Mercy & Grace
While most Christians have heard of grace and mercy their whole lives, what can we learn from each when we consider them side by side?
Throughout the New Testament you likely have read passages on grace such as the ones below:
Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
2 Timothy 1:9 Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.
God’s grace toward you and I in its most effective and loving form is found in Jesus. For all Christians who are saved are saved us by His grace. Grace is the only way that imperfect people such as you and I will have any ability to stand in front of God. We need the grace that is found in Jesus.
Mercy as well is mentioned throughout the New Testament but can often be found in the Old Testament more than grace.
Psalm 25:6-7 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
Micah 7:18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
Matthew 9:13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
Mercy functions a little different than grace does. Mercy is seen in the Old Testament more often than grace is. This does not mean that God was not gracious in the ancient days, but the greatest vehicle of grace has not come yet, Jesus. God was merciful to Israel, the people of Jesus’ day, and even our day today by not giving the punishment that we deserve. When Jesus says that he “desires mercy” from those who would follow him it is because he came to give mercy just as God was merciful to anyone in Egypt who had the blood of the lamb on their door posts. (Exodus 12)
Grace and Mercy
And on a few occasions mercy and grace are used in the same verse:
Ephesians 2:4-5 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
When we consider these verses and the passages that they are in we learn the difference and similarities between these characteristics that God has. In order to understand their distinct and similar nature that God loves us I would propose understanding these characteristics of God as this:
Mercy is a punishment not given but deserved.
Grace is a gift not deserved but given.
So God in his love is both merciful and gracious to you and I. Jesus in his mercy has not given us the penalty of our sins. We deserve to be punished for our each and every one of our wrongs from the seemingly light gossip to the blood of an innocent man. A perfect and just God is angered and wrathful toward our evil, as a good God should be. Yet in his mercy God does not give us the punishment we rightly deserve because Jesus has been punished for us.
Yet God is not only merciful, He is also gracious. While he does not punish us he simultaneously gives us a gift through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He graciously gives us His Son as a loving gift of eternal life. Jesus was pleased to be this gift that we receive in faith. It is one thing to give someone a gift, it is a gracious thing to give a gift that the receiver has done nothing to deserve. This is how God is gracious to us.
So today, Christian, you are under the loving hand of a gracious and merciful God. We can have peace and rest when we remind ourself of who God is in both his mercy and grace.
Caleb Rawls is the pastor at Pleasant Home Baptist Church located in Laurel Mississippi. He and his wife Taylor work to lead the church grow in their relationship with Jesus and help others encounter the grace of Jesus. They also have a golden-doodle named Tiglath-Pilesar IIII.