GRACE AND LAW

In John’s introduction to his account of the life of Jesus he states that the one whom he had first identified as “the Word” had become flesh and had lived among men.

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 1:14).

This statement is one of the most profound pronouncements ever made. That the Word – God – became man – one of us – and lived and allowed men to behold the glory of God in a way he could not have been known otherwise. He, the Son, was full of grace and truth. In him the “whole fulness of the deity dwells bodily,” (Colossians 2:9), meaning that when he was among men he was fully and completely God. Being such, he was able to fully manifest God’s grace and truth.

For 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.” (John 1:16-18).

John says that “from his fullness we all have received, grace upon grace.” All throughout time God had bestowed his grace upon man, providing everything needed, his love, his blessings. Even the law given through Moses was a manifestation of his grace and a blessing to man because it was for man’s good that he gave it. The law was given to Israel because of God’s love for them. Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 7:7-8

The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you…”

Through that law God asked the people for their love in return.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?”

The law given through Moses was intended to keep God before the eyes and in the minds of his people. In the book of Leviticus this is made plain in the 19th chapter. They were to think of God when they did the things commanded them. Notice the verses that emphasize the point of God being in and manifested through the commandments listed here.

Leviticus 19:9-10 – “I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 19:13 – “I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:15 – “I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:17 – “I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:18 – “I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:34 – “I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:35-36 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:37 – “I am the LORD.”

What does John mean when he said that we receive from Jesus “grace upon grace.” Notice that this sentence is followed immediately by the one about the law coming through Moses and begins with the little word, “For.” For introduces a contrast between what has been said and what follows. Think of it this way. The law was an expression of God’s grace or his gift to the Israelites. It was a manifestation of his love and goodness and was given for their benefit. But what Jesus brought through his coming as man was a greater grace. It was a revelation of God that brought to man a greater grace than anything ever done before.

Someone says, “But didn’t Jesus do away with the ‘old law?’” Didn’t he establish his ‘new law?’” Let me ask you in turn, “What did Jesus mean when he said that he did not come to abolish the law?” (Matthew 5:17). Did he do away with that which revealed God’s glory and grace? Or did he reveal a level of grace greater than any previously revealed? I do not mean that the gospel is an amendment to the law of Moses. I mean that what John is referring to is the culmination of God’s self-revelation. Jesus was not inimical to the law as a revelation of God’s glory. His coming added to and brought to completion the process God had begun in the book of Genesis. While God had revealed his grace through the ages, it was through Jesus that that process reached its full development.

God’s love is now revealed in and through Jesus. The gift of his perfect life and of his atoning death now holds before us the love and concern of God for his creation, not law. If we ever know what God wants us to know about his love for mankind we do not look to the law, but to Jesus who died for us. If we want to understand the commandments of God – we don’t look to to the commandments, we look to the perfect life of Jesus. This does not mean that the commandments of God are without value, but that the value of man is seen in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross not in the law.

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