Grace and truth

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“The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

As well as God’s grace, Jesus brought something else that didn’t come through Moses: truth. The law is good and right and holy (Romans 7:12), but it is not the “complete truth” compared to what Jesus brought.

What was the truth Jesus brought that Moses didn’t? It says in John 1:18 that no one has ever seen God, but Jesus has made him known. On another occasion Jesus said, “No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has made him known” (John 6:46). What Jesus brought is the truth of what the Father is really like.

The law does not give you a complete or accurate picture of what God is like. In fact, the law is the exact opposite of Jesus (who is a perfect picture of God – Colossians 1:15) in many ways.

The law condemns you constantly; Jesus never condemns you. In fact, he stands up for you and defends you (1 John 2:1). The law never lifts a finger to help you; Jesus through the Holy Spirit is your comforter and counsellor and encourager (John 14:26). The law is cold and distant and never takes circumstances into account when you appeal to it; Jesus is affectionate (Philippians 1:8), understanding (Hebrews 4:15), entreatable and merciful (Hebrews 2:17).

A dangerous consequence of basing your life on the law is that it will distort your image of God. And you will become like the image of God you have in your mind: condemning (John 8:4-5), loading others down but never helping them (Luke 11:46), cold and unmerciful (Mark 3:1-6).

You will also misrepresent what God is like to other people, which is something God takes very seriously. Jesus came to reveal the Father and show us what he is really like, opening the door for people to come to him; “religion” comes to tell us that God is really not that gracious and merciful after all, and to shut the door in men’s faces (Matthew 23:13).

For reflection:

It says many times in the New Testament that the Father is exactly like Jesus (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15, John 14:9). The Father was always like Jesus. There is no such thing as “the god of the Old Testament” who was mean and cruel, and “the god of the New Testament” who is nice. He was always compassionate, gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).

The reason why there is so much judgement in the Old Testament was because the solution to sin hadn’t been revealed yet – it was still a problem. Sin really is as bad as that, and it really does deserve death. But now he has dealt with the sin issue thoroughly and totally and completely, and we don’t need to fear his judgement ever again:

“Salvation ... to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:71, 74-75)

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