“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17, NASB.
I’ve been thinking about this statement a good bit. The Law given through Moses is juxtaposed against grace and truth. The law was “given”; grace and truth were “realized.” The law was written and imposed, but not realized.
It is interesting that the law is juxtaposed against the idea of truth. It is not saying, I think, that the law is untrue. It is saying that the law does not appeal to truth, but rather to behavior and will. It is not for the law to explain why, to give intellectual justification, but rather to declare what should and should not be done. The law seeks to elicit behavior though the mind disagrees; it seeks a division between the mind and the heart, between the desire and behavior.
Truth appeals to something quite different. It appeals to the inner workings of the mind; it attempts to explain and justify to the mind. It seeks out and answers objections. It asks not that we should simply behave one way or another, but seeks to explain why we should behave one way or another. This is why grace and truth go together; truth seeks not to compel by declaration of a moral absolute, but to reason to a point of desire.
This is another example where the law can declare the appearance of surface behaviors, but only grace can produce real power against fleshly indulgence. From the beginning, law only declares, but grace and truth point to reality. Grace works together with truth and appeals to the mind to produce a real conviction about the value and desirability of virtue. By living out grace and truth, by teaching the deep inner workings of the law and revealing the secrets of the heart, and by offering grace and forgiveness, Jesus was able to open the door to a realization in others of true virtue.
Young children often display negative behaviors which must have strong boundaries drawn; discipline must be imposed. If a child is being unreasonable, an appeal to something besides reason must be used to enforce these boundaries. Once the child grows up a bit, a parent can begin to reason with a child instead of constantly resorting to brute discipline. Law is for the immature, but grace and truth point towards maturity. The fear of the freedom of grace, of license to sin, expects only childishness, but God sees something better of us. God entrusts through Christ a greater expectation, a push for virtue and holiness born not of fear of punishment, but of love.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3, NKJV.