“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
John 1:17 KJV
This scripture is speaking of two different covenants (or ways of relating to God): Moses (the Old Covenant of law) and Jesus (the New Covenant of grace). The word “but” divides this verse in two, showing us that “the law givenby Moses” and “grace and truth coming by Jesus Christ” are not the same thing. The Old Covenant was based on the law, which came through Moses to the Jews. The New Covenant is based on grace and truth, which came for all people through Jesus. Sadly, many Christians are ignorant of this truth and try to live their new covenant (grace) Christianity under old covenant (law) principles. A good question to ask ourselves is: are we disciples of Moses or disciples of Jesus?
I’ve heard people say that it’s good to preach grace, but we must still tell people the truth – tell them about the law. When people say that they are mistakenly putting truth and law together. If we look at this verse we see that grace and truth are joined by the word and. Grace and truth are together, the law and truth are not. In fact, God sees grace and truth as synonymous – you cannot separate grace from truth as they are both embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14 KJV
Jesus came full of grace and truth – there is no law in Him. Grace and truth came together through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. Grace is more than just a doctrine or teaching, grace is a Person. Grace came by Jesus whereas the law was given through Moses. Jesus didn’t come to give us more laws, He came to give us His unmerited favour (grace and truth). The more we know Jesus, the more grace and truth we will know and experience. The more we know Moses (law – techniques and principles and regulations) the more legalistic we will be. Legalism results in the fruit of condemnation, guilt and shame. Paul calls it the ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:7) because it will bring death into your whole life – physically, emotionally and it certainly will prevent you from having a healthy relationship with God. The law kills but the ministry of the Spirit (grace) gives life! (2 Corinthians 3:6)
Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He also said that you will know the Truth and the Truth will make you free (John 8:32). You cannot be set free by knowing the law. We experience freedom when we know Jesus, who is full of grace and truth. Grace is the truth that sets us free. There is no freedom in law, there is only bondage. Under law, sin has control over you but under grace you are free! (Romans 6:14)
“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works (your effort); otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works (your effort), it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”
Romans 11:6 NKJV – brackets mine
There is no grace (undeserved favour) in law (human effort). Under law you never get treated better than you deserve – there is no place for mistakes or failure. And since the law is all about getting treated according to what you deserve, there is absolutely no room for grace.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
Romans 6:14 NKJV
We are not under law. We are under grace! We are not under the obligation and burden of self-effort – we are free from the burden of the law and having to live up to a certain unattainable standard. We are now being treated better than we deserve and are being empowered to live the abundant Christ-life.