In the book of Exodus, God told Moses: “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” He said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20) So how can God be gracious to us and show us His mercy if we cannot see Him and live? What is the difference between God’s mercy and grace, and why are they so important for our salvation?
Mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy.
According to the Bible, we have all sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). As a result of that sin, we all deserve death (Romans 6:23) and eternal judgment in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:12-15). With that in mind, every day we live is an act of God’s mercy. If God gave us all what we deserve, we would all be, right now, condemned for eternity. In Psalm 51:1-2, David cries out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” A plea to God for mercy is asking Him to withhold the judgment we deserve and instead grant to us the forgiveness we in no way have earned.
We deserve nothing from God. God does not owe us anything. Anything good that we experience is a result of the grace of God (Ephesians 2:5). Grace is simply defined as unmerited favour. God favours, or gives us good things that we do not deserve and could never earn. Rescued from judgment by God’s mercy, grace is anything and everything we receive beyond that mercy (Romans 3:24).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)” Mercy and grace are best illustrated in the salvation that is available through Jesus Christ. We deserve judgment, but if we receive Jesus Christ as Saviour, we receive mercy from God and we are delivered from judgment. Instead of judgment, we receive by grace salvation, forgiveness of sins, abundant life (John 10:10), and an eternity in Heaven, the most wonderful place imaginable (Revelation 21-22). Because of the mercy and grace of God, our response should be to fall on our knees in worship and thanksgiving. Hebrews 4:16 declares, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Christ executed one part of his priesthood on earth, in dying for us; the other he executes in heaven, pleading the cause, and presenting the offerings of his people (Hebrews 4:14). In the sight of Infinite Wisdom, it was needful that the Saviour of men should be one who has the fellow-feeling which no being but a fellow-creature could possibly have; and therefore it was necessary he should experience all the effects of sin that could be separated from its guilt (Hebrews 4:15). God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3); but the more holy and pure he was, the more he must have been unwilling in his nature to sin, and must have had deeper impression of its evil; consequently the more must he be concerned to deliver his people from its guilt and power. We should encourage ourselves by the excellence of our High Priest Jesus Christ, to come boldly to the throne of grace. Mercy and grace are the things we want; mercy to pardon all our sins, and grace to purify our souls. Besides our daily dependence upon God for present supplies, there are seasons for which we should provide in our prayers; times of temptation, either by adversity or prosperity, and especially at the hour of our death. We are to come with reverence and godly fear, yet not as if dragged to the seat of justice, but as kindly invited to the mercy-seat, where grace reigns. We have boldness to enter into the holiest only by the blood of Jesus; he is our Advocate, and has purchased all our souls want or can desire.
Let us praise God with the song “Your Grace is Enough”: