And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

—John 1:16

I dare to ask in this context: What have you received of His grace and mercy?

Even though you may still be unconverted and going your own way, you have received much out of the ocean of His fullness. You have received the pulsing life that beats in your bosom. You have received the brilliant mind and brain within the protective covering of your skull. You have received a memory that strings the events you cherish and love as a jeweler strings pearls into a necklace and keeps them for you as long as you live and beyond.

All that you have is out of His grace. Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us, is the open channel through which God moves to provide all the benefits He gives to saints and sinners.

And what about the years, the rest of your existence?

You cannot believe that you have earned it.

You cannot believe that it has something to do with whether you are good or bad.

Confess that it is out of His grace, for the entire universe is the beneficiary of God’s grace and goodness. CES024

Lord, I so often forget how totally dependant I am on Your grace for everything in life. I confess that today, and thank You for Your mercy. Amen. [1]

The Witnesses to the Incarnation

John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. (1:15–16)

In keeping with his purpose in writing his gospel (20:31), John brought in other witnesses to the truth about the divine, preexistent, incarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. He first called on John the Baptist, who also testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” John’s testimony will be related in more detail beginning in verse 19. Here the apostle John merely summarizes it. John the Baptist, of course, had died long before this gospel was written. But as noted in chapter 2 of this volume, there was still a John the Baptist cult in existence. So as he did in verse 8, the apostle notes John the Baptist’s inferiority to Christ—this time in the Baptist’s own words. In contrast to some of his followers, he understood clearly and accepted gladly his subordinate role.

That John cried out speaks of the bold, public nature of his witness to Jesus; he was “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’ ” (Matt. 3:3). He was the herald, proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah, and calling people to repent and prepare their hearts to receive Him. Acknowledging Jesus’ preeminence John said of Him, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” Jesus, the Expected (lit., “coming”) One (Matt. 11:3; Luke 7:19–20; John 6:14) came after John in time; He was born six months later (Luke 1:26) and began His public ministry after John began his. Yet, as John acknowledged, Jesus had a higher rank than he did, for He existed before him. The reference here, as in verses 1 and 2, is to Jesus’ eternal preexistence (cf. 8:58).

Then John called on the testimony of believers, including himself and all who have received the fullness of blessing from the one who is “full of grace and truth” (v. 14). Because in Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9), He provides for all His people’s needs (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 4:12–13; Col. 1:28; 2:10; 2 Peter 1:3). That abundant supply will never be exhausted or diminished; grace will continually follow grace in a limitless, never-ending flow (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 2:7).[2]

1:15 John the Baptist bore witness that Jesus was the Son of God. Before the Lord entered upon His public ministry, John had been telling men about Him. When Jesus arrived on the scene, John said, in effect, “This is the One I have been describing to you.” Jesus came after John as far as His birth and ministry were concerned. He was born six months after John and presented Himself to the people of Israel some time after John had been preaching and baptizing. But Jesus was preferred before John. He was greater than John; He was worthy of more honor, the simple reason being that He was before John. He existed from all eternity—the Son of God.

1:16 All who believe on the Lord Jesus receive supplies of spiritual strength out of His fullness. His fullness is so great that He can provide for all Christians in all countries and in all ages. The expression grace for grace probably means “grace upon grace” or “abundant grace.” Here grace means God’s gracious favor which He showers on His beloved children.[3]

15 For the second time in the prologue, the evangelist refers to the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. vv. 6–8). John bore witness to the Word incarnate by crying out (krazō, GK 3189, used here as a technical term for prophetic speech; cf. EDNT 2:313) that Jesus, who came after John in point of time nevertheless took precedence over him, because Jesus existed before John. It was commonly believed in antiquity that “chronological priority meant superiority” (Morris, 108). Some take the last expression (prōtos mou, GK 4755, 1609) to mean “first of me,” i.e., “my superior,” for pro emou (GK 4574, 1847) would be the normal way to say “before me” (cf. Jn 5:7; Ro 16:7; Gal 1:17). In that case John the Baptist would be saying that Jesus had surpassed him because he was superior to him (“he was ever First,” TCNT). In either case the Baptist was proclaiming the absolute superiority of the eternal Word, who entered history as Jesus, God’s one and only Son. The verb tenses in v. 15 are noteworthy (martyrei, “testifies,” GK 3455, present; kekragen, “cries out,” GK 3189, perfect but used with the force of a present) and emphasize that the testimony of the Baptist continues with force into the present time.

16 Following the reference to John the Baptist in v. 15, the evangelist resumes his line of thought from v. 14. The one and only Son is “full of grace” (v. 14), and out of his “fullness” they had all “received one blessing after another.” Not only had they received grace when they came to him in faith, but their experience of the goodness of God was one of continuous blessedness. The NIV rendering of charin anti charitos (“one blessing after another”; lit., “grace instead of grace”) makes clear the progressive blessings that come in the Christian life. Each experience of the grace of God is replaced by the next, like the manna that came fresh every morning. John’s point is that at the heart of new life in Christ is a constant supply of grace. It is interesting that John uses the term “grace” only here in the prologue (vv. 14, 16–17) and no place else. (Contrast the writings of Paul, who uses charis, GK 5921, over one hundred times in his letters.)[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (p. 44). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1468). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 373–374). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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