Although mercy and grace are terms used often among Christians, I’m sure many are unclear what the two words actually mean. To help you understand the difference between the two, let’s first begin with mercy.
What is Mercy?
According to dictionary.com the term “mercy” can be defined as having a disposition of compassion or forbearance (to refrain from something).
Paul said: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13; NIV).
From this scripture (including many others), we can gather that mercy is not getting what you do deserve. It is an act of being spared from judgment. When we hear, “thank you Lord for mercy” this is the same as saying, “thank you Lord for not giving me what I deserve, for withholding judgment and punishment from me.”
Example of God’s Mercy
An example of God’s mercy would be a 19 year old teenager who fell short from the glory of God. They gave into peer pressure and decided to go to a club late Friday night where drugs and sex is highly promoted.
The next day, the teenager is convicted by the Holy Spirit and repents. Because of God’s mercy, He forgives and spares them from punishment and judgment.
With any sin or illegal act committed, punishment always follows. However through Christ Jesus, we are given a second chance. We are given mercy; thus, withholding punishment and judgment from us.
Is this an invitation to do whatever we want? Of course not. However, when we mess up and fall, God gives us mercy. Not because we deserve it but because of His compassion towards us.
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
What is Grace?
According to dictionary.com “grace” is defined as the manifestation of favor by a superior. It can also be defined as the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. In very few words, grace is getting what you do not deserve.
Example of God’s Grace
The grace of God is unearned; it’s freely given to you by God although you don’t deserve it. An example of God’s grace is the gift of eternal life.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The gift of eternal life is something you do not deserve, however it is freely given to you by God. The scripture states that while we were still sinners, Christ died on the cross for you and I (Romans 5:8). Was this something we deserved? No; but the grace of God saw past our sins and wicked ways.
When you hear a person say, “thank you Lord for grace” they are in essence saying, “thank you Lord for giving me what I do not deserve.” Again, this isn’t an invitation to sin and do whatever you want. God knows your heart so don’t take for granted the grace given to you.
Finial Words about Mercy and Grace
I encourage you to think of all the things you do not deserve but received (grace) and all the punishments you do deserved but did not receive (mercy). When you think about these things, begin to thank God for giving you brand new mercy and grace. Without it, you and I would be consumed by our wicked ways on our way to hell.