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John 1:17

John 1:17
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John 1:17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

I’m preparing to teach on John 1:15-17 this weekend at our church and so this passage has been on my mind the last few days. I won’t get into all of it now, but a few points that I hope to make this weekend are these:

First: The law given through Moses was an act of God’s grace (thus, “grace upon grace,” or “grace in place of grace” in verse 16). The Law / Gospel distinction that we are used to hearing from Paul is a real danger, but that is the Law as distorted by sinful hearts. As it was given—and as it was received by the elect even then—the Law was a gift of God’s grace through which He revealed the beauty of His character.

Second: This leads to the second point, namely, that the Law functioned as an expression of YHWH’s identity to and in a certain people at a certain time. The Mosaic Law is what the character of the God “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” looks like impressed on the Hebrew people in the late Bronze Age. As such, the entire Law was intended to bring people to a place where they might know and love YHWH (Deut 6:4-5), and be conformed to His image (Lev.20:26, etc.), which is to say, that they might love God with all and love neighbor as self (Matt.22:37-40).

Third: With this in mind, when John says that “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” he seems essentially to be saying that, while the law that pointed to the God of steadfast love and faithfulness (grace and truth) was given to His people through Moses, this God—YHWH Himself—has actually appeared in the midst of His people in the person of Jesus Christ.

Fourth: Since, in Christ, the God upon whom the Law is framed, the God of whose character the Law is a communication, since in Christ this God appears in our midst, we see Him as fully Himself precisely at the moment that He fulfills the Law in Himself. Here’s what I mean. When Jesus is lifted up on the cross, we see God Himself loving God with all of His heart, mind, soul, and strength (John 14:31), and we see God Himself loving His neighbors—indeed, His enemies—as Himself (John 15:9). At the cross, YHWH in the flesh is most fully Himself, and as such, He embodies the essence of the Law (love to God and neighbor) in Himself to an infinite degree, pouring Himself out unreservedly to both His Father and His rebellious Bride…..and whomever God loves as He loves Himself has eternal life.