In the book of Mark we have the example of blind Bartimaeus. He is one person among many in a large crowd. Those in the crowd see Bartimaeus as bearing the punishment for someone else’s sin.
In the society of the time, many citizens would have been told from early childhood that people like Bartimaeus are blind because of someone’s sin—perhaps his parents sinned, he sinned or a close relative broke the law.
Here is how the story goes: “Now they came to Jericho. As He [Jesus] went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:44-48).
“Bart” was threatened to stay quiet! The crowd told him to keep his mouth closed!
“So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.’ And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ The blind man said to Him, ‘Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road” (Mark 10:49-52).
This blind man is different from the seeing “many.” He cannot see what they see, and yet Bart sees much more. He announces Jesus’ character, His person, His act, as “mercy.” Jesus then says, “your faith” has made you well—Bart’s faith. His faith allowed him to see something that the many could not see: that God is a God of mercy.
Bart announced a truth.
Trusting in God’s Mercy
Trusting in God’s mercy implies ceasing from making any excuses for your behavior. The moment you trust in God’s mercy, you give up all apologies and excuses. You don’t try to justify why you sinned.
If you are on trial before a civil court, so long as you plead with excuses and try to justify your actions, you appeal to justice. But if you go before the court and plead guilty, offering no justification or apology whatsoever, you throw yourself upon the mercy of the court.
So it is in parenting our kids. If your child sternly justifies himself, he makes no appeal to mercy. But the moment your child casts himself into your arms with tears and says I am all wrong, he ceases to make excuses and trusts in your mercy.
So it is in God’s realm. Trusting in mercy is a final giving up of all reliance upon justice. You have no more excuses and you make none. You need God’s grace and mercy—and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—if you are to live forever.
How do you respond to God’s mercy and then approach His throne of grace?
The Gift of Grace
The apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian brethren: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added throughout).
Eternal life comes as a result of God’s grace and mercy. It is His gift, unearned and undeserved on our part. No one will ever be able to boast that he or she has earned or deserves the gift of eternal life.
But can we do things—or not do things—that will disqualify us from receiving that wonderful gift? If there is an authority on receiving eternal life, it has to be Jesus Christ. After all, He is the one through whom we receive it.
Note this statement from Hebrews: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
Since salvation is God’s gift, what does this passage mean when it speaks of “eternal salvation to all who obey Him”? If we must do something to receive God’s gift of salvation, how can it be a gift? And where does God’s grace fit into the equation?
Gifts Can Have Conditions
God sets certain conditions for receiving salvation. Some conditions enable us to receive that gift, His grace, and other conditions disqualify us from receiving it.
To use an analogy, if someone offered to send you $1 million if you would send him your bank account information, he would be offering you a gift. If you failed to provide the information, you would not receive the gift. You might complain, but you still would not receive the gift because you had not met the conditions.
On the other hand, if you sent the required bank account number and the $1 million was deposited, you did not earn the gift. You simply met the necessary conditions. The fact that conditions are attached makes it no less a gift.
[But! Don’t succumb to dangerous scams on this one!]
Since Jesus is the author of our salvation, let’s examine just one of His statements that tell us what we must do to receive that gift: how to receive the million dollar inheritance—or, more appropriately, the gift of eternal life as a child in God’s family.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Jesus made it clear that merely acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Master—saying “Lord, Lord”—is not sufficient. To inherit the Kingdom, we must do something. We must do the will of the Father, as He clearly stated.
Jesus wants us to understand that there is more to receiving eternal life than just mental acceptance—or just saying you love Him. Our conviction that He is our Savior must be more than just a warm, comforting thought or intellectual concept.
At one point a wealthy young man asked Jesus how he could receive eternal life: “Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’” (Matthew 19:16).
Christ’s reply, in verse 17, might shock some who think obedience to God’s law is unnecessary. Notice Jesus response: “So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments’” (Matthew 19:17).
Jesus didn’t answer that nothing is required other than believing in God or in Him. He told the young man that he must obey the commandments of God to receive the gift of eternal life. This is, as Matthew 7:21 states, doing the “will of [the] Father in heaven.”
God Balances Justice with Mercy
Let’s add some balance to the equation. As blind “Bart” showed us, God is not only the God of justice but also the God of mercy. Look at the last part of the second of the Ten Commandments: “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:6).
God balances justice, and His insistence on us keeping His commandments, with mercy, by considering what is in the heart. So long as that possibility exists, God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9).
We can be thankful that God’s law considers first our attitude. One who is willing to “sin no more” is eligible for mercy instead of condemnation—as Jesus told the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11—go and sin no more. Mercy.
The Right Response to God’s Grace and Mercy
The right approach to obeying God after we are forgiven is to exceed the mere letter of the law. We should obey it according to its intent (or spirit), not by doing only the bare minimum of what is explicitly stated. It serves us as our guide for attaining truly righteous thinking and behavior.
It is God’s grace and mercy that allows us to be pardoned for our sins when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are then eligible for the “gift” of eternal life. The word grace is regularly used by some religious people as if it replaces all need to obey God’s law. That conclusion is very wrong. Here is the reason:
Without law there would be no need for grace. Grace refers to how God extends His favor to repentant sinners by forgiving their former disobedience of His law—their sins previously committed. This is necessary because everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. If there is no law to break, there is no such thing as sin. And if there is no sin the very idea of grace, as God’s forgiveness, has no meaning at all.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
Grace encompasses more than just the forgiveness for past sins. It also includes the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us obey God’s laws. Indeed, it refers to all the free and unmerited gifts of God. It includes His help in initially turning us away from sin and leading us to His truth and way of life, His forgiveness of our past sins and ultimately His granting us the greatest gift of all—eternal life in His Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit is essential in our goal of eradicating sin. The key to solving the problem of sin is the help we receive through Jesus Christ. Jesus was born not only to make possible forgiveness of the past, but to help us conquer the pulls of sin, the entrenched habits that are so difficult to dislodge from our lives.
He is our merciful High Priest in heaven, interceding with the Father on our behalf—sitting at the Father’s right hand. “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
What Must We Do?
What’s our answer? We must ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to let God write His law in our heart!
When God opens our mind to understand His ways, He now holds us responsible for what we know and do. God expects us to begin changing our lives. When living our lives it is comforting to remember those verses in Hebrews chapter 4: “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace.”
With that assurance we can look forward to receiving another wonderful promise, the gift of eternal life.
Let’s live our lives with confidence and thankfulness for the grace and mercy of God the Father, for our spiritual blindness having been removed, for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and for our elder brother and High Priest, Jesus Christ.