For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Grace and truth
The demolishing and re-building work of the Holy Spirit in the children of God.
Reading: John 1:14, 16-17.
In these verses we are told that the Word became flesh and that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth. It is very interesting to see how this expression "grace and truth" is repeated in verse 14 and in 17, and that grace goes before truth. The word "grace" is then repeated twice in verse 16. All this makes us see, on the one hand, that grace and truth go together, and also on the other hand, that grace surpasses truth.
Now, the Greek word translated as "truth" can also be translated as "reality." The Lord, then, was full of grace and reality. In him there was no deceit or falsehood; there was no contradiction or anything that was blurry. Everything about him was consistent, coherent, full. Everything the Lord said was congruent with what he did. Everything he spoke was congruent with what he was.
Grace combined with truth
Grace comes first, because grace is the love of God that lifts us up. He found us fallen, lost, condemned, and grace - the undeserved love of God - raised us up; it took us out of that position and put us in another, very privileged one. The grace of God did that in Christ Jesus.
And the truth - the reality - comes immediately. Someone explained it this way: In the first years of the Christian life we only know the grace of God - we are seated in heavenly places enjoying what Christ did for us; however, after a time, we begin to know another aspect of Christ, His truth.
It is not that we didn’t know the truth before, but that the truth begins to manifest itself as reality. We begin to know the reality of things. Before we knew Him, we were totally under the power of the deceiver. We lived as the world lives, in a world of appearance; then the Lord begins to show us the truth as reality, and begins to show us our reality as well.
From then on the road is not so easy or joyful anymore. When the Lord begins to show us the reality concerning God, the world and us - above all, concerning us - then we will pass through some crises, pain and anguish.
For example, we talk a lot about God's holiness. But there comes a time when we begin to know in a painful way, the reality of God's holiness. The holiness of God is terrible. It is one thing to sing that God is holy and another is to see how holy God is. When we do, we become aware that we are very sinful and that our God is very holy. And when we want to walk close to Him, his holiness does not allow us to walk with him carrying our sins, our darkness, our contradictions and hypocrisy. How terrible that is! As it says in Job: "In God there is terrible majesty" (37:22b).
When the Lord begins to show us the truth about many things, we begin to be found out. The impure motives with which we served God become evident. And then we begin to fall. And we wonder why the Lord chose us. ‘Perhaps I am a rarity within God's people, a negative exception, one that the Lord perhaps chose by mistake’ (- if we could attribute this to God). ‘What's wrong with me?’, we say.
Then, when we are downcast, the Lord shows us his grace, and says, "Yes, just as you see yourself now, I have loved you. So I knew you, and that's why I chose you. Because I wanted to demonstrate in a people as vile as you how great my love, my power, my patience and my fidelity are." And He lifts us up, and we go up again and behold His glory.
In a short time, something more of our unreality - because there is still much left - is discovered, and we once again become very ashamed. Thus, the Christian walk alternates between manifestations of the grace and manifestations of the truth of God. 1
Six characters, six experiences
The Gospel of John can be seen entirely from this point of view. Everything that John wrote in his gospel is designed to show how Christ expressed the grace and truth of God among men.
This gospel was written towards the end of the first century, when the other three gospels had already been written. So John already knew them. Curiously, in this Gospel, there are six characters with whom Christ interacted, who do not appear in any of the other three. And these six are, in our view, the key characters in this gospel. The way the Lord related to each of them shows us how He expressed to them the grace and truth of God.
The first is Nicodemus (chapter 3), the second is the Samaritan woman (chapter 4), the third is the paralytic of Bethesda (chapter 5), the fourth is the adulterous woman (chapter 8), the fifth is the man blind from birth (chapter 9), and the sixth is Lazarus (Chapter 11). Notice that the number six, in the Bible, is the number of man.
It is interesting to see this gallery of characters in this light, and to observe the fact, for example, that the first of them, Nicodemus, speaks of birth, and the last one, Lazarus, speaks of death and resurrection. Between this birth and this death and resurrection the entire course of the Christian life is contained. Thus, these characters show us six key experiences in the Christian life - because the Gospel of John was written primarily for the church.
Nicodemus came to the Lord with words of praise, recognizing that Jesus was a man who had come from God. However, the Lord tells him bluntly: "Truly, truly, I say unto thee, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." This expression, and what he says afterwards, is not at all diplomatic. It's like putting a mirror in front of him and saying, "Nicodemus, look at yourself; You are a teacher of Israel, but you are lost; You are not saved. You do not know spiritual things. You are a natural man. Unless you have a deep spiritual experience - being born of water and spirit - you cannot partake of the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus demonstrated all his ignorance in spiritual things when he asked how an old man could enter a second time in the womb of his mother and be born. So the Lord says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit."
The new birth is the beginning of the Christian walk; We need an experience with the Holy Spirit to be born again, and we need many other experiences with the Holy Spirit to survive spiritually in the Christian life.
Nicodemus was a master of the law, or as a translation suggests, was "a master of Israel" - and did not know the Spirit. So also are the teachers of the Word: they can become masters without the spirit. We can become learned in the Scriptures without the Spirit. Or settle for an initial experience and then let ourselves be carried away by the comfort of the flesh, and become dry masters. Like Nicodemus, we too are confronted by the Lord: "What about us? How are we in relation with the Spirit? " "How are you, teachers? Do you know the Spirit? "
The Spirit has mysterious ways, for you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. It is something that escapes human logic. Do we know the ways of the Spirit?
The first thing Nicodemus knew of the Lord was not grace, but truth. And then there is grace, for the Lord offers Nicodemus the solution. He says: "You do not need to go up to heaven. For the Son of man has come down from heaven. It is not necessary for you to do things, for you to raise yourself up, but to receive the one who came down from heaven." The Lord has all the answers and all the solutions for all the Nicodemuses.
In John 6:63, we find the following verse 3:6: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit... The Spirit gives life;The flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." Why did Nicodemus need to be born again, of the spirit? For if he is only born of the flesh, the flesh profits nothing, only the Spirit gives life.
We cannot move in the realm of flesh and blood, because that does not generate life. It would be only mental understanding, human effort, but not life. The only thing that generates life is the Spirit.
The Samaritan woman
One of the first things we need to learn after our spiritual birth is the difference between soul and spirit. And I think that the Lord's encounter with the Samaritan woman teaches us a little about that.
This woman used to go to the well to get water. In between the daily activity of this woman we discover that she had problems in the realm of the affections. She was a sensual woman, in need of affection - having had five husbands and the one she now had was not her husband. Her soul was thirsty. And that thirst is represented in the need to go to the well of Jacob every day. However, the water of a well is not ordinary water, it is a stagnant water that is often contaminated. It does not have the purity of the source water.
Here we have the soul, polluted and insatiable. The soul plays many tricks. Soulish or psychical Christians, seek and seek, and never find satisfaction. The Lord says, "That is not the way. On the side of the soul there is no solution. You need to discover this other water that I will give you to drink. It is my Spirit. "
The woman did not know about the water source. And we cannot serve the Lord, we cannot be useful, if we do not know the difference between the soul and the spirit, and if we do not allow them to be separated in us.
Then, surprisingly, the conversation drifts toward worship. It is rather strange that the Lord spoke of worship with this woman, but this was the time to do it. Worship is a matter of the spirit, not of the soul. The worship of God, like the work of God, cannot be done with the soul's capacities, but with the power of the Spirit. Worship is spiritual, prayer is spiritual, service is spiritual. Everything has to be of the Spirit and by the Spirit.
This is a very important lesson for every Christian. So here, again, the encounter of the Lord with this person reveals our condition. What are we drinking? Perhaps the most common thing is that we are drinking a mixture of the two waters. A little of this, and a little of that. That is why we are not spiritually strong, that is why we are so weak. That's why our service is so mixed; one moment we do things right; then we do the wrong things. Because they come from different sources.
The paralytic of Bethesda
Thirty-eight years of paralysis. In the Christian life there are situations that can be caused by sins - as seems to have been the case with this man - and that generate paralysis. And since there is paralysis there is also inability to serve God.
Thirty-eight years is a very long period. There is a real story that can illustrate this. I know the case of a brother who, when he was very young, was called by the Lord into service. Nevertheless, after finishing University, he dedicated himself to forming a family, and to his professional career. With the passage of time a state of anguish began to come over him, because he felt that he had rejected that initial appeal, and that now there was no chance. One day, when he was about 38 years old, the Lord allowed him to see, in the light of this passage, his own paralysis. And so he thought that when he was 38 years old, he would be healed. But the age of 38 passed and there was no healing. The miracle didn’t happen until a few years later.
Apparently, in this case there was no moral sin that caused the problem; however, he had despised the call of the Lord, which may be considered an even greater sin.
Paralysis means that you can do absolutely nothing. And in that case, neither your efforts nor the prayers of the brothers seem to have an effect. The only thing that can help us is if the Lord sovereignly, mercifully, one day approaches us and says to us: "Do you want to be made well?". And in that case, we do not even have an immediate yes - as was the case with this man. We have wanted it so much that the yes does not come easily to us. But the Lord knows us and He heals us.
Probably there is in every one of us some problem, some situation that makes us paralytic for a long time. And in that time we have to learn that in us there is no solution, no hope. We can only say, "Lord, only your mercy will cause me to walk again." And the Lord who is merciful, makes us walk again. Thus, he shows us his truth and his grace.
The woman caught in adultery
She had been caught in adultery, and the arm of the law had caught up with her. She was set before the Lord, waiting for the fulfilment of the commandment of the law, that is, the stoning. That was her end; that was the punishment for her sin.
She was caught in the law; However, she was saved by grace. Romans 7:5 says, "For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were at work in our members through the law, bearing fruit for death." What is the end of sinful passions according to the law? Death! However, the Word adds: "But now we are free from the law, having died to what we were held, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter" (v. 6 ). Thank God!
The law is very strong - the power of sin is the law - because it produces in us a great abundance of sins. And we need to have an experience of such magnitude, under the fury of the law, so that we are totally condemned, just to enjoy the wonderful liberation of the Lord. We too are the adulteress, and we need, as she did, the Lord to show us His grace, and show us the truth.
The man blind from birth
We were born blind. Blind towards God, and also towards seeing how we really are. The blindness and healing of this man speak of spiritual things, because the Lord said, "For judgment I have come into this world; so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind" (John 9:39). If He were talking about physical things, then, along with healing the blind man, He would have blinded those who saw. But it is not a physical matter alone: it is a matter of spiritual vision.
This is an issue that we cannot shy away from. The day we met the Lord we received spiritual sight, but we need to keep moving forward in this vision to see the Lord Jesus just as He is. The spiritual vision of this man went through at least three stages, which are the three ways he saw the Lord.
When asked they asked him who had healed him, he replied, "The man called Jesus" (v. 11). Later they returned to ask the same question, and he said of Jesus that "he is a prophet" (v. 17). When he was questioned for the third time, he says: "If this man were not from God, he could do nothing" (v. 33). This man makes three attempts to identify Jesus, three attempts that go from less to more; However, none of them hit the mark. He senses something, he is close to the mark, but it is not enough.
When he says, "If this man did not come from God, he could do nothing", he was expelled from the synagogue. Once outside, the Lord finds him and says , "Do you believe in the Son of God? He answered and said, "Who is He Lord, that I may believe on him? Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and He who is speaking with you, is He." And he said, I believe, Lord; and he worshiped him. " What is the purpose of receiving spiritual vision? Seeing Jesus! Not only seeing Him as the man, not only as the prophet, or as the one who had come from God, but, above all, seeing Him as the Son of God.
Why do we want light? To simply know the mysteries of the Bible? To become teachers of the Word? To work miracles? The first and foremost reason God gives us light is for us to see His Son. This man saw Jesus as the Son of God.
If we turn back in the Gospel of John, we see that the Lord reveals himself to the Samaritan woman as the Christ, and to this man He reveals Himself as the Son of God. If we put these two revelations together we have the complete whole about Jesus. He chose a woman of dubious reputation and a social outcast to reveal Himself in fullness.
Now, why do you think that we too have received this revelation about Jesus? Because we bring these two characters together within us. We are both like the Samaritan woman and like this blind man. How wonderful is the grace of God!
It is also very important to understand that the light we receive is gradual. How many attempts we made in the past, according to the light we had, to reach a deep and true knowledge of the Lord! How many mistakes we made because of a defective and insufficient vision!
Those who receive a little light usually look at others with disdain. The ability to recognize the mistakes of the past assures us that now we can see a little more. When the light is insufficient we tend to be hard, contemptuous and smug.
If we see that spiritual light is gradual we would be more merciful. Because no one has the same capacity of vision as another, and no one has the complete vision either. And our judgments are derived from the amount of light we have.
If we want to be more enlightened, we must learn from this man born blind, who received light not because he was deserving of it, but because the Lord had mercy on him, so that the works of God could be manifested in him. Why and for what reason is God giving us some light? So that the works of God may be manifested in us. So that we can say that God gives sight to the blind, because he chose a lot of blind people like us and gave us sight.
Lazarus was a privileged man. Together with the twelve disciples, and his sisters Mary and Martha, they formed the group of the fifteen most privileged people in the days of the Lord Jesus. The Lord came to their house as if it was His own house. He ate at the table with them. Eating at the table of the Lord is a great privilege! However, the most privileged, the closest, like Lazarus, have to die. For the very fact of being so intimate, they have to die.
The excellency of this Man approved by God is so high, that if you are there with Him on your own as a natural man, you cannot resist Him. That is your reality. You have to die to yourself, so that the Lord can raise up Himself in you. Therefore, the Lord arranged the circumstances in the life of Lazarus so that he died.
It may seem to us that the Lord was unfriendly, or unmerciful, in not going to heal him when he was sick, but the Lord had a purpose in allowing Lazarus to die. We can see how glorious the consequences of the resurrection of Lazarus were. People went to Bethany not only to see Jesus, but also to see him. An ordinary man is just another man, but a risen one is very attractive.
Only after death is there resurrection. And the resurrection brings much fruit for God and blessing for the church. This is the grace of God. Scripture says that when Lazarus was sitting at the table again, Mary poured her perfume on the Lord. We can suppose then that if Lazarus had not been resurrected, Mary would not have done that. And when Mary did that, the whole house was filled with the aroma.
Bethany is the church. When the Lazaruses are raised up and when the Marys pour out their perfume, then the whole church is filled with the resurrection life and the aroma of Christ. But there are no shortcuts or loopholes. I dare say that Lazarus died because he was a friend of Jesus.
Nicodemus speaks of birth, and Lazarus of death and resurrection. The children of God have to be born and we have to die and resurrect - spiritually speaking. Only then does the circle close. It is not enough to know, with Romans 6, that we were included in the death of the Lord: we have to reach the positive and subjective experience of our own death, to enter into the experience of Romans 8, 12 and so on. Thus, Romans 6 and John 11 are complementary.
There must be an illness of death in our life, an experience without healing. I do not know how it will be in your case, whether it was or is going to have to be, but it is inevitable.
In all this episode, Lazarus did not speak a single word, because this is not a matter of words, but of experience. Oh, how necessary is silence before the Lord!
The Word made flesh again
I believe that the Lord is doing a very delicate work in the church, in each of His beloved children. The Lord invests so much in us, He loves us in such a way that not only did he die on the cross for us, but today he continues to work, tearing us down and lifting us up, breaking us and reconstituting us.
At this time there has been a very strong cry in many of God's children: "O Lord, make us real, true, authentic." The Word says, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth." The will of God is that the Word should become flesh again in us, and that we should also become full of grace and truth. Without a hint of appearance, of contradiction, between what we say and what we do.
There is a great difference between wheat and straw; The wheat is harvested and the chaff is burned up. How much of us there is that is still straw! But the Lord has the power, by His word, to cleanse and transform us. The Word of God generates life and reality. Thank the Lord.
Synthesis of a message given in Barbosa, Colombia, in July 2007.
1 "The Greek word for real is alethinos, and is related closely with the alethes word meaning truth, and Aletheia which means" truth. " When our encounter alethinos versions translate as true; It would be more correct to translate real, or authentic. Jesus is the true light (1: 9); Jesus is the truebread (6:32), Jesus is the true vine (15: 1); Jesus the real trial (8:16) belongs. He is the only one who possesses reality in our world of shadows and imperfections. Every action that Jesus carried out was not only an act in time, but a window that allows us to see the reality that is God ». (William Barclay, John I). Editor's Note.