Sermon on the Mount Series – Mercy Triumphs

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that a time is coming when the world will be judged and the mercy that has been offered for many centuries will no longer be available.

In Matthew 5 is described a ladder of spiritual progression that will lead a person to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said in verse 7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Another translation puts it like this: “Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall receive compassion.” Of all the beatitudes, this one on the fifth wrung of the ladder, is the one that causes us to search our hearts and examine ourselves. How many times have I said too much and made cutting criticisms of someone? How many times have I passed prejudiced judgments before having all the facts? Have my impetuous words resulted in wounding somebody else? When we really think about how we may have affected others, the prayer of the publican in the synagogue seems very appropriate. He said in Luke 18:13, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

It is impossible for us to be merciful unless we have first experienced the other steps in our spiritual growth. It is impossible to be compassionate in our dealings with others until we have a recognition of our own spiritual destitution, mourned over our past sins and become meek and humble in heart, hungering and thirsting for a righteousness outside of self which we cannot generate. When we have had that experience, then we will be compassionate and merciful to others who may be stumbling and making similar mistakes.

Those who are spiritually blind have no understanding of their own condition and as a result tend to become more unforgiving and more unmerciful to those they are dealing with day-to-day. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were a prime example. They were destitute of mercy and sympathy because of their proud spirit. Remember, Jesus began His sermon with the declaration, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Having never been humbled in themselves by a recognition of their own spiritual poverty, the Pharisees looked with contempt and disdain upon the weaknesses of others. They believed that they were perfect, as you can read in the Pharisee’s prayer in Luke 18, and were harsh and even cruel in dealing with the imperfections of others. This harsh, cruel spirit is sure evidence of and an absolute guarantee that that person has a carnal and fleshly mind, an unregenerate heart, and has never been converted.

This spirit is characteristic of people who have not been born again, for the spirit of Phariseeism is not something foreign to us; it is the natural spirit of human nature. In fact, this same spirit controls everyone who has not been made a new creature and been made a partaker of the divine nature. In 2 Peter 1:3, 4, we are reminded that we have been given promises, “… exceedingly great and precious promises …” so that we might be partakers of the divine nature.

If we are unconverted, if we have the spirit that the Pharisees had in the days of Christ, then we will tend to erect human standards based on our own ideas and attainments. We will become the standard of morality and subsequently judge all who fail to come up to the standard that we have made. This spirit creates an atmosphere of selfish and narrow criticism and causes men to become self-centered judges and petty spies.

If we are unmerciful, then we cannot obtain mercy ourselves. Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” In this beatitude, there is restated by Jesus, not something new, but an old truth, an eternal and unchanging law that is everywhere and always operative in nature and in human society. It has been called the self-acting law of retribution, or putting it into simple language, “We get what we give.” What we give to others eventually comes back in full measure to us. Jesus stated this truth to Peter on the night of His betrayal. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish with the sword’ ” (Matthew 26:52, literal translation).

If you deal the sword to others, you are going to receive the sword from others. How accurately this has been fulfilled in history. The great kingdoms of the past have perished by the very weapons they used against others. Those who showed no mercy, received no mercy. The Bible talks about this principle in the book of Proverbs: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly. But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

If I am friendly to others, I will have friends in return. But if I give out enmity to others, I will receive enmity in return. Friendship bestowed upon others brings a reward in friendship. But if I deal out captivity, the sword, death to others, the same will return to myself. It’s restated again in Revelation 13:10: “He who leads into captivity; shall go into captivity, he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Concerning the liberal person, the person who has a giving spirit, Proverbs 11:25 KJV tells us: “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” As Jesus said, even if you only give a cup of cold water to someone, you are not going to lose a reward. What you give to somebody else will eventually come back to you.

The penurious, the stingy person, is going to eventually receive in the same measure that they give. Jesus stated this principle even further: “Give, and it will be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38, literal translation).

A natural, self-operating law is that the same measure that you give out will be measured back to you, even in this life; it the law by which God will measure the reward that He will give to His servants. “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).

When Jesus was here on earth, He stated in Matthew 16:27 that you are going to be rewarded according to whatever you do in this life, whether good or bad. The apostle Paul also stated the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:10. What we give out, will be received by us again.

Jesus further developed the principles of this 5th beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy,” in Matthew 7. This verse of Scripture has been called the golden rule and it is the greatest of all codes of ethics and the basic principle of all true courtesy and genuine culture. Matthew 7:12 states, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is another way of saying that what we give to others will be given back to us. If we are merciful to others, we will receive mercy. If we retaliate, we will receive retaliation. If we are unjust with others, we will receive injustice ourselves. If we impart evil to others, that evil will return to us again.

Jesus said in Luke 6:38, last part, “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The same measure that you give out will be given back to you again. In Matthew 7:1, 2, this golden rule was also stated in the negative: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

To be merciful is to show a person compassion, forgiveness, and forbearance. The merciful person does not nurse grudges. He does not brood over wrongs or show a revengeful spirit. He does not go about with a microscope hunting to find the mistake or the flaw in somebody else’s character when he knows he has flaws in his own character. If we render judgment before evidence, then we can be sure that we will receive the same kind of judgment in return. In fact, prejudice is simply an abbreviated form for pre-judgment. Pre-judgment is the result of prejudice. That this instruction regarding judgment might be further unfolded, in the principles of this beatitude, is evident when we read from Luke 6:36, 37: “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Mercy includes having a spirit of forgiveness. In fact, this is so important that Jesus said if we do not forgive others who have trespassed against us, then our heavenly Father will not forgive us. Matthew 6:14, 15 says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

If I want to receive the mercy and forgiveness of God, then whether I will receive it or not is determined by whether I have the same spirit toward those who have injured me or done something against me. This law of reciprocity is stated in different ways in several places in the Bible. Romans 2:1–3 says, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

Paul says that if you’re passing judgment on others, do you think that you will escape being judged yourself? Will you escape the judgment of God yourself? So, what we give to others is what we will receive. Jesus illustrated this in a very striking parable that is hard for many people to read and accept.

Jesus instructed His disciples how to deal with a sinning brother. In Matthew 18:15–20, He said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Here He gave them explicit instructions about how they were to deal with someone who was sinning against them. They were not to go and talk to the neighbors or any third party about it but go directly to the person who had sinned against them. If after following the prescribed method the person still refused to be corrected, he or she was to be left alone outside to live as they pleased. As Peter listening to this instruction, he thought, how often should I do this? If my brother sins against me, how many times should I forgive him?

The Jewish leaders in those days had some rules about how many times you needed to forgive somebody. Some thought that three times was plenty. Peter thought that he would be very liberal and very forgiving in spirit and he said this to the Lord: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times’ ” (Matthew 18:21)? Surely, if my brother hasn’t reformed and quit His sinning against me by the time he’s done it seven times, that should be enough. I shouldn’t forgive him anymore, should I?

In response to Peter’s request, should I forgive my brother seven times before I decide he’s gone too far and reached the limit, Jesus said in Matthew 18:22–24: “… I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.” Jesus doesn’t say whether it was talents of silver or talents of gold. Either way, even if it was just 10,000 talents of silver, it would be worth many millions of dollars, today.

This person did not have enough to pay. It says in verses 25, 26, “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold,” that is, sold into slavery “with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ ” The master knew that there was no possible way he was ever going to be able to pay that big a debt, even though he promised that he would if only his master would have patience with him.

It says, in verses 27–30: “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (equivalent to just a few dollars); and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison.”

This man was thrown into debtor’s prison because he couldn’t pay the debt. “So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (verses 31–35).

Those who do not forgive others cannot be forgiven by God. A good question to ask yourself is, How much have I been forgiven? The Bible is very clear. As a result of my sins, Jesus Christ went to the cross of Calvary. That was the price to pay, to cancel, my debt and your debt of sin.

That was the price that we cannot pay. The only way that you could pay it since the wages of sin is death, is if you were to die eternally and never wake up. But to make it possible for you to enter the gates of paradise, Jesus Christ went to the cross of Calvary to forgive you the debt, to pay the price in your behalf.

After He has done that, if I will not forgive, if I will not exercise mercy upon my fellow servant, then Jesus said, your heavenly Father will not have mercy upon you, either. The Bible’s very clear that the Lord is very merciful, even to His enemies. You can read in Micah 7:18 that He delights in mercy. In James 5:11 it says that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.

O friend, if you and I want to be forgiven, we must become merciful people ourselves, because the Bible says in James 2:13, that “… judgment will be without mercy upon him who has shown no mercy.”

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.