For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
This verse from John is a watershed verse because in a few simple words, it delineates the Old Covenant from the New; Jesus from Moses. In a very clear way, it summarizes the majority of redemptive history by reminding us that there is a difference between Moses and Jesus and the two were never intended to be mixed together.
Unfortunately, mixing them together is what many of us like to do. Grace scares us so we read this verse as though truth is meant to balance out grace. And of course by “truth,” we mean some sort of law. It can be something we pull over from Moses or some rule or principle we find in the New Testament or in our religious culture. Either way, we read this as though grace needs balanced out by some sort of truth as if grace and truth were two opposing forces doing battle with one another because grace needs tempered by truth. It’s interesting that we never view it the other way around, where grace balances out truth. Our default is always a balancing out of grace with truth.
But this verse is a both-and, not an either-or. Jesus is grace AND truth. John wasn’t issuing an ultimatum here, nor was he reminding us to temper grace with some version of truth as though grace is opposed to truth and truth to grace. Grace is not opposed to truth and truth is not in conflict with grace. John wasn’t offering us a set of balancing scales to make sure we’re balancing grace with appropriate amounts of truth. He’s not telling us to keep grace in check with truth. He’s not saying truth trumps grace. He’s talking about the supremacy of the New Covenant over the Old. The Supremacy of Jesus over Moses. Jesus is the embodiment of both truth (John 14:6) and grace (Titus 2:11-12) in their fullness (John 1:14). He’s not grace tempered by truth, but he’s the very fullness of both. This is the gospel – grace and truth in their fullness are finally and fully revealed in Jesus, our substitute and redeemer.
We can throw away the balance scales and enjoy this free gift we’ve been given because “…from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. “(John 1:16).