In 2 Corinthians 1:12 Paul speaks not only of the simplicity of God but also of the sincerity of God. Sincerity follows simplicity and comes out of simplicity. A sincere person is always simple. I do not trust those who are complicated, because they are too clever. However, I can trust those who are simple, for I know that, being simple, they are sincere. When we have simplicity, singleness, we shall also have sincerity. Because Paul conducted himself in the simplicity of God, he was truly sincere, living in the divine attribute of sincerity.
In Luke 18:18 a “certain ruler” questioned the Lord Jesus, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except One—God” (v. 19). This verse reveals that God, and only God, is good. Goodness is another attribute of God.
What does the word “good” mean in regard to God? In Greek it is agathos, describing “that which, being good in its character or constitution, is beneficial in its effect” (Vine). Thus it denotes something being essentially, absolutely, and consummately beneficial. God, being good, is essentially, absolutely, and consummately beneficial to man. His goodness, in this sense, is a beautiful item of His attributes.
Romans 9:16 says, “So then, it is not of the one who wills, nor of the one who runs, but of God, the One who shows mercy.” Mercy is the most far reaching of God’s attributes. Mercy goes further than grace. God’s love does not reach as far as His grace, and His grace does not reach as far as His mercy. If I am in a good condition and my standing matches yours, and you give me a gift, that is grace. But if I am in a pitiful condition and my standing is far removed from yours, and you give me something, that is mercy. If I come to you as your dear friend, and you give me a gift, that is grace. However, if I am a poor, unclean beggar, unable to do anything for myself, and you give me a gift, that is mercy. This illustrates the fact that God’s mercy is more far reaching than His grace. Grace extends only to a situation that corresponds to it. But mercy goes much further, reaching into a situation that is poor and unworthy of grace. According to our natural condition, we were far removed from God, totally unworthy of His grace. We were eligible only to receive His mercy.
God’s mercy does not depend on man’s good condition. Rather, God’s mercy is shown in man’s pitiful condition. It reaches beyond His grace.
It is God’s mercy that has reached us. None of us was in a condition that corresponded to His grace. We were so poor and pitiful that there was the need for God’s mercy to extend to our fallen condition. God’s mercy has brought us into His grace. How we need to realize this and worship God for His mercy! Even now, after being saved and having shared in the riches of God’s life, we still, in some ways, are in a condition that needs God’s mercy to reach us. This is the reason Hebrews 4:16 says that first we need to obtain mercy, and then we can find grace for timely help. Oh, how much we need God’s mercy! We should treasure His mercy as much as we appreciate His grace. It is always God’s mercy that qualifies us to participate in His grace.
In Romans 9:16 Paul says that “it is not of the one who wills, nor of the one who runs, but of God, the One who shows mercy.” Our concept is that the one who wills will gain what he wills to obtain and that the one who runs will gain what he runs after. If this were the case, then God’s selection would be according to our effort and labor. But it is not so. On the contrary, God’s selection is of God who shows mercy. We do not need to will or to run, for God has mercy on us. If we know God’s mercy, we shall not put our trust in our effort. Neither shall we be disappointed by our failures. The hope for our wretched condition is in God’s mercy.
Romans 11:32 says, “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.” Man’s disobedience affords God’s mercy an opportunity, and God’s mercy brings man salvation. How marvelous is God’s mercy!
God’s mercy and His grace are both the expression of His love. When we are in a pitiful condition, His mercy reaches us and brings us into a state where He is able to favor us with His grace. Luke 15:20-24 says that when the father saw the prodigal son returning, he had compassion on him. This is the deeper mercy, an expression of the father’s affectionate love. Then the father clothed his son with the best robe and fed him with the fatted calf. This is grace, which also manifests the father’s love. God’s mercy reaches further than His grace, bridging the gap between us and God’s grace.
Often, because of our pitiful condition, we need to receive mercy before we can find grace. We come to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16) like beggars, in somewhat the same condition as was the prodigal son when he came to his father. A beggar, like the prodigal, needs mercy. When we come to the throne of grace, we may have the sense that we are pitiful and say, “Father, I am not worthy of anything.” But the Father may say, “You are unworthy, but I am merciful. My mercy reaches you and qualifies you to receive my favor. My mercy brings Me to you that I may clothe you with the best robe.” God’s mercy is always available to us.
If we would serve God in His New Testament economy, we need to know that it is wholly a matter of God’s sovereign mercy. Through many years of experience I have become strongly and deeply convinced that everything that happens to us is of God’s mercy. All is a matter of God’s mercy. The more we see this, the more we shall spontaneously bear our responsibility before the Lord. However, even the bearing of responsibility is of God’s mercy. Why is it that some believers are willing to bear their responsibility and that others are not? The answer lies in God’s mercy. In Romans 9:15 Paul quotes the Lord’s words, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Because of God’s mercy we responded to the gospel when others did not respond, we received a word about Christ as life when others refused to receive it, and we took the way of the Lord’s recovery when others drew back from taking this way.
Regarding His recovery, God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. We are not in the Lord’s recovery because we are more intelligent than others or because we seek the Lord more than others do. Our being here is altogether due to the mercy of God. If you consider how the Lord brought you into the church life in the Lord’s recovery, you will worship Him for His mercy. Concerning the gospel, the ministry of life, and the church life, God has had mercy on us. How we must praise Him for His sovereign mercy, and worship Him for His mercy!
Ephesians 2:4 says, “God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us.” Here we see that God is rich in mercy because of His great love toward us. The object of love should be in a lovable condition, but the object of mercy is always in a pitiful situation. God’s mercy reaches us for His love. God loves us because we are the object of His selection. But we became pitiful by our fall, even dead in our offenses and sins. Therefore, we need God’s mercy to reach us. Because of His great love, God is rich in mercy to save us from our wretched position to a condition that is suitable for His love. This most far-reaching attribute of God should cause our heart to react to His love.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 001-020), Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)