Mercy & Merit
The clearest message of Jesus and the deepest message of the Bible is “God’s mercy, not our merit.” When it comes to our salvation we are neither saved by our merits nor justified by works. We are justified—declared righteous before God—solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s mercy and Christ’s merit Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leading figure of the English Reformation, describes justification by faith in his sermon entitled A Sermon of the Salvation of Mankind by Only Christ Our Saviour from Sin and Death Everlasting:
- This justification or righteousness, which we so receive by God’s mercy and Christ’s merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and allowed of God for our perfect and full justification… For all the good works that we can do be imperfect, and therefore not able to deserve our justification: but our justification doth come freely, by the mere mercy of God; and of so great and free mercy that, whereas all the world was not able of their selves to pay any part towards their ransom, it pleased our heavenly Father, of his infinite mercy, without…our…deserving [it], to prepare for us the most precious jewels of Christ’s body and blood, whereby our ransom might be fully paid, the law fulfilled, and his justice fully satisfied. So that Christ is now the righteousness of all them that truly do believe in him. He for them paid their ransom by his death. He for them fulfilled the law in his life.
Cranmer died for this belief. At age 66, on a rainy Saturday morning, March 21, 1556, he was taken down from the pulpit at St. Mary’s Church in Oxford as he was preaching and driven to the center of town where he was burned at the stake for his convictions. Our justification is due solely and completely to the mercy of God, a mercy Cranmer described as “great,” “free,” and “infinite.”