Three of God’s interrelated characteristics are justice, mercy and grace. Justice is when we get what we deserve. Mercy is when we don’t get what we deserve. And grace is when we get what we don’t deserve.
Eighty-one per cent of Americans believe everyone will give account to God at judgment day for their sins.
This is in keeping with the Bible, which clearly teaches that Jesus will return as a judge. Revelation 6:16ff states that people from every walk of life will try to hide from God and will call to the mountains to “…fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
The question of who will be able to stand is mentioned seven times in the Bible. If justice were God’s only characteristic, the answer would be singular. No one! “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins…who could stand?” (Psalm 130:1). Justice says no one can stand, but what does mercy and grace have to say?
A young man in Napoleon’s army had committed an offense punishable by death.
His mother approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed the offense and justice demanded death. “I’m not asking for justice. I’m pleading for mercy!” She replied. “Your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon said. “Sir,” she cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it; mercy is all I ask for.” Napoleon granted mercy and pardoned the man.
Billy Graham was once stopped by a policeman, charged with speeding and told that he would have to appear in court.
Graham complied, pleaded guilty and the judge fined him $10 – $1 for every mile over the speed limit.”
Suddenly the judge recognized the famous evangelist. “You’ve broken the law and the fine must be paid, but I’m going to pay it for you.” He took his own $10 bill, attached it to the ticket and took Graham out and bought him dinner!
Graham told the judge that this experience was a perfect example of God’s grace.
Through Jesus’ payment for sin on Calvary justice was satisfied, mercy was extended and grace provides forgiveness to all who in simple faith accept the gift of salvation.
“Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace…” (Hebrews 4:16).
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church