17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
JOHN 1: 17-18
17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
JOHN 1: 17-18 SBLGNT
“For the law came by Moses.” This statement would garner great opposition from the Jews since the Jews had such high regard for Moses that they would reject any truth claims apart from his teaching. The author clearly defines the inferiority of Moses’s ministry to the divine essence of the ministry of Jesus Christ. However, this parallelism offered little comprehension to the authority of Jesus Christ since the Jews offered no deference to Moses, and the author concentrates clearly on the bountiful grace bestowed from Jesus Christ himself to all those who were witness to him.
Another difficulty was that the Jews thought they received what is not given us except in Christ from the law. Therefore, the verse contrasts the law with grace and truth and implies that both were lacking in the law. Truth, in judgment, indicates a fixed and firm stability in things. By grace, understanding the spiritual fulfilment of the things which the law contains as mere words, these two words may be said to be figures of speech with the same meaning: namely, that the truth of the law consists in the grace which was exhibited in Christ. It does not much matter whether these two words are put together or separated from the other, for, either way, the sense of the statement is the same.
This much is certain: according to John, the law contains the unknown to those who are outside looking in. These can only be embraced with knowing Christ himself. Unless that unity is complete, knowing the law lacks the true meaning of living the Christian life. It is in Christ that the unity is complete. Within the unity, we find the law’s meaning and substance and how it sets its boundaries in our lives. The moral boundary dictated by the law does not restrain but provides the freedom to live freely within a safe zone set forth by the moral law.
Christ himself replaces the law as we find the same fulfilment in our lives within him. Paul said that the law is shadows, and Christ is the substance in Col. 2:17 – “17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” However, we must not imagine that the law gives us only falsehood; because even though the law in itself is dead, Christ himself is the soul of the law and makes it alive.
Still, the question here has to do with the power of the law apart from Christ, and the Evangelist asserts that without Christ, the law is nothing but a shadow, without substance and power.
David Brown, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson, A Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments: Matthew–John, vol. V write,
“The law is opposed to grace only in that sense in which the law contains no grace. “The law,” says the apostle, “worketh wrath” (Rom. 4:15), that is, against all who break it; pronouncing a curse upon “everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). If, then, under Moses, there was any grace for the guilty, it could not issue out of the bosom of the law, as a proclamation of moral duty; for “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). But the law was not given only to condemn. It “had a shadow of good things to come, though not the very image of the things” (Heb. 10:1); and it was this shadow of Gospel blessings which was given by Moses, while the “truth” or substance of them came by Jesus Christ. The law was but “a figure for the time then present, that could not make the worshipers perfect as pertaining to the conscience; for it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Heb. 9:9; 10:4). All the salvation, therefore, that was gotten under Moses was on the credit of that one offering for sins which perfects for ever them that are sanctified; and so they without us could not be made perfect (Heb. 11:40).
This truth consists, in the fact that through Christ we obtain a grace which is not available through the law. By grace in general, I understand the free forgiveness of sins and the renewal of the heart. With this word John states briefly the distinction between the Old and the New Testaments (which was done more fully in Jer. 31:31-“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah), and includes in it all that has to do with spiritual righteousness. But this righteousness consists of two parts: namely, that God is reconciled to us freely, not imputing our sins to us; and that he has engraved his law within us and renewed us by his Spirit for obedience to it. It follows that the law is expounded wrongly and falsely when it keeps us to itself and even prevents our access to Christ.”
The first three Gospels provides the historical evidential and experiential reality of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whereas the fourth Gospel offers an insightful depth of the optimum view of who, what and why Jesus is who he is, ‘The Son of God’’. The first three Gospels inspired by God provide the precursor personified in the Gospel of John.
David Brown, A. R. Fausset, and Robert Jamieson further write,
“Since God so ordered it, the first converts and the infant churches should be thoroughly familiarized with the History of His Son’s work in the flesh on the lower platform of the First Three Gospels. Hence here, this Fourth Gospel lifted them to the highest view of it, we may infer, that just as we also have thriven upon the milk of the other Gospels will be our ability to digest and to grow upon the strong meat of this last and crowning Gospel. Moreover, might it not be well, in the public exposition of the Gospel History, to advance from the corporeal Gospels, as the Fathers of the Church were wont to call them, [τὰ σωματικὰ], to what by way of eminence they called the spiritual Gospel [τὸ πνευματικόν]? Nevertheless, even in this Gospel, there is an exquisite network of concrete outward History, which captivates even the rudest and youngest readers; and it breathes such an atmosphere of love and heaven that the deep truths enshrined in it possess attractions they would not otherwise have had. Thus, each is perfect in its own kind, and all are one pearl of great price.”
God’s clear message through the Gospels is directed to the Son, Jesus Christ, whom He revealed as the testimony of our broken relationship and the need to establish that link with the Father. The message is evident as the narrative the author continues to reveal is entwined with the revelation of inadequacies in achieving righteousness.
Many Christians today call them followers, but they fail to see that God is not attempting to establish His authority in their lives, but God, Himself is opening the heart and soul of humanity in its deficiencies. There is a self-righteous attitude by many who assume God is seeking us; however, the reality lies in the fact that God has already been revealed since creation. It is not the world that is broken but us, and the accumulative effect of our broken state provides us with an excuse to accuse reality around us as deficient.
Any challenge we face is compounded by our disassociation of the brokenness that we are the problem and not any other consequence otherwise. It starts with the self, and since the reality is that the rest of the world may not see, Jesus came into our existence to give us assurances. The Father reveals the Son, who takes our sins upon His shoulders on the cross.
Do not be assured that only the forgiveness of our sins but the faith and acceptance of His glory and salvation, which enables us to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit to finally embrace our created essence of the character created in His image and likeness. An essence that has been buried under the misconception of our misguided beliefs that we are autonomous.
Not only seek Him but embrace His ‘will’, live according to and within the safe boundaries of His absolutes and anchor ourselves in His Moral Absolutes.
Only then, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the burdens of this world will fade into memory, and life will cause joy and happiness in everything you do, face and shall overcome.
“For the Father has revealed the Son, and the Father is glorified through the Son.”