Christian Living

Why It’s Wrong To Keep Truth And Grace In Balance4 min read

February 22, 2017 3 min read


Why It’s Wrong To Keep Truth And Grace In Balance4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We want to be balanced people. It is considered a good thing to have a balanced diet or to keep a healthy balance between work and pleasure.

But sometimes, balance is a bad thing. For example, finding a balance between fidelity and infidelity in marriage – or between honesty and dishonesty – doesn’t make any sense.

With this in view, sometimes people express the funny notion that grace and truth somehow need to be kept in balance. “We want a preacher who will preach about grace as much as he preaches truth,” says the preacher search committee. “Grace is a wonderful thing, but you have to keep grace and truth in balance so you don’t go to extremes,” says the Bible study teacher. (After all, no one wants to be thought of as an extremist!)

The problem with this reasoning is that it separates grace from truth – as if they are opposed to one another.

Grace and truth are not opposites; they are conjoined twins! You cannot have one without the other.

Grace is truth, and truth is grace.

Both are perfectly united in Jesus, who is the “only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Thus, we have “grace and truth through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16).

You can’t talk about grace without talking about truth.

What does grace without truth even look like?

It is a mistake to emphasize God’s grace while neglecting the necessity of obedience. If a church hears not much more than a constant drivel of “self-help” and “God is love” sermons, it won’t be long before the members start to conclude that costly obedience is not very important.

But this wouldn’t really be “grace” in the first place. If God’s grace is taught in any way that somehow lessens the seriousness of sin, undermines the importance of obedience, or cheapens the necessity of holinessthat isn’t grace; that’s license (Rom. 6:1, 15; Jude 4).

You cannot have grace without truth. By God’s grace, He has saved us and instructed us how to live obediently to Him. Note Paul’s words:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:11-12)

Those who do not love the truth of God’s Word – both the “hard” parts and the “easy” parts – have forfeited God’s grace. Knowledge of the truth of God’s Word is what gives us freedom (John 17:17; John 8:32). The fact that God has extended His grace to those who are perishing, and has given us instruction on how to be free from the slavery of sin, is truth!

You can’t talk about truth without talking about grace.

The core of Christianity is God’s grace. That’s why Paul refers to salvation in Christ as a “grace” system (Rom. 6:14).

To preach that we are saved purely by perfect law-keeping and therefore need no grace is errorIt is a false gospel (Gal. 1:8; 5:4).

Yes, we must obey God from the heart (John 14:15). Yes, we must obey 100% of God’s commands to the best of our ability (Heb. 10:26). Yes, we will be in some way “judged according to our works” (Matt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:23; 20:12-13). Grace, after all, is only found through the obedience of faith (Eph. 2:8).

But why do we obey? Because of God’s grace. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And – even after our best efforts to obey the truth – we will still be “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10). God, by His grace, still cleanses us of sins and shortcomings (1 John 1:7). That is why the gospel is still the good news for Christians!

Thank God for His glorious grace, which makes me want to obey Him even more!

They aren’t opposites.

The lie that we need to somehow find a balance between grace and truth might sound good to those who don’t know any better, but it is a devastating idea.

Grace and truth are not opposite sides of the coin – they are on the same side!

If you’re going to draw a line, draw it between rebellious, immoral living and thinking you can make it to heaven simply by our own meritorious works. And in that case, both are equally wrong (and we don’t need to find a balance between them).

Thus, we begin to see that there is technically no such thing as being too far to the “right” or too far to the “left.” Moderation, or “balance,” between these two is just a mirage. There is only right and wrong, and we must be fully committed to the grace & truth that is found only in the last will and testament of Christ.

Grace and truth are synonymous because they are both found in Jesus. Therefore, let us be 100% committed to both.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged, even if they are in disagreement. However, please keep your comments relevant to the article. For my full comment policy, click here.

Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the Edgewood church of Christ in Columbus, GA. He and his wife Hannah have two children, Ezra & Colleyanna. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has returned to pursue his MDiv. He has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series: Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation.
  1. Sean Eidt

    I think that the major thrust of most modern "christian" denominations is grace heavy. Obedience is downplayed or considered not important at all. Repentance has been redefined to mean feeling sorry for, instead of turning from. Grace is redefined to mean, free gift with nothing involved to accept the gift, and no way to refuse the gift; instead of unmerited favor. Sin is defined as a sinful nature that we are born with and no power to fight, instead of willingly transgressing God's law. Most of the divisions in Christianity are based in calvinism, which ultimately is an excuse for disobedience. Sin is disobedience. It is the reason Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. We were made to walk with God in obedience. As you stated even when we walk in the light as close to perfect as we are able we do not deserve to be saved, we are but unprofitable servants, doing as we are suppose to do.

  2. John Henson

    If Jesus was "full of grace and truth," (John 1:14-17), and if he is our example (1 Peter 2:21), then we should also be filled with both. One does not contradict the other. Great article!

  3. Jim Siler

    Some things in God's word are more difficult to understand than others. In the begining of the church it took much effort and time for God to finally make the apostles and first Christians understand the gospel is not just for jews. Paul also had the hardest time, finally ending with a conference of apostles and elders in Jerusalem, convincing the Church that they were no longer to keep the Law of Moses. Today it seems it may take decades to finally help our brother and sisters in Christ understand the mission given to us by Christ is to preach the gospel, not to correct and reform earthly institutions or governments as if they were members of the Church of Christ.

  4. J. Randal Matheny

    Great point!

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