Some Christians are of the belief that reaching the lost with the saving grace of Jesus can be hampered if we also focus on issues in culture today related to the holiness of God. Therefore, they willingly choose not to speak about or downplay God’s truth on critical contemporary social issues like life, the existence of evil, sexuality, gender, and new definitions of family, curiously thinking doing so will hinder the Gospel.
Such thinking is bad Christian theology because it is a faulty understanding of Christ Himself. The Apostle John starts his beautiful gospel telling us Christ is the eternally existent Word who made all things, is Lord over of all things and life exists in Him. In John 1:14 we read this profound revelation,
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.
Jesus Christ, the center of the Gospel itself and the very glory of the Father, is full of both grace and truth. Both grace and truth exist harmoniously in Christ. They are never in conflict.
We must also recognize that full is a definitive term. There is no such thing as kind of or pretty much full. Full is full.
Jesus is not more full of grace than truth, nor more full of truth than grace. Jesus, and the thus the Gospel itself, are equally 100% truth and grace. Christians cannot choose to prefer “grace Jesus” over “truth Jesus” or vice versa. Any such “Jesus” is a false god, an artificial creation of human minds who mistakenly believe Jesus needs our P.R. help.
We must also be clear that John 1:14 is not telling us that Jesus can properly navigate the divide between truth and grace, as if these are different things. They are not. They are fundamental qualities of the glory He shares with the Father. The two are never at odds with one another, but always enlivening and illuminating each other, living in literal divine harmony. They are never in messaging conflict.
The holiness of God is never in conflict with His salvific grace and love. If any two things live in natural harmony, it is these two qualities because they are fundamental and essential to God Himself. They are both what Jesus is equally full of. That is what John wanted us to know through the introduction of his gospel.
We must also admit that any “Gospel” that downplays God’s truth in favor of His grace knows very little of either. This is what the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of as “cheap grace” in his classic The Cost of Discipleship. The great German theologian explained in the first line of the first chapter of that work, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. …Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares.” He correctly adds, speaking the truth of John 1:14, “Cheap grace amounts to a denial of the living Word of God.”
It is grace without truth, which is no grace at all.
Romans 12:9 tells us “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Ephesians 5:11 instructs all believers to “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
Speaking the genuine goodness of the Gospel to our unbelieving friends requires a mindfulness toward the evil that the Good News overcomes. Our gospel witness must be precisely what Christ the eternal Word is, brimming full of both grace and truth, in equal measure.
Anything less is a Christ-less falsehood. We do God no favors believing and acting as if one part of His nature can be in conflict with the other.
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