Summary: Not long ago, my wife Jane, asked me what was the difference between grace and mercy? I began rattling off some stuff, but soon realized I didn’t really know the difference either. I have researched it and found an answer.

Let me share with you the difference between grace and mercy.

I. Definitions

A. Mercy is compassion shown to a law breaker or enemies. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. We deserve Hell for our sin, but God shows us mercy because of Jesus.

This story will put mercy into a life situation:

A young employee secretly misappropriated several hundred dollars of his business firm’s money. When this action was discovered, the young man was told to report to the office of the senior partner of the firm. As he walked up the stairs toward the administrative office, the young employee was heavy-hearted. He knew without a doubt he would lose his position with the firm. He also feared the possibility of legal action taken against him. Seemingly his whole world had collapsed.

Upon his arrival in the office of the senior executive the young man was questioned about the whole affair. He was asked if the allegations were true, and he answered in the affirmative. Then the executive surprisingly asked this question: “If I keep you in your present capacity, can I trust you to no steal anymore in the future?” The young worker brightened up and said, “Yes, sir, you surely can. I’ve learned my lesson.” The executive responded, “Then I’m not going to press charges, and you can continue in your present responsibility.”

The senior partner concluded the conversation with his younger employee by saying, “I think you ought to know, that you are the second man in this firm who succumbed to temptation and was shown leniency. I was the first. What you have done, I did. The mercy you are receiving, I received.

(I failed to document where I read this story)

I want you to appreciate mercy even more. God’s justice is an integral part of His dealings with mankind. Justice and mercy are 2 attributes of God that work in unity with His character. Pastor Michael Houdmann made this interesting observation about God’s justice:

"Christianity is unique compared to all the world religion in that God’s mercy is shown through His justice. There is no setting aside of justice to make room for mercy. The Christian doctrine of penal substitution states that sin and injustice were punished at the cross of Christ and it’s only because the penalty of sin was satisfied through Christ’s sacrifice that God extends His mercy to undeserving sinners who look to Him for salvation".


That is mercy. Now let’s look at grace.

B. Grace -- It is a gift or favor shown to another. Lots of people have defined grace as God’s unmerited favor.

Maybe this acrostic will help you remember grace – each letter stands for one word - God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense

Donald Grey Barnhouse observed "Love that gives upward is worship, love that goes outward is affection; love that stoops is grace. (found in

One of the great hymns of our faith is Grace Greater Than Our Sin

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was split.

Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.

Memorize these simple phrases to distinguish between mercy and grace.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

What do we deserve because of our sin? Hell. Yet God’s mercy shown through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, allows us to miss going to Hell for our sins.

Grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve because of our sin – what is that gift? Forgiveness of our sins and Heaven. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and our repentance brings God’s grace into our lives.

Repeat this phrase with me out loud:

Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

II. Texts words used in – for the sake of time we will only look at two verses

A. Hebrews 4:16 – I want to start with this verse because it had both words in one verse.

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Where are we going? God’s throne of grace. Thrones were places of authority and judgment to most people. However, the one sitting on this throne isn’t a tyrant or a dictator; He isn’t indifferent to our needs and concerns. He dispenses grace to the repentant. The writer of Hebrews calls the throne “grace”.

What will we find there? Receive or obtain mercy and find grace. Mercy and grace work together to help the searcher find what their soul needs.

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