What is mercy and how does it relate to grace? Is mercy the same as grace, or is it something different?
Some people miss grace because they think it grace = mercy. They don’t understand the difference.
“I need mercy.
“Thank you, Lord, for your mercy.
“Now that I have mercy, I’m satisfied.”
And they miss out on the full riches of God’s grace.
What is grace? Grace is the full expression of God’s love for us, but for the sake of keeping things simple, let’s say grace is God’s undeserved favor.
And what is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion towards those in need. Mercy is Jesus healing the blind and delivering the oppressed. Mercy is God forgiving our debts. Mercy is God responding to our cries of distress:
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper. (Ps. 30:10)
If you are in trouble, mercy is what you need. The good news is that God is as rich in mercy as he is in grace. He freely offers his mercy to all for he is the God of all grace and the Father of all mercies (2 Cor. 1:3, 1 Pet. 5:10).
Are mercy and grace the same?
There are some interesting comparisons between mercy and grace in scripture:
- We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:5), and we are saved by mercy (Tit. 3:5)
- We are forgiven by grace (Eph. 1:7), and we are forgiven by mercy (Ex. 34:6-7, Ps. 86:5, Matt. 18:33, Luke 1:77-78, Heb. 2:17, 8:12)
- Just as we receive grace (Rom. 5:17), we receive mercy (2 Cor. 4:1, 1 Pet. 2:10)
- Just as God’s grace is greater than our sin (Rom. 5:20), his mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas. 2:13)
These similarities lead some to conclude that mercy is synonymous with grace. Yet mercy can be distinguished from grace.
How does grace differ from mercy?
Mercy is not reaping what you have sown; grace is reaping what Jesus has sown.
Mercy takes you out of Egypt; grace takes you into the Promised Land.
Mercy forgave the prodigal son; grace threw him a party.
Mercy fed Ruth the refugee; grace gave her a husband.
Mercy forgave the penitent tax collector; grace sent him home justified before God.
Mercy forgave the thief on the cross; grace took him to paradise.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve, while grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
See the difference? Mercy is great – thank God for mercy! – but grace is even better.
Two angels: Mercy and Grace
Where do we find mercy? In the same place we find grace:
Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16)
Mercy and grace are like two mighty angels bringing the lost to the Father’s house. They’re a tag team. Mercy goes into the darkest places of the world searching for the broken and the downcast. Mercy gathers the lost in his arms and carries them home to the Father.
At the gate stands the other mighty angel. Grace heals the broken, cleanses the sinner, and clothes the naked, making them fit for the Father’s feast. Thanks to Mercy and Grace, even the worst of us are welcome at the Father’s table.
A bit far-fetched, you say? Well think back to what happened to you.
You came to God on account of some need. Maybe you were sick, lost, hurting, or in despair. Maybe you were fed up or worn out, but Mercy found you and all was well.
But wait, who was standing behind Mercy? There was Grace holding your new robes of righteousness, offering you your Father’s ring, and inviting you to come to the table.
Mercy is what you wanted; Grace is what you got. Never forget that.
Mercy vs grace
God’s goodness is revealed in his great mercy. Whatever your need today, come to his throne and receive mercy.
But don’t stop there, for God’s goodness is greater than you know. Receive his mercy and see what else he offers besides – his grace!
Mercy pays the bills; grace blesses us with an abundance.
Mercy delivers you from servitude; grace adopts you as a son.
Mercy clears your debts; grace makes you a co-heir with Christ.
If you have a great need today, thank God for his abundant grace and mercy!
If you liked this, you will love Paul’s new Grace Glossary. Learn the language of the new covenant by discovering the treasures hidden within words like grace, faith, and forgiveness.