When Christian leaders disagree on the relative emphasis on grace versus truth, I imagine it being resolved through missional grace. Here’s what I mean.
I imagine that on one side, there are the grace champions, and on the other side, the truth champions.
Grace champions are passionate about the fact that GRACE is the answer to living in a fallen world; they believe that Jesus Christ—especially in his transforming love—is the answer to our brokenness as individuals, families, communities. In my thinking, if I’m a grace champion, I believe people must repent and experience healing from their brokenness. We are all in pain, and for most of us, life is a struggle in one degree or another. We are all sinners. Praise God, His grace helps us overcome. We all need Jesus!
Truth champions are passionate about the fact that TRUTH is the answer to living in a fallen world; they believe that Jesus Christ—especially in His transforming Word—is the answer to all our deceptions. In my thinking, if I’m a truth champion, I believe people must repent of their sin, their belief in false truths, their worship of false gods. We all need the truth principles in God’s Word to overcome our own sin and sinful deceptions. We need the truth of God to stand against our sinful culture. We are all sinners. Praise God, truth sets us free! We all need Jesus!
Sometimes truth champions oppose grace champions. Truth champions are concerned that, if one is too grace-oriented, too forgiving, too accepting—the objective truth of God’s Word will be marginalized—with the result that the church will lose its significance in a secular, relativistic culture. They fear that, instead of standing against the evils of the culture, the church will succumb to and decline with the culture; the church will have lost its mission, its identity.
Sometimes grace champions oppose truth champions. They are concerned that, by being too truth-oriented, the love and grace of Christ will be marginalized—with the result that the church will alienate struggling believers and be unattractive to a lost world. They fear that the church, instead of being a place that welcomes the hurting, ends up as more of a social club for the successful; the church will have lost its mission, its identity.
Into this divide between grace champions and truth champions, God’s Word speaks of Jesus Christ:
“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 ESV
In Jesus Christ, there is no division, there is no conflict between grace and truth. Simply, Jesus Christ is full of grace and full of truth in perfect integrity. This Word—this Son—is glorious! … as glorious, honorable and worthy of praise as the Father who sent him.
Yes, Christ was sent. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …” God the Father sent God the Son to this world, and he “became flesh.”
If I am to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, then I’ll be engaged in a glory-filled, life-long missional journey, endeavoring to live out my life as a harmony of grace and truth.
Do you want a fuller understanding of grace? Are you involved in a conflict between grace and truth? Some insights from the book of Ephesians:
Examine the word grace in Ephesians 1: 6–7, along with its context (verses 3–14). Because of grace, what does the believer receive in these verses? Because of grace we are in Chirst, in the Beloved One; therefore we have received … redemption, forgiveness, adoption into God‘s family, knowledge of the mystery of his will, an inheritance … indeed, all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Chirst. The treasures and blessings are infinite in scope.
Examine the three times the word grace is used in Ephesians 2:5–9. Because of grace, what does the believer receive in these verses? The believer is “made alive together with Christ;” the believer receives the elevated position of being seated with Christ “in the heavenly places,” all by virtue of God’s effort, not our own. This is “not of works, so that no one may boast.” It is the gift of grace. And to think this all happended “while we were dead in our trespasses.” Amazing what the believer receives by grace!
But now consider Ephesians 3:1–13. Here we see another dimension to the grace God. Here, grace is not only about what the Apostle Paul receives, it’s also about what he is divinely commissioned by God to give. Paul is given the enormous responsibility (you’ll see he considers this a gift of grace in verse 2, 7 and 8!) …
“… assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you,” (Ephesians 3:2 ESV)
“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. (Ephesians 3:7 ESV)
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:8 ESV)
Do you see it? Paul viewed grace not only as the means of his forgiveness, but also as the means for his calling and mission. Shouldn’t it be the same for all believers in the church today? Of course, Paul was specifically called to be an apostle to the Gentiles in the early church, and so his unique calling does not apply to you and me. But here is the principle that does apply:
As grace saves us, so also, grace sends us to those who are yet to receive the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
So how might an expanded, truth-filled, missional understanding of grace resolve the so-called conflict between grace and truth? By enabling us to see that grace is not just for saving the lost, and compensating for weakness or sin and failure.
True biblical grace transforms the believer into someone who goes, who is sent. Grace-saturated followers of Christ (like Apostle Paul) are honorable servants and ambassadors whose passion is to bless those neighbors and peoples and nations (those we might even call our enemies!) who have not yet received the transforming gospel of Christ.
If grace does not include mission, it is small, truncated, and self-centered. We are not just saved by grace. We are sent by grace. This is missional grace.
In the glory of Christ and his mission to bless all peoples and nations, there is no divide between grace and truth.