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Who is Jesus? (Grace & Truth)

Grace < Grace < Grace

Written by Mike Biolsi on .

Notes

How many of you are confident you have a pretty good handle on who Jesus is, according to John?

OK, but have you at least learned something new about Jesus?

I think we have uncovered a lot. However, every time I come back to chapter 1 there seems to be another layer to discover! There is SO MUCH packed into the first 18 verses - it is awesome!

Let’s read our prologue again:

John 1:1–18

 CSB

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, 13 who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. 14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified concerning him and exclaimed, “This was the one of whom I said, ‘The one coming after me ranks ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ ”) 16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.

One of the things I like to do when studying the Bible is to find the things I do not quite understand, or that totally seem foreign to me, and try to figure out what they mean. It could be a paragraph, verse, phrase, or even a word. TBH there are a few things in this prologue that have challenged me.

ask: are there any words, phrases or verses that have stumped any of you?

Verse 16 is one of those verses that I have read many times, but it still seemed foreign to me when preparing for this series: ⭐

John 1:16–17

 CSB

16 Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

These verses have challenged me; as a result you get to learn with me in this message!

The phrase “grace upon grace” is one of those challenging phrases. Most of our English translations say “grace upon grace” or “grace after grace”. However, some scholars believe this should be “grace in place of grace”.

What is the big deal, right? ⭐ What is the difference and does it really matter?

grace upon grace -> additive, compounding the grace of God.

grace in place of grace -> subtractive, with one grace replacing the other.

Why the challenge? The Greek phrase⭐ is “χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος·” and if you notice in the middle is “ἀντί” which we use in English as “anti” which is to oppose or replace. Of the 68 times this word is used on the NT, this is the only one where the translators have used “upon”. The rest are meant to be a contrast or opposite, ⭐ like

Luke 11:11

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead (ἀντὶ) of a fish?”

Theologically, both make sense. Grammatically, the second option makes more sense. Why would you change one out of 68 occurrences to mean something totally different? ⭐

“grace upon grace”

The compounding grace of God is evident all throughout scripture. The grace of God that covered over Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, and the promise of a Chosen One that will someday undo the results of their sin. The grace to not take Cain’s life and even protect him after he murdered his brother Abel. The grace that promised not to destroy mankind by flood again, even though we humans are “continually evil all the time”. Redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt.

All of these are examples of God’s grace, and each one was on top of the previous grace that was given. All of of those examples also took place prior to the Law being given.

In the book of Exodus we meet God on Mount Sinai, and we find Moses talking with Yahweh and receiving the law. The people sin while Moses is getting the law, and when Moses gets down the mountain he is so upset he breaks the tablets with the law on them. God demonstrated his grace once again by providing the law again and not wiping out Israel and especially Aaron who was supposed to be the example as High Priest.

As Moses gets ready to go back up the mountain with a second set of tablets, he asks to see god’s glory. Let’s read the encounter: ⭐

Exodus 34:4–7

 LEB

4 And Moses cut two stone tablets like the first ones, and he started early in the morning, and he went up to Mount Sinai, as Yahweh had commanded him, and he took in his hand the two stone tablets. 5 And Yahweh descended in the cloud, and he stood with him there, and he proclaimed the name of Yahweh. 6 And Yahweh passed over before him, and he proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness, 7 keeping loyal love to the thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and he does not leave utterly unpunished, punishing the guilt of fathers on sons and on sons of sons on third and fourth generations.”

It is Yahweh’s grace that was presented to Moses when he was able to see a passing glimpse of the glory of Yahweh. Notice how Yahweh describes himself? ⭐

full of grace (gracious)

faithfulness (truth)

Exodus 34:6

 CSB

6 The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

God gave the law a second time and kept Aaron in his position. God led the people into the promised land and conquered their enemies before them. And even when they rebelled, God’s grace was compounded when he punished them but preserved a remnant to inherit his promises.

Then, for Yahweh to send his Son, the only one from the Father, to die for the sins of mankind is truly grace upon grace.

In his grace he is slow to anger, and in an ever greater show of grace he provides forgiveness, reconciliation and adoption.

Certainly the scriptures are clear about the compounding nature of God’s grace. The evidence is so clear that most translators have chosen to modify the meaning of “anti” in

John 1:16

to demonstrate the compounding nature of God’s grace.

“grace in place of grace”

So, what about the idea of grace in place of grace? If we were to take the most logical and literal interpretation of “anti” to mean “instead of”, or “in place of”, would that be contrary to scripture?

"Grace in place of grace” is the idea that there is a NEW grace that supersedes the OLD grace. In a very real way, it replaces it.

In the context of John, this is a very fitting understanding. Let’s read those verses again, and let’s translate it, “in place of”

John 1:16–17

(modified)

16 Indeed, we have all received grace in place of grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth(faithfulness) came through Jesus Christ.

There is a continuation from sixteen to seventeen.

The one grace maps onto the law given through Moses.

The other grace maps on the grace and truth given through Jesus, the chosen one.

The grace of the Law. ⭐

While the law was not a means of salvation, it did allow the Israelites to have God among them. That is certainly an act of grace!

The law was given to Israel so they could make a temporary atonement for their sins and thus co-exist with God in their midst. God still masked his glory in a cloud and would not meet face to face, but he was among them - in the tabernacle to start with and later in the temple.

Immediately after the tabernacle was built, God’s glory took up residence. Notice the wording at the end of Exodus:

Exodus 40:34–35

 CSB

34 The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Yahweh’s presence/glory filled the tabernacle and Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because of it. He is outside of the presence of God. Close to, but not in the presence of God.

The next book of the Torah is Leviticus. It is about the laws, sacrifices and offerings that the people need to follow to show their loyalty and dependence upon Yahweh and for God to remain among them.

After giving these laws, we pick up in the fourth book of the Torah - Numbers. Notice where Moses is located in this passage:

Numbers 1:1

 CSB

1 The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Wilderness of Sinai, on the first day of the second month of the second year after Israel’s departure from the land of Egypt:

The Law allowed the presence of God to be among the people, the priests to be near Yahweh, and the high priest, once a year, to enter into the presence of Yahweh. It also allowed Moses to be in the presence of Yahweh in the tent of meeting.

The law was a gift of grace because it provided a way for God to be among mankind, though not like it was in the beginning, nor like it will be in the New Creation at the end of the ages.

So, what is this NEW grace that supersedes the Law?

The grace of Jesus. ⭐

Because of Jesus, the presence of God was physically among mankind! Visible. Approachable. Touchable. Flesh and bones. Not because of any human influence, but because of the grace of God.

Let’s read vs 16& 17 again, and add 18: ⭐

John 1:16–18

(modified)

16 Indeed, we have all received grace in place of grace from his fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.

The grace of the law was replaced with the grace of Jesus. The first grace (Law) provided a way for God’s presence to remain among the people, though shrouded. The second grace brought the presence of God in the flesh, to mankind. The second grace (Jesus) replaced the first grace (Law).

So how do you reconcile

Matt 5:17

⭐where Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17

 CSB

17 “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

The KEY is in the “fulfillment”. The law was temporary. The work of Jesus, permanent.

⭐ “Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness,” meaning that Jesus was the fulfillment of something - of the Law! The word “fulness” πλήρωμα means something that is complete. ⭐⭐

Hebrews 10:1–10

 CSB

1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the reality itself of those things, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, purified once and for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, as he was coming into the world, he said: You did not desire sacrifice and offering, but you prepared a body for me. 6 You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings. 7 Then I said, “See— it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, God.” 8 After he says above, You did not desire or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings (which are offered according to the law), 9 he then says, See, I have come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. 10 By this will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

The law was a shadow of things to come, Jesus was the complete glory. Notice in ⭐verse 9 “...He takes away the first to establish the second.” That is “grace in place of grace”. Another passage that shows the grace in place of grace concept as that which is the fullness or completion of God’s plan, is in Galatians. ⭐

Galatians 4:4–7

 CSB

4 When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.

The word “completion” is the same as the word “fullness” from

John 1:16

. When the time was fulfilled. When the time was complete - God sent Jesus to do what the law could not. This passage in Galatians also shows the passing of the law by Jesus. “Redeemed” from the law to adoption. From grace to a better grace.

John Explanation of the Text

The old covenant is as much grace as the new, but it is in the new covenant that grace is given its ultimate and final expression. The progression of the prologue has moved from a God who has “given” to his people to a God who has “come” to his people

So, we can see that the evidence for a “grace in place of grace” translation is also warranted, and actually even more directly taught in the New Testament.

DOES IT MATTER?

They both show an aspect of the grace of God. BOTH are worthy of our reflection and thanksgiving. God’s new grace provides a way for me to be a permanent part of his family and forgiven once and for all. God’s compounding grace is visible each and every day as he chooses to use broken people like us to join him in his work of redemption.

However, there is still one part of verse sixteen that seems out of place to me. There is a phrase that describes Jesus… ⭐

“grace and truth”

Two times, John uses the phrase “grace and truth”. This is another unique John-ism. ⭐

John 1:14

“14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:17

“17 for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

It seems pretty clear as to why “grace” might appear in these passages. But why is truth here? Perhaps it is yet another connection back to the Law? It certainly is meant to connect us with Moses!

We just read about the announcement Yahweh made when passing before Moses,

Exodus 34:6

 CSB

6 The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

However, the Hebrew word TRUTH can carry another meaning. Not just the absence of falsehood, faithfulness:

Exodus 34:6

 LEB

6 And Yahweh passed over before him, and he proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness,

Not only was Jesus the fulfilment of God’s grace, he was the fulfilment of humanity’s need to be faithful - he was the only person who ever kept God’s law completely. Not only does it speak about his deity and being faithful as God, but it speak of his humanity and in all ways being without sin: ⭐

Hebrews 4:15

 CSB

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.

To declare that Jesus was full of grace and truth is to declare that Jesus was the perfect human and the image of the Father. John makes this connection as he wraps up his prologue: ⭐

John 1:18

 CSB

18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.

Conclusion

As we wrap up our series on Who Is Jesus, we must admit that there is a lot more that could be covered:

The incarnation

The theme of “seeing” or “revelation”

The divine throne room

The darkness

The new life in Christ

However, as we wrap up this message, we have come to understand that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan. He is the greatest grace that provides a bridge between God and humans.

The law brought people closer to God; Jesus brought God to the dwelling of people:

John Explanation of the Text

The prologue has carefully articulated the coming of the Word from “with God” to “among us,” moving from creation through the Old Testament to the “unique Son.”

There is a beautiful progression that takes pace in the prologue of John’s gospel. It has to do with proximity. ⭐

Where “was” the Word/light in the beginning? WITH GOD.

The true light that John talked about “was coming” to the world (cosmos).

Then, the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (us being humans). And we saw his glory (radiance, light).

The light was, the light was coming, the light came and lived among people.

But the progression does not stop there! ⭐

After the resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and then WE become tabernacles, and God’s spirit lives in BELIEVERS!

1 Corinthians 3:16

 CSB

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

The grace in place of grace offers not only the presence of God among mankind for a while, but the presence of God’s spirit inside of humans! God IN us. ⭐⭐

Romans 8:1–9

 CSB

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, 2 because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on the things of the Spirit. 6 Now the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mindset of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.

If you belong to God, you have the spirit of Christ in you! You are a tabernacle/temple and you have experienced the ultimate grace of God, that he would not only be near you, and with you, but in you! What an amazing gift from God - such Amazing Grace!


Who is Jesus? (Grace & Truth)