Grace and Mercy

Are grace and mercy the same thing? Do Christians receive only one or both?

“But God… even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.
Ephesians 2:5-9

Perspectives on grace

The dictionary definition of grace states that it is a unmerited, divine gift received from God. It’s a virtue coming from God. In contrast, grace has also been defined as an effortless sense of beauty, an elegance of charm, a benevolent sense of attitude or character, a smooth movement, a form or proportion of near perfection, and even a characteristic of refinement. Based on the above definitions, grace is therefore described as a form or shape of something, a movement, or a person’s characteristic; or as something uniquely from God and one of His attributes.

Perspectives on mercy

The dictionary contains various definitions for mercy, including: It is seen as a disposition to dispense forgiveness or to show great compassion; The ability to pardon or forgive someone who is seen as unforgivable by others; or The dispensing of leniency or the compassionate treatment of someone that does not deserve such treatment. In other words, mercy involves the withholding of punishment which is actually deserved by someone. Therefore, what they deserve, they do not get.

Biblical definition of grace

Based upon interpretation, grace is something that is unmerited and undeserved  one does not have a right to receive it. It’s like when a birthday gift is received, the recipient did nothing to earn it. How can a person be responsible for their own birth and yet receive a gift for their birthday? The answer is simply that they can’t. Similarly, we have no right to grace, because we didn’t earn it.

The Bible’s definition, which is really God’s definition, is much the same. We receive from God what we do not deserve nor could earn in any way. Paul says that our salvation is a gift of God and something that we could never achieve on our own merit. In writing to the church at Ephesus he says “as sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:5-8).

So, God’s grace is not received by something we did, something we deserved or something we have a right to. Grace is something which we receive that we do not deserve – and which God, through amazing grace, gift us over and over again.

Biblical definition of mercy

God shows both grace and mercy. Mercy varies from grace… Paul once again reminds the Ephesians that: “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). God is rich in mercy but frequently mankind is not. We like to get even when people wrong us. God is not like that! He tells us in (Psalm 103:4) that He “redeems your life from the pit [and] who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy”. The reason we should “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22) is not only because “the merciful…shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7) but it is because “the Lord is gracious and merciful” to us (Psalm 111:4). The fact is God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5) and “according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

What do we need to understand?

Grace and mercy are not the same thing although they both come from God. Grace involves receiving what we don’t deserve; while mercy involves not receiving what we do deserve. He gives the gift (grace) and withholds the punishment (mercy); and that is why we ought to give thanks to God for His goodness!

Action points

If you have not yet repented and put your trust in our Savior, the reality is that He will be your judge someday (Revelation 20:11-15). Eventually, the wrath of God, currently being held in check by the dam of His mercy, will burst forth and be poured out. Tragically, in our own strength, there is no remedy. But God has made a way to escape this! He poured out His wrath on Christ at Calvary, so it wouldn’t have to be poured out on us. If you trust in Christ, the Father will see you as having Jesus’ own righteousness; because He facilitated a magnificent exchange: our sin for Christ’s righteousness… Will you at least think about this? You have a choice to make. Will you receive grace and mercy from God today?