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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

Don Stewart :: What Is the Gift of Showing Mercy?

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What Is the Gift of Showing Mercy?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two) – Question 11

Showing mercy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We read about this gift in Paul’s letter to the Romans. He said.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:6-8 TNIV).

According to Paul, there is a gift of the spiritual gift of showing mercy.

Showing Mercy Has to Do with Special Giving

The gift of showing mercy has to do with a special giving of one’s time and self. It goes beyond the normal Christian caring and being merciful which each believer is commanded to do. It involves deeds of compassion on behalf of people in difficult situations, perhaps the sick or the down–and–out. The Apostle Paul says that those who exercise this spiritual gift should do it with cheerfulness.

All Believers Should Show Mercy

As mentioned, all believers are encouraged, even commanded, to show mercy to others. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this memorable statement.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7 NRSV).

According to Jesus, those who extend mercy to others will they themselves receive mercy.

The Apostle Paul also expressed the importance of Christian compassion to others, or showing mercy. He wrote the following to the Galatians.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2 ESV).

We are to bear the burdens of others. Indeed, we are to show them mercy.

A Practical Illustration from James about Showing Mercy

James gave a practical illustration of what it means to show mercy to others. He explained what we should do in the following manner.

If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2:15, 16 NRSV).

This illustration is very practical. We should do good things to our fellow believers, we should meet their needs.

In another place, Paul wrote about how Christians should do good to everyone.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10 ESV).

While Christians are to good deeds toward everyone we should make it a point to do good things to fellow believers.

The Example of Onesiphorus

The New Testament gives an example of the gift of showing mercy by a man named Onesiphorus. When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome, Onesiphorus showed him mercy. Paul wrote the following to Timothy.

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain; when he arrived in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found (2 Timothy 1:16, 17 NRSV).

Onesiphorus spent time and effort to help one who was having difficulty. Furthermore, as Paul indicated, he continually ministered to him while the apostle was in prison. This seems to indicate that Onesiphorus went far beyond the normal Christian ideal of giving and helping one’s neighbor.

God Is a God of Mercy

There is something else which we should always remember. The God of the Bible is a God who is rich in mercy. King David cried out to the Lord for mercy after he sinned. He asked the Lord to forgive him of his great sin.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:1, 2 NIV).

David was convinced that the Lord could show mercy upon him if He so desired. Indeed, he knew that the Lord is a merciful God.

God has often shown mercy to those who are in need. The psalmist proclaimed the following about God’s merciful character.

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them. I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O LORD, for it is good. For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes (Psalm 54:4-7 NIV).

We are to be merciful as our Lord is merciful.

In sum, while each of us who believe in Jesus Christ is to extend mercy to others, there are some Christians who have been given the spiritual gift of showing mercy. This gift allows them to go beyond the normal Christian concern for those who are in need.

Summary – Question 11
What Is the Gift of Showing Mercy?

All Christians should show mercy to one another. In fact, the Lord instructs each believer in Jesus Christ to do so.

The Apostle James spoke of a practical way of showing mercy. He said that if someone comes to us in need we must not merely pray for them. Instead we must also help them materially to the degree that we are able. This is how we extend mercy to the needy.

Merciful acts like these are what Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord said those who show mercy are blessed. He also said that mercy will be extended to them.

While all Christians are to be obedient to the Lord in showing mercy to others, there is a special gift of extending mercy that God grants to certain believers. We can make a number of observations about this gift.

This gift should be exercised with the utmost cheerfulness. In other words, when a person with this gift goes to extraordinary means to show mercy to someone in need the deeds of mercy which are performed are to be done with a cheerful attitude.

We have a biblical example of the gift of showing mercy with a man named Onesiphorus. He helped the Apostle Paul when he needed it most. Indeed, Paul was in a Roman prison when this man went out of his way offer aid to the apostle. This is truly showing mercy to a person in need.

Mercy is one of the attributes of God. As He has shown mercy on us, we too, should show mercy to others. Therefore, by extending mercy to others we are reflecting the character of God.

In sum, each believer in Christ is to show mercy to others but God has gifted some in the church with the special ability to extend mercy in extraordinary circumstances. This gift, which reflects the character of the Creator, is much needed.

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