Q&A: The Relationship between Grace and Truth

The Relationship between Grace and Truth

Question

What is meant by grace and truth when they are joined together? (John 1:14)

Answer

The phrases “grace and truth” (John 1:14, 17; Col. 1:6; 2 John 1:3) and “love and faithfulness” (Psa. 86:15; 2 Sam. 15:20) are both seen in the Old and New Testaments.

Of particular interest, grace and truth are conjoined in Exodus 34:5-7 in the person of God himself. Recall that Moses requested to see the Lord’s glory (Exod. 33:18). As the Lord passed by the cleft in the rock where Moses was safely hidden (Exod. 33:21-23), the Lord declared his glorious covenant name, Yahweh — the Lord.

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The Old Testament Hebrew “steadfast love and faithfulness” reads a little differently from “grace and truth” fround in the New Testament, but the meaning is the same. “Steadfast love” or hesed in Hebrew refers to God’s covenantal love, mercy, lovingkindness, or grace. “Faithfulness” or emet in Hebrew means truth or faithfulness.

Also, in the New Testament these same attributes of God’s Old Testament name (Exod. 3:5) are ascribed to Jesus (cf. John 1:1). In John 1:14, 17 we read, “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 … For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (see, John 1:14-18).

Jesus is God. He abounds and overflows with grace and truth. In Jesus there is a river that flows forth with drenching waves of mercy and grace. He is slow to anger and is brimming in love and faithfulness, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. Those who are enabled to turn to the Lord discover that at the foot of the cross God forgives the guilty who turn from their sin and turn to Jesus with their whole heart. This is part and parcel of the Lord’s name (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). This is the truth of who God is and always has been.

What is meant by grace and truth when they are joined together in John 1:14? In part it means that God has a name. Jesus is his name. He was prophesied of beforehand (Isa. 53:1-12). [1] He is full of mercy, grace, and love. He forgives sin – he wipes it out! This is the truth of his name. This is the truth of him as a person who was born to die for his people.

The truth is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Psa. 2:7; Matt. 16:16) who is faithful to save his people in grace.

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29; cf. Gen. 3:21).

Note

[1] Centuries before it was prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a woman (Gen. 3:15; Gal. 4:4), a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23), in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1). He would be of the line of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Matt. 1:1), a descendent of Isaac (Gen. 17:19; Luke 3:34) and Jacob (Num. 24:17; Matt. 1:2) and of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10; Luke 3:23-38). He would be the heir of King David’s throne (2 Sam. 7:12-13; Luke 1:32-33); an eternal throne (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 1:8-12). He would be called Immanuel (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). Jesus would spend a season in Egypt (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:14-15) and a massacre would take place at his birthplace (Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:16-18).

A messenger would prepare the way for Messiah (Isa. 40:3-5; Luke 3:3-6) and his very own people would reject him (Psa. 69:8; John 1:11). He would be a prophet (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:20-22) and be preceded by Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:13-14). He would be called a Nazarene (Isa. 11:1; Matt. 2:23), speak in parables (Isa. 6:9-10; Matt. 13:10-15, 34-35), and bring light to Galilee (Isa. 9:1-2; Matt. 4:13-16). He would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:5-6) and called King (Psa. 2:6; Matt. 27:37).

Messiah would be praised by little children (Psa. 8:2; Matt. 21:16), and yet be betrayed by a friend (Psa. 41:9; Luke 22:47-48). His price would be used to buy a potter's field (Zech. 11:12-13; Matt. 27:9-10). He would be falsely accused (Psa. 35:11; Mark 14:57-58), silent before his accusers (Isa. 53:7; Mark 15:4-5), spat upon and struck (Isa. 50:6; Matt. 26:67), would be hated without cause (Psa. 35:19; John 15:24-25) and crucified with criminals (Isa. 53:12; Matt. 27:38). He would be given vinegar to drink (Psa. 69:21; John 19:28-30), his hands and feet would be pierced (Psa. 22:16; John 20:25-27), he would be mocked and ridiculed (Psa. 22:7-8; Luke 23:35), and some would gamble for his garments (Psa. 22:18; Matt. 27:35).

Messiah's bones would not be broken (Psa. 34:20; John 19:33-36). He would be forsaken by God (Psa. 22:1; Matt. 27:46) and yet pray for his enemies (Psa. 109:4; Luke 23:34). Soldiers would pierce his side (Zech. 12:10; John 19:34). He died! Jesus would be buried with the rich (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-60). He would resurrect from the dead (Psa. 16:10; Matt. 28:2-7), ascend to heaven (Psa. 24:7-10; Mark 16:19) and would be seated at God's right hand (Psa. 68:18; Matt. 22:44). Messiah “is” the sacrifice for the sins of his people (Isa. 53:5-12; Rom. 5:6-8).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).