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The Compassionate God

 

The last time we spoke, it was concerning Godly Anger Management. We examined a number of scriptural examples of individuals whose lack of control of anger brought dire consequences on themselves. We also saw how keeping God and his plan in focus and forefront in the mind controlled how others reacted more positively to situations of stress that actually saved other people from sinning. Godís word is full of admonitions about the positive aspects of the righteous administration of anger at the right time and in the right place.

Today, weíll go beyond the mere subject of anger and the proper temperance of anger to see Godís motivation and advice about emotions that contribute to influencing so much of our lives.

 

If you were to listen to most Protestant or even Catholic preachers describing the nature and attitude of Jesus in the New Testament, you would certainly come away with a very positive impression. It is almost universally proclaimed among the various "Christian" priests and ministers that Jesus was all about love and forgiveness. They routinely cite New Testament passages like forgiving a brother "seventy times seven" and "whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also." While itís true that Jesus did emphasize forgiveness in his teachings, Christ didnít teach outright forgiveness without responsibility in the same way youíd likely hear it from preachers today.

On the other hand, if you were to listen to most of those same preachers talk about the God of the Old Testament, youíd probably hear a much different story. It would be a tale about a harsh and unforgiving God who was bent on death and destruction. The God of the Old Testament was an exacting God who repaid false steps with speedy retribution and harsh penalties. They would probably cite instances such as the "eye for an eye" statutes of the law of Moses or even the harshness of the Ten Commandments of Exodus.

What is the truth, though? It seems very confusing because it sounds like two opposing views. Is God schizophrenic? Does he have split personalities? Is there one type of God for the Old Testament and another, dramatically different type of God, for the New Testament?

The answer is really simple. You see, in the hundreds of years between the Old and New Testaments, God just changed his mind. Well, is that right? You know our ultimate destiny and salvation rest on the promises of God. If God is one way at one time and a different way at another time, how can we depend upon him? How can his word be good and his promises sure if he changes? Letís see what the Old Testement God has to say about that in Malachi 3.

(Mal 3:1-7 KJV) Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. {2} But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: {3} And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. {4} Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. {5} And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. {6} For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. {7} Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.

So, the Old Testament God emphatically states in verse six that he does not change but what about the New Testament God? Does he change? The apostle James says "no" in James 1:17, this time from the New International Version.

(James 1:17 NIV) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

With two such declarative statements, does it make sense to you that preachers should teach two such opposing pictures of God? The writer of the book of Hebrews certainly didnít think so. He linked the sureness of the promises of God with Godís steadfast reliability in Hebrews 6:13.

(Heb 6:13-18 NASB) For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, {14} saying, "I WILL SURELY BLESS YOU, AND I WILL SURELY MULTIPLY YOU." {15} And thus, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. {16} For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. {17} In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, {18} in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.

Did you catch that? We said just a moment ago that our destiny and salvation rest on the promises of God but our reliance has to be based on surety. We have to know those promises are sure. The sureness of those promises, in turn, rests on the reliability of God and his word and the unchangeableness of Godís very purpose. In verse eighteen, we just read that we have strong encouragement. Why? We have encouragement because he backed up those promises by two unchangeable things: first, it was with an oath (which, in the world of men, is an end to every dispute) and secondly, it was by his very nature in which it is an impossibility for God to lie. So, it would seem there is surety in the promises of God; but how do we resolve what looks like a conflict in the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament?

 

Old Testament versus New Testament

Letís appeal to the apostle Paul for insight. He certainly was qualified to bridge any gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He was a learned scholar in the Old Testament but knew how to apply that understanding to New Testament issues involving both Jews and Gentiles. In Romans 3:3, Paul was addressing the Gentile converts in Rome about how even the uncircumcised who lived according to the righteous standards of God would be counted as being circumcised through the faithfulness of God.

(Rom 3:3-6 NASB) What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? {4} May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT THOU MIGHTEST BE JUSTIFIED IN THY WORDS, AND MIGHTEST PREVAIL WHEN THOU ART JUDGED." {5} But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) {6} May it never be! For otherwise how will God judge the world?

So we, too, should depend upon the faithfulness of God and his word for our understanding rather than the teachings of man. We know, and Paul just stated, that God will judge the world in righteousness when he executes his wrath. We saw last time that there is a proper time and place for anger or wrath. If controlled and channeled properly, it can be dispensed for good. That good can be for the enhancement of others, as we saw in the example of Abigail preventing David from sinning though he was duly provoked. Abigail had the big picture in mind and saw the world through the lenses framed by the righteousness of God in executing the plan of God for mankind.

David wrote in the Psalms about righteousness setting the bounds for Godís judgment of the world. In Psalms 9:7, we see that Godís judgment will be for the benefit of all people.

(Psa 9:7-8 NASB) But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, {8} And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.

Again in Psalms 96, equity, righteousness, and faithfulness are the parameters by which God will execute judgment.

(Psa 96:10-13 NASB) Say among the nations, "The LORD reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity." {11} Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; {12} Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy {13} Before the LORD, for He is coming; For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Even the apostle Paul spoke to the men of Athens about the coming day of Godís judgment over the whole world and how that judgment would be executed by his agent, Jesus the Messiah.

(Acts 17:24-31 NASB) "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; {25} neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; {26} and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, {27} that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; {28} for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.' {29} "Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. {30} "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, {31} because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

In Romans 2:4, when Paul was writing to the converts in Rome, he spoke again of the coming judgment of God and how wrath and indignation would be poured out on those who do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness instead.

(Rom 2:4-8 NASB) Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? {5} But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, {6} who WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: {7} to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; {8} but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

God will bring every individual into judgment to account for his deeds. So too, will God bring the nations into judgment for their treatment of his nation, Israel. We can see that in Joel 3:2.

(Joel 3:2 NASB) I will gather all the nations, And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land.

The King James Version says that the nations have "parted my land." The Hebrew word is Strongís number 2505 chalaq and it means to apportion or separate. The New American Standard Dictionary defines chalaq as to divide or share. That land is Godís land and he chose to give it to Israel forever. Of course God will bring the nations into judgment for messing with land that is not theirs.

So, God has cause to be angry but, as weíve seen, even in dispensing his wrath as punishment against both individuals and nations, itís clear that Godís anger is bounded by his standards of righteousness. Last time, we read in Habakuk 3:2, the plea of the prophet that Godís wrath be tempered.

(Hab 3:2 NASB) LORD, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O LORD, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.

If God is to remember mercy in dispensing his wrath, what can we learn of that mercy? In a previous sermon about Mercy and Grace, we learned that those two sister traits are continually linked in scripture and hardly ever found apart from one another; but letís take another look, specifically at Mercy.

The Hebrew word used by Habakuk was racham. It is Strongís# 7355, racham, and it means "to love, especially to be compassionate." If God is to remember compassion while dispensing his wrath, so should we.

Keep in mind the overriding principle taught by Paul in Romans 15:4.

(Rom 15:4-6 NASB) For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. {5} Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; {6} that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Mercy and Grace

Our goal should be to glorify our Father and we are to do that through the perseverance and encouragement of the scriptures. Think about that for a moment. Look at verse four again. It plainly says that perseverance and encouragement come through the scriptures and that from those scriptures we might have hope. Verse five also plainly says that God is the one who gives perseverance and encouragement. What simplicity! Remember your basic algebra lessons: if a equals b and b equals c, then a equals c. If God is the source of perseverance and encouragement and if both perseverance and encouragement come through the scriptures and the accounts written in them for our instruction, then the hope, the perseverance, and the encouragement we may obtain through the scriptures are given to us directly by God. It is God teaching us directly.

We may please God and glorify God by studying and being directly instructed by God via the ancient accounts written for us in the scriptures. Through that process, we are told that we will obtain hope. What a wonderful promise. Do you want more hope, more encouragement, and more perseverance? The answer is to learn by the examples written for us in scripture. Part of that encouragement is what we just read in Habakuk: "in wrath, remember mercy (which is compassion)."

If thatís a desirable trait for God to have and one we want to emulate, is there more we can learn of Godís mercy and compassion? Letís first take another look at mercy and grace.

As we saw earlier, one of the Hebrew words in the Old Testament translated "mercy" is racham. Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon further defines racham as: to love, to love deeply, to have mercy, to be compassionate, to have tender affection, to have compassion.

Another Hebrew word translated as "mercy" is Strong's #2603 chanan and is defined by Strong's Hebrew Dictionary as: to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow; or to implore (that is, to move to favor by petition). It is defined by the New American Standard Dictionary as: to show favor or to be gracious.

Another Hebrew word sometimes translated "mercy" but more often "lovingkindness" is Strong's #2617: chesed, which is defined as goodness or kindness.

What do you see as a common denominator between the definitions of all these words? It is the concept of compassion and kindness. What further link can we find between the Hebrew definitions of mercy used in the Old Testament and the Greek definitions used in the New Testament?

Letís examine an Old Testament direct quotation used in the New Testament. In Exodus 33:19, we find the original Hebrew quotation used later by Paul in the book of Romans. This time, weíll read from the King James Version.

(Exo 33:19 KJV) And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

Look at the two key words used by God. Gracious is translated from the Hebrew word, chanan, "to show favor." The Hebrew word for mercy is, once again, racham, "to be compassionate."

Now, letís look at how the same word is quoted by Paul in Greek in the New Testament in Romans 9:15.

(Rom 9:15 KJV) For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

We see the very words of God in Exodus stated as "gracious to whom I will be gracious andÖ mercy to whom I will show mercy" are quoted by Paul as "mercy on whom I will have mercy and Ö compassion on whom I will have compassion." So, the equivalent for graciousness is mercy and the equivalent for mercy is compassion. Weíve already examined Mercy and Grace in a previous sermon but letís examine compassion and its companion, kindness.

 

Compassion and Kindness

Websterís Dictionary defines compassion as, "sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; it is deep sympathy or pity." We can see by that definition that compassion is both an inward feeling and an outward expression toward others. What does God have to say about compassion?

David tells us a lot about the traits of God in the Psalms We already know that God is full of mercy and grace but what does David say about Godís capacity for compassion? Psalms 86:15 recounts many of Godís traits. Notice what is at the head of the list.

(Psa 86:15 KJV) But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

Notice, not only is compassion at the head of the list, David doesnít say God just has a little bit of it. He says God is full of compassion. Again in Psalms 111.4, David links grace and compassion.

(Psa 111:4 KJV) He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

David also shows in Psalm 25:6 that compassion is not something new for God. He didnít just stumble upon it last month. God is well experienced with compassion.

(Psa 25:6 NASB) Remember, O LORD, Thy compassion and Thy lovingkindnesses, For they have been from of old.

Focus on the end of verse six. God has possessed compassion and lovingkindness from of old. When was that? Well, it wasnít just during the time of your parents or grandparents or even great-grandparents. The Hebrew word translated old is one weíve talked about a lot in previous sermons. Itís olam. Olam is Strongís number 5769 and it means concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; time out of mind (past or future), eternity; always. So, God has possessed compassion and lovingkindness since eternity. They are a very part of God.

Psalm 78 recounts the numerous instances of Israelís rebellion and betrayal of God in the wilderness even though it was God who sustained them.

(Psa 78:35-38 NASB) And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer. {36} But they deceived Him with their mouth, And lied to Him with their tongue. {37} For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant. {38} But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger, And did not arouse all His wrath.

Look at verse 38 again. It was in forgiving their iniquity and not destroying them that God displayed his real compassion to Israel. So, as weíve seen in previous sermons on Righteousness by Faith and Righteousness by Works, it was by actions (by his works) that God displayed his compassion for his people.

In the last days of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, it was through the action of sending messengers of warning that God displayed compassion both for his people and for his special place.

(2 Chr 36:15 NASB) And the LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers [why?], because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;

At the same time as he displayed compassion by warning his people, so God promised to display more compassion by returning his scattered people to their homeland.

(Jer 12:15 NASB) "And it will come about that after I have uprooted them, I will again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land.

In Isaiah 54, God shows that his gathering of Israel will be another outward sign of his compassion.

(Isa 54:7-10 NASB) "For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. {8} "In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you," Says the LORD your Redeemer. {9} "For this is like the days of Noah to Me; When I swore that the waters of Noah Should not flood the earth again, So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, Nor will I rebuke you. {10} "For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken," Says the LORD who has compassion on you.

In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah again told of Godís great compassion.

(Lam 3:21-23 NASB) This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. {22} The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. {23} They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.

Just think of that for a moment. God is rock-solid and reliable. One of those reliable traits on which we can count is compassion. Jeremiah said, "his compassions never fail. They are new every morning." If God were to grow weary of compassion (which he doesnít), we can still count on the fact that God has new compassions every morning. What a promise! God is a reliable fountain of compassions, renewed every morning.

We have sung page 109 from our Hymnal many times. It is O Lord, Thou Art My God And King. It expounds the many marvelous traits of God Most High that show he is both our God and our King. The text is from Psalms 145. Letís take a closer look at the words of Psalms 145. Verses five and six speak of Godís great majesty and grandeur as our regal king. Verse 13 speaks of the everlasting nature of his kingdom and his dominion or rule. Verses seven through ten, however, speak of his finer points as our God. This time weíll read from the King James Version.

(Psa 145:7-10 KJV) They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. {8} The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. {9} The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. {10} All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee.

Look again at verse eight: "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy." The Hebrew word used here for grace is the same as one of the words we earlier discussed for mercy. It is channuwn, derived from chanan, Strongís number 2603, "to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, to implore." David goes on to say that God is full of compassion and itís shown by Godís slowness to anger and his great mercy. Once again, whatís translated mercy, isnít what it seems. The Hebrew word is Strongís number 2617, chesed, and it means goodness and kindness. So, God is full of compassion shown in his slowness to anger and his great kindness.

Well, thatís quite a different angle. So, compassion and kindness are often linked. What do you know about kindness? Websterís Dictionary defines kindness as the state of being kind but goes on to define kind as: 1) affectionate: loving; 2) of a sympathetic nature: friendly; of a forbearing nature: gentleÖ 3) of a pleasant nature: agreeable.

Think of those definitions for a moment. Thatís exactly what God demonstrated to Israel throughout their history: loving gentleness and agreeable friendliness. Remember how weíve read many times that Abraham was the friend of God? Well, that also means God was the friend of Abraham. God showed himself with gentle friendliness, compassion and kindness to Abraham.

2 Kings 13:23 shows that Godís compassion toward the northern kingdom of Israel was still strong and active even in the days after Elisha. Notice, however, that the compassion God continued to show Israel had its origins in the covenant he established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob many centuries before.

(2 Ki 13:23 NASB) But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.

Much later after the return of some of the Jews from exile in Babylon, Nehemiah also knew of Godís great kindness to his people Israel throughout their history. In Nehemiah 9:15, he recounted how God endured Israelís rebellion throughout all their wanderings in the wilderness.

(Neh 9:16-17 KJV) But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, {17} And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.

Not only is kindness expressed by God through his endurance of Israelís hardness, it is bound together with Godís love and patience. In fact, the same passage is even translated that way in the New American Standard Version where it says, "Thou art a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness;" Itís the same Hebrew word, chesed.

We well know the bedrock of Godís relationship with the patriarchs was the law of God. Weíve read many times in Genesis 25:5 how Abraham "obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." We know that Abraham taught his household, his son, and his grandsons to live by Godís commandments. We can even see that, when Godís laws were reiterated to all Israel at Mount Sinai in Deuteronomy 5:8, compassion was even embedded in the second commandment.

(Deu 5:8-10 NASB) 'You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. {9} 'You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, {10} but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

The New Revised Standard Version renders verse ten as, "but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments." The Literal Version of the Bible by Jay P. Green, Sr, renders verse ten as, "and doing kindness to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments."

Notice, however, that Godís abundant compassion was not just promised to all. It was conditional. While God is well pleased to show compassion to "thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments", it is not to be given to those who hate God. How is that hatred of God displayed? It is by deeds or actions. Those who do not "love Me and keep my commandments" are daily displaying their hatred of God by their actions.

Are such demands, however, describing a different God than the one portrayed in the New Testament? Letís check to see.

Throughout the New Testament, the Greek word most often translated as "kindness" is chraystotays. It is Strongís number 5544, chraystotays, and itís defined in the New American Standard Dictionary as goodness, excellence, uprightness. Once again, we see goodness and kindness linked together as we saw earlier in the Hebrew word, chesed. In Titus 3:4, we can see the kindness of God linked with his love and extended to us.

(Titus 3:4-5 NASB) But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, {5} He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

Our very salvation was extended to us through the kindness of God and according to his mercy; but just what is his mercy? The Greek word translated mercy in verse five is Strongís number 1656, eleos, and it means mercy, pity, compassion. Well, there we see it again: mercy linked with compassion linked in verse four with kindness and goodness.

So, clearly the God possessing these interconnect traits in the New Testament is the same God possessing the same traits in the Old Testament. There is not one loving, compassionate, kind, and forgiving God in the New Testament and a different, harsh, hateful, unforgiving God in the Old Testament. Weíve seen that God has had these traits as a very part of his nature for eternity and he can be relied upon to carry forward the same into the distant reaches of eternity to come; but what about us?

 

Our Part

If God is so great as being the very source of compassion and kindness, where do we stand in comparison? Can we ever hope to achieve any of his goodness? Well, not only can we hope for them, we are commanded to strive for them. Colossians 3 tells us to do away with our former evil manner of life, adopt a new manner of life, and strive continually for the traits of God.

(Col 3:1-13 NASB) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. {2} Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. {3} For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. {4} When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. {5} Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. {6} For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, {7} and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. {8} But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. {9} Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, {10} and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him {11} --a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. {12} And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; {13} bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

In the book of Jude, we are commanded the same.

(Jude 1:21-23 KJV) Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. {22} And of some have compassion, making a difference: {23} And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Notice this time, however, something out of the ordinary about compassion: it makes a difference. The Greek word for "difference" is Strongís number 1252, diakrino, and it means to separate thoroughly, that is, to distinguish or to judge. We well know from previous sermons on Godly Judgment that proper, godly judgment is the process of making decisions based on Godís righteous standards. So, we see here in Jude that our very act of dispensing compassion toward others makes a difference or makes a distinction and can assist others in making proper, godly judgments. What power to influence others by our very behavior!

Paul kept the same theme in Philippians 2:1.

(Phil 2:1-4 NASB) If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, {2} make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. {3} Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; {4} do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

 

Compassionate Deeds

How, though, can we put compassion and kindness into practice in our daily lives? Are there scriptural examples? Yes, we all know the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. After being ignored and avoided by the priest and the Levite, the beaten and injured man destitute by the side of the road was cared for by the Samaritan. Beyond the traits the previous supposedly "holy" men possessed, notice in verse 33 the character the Samaritan displayed and how he put that character into action through his deeds.

(Luke 10:33-34 NASB) "But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, {34} and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

Ah, this one is different. The Samaritan didnít just have chraystotays or even eleos. He had splagchnizomai. Whatís so special about splagchnizomai? Itís not just ordinary compassion or mercy. It goes beyond the ordinary. Itís Strongís number 4697, splagchnizomai. The New American Standard Dictionary defines it as: to be moved in the inward parts, i.e. to feel compassion. Strongís Dictionary terms it as: to have the bowels yearn. So, the Samaritan had deep feelings and yearning. He didnít just pass by the injured stranger at the side of the road as others had done. When he did notice the stranger, he didnít just offer him a "Band-Aid" for his injuries. He was moved with yearnings of compassion toward the injured stranger and he acted on those yearnings. He "bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." The Samaritan not only took care of his immediate needs at the side of the road, he went beyond to make sure he was attended until the stranger fully recuperated. The Samaritan put his yearnings into actions and deeds.

So must we. We often discuss among ourselves the difficulty of putting into practice the unprofitable servant scripture found in Luke 17.10. It is certainly hard enough merely to do the things which God commands us to do but to go beyond is very difficult.

(Luke 17:10 KJV) So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Christ shows us that we are not only to do the things which are our duty to do. We are to go beyond our mere duty. Well, here is a perfect example in the Good Samaritan. He yearned with compassion toward a mere stranger. He didnít just help him by the side of the road. He went beyond mere duty. He saw to it that the stranger was fully attended and that he was cared for until he recovered. He even went out of his way to take on himself the obligation of payment for that attending.

Just roll that around in your mind for a while. Think of the implications of how you can put the example of the Good Samaritanís behavior into practice in your life. Think of instances where you can go above and beyond mere duty to show compassion and kindness by having the attitude of a servant in your daily life. Put your compassion into action through outward deeds of kindness and concern toward others. Ask God to give you more compassion so you can be of more service to others.

The Apostle John hones in on our need to show compassion and kindness. We can add to or subtract from our standing with God by either our actions or our inactions.

(1 John 3:17 NASB) But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Thatís a key observation. We all have the capacity for kindness and compassion but the real test is what we will do with that capacity when the opportunity arises.

Always remember the admonition given us in 1 Pet 3:8.

(1 Pet 3:8 KJV) Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous [and the Greek means "friendly of mind or kind"].

Lastly, donít forget Godís direct command given to the exiles in Babylon by the prophet Zechariah in Zech 7:9.

(Zec 7:9 NASB) "Thus has the LORD of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother;

So, go forth and put compassion and kindness into practice in every area of your life.

 

 

 

Sermon given by Philip Edwards

June 30, 2007



Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards



 

 

 

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