Mercy is showing compassion towards those in need. The original word for mercy (eleeo, 1653) is a verb that means to have compassion or show pity. Mercy is Jesus healing the blind (Matt. 9:27, 20:30-31, Mark 10:46-47, Luke 18:38-39) and the leprous (Luke 17:13). Mercy is Jesus liberating the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and delivering the oppressed (Matt. 15:22, 17:15, Mark 5:19). It’s God blessing barren Elizabeth with a baby (Luke 1:58), forgiving our debts (Matt. 18:33), and responding to our cries of distress (Ps. 4:1, 6:2, 30:10, 31:9, 56:1).
Mercy vs grace
Mercy is one facet of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16). Just as God is rich in grace (Eph. 1:7, 2:7, Jas. 4:6), he is rich in mercy (Luke 1:58, Eph. 2:4, Jas. 5:11, 1 Pet. 1:3). He is the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10) and the Father of all mercies (2 Cor. 1:3).
Like grace, God’s mercy is unmerited (Rom. 9:15-16) and freely offered to all (Rom. 11:32). Just as we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:5), we are saved by mercy (Tit. 3:5). Just as we are forgiven by grace (Eph. 1:7), we are forgiven by mercy (Ex. 34:6-7, Ps. 86:5, Matt. 18:33, Luke 1:77-78, Heb. 2:17, 8:12). Just as we receive grace (Rom. 5:17), we receive mercy (2 Cor. 4:1, 1 Pet. 2:10). And just as God’s grace is greater than our sin (Rom. 5:20), his mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas. 2:13).
Yet mercy can be distinguished from grace in several ways. Mercy is not getting what you deserve, while grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Mercy is not reaping what you have sown; grace is reaping what Jesus has sown. Mercy takes you out of Egypt; grace takes you into the Promised Land. Mercy forgave the prodigal son; grace threw him a party. Mercy fed Ruth the refugee; grace gave her a husband. Mercy forgives the penitent tax collector; grace sends him home justified before God. Mercy forgave the thief on the cross; grace took him to paradise.
“Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We come to God with our needs looking for mercy and find grace. Mercy pays the bills; grace blesses us with an abundance. Mercy delivers you from servitude; grace adopts you as a son. Mercy clears your debts; grace makes you a coheir with Christ.
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