Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Rayola Kelley

Q: I was with a friend today and we had a wonderful time of fellowship we got into a question of the difference between "mercy" and "grace" and neither of us were satisfied with what we came up with. How about some wisdom from my wise women. 

A: I will do my best to answer your question. I have tried to come to terms with these two subjects as well. We will begin from the basis of what I have been taught, to consider what I have discovered. Mercy is God withholding what we deserve, such as judgment, while grace is God showing us favor, or giving us what we do not deserve such as eternal life.

    As you study how people approach Jesus, it was always from the basis of seeking His mercy, and not grace. This simply shows us that people were aware that they deserved nothing from God, other than His rejection and judgment. Therefore, people seeking God never sought Him for His grace, although that is what they would experience at the point of their faith.

    As I have considered mercy, I realized it is a point of God's grace. After all, to show mercy when one is deserving of judgment is an act of grace, but on the other hand, mercy allows God the opportunity to show His grace to the undeserving. In other words, mercy helps us to identify the grace of God. Without the platform of mercy, people would perceive that they might deserve or have somehow earned grace. They might miss it, ignore it, frustrate it, or abuse it. But when people approach grace from the point of mercy, they will realize that all that comes to each of us from God is a matter of His favor. This favor has nothing to do with any personal worth on our part, but with the character of God, who can do no less but prepare a place where His grace can be experienced. As John 1:14 states: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth."  Jesus in His humanity was a manifestation of the grace of God. Therefore, we find and can realize God's grace in Him.

    In Hebrews 4:16, we are given an insight into the relationship of mercy and grace: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Emphasis added.) We must first come to the throne of grace. Keep in mind, all that God does for us is a matter of grace. What we are trying to obtain at the throne is not the favor of God, but the mercy of God. "Obtaining" implies something we must take hold of, apply, and receive. It is important to note there is an attitude in which I must receive this mercy, with amazement, awe and expectation. Clearly, mercy is being extended to all who will come, are ready to take hold of, and apply.

    God offers mercy in light of forgiveness, reconciliation and communion. This is why a mercy seat was placed upon the Ark of the Covenant as a place of communion (Exodus 25:21-22):. My perception of the mercy of God and the judgment wrought on the cross of Christ for our sins, is that mercy and judgment came together to produce the grace of God on our behalf. According to Watchmen Nee, grace flows downward. Obviously, upon the one who kneels before the altar of God in humility and awe, seeking His mercy, grace will naturally flow downward to enfold the person in the all encompassing compassion of God. Lamentations 3:21-23: "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."

    Mercy can only be obtained at the point of repentance, but grace can only be realized in righteousness. Consider what Romans 5:21: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign throughrighteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." We know that our faith is reckoned or counted unto us as righteousness. Faith causes us to believe, respond, apply, and obey. Therefore, as we respond to God by faith, we will find His grace or favor as it freely reigns in our Christian walk.

    This brings us to Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Emphasis added.) God's grace will be fully realized in our salvation. The mercy of God extends to all of us the hope of God. Once I approach God, seeking His mercy, I am now able to experience His grace as it flows downward to my sin-laden soul. Once I find His grace in the life He offers to me by faith, I will begin to apprehend this life in confidence of who He is. It is at this place I will experience His fullness as I receive in my life and through my life the unending flow of His grace (John 1:16).

    I do hope this might give you some valuable insight to continue to explore the mercy and grace of God. We are indeed a blessed people to be able to obtain the mercy of God and find His incredible grace in our times of need.