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The Lord's Supper Proclaims the Mercy of God

Ephesians 2:15 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly
walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of
the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly
lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by
nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great
love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive
together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Last time, we reflected upon the unmerited favor that is the grace of God. Essentially, God gives
us blessings and gifts that we could never have deserved - forgiveness, salvation, adoption and so
on. As John Newton said in his hymn, it truly is "amazing grace".
But there is another characteristic of God involved in His dealings with us, also proclaimed each
time we take the Lord's supper - His mercy. If grace is giving us what we do not deserve, God's
mercy is seen in His not giving us what we have richly deserved. The truth is that every sin,
every failure on our part to keep the righteous requirements of God's Law, works not only to
disqualify us from eternal life, but to qualify us for an eternal death in the lake of fire - this is
what we have deserved from God since the moment of our conception.
This is what Paul is telling the church in Ephesus in our text. See how he describes the life they
lived before becoming Christians. They may have been physically alive, he says, but they were
spiritually dead through all their trespasses and sins. They lived just like the rest of the world, as
slaves of Satan (the prince of the power of the air) who was the spirit at work in them to produce
all kinds of disobedience to the Commandments of God. The Jews were no different when they
were apart from Christ, says Paul, and together with the Gentiles they all lived lives filled with
physical lusts, gratifying all the desires of body and mind that they could. What is Paul's
conclusion at the end of verse 3 about Jews and Gentiles who reject Christ? It is that by nature,
by instinct, they were all born deserving God's wrath.
God could hardly look on as they defiled and trampled on everything that He regards as valuable
and precious. His Law is a reflection of His very character, and He has every right as our
Creator to require us to keep it (leaving aside the fact that it is our highest good to do so). Our
behavior provokes Him to His face. In a very small way (because our offence against Him is
infinite) it's like little toddlers, stamping their feet and defying their parents openly and brazenly,
and challenging them to do something about it. All His righteous anger and justice are ready to
come into play. He would be within His rights, and beyond accusation of unfairness, to send us
straight to hell so that some small repayment of the offence done to His honor might be made. In
short, we were in a hopeless position, were it not for one thing - God is merciful.
See these wonderful words at the beginning of verse 4 - "But God..." He took the initiative and
showed His mercy when we had earned condemnation and wrath. He does not treat those who
come to Jesus for salvation according to their sins - He does not give them what they deserve,
because He is rich in mercy.

How can He do this? Can He just let us off our lifetime of rebellion and let us into heaven
anyway? Not at all. He sent Jesus to the cross to pay the price the sins of His people had
deserved. Jesus suffered their hell on the cross. He died the eternal death their sins had merited.
He became the object of God's wrath. Now when God raises us spiritually from the dead, and
we put our trust in Jesus to save us, His Spirit begins to work in us rather than the spirit of the
power of the air, and we no longer have the same desires to sin and provoke God to His
face. We stumble and fall, it's true, but we don't want to sin and we fight against our lusts and
worldly desires.
See what a change the shedding of Christ's blood at Calvary has made! It has opened up the
floodgates of God's mercy, so that a vast and gracious tide might pour out upon those who turn
from sin and trust Jesus alone to save them. These things should be among our thoughts as we
come to the Table, and the message of God's mercy is proclaimed to us (assuming we are truly
believers): "I am not getting what I have deserved, but what I could never have merited, all
because Christ willingly went to the cross to save me!"