Paul’s appeal here is connected to what he terms the mercies of God. This phrase covers the various doctrines that Paul has mentioned in the previous chapters of Romans. So we wanted a title for the first eleven chapters of this book, we can call them ‘The Mercies of God.’
It is possible to consider the actions of God described by Paul in a variety of ways. For example, we could say that his actions reveal his wisdom or they reveal his power or they reveal his love, and all of them would be true. Yet Paul wanted his readers to look at those divine actions as expressions of mercy, which is interesting because some of them refer to what God does for us after conversion as well as before. I don’t often hear Christians say that their sanctification is an experience of divine mercy.
When we say that God is merciful, we mean that he is kind to the undeserving. The reason why we are undeserving of his mercy is because we have sinned against God. It is important to remind ourselves that all the blessings God has given or will give to us are undeserved. Indeed we deserve the opposite of his grace, which is his judgement.
God’s response of mercy also points to our inability. When we show mercy or compassion it is given for or to persons who are unable to help themselves. As Jesus instructed his disciples, without his enablement we can do nothing in the spiritual life that is of any use.
Paul uses a plural term here when speaking about God’s mercy. He wants his readers to think about the details or stages in the great salvation he has mentioned in the previous chapters. There are several that could be mentioned and we can run our mind over the contents of this great letter to remind ourselves what they are. And we will think about four of them tomorrow.