Jesus, the Eternal Word became the Incarnate Word—the Word made flesh. In Him, we see the glory of God, which is revealed as “full of grace and truth.” The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. It’s not just grace alone, but grace and truth. Grace is God’s response to sin; without sin, there is no need for grace. On the other hand, without the truth about the law, there would have been no sin, for sin is the transgression of the law: “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law” (Rom 5:13) & “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom 4:15). So, law came through Moses, for without law, we would not have known what is sin. On the other hand, without sin, there would have been no revelation of grace, for grace is God’s response to sin. The often-asked question as to why didn’t God stop Adam and Eve from sinning is best answered by God's revelation of grace. If God has stopped sin from entering the world, we would not have known God's response to human sin, which is grace as God's self-substitution for our sin.
So, before we can understand grace, we need to know the truth about sin and law. The Lutheran would call this as “law and gospel”. But John describes this as Grace and Truth. Churches that are strong in preaching truth but weak in preaching grace end up being harsh and judgmental, creating guilt and condemnation in their members. This is unbalanced teaching.
On the other, churches that are strong in grace but soft-pedal truth end up with members who are too relax about sin and careless about striving to be holy. Such churches even refuse to talk about sin for they think that preaching sin and repentance will lead to guilt and condemnation. But without preaching about law and sin, grace is meaningless: “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). In other words, we cannot understand grace apart from sin, and we cannot understand sin apart from the Law. When we throw out the Law, we also throw out sin; and when we throw out sin, we also throw out grace.
Grace apart from sin is not biblical grace: it’s something else. It distorts God’s true glory reflected through Jesus Christ. Truth without grace and grace without truth both distort God’s glory. Where churches preach truth without grace, God becomes a Fearful Judge; when churches preach grace without truth, God becomes an Indulgent Daddy; but when churches preach grace and truth, God becomes the Holy Father.
Holy Father, we thank You that You are full of grace and truth, as revealed in Your Son, the Word made flesh. Thank You that Your response to our sin is grace, and thank You for Your law, for without it, we wouldn’t known sin and our need for grace. Amen.