The Difference Between Mercy and Grace


Mercy and grace are often confused. While the terms may seem to have similar meanings, grace and mercy are not the same.

To briefly summarize the difference:

  • Mercy is God not punishing us as our sins would deserve… you don’t get what you deserve!

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,”

  • Grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it… You do get what you never deserved.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

Mercy is deliverance from God’s judgment. Grace is God extending kindness to us while we are yet and may yet remain unworthy.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

According to the Bible, we have all sinned, and looking at our lives we know this is indisputable.

“For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23)
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

As a result of that sin, we all deserve death, eternal judgment in “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12-15).

For the wages of sin is death; but the (free) gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

With that in mind, every day we live is an act of God’s mercy. If God gave us all what we deserve, we would all be, right now, condemned for eternity. In Psalm 51:1-2, David cries out.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions (sins). Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Such a plea to God for mercy is asking Him to withhold the judgment we deserve and instead grant to us the forgiveness we in no way have earned.

We will never deserve anything from God. He is not a debtor to men. God does not and will never owe us anything. Anything good that we experience is a result of the bestowal of “the grace of God” (Ephesians 2:5). Grace is simply defined as unmerited or unearned favor.” If it depends upon merit, then we don’t merit anything from God.

God favors us, or gives us good things that we do not deserve and could never earn.

We then as believers are rescued from judgment… by God’s mercy.

Grace is anything and everything we receive beyond that mercy. E.g., “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24)

  • Common or “universal grace” refers to the sovereign grace which God bestows on all of mankind regardless of their spiritual standing before Him. This grace is extended to all… but it must be received by placing one’s faith in the embodiement of God’s Grace in the person of the crucified Christ as our personal Savior
  • But saving grace is that special “dispensation of grace of God” whereby God sovereignly bestows unmerited divine assistance upon us for our regeneration (rebirth).

Both Mercy and Grace are best illustrated in the salvation that is available only through the cross of Jesus Christ.

We rightly deserve judgment and eternal loss, but IF we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, we then receive mercy from God and we are delivered from the judgment we deserve.

Instead of judgment, we receive by ABUNDANT GRACE in the form of …

  • Salvation
  • For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Forgiveness of ALL sins  

“… God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (sins);” (Colossians 2:13)

  • His own righteousness imputed to us

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 (KJV)

  • His own abundant life to dwell in us

“To whom God would make known what the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
 “When Christ, our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

  • His involvement in our day to day life, changing us form within

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of good pleasure.”

  • And… eternity in our eternal home in Heaven
  • For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” (Philippians 2:20-21)
     “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Because of the mercy and grace of God, our response should be to fall on our knees in thanksgiving to God who in Christ has reconciled us to Himself apart from any work or merit we have done.

Hebrews 4:16 declares, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”