8: Grace upon Grace (John 1:14-18)
8: Grace upon Grace
“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. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:14-16)
Another “all” but this is not a universal one. In this context it speaks of John and the other followers of Jesus. This “we” had seen the glory of the Logos in the flesh (John 1:14). This Logos in the flesh is full (pleres) of grace and truth. This “we” (those who have seen His glory in the flesh) have all received grace upon grace.
For the sake of this chapter, I am going to distinguish truth from grace as if they were two sides of a spectrum. However, the reality is that God’s truth is always liberally sprinkled with grace and His grace is always founded on truth. They are not polar opposites. However, I think it is helpful for us to draw the distinction between them to grasp what The Holy Spirit, through John, is wanting to tell us in this passage.
Taken literally in context, it seems that when Jesus came, He brought us grace and truth. If we had received from Him truth upon truth we would have been weighed down and condemned by the righteous and just judgements of God against us. We would have had nowhere to hide and nowhere to run.
We could have received truth and grace, surely the right mixture of right judgements against us and yet also undeserved kindness that shields and saves us from the just consequences of our sin.
But John says, because he knows, he is speaking personally here, that they received from Jesus grace upon grace.
Was it that they did not hear the truth? No, they absolutely heard the truth. But what they got, what they received beyond the truth was grace. Waves of it. Coming in one after another and crashing against the shore of their blindness, hardness of heart, cynicism and unbelief. Grace for their personal ambition and petty jealousies. Grace for their lack of love. In the end, grace even for their betrayal.
The Logos had come to them full of grace and truth. What they received from Him was grace upon grace.
One such grace is this: They saw the glory of God in the flesh and they did not die. They were almost blinded by the light on the mountain when they saw Jesus transfigured beyond His flesh. The real glory breaking through. But He clothed His glory in flesh and dwelt among us, so that we can see his glory and yet not die from the brightness of it.
“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:2)
And they received this grace upon grace “from His fulness”.
John goes on to unpack “grace upon grace” for us and he does it by contrasting two ministries and fully identifying for us, for the first time, the superstar of his gospel.
Now we know His name. No longer just the Logos, the Life and Light, the One and Only of the Father. Now we know His name and it is given to us in contrast to the other name that was held in such high regard by the Jewish people.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
We had Moses – now we have Jesus. This is not just a contrast in names but in ministries and anointing and power.
Through Jesus comes grace and truth. Through Moses comes the law. The law was never just truth. It had truth in it and it had some grace in it because it gave people the understanding of how to know and serve and please God. But it was still the law, the written code that stands against us not for us. It rightly condemns us, it doesn’t graciously justify us. It reveals our sin, it doesn’t fill us with righteousness and even the righteousness that we think we can achieve through it can turn into pride and the sort of self righteousness that was so common in the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.
No, through Moses, however great he was, came the law. But through Jesus comes grace and truth. His truth awakens us to the spiritual realities of who He is and our position before Him as sinners worthy of judgement. But there is also the truth of His unfailing love and willingness to take our punishment and die in our place and exchange His righteousness for our sinfulness. And then we have grace, His unmerited kindness and love towards us and the undeserved gift of His forgiveness and power that frees us.
It is not that truth and grace are separate. It is that every truth in Him is laced with grace and all the grace in Him is full of truth. Through Moses we got the law, which gave us truth and some grace (meaning unmerited kindness) but not the power to embrace either (which is what true grace is – the power to change). Now we have grace and truth but it comes through Jesus. Now we have the power to embrace both.
We had Moses, but now we have Jesus. We had the law but now we have life and Light. Now we know His name and it is greater than any other name because the Logos, the Life, the Light, the One and Only of the Father can do for us what no one else can. He can save us and set us free to life and light and full adoption into the Family of God.
Jesus means: “Jehovah is salvation.”
Salvation is not just what Jehovah does, it is who He is. Jesus embodied that on the earth. Through Him comes grace and truth. Not just grace to cover us when we break the law and despise the truth but grace to enable us to live the truth.
“No one has ever seen God (Theos). The One and Only of God (Monogenes Theos) now between the arms of His Father, He has made Him known” (to us and to the world). (John 1:18)
This is what that verse literally means. This does not put Jesus at the Father’s side but in front of Him, between His arms. This is again a clear indication of Jesus’ divinity but also the depth of love and relationship that exists between them.
Jesus doesn’t come to us from a place of sitting next to His Father but from between His arms. From the centre of all that He is. From His heart.
In verse 14, Jesus was described as the “One and Only” from the Father (monogenes para Pater). Now He is the One and Only of God (Monogenes Theos). He has all the genes of the Father, He has all the genes of God. He is the perfect imprint, the exact representation of His Father, the perfect imprint of, the exact representation of God. Because He is God.
This is beyond Adam. Adam was man. Man made in the image of God. Jesus is God. God become man.
God has revealed to us what He always knew to be true, that you cannot trust a man, even one made in His own image, to love Him fully and completely carry out the purpose and destiny set for him. It takes God to do that. It takes God to live up to God’s standards of love and purity and truth and grace and all His glories. It takes God to live out the purpose that God has designed. No other earthly created being, of themselves, is capable of doing it.
So rather than introducing Jesus as a man made in the image of God, as Adam was, He is introduced into the world as God become man.
Paul in Colossians 1:15 tells us that “He (Jesus) is the image (Greek “eikon”) of the invisible God” and He is. He is the perfect image. But not like Adam. Adam was man made in the image of God. Jesus is God become a man who now not only bears the image of God, but has all the attributes of God (His “monogenes”) necessary to be able to live out the full call of all that He intended for us.
This is moving from truth, to truth and grace, to grace upon grace.
Truth 1: We are made in God’s image
Truth 2: We were not capable, despite being made in God’s image of living out our call and destiny as true sons and daughters of God.
Truth 3: We are rightly condemned for our sin, severely distorted view of God and pitifully low vision of ourselves and sent out of the garden of His presence with no human way of getting back in. But God still covered our nakedness, kept us alive and blessed some of our offspring
Truth 4: Whilst those of us who were living by our own will, outside of His grace, were designing our own rebellious plans to rise up and become as gods, He was working out His own plans for restoring us to true Sonship. However, even those plans seem destined to always be overtaken by our stronger commitment to willful rejection of His plan in favour of our own self love.
There is a measure of grace and kindness that goes along with each of these truths but not the power to sustain a lasting change in the human condition (true grace).
Truth and Grace: So God sends His One and Only, the fulness of all that He is as God and Father who fully becomes a man. This is not God in the image of a man. This is God fully become man. The fulness of God fully become a man. He now fully demonstrates for us the life that God wants us to have not just as an image bearer but as a genetically changed being. The Logos become flesh.
Grace upon Grace: As we receive Christ, as we fully believe in His name a wonderful, incredible miracle happens. Now, through Him we may move beyond Adam, the man made in God’s image, to become the true Sons and Daughters that God desires. This life (of a true Son and Daughter) is literally in Christ, God become man. When that life is in us, as it was in the man Jesus, we can not only look like God but we receive the “exousia” (Greek), the right, to become children of God. This is not just the right and the privilege of becoming like the children of God, but the “force, capacity, competency, freedom, mastery, delegated influence, authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right and strength” (Strong’s definition) to become (Greek “ginomae”) children of God.
This is grace upon grace.
It is grace that God has been kind enough to send us Jesus as a Saviour and perfect sacrifice into the world, so that we may be saved from our sinfulness, brought near to God and restored to eternal life.
It is grace upon grace that God should become flesh so that we should become His children. Born not of blood (because there is nothing in our genetic code that can restore us to Godliness), nor of the will of the flesh (because the will of man’s flesh was never strong enough to withstand the multiple demands of our own selfish desires and fully desire God instead) but born of God. Not just attempting to look like Him, but born of God in our flesh. Given the power within us not just to become like His children but to become His children. His genes in us. The genetic code of God taking us beyond being made in His image into actually becoming His children. We are indeed new creations.
In Christ, we are not participants in a Divine Experiment but partakers of the Divine Nature.
Now we can truly have a life worth living, because not only do we have the desire to live for God, but we have the power to live as God’s children.
That is the power of the truth that the Holy Spirit through John is wanting to communicate to us here in this first chapter. That is the message that is repeatedly unpacked in different ways throughout this gospel. It is truth and grace for everyone. But to those who receive Him, who believe in His name, it is grace upon grace upon grace upon grace.Posted on: March 3, 2018Peter Todd