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.'") 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. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
‘Full of grace and truth’: Grace indicates God’s unmerited favor that brings blessings and joy of salvation to undeserving sinners. His messages were filled with unmerited favor for the guilty and lost humanity. His truth was the final reality in contrast with shadows, types that preceded His coming. ‘Grace and truth’ most likely recalls the Hebrew behind the phrase “Steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness (emet) in Exodus 34:6, 33:18-19), where the expression refers to God’s covenant faithfulness to His people Israel.
The contrast is not that the Mosaic Law was bad and Jesus is good. Rather, both the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ marked decisive events in the history of salvation. In the law, God graciously revealed His character and righteous requirements to the nation of Israel. Jesus’ coming, however, marked the final, definitive revelation of God’s grace and truth. He was superior to Abraham (8:530, Jacob (4:12) and Moses (5:46-47; 9:28) and John (v.15). The law was preparatory in character – revealing man’s sinful character and lost condition, foreshadowing man’s deliverance as well! The purpose of the law was to reveal sin, restrain sin, and show the need for the Saviour. But the law was not the reality, in that it did not have grace through which the transgressors could be pardoned and helped in their needs. Christ merited grace and he fulfilled the types fully furnishing both grace and fulfilling its reality.
So as we consider the birth of Christ we are reminded of the fullness of the grace and truth with which He came and brought us so that today we joyfully acknowledge that we have all received, grace upon grace by the coming of Christ. This is our joy today! In this is our glory! In this is our hope of glory.
1. Behold the fullness of grace and truth of Jesus Christ in His glory as God
The fullness of the grace and truth that Christ came with is only a reality because of His eternal glory and existence as God. John acknowledges and rejoices in this truth when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” in v.1. The point he is underscoring here is that the beginning of time found Jesus already there – in existence with God the Father, being the very God of the very God so as to be the Creator of everything in verse 2.
The glory of Christ as God is in the fact that He is the exalted One as the Saviour. He is exalted above all angels and prophets, and sustains a very special relationship with the Father. He being infinite, powerful, eternal and glorious, outranks John the Baptist who was a finite and mortal man (v.15).His exaltation is particularly significant as the Saviour of sinners in that He brought the necessary ingredients of salvation – grace and truth. This is what sinners need to be saved. No single sinner can be saved without it – so if Noah was saved it was by grace, Abraham was saved by grace and everyone who has known salvation from sins has to have been a beneficiary of both the grace and truth as brought by Jesus Christ.
According to John, God’s covenant faithfulness and love for sinners found ultimate expression and fulfillment in His sending His son, His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ (1:14). ‘The only Son from the Father’: Jesus is the Son of God, not in the sense of being created or born (1:3) but in the sense of being a Son who is exactly like His Father in all attributes, and in the sense of having a Father-Son relationship with God the Father. The Greek Word underlying “only,” monogenes, means “one-of-a-kind” son in Heb. 11:17 (in contrast to Ishmael; Gen.22:2, 12, 16). Thus “only” is a better translation than “only begotten” (popularized by KJV). Jesus is the Son of God in a metaphysical sense, i.e. by nature and from all eternity.
Therefore, in In Christ we have seen God’s glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. Christ is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Heb. 1:3). He is the image of the invisible God … (Col. 1:15). Christ is the King of ages, immortal invisible, the only God, who is worthy of all honor and glory forever and ever (1Tim. 1:17). For us who have seen His glory, it is only because by His grace, God has opened up our eyes to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2Cor. 4:4). And so we are thankful, and rejoice with joy inexpressible, we worship Him with sincere hearts, we serve Him with gratitude and sincerity of heart, we fear Him because of whom He is and what He has done to secure our salvation.
We have seen his glory, this indicates careful and deliberate vision which seeks to interpret its object. It refers, indeed to physical sight, yet it always includes a plus of bewilderment and admiration of the radiance of his glory shown in His grace and truth
The Christian life is completed transformed by the fact that Christ has come. It is marked by a life of worship to Him like the manner of magi who visited Him as a baby and fell down before Him and worshipped, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:11). It is to be a life of sacrifice to the King of kings all that is valuable to us like Mary who anointed His feet with the most expensive ointment made from pure nard and wiped His feet with her hair! (John 12:3). All those who have beheld His glory will find it difficult to give some things to Christ. So is it time that you struggle offering to the Lord and so you are ever too busy with your own things that you have no time for the Lord? Is it money? Is it your abilities? What is it that is too much for you to give your Saviour who has lavished divine favours on you even to save you? What will you not offer to the Lord who has come full of grace and truth for you?
2. Behold the fullness of grace and truth at His incarnation
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us: The incarnation of God the Son is the most amazing event in all history. It is beyond our human comprehension to fully understand that the eternal Creator, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely holy Son of God, took on a human nature and lived among humanity as one who was both God and man at the same time, in one person! The Creator became His own creation! What a glorious thing it is that God came to be man? He assumed our human nature, weakened for a while by the results of sin, though in itself sinless. He became Immanuel, pitching tent among us so that we beheld His glory – the radiance of His divine attributes shining through the veil of his human nature. This glory was the kind that no one could reasonably expect to find in Him, for it was glory as of the Only who proceeds forever from the Father, and possesses a fullness of grace and truth.
That He dwelt among us means more literally that He “pitched His tent” sort of alluding to God’s dwelling among Israelites in the tabernacle. The verb became has a special meaning here – it is not that he became in the sense of ‘ceasing to be what He was before’. E.g. when Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt she ceased to be Lot’s wife but when Lot became the father of Moab and Ammon, he remained Lot. So also here the word became flesh but remains word, even God. The second Person of the Trinity assumed the human nature, without laying aside the divine – so the divine and human nature of Christ became fully united without being fused but this remains a mystery to all of us and so we can only confess that the One and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ remains, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood … to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably (Chalcedon)
In the past God had manifested His presence to His people in the tabernacle and the temple. Now God takes up residence among His people in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (v.17). Thus, the coming of Christ fulfills the Old Testament symbolism for God’s dwelling with man in the tabernacle and the temple. Later, through the Holy Spirit, Christ will make into a temple both the church (1Cor. 3:16) and Christ’s body (1Cor. 6:19). The references to God’s glory refer back to Old Testament passages narrating the manifestation of God’s presence and glory of God in theophanies (the tabernacle, or the temple, like in Ex. 33:22; Num. 12:10; Deut. 5:22).
What does the birth of Jesus mean to you? Is it a time for you to reflect on what happened in the fullness of time, in accordance to God’s calendar of redemption, when He sent His Only Son to come on earth, having prepared a body for Him, in order that He may die for your salvation? It is my sincere prayer that this causes you to think what the coming meant for Him (It must have a more important mission than creation, don’t you think?). There was no change on the part of God when He created the universe but when He came in redemption, He had to send His Son, and the Son had to become what He never was by taking the human nature, being born in the likeness of men, taking the form of a servant, making Himself nothing! (Phil. 2:7). This calls for us to learn humility! It calls us to count others more significant than ourselves because that is exactly what Christ did in becoming a man.
Is it that you struggle to serve others because you ever want to be served? Is that you feel dishonored when you serve? For example, for wazees, you would not want to cook or wash dishes for your family because that is dishonoring? God expects you to make yourself nothing and be willing to take the form of a servant in all things. Ladies, is it demeaning to be submissive to your husbands? The Lord has told you so and so it is actually to the Lord that you submit! Children, is it hard to obey your parents in the Lord? Because you forget that it is the Lord who has told you to do it because He did more than that He obeyed His Father to the point of death on a cross!
3. Behold the fullness of grace and truth that He brought us
“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace”: believers are constantly receiving grace in the place of grace. One manifestation of the unmerited favor of God in Christ is hardly gone when another one arrives; hence, grace upon grace – the nonstop supply of grace, indicating grace that is ever sufficient for its beneficiaries – such an unlimited outflow of grace! What a thing to relish – a glut of grace! That saved us and that remains to keep us in all eternity. Grace that has power to overpower all sinfulness and wickedness. No one is beyond the grace of God. Look at Paul for example, this is what he confesses to a younger Christian Timothy:
I thank Him who has given me strength, Jesus Christ our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of which I am the foremost. 1Tim. 1:12-15)
No one has ever seen God: No one has seen God in a full and complete way (6:46), but some people did see partial revelations of God in the Old Testament. To see God in Christ would be far better for He is the exclusive way to the Father (14:6). Jesus is the Word is God, and He has revealed and explained God to men who come to faith in Him. Those who have known Jesus Christ as their Saviour come to the true knowledge of God for Jesus has not only brought divine favors but also divine truth.
Have you trusted in Jesus? Have believed in Jesus Christ? Only and only those who believe in Him obtain eternal life. Do you want eternal life? you can have it now – all you need is trust in Jesus Christ. All you need is plead with Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. All you need is Jesus to have Him as yours because He is willing to have you as His for all eternity. He promises to never reject anyone who goes to Him in repentance and faith. Will you go to Him now?
For many of us, Christmas is not Christmas, because it restricts our thoughts to only think about the birth of Christ on December yet it is a truth that we relish every day. May the Lord give us the sufficiency of His grace that we may be those who are made of His grace that we may ever say, “BY GRACE OF GOD I AM WHAT I AM” (1Cor. 15:10)