Grace, Truth and a Wise History Professor

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.
— John 1:14
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
— Psalm 127:1a
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
— Luke 14:28
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
— Matthew 7:24-27

My Church History professor at Erskine Seminary used to begin every semester with John 1:14 (find it above). He would then ask the following question, which side of the horse do you fall off of: grace or truth? His point came from the last part of the verse (full of grace and truth). Jesus in his perfection could be completely gracious even as he was completely truthful, whereas we as sinful people emphasize one or the other. Emphasizing the graciousness of God to the neglect of the truth encourages lawlessness (God is gracious to forgive, after all!). Emphasizing the truthfulness of God to the neglect of God’s grace encourages works righteousness (you see God’s law, so do it to be saved!). Of course, we see in Jesus both grace and truth perfectly realized, which reveals a fulfilled salvation on our behalf (grace) that leads to right living unto God (truth).

Jesus is full of grace. This can be seen in his earthly ministry of mercy and healing miracles, and it is ultimately seen in his salvific work for his people. Humanity cannot save itself from the punishment we deserve (damnation!), yet God saw fit to send his Son, Jesus Christ, who graciously took our place. This is the fulness of grace spoken of in John 1:14. This is God building the house because all we can do on our is labor in vain (Psalm 127 above)!

Likewise, Jesus is full of truth. Just like Jesus’ grace, his earthly ministry demonstrates his embodiment of truth. Proclamation of God’s Word, right interpretation of God’s Word, and Jesus’ unwillingness to change his words regarding salvation and the Kingdom of God are just a few examples of this. Ultimately, it was Jesus’ perfect obedience to the law (the Truth!) that allowed him to be a worthy sacrifice on our behalf. Without Jesus’ perfect obedience in his life (the truth), the salvation of his people could not happen (the grace). In that sense, Jesus counted the cost before God, and he found himself prepared for what needed to be done (Luke 14 above).

So, let me ask again: in your own life, do you find yourself gravitating towards grace or truth? One without the other is destruction. Without grace, you are missing the solid rock on which to build your house. Without truth, you are missing the house itself. Either way, when the rains come, you will be swept away! Only as we hold fast to Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and truth, will we begin to recognize the sweet salvation given to us (grace) and the ability to live for God (truth). Jesus says it well in Matthew 7, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock…