By Daniel L. Segraves
In his passage on the incarnation (John 1:1-18), John included a statement which may at first seem curious. In reference to Jesus Christ, John wrote, “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace
for grace” (v. 17).
The first part of the verse exposes the incipient Gnosticism of the day as dangerously deficient in its view of Christ. Early Gnostic trends infilterated the church even before the end of the first century, denying the completeness of Christ’s humanity and thus also denying the reality of the incarnation. John responded to these errors also in his first epistle. (See I John 1:1; 4:1-3.)
Here in the gospel of John, the Messiah is presented as fully God and fully human (John 1:1, 14-18). Both aspects are summed up in the word “fulness” (pleroma). This is the only place John uses the word, but
Paul uses it five times of Christ (Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Ephesians 1:23; 3:19; 4-:13). In at least two cases l Colossians 1:19; 2:9) Paul uses the word to describe the manner in which the fulness of deity is resident in Jesus Christ.
According to John, the blessings we have received spring out of this fullness of Christ, that is, the fact that He is both God and man.
Then, John writes, we have received “grace for grace. ” This is the only time John uses the Greek preposition anti. It is translated “for.” The basic idea of anti is “against, instead of.” In John 11:11, Jesus
questions whether a loving father would give his son a serpent anti (for) a fish, or instead of a fish.
The picture drawn by John is dramatic. We receive “grace instead of grace. ” That is, grace takes the place of grace. Like the manna which fell fresh from heaven each morning for ancient Israel, God gives us
new grace for each new day.
Jeremiah wrote, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassion�s fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (1 Lamentations 3:22-23).
All the resources we will ever need are found in Christ Jesus. The Law was given by Moses, but “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The Greek word charis (often translated “grace”) appears 147
times in the New Testament. It is the unmerited favor of God, the basis of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), the agent of our justification (Romans 3:24), and the essence of spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12).
None of us will ever exhaust the riches of His grace, for grace is an attribute of Christ’s deity (John 1:14). As frequently as we awaken, fresh grace will be there to sustain us through the day.
Daniel Segraves is the Executive Vice-President and Chairman of the Department of Theology at Christian Life College
(The above material was published by the Western District of the United Pentecostal Church)
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