[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].
16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν, καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 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.·)
Catch a Wave!
There is something undulating going on here. From the fullness (πλήρωμα) of the Word we receive grace upon grace (χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος). Fullness is a loaded word in ancient Greek, and would become even more so in the early centuries after John’s Gospel was written. Here it means the completeness of Christ, but in a sense of something was empty but now is totally filled up; a loss of emptiness to a condition of being entirely completed (as opposed to telos in Greek that is more a fulfillment of destination). This doesn’t necessarily mean the Word was once empty (though perhaps in a way of Phil. 2:1-8), but more that in Christ there is total fullness and completeness of all things material and spiritual.
The word also had a growing sense that all of the spiritual powers of the universe were summed up in the fullness.
And then, out of this incredible fullness flows, wave after wave, grace upon grace. This is a wonderful phrase that means essentially we are receiving over and over in Christ grace after grace, rolling up on our lives like repeating waves.
John then wraps up this beautiful Prologue with a reference to Moses and a rephrasing of the first couple of verses of Chapter 1. Note this is not a dismissing of Moses for whom John has great respect. Rather, the incredible Law of God came through Moses — yay! — but Moses was never allowed to see God. In Christ, a new covenant of grace and truth has emerged on the scene. This new covenant is a greater covenant than Moses’ in that it has come by way of the Word in flesh who not only has seen God but dwells at the side of God and makes the Lord known.
And from Christ we receive these outpourings of grace upon grace, flowing over us like waves, one after the other, from the fullness of the Lord.
This is just totally cool. And I pray you experience daily this undulating blessing of God, grace upon grace, flowing over and through you!