It was evening, candlelight danced around the giant church, mixing with the soft light from low-hanging lanterns. Outside, through the large church windows, I could see the setting sun over the trees as onyx nighttime set in all around us.
Inside the church, organ music played softly, keeping all of the guests engaged while we waited for the ceremony to begin.
I looked down at the folded program in my hand, and felt a smile spread across my face. The same smile that had spread when I first received the invitation, and continued to every time I read the names of my new favorite couple:
Thank you for joining us for the marriage of
Grace and Truth
In accordance with 2John 1:3
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”
For those making a face at your screened devices, this is completely metaphorical. I haven’t gone crazy. But stick with me here, because the marriage between Grace and Truth is pretty fantastic.
Before we go any further, as with any wedding ceremony, let’s take some time to get to know the couple:
Truth: (noun) “The quality or state of being true. That which is true or in accordance with reality.” “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” John 3:21
Truth is also a component to Who Jesus is: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through Me.” John 14:6
Grace: (noun) “Courteous goodwill, (in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” Acts 15:11
Grace is also a component of the most valuable thing that God gives: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” Ephesians 2:8
In other words, Grace is one of God’s gifts, and Truth is a characteristic of Jesus.
Grace and Truth meet at the alter, where the minster stands to unify them, now and forever.
One without the other simply doesn’t make sense.
When Grace is alone, it seems that anything can be excused. There are no principles, there almost is no reality. Anything goes, with no consequences. Nothing even needs to be repented of or forgiven because who is to define what sin is? The concept of Grace makes no sense without Truth.
Additionally, Truth without Grace is incomplete. Truth is intended to be the pavement on our path to righteousness. The Truth tells us that all men have sinned. The Truth tells us that anything short of love, is garbage. (“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” 1st Corinthians 13:1-3) The Truth is here to convict us and remind us of how much we need Jesus. But without Grace, Truth leaves us desperate and lonely.
Grace and Truth got married when we were given the gift of Jesus Christ. John 1:14 “The word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of Grace and Truth.” Just like with a real life marriage, once you try to separate those two, the individuals lose a part of who they are with the other. Now that the two have become one, separating them hurts them both. And yet, that’s exactly what so many Christians try to do; separate, repackage and sell Grace and Truth as individuals without one another. Often, ignoring one in favor of the other.
A demonstration of the marriage between Grace and Truth is perfectly exemplified in the account of Jesus coming face-to-face with the adulterous woman in John 8; “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?'”
They were pouring out a lot of Truth at that moment. This woman had committed adultery. The circumstances behind it aren’t mentioned, but this woman had been caught in the act of sexual sin. Additionally, they were quick to remind Jesus what the law stated about adultery – that such women were to be taken and stoned.
The Pharisees not only liked to separate Truth from Grace, they also liked to twist Truth in order to harm others. The Bible tells us that they asked Jesus these things in order to test Him and see if they could find faults to accuse Him of. They probably expected Him to pour out some of the Grace that He was known for, and thus, add to their list of grievances against Him. They were either going to get a new strike against Jesus, or have a good old fashioned stoning. Either way, they won, right?
No. Because Truth and Grace are a power couple; and they were about to meet this power first-hand.
Jesus could have stood up and argued with them. He could have presented thoughts and ideas that would have blown their minds. But instead, he did the opposite – He stooped down. He touched the ground and wrote something in the dirt.
The Pharisees were still volleying for a response so they continued to pester Him, until He stood back up, and stated “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
In that moment, Jesus reminded them of a very important component they had been forgetting: Moses brought them the Law, Jesus brought them Grace and Truth. (John 1:17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”)
Truth: Jesus was the only one there qualified to throw a stone at this woman. But instead of taking on this “obligation”, He took the opportunity to remind them of a more soul-touching truth; they were as filthy and sin-saturated as the woman they wanted to murder.
Grace: Jesus wasn’t there to inflict punishment for other’s sins. He was there to receive punishment for our sins.
Jesus then knelt back down and continued to write something in the dirt. My constantly-searching-for-answers mind craves an answer to my question “WHAT DID JESUS WRITE IN THE DIRT???” But the Bible doesn’t tell us. What we do know though, is that upon hearing these things, one by one, the accusers walked away – starting with the oldest and finishing with the youngest among them. Until finally, only Jesus and the woman remained.
I picture this scene and the details become so clear, it’s as if I were there: this woman, probably in some state of undress, tears streaming down her face as she’s about to endure one of the most painful ways to die, has been thrown into the middle of the city’s court and sentenced to death. Maybe she knew the risk when she decided to pursue her sin, maybe she had been assured that “no one will know” or “no one will care” or, the one that’s a favorite justification for sin, “it’s nobody’s business.” Then this man, the strange one that maybe she had heard about, had completely dissolved the crowd around her with one statement “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” He then stands back up and asks her “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” In her complete shock and awe, she responds to this strange man, “No one.”
And in that moment, the most loving words that had ever been spoken to her, reached her ears: “I do not condemn you either. Go, and sin no more.”
Truth: This woman had sinned. Jesus recognized that. He knew her heart.
Grace: He did not condemn her. He freed her of the condemnation from her sin, not so that she could have another opportunity to live in her sin and “live her life as she chose” but instead, to live free from her sin.
I think this is a large part of the marriage between Truth and Grace that we’ve missed out on: Grace isn’t given so that we are free to sin, Grace is given so that we are free from sin.
How did we get that wrong? So many of us wade deeper and deeper into our lives of sin, first just dipping a toe and eventually doing gleeful cannonballs into the mire that Jesus literally died so that we didn’t have to be weighed down by. We dip our feet and find that it doesn’t burn us right away like maybe we had been told that it would. We get a little deeper and find that we enjoy the way these waters feel. We convince ourselves that this is just our natural order, and after all, we’re “only human“. We forget that when we say “only human” we’re discounting that we are God’s chosen, beloved, Holy Spirit empowered, sons and daughters made righteous by Jesus’s blood.
We separate Grace from Truth when we excuse our sin because “everyone does it” “it’s not that big of a deal”, “it’s no one’s business what I do with my life”. We fly the flag of Grace without ever acknowledging that we cannot have Grace without first acknowledging the Truth of our sin. We cannot continue down the Truth-paved path to holiness (again, yes, we are called to be Holy: 1st Peter 1:16) without accepting that we are fallen, broken sinners in need of Grace.
I say none of this with a heart to condemn, but restore and stir up hearts for Jesus. I say all of this as someone who has, does and probably will continue to, struggle with my desire to separate Grace from Truth when it’s most convenient for me. But more than that, I speak as someone who, more than my desire to make life convenient for myself, desires to grow deeper and more in my understanding of God and His word.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” – Mark 10:18