The Mercy Seat

Romans 3:25

Over the years the penitent form has become an integral part of Salvationist identity. Countless seekers have found salvation at the mercy seat, and many more have found divine help and nurture. The mercy seat is situated between the platform and the main area of Army halls as a focal point to remind all of God’s reconciling and redeeming presence.

“We expect people to get saved and sanctified in Army meetings,” said General Paul A. Rader. He added: “Confidence in the power of the gospel and the saving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is central to our faith and worship.” Phil Needham states that it has value in a wider spiritual context: “The mercy seat should be utilized for any purpose involving prayer, including decision, confession, seeking guidance, rededication, thanksgiving, communion with God.”

Shortly before His death, Jesus assured His disciples that it was to their advantage to leave them (John 16:7). Describing Jesus as God’s provision for salvation, the Apostle Paul writes: “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood” (Romans 3:25). Paul uses the Greek word hilasterion. The only other occurrence of the word in the New Testament is in Hebrews 9:5 (RSV) where it is translated “mercy seat.” In effect, Paul is saying, “God gave Jesus as a mercy seat.”

Through His life Jesus became the sign of God’s appearance; through His death and resurrection Jesus became the means of God’s atonement; through His ascension Jesus became the dispenser of God’s grace. Our kneeling at a symbolic mercy seat energizes this three-fold truth into reality.

At the mercy seat we meet Jesus—the full expression of God, the Word become flesh, God in understandable terms. Here is where Jesus speaks to us. Here is where we can receive His Spirit in greater measure. Here is where we can become more like Jesus, better enabled to present Him to the world. With the poet, Doris Rendell, we would pray:

We seek the healing of Thy cross,

The mercy of Thy grace.

Here at this sacred mercy seat

May we behold Thy face.

Here may we glimpse Thy holiness,

Here on our souls descend,

Here may we meet, and talk with Thee,

Our Master and our friend.

Nigel Bovey, The War Cry

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