What is the difference between grace and mercy? That is the question we will be looking to give an answer to in this post. Grace and mercy are buzzwords in Christian circle. You often hear them used in response to questions such as “How are you?” To which someone would respond with, “I am doing well by the grace of God!” This is true. Yet, when we use a word to often it tends to start to lose its meaning.
Imagine reusing salt over and over again. After a while, your taste buds become desensitised to it. Beyond that, the salt used also begins to lose its impact.
Mercy is somewhat different. It doesn’t easily fit into conversation. At least, not in a thoughtless way. Let’s start off with the dictionary meaning of the two words, and expand from there.
Difference Between Grace and Mercy
Grace is both a noun and a verb.
Grace as a Noun is :
The list goes on and on
Grace as verb is to:
A common definition of grace in Christian circles is that, It is unmerited favour. Grace is favour that you cannot earn or could not afford. John 3:16 is an expression of grace. God knowing that we could not afford the debt we owed for our sin chose to take the case upon himself. In the Bible grace is manifest in two forms. The Old Testament expresses it as Chen. In the New Testament is manifest as charis.
Mercy is compassion or forgiveness usually shown to a weaker person by one who is in power or greater.
Mercy is synonymous with:
The key Hebrew term for mercy is checed.
Grace versus Mercy
When you take the two together you will realise that they are intertwined in many ways. To go back to the example we set from John 3:16 earlier. One can say that, it is because of God’s mercy upon mankind that he showed grace by sending his son to die in our place. He was lenient. The result of this leniency is that he showed favour to mankind.
John 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Biblical Examples of Grace and Mercy
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Grace is a vehicle through which we are saved. We use the gift of faith to believe in and accept this grace that we have been so freely given. There is an emphasis at the end of this, “not of works” it says. This is to say that there is not anything that we have done that qualifies us for grace. Grace is priceless yet freely given!
The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Esther was helpless. She was a refugee who had nothing to offer, nothing tangible at least. Yet she found grace and favour. This is the best example of how free grace is. Grace levels the playing field. Where background, family history and statue in society could have put Esther at the back of the queue, grace magnified her.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Under the old covenant, one had to pay for what they received. This could be done by sacrifice and better yet by living a righteous life in the eyes of the Lord. Grace is of the new covenant. It is a result of Jesus becoming the lamb that would have been sacrificed for atonement under the old covenant. Thus, grace came through Jesus Christ.
but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Mercy can be obtained at a cost. It is being removed from harm’s way, when you deserve to be harmed. The term beg for mercy is very indicative of this. One cannot beg for grace, as it is without discretion. Mercy is given at the one in power’s discretion. People can deserve mercy, as a result of an act or sacrifice that they have made. Grace on the other hand can never be earned. The moment you earn it, it is no longer grace.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
There is not one Christian you can find who doesn’t know this chapter of the bible. Most will recite to by heart. If you roll back a few verses, you will find that this is contingent on God being your “shepherd.” Mercy is afforded to all who walk with the Lord. Mercy is tied to intention at some points. This is to say that the Lord doesn’t look for perfection to give mercy. He grants mercy to those who ask for it, and for those who try to walk upright.
Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.
King David is one of the greatest examples of walking in God’s mercy. He was not a perfect man. The key part was that he was conscious of this fact. He would be described as a man after God’s heart. Falling short of God’s glory, but always striving to get back on the right path. David was conscious that he had lived in sin and transgressed. Therefore he asks for mercy from God. That the Lord would put mercy in front of sin. This is what Christ has become. He is our ticket to mercy from God!
Let those who fear the Lord now say, “His mercy endures forever.”
Mercy is granted without reserve to those who fear the Lord. Fear in this case is not being afraid. Fear of the Lord is having reverence. When you revere the Lord, you do things because you care. You do things because you want to walk in his will. This is the same thing that we have shown in the case of King David.
So we have expanded on the difference between grace and mercy. To summarise, grace is favour that you receive without having to earn it. It is favour without merit. Mercy often walks hand in hand with grace. Grace can lead to mercy. The main difference between the two is that
- Mercy can be begged for, grace cannot.
- Mercy can be paid for, grace cannot.
- Grace can never be earned, mercy can.