Grace and Mercy: Defined

In the Christian life I truly believe many of us just repeat words that we have heard growing up and really don’t know the meaning of them. I remember when I was in the 6th grade, my teacher, Mrs. Lipko, asked me to pray. I led the class in a prayer and ended it in a way I had heard my dad end prayers my whole life, “we love You and ask You to bless us according to your riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), Amen.” However, I think I said Riches AND Glory, since I didn’t even know what the words were, I definitely didn’t know what they meant.

I remember teachers and staff always being impressed when I prayed… maybe some of that was a gift… but most was simply repeating the prayers of my father, who I learned so much from.

We always say things like “lead, guide, and direct us” as if all three of those aren’t the exact same thing. We speak Christianese, and that’s okay if we understand what we are saying. It isn’t okay when a nonbeliever or a new believer is present though. It is important that we speak in a language that they will understand so that they won’t grow up saying Riches and Glory.

So, grace and mercy? We talk about these two so much because the Bible talks about them so much. There are teachings out there that would say God’s grace is all that matters in life and that there’s nothing outside of His grace. If that were true, isn’t it important to truly understand them?

Let’s start by defining the two in laymen’s terms.

Grace is when God gives us something that we do not deserve: Jesus on the Cross, blessings, favor, etc.

Mercy is when God withholds from us that which we fully deserve: Eternal damnation in hell, punishment for our wicked behavior.

GRACE: When God sent His Son, Jesus, to earth He did an amazing thing. We don’t read about any other god or deity in all of history who would come down from a seat of glory into a pit of darkness. But Jesus, who from the beginning of time sat at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, came to earth to live as a poor, homeless vagabond. We didn’t deserve this. This is God’s grace in action. We, the human race, chose to separate ourselves from God by aiming to be God. We, in the garden, chose to try to gain wisdom by eating of the fruit, thinking that we could be as smart as God. Throughout the entire Old Testament we saw men and women of Israel making choices to rebel against God. He destroyed the entire earth once in a flood for lack of godliness. He emaciated an entire region in Sodom and Gomorrah because of their gross sin.

But still, God’s grace sent Salvation; something we didn’t deserve.

MERCY: In order to grasp with our minds why we need God’s mercy, fresh and new everyday, we must first understand and acknowledge that we were born sinners and are indeed inherently evil by nature. I know there are some people who haven’t received revelation from God concerning this subject and will just not be able to admit it; but that doesn’t make it untrue.

Is it not true that almost all children learn the word “no” before they learn the word “yes?”. We aren’t born with the innate desire to please our parents, we are born with a rebellious spirit because of our original father and mother in the garden. Pride and rebellion are the original sin. That sin has been passed down from generation to generation for eons.

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. Romans 8:7

We are born sinners, this is why we are in need of a savior. If we weren’t born sinners with a need to be rescued, there’d have been no reason for Christ to take the Cross.

Mercy comes in at the same time as grace. In God’s grace He gave us a Savior. In His mercy, He spared us from eternal damnation in Hell.

SCRIPTURE ON GRACE – giving that which is underserved.

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, -Matthew 5:44

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. -Matthew 6:12

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8

SCRIPTURE ON MERCY – withholding that which is fully deserved.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. (Psalms 103:8-14 KJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which 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


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