I'm not sure why I chose this as my first little study. It's been a while since I did a word study, but "mercy" had popped into my head and I wanted to understand it better. Sometimes it seemed as if it were simply a substitute for other words, and yet the authors in the Bible chose to use it instead. My question was why?
"Mercy" is similar to many words. The main old testament word used was rahmim which meant compassion, mercy, pity. The four main new testament words were eleeo meaning to have mercy on, pity, to show mercy to, show pity to another who is in serious need, usually with a focus on an act of kindness that will help meet the need; eleos meaning mercy, pity, the moral quality of feeling compassion and especially of showing kindness toward someone in need, hilaskomai meaning to make atonement for, with a focus on the means of accomplishing forgiveness, resulting in reconciliation, to have mercy on, be merciful to; and oiktirmos meaning compassion, mercy, pity.
It was at this point I felt "mercy" might be what people mean when they talk about "grace."
I did a word study on "grace" many years ago, and unfortunately I can't find any of my notes from that time. I ended up with the understanding that "grace" is always given with the expectation of change. But how did that work with mercy? Was one given, the other received? Were they both the same to begin with? Is it with "mercy" something is given, or is "mercy" given?
I don't know that I found all the answers, to be honest. This is my understanding at the end of my study, however.
Mercy is more kindness than justice requires; kindness beyond what can be claimed or expected. In Luke 10:13 Jesus is telling the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I think this is the perfect picture of mercy. The tax collector new he was not worthy to be heard by God, but asked for kindness beyond what could be expected.
We can do nothing to be with God. Our actions don't deserve His presence. He is a holy God of whom sinful things can not be in the presence. But in an act of kindness beyond what we could expect God gave us Jesus. That was an act of mercy. Jesus' death and resurrection brought about the ability for us to be forgiven and reconciled to our Heavenly Father. It was not because we deserved it but because He is merciful in His nature.
It's not the same as "grace" because "grace" is given to us by God to bring changes within us. It doesn't leave us the same. I once was lost but now I'm found. I once was blind but now I see. Or better yet, Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.
This is my understanding of "mercy" and how it works with "grace." We do nothing to receive either. We do not deserve either. But because of God's love for us He gives us both, for reconciliation and to help us. Mercy is given so that we can be with Him. Grace is given so we can be what He created us to be.