Grace Or Truth?

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 NIV).


One of the more interesting debates in contemporary Christian circles is the debate regarding two terms – grace and truth.   The question inevitably becomes – Do you stand for grace or truth?  My progressive friends tend to favor grace, and my conservative friends tend to favor truth.  My Christian friends understand that this is a false question and favor both.

I don’t mean to be trite, but I certainly can sympathize with Pontius Pilate’s response to our Lord and Savior after He identified His purpose as coming into this world “to testify to the truth.”   As we all know, Pilate infamously responded, “What is truth?” 

Sometimes no answer to a question is the best answer.  Jesus did not respond to the question from Pilate, but I wonder if He considered offering the same response that He previously offered to Peter after He had explained in Matthew 15 the parable of food and cleanliness.  “Are you still so dull?” Jesus said to Peter.  I suspect the proponents of grace are thinking the same of those advocating for truth and vice versa.

One can selectively select Scripture to make an argument for either grace or truth.  However, Scripture is not intended to be selectively harvested to advance anything or anybody of this world. 

In Christian theological terms, grace without truth is incomplete or distorted. Grace, which represents God’s unmerited favor and forgiveness, is inseparable from truth, which encompasses God’s revealed Word and moral standards. Without truth, grace may lose its transformative power and become a license for unrighteousness or a distorted understanding of God’s character and purpose. Thus, a balanced and coherent Christian theology recognizes the indispensable relationship between grace and truth.

Grace without truth can become a form of permissiveness or indulgence.  An exclusive focus on grace allows one to unwisely feel secure in a life of unrepented sin due to the absence of the

refining and correcting element of truth.  This can lead to moral relativism where any action or belief could be considered acceptable, regardless of ethical or doctrinal standards.

On the other hand, truth provides the foundation, the rules and guidelines for understanding our world and our faith. It allows us to navigate our spiritual journey with clarity and purpose.

However, truth without grace can become legalism, an adherence to the letter of the law without the transformative, compassionate, and forgiving spirit of grace.  The truth is we are all sinners and all fall short of the glory of God.

Therefore, grace and truth are not mutually exclusive but complementary. In Christian theology, this is exemplified in Jesus Christ, whom the Gospel of John describes as full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14, emphasis added). Grace forgives and heals, truth guides and corrects.

Together, they form a balanced and holistic approach to faith and spirituality.  Either term without the other is incomplete.

God reveals His divine nature of grace and truth to each through Holy Scripture.  Our understanding of God and His nature is exponentially increased by inviting the Holy Spirit to be with us as we read, study, and meditate on His Holy Word and ask the question – Dear Lord, What message are You teaching me this day? 

From a Wesleyan perspective, grace without truth is insufficient for sanctification.  John Wesley believed in sanctification, or the process of becoming more like Christ. Grace without truth is insufficient for sanctification because it does not provide the moral and theological guidance necessary for a believer to grow in holiness. 

Grace without truth is also contrary to the means of grace.   Wesley outlined means of grace, which are practices that draw us closer to God and allow us to experience His grace more fully, such as prayer, Bible study, and communion. Grace without truth can be contrary to these means, as they all require an understanding and application of biblical truth.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for revealing your nature of grace and truth to us through Holy Scripture.  Equip us dear God with the Sword of the Spirit and the complete Armor of God as we stand strong not in our strength but rather in Your mighty power and Your righteousness against all principalities and powers that do not submit to Your authority in heaven or earth.  All honor and glory is Yours.  Amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Community Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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