Grace…mercy, what’s the difference?

I recently began to wonder what the difference between God’s mercy and God’s grace is. I mean, the reason I am saved is because of God’s grace…so is mercy and grace interchangeable or does God practice grace on those who believe because of His great mercy?

I looked up the two words in Webster’s Dictionary and here are the applicable definitions:

Mercy:
1 a: compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; also: lenient or compassionate treatment
2 a: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion

Grace:
1 a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
   b: a virtue coming from God
   c: a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

Well there we go.

God regenerates and sanctities those who have faith in Him through the propitiation of our sins by the blood of His son Jesus because of His compassion, forbearance and divine favor on the offenders (us) who are subject to His power.

Romans 3:21-30
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

Hebrews 2:9-17
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus,because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,
IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.”

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Daniel 9:17-19, An Intercessor’s Cry

As you may know I’m currently going through the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to look up verses, read passages and then compile lists based on types of prayer such as private vs public, intercessory, supplication etc. I’m doing this as part of the Tim Tebow and Praying in Public study. A few days ago while working on looking up verses that had to do with fasting I came across Daniel chapter 9. Here the prophet Daniel is pleading with God in prayer, petition and fasting. Have you ever read a chapter or verse of the Bible where it felt like the words were beaming up off the pages straight into your face with mega emphasis added in every way possible? That is the Holy Spirit stirring your heart through God’s word! Well that happened to me especially with the following sentence:

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous
but because of your great mercy.

Let the implication of those words sink in. God has been speaking to me with these simple yet profound words. As I’ve pondered verses 17-19 through meditation and prayer God has really been hitting home to me a sensitivity towards His great mercy….the only reason we can make any sort of prayer or petition to Him is because of His great mercy. In fact the only reason I can type this blog post or for that matter live another day is because of His great mercy! The only reason the nations on earth have not ceased to exist, the only reason we are playing in the snow, making friends or worrying about the next presidential election is because of God’s great, magnificent, incomprehensible…..mercy. Like Jesus tells us in His sermon on the mount:

He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous

And so I pray,

Lord, it is not because of my righteousness that I can cry “Abba Father” but because of your great mercy that you have adopted me as your daughter.

Lord, it is because of your great mercy, that you shed your blood on Calvary. Because of the mercy you chose to have on us, your enemy.

Meditating further on verses 17-19 as a whole:

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant.
For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.
18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name.
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.
19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act!
For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

A desolate sanctuary. Under the new covenant we know that the sanctuary of God’s spirit is now within each believer. Crying out to God we can pray:

Lord, not because of our righteusness but because of your great mercy, not for our sake but for your glory I pray for the idols that threaten desolation within our temples (our lives) to fall down and break like the idol dagon broke before the ark of the covenant. Lord open our eyes to see, sift our hearts and show us any sin or false god within our hearts or lives. Heavenly Father we pray for all idols to fall down and break before the covenant we have with You as your people. For you alone are God and there is none other. You alone are Savior as you proclaim in Isaiah 45:22

22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.

We can also pray and petition on behalf of the spiritually desolate cities within the United States, pray for your city, pray for our nation, which bears the name of the Lord. Having lived in Japan for four years I came to realize that when the majority of foreigners think of the United States they think of Christians. In fact when I made Japanese friends they often found it to be no surprise that I was Christian since I was an American. They simply figured that the reason I was a Christian was because of my nationality. They were surprised to find out that no, it was because Christ first loved me and of what he’d done in my life. Their perception is also in part because, at least in Japan, the majority of citizens worship Buddha and/or their ancestors because of their culture so they figure the same applies to Americans. As Americans we may not think of our nation bearing God’s name, especially as it stands today. But to much of the world the God of Christianity is the God of the United States.

As we pray and cry out to the Lord we remember that we cry out not because of any righteousness of our own or of our church or of our nation but because of God’s great mercy, and not for our sake but for God’s glory. We come before him recognizing His authority and dominion, we are his servants, it is all about Him. Join in the prayer Daniel brought before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords during his fast:

19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act!

or with emphasis added:

Lord, listen…because of your great mercy!

Lord forgive…because of your great mercy!

Lord hear and act…because of your great mercy!

All for the glory of God the Father, so that the nations may turn and behold You in great awe and wonder, our beautiful Savior. Praise the Lord!