Devoted Blog

Balancing Grace and Truth:  (Part Two)

July 12, 2017

Blog by Dr. Kathryn V. Camp

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the perfect picture of grace and truth (John 1:14). In part one of this series, we learned about grace as it pertains to the purity of a holy and righteous God. Most people understand that grace is tied to unwarranted forgiveness. I gave a few examples of grace that we hear about or have actually experienced in our own lives in part one of this series. Jesus showed us that grace is also an extension of God’s love, even in the face of hatred (Jer. 33:7-9; Lk. 23:33-35). The apostle Paul recognized that he had been shown immeasurable grace extended to him even while he was filled with hatred and anger towards God’s people (1 Tim 1:13-17).

Grace is undoubtedly a wonderful attribute of God, and the fact that He shares that with us is unbelievable. As I mentioned before, however, grace is accompanied by Truth which is something that many tend to overlook. The world wants all grace with no concrete ideas of truth attached to it. Jesus claimed that the Word of God is Truth (John 17:17), and in the gospel of John, we read that Jesus is considered to be the Word in the flesh (John 1:1). To best comprehend the truth, it is necessary to approach the truth from the perspective of God’s absolute Truth.

Many of you may have experienced that the world’s impression of truth can be somewhat nebulous and noncommittal. This is fortunately not what we find when we take a serious look at God’s understanding of truth. Our postmodern, westernized world finds the idea of absolute truth repugnant, yet they cannot actually live by a standard of relative truth, nor do they want to be treated by a relativistic standard. The God of the Bible is clear from Genesis to Revelation, that He does not change and in Him we find absolute Truth (1Sam. 15:29; Jas. 1:17). The fact that God is immutable and that it is in Him that we base our idea of truth should come as a comfort to the Christian.

What reconciliation would it be if the Creator of the universe was constantly changing His mind? He could decide at any time that perhaps He might raise the bar for our salvation and require that humanity strive endlessly to please Him. If you have not noticed, Christianity is the only faith that does not require a never-ending set of rituals and checklists that one has to accomplish to be considered “good enough” to make it into heaven, or to ever stand in His presence. Christians are people of the Truth, and we are promised that this truth will set us free (John 8:32).

This is because to know God is to love God and to love God is to desire to please Him through acts of obedience (John 14:14-16). From Scripture, we know that as Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, while outside the crowds had turned against him, Pilate asked Jesus; “What is truth?” (John 18:37-39). This is a perfect example of how the world that does not know God, can stand right in front of truth and not even recognize it. The world is blind to the absolute truth exhibited through God. Unlike grace, the concept of absolute Truth is very difficult for the common man either to define, or to accept.

Nevertheless, absolute Truth is paramount to our fuller understanding of God’s gift of grace. Jesus boldly claimed that he is the only way to the Father and eternal salvation, and in that same vein he claims to be The Truth (John 14:6). This statement, and others like it, caused great anger toward Jesus in the first century and those same statements continue to cause much animosity toward Christians in the twenty first century. The truth of the matter is, that if we fully accept Jesus as God’s Christ (Savior), then we accept what he says as absolute Truth (John 6:52-66).

This means that when we read the Bible, we accept it at face value, not as a book of suggestions that may or may not pertain to our daily lives in the twenty first century. We live in a world today (in westernized cultures) that has a true distaste for the Word of God and does everything in its power to downplay its importance in the lives of humanity. Without the Bible, humans are left with little to nothing to judge right from wrong. God’s people, however, are called to truth and in this truth we are sanctified. Christians are set apart as holy to the Lord (1Cor.6:18-20).

Scripture tells us that the LORD draws us to himself (and that is grace) (John 6:44), but that we are then sent back out into the world to live faithfully and act as His ambassadors of Truth (John 15:18-20; Matt 28:19-20). Christians are called to speak the truth in love and respect (1 Pet 3:15), but how do we do this in a sea of relativism?  In order for us to walk as faithful Christians, we must truly trust the God who is exemplified for us in the Bible. If we do not fully trust in the LORD, then we will falter and become ineffective in sharing the truth.

Far too many professing Christians of our day have watered-down the Gospel and as a result the message they send to the world is no different than a women’s talk show with no real solutions to real problems and life situations. Jesus warned his disciples to fear God more than man (Lk. 12:4-6); because when we omit real truth when sharing God’s word with others we are in essence denying Jesus. Jesus warns those listening, that if they deny him before others, he will deny them before the Father (Matt. 10:33), this is a hard truth. This stands to reason, if we disown the Truth as we attempt to share the Gospel with others, we disown Jesus which insinuates that we do not trust that God is faithful to His word.

As we live amidst the tide of relativism, it is not popular to claim that Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation. The world demands that all religious expressions are the way to heaven, or some other idea of heaven, such as nirvana. The ideology of relativism has also spawned an endless array of lifestyles that are at odds with the morals laid out for healthy living found in Scripture. How then does the twenty first century Christian stand against this tidal wave of hostility toward the God of the Bible? To find the answer to this question, we need to understand what relativism truly stands for.

When there is a demand for no solid basis for truth, then the idea of truth becomes a matter of subjectivity. What this means, is that what may be true for you may not necessarily be true for me, everything is relative. In essence, one person’s idea of God or morality, are simply a matter of preference. Truth becomes a personal thing, and everyone’s idea of truth is slightly different from the next person’s idea of truth. This is why you will find vastly differing interpretations of the Bible in our world today. Instead of Jesus’ statement that he is the only way to the Father and that he alone is the Truth, which holds absolute authority over all of humanity, his words become simply an ideology.

The Son of God becomes a way, not the way to eternal life. In a relativistic society, humans are also allowed to set their own standards for morality. One needs only read the book of Judges to see what the outcome of a society that sets no boundaries on morality will eventually become. It is because of relativism that in our postmodern world, the government decides the morality of the nation. In other words, mankind decides what is moral or not moral and passes legislation to reflect their own personal ideologies as to what is right and what is wrong. Unlike the God of the Bible, however, humanity is highly volatile in its thinking, and therefore their laws will fluctuate from season to season depending on who is in power.

Relativism, at its core, is a faulty ideology stemming from flawed reasoning. What happens with subjective thinking and an ignorance of the Bible is that people who begin to live their lives outside of the boundaries set by the Creator, find themselves in bondage to the lifestyle that they have chosen. Scripture tells us that there are three main ways that lead to the downfall of an individual (1John 2:16):

  1. The Lust of the eyes
  2. The Lust of the flesh
  3. The Sinful pride of life.

This is absolute truth, and there is no way around it. Everyone who stumbles will stumble in one or more of these three areas. God tells us in numerous ways throughout the Bible where He draws the line on human behavior.

Although the world sees God’s boundaries as oppressive and restrictive, they are in reality liberating. The Truth is, that if we begin to go after what our eyes see, what our flesh desires, or seek solely the acceptance of the world, we are unable to pursue the righteousness of God. The man or woman who seeks after the ways of this world will become entangled in the weight of its demands. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that reveals how ungodly thinking and lifestyles are harmful to our brains and physical wellbeing.

Relativism inevitably robs grace of its power. If there is no absolute or ultimate Truth, then God’s act of grace toward humanity is only an ideology. If there is no Truth, then there is no standard by which to judge moral or immoral behaviors, therefore, there is no real need for forgiveness from a righteous and holy God. If we are afraid to claim Jesus as the only way to salvation, then the cross has no meaning and becomes an unfortunate situation that happened to a “good” man in the first century. To live this way is ultimately empty and self-defeating.

God promises true life and true freedom, but not as the world offers life and freedom. If we are going to claim Scripture that exhibits God’s unfailing grace, like we find in John 3:16, we must also accept what comes after this very popular verse:

John 3:16-21
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

The way we exhibit grace will reflect our understanding of Truth. A Christian must fully trust in the Word of God to comprehend the unwavering Truth. It is true that God promises to work all things for our good (and that is unfathomable grace), but we need to recognize also that that promise is for those who love Him (that is Truth) not just everyone (Rom. 8:28). The truth is, that if we do not lovingly guide our friends and family to the absolute Truth (Jesus is the only way and absolute moral standards), then we are presenting a distorted version of the Gospel of grace. Portraying a partial Gospel will not properly redirect others or lead them to salvation (James. 5:19-20). To remain faithful to God, it is our duty to trust in God’s infallible Word, and exhibit that to the world around us.