The two most frequently used words in the Bible which characterize man's relationship to God are "mercy" and "grace." But what is the difference between the two words? What significance does each one have in describing God?
The Old Testament Hebrew noun, chesed, is translated "mercy" (149x), “kindness” (40x), “loving kindness” (30x), “goodness” (12x), “kindly” (5x), and “merciful” (4x). The New Testament Greek noun, eleos, is translated "mercy" (22x), and it means "compassionate." As can be clearly seen, the benevolent nature of Almighty God is being revealed.
The Old Testament Hebrew word, chen, is translated "grace" (37x), and means "unmerited favor." The New Testament Greek word, charis, is translated "grace" (122x). Again the benevolence of God is presented, but it is coupled with the understanding of the unworthiness of man.
Both words declare that God is greater than those upon whom He bestows these "twins" which declare His love, and man's need. You might think it strange that I call them "twins," since they only appear six times together in all of the Scriptures (Gen. 19:19; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Heb. 4:16; 2 Jn. 1:3). Of those six verses, four of them use the two words as a greeting to the recipients of epistles. The two exceptions clearly show man's relationship to his Creator:
"Behold now, Thy servant hath found grace in Thy sight, and Thou hast magnified Thy mercy, which Thou hast shown unto me in saving my life...." (Gen. 19:19), and "Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
There are some interesting facts about the number of times these two words appear in the Old and New Testaments. I believe much can be discerned from their frequency in the two Testaments. "Mercy" is found 146 times in the O.T. with 90 of those in Psalms; it appears only 22 times in all of the N.T. "Grace" only appears 37 times in the O.T., but it appears 122 times in the N.T. Students of the Bible should immediately recognize that the O.T. emphasis on God's willingness to forgive man for failing to obey the Law, while the N.T. focus is God's desire to give man the offer of adoption into His family.
Mercy is not getting what we deserve; grace is getting what we do not deserve! More tomorrow, Lord willing.