Monday, December 18, 2017

Grace and Truth

Part 3 of God Incarnate

Text: John 1:17

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

God in Human Flesh

What’s the big deal about the birth of Jesus? It’s a big deal because Jesus was none other than God in human flesh! “The Word [i.e., Jesus] was God” (John 1:1). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). The firstborn son of Mary was none other than God in human flesh! The baby that the shepherds found lying in a manger was none other than God in human flesh!

Who God Is

In Exodus 33, Moses wants assurance from God that his presence will remain with him and the Israelites. So he says to God, “Please show me your glory” (v. 18). God replies, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, ‘The LORD’” (v. 19). The next day on Mount Sinai,
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exod. 34:5-6). 
In the original Hebrew, “LORD” is Yahweh. Yahweh is God’s name. (God’s name isn’t God, just like my name isn’t man.) When God proclaims to Moses his name, he tells Moses who he is—not what he is, but who he is (i.e., his “goodness”). Yahweh is a God who abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness. “Steadfast love” is unwavering or loyal love. “Faithfulness” means to be true to one’s word, reliable.

God Isn't Like Jonah

When God told the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah refused. Why? Because he knew the character of God (i.e., who God is). He knew that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would spare them. And Jonah didn’t want that to happen. But that’s what did happen, and Jonah wasn’t happy about it. “It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry” (Jonah 4:1). So he complained to God:
“O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (v. 2). 
Jonah hoped that God would change his mind about sparing Nineveh, so he went outside the city and sat down and waited. Where he was sitting there, God caused a plant to grow up beside him. The plant provided shade for Jonah, and Jonah was happy. But then a worm came along and destroyed the plant, and Jonah was angry. God rebuked Jonah for not caring more about the plant than the people of Nineveh:
“You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than 120,000 persons…” (vv. 10-11). 
Thankfully God isn’t like Jonah! Thankfully he abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness! He cares about people. Do we?

What God Did

What did John mean when he said that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v. 17)? “Grace and truth” are John’s way of saying “steadfast love and faithfulness.” D. A. Carson writes, “This pair of expressions [‘steadfast love and faithfulness’] recurs again and again in the Old Testament. The two words that John uses, ‘full of grace and truth,’ are his ways of summing up the same ideas” (The Gospel According to John, 129).

Through the Word (i.e., Jesus) God spoke to Israel (and to us). He proclaimed to us that he is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness, grace and truth. Israel’s Messiah had been born! God still loved them! He kept his promise!

Who you are (i.e., your character) affects what you do. God did what he did because he is who he is. Jesus came to us because God is a God who has a heart full of steadfast love and faithfulness. Jesus is the Father’s “only [i.e., beloved] Son” (v. 14). We have broken the law that was given through Moses (v. 17), but “God so loved the world [i.e., us], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). In the cross we see mankind’s hatred for God and God’s love for mankind.

Don't Forget Who God Is

Whenever we start to doubt God—his love for us or his promises to us—we should hear him say, “This is me, Yahweh…Yahweh. You know you can trust me. I abound is steadfast love and faithfulness. I am full of grace and truth. Don’t doubt.”