Christ: God’s Merciful Offspring
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”
What does it mean for God to be the “Father of mercies…”? There are perhaps manifold facets of this expression, but I think it does us good to examine what it means to be a father, especially in the divine sense. The inspired Apostle could have easily said “the God of mercy” but he does not. The Holy Spirit moved on Paul to call God the Father of mercies putting God in a special category as he relates to the mercies that he shows to mankind. To examine this passage I would like to observe three things: (1) What does it mean to be the father of something? (2) If mercies are offspring then how do they relate to their Father? (3) God’s mercy in the flesh.
What does it mean to be the Father of something?
In a natural sense to be the father of something is to be the source of the seed from which the progeny is formed. The source of a continuous line of descendants that form a family. A father is a source of identity and provision, but ultimately a father is the source of existence.
If mercies are the offspring of God, the how do they relate to their Father?
The offspring of God will never be something alien to his nature or contradictory or at odds with the other aspects of his nature. The mercies of God can only work in concert with and not against his eternal existence as a God who is holy and just. The offspring of God will be a reflection of his nature and be imprinted with facets of all of his divine attributes. Mercies that would be in rebellion to their father or the opposite who their Father has revealed himself to be would prove to be bastardly. In order for the mercies to be the offspring of God then they must agree with who God has revealed himself to be. They will bear his image.
God’s mercy in flesh
The problem we then have with God being the Father of mercies to man is that man is by default deserving of wrath, rather than mercy (Romans 1:18; 3:9-18,23). If God is the Father of mercies to fallen man, then those mercies must reflect his nature, essence, and being. If God’s mercy is sheer mercy at odds with his justice then it proves itself not to be progeny of God because it does not display the unbroken DNA of God’s perfect righteousness and holiness. If God sacrificed the attribute of his justice in order to display mercy he would be unrighteousness. His merciful offspring must contain the stamp of all of his divine being with all of its manifold attributes.
The good news is that God did that. It would seem that it is no accident that side by side are these two statements in the passage we are examining “…the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies….”. Christ the son of God is the son of mercy. In Christ is the sum of all of the mercies that God has shown to man. In Christ God’s mercy is justified, showing the ways of God to be inscrutable and above reproach. For Christ according to Hebrews 1 is the “exact imprint of his (God’s) nature”. Christ is very God of very God. The incarnation and sacrificial, propitiating work of Christ was the only way that God could rightly be the Father of mercies to a fallen mankind. In sending Christ, his offspring, to die for the salvation of man, he showed a mercy that was consistent with his justice and mercy. The only mercy that God could display and remain true to his nature was one that met the demands of his justice and holiness. Christ is God’s merciful offspring. All of the mercies of God are summed in this epitome of God’s nature, Jesus, who lived a perfect life and died a death to meet the demands of death that the law had placed on Adam’s race. The cross is the place where the mercy of God and the justice of God were perfectly displayed to their fullest measure.