[Papercut Press Publishing] 1998-06-10 - Grace and Mercy

Ephesians 1:4-7, "But God, being rich in mercy...might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

For the first Wednesday topic I have been asked to try to show what the difference is between grace and mercy. This was a topic one of you suggested and anyone is welcome to continue to suggest topics. I have a few, but more suggestions are always welcome.

Grace is most commonly called "unmerited favor". Grace is what God offers to fallen sinners through the salvation obtained by the atonement of Jesus Christ. We call it grace because it is undeserved. The forgiveness we receive in Christ is through no work we ourselves do, it is for this reason we call it "unmerited favor". (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-10, Titus 2:11)

Grace can be broken down into lots of subsets: Common and Special grace, saving grace, free grace, justifying grace, prevenient grace, efficacious grace, sanctifying grace, Covenant of Grace, cooperating grace, irresistible grace, and means of grace to name a few. All these phrases are various theological narrowings of the term grace. Your use of these particular terms will differ depending upon the theological tradition you ally yourself with.

Mercy is what grace offers. The grace of God comes to us in our poor sinful condition and offers us the mercy of God when we deserve His wrath. So grace comes to us giving us mercy. I admit it is somewhat semantical, and the terms are virtually interchangeable. There is a subtle difference in the two words. Mercy has meaning more synonymous with compassion. For some verses on mercy see, Psalm 119:156, Jeremiah 31:20, Romans 9:15, Matthew 18:33.

" 'Grace' is more than mercy and love, it superadds to them. It denotes, not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendently superior, one that may do what he will, that may wholly choose whether he will love or no. There may be love between equals, and an inferior may love a superior; but love in a superior, and so superior as he may do what he will, in such a one love is called grace: and therefore grace is attributed to princes; they are said to be gracious to their subjects, whereas subjects cannot be gracious to princes. Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no, for Him to love us, this is grace." Thomas Goodwin

"Mercy is God's favour that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is God's favour that gives us what we do not deserve." Rolfe Barnard

Soli Deo Gloria,