Spiritual Gifts Series

Spiritual Gifts: The Gift of Mercy

Category of Gift: Service

Romans 12:8, Page 1775

“he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness,”

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Section One


Jesus proclaimed: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7, page 1506). All believers must show mercy to others, and then they too will receive mercy. People with the spiritual gift of mercy, however, have a special gift from God to show mercy to others. No matter what concept springs to mind when you hear the word mercy, be sure to keep an open mind when you read the New Testament.  When we walk through the Scriptures about mercy together, we will watch Jesus display true mercy.  He always sets the examples we must follow. As with so many other spiritual gifts, one spiritual gift may produce a variety of ministries and a variety of effects. Because of the brief description of this gift in Romans 12:8, page 1775, we will focus upon other uses of the term “mercy” (“ἐλεῶν”) to understand the nature and operation of the spiritual gift of mercy. As always, we will also remember that every believer must show mercy to others, but some believers have a special spiritual gift of showing mercy.

Section Two

The Mercy of the Lord Jesus

2.1 Mercy and CondemnationJesus explained that mercy (Ἔλεος”), translated at times as “compassion,” permits people to avoid condemning the righteous, because God desires compassion (Ἔλεος”) and not sacrifice (Matthew 12:7, page 1520). Mercy means that God withholds the condemnation that every sinner deserves.

2.2 Justice, Mercy and Faithfulness. Jesus said the weightier provisions of the law include justice (”τὴν κρίσιν“), mercy (“τὸ ἔλεος“) and faithfulness (“τὴν πίστιν“) (Matthew 23:23, 1543).  As we observe Jesus interact with people and use living examples of mercy in action, we can begin to discern a pattern of mercy that characterizes the spiritual gift of mercy.

2.3  The Cries for Mercy.   On many occasions, Jesus heard the cry for mercy from all sorts of people. Suffering prompted many calls for mercy, and people recognized that Jesus could provide mercy that would help them find relief from suffering. Those same cries for mercy today compel believers, particularly those with the spiritual gift of mercy, to help those people crying out for mercy from God.  For God Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  In this context, Jesus commanded us to be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:35-36, page 1608).

Section Three

The Ministry of Mercy to the Physically Sick

3.1 Jesus and Mercy for Physical Healing. Jesus healed many people with physical diseases. At times, so many people brought sick people to Jesus for healing that great crowds formed (for example, Mark 1:32-33, page 1559). In some cases, we see that the people sought mercy from God to heal their physical diseases. Believers today with the spiritual gift of mercy will be drawn to the physically ill to minister to them.

Section Four

The Ministry of Mercy to the Demons Possessed

4.1 The Cries for Mercy from the Demon Possessed.  Jesus heard the cries regarding the demon-possessed and answered those calls for help.

4.1.1 The Canaanite’s Cry for Mercy concerning Demon Possession. In Matthew 15:22, we read about a Canaanite woman. When Jesus was near, she began to cry out (“ἔκραζεν“), saying “Have mercy (“Ἐλέησόν”) on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” Jesus did not immediately answer the woman, but she persisted and Jesus finally commended her great faith. Immediately, her daughter was healed (“ἰάθη“). Today, we see people interceding like the Canaanite woman for their loved one suffering under demon possession. People today seek the mercy of God, and Jesus sends believers with the spiritual gift of mercy to help them.

4.1.2 The Demon Possessed Lunatic and MercyIn Matthew 17:18, page 1531, we read that Jesus rebuked a boy, called a lunatic (“σεληνιάζεται”) and very ill (“κακῶς πάσχει“) by his father. Jesus cast out the demon and the boy was cured at once. Before Jesus cast out the demon, He rebuked the father of the boy: “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me” (Matthew 17:17, page 1531). We glean from this passage that some demon possessed people act like lunatics. Believers with the spiritual gift of mercy seek out the unbelieving and perverted people, to have mercy upon the demon-possessed and ill.

Section Five

The Ministry of Mercy to the Prisoners

5.1 Onesiphorus and the Blessing of Mercy. In Second Timothy 1:16, we read about the blessing of mercy (“ἔλεος“) upon the house of Onesiphorus. This man Onesiphorus refreshed (“ἀνέψυξεν“) Paul and was not ashamed of his chains. While in Rome, Onesiphorus sought out Paul, eagerly searching for him and found him. Onesiphorus rendered precious services to Paul while Paul was imprisoned. Today, the person with the spiritual gift of mercy will search out (compare the spiritual gift of exhortation) people suffering and imprisoned. Sometimes the prison may be a jail cell, but other times it may be anything that holds a person under bonds, restricting freedom and movement. The person with the spiritual gift of mercy will render services of mercy to these imprisoned people. Compare the spiritual gift of exhortation.

Section Six

The Ministry of Mercy to the Despised

6.1 Despised Receive Mercy. In Matthew 9:9-13, page 1514, we read about Jesus calling Mathew, a tax-gatherer for the Roman conquerors. Matthew invited Jesus over for a meal and many tax-gatherers and sinners attended the dinner. The Pharisees, who generally hated Jesus, did not understand why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus taught them: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 9:12, page 1514). Jesus then said: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION’ (“Ἔλεος”), “‘AND NOT SACRIFICE,'” for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Believers with the spiritual gift of mercy love to have dinner with tax-gatherers and sinners for the purpose of seeking and saving the lost. 

6.2 Ten Lepers Seeking Mercy. In Luke 17:12, page 1634, we read that ten lepers sought mercy from Jesus: “Jesus, Master, have mercy (“ἐλέησον”) on us!” These ten lepers had to stand at a distance from Jesus, because of their leprosy. Even so, Jesus heard them and helped them. Only one of the ten lepers came back to Jesus after being healed, and he was a Samaritan, a people hated by the Jews, but loved by Jesus (Luke 17:15-19, page 1635). Believers with the spiritual gift of mercy find ways to minister to people who stand at a distance because they have a disease, who may be from a hated ethnic minority, or have severe disfigurements.

Section Seven

The Ministry of Mercy to the Debtors

7.1 Forgiven All, Now Forgive Others.  In Matthew 18:21-35, page 1533, Peter asked Jesus about how often he should forgive a brother who sins against him. Jesus replied first by saying forgive the brother not just seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always be forgiving. Jesus then illustrated forgiveness and the kingdom of God by telling the story of the slave forgiven a large debt by his king. The slave prostrated himself before the king and begged for patience, and promised repayment. The king graciously forgave that slave. Next, the forgiven slave refused to have mercy and forgive his fellow slave for a relatively small debt, even though the slave pleaded for patience just as the forgiven slave had pled to the king. The forgiven slave threw the debtor slave into prison. When the king heard about the forgiven slave’s lack of forgiveness, he confronted the forgiven slave with these words in Luke 18:33, page 1534: “Should you not also have had mercy (“ἐλεῆσαι”–notice the aorist infinitive–completed forgiveness with purpose) on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy (” ἠλέησα“–aorist emphasizing complete forgiveness) on you?” Then the king in anger delivered the forgiven slave into the hands of the torturers until he paid back all that was due. Consider James 2:13, page 1889: “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy (“ἔλεος”) triumphs over (“κατακαυχᾶται”) judgment.” The believers with the spiritual gift of mercy understand their own forgiveness and enjoy forgiving others in mercy, because they have been forgiven everything by King Jesus. They model mercy for everyone around them when it comes to forgiveness of all debts of all kinds.  

Section Eight

The Ministry of Mercy to the Barren

8.1 Elizabeth the Barren Seeking Mercy. In Luke 1:58, page 1596, we learn that the mercy of God had been given to a barren woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth had been seeking a child, but she had not conceived. Finally, an angel announced to her husband, Zechariah, that she would bear a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard that she gave birth to a son, John the Baptist, they knew that God had displayed His great mercy (“ἔλεος ) toward her (compare the praise of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who proclaimed that God had mercy upon her for bearing Jesus and also God has mercy upon generation after generation, for all who fear Him–Luke 1:50, page 1595). Believers with the spiritual gift of mercy minister to the barren women among us. God loves to show His mercy by giving children to married couples, and also through ministering to those still waiting for a child.

Section Nine

The Ministry of Mercy to the Blind

9.1 The Two Blind Men’s Cry for Mercy concerning Blindness. In Matthew 20:30, two blind men cried out (“ἔκραξαν”), saying, “Lord, have mercy (“Ἐλέησον”) on us!” While the crowd told the blind men to be silent, Jesus heard them crying out all the more, and felt compassion (“σπλαγχνισθεὶς”) for them. Jesus touched their eyes and the regained their sight and followed Him. (Compare the story of blind Bartimaeus at Mark 10:46-52, page 1579). Today, people with the spiritual gift of mercy do not listen to the crowds commanding the blind people to stop bothering Jesus. Instead, those spiritually gifted people show mercy to the blind, being moved with compassion, and minister to the needs they see before them.

Section Ten

The Ministry of Mercy to the Condemned

10.1 Mercy for those Suffering Wrongful Condemnation. In Matthew 12:1-8, page 1519-1520, the disciples of Jesus were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. The Pharisees condemned the disciples for breaking the law of the Sabbath. Jesus responded to the Pharisees and taught them that David ate the consecrated bread in the temple and the priests also minister on the Sabbath. Jesus said that He was greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath, and He was right there authorizing the activity of His disciples on the Sabbath. Jesus also explained: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION (“Ἔλεος”), AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned (“κατεδικάσατε”) the innocent (“τοὺς ἀναιτίους“) (compare Romans 9:15, page 1771 on the link between mercy and compassion; see also Galatians 6:16, page 1826). Therefore, we may learn that believers with the spiritual gift of mercy show mercy to other disciples who have been falsely condemned by “religious” people, because the disciples followed the direction of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, believers with the spiritual gift of mercy also explain that God seeks mercy from men, and not sacrifice. Jesus has already made the perfect and complete sacrifice for all our sins.

Section Eleven

The Ministry of Mercy to the Beaten and Forsaken

11.1 Mercy and the Good Samaritan. In Luke 11:30-37, pages 1619-1620, a Jewish lawyer sought to justify himself and asked Jesus: Who is my neighbor when it comes to loving my neighbor as I love God? Jesus then told the story of the good Samaritan. In this story, we see that a priest and Levite passed by a man  beaten, robbed and left wounded on the Jericho road. Finally, a Samaritan traveler stopped, bandaged the wounded man, and took him to an inn. He instructed the innkeeper to take care of the man, and the traveler would repay any cost upon his return. Jesus asked the lawyer who proved to be the neighbor? The lawyer responded: the one who showed mercy to him. Jesus said: go and do the same. Jesus showed that doing mercy to a Samaritan (the Jews and Samaritans were enemies) defines the term “neighbor.” The lawyer sought to know who was his neighbor, and Jesus answered that being a neighbor means you show mercy to your enemies, especially when other people ignore the wounded laying on the road.  Believers with the spiritual gift of mercy will always be a neighbor to the wounded, and spend their time and money upon helping them recover from the wounds, even when the religious people walk right by the wounded.

Section Twelve

The Blessings of Mercy

12. 1 The Blessings of Mercy.   The Bible also presents some distinct blessings connected to mercy.    God shows mercy even upon the disobedient (Romans 11:31, page 1175), and displays His mercy even upon Gentiles who become the people of God (1 Peter 2:10, page 1895).  Jesus commanded all people to love their enemies, lend without expectation of repayment, and be sons of the Most High.  For God Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  In this context, Jesus commanded us to be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:35-36, page 1608).  In fact, God displayed His great mercy in causing us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3, page 1893).   Indeed, the wisdom of God is full of mercy and good fruits, without hypocrisy (James 3:17, page 1891). Our very salvation rests upon the mercy of God, because salvation does not rest upon deeds which we have done in righteousness, but we were saved according to His mercy (Titus 3:15, page 1867).  Jesus stands as our merciful and faithful high priest, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

 Section Thirteen

The Cheerful Use of the Spiritual Gift of Mercy

Now, having seen how the gift of mercy operates according to the example of the Lord Jesus, we can appreciate that it must be used with cheerfulness.  This word for “cheerfulness” (“ἱλαρότητι”) is used only here in the New Testament.  Some scholars have pointed out that our English word “hilarious” comes from this same Greek word.  In any event, the way to exercise the gift of mercy is with cheerfulness.  The attitude expressed in  the giving of mercy will come through loud and clear when done with a cheerful heart.  So often that smile combined with the act of mercy ministers wonderfully the love of Jesus Christ to those struggling with life.

Hallmarks of the Spiritual Gift of Mercy

If you want to examine yourself regarding the spiritual gift of mercy, then see if you have a special cheerfulness and effectiveness for Jesus when you participate in the activities listed below.  You may have the spiritual gift of mercy.

  Mercy-gifted believers respond to cries for help.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the physically sick.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the demon possessed.

  Mercy-gifted believers eagerly seek out prisoners and refresh them.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the despised.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the debtors.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the barren.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the blind.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the wrongfully condemned.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister to the beaten, wounded, and forsaken.

  Mercy-gifted believers minister with cheerfulness.


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