John, a privileged eyewitness of His Majesty, said that Jesus Christ came displaying the full glory of God, seen in the dual elements of “grace and truth.” He declared that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17) and a closer look reveals that “grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ” (NET); that is, according to the Complete Word Study Dictionary, grace and truth “began to be, or came into existence, or originated” through Jesus Christ. Though these two colossal gospel words are generously sprinkled throughout the New Testament, it is significant that they are only seen so intimately linked together in John’s gospel (Jn. 1:14,17) with the introduction of God’s Son, the Word, into the world. Though eternally existent as glories of God, grace and truth were mostly unknown before Jesus Christ came. These twin glorious features of God’s ways and means toward men are part and parcel of the gospel – a new chapter in God’s outreach to mankind had begun.
Grace is a unique Bible concept. The Greek word charis is defined at length in the Complete Word Study Dictionary as “that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude; a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.”
By these definitions we can see that God’s grace, flowing through Jesus Christ, is more than sufficient to supply and satisfy every need and craving of the human soul. Our creator God longs for us to find fulfillment and ultimate satisfaction in Him. He made us to be satisfied in Him. As the popular song says, “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us” that will neither be satisfied nor fulfilled as long as fulfillment is sought from the toxic springs of earth and human society.
The problem is that fallen human nature instinctively searches for such satisfaction in all the wrong places. When our craving becomes the primary objective of our lives and we launch ourselves into a lifelong search for that “something” that’s missing, we never find it. Our God-given hunger and thirst are meant to lead us to Him. Only when our search focuses on Him and reaches out for Him do we find ultimate satisfaction. Then grace triumphs.
The psalmist frequently ex-pressed this craving, as in Psalms 42:1-2 and 63:1: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God”; and “O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” When we sincerely and wholeheartedly seek God for who He is, His grace will massively overwhelm our hungers and thirsts with satisfaction.
But this is not merely about our satisfaction. It is about righting the cosmic wrong which resulted from man’s original rebellion against God – sin. Grace is God’s way of dealing legally and justly with sin while extending compassionate forgiveness to the guilty. For some gospel statements that illustrate or express grace’s impact, consider the following:
- “In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them … for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:19, 21).
- “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).
- “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
The lavish, limitless flow of God’s grace is perhaps best expressed in this simple declaration in John 1:16: “From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” These and many other statements center on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the essence of God’s grace offered to unworthy sinners.
We humans find it so easy to pervert and distort grace, that is, to redefine it in the shape of our own lusts and cravings, like those described in Jude 4, “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.” This is why grace came to us so intimately paired and balanced with truth. Grace can never be reduced to the level of mere good feeling or niceness. It is only received and only truly appreciated as we receive and enjoy it in harmony with God and His truth. And truth, indeed, has always been evident in God’s ways with mankind. But without grace, it can seem hard and harsh.
What is truth? Truth is closely associated with righteousness, rectitude and virtue. Truth is God’s character of being honest, good, trustworthy, candid and never deceptive nor twisted.
Psalms 117:2 says that “the truth of the LORD is everlasting” (NASB, NKJV, KJV); the same verse in ESV, NIV, and others, says: “The faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.” They are two different Hebrew words, though their meaning is very similar. Both speak of the dependability, steadfastness and fidelity of the Lord. A third word, still with a similar meaning, appears in Psalms 36:5: “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” In Genesis 18:25, Abraham asked the rhetorical question (which has the force of a declarative statement): “Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” Absolutely!
Titus 1:2 states that God “never lies” (ESV) or “cannot lie” (NASB, NKJV); and Hebrews 6:18 declares that “it is impossible for God to lie.” Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 30:5 that “every word of God proves true” (ESV). Our Lord Jesus, praying to His Father, declared, “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). This is a remarkable statement because it did not say, “Your word is true.” My word or your word may well be true in given instances – that is, in agreement with truth, accurate and consistent with the facts. But God’s word is not simply true; it is truth in its essence. And so is God Himself.
Truth is one of the sacred identities of the Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). He does not simply speak or represent truth; He is its essence. He is an honest, accurate and clear expression of God – the full embodiment of God (Col. 2:9) – and of righteousness and holiness and rectitude. He is the standard against which everything else is judged to be true or false.
Together They Make Good News
The gospel, God’s “good news” to mankind, is the expression of these two qualities. Salvation is available to all sinners who will believe. The first truth of the gospel is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). At first it is bad news, but it is the truth that all of us must come to face personally and confess. The next truth is that even though God loves the sinner; since He is holy and is repulsed by sin, God must judge and punish it. The third truth is that God’s grace has judged and punished our sin in a substitute: His holy, sinless Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who “by the grace of God … tasted death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). The fourth truth is that full pardon and eternal life are freely given to every sinner who repents of his sinfulness (that is, he takes sides with God against himself and his sin and simply, trustingly receives the gift). Without grace this is impossible.
We gain further appreciation of the depth of God’s grace as we understand the truth about sin. “Sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4). The Greek word for sin here is defined as “missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God” – that is, “all … fall short of the glory of God.” Lawlessness is “contempt for and violation of law; iniquity; unrighteousness” according to the Complete Word Study Dictionary. Sin is rebellion against God, defiance of His authority and rejection of His rule. How can the almighty creator God tolerate such attitudes and behavior from His creatures?
We know that sin originated when a chief angel in heaven defied God’s authority and assaulted His throne (Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:13-19). Sin infected the human race when this deposed angelic chief brought his insurgency to earth and drew Adam and Eve into the rebellion by inciting them to defy God’s authority (Gen. 3), thus infecting all humanity: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Sin is an ongoing issue, etched in the human DNA and perpetuated with the birth of each new generation. God had to eradicate this insidious and deadly infection in us. His holiness and justice would require our utter extermination. How could He save the race by destroying us all? His grace found the only means by which He could indeed save us, but the cost to Him was unimaginable. He sent His only Son, of whom He declared, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Lk. 3:22). “The Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 Jn. 4:14).
To accomplish this, “for our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth … He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness … Christ … suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 2:22, 24; 3:18).
Compassionate grace satisfied the demand of judicial truth when the One who is “the Truth” gave Himself to death on the Cross “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Jn. 14:6; Heb.2:9).
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org