Glorious! What’s The Difference Between Grace And Mercy?

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 145:8)

What exactly is the difference between grace and mercy?

I mean…

Grace versus mercy…

Does it even matter? Can’t we just use them interchangeably?

Nope. If we do, we miss out on some glorious truths.

God’s mercy and God’s grace are not the same things, though the differences are subtle, and they are often mentioned together.

In many ways they overlap; usually when God pours out his mercy, he pours out his grace as well.

Let’s dive into this a bit deeper.

The Difference Between Grace and Mercy

Before we explore the glorious difference between grace and mercy, we need to see how they’re similar.

Neither are deserved. God has compassion on sinners who deserve his wrath.

Why? I don’t know.

And he is gracious as well to those who don’t love him and never thank him. But God pours out his mercy and grace especially on those he saves through Jesus.

The simplest way to understand the difference between grace and mercy is that they are flip sides of the coin of his love.

In other words, God’s mercy is NOT giving sinners what they DO DESERVE.

And God’s grace is POSITIVELY GIVING sinners what they DO NOT DESERVE.

The Glory Of God’s Mercy

The Hebrew for “merciful” means “compassionate” or “full of compassion.” It means “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow”

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

This is mercy: We have all sinned against a holy God. We deserve eternal wrath in hell. But in his mercy, God poured out on Jesus the wrath we deserved on the cross, so we could escape his wrath.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

For reasons known only to God, though we had spit in his face, broken his laws, rejected him and disobeyed him, he had compassion on us.

God doesn’t take any pleasure in punishing people, even those who reject him and hate him outright. So in his mercy, he didn’t give us what we deserved, eternal punishment, his infinite wrath. Instead, in his mercy, he poured his wrath out on his beloved Son.

Jesus didn’t have to die for us. He didn’t have to pay for our sins. But our God is compassionate and merciful. So he didn’t give us what we deserved. He gave it to Jesus.

If this were all he had done, it would have been incredible. If God simply spared us from hell that would have been infinite mercy.

Even if he did nothing else for us. Even if we were to die then cease to exist. Even if we were to never go to heaven or know him.

It still would have been infinite mercy to us, to NOT give us what we DID DESERVE.

The difference between grace and mercy is that mercy is not getting what we deserve. 

The Beauty of God’s Grace

But not only is God infinitely merciful, he is infinitely gracious. In his grace he not only withheld his wrath, but he positively saved us:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8)

The Greek for “grace”, “charis” means: kindness, favor, “a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ”, or “kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved” (Strongs)

See the difference? In his mercy God withholds WHAT WE DO DESERVE; in his grace God heaps upon us infinite blessings WE DO NOT DESERVE. In mercy he withholds what we DID MERIT – eternal wrath; and in grace pours out upon us what we COULD NEVER MERIT: Eternal life, infinite joy, being one with Christ, being made like Christ.

Grace is God’s free gift of his undeserved, unmerited favor.

God’s grace is, “…the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues” (Strongs).

When we believe in Jesus, because of his mercy God does NOT give us what we deserve:

His wrath, eternal punishment in hell

And when we believe in Jesus, because of His grace, God gives us what we don’t deserve. He…

Gives us eternal life
Adopts us as his children
Makes us joint-heirs with Christ, gives us infinite riches in Christ
Gives us his Holy Spirit
Gives us power and victory over sin
Lives in us
Conforms us to Christ
Causes all things to work together for our good
Hears our prayers
Gives us gifts of the Spirit
Produces fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.
Gives us good works to walk in
He will never remove his love from us
And someday we will see his face

And the list goes on and on….

And God doesn’t begrudgingly pour out his grace. He longs to pour it out upon us. Isaiah 30:18 says “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.”

God is lavish with his grace. He doesn’t just give us a little. He pours it out:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us… (Ephesians 1:7-8)

So what should our response be to God’s amazing mercy and lavish grace he has heaped upon us?

I don’t have room in this post, but a few ways we should respond:

  • Thankfulness
  • Wonder, amazement, praise and worship
  • Living wholeheartedly for the one who saved us
  • Imitating our God and being merciful and gracious to those who don’t deserve it

If you’ve never believed in Jesus, he offers you the free gift of his grace, because of all Jesus did.

He is the eternal God, yet became a man, lived a sinless life of perfect obedience to his Father, then bore our sins and God’s wrath on the cross.

Then he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven where he reigns as Lord of Lords.

And he promises that for all who believe in him and call upon him so save them he will have mercy on them, forgive their sins and give them eternal life and lavish his grace upon them.

He longs to lavish salvation on you. Don’t wait another day to believe in and call on him to save you!

The difference between grace and mercy is that grace is getting what we don’t deserve. 

So What’s The Difference Between Grace and Mercy?

Both grace and mercy reveal the staggering, glorious, delightful character of God.

In his mind-boggling mercy, he doesn’t give us what we deserve. Rather, he gave that to Jesus.

In his outrageous, lavish grace, he gives us what we don’t deserve. He gives us the rewards earned by Jesus.

Is there anyone like our God?

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.

30 thoughts on “Glorious! What’s The Difference Between Grace And Mercy?”

  1. Thank you so much for this article! I have been so blessed to be studying in depth the book of Romans this year, and this sums up the heart of what I have been learning. I have known I am a child of God all my life of 50 years, and these words have always been part of my vocabulary. Yet God has graciously been teaching me the truth of what mercy and grace truly mean through the experiences and trials of my life, and Romans has opened my eyes to how incredible this mercy and grace really is. Completely undeserved! And it reveals some of the greatness and majesty of our God. Thank you for summing up so beautifully and concisely mercy and grace. May it bless the hearts and minds of all who read it.

  2. Wow, God’s mercy and God’s grace beautifully explained so that I had to share it on Facebook.
    God bless you and your family.

  3. Very beautifully laid the characters of God. God’s abundant Grace and limitless Mercy is found in Jesus.
    Thank you Pastor

    • I asked the difference between Grace and mercy and you gave me what I wanted.
      May God bless you bountifully for this articulated article.

  4. Incredible! One person said he was passing this on to facebook. I am passing it on to my youth Sunday school and to my 10 year old grandson who asked me yesterday: “How do you know how to preach?”. This message will ripple to many! Thank you for sharing it!!!

  5. Hey Pastor, thanks for your work on wrestling with this subject. I am as well. My question is this: Is mercy really used in the Bible to just mean withholding deserved punishment? Many times the term is used to mean blessing those who have not earned it. One example among many, the good Samaritan. He had mercy on the mugging victim. The victim didn’t deserve punishment but mercy, eleos, is still used of the Samaritan’s actions. Both terms are used to describe withholding deserved punishment as well as giving undeserved blessings.

  6. What a wonderful article. So glad I stumbled across it. Studying in Romans, this ties in perfectly with what I am reading this evening.
    Thank you!

  7. So powerful! I couldn’t stop shouting while reading this article!!!!!!!!! It really blessed my soul!
    Thank you so much!


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