By Kevin DeYoung
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
We need to be grace people and truth people. Not half grace and half truth. Not all grace on Mondays and all truth on Tuesdays. All grace and all truth all the time.
When I was being interviewed to be the pastor at University Reformed Church, I had to indicate where I was on a spectrum of issues. One of the lines measured grace versus truth. I wrote something like: “This is a bad question. Seeing as how Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth, I believe we should be 100% in both directions.” I think they knew it was a loaded question and wanted to see my response.
“Or” Is Not an Option
By personality and upbringing and a whole bunch of other factors most of us lean in one direction or the other.
Grace people are pleasant to be around. They don’t ruffle any feathers. They cut us a lot of slack. They’re easy going. They accept us for who we are. They don’t make demands. They are always welcoming. But without truth, grace isn’t really grace, it’s just being accepting and nice. But affirmation and being grace-filled are not the same thing.
Grace people without truth are pleasant to be around, but we wonder if they really like us or if they are just trying to be liked. They are tolerant, but they often do not know the difference between right and wrong. Or they don’t care to line up one way or the other. Grace people can be cowardly. They often refuse to make tough decisions in life. They demand nothing from others and get nothing in return. They accept us for who we are, but they never help us become who we should be.
And then there are truth people. Truth people are easy to admire. They have convictions and principles. They believe in right and wrong. They set standards. They speak out against injustice, oppression, and evil. They are articulate and well-spoken. But without grace, telling the truth can become an excuse for belligerence.
Truth people without grace are loyal to their cause, but we wonder if they are really loyal to us. They want to change us and make us better, but they don’t allow for mistakes. They are quick to cast judgment on others. They make difficult decisions, but they also make life difficult for others and for themselves. They can be slow to forgive. They inspire us with their courage, but turn us off with their intimidation.
If you are a grace person you are most concerned about being loved. If you are a truth person you are most concerned about being right even it means being unloved. Both have their dangers. Something is wrong if everyone hates you, and something is probably just as wrong if if everyone loves you.
Grace and Truth Walked Among Us
Jesus was all grace. He welcomed sinners and tax collectors and ate with them. He had compassion on the crowds when they were hungry and far from home. He welcomed the little children to come and sit on his lap-gentler and kinder than any department store Santa. He healed the lepers, the lame, and the blind. He saved the criminal on the cross, who, in his dying breath, confessed that the dying man next to him was truly the Son of God.
And Jesus was all truth. He condemned many of the religious leaders of his day for being liars and hypocrites. He talked about hell more than he talked about heaven. He called all his those who would be his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow him. He prophesied judgment on Jerusalem for their unrepentant hearts. He obeyed the law, set standards, and demanded everything from his followers, even their very lives.
Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth. All grace, all truth, all the time.
But he didn’t come simply to give us an example of grace and truth. He came to save us in grace and truth. It’s only after we’ve been saved and made right with God, the God says, “Alright, now that I have saved through Jesus, you need to know that I have saved you to look like Jesus.” The motivation to be full of grace and truth is not because we need to earn God’s favor, but because being a follower of Jesus Christ, means we look like the one we follow.
We desperately need grace in our lives. We need to hear from Jesus “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28) We need to know that God doesn’t expect us to clean up our act before we come to him. He implores us to come, now, today, just as we are–in brokenness, in pain, in humility, in repentance, and in faith. We need to hear that wayward children, who have squandered their inheritance and lived an immoral, rebellious life, can come home into the arms of their heavenly Father (Luke 15:20).
And we desperately need truth in our lives. We need to hear from Jesus “the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). And we need to hear from Jesus what this saying really means: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin…But if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). We need someone as gracious as Jesus to tell us the truth: you are not okay. You do not need to push away those feelings of guilt that weigh you down. You are guilty. And anyone who tells you otherwise, is not telling you the truth. And because they won’t tell you the truth, you won’t experience the grace you need.
We need truth. We need grace. We need Jesus.
Only Jesus Christ lived in perfect grace and perfect truth.
Only Jesus Christ can save hard-hearted, hard-headed sinners full of lies and deserving judgment.
And only by union with Jesus Christ, can we grow in the same truth and grace that walked among us in the miracle of the incarnation.
Source: thegospelcoalition.org (June 3, 2014)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. JOHN 1:14
Trinity and Incarnation belong together. The doctrine of the Trinity declares that the man Jesus is truly divine; that of the Incarnation declares that the divine Jesus is truly human. Together they proclaim the full reality of the Savior whom the New Testament sets forth, the Son who came from the Father’s side at the Father’s will to become the sinner’s substitute on the cross (Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:29; 3:13-17; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8).
The moment of truth regarding the doctrine of the Trinity came at the Council of Nicaea (A.D.325), when the church countered the Arian idea that Jesus was God’s first and noblest creature by affirming that he was of the same “substance” or “essence” (i.e., the same existing entity) as the Father. Thus there is one God, not two; the distinction between Father and Son is within the divine unity, and the Son is God in the same sense as the Father is. In saying that Son and Father are “of one substance,” and that the Son is “begotten” (echoing “only-begotten,” John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, and NIV text notes) but “not made,” the Nicene Creed unequivocally recognized the deity of the man from Galilee.
A crucial event for the church’s confession of the doctrine of the Incarnation came at the Council of Chalcedon (A.D.451), when the church countered both the Nestorian idea that Jesus was two personalities—the Son of God and a man—under one skin, and the Eutychian idea that Jesus’ divinity had swallowed up his humanity. Rejecting both, the council affirmed that Jesus is one divine-human person in two natures (i.e., with two sets of capacities for experience, expression, reaction, and action); and that the two natures are united in his personal being without mixture, confusion, separation, or division; and that each nature retained its own attributes. In other words, all the qualities and powers that are in us, as well as all the qualities and powers that are in God, were, are, and ever will be really and distinguishably present in the one person of the man from Galilee. Thus the Chalcedonian formula affirms the full humanity of the Lord from heaven in categorical terms.
The Incarnation, this mysterious miracle at the heart of historic Christianity, is central in the New Testament witness. That Jews should ever have come to such a belief is amazing. Eight of the nine New Testament writers, like Jesus’ original disciples, were Jews, drilled in the Jewish axiom that there is only one God and that no human is divine. They all teach, however, that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the Spirit-anointed son of David promised in the Old Testament (e.g., Isa. 11:1-5; Christos, “Christ,” is Greek for Messiah). They all present him in a threefold role as teacher, sin-bearer, and ruler—prophet, priest, and king. And in other words, they all insist that Jesus the Messiah should be personally worshiped and trusted—which is to say that he is God no less than he is man. Observe how the four most masterful New Testament theologians (John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter) speak to this.
John’s Gospel frames its eyewitness narratives (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24) with the declarations of its prologue (1:1-18): that Jesus is the eternal divine Logos (Word), agent of Creation and source of all life and light (vv. 1-5, 9), who through becoming “flesh” was revealed as Son of God and source of grace and truth, indeed as “God the only begotten” (vv. 14, 18; NIV text notes). The Gospel is punctuated with “I am” statements that have special significance because I am (Greek: ego eimi) was used to render God’s name in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14; whenever John reports Jesus as saying ego eimi, a claim to deity is implicit. Examples of this are John 8:28, 58, and the seven declarations of his grace as (a) the Bread of Life, giving spiritual food (6:35, 48, 51); (b) the Light of the World, banishing darkness (8:12; 9:5); (c) the gate for the sheep, giving access to God (10:7, 9); (d) the Good Shepherd, protecting from peril (10:11, 14); (e) the Resurrection and Life, overcoming our death (11:25); (f) the Way, Truth, and Life, guiding to fellowship with the Father (14:6); (g) the true Vine, nurturing for fruitfulness (15:1, 5). Climactically, Thomas worships Jesus as “my Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus then pronounces a blessing on all who share Thomas’s faith and John urges his readers to join their number (20:29-31).
Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15-17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.
The writer to the Hebrews, purporting to expound the perfection of Christ’s high priesthood, starts by declaring the full deity and consequent unique dignity of the Son of God (Heb. 1:3, 6, 8-12), whose full humanity he then celebrates in chapter 2. The perfection, and indeed the very possibility, of the high priesthood that he describes Christ as fulfilling depends on the conjunction of an endless, unfailing divine life with a full human experience of temptation, pressure, and pain (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:14-5:2; 7:13-28; 12:2-3).
Not less significant is Peter’s use of Isaiah 8:12-13 (1 Pet. 3:14). He cites the Greek (Septuagint) version, urging the churches not to fear what others fear but to set apart the Lord as holy. But where the Septuagint text of Isaiah says, “Set apart the Lord himself,” Peter writes, “Set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter would give the adoring fear due to the Almighty to Jesus of Nazareth, his Master and Lord.
The New Testament forbids worship of angels (Col. 2:18; Rev. 22:8-9) but commands worship of Jesus and focuses consistently on the divine-human Savior and Lord as the proper object of faith, hope, and love here and now. Religion that lacks these emphases is not Christianity. Let there be no mistake about that!