Grace Instead of Grace
John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NASB). John brilliantly delivers the Christmas narrative here.Jesus was full of grace and truth. He did not sacrifice grace by teaching the truth. He did not sacrifice the truth by offering grace to those who needed it. Sadly, in the church, we see one side or the other but not a proper balance. Grace with no truth leads to a lukewarm, half-hearted religion where the people do not see a need for a Savior. Truth with no grace leads to a cold, judgmental religion that prevents anyone from coming to God. What impact could we make if we were like Jesus, full of grace and truth?
Perhaps the church struggles with this vital balance because we do not fully understand the Law of God. Some reject the Law altogether, which is a mistake. Others use the Law without understanding that it is only through God that we can keep it anyway. That, too, is a mistake. When we talk about grace, it will benefit all of us to remember something about the Law. The Law is a portrait of God’s grace. A brief example of this is found in the Ten Commandments. Who benefits from keeping God’s commandments? Everyone! My wife and I have four kids, aged eighteen to nine. We have rules in place for them. Our rules are designed to protect them from being harmed or harming others. They need these rules, even when they do not understand or agree with them. God knows what is best for us and made His rules to help us.
God’s grace is amazing! It is so much more than we imagine. When Jesus came, things were different. God showed us grace through the Law, but He added to that grace through Christ. John said, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16 NASB). There is a better way to translate the phrase “grace upon grace,” but it doesn’t make much sense in English. That better translation is “Grace instead of Grace.” That does not sound right in English, but it is closer to what John was saying. John is teaching us that God gave us the Law, which was His grace, but now He has given us a greater grace instead of that grace. When we understand what Christ is and has done for us, we can begin to understand grace and truth. So we read on, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 NASB). God's grace is Him reaching to us to help. We were helpless, so God stepped in. Paul said, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6 NASB). Without God's help, we would be in serious trouble. God's grace shows up when we need it, but it may not be how we think we need it. His grace could be in the form of law, but it is always "realized in Jesus Christ." Show people Jesus!
Let’s get back to the things that matter. People matter and need grace as much as truth and vice versa. Our responsibility is to offer them the truth with grace and grace with the truth. None of us would make it without God’s grace. Likewise, the people around you need God’s grace as much as you. Jesus was full of grace and truth! We must also be full of grace and truth.
Pastor Josh May