I have been meditating on the concepts of grace AND truth vs. the Law the past couple of days. With those thoughts in mind, I made the following post on Facebook:
"God's love and justice are never in conflict. Neither is grace and truth. If you've taken sides, your perspective is skewed."
In my experience, I have observed that some individuals, groups, and even whole churches tend to view "grace" and "truth" as if they are somehow opposites, like railroad tracks that are crossed instead of parallel, or signs that point in opposite directions.
Grace and truth both come from the Father. They will point in the same direction every time. If we perceive differently, then it is our perspective that has become warped. If we feel like there is a tension between the two, then it is we who have become mistaken in our thinking.
One of my pastor friends commented to my post, "Absolutely true Burt Campbell. Can you give us an example of "taking sides?"
I've opted to paste my response here to be able to access it again more easily in the future. Feel free to comment with your reflections!
I've been thinking about how we sometimes get fixated on a particular revelation of an aspect of verse or passage from the Bible and miss out on the whole counsel of the scripture, and also how we can be lazy in our definition and understanding of biblical concepts.
For example, as we read the Old Testament, we see the standards of the Law and how the Israelites continually failed to live up to them. In the New Testament, Jesus introduces a new covenant, one of grace, that fulfills the Law and releases us into freedom. That's a biblical understanding that is true and right, which any believer who has studied to any minimum degree will likely agree. However...
If we are not careful, I think that it is easy to misunderstand or to mistakenly redefine terms. For example, some might be tempted to define the Law as "rules," and therefore grace as "license." Both of these definitions touch on truth, but are incomplete and therefore in error. Consider these implications:
I have seen how some churches over the years in various places across the country work hard to define themselves as a "grace" church. Somewhere along the way, they have experienced the joy and corresponding freedom that comes from recognizing that our salvation (from sin, out of bondage, rescue from hell, releasing wholeness in every area) has been accomplished by the pure grace of God, and could never have been experienced through our works. What a glorious revelation! But in the embrace of that revelation, does an attitude arise that says therefore "rules" no longer matter? That would be a mistake!
On the other side of the coin, other churches work to avoid what they perceive as the "permissive" mindset of grace and instead define themselves as a "truth" church (as if grace and truth are somehow opposed????). They fear the implications of seeming to be soft on sin, and return to the Law as a basis of maintaining relationship with God. Often, they recognize (perhaps subconsciously) that this doesn't sound right (since the New Testament is clear that we have been set free from the Law of sin and death), so they instead call themselves a "truth" church while championing the tenets of the Law. This is also error!
Interestingly, in the first chapter of John's gospel, as John helps us see that the Word is not merely an idea, but a person (God Himself!) and that the Word become flesh (Jesus!), he also presents the idea of a new covenant encompassing and superseding the one that came before. Look at this:
- vs. 16, which tells us that with the coming of Jesus, all who receive Him (vs. 12) have become the recipients of His grace!
- vs 17, which declares that the Law came through Moses (the Old Covenant!), while grace AND truth came through Jesus Christ!
That is fascinating to me. It doesn't just say grace came through Jesus, or just say that truth came through Jesus, but grace AND truth! Grace give us what we could never have on our own; Truth brings the revelation of the way things really are. John presents both of these together in Christ as the defining of a new covenant that fulfills and builds beyond what came before. This gives us so much to celebrate and unpack!
So, if we ever think of grace and truth as if they are ever in any way not congruent, we have erred. God is not divided. If we ever think that the immensity of God's grace is somehow diminished by some other "truth" of the Word, we have misunderstood and become influenced by error. In the same way, if our adherence to the "truth" of the Word ever feels threatened by the message of grace, we likewise are in error.
In either case, the remedy is to press deeper and ask the Holy Spirit to increase and clarify our understanding (and then our personal embrace and application) of the Word so that we experience the fullness of knowing Christ as He is...full of grace AND truth! (vs 14). :-D