What Does The Mercy Of God Mean?

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Published by Kenneth Garcia


Co-Founder of Biblekeeper, Author & Theologian

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The mercy of God means his compassion, kindness, and pity for us. It’s not to absolve us of our responsibilities but to offer us a second chance at repentance and salvation despite our many failures to merit it.

We are obligated to show mercy, just as God shows mercy. Jesus Christ is the greatest example of God’s mercy because He died so that we would be saved from our sins. Mercy triumphs over judgment, but rejecting God’s mercy will result in destruction.

What Is Mercy?

“Mercy” has been defined in plain terms by theologians. Edwards puts it most succinctly in his book, The Works of Jonathan Edwards: “It is God’s good pleasure to have mercy on His adversaries. Although He is much greater than everything else and has no need of beings, He yet finds it merciful to show mercy to us, poor worms.”

Similarly, Millard Erickson characterized God’s mercy as “tenderhearted, loving compassion” for His people in Christian theology. Mercy is God’s compassion for those in need. Mercy considers the sinful and the poor, whereas grace considers those who are guilty, sinful, and condemned.

What Mercy Means In Hebrew

The Hebrew word racham means “to love” or “to feel compassion,” implying kind mercy (Psalm 116:5). However, Kapporeth is related to the “mercy seat” in the Bible since it also means “ransom” (Exodus 25:22). Finally, chesed might be defined as “kindness,” “goodness,” or “mercifulness” (Psalm 18:25).

What Mercy Means In Greek

The New Testament Greek uses the term eleemon, which means “to take pity on,” “to show compassion,” or “to be merciful” (Matthew 5:7). Oiktirmos can also mean “pity” or “compassion.” To show compassion and overlook sins is the concept of God’s mercy (Romans 12:1).

What The Bible Says About Mercy

“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high regard in the sight of God and man.”

— Proverbs 3:4

The plan of God is founded on His merciful character toward His people. Since there was no way we, as sinners, could ever be good enough in His eyes, He created a way for us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Jesus’ victory over death provided us with a way to approach God.

Each day is filled with new mercies as we pray, study God’s word, and rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit[1]. The fact that we fail God every day doesn’t change the fact that He is faithful to us every morning. God’s grace is His gift to a contrite spirit.

woman with red nails and mercy of god

What Does The Mercy Of God Mean?

God is merciful because He loves His people. God’s great mercy reveals His character and demonstrates His everlasting love and devotion to us.

1. Mercy Is God’s Patience In Action

God’s patience and mercy come from his willingness to postpone the execution of justice until a better moment. It’s not unjust to “choose not to bring justice quickly.” Mercy is shocking because we realize the sanctity of God and the tragedy of sin.

2. It’s Beyond Our Understanding

Besides being patient, God’s mercy for us is unfathomable. “The cross portrays God’s mercy, grace, and justice, and it does so with striking clarity,” William Farley stated in Outrageous Mercy: Rediscovering the Radical Nature of the Cross. If the cross has never truly scandalized and outraged you, then perhaps you have not heard its message, as Farley put it.

3. It Reveals How Just And Fair, Yet Loving And Compassionate, God Is

God’s mercy has allowed us to be forgiven. To validate his humanity, “he made himself lowly, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Paul writes this to the Philippians in 2:8 of the New International Version. God’s mercy reveals both who God is and what we are, as David Mathis puts it.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NIV). David pleaded, and God heard him. “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV). There may be severe repercussions for our sins, yet our merciful God is always with us.

Those who are shown mercy are shown forgiveness and compassion, despite having done nothing to merit it. God intends to extend mercy to us because He is merciful and unwavering. Despite our failures, God’s unfailing love for us remains unwavering.

What Are The Benefits Of The Mercy Of God?

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

— Luke 6:35–36 (NIV)

God’s mercy bestows more than just peace, love, and joy. The actions Luke describes are completely out of character. Christ is the center where mercy and truth unite. Christ-followers take on His great compassion for others and live their lives accordingly. Both the recipient and the giver experience happiness when we show mercy.

Submitting to His merciful ways is a conscious decision to accept tranquility. This can never be accomplished apart from Christ. God’s compassion never runs out; in fact, it continually renews itself each morning. Psalm 86:15–16 says, “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength on behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you.”

What Does Mercy Mean To Us?

Mercy is the compassion to refrain from punishing despite a just demand for it. Mercy (also known as clemency) is a legal term that is granted at the discretion of the grantor, who is under no obligation to explain.

By God’s grace, we receive benefits we do not deserve, and by His mercy, we are spared punishments we do merit. Mercy and grace are similar, but not identical. Grace is receiving unmerited favor, whereas mercy is being spared punishment. The rejected son in the story is not treated fairly. With Christ, we don’t either.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7 ESV). God’s love, encouragement, and joy break through the dense fog of uncertainty and entitlement when we witness others making an effort to see the other side of someone’s anger, crossing a picket line to forgive, or pulling over to aid a wayward soul.

We would be utterly lost if it were not for the great mercy of our heavenly Father. Since the Father has shown abundant mercy to us, we need to show mercy to others who need it.

Why Is Mercy Important?

Mercy triumphs, yet denying mercy has devastating consequences and invites judgment. God’s judgment for sin is always fair. When Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wrote of God’s judgment, she said, “His judgment is always the outcome of mercy that was offered and ignored.” The Lord is kind and does not want any of us to ever die. He calls for us to turn from our sins, but those who reject His grace will be punished (2 Peter 3:9; Proverbs 29:1).

5 Bible Verses About The Mercy Of God

“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin…”

— Exodus 34:6–7

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven.”

— Luke 1:76–78

“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

— Micah 7:18–19

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but be in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

— Hebrews 4:14–16

“Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

— Lamentations 3:22–23
a man and a child's hands and mercy of god


God shows mercy because He is also incredibly wise. Our great high priest has compassion on us and directs us to God’s throne of grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16). God’s mission includes mercy; we are to make His mercy famous around the globe (Romans 15:9–13). God’s chastisement is an act of loving mercy (Hebrews 12:6; Proverbs 3:12).

It is beyond comprehension that God would choose to make us holy and pleasing to Him (Romans 12:1) through His mercies so that we might worship Him in the glory of holiness (Psalm 96:9). Beginning with salvation and continuing for all of eternity, He has showered His children with mercy.

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