Mercy and grace are two vital Christian terms whose meanings are often misunderstood. In short, Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve; Grace is God giving us something we do not deserve.
In Habakkuk 3:2, the prophet asks the Lord to “in wrath remember mercy.” Despite God’s judgment, He asked for God to relent and not pour out the full wrath they deserved. King David sought this mercy in Psalm 51:1-2 in confessing his sin: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Despite his many failures, David asked God to relent and not bring upon him the full consequences of his sin.
Grace, on the other hand, is God extending favor toward us that we do not deserve. Both Ephesians 2:5 and 2:8 state it is “by grace you have been saved.” God’s salvation comes from His grace. Some describe grace as unmerited or unearned favor.
In theology, two kinds of grace are often distinguished. Common grace is defined as God’s grace given to all humanity regardless of their response to Him. This can include the beauty of creation, the provision of food and other essentials, and every good thing that happens to a person regardless of whether the person is a believer or unbeliever.
Saving grace is grace from God that provides salvation to a person. This is the grace described in Ephesians 2:8-9 that states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Both perfect mercy and perfect grace are found in Jesus Christ. Through His sacrifice on the cross, He has provided a way of escape or mercy from the consequences of sin (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). God has extended grace by providing salvation and proclaiming salvation to us through the Son, His teaching in Scripture, and through the Spirit of God at work among us. Hebrews 4:16 blends these two ideas in one powerful statement, teaching, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Our only rightful response is to accept both God’s mercy and His grace and accept the eternal life He offers through Jesus Christ. Through this salvation, we receive the mercy of forgiven sin and the grace of life in Christ, including eternity with Him. Jesus has come to give us life, and life abundantly (John 10:10).