The coupling of grace and truth is found in numerous places in the Bible, including Colossians 1:6 and 2 John 1:3 in the New Testament, and 2 Samuel 15:20 and Psalm 86:15 in the Old Testament. Then there is John 1:14, 17, which says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
There is a strong possibility that John is referencing the Hebrew terms hesed (“mercy” or “lovingkindness”) and emet (“truth” or “faithfulness”), found together in Exodus 34:6: “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.’” Note that the attributes of God in the Old Testament are applied to Christ in the New. At the beginning of his gospel, John is making a subtle statement regarding the divinity of Jesus. The rest of John’s gospel will expound on that truth.
It is important for grace and truth to work in tandem. An emphasis on grace alone can dissipate into a shallow and sentimental foundation where justice or truth is discarded. However, a focus only on truth can devolve into a cold, hardened dogma. Jesus’ character demonstrates the perfect balance of both grace and truth. He is “full” of both.
Grace and truth meld together in the gospel message to form a key distinction of Christianity over other religions. In all other religions, grace and truth are never balanced. Instead, the deity being worshiped either dispenses justice at the expense of grace or dispenses grace at the expense of justice and truth. Christianity is unique in that God delivers grace through His justice and truth.
The truth is, everyone has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and deserves God’s justice. However, God’s justice is satisfied, and His truth upheld, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. That act delivers God’s grace to those who will accept it by faith.
In this way, Christianity stands alone as an ontological faith—one that is fully dependent on a person—Jesus Christ—who perfectly balances and embodies both grace and truth in His very being.