Grace Series: Grace for Grace

And of His fullness we have received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:16-17).

There is a contrast between what Moses brought to man and what Jesus brought to man. Curtis Cates commented, “The law of Moses pointed up sin and made sin ‘exceeding sinful,’ but it could not bring full and complete forgiveness and freedom from sin’s guilt, thus the ‘remembrance of sins year by year’ (Hebrews 10:3; Romans 7:13). It was characterized more by law than by grace; law without the shedding of Christ’s blood was inadequate. It killed, but could not give life (2 Corinthians 3:6). Only by the shedding of the blood of the precious Lamb of God (John 1:29) would full and immediate forgiveness be possible. Thus, forgiveness in the Old Testament was in promise, through offering animal sacrifices, looking to and typical of the coming Messiah (Romans 9:30-10:4). The Hebrews writer stated, ‘God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect’ (Hebrews 11:40)” (Curtis Cates, Studies in John, The 18th Annual Denton Lectures, p. 67).

What is Not Meant

This does not mean that there was no grace before Christ. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). Ezra said in prayer, “grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape” (Ezra 9:8).

This does not mean that there was not (in any sense) forgiveness before Christ. God counted them as forgiven when they complied with their part of His requirements for forgiveness (cf. Leviticus 4:22-23, 25-26). However, the blood of Christ was still required (Hebrews 9:9; 9:15; 10:1-4; 10:19-22; 11:39-40; Galatians 4:4-5). Here is an illustration, though imperfect: A utility company will count your bill as paid upon receiving your check. Though, it technically is not paid until the check clears the bank. God counted those of old as forgiven (in a sense) though it would require the blood of Christ.

This does not mean that there was not any truth before Christ. The Psalmist said of the LORD, “Your law is truth” (Psalm 119:142), and “the entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160).

This is not teaching that man today is not amenable to law. Man is today amenable to law (Galatians 6:2; James 1:25; 2:8; Hebrews 10:16 cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Isaiah 2:3; Romans 8:2; 8:6-7; 1 Corinthians 9:21). One cannot sin unless law exists (1 John 3:4; Romans 4:15; 5:13). “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

What is Meant

We have received “grace for grace” (John 1:16). This could be literally rendered “grace instead of grace” (The Zondervan Parallel New Testament). Whatever grace existed under the Old Testament, far superior exists under the New Testament. Sins are no longer annually remembered (Hebrews 9:12 cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:1-4 cf. Leviticus 16). They had forgiveness in promise (though they were counted as forgiven when they complied with their part of God’s conditions for forgiveness). We have forgiveness in reality. This grace was prophesied of by the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:10-11).

However much truth was revealed under the Old Testament, we have received far more. His eternal purpose is accomplished in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:11). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

This grace and truth is “of His fullness” (John 1:16). It could be literally rendered “out of His fullness.” He came “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 cf. 1:16; 1:17).

“Oh the depths and the riches of God’s saving grace flowing down from the cross for me! There the debt for my sins by the Savior was paid in His suffering on Calvary!” (Song: Oh the Depths and the Riches by Tillit S. Teddlie).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Forgiveness, Grace, Jesus, Old Testament/New Testament, Textual study and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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