Grace and mercy are not the same thing even though most Christians use the words interchangeably. Knowing the difference is important for theological integrity as well as practical life application. Let’s look at the definitions of grace and mercy.
Definitions from Strong’s Concordance
Greek 5485 charis - graciousness of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life): acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, grace, gracious, joy, liberality, pleasure, thanks, thank worthy.
Greek 1656 eleos - kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, that of God toward sinners, joined with a desire to help them; of men towards men: to exercise the virtue of mercy, show one's self merciful; of God towards men: in general providence; the mercy and clemency of God in providing and offering to men salvation by Christ the mercy of Christ, whereby at his return to judgment he will bless true Christians with eternal life.
Mercy is what God extends toward you regardless of your reception or engagement. Within himself, God makes the decision to show you kindness and forgive you. He does this because of the substitutionary atoning working of his son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the sufficient sacrifice that satisfies all legal issues God has with you and your condition. Because Jesus died for you, as you, God can show you mercy and not give you what you deserve…if you place your faith/trust in Christ as your righteousness.
This is where grace comes in. Because God has shown you mercy and is not holding your sins against you, you can open your heart to him and believe on the sacrifice of Christ, at which point you receive his saving power, which is grace. Grace is an inner influence from God in your inner man that brings about spiritual changes. God’s spirit actively working in you is the function of grace. That activity of grace is how one is born again and saved. Salvation happens when you trust Jesus and God’s spirit does a work in you to change the kind of being you are. Salvation is the result of grace having done its work in you. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
You can be continually thankful for God’s mercy toward you but you must daily yield to his grace for empowerment. God loves you no matter what and you are acceptable to him because of your reception of the sacrifice of Christ, but you still need to yield to his inner influence of grace to live empowered by the indwelling spirit of God.
Mercy is God’s attitude toward you but Grace is God’s activity within you to equip and empower you to transcend your flesh and this carnal world. When you are living by the power of grace you will not be living from our own will power and strength.
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14
Grace is not just the power you can live from to overcome temptation and sin, it’s the power you are nourished by to live within the power of the righteousness that God gave you in Christ. He has made you the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus but his active grace in you strengthens you to live in that righteousness.
When you pray and thank God that you sins are forgiven, you are embracing his mercy. When you pray and experience peace in the midst of a situation that should be stressful, you are experiencing grace.
When you do something stupid and are thankful that you are still God’s child no matter what, you’re aware of the mercy he’s extended toward you. When you are tempted but resist and turn to God for strength and then rise above the temptation, you are a beneficiary of grace.
Mercy is how God treats you.
Grace is how God changes you.
Mercy is something God expresses toward you.
Grace is God’s strength in you.
Mercy is what God shows you instead of judgment.
Grace is available because you’ve been shown mercy.
Mercy forgives you.
Grace transforms you.
Grace Is At Work In You To Transform You
You probably know the passages that address the doctrine of grace, but I want to highlight three passages that describe the function of grace. It’s important to know what grace is and how to live from the power of its influence in your life. Learning how to live from the power of grace can teach you how to receive all the benefits of salvation; healing, wholeness, deliverance, restoration, preservation and provision.
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.Confirming One’s Calling and Election 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
“Grace and peace” is much more than a greeting. Peter is giving a functional description of the power of grace. Peter walks us through a logical progression of the effectiveness of grace in these passages. He calls their attention to the grace they have in abundance and then teaches them what that grace is and does, it’s his “power for a godly life.” Grace is the fuel we live from to participate in God’s divine nature.
Grace is a spiritual power within you that lifts your ability to live above the carnal realm and in the spiritual dimension, where God’s promises are abundant. When you are yielded to the power of grace, you can participate in God’s nature and experience his spiritual promises which will become physical realities.
Ephesians 3:16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The word “grace” is not mentioned in this selection but grace is certainly being described. Grace is God’s strengthening power to your inner man which causes Christ’s anointing to fill you heart. His anointing is always in you it abides and never lifts, but it is only upon you when you are yielded to his grace.
You need Christ’s anointing power in your heart because that’s where you believe. When you believe, all things are possible. Those who experience all kinds of God’s possibilities are those who are confident in God’s love for them and yield to His inner influence. When you yield to his inner influence you are filled with his fullness and you experience wholeness.
2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Paul had learn a few things, one of them was how to live in the power of God’s grace. Paul thought his solution was for God to show up and remove his problem. God said his grace was what Paul needed. That is NOT and “no” from God, it’s a solution. Paul then explains what he learned from this situation, that when he is weak he can be strengthened by God. This is a commonly misunderstood passage but the point is that God’s grace is strength when we’re weak.
This information may not be new to you, I hope it’s not. This information may be new and revolutionary for you, praise God if it is! Either way, I pray this understanding enlightens your heart and inspires you to intentionally yield to God’s grace when you need to be strengthened in your inner man.
You have the right to expect God to move in your heart, if you’ll let him. Use your faith to be persuaded of Christ’s finished work in your specific circumstances and be bold until you experience power for whatever it may be.
God told you the truth, he will strengthen you, he will help you, he will bless you, he will work through you. Make it a daily practice to hold him in the forefront of your mind, let your heart be filled with his love for you, and allow your life to be supernaturally charged by his grace!!