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Full of Grace and Truth

The Bible opens with these words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). It has been said that the rest of the Bible is just the outworking of this verse. I believe there is a great deal of truth to that sentiment. The Bible begins with God and the description of how God entered into a covenant relationship with his people. With these opening words, we are immediately confronted with both the origin of everything that was created and the gracious manner in which it was created. There is a God who desires, simply because of his good kindness, to make himself known to the people he created. The Bible builds up to the grand conclusion of this creation with a new Jerusalem in Revelation 21. This is a vision of creation where God is truly known by all his people and his glory shines in the place of the sun and the moon. Death, disease, and decay are no more. Sin no longer hinders and clouds the vision of God’s children in seeing their Father.

“Between these two moments,” Herman Bavinck argues, “lies the revelation of God in all its length and breadth.”[1] The thrust of this revelation is the divine covenantal promise, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” And the crowning apex of this revelation is the revealing of God’s own Son, Immanuel, God-with-us. God brought everything into being by the power of his word. The culmination in the new Jerusalem is the fulfillment of every promise of his word. So it makes sense that the highpoint of God’s revelation would be the Word made flesh. Bavinck then makes this incredibly important point about the Son of God, “That is why Christ, in whom the Word became flesh, is said to be full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”[2]

What is meant by this idea that Jesus is full of grace and truth? In John 17:17 Jesus prays that God the Father would “sanctify them in the truth.” Then Jesus immediately defines his terms, “your word is truth.” Jesus’ definition fits with our understanding of God’s creative work. We know what is true in the natural world by understanding that God created a world of order out of chaos. We can use the scientific method to test and given the same set of criteria, because our world is not governed by chaos, we can expect an experiment to produce the same results again and again. We can discover the truth. We must note, however, that we don’t create the truth. We discover the truth which God has created. God spoke the word of creation and the truth of what has happened. Jesus, as the very Word of God, is the manifestation of truth. He speaks what the Father calls him to speak (John 12:48-49). When Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), he would have done well to realize that Truth was standing before him.

There is more to Jesus than just being full of truth. Because of our sin, if Jesus was just truth, the reality of Immanuel, God-with-us, would only bring condemnation. Our knowledge of God and his creation would only bring about a truthful awareness of the just judgment deserved for our sin. But God from the beginning has been full of grace and truth. The grace of God is exhibited in his revealing himself to us. In his revealing, he shares himself with us. There was no need in God that necessitated his revealing himself. God, simply of his own good pleasure, created and revealed himself to us. From the opening words of Genesis to the close of Revelation, he declares to his people, “I am your God and you are my people.” This revelation is nowhere more clearly displayed than in the person of Jesus Christ. The Word made flesh. This is all of grace.

God has always been full of grace and truth and this has been most clearly displayed to us in Jesus Christ. The application of this is really two-fold. First, this reality of God should cause us to glorify God. He is both the source of all truth and he has graciously revealed that truth to us. The generosity of God is on full display in his grace and truth. “God gives himself to his people in order that his people would give themselves to him.”[3]

Second, we should seek to express this same balance of grace and truth in our lives. Often we gravitate toward one or the other. Perhaps words of truth come easily to us. We are able to see right and wrong, and then we point it out. But truth without grace brings only condemnation and judgment. Or we might gravitate more towards grace. Overlooking an offense and extending mercy are much easier than confronting someone in their sin. Grace without truth leads ultimately to a soft condemnation. As God has always been full of grace and truth in his relationship with us, most prominently in Christ, we too must see our relationships marked by grace and truth.

[1] Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1977), 24.

[2] Bavinck, 24.

[3] Bavinck, 24.

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