John 1:17—”For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
In the days of the Old Testament, the Israelites were ‘given’ laws to abide by, for their daily life. ‘Laws’ typically included all their spiritual life and also their hygiene and other aspects as well. These laws had traditions, rites and rituals, and customs so that the Israelites could maintain a righteous life and connect to God. Inflexible laws in all forms: Mosaic Law, the laws of our country, or the laws written upon our consciences have no tenderness, or feeling, but condemn us. God gave the laws to Moses , which were stringent and a kind of formal religion of principles and rules imposed from without. Mosaic laws were written on tables of stone with a pen of iron. We picture lightning and rolling thunder to symbolise the fierce light of law, which thrust on men duty and terrors of its retribution. With no compassion for human weakness, the law tells us what we ought to be, but it helps with nothing toward their fulfilment; in fact they threaten with payback, ‘This shalt thou do, or else…’.
In contrast, Grace and Truth came through the Gospel of Lord Jesus in the New Testament. We have a spiritual connection with Jesus as a relationship from within us. Grace from love comes and says, ‘I will help you do it.’ Grace and Mercy came through a giving Lord Jesus. The Gospel unveils the heart of God. Christ’s gentle, gracious form brings pardon, and ‘the grace of God brings salvation unto all.’ Jesus comes to reveal but does not show us God by His words; He does not preach about Him, but He lives Him, He manifests Him. His gentleness, compassion, miracles, wisdom, patience, tears, promises; all these are the very divine nature before our eyes. All the favour of God for the remission and pardon of sin, and for strength and assistance to perform our duty is from Christ – the fountain of grace and truth.
The difference is between the ministries of Moses and Jesus. Moses’ ministry brought knowledge of the law-Truth. But the law could only show us how sinful and broken we were. Instead of merely telling us that we were broken, Christ gave us a way to fix what was wrong. Jesus brought us grace. Our human efforts will always fall short, and everyone is corrupted with sin. Jesus provided a way for us to experience forgiveness-Mercy. We can never get salvation by doing good deeds, only God’s grace (in our faith) can do that. Only those who accept Christ’s sacrifice of blood are spared from the judgment we all deserve. The Old Testament says ‘Thou shalt’; the New Testament says ‘God is.’ The Old was Law; the New is Truth and Grace from a Living Lord Jesus!