to set the troublemaker straight, but God’s larger purpose was to encourage the young church and grow them up in their Christian disciplines.
They learned how to call out destructive sin—and then how to restore a repentant sinner. They also learned how to be generous in giving to God’s work.
The letter begins on a high note. Paul knew for certain he was in God’s will, and that gave him confidence. It makes no difference where you are or how you are or what your circumstances may be; if you know you are in God’s will, you are in a great place.
Did you know that when Paul wrote this letter, he also addressed the church in your neighborhood, which is also God's church? We are God’s church, the body of believers the Lord Jesus Christ purchased with His blood. The church in Corinth was like every other. When the gospel came to them, the light broke on their darkened souls. They turned from their sins to the living Christ.
To equip the Corinthian Christians for hard times, Paul then taught them about God Himself. His lessons are rich and beautiful, take them to heart. Don’t forget about God’s mercies; He is the Father of mercies, he reminds us. God is the Father; that’s His position in the Trinity.
As “the Father of mercies,” God provided a Savior for us. We couldn't be saved any other way. Everything we have today is a mercy from God. He is rich in grace and rich in mercy. Do you need that mercy today? If you need cash, you go to a bank to get it. If you need mercy, go to the One who is the Father of mercies. If you need help, go to Him. We don't deserve any of it, but He gives it all to us freely.
Our Father is also “the God of all comfort” (1:3)—comfort means “to come alongside of.” The same word describes the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the One called to our side. When the Lord Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, He said He would send a Helper. He will abide with you forever . . . I promise to come to you. The Spirit of God is called to help you, to strengthen you, to relieve the loneliness, ease the grief, and calm your fears. He is your advocate in time of fear and trouble. He will be with you in the desperate hour of life. (See Psalm 30:10.) When our soul cries out for the Comforter, He comes alongside us. When we know for sure God is with us in all life’s troubles, we can live by faith and not by fear.
Life on life—that’s how Paul described the work of the ministry. We pray for each other, we help each other in trouble, we learn how to trust God from watching each other go through trouble. Our testimony in life matters. God uses it to show others how to live by faith. We don’t rely on our own wisdom, but we live our lives in “simplicity and godly sincerity” (1:12). Suffering, in part, produces this grace. God’s mercy produces qualities in our lives that we are to share.
Paul stayed away from Corinth so that their faith could grow stronger and they would grow up in the Lord. Perhaps this is also why God allows many of us to go through difficulties. He wants us to own our faith.
Since Paul got word they had made the needed course correction, now he could come to them in joy and open his heart to them. Since we’re talking about God’s mercy, it makes sense that Paul addresses the issue of sin the Corinthian church had been dealing with. A man had been living in gross immorality, yet the church shut their eyes to it, acting like they were spiritual. Paul wrote them (1 Corinthians) to get this matter straightened out. He told them to not have fellowship with this man until he turned from his sin.
And for once the story ends well. The people obeyed Paul; they stopped fellowshipping with the man, which in this case was the right thing to do. The man felt overcome by the Spirit’s conviction, and he confessed his sin. Then he turned his back on his sin. Now what should they to do?
Forgive him, Paul said. He will feel overwhelmed, not only because of his sin, but because you’re distant from him. So now put your arm about him and restore him to your fellowship. (See also Galatians 6:1.) You don’t want to discourage him so much that Satan finds an opening for more trouble. The devil will try to push us one way or another.
Remember that we are all capable of any sin. Whatever the other man has done, we are also capable of doing. When a man repents from his sin, restore him in humility. Bring him back into fellowship. This is the glorious ministry of mercy.
In this letter so far, we’ve seen God's comfort for our life's hardest events. Now we see God’s comfort in restoring a sinning saint. Showing mercy gives God great delight.
Reflection and discussion questions from the 2 Corinthians Bible Companion
- What can church leaders and church members learn from the relationship of the Apostle Paul and the church in Corinth?
- What would you attempt for God if you had the same kind of confidence the Apostle Paul expressed in 2 Corinthians?
- How could being reminded about God’s mercies prepare you to endure tough times?
- What does it tell us about God that He is interested in us being comforted in suffering?
- What can you do to focus on God’s purposes in the messy middle of suffering?