ISSUE: 2011, Volume 8, Issue 3
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Building Blocks of the Christian Faith
Building Blocks of the Christian Faith
Grace & Truth
These key words of scripture are frequently used and, in the New Testament, occasionally linked together. Yet they must have a different significance and meaning either in comparative terms or in contrast. One of the first occasions when these two words are brought together is found as God passed by Moses in the cleft of the rock. His statement was, ‘The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands’, Exod. 34. 6-7.
Against that background, grace is defined as ‘favour or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that person deserves’.1 Using the same source, truth is said to be ‘conformity to fact or actuality; faithfulness to an original or to a standard. In the Old and New Testaments, truth is a fundamental moral and personal quality of God’.2 The differences between the two words can be put like this: the truth of God is absolute faithfulness to a standard befitting the holy character of God; the grace of God is displayed in the forgiveness of sins, and is extended to men as they are guilty. As part of our task we might also explore these words as essential attributes of God. Space will not permit us to do justice to their fullness and beauty but a brief consideration may be helpful. For example, we can explore these words as they are applied to each person within the Godhead. See table below.
|Word||As applied to the Father||The Son||The Holy Spirit|
|Grace||Rom. 1. 7; 1 Cor. 1. 3||Acts 15. 11; Rom. 16. 20, 24||Zech. 12. 10; Heb. 10. 29|
|Truth||Isa. 65. 16; 2 John 3, 4||John 1. 14, 17; 14. 6||John 14. 17; 15. 26; 16. 13.|
Although this is far from an exhaustive list it indicates the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and their equality within the Godhead. These are words that prove difficult in the world around us. This is typified by the words of Pilate at the trial of the Lord Jesus. He asked the question, ‘What is truth?’ John 18. 38. The man appointed by Rome to determine truth and administer justice on the basis of that truth acknowledged that he could not really determine what it was! In normal circumstances we would have to admit the same. However, we can rest in the assurance of the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘I am . . . the truth’, John 14. 6. He is the personification of truth; He is wholly reliable and His word is dependable in the changing circumstances of life. The fact that we are linked to the God of truth in Christ brings us:
|Absolute standards||Deut. 32. 4; Ps. 33. 4; Rom. 2. 2|
|Reliability||1 Kgs. 17. 24; 1 Thess. 2. 13|
|Stability||2 Kgs. 19. 17; Ps. 40. 11|
|Direction||Ps. 25. 10; 43. 3; 86. 11|
|Security||Ps. 31. 5; Isa. 25. 1|
|The basis of worship||John 4. 23-24|
|Spiritual understanding||John 15. 26; 1 Cor. 2. 14|
|Sanctification||John 17. 17|
|Hope||Col. 1. 5|
Whilst we can rejoice in these things as believers they are double-edged, for truth is a particularly unbending facet. The One who is the embodiment of truth is also the One who upholds it. That which now upholds us and supports us in a rapidly changing and deteriorating world once condemned us. Historically, as we were exposed to the truth of God it revealed what we were by nature and practice – sinners. We could not reach God’s standards. We could not maintain God’s standards. We were hopelessly lost. It is at this point that we can rejoice in the grace of God. As guilty sinners deserving of God’s judgement and punishment, He extended His grace and His mercy towards us in love. We might illustrate the contrast thus:
|What we deserved as sinners||Divine judgement and wrath|
|What God provided in grace||Forgiveness and salvation|
There is an illustration of this point early in the Old Testament. As we are told of the awful wickedness of man that was rife upon the earth and the judgement that God would bring upon those involved, we are told, ‘But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord’, Gen. 6. 8. Noah was kept through the flood, provided with a means of salvation, as a consequence of divine grace. We might summarize the qualities of grace thus:
|Bestowed by the greater upon the lesser||Gen. 50. 4; Exod. 33. 13, 16-17; Ruth 2. 2|
|Preservation||Ezra 9. 8; Esther 2. 17|
|Beneficence/Blessing||Ruth 2. 10; Ps. 84. 11; Acts 15. 11|
|Establishment and Hope||Acts. 20. 32; Rom. 5. 2|
But the grace of God has bestowed more upon us as believers than our salvation. From other passages in the New Testament, we learn that grace was not just something that provided for our salvation at a point in the past. Not only can we enjoy the reality of God’s grace in the provision made at Calvary and the blessings that were brought to us when we were saved, but we can also enjoy divine grace as a resource for us from day to day. We can summarize what divine grace has supplied like this:
|Justification||Rom. 3. 24; Titus 3. 7|
|Salvation||Eph. 2. 5, 8; Titus. 2. 11|
|Election||Rom. 11. 5|
|Redemption||Eph. 1. 7|
|Acceptance and nearness of relationship||Eph. 1. 6|
|Spiritual gift||Rom. 12. 6; 1 Cor. 3. 10; 15. 10; Eph. 3. 7; 1 Pet. 4. 10|
|A testimony and the ability to maintain it||2 Cor. 1. 12; Jas. 4. 6|
|A spirit of generosity||2 Cor. 8. 1, 9|
|Provision of strength in trial||2 Cor. 12. 9; Heb. 4. 16|
The purpose of this article has been to provide scripture references that we can read, explore in their context, and meditate upon for our spiritual understanding and blessing. These two facets of the divine character can and should be a resource to us in our spiritual lives.
- Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1995.