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John 1:14, 16-17 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Was Jesus gracious when he talked about final judgment by works or spoke of those who don’t use their talents being thrown into hell (Mat 25)? Was Jesus a legalist when he intensified our understanding of God’s requirements? Was Paul gracious when he wrote over 300 commands to believers or warned them of judgment or told the church to hand a believer over to Satan?

The most common Biblical interpretation error I come across is setting one truth against another. For example, some like human freedom and so diminish God’s sovereignty and vice versa. Some are excited by the truths of Christianity but are wary of emotion. Some are moved by the emotional side of the faith but are suspicious of doctrine.

Correct understanding allows us to embrace all truths simultaneously, even the ones that initially seem to be in tension. In fact, a good check of the quality of our thinking is how often we come across verses that challenge our doctrine or that require us to perform tricks to conform them to our understanding.

Justification through grace by faith alone is awesome. Jesus dying a terrible death so that sinners like you and me can become part of his family is breathtaking. We must always teach and celebrate these truths. But we must also praise God that he tells us what he expects of us, how we will be judged, empowers us to live holy lives, and warns us when we are going astray. These are gracious too, and our understanding of grace isn’t complete until it makes room for them.

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