In this Advent season, our attention is drawn to the reality of Jesus’ incarnation, even as John records it: “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” (1:14). With a balance that can only be described as perfect, our Lord embodied these virtues in full measure. In every conversation and situation our Lord responded with complete grace and truth, refusing to allow a humanly engineered wedge to be driven between them. As men and women whose identities are founded in Jesus Christ, we now pursue this same balance as a central part of our calling. Let’s consider how the grace and truth principle applies to gospel witness.
1. Communicating truth is grace.
Truth sets us free, which is a grace. The New Testament demonstrates the seriousness of this thought. When Paul the apostle stood in the midst of the Areopagus, he “perceived” and then he “said” gospel truth (Acts 17:22). It would be ungracious to withhold the message of redemption.
2. Communicate the truth with grace.
How can we preach the message of grace in a graceless voice? Not only does such communication ring hollow, it is, according to Paul, like “a noisy gong and clanging symbol”—dissonant, distracting, and irritating. Our manner should reflect the gospel itself—a humble descent into weakness before God extends his power to conquer human idols.
Being humble doesn’t mean that we have compromised our conviction of what constitutes truth any more than being meek suggests that one is devoid of strength. Jesus was all powerful, and yet he humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:1-11). It’s only when we have taken time to listen, learn, and think, that we possess the courage to relate to others in a vulnerable, humble way. Jesus is our example. Although God, Jesus did not exploit his deity, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-7). This is indeed the Christian way.
3. Communicate the truth because of grace.
There is a surpassing beauty and worth of grace. It’s like walking from pitch darkness into a room flooded by the most brilliant light imaginable. The contrast causes your eyes to blink incessantly. As years go by, your eyes begin to adjust, but you never fully adjust. You continue to blink with wonder, amazed that we who were formerly in darkness are now light in the Lord.
When we approach someone with the gospel, we present the same light of truth that caused us to awake from the dead, and, when we do so, we realize that our primary impetus is grace. Compelled by the love of Christ, we go forth as God’s ambassadors. The same wonder of grace that we ourselves received now motivates us to tell others.
The Holy Spirit pours forth a mixture of grace and truth in a single stream, one that we receive and then channel into the dry and weary world in which we live. It is the greatest privilege imaginable to be used of God in this way, and it’s a privilege that we enjoy each and every day.