Last time we looked at the word “grace.” Now we will look at the word “mercy.” What is the difference? It has been said that grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – see 2 Corinthians 8:9); Mercy is when He doesn’t give us what we really deserve.
There are a few words in the original language translated into the word “mercy.” Let us look at each.
(1) eleos – This word refers to “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it (Vine’s, p. 403). Thayer says, “kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” (p. 203).
In regards to this word for “mercy”: (a) God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4). (b) Our salvation is according to His mercy (Titus 2:5). (c) This mercy is available for Jew (Luke 1:72) and gentile (Romans 15:9). (d) His mercy is on those that fear Him (Luke 1:50).
(2) Oiktrimos – This word refers to “pity, compassion for the ills of others” (Vine’s, p. 404). Thayer adds this, “(the viscera which were thought to be the seat of compassion…) compassion, pity, mercy (p. 442).
In regards to this word for mercy: (a) God is the “Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3). (b) His mercies should change us (Rom. 12:1).
(3) Splanchnon – This word refers to “affections of the heart”(Vine’s p. 404). Thayer says, “bowels, intestines (the heart, lungs, liver, etc… in the Greek poets the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of tender affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion (p. 584).
In regards to this word for “mercy,” it is by this “mercy” that we have the availability of salvation (Luke 1:76-78).
(4) hilaskomai – This word means “to conciliate, appease, propitiate” (Vine’s, p. 404). A form of this word was used to refer to the lid which covered the ark, the mercy seat.
This is the word used of Jesus in Hebrews 2:17, “a merciful and faithful high priest.” It is through Him we have reconciliation with God (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:21-22). Thank God for His mercy!
In closing, let us remember to be merciful and gracious people. James 2:13 reads, “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” Read also Luke 10:37 (In both cases the word is eleos). Our words should be gracious (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6). Let us decide to be merciful and gracious people.