By Jim Olsen
This session looks at the Holy Spirit’s gift, the charisma, of mercy. Mercy to the Greeks meant kindness, good will toward the afflicted with a desire to help them. We’ll be looking at the gift of mercy from Rom 12:8 “if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” In particular, we’ll be looking at mercy as a gift of the Spirit, where mercy is given from God so that we can be merciful to others.
We’ll start by looking at some Greek words and definitions related to mercy. In Rom 12:8, Paul tells us that the charisma of mercy is to be given cheerfully, which is the Greek word hilarotes. It’s where we get the English word hilarious, but the Greeks didn’t view it as overwhelming joy: hilarotes simply meant cheer. The word translated mercy, eleos, had a very specific definition in the Greek, defined by Thayer as “kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.” The connotation that mercy helps the miserable is lost to many English readers, as an English dictionary leaves it out.
I was surprised at how Paul’s use of the gift of mercy aligns with the Greek definition. He says that the gift of mercy should be used to bring cheer to the miserable and afflicted. In this session’s key verse, 1 Tim 1:13-14, Paul introduces another bedrock concept about mercy: Remembering your roots. Paul remembered the way he formerly lived. He said he was ignorant and unbelieving before he met Jesus. It’s important that you remember what you used to be like before Jesus took control of your life. Remember his love; remember how he’s answered your prayers. That’s how the gift of mercy works; God’s mercy working through you to help others.
1 Tim 1:13 “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man; yet because I had acted in ignorance and unbelief, I was shown mercy (eleos). 14 And the grace of our Lord overflowed to me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
Mercy is good will toward for the ‘miserable and afflicted.’ God’s mercy is not theoretical. He’s there for anyone who’ll admit they are needy. The problem is, time and time again, many people either don’t ask or ask only once, because they become embarrassed or discouraged. Scripture reminds us that asking our Heavenly Father for mercy is an honorable task. John in revelation calls prayer a sweet smelling incense to the Lord. Consider the story of the blind men. When they heard Jesus was passing by, they cried out “have mercy on us!” The men were immediately met with the crowd telling them to hush up, but this was not a time for silence. The men cried all the louder.
Matt 20:30 “And there were two blind men sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy (eleos) on us!” 31 The crowd admonished them to be silent, but they cried out all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy (eleos) on us!”
Crying out for mercy, recognizing your life is far from perfect, causes Jesus to stop. Notice, as this story continues, Jesus asks them for a specific request. Be as specific in your prayers as possible, and phrase them in a way that would invoke a compassionate response. Matthew described Jesus as being “moved with compassion.” A lot is lost in translation here, for the word translated compassion actually means to be moved in one’s bowels. Jesus was moved in his innermost being. He was touched by the prayers for mercy, and he answered their prayers immediately. The admonition is: Keep on praying, let it be more than an intellectual prayer, let your request rise up to heaven and never, ever give up asking.
Matt 20:32 “Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked. 33 “Lord,” they answered, “let our eyes be opened.” 34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes, and at once they received their sight and followed Him.”
Now, let’s look at a scriptural model for the gift of mercy: The Good Samaritan. This story has Jesus telling of a man who fell into the hands of robbers, leaving him naked, beaten and half-dead. It’s meant to be taken both literally and spiritually. The half-dead man is symbolic of a man trapped in sin. Just like how Paul was reminded of how he was a violent man, this man was stuck in a miserable trap of violence. It’s another opportunity to look how mercy and grace comes in at the lowest point in a person’s life.
This story tells us that the gift of mercy does not come from a religious system. A priest and a Levite, both highly regarded religious leaders, ignored the man, passing by on the other side of the road. The gift of mercy came from a Samaritan. Jesus probably chose a Samaritan because they were despised by the Jews. They were treated as outcasts by the man who he was telling the story to, an expert in the law. You see, God uses the formerly rejected to heal the rejected. Jesus once again reminds us he doesn’t use a powerful bunch of people, people who think that they have life figured out. No, he uses the broken to heal the broken. Once bandaged, the Samaritan put oil and wine on his wounds, symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s healing power. He then gave the man over to the innkeepers, symbolic of the church. The gift of mercy is only one part of the healing process. A healthy church brings healing to its weakest members.
Luke 10:33 “But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and on my return I will repay you for any additional expense.’”
Notice the Samaritan’s actions were immediately recognized as mercy, as the Greeks understood that anyone who helps out the miserable and afflicted is showing God’s mercy. We are told to emulate the Samaritan’s actions, where Jesus says “go and do the same.”
Luke 10:36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 “The one who showed him mercy (eleos),” replied the expert in the law. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Don’t forget where you came from. The Bible puts importance on remembering how God brought you out of bondage, just like the wounded man in the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s natural to think once we’ve overcome a problem to try to forget it. Scripture tells us to leave our old sinful lives behind, let Jesus heal us, but it does not say to forget who we were. In fact, for the gift of mercy to work, we have to remember that we too are in need of mercy.
Peter talked about how the Lord has made us a chosen people, a royal priesthood, God’s own people. At the same time, he reminds us that, at one time, we were not chosen; in fact, we were not even a people at all. We had no spiritual heritage, wandering the earth; and like savage wolves (Acts 20:29), we did not receive or even care about God. The gift of mercy, by necessity, requires us to remember that we once needed that same love, care and compassion from the Lord that we are giving to another.
1 Pet 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (eleos).”
After reading this, consider the importance of asking and receiving God’s mercy every day. When it’s a good day, remember where you came from, and give him thanks. When it’s a bad day, become a child, and ask Jesus for mercy. Be honest; let him know you are miserable. Show Jesus your weakest parts. And in the middle of the mess, give God thanks, for he is in control. Thanking God is what sets us apart, for we know he’s totally in control; that all things work together for good to those who love him.
Heb 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy (eleos) and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Definitions are from InHisVerse Bible (IHV) - www.InHisVerse.com.
Copyright © 2019, 2020, Jim Olsen, Olsen's Apps LLC, All Rights Reserved
Bible Quotations From: The Holy Bible, Berean Study Bible, BSB (BereanBible.com). Copyright ©2016, 2019 by Bible Hub. Unless Otherwise Noted.