John 1:14-17 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John paints a picture for us here that describes Jesus as being FULL of grace AND truth. You see it in verse 15. You see it repeated in verse 17. The word “full” or “fullness” is found here in three places. If you and I want to live like Jesus did, if we want to replicate His character qualities, we need to desire to be FULL of grace AND truth.
Jesus was always equally full of truth and grace. He didn’t exercise one more than the other because life’s situations call equally for both. Jesus showed us that truth cannot be dispensed without grace and grace cannot be offered apart from truth. Truth and grace are not in competition with each other. There is no such thing as graceless truth or truthless grace. Both are necessary and neither is sufficient on its own. Both are necessary for our transformation.
We tend see grace and truth as tensions to manage, as things to balance. Picture a tightrope walker, holding a balancing bar with grace on one side and truth on the other. With every step, in order to stay on the tightrope and not fall, the aerialist adjusts the bar to the left or to the right depending on which step he or she is taking. Sometimes the bar tips to the grace side, and at other times the person is steadied by lowering the truth side. This is a flawed picture of moving in grace and truth as one must never be lowered to raise or emphasize another. Once you lower truth, you compromise grace. Once you devalue grace you diminish truth.
A better picture would be an equestrian who rides a horse with both feet firmly planted in the stirrups. There is a centering, a grounding of that person who rides securely and without compromise or concern that he will be thrown off balance. To be like Jesus is to live full of grace while also living full of truth.
If we are quick to judge but are slow to forgive, we aren’t full of grace. If we water down God’s Word so that people don’t get offended by it and don’t have to feel bad about their sin, we aren’t full of truth.
Living out the fullness of grace and truth in today’s culture is so tough because we live in a time where we are told it is wrong to say that something is wrong. Jesus never shied away from telling the truth, from calling out sin, but He always did it by revealing the way that sin could be covered and in a way that the person could recover and go on to live differently. I know it is tough to stand against the tide of culture, but we must not refuse to condemn what God condemns. If we refuse to align ourselves with biblical truth, with the standards God has set, we have failed to love as God does. God loves us so much that He doesn’t want us to live broken and compromised. He wants us to understand that we don’t have to live as slaves to sin. He loves us so much that He points us to a better way. It isn’t gracious or loving to allow people to perpetuate sinful practices. Christians who do that have simply chosen to lay down their responsibility to proclaim the truth. As we hold onto truth, and preach truth, and share truth, we must remember that grace has to be just as prominent. If we don’t share the truth AND point people to the possibility of a different life, a new way, a better way, a fresh start, we haven’t been faithful to share truth with grace. They must never be divorced from each other. Here is why I believe both grace and truth are equally important: Grace and truth both have the power to transform us.
When we are guilty of something, but we truly receive grace that covers our guilt, we are humbled and challenged to live not with a sense of entitlement and freedom to do as we wish and to keep on sinning, but to live with a grateful heart and the challenge to live to please the One who has covered our sin by His grace. When you understand that grace has come to you only because Someone else took your place and took the penalty you deserve, when you embrace that your sin cost Jesus His life, and that He gave it freely for you, His grace awakens the recognition that in return you owe Jesus everything.
Here’s the thing: The world isn’t looking to God for a standard for life right now. They have set the standards for themselves. They have put themselves in charge of right and wrong. So, I’m not sure that the standard of God’s holiness will challenge them to change. I mean, who are we or who is God, that they should have to change their lives to please Him? This is how the world thinks. But while the world is busy making up their own definitions of morality they are also living with a sense of aimlessness, without purpose and without fulfillment or satisfaction. The world is angry, and they don’t know how to fix that. They are living with the consequences that come from failing, from being spiritually weak, as they try to navigate life apart from God. Deep down, they know things aren’t right.
Could we talk about the grace that we have received from God? Could we testify to the way our lives have been set on a different path by the grace of God? Could we share that God loves people so much that His agenda isn’t condemnation but salvation? Listen, church, first and foremost, what the world needs is the truth about salvation. The most grace-giving thing we could do for a person is to tell them about what Jesus has done for them. Before we talk about sexual sin, before we discuss lying and manipulation, before we address gossip and cursing, how about we point them to the grace of God that brings salvation to all people. (Titus 2:11)
I’m not suggesting we hoodwink people into getting saved and then give them the news later that God has a standard for their lives. I’m just saying that until you experience God’s grace through salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) it is difficult to see how a new life is possible. Salvation by grace brings new life. Salvation by grace initiates the power of the Holy Spirit on the inside of a person. Salvation by grace brings understanding of the Word of God. Salvation initiates a process of transformation as grace helps us picture the possibilities of life with Christ.
When Paul wrote these words in Titus about salvation for all people, he wasn’t suggesting an accommodation of sin as a lifestyle. He was helping us understand that grace initiates salvation. When people are rescued from sin, they can then be transformed to become people who say “no” to sin. Look at what he goes on to say in verse 12 and following: “It teaches us to say “No” (the grace teaches us to say “No”) to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purity for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” God’s grace elevates His truth. Grace helps us embrace truth, and as we embrace God’s truth, we are transformed by it.
When grace is truly experienced, it is such a burden lifted, such a relief, such an oppression eradicated from our lives that we want to walk in the direction that grace and truth leads us. Grace gives us the capacity to take in God’s truth.
The TRUTH of the Gospel is not that we are simply forgiven of our sin, but that we are saved from it. Grace becomes power to say “No” to things that God says aren’t good for us. Grace gives us a desire to walk in the Spirit and to live by the Word instead of the way the world chooses to live. Grace altars our hearts and truth enables us to clearly see God’s path. Did you see in Titus two that Jesus Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purity for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good?”
I believe that grace and truth work in tandem in the life of a believer. As a person experiences more and more grace, they want more and more truth. As they learn more and more truth, they received more and more grace.
Jesus was full of grace and truth. May God give us hearts that passionately pursue the truth, and may His grace enable us to have power to adjust our lives to the truth that is revealed to us. Jesus was full of grace and truth. May God give us boldness to hold onto truth, to share it with the world, and the sensitivity and compassion to share His grace with people who have yet to experience it.