Christ the source of Grace and Truth
© C. O. Bishop revised 2021
John 1:17 “…but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.”
John has already identified Jesus Christ as the Word of God, the Creator God, the Life-giver (in fact, Life, itself), and the Light of the World in every sense. The total concept is so overwhelming that one might think, “What else could there be?” And yet, John is nowhere nearly finished introducing the person of Christ.
In John 1:14 (read it) John introduces the concepts of Grace and Truth, as associated with the Messiah, Jesus. He says that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… And we beheld His glory; the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of Grace and Truth.” The fact that God would become Man at ALL is an incredible act of Grace. Stepping down from the throne where he had been worshipped throughout eternity (as far as we understand it—but who knows how long there have been angelic beings?), to be born as a lowly human being in a poor village, to a family that was poor even by the standards of that village, and then to allow the outrageous behavior of his creation to destroy him as a human…that was not a simple condescension, as if some rich college-kid were slumming in a poor country village, but real, Divine Grace, as He came to die! That was his purpose in coming at all. It was not a tragedy, but rather a victory
Grace from the Foundation of the Earth
We see the beginning of God’s Grace exhibited in Genesis (where else?), the book of beginnings. Adam and his wife had been warned of the consequences of disobeying the one, solitary commandment they had received. God could have simply wiped them off the globe and begun again with fresh clay, so to speak. But, having begun a good thing in the creation (remember, at every step of the way, God declared His creation to be good), God was not willing to abandon His work.
He revealed His Grace in the Law of the Substitute: God first declared that there was coming a person called the Seed of Woman, who would undo the damage done by Satan. Then upon Adam’s statement of faith, God clothed the fallen couple in the skins of slain animals—the first blood sacrifice.
The Law of the Substitute provided that if a truly Righteous person (try finding one!) were to substitute himself for the guilty person, the punishment, along with the guilt, could be transferred to the righteous person, and the sinner would go free, with the righteousness of the Substitute being imputed to the sinner. This concept was only partly developed in the Old Testament. The believers saw the Lamb of the Sacrifice, a truly innocent party, being killed in the place of the ones doing the killing. The true believers transferred their sin, by faith, to the innocent Lamb, and took his life, in faith that God would accept that sacrifice on their behalf.
Just as today there are people who recite creeds, but have never made it personal, there were folk then, who went through the motions of a sacrifice, but never personally acknowledged their guilt. They saw that they had done something “meritorious” by performing the ritual. This defies the concept of Grace. Grace is specifically unearned favor. If you think you have earned good treatment, then you are demanding wages. If you recognize that God not only owes you nothing, but that you deserve his judgment, then you are throwing yourself on the Grace and Mercy of God. Grace and Mercy are the “flip side” of one another. “Grace” is God giving me favor I do not deserve. “Mercy” is God not giving me the judgment I really do deserve. So, let’s think back:
- Did Adam and Eve deserve God’s Favor and Mercy? Of course not—they had chosen to disobey a command for which the penalty was death. And they knew it.
- Did Abel deserve God’s favor? Evidently not…he recognized his lostness as a sinner, and brought a blood sacrifice as a substitute for himself, looking forward, by the way, to the Cross of Christ. It looked forward to the time when the one known as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, would die, to undo the work of the deceiver—the Liar, and Father of Lies.
- Paul, one of the most powerfully used servants of God in history, declared his own unworthiness, and explained that Grace was unearned favor, using Abram as an example.
- Mary, long exalted by the Roman Catholics as the “Mother of God” (among other titles), actually claimed Him as her Savior, recognizing that she too, was a sinner. It is important to remember that the only command Mary ever uttered was to instruct some servants to do whatever Jesus said. She claimed nothing for herself beyond God’s Grace.
When we finally get to the book of the Revelation (Revelation 13:8) we find that Jesus was the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth.” Now…was he literally the animal that was slain to cover the sins of Adam and Eve? I seriously doubt it, as it specifically says “skins” (plural, not singular). But if it turned out that somehow it really was Jesus, it wouldn’t hurt my theology one bit. Jesus is the only substitute for the sinner, and there is no substitute for Him. All the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament were simply pictures of the One Lamb of God in the New Testament.
The truth is even more profound than something like “the lamb really having been Jesus.” I believe that literally, before the creation, God the Son (who is the Creator, you remember, and the same God who walked in the Garden in the cool of the day), knew exactly what was going to happen, and substituted himself in advance, for the lost race of Man. The only people who benefit by it, personally, are those who trust him as their Savior, personally, but He died for the entire race. He was literally “the Lamb slain” from the foundation of the earth…not just from the Fall of Man.
Grace in the Old Testament
We tend to think that Grace was invented at the day of Pentecost or thereabouts, as we call the Church Age the “Age of Grace”. There is nothing wrong with so calling it, but we should recognize that Grace is a personal attribute of an unchanging God, who we know primarily through the incarnation … God in flesh… Jesus Christ. Grace was demonstrated from Genesis onward, and described by the Prophets, including the Psalmist, David.
Psalm 32:1, 2 says “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” We still have the concept of imputation in our society, but we no longer call it by that name. In banking, they used to have a phrase, “Post it to my account”. It carried the idea that this deposit will be recorded as a credit to my account immediately, not waiting until some clerk gets around to it. We would rather not have debits posted to our accounts even though we accrue them ourselves, but we would like to have credits imputed immediately. The psalmist was saying how blessed the person was to whose account God would not post their sin debt…not “how blessed the person who had never accrued such a sin debt.”
Grace Extended to the Nation of Israel
In Numbers chapter 16, 14,700 people died because of sin. In Numbers chapter 21 “much people” of Israel died because of sin (no specific number). But in Numbers 23:21 it says, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them.” The only way that can be true is Grace—God clearly DID see sin in them and dealt with it rather harshly, from human perspective. But regarding Israel as a nation, He chooses to see them in the light of Grace. He is not imputing Sin to his people.
Later on, regarding Israel, God said, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25) and, “…I will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34), but each of these were future tense, and are specific to the second Coming of Christ and the subsequent Kingdom Age. Notice, though: it specifically states that it is not for the sake of the sinner that he chooses not to remember sin—it is for HIS sake—the sinner has NOT earned forgiveness…God forgives to satisfy His own agapé Love, and Mercy. That is Grace.
Positionally, God sees Israel, on a national basis, as being separate from sin. Conditionally, he says blindness has come, in part, to Israel. They are blind to the reality of their lost condition and position, on an individual basis. Those whose eyes miraculously open (and who see Jesus as their Messiah) become part of the Bride of Christ. Then, their sins are truly forgotten, and He places His Spirit within them, and their sins he remembers no more, just as he promised. And it is the same for us.
Grace in the New Testament
When Jesus went to the Cross, he took all our sins with him. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 (read it) states that Jesus literally became sin for our benefit; and the result was that we became the righteousness of God in Him. I have a hard time with that statement. I see my sin every day of my life. I am surrounded by the evidence of my sin and failures. I fail to see myself through the eyes of God. And, the truth is, I am a sinner. But God has declared me Righteous.
I certainly have not earned this precious standing: I am a sinner by birth, by predisposal, by inclination, and by choice. I was on God’s death row, and the only reason I do not now stand condemned, and lost before him, is that Jesus stepped in and was executed in my place. That is what Grace is all about. It is the fact that, utterly without my merit, God extended His eternal favor to me. So, what did I do to get it?
NOTHING! I did nothing. He did it all. I had no part in the work of Salvation…I received it as a gift from him, by faith. Faith is simply believing God…trusting His character, and His Word.
Jesus said, “He that heareth my Word, and believeth on him that sent me Hath everlasting Life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death unto Life.” (John 5:24)
Grace and Truth
There are several aspects of the concept of truth:
- No deception (God is light and in Him is no darkness at all…1st John 1:5)
- Full disclosure (then shall I know fully, even as I am fully known…1st Corinthians 13:12)
- Full self-revelation (a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart…Hebrews 4:12)
We like the idea that God will not deceive us. We like the idea that “…we’ll understand it all, by and by”. But we are not really happy that the intents and thoughts of our hearts are (and will be) revealed.
Jesus said “I am the way, the Truth and the Life—no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” What part of Jesus do you not feel comfortable with? He says he is the only way to get to God. Are you comfortable with the fact that God has not provided a multiplicity of ways to approach Him? And, as He is the Word, as well as the Truth, we can look to Him to refute the lies of the Enemy.
He says that the Way includes the Truth about us and God, as well as a changed Life, which ours by imputation, but is also ours to actually live out on earth. Are you comfortable with the fact that He is THE truth? That he will not “wink at sin”, but will deal with us completely honestly, now and in the future? Our sins were dealt with at the cross, it is true. But complacency about sin will cost us dearly, in terms of lost reward.
He says he is “the Life”. For us to experience God’s love and power and guidance, we need to embrace Him as the Life. Not only our “get-out-of-jail-free card”, as if He were just our “eternal Life insurance”, but THE life—the source of our daily life, and the only real reason for our lives to continue at all.
In the Psalms (Psalm 85:10, 11) it says that “Mercy and Truth are met together; Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and Righteousness shall look down from Heaven.” I would suggest that this could only be fulfilled at the Cross, as the Mercy of God extended itself to the Truth of our sin through the person who IS the Eternal Truth. The Truth, in the person of Christ, looked up from the Earth, and Righteousness in the person of the Father, looked down from Heaven. At that point in history, the Righteousness of God could be at Peace with the fallen creature, Man. Righteousness and Peace truly embraced at the Cross.
Grace in Our Lives
So, how do I apply any of this to my own life? I needed Grace to be born again, obviously, but I also need Grace by which to live. Every Pauline epistle, except one, begins with the greeting, “Grace be to you, and Peace…” (and always in that order.) Initially, of course, we received the saving Grace of God in order to experience Peace with God. Romans 5:1 says, “…therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God” As believers, however, we need the sustaining Grace of God to experience the Peace of God. (Philippians 4:6, 7)
We were saved by Grace through faith, and we are encouraged to walk by faith: “as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Colossians 2:6)
We confess our sins daily: moment by moment, sometimes. We confess that we deserve nothing of His Love and Care…and He extends His Grace to us…unearned. We ask for wisdom, intending to walk by that light…and He extends his Grace to us: His wisdom and the will to walk in it.
Paul sought healing, (2 Corinthians 12:8, 9), but was admonished that “My Grace is sufficient for thee.” We may seek a better life, and may even receive it…but the admonishment stands: “My Grace is sufficient for thee.” God does not owe us anything, and the things we desire in addition to his Grace, may, in some cases, be contrary to his Will, as it was when Paul pleaded for healing.
Do you really want to experience the Grace and Truth of God in your life? The Grace and Truth of God came to us (and they still come to us) through the person of Jesus Christ. He is the only source.
- Read his Word daily to seek his Grace by which to live. Remember Who really is the Word.
- Pray, seeking His Grace, and His will. Make sure you decide in advance to obey it.
- Give thanks for the Grace that he liberally pours out. (He always does, even when we don’t recognize it.)
- Depend upon the Truth of His Word, and the Truth that is His character, as you feed on His Word, and live in His Grace. His Truth is the foundation of our Security. (Ephesians 6:14)
- Serve by his Grace. “…For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
Finally, be tender-hearted toward one another as fellow-heirs of the Grace of God.
Extend the Grace of God to those around you, through Evangelism, through speaking the Truth in Love, and through Mercy in your dealings. Forgive others as you have already been forgiven. Don’t wait for them to “deserve it:” Grace means giving when it is not deserved. Extend to others the Mercy, Grace and Truth that have already been extended to you.
And, in so doing, you will more deeply experience His Grace in your own life.
May the Lord bless us all and lead us to grow in His Grace.