John 1:14-17 Believers should gaze at the truth while casting occasional glances at the law
John 1:14-17 Believers should gaze at the truth while casting occasional glances at the law
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 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. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17
John the Baptist’s testimony concerning Jesus is directed at the Jews. Hence, in that context he compares the ministry of Moses with that of Jesus’s. At the same time, in saying, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me” has made it explicit that Jesus is greater than any man including himself. John’s ministry prepares the people to receive the grace and truth of Jesus. For the Law asserts control over human behaviour but has no power over the sinfulness of the human flesh. However, Jesus transforms the heart and put to death the deeds of the flesh through the indwelling Spirit. Today’s devotion teaches us to fix our eyes on the truth while casting occasional glances at the law.
And we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus (in becoming flesh) is the visible and fuller manifestation of the Father’s glory. Biblical lexicon defines glory (soxa in Greek) as the state of magnificence, greatness and splendour. Here, Jesus’s glory differs from how divine glory was manifested during the Old Testament, which appeals more to the display of raw power and visible splendour. The glory which shone in the tabernacle of Moses, shrouded in a mysterious cloud, was but the foreshadow of the fuller glory shone in Jesus, the divine-human. Jesus came in order to present a more accurate and fuller image of the Father. The image or the glory of the Father: grace and truth is plainly revealed through the human life of Jesus. It follows that only in Jesus, the divine-human can the Father’s glory be fully explained to man. Jesus is also “the only begotten” (monogenes in Greek); the only one of its kind, which is none other than God Himself.
Grace is the human manifestation of divine love. Grace is expressed by Jesus’s infinite patience and mercy in the face of pure evil. Grace is seen when Jesus healed the masses of their sicknesses and fed 5000 hungry people. Grace is apparent when He pleaded with the Father to forgive those who attacked him without cause. Grace is even more apparent when He sent His Spirit into sinners making them righteous.
Truth is the human manifestation of divine wisdom. We can say that truth is the roadmap to a prosperous human life. Truth is revealed when Jesus did not return evil for evil. In truth He stood for what is right despite oppositions. He demonstrated truth when He rejected the lure of power and the pride of life. Truth is displayed when Jesus put the Father’s business above all demands of human life.
This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
John puts into proper perspective Jesus’s placing with respect to himself and Moses. Even as John is revered as the prophet, he proclaimed Jesus as higher in rank than he is. And the fact that Jesus “existed before me” proves his absolute primacy over all men.
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
Only when God became flesh can divine grace be experienced by all flesh. Through Jesus, the magnificence of the divine previously unfathomable and unreachable is fully poured out on all flesh. “Grace upon grace” connotes an ever growing experience of God’s love and power revealed through Jesus. Paul said,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
For the sake of the Jewish audience, the Law of Moses was compared with the grace and truth of Jesus. The law of Moses refers to the scriptures that was given to Moses 1400 years before Jesus came. The Law primarily provides moral standards and boundaries (commandments) for the Jewish society of that time. However, the Law with its promise of blessings has no power over the evil in his heart and the sinfulness of the flesh. This bondage of evil and sin is like cancer, crippling the body and incapacitating him from doing what is good.
What is the grace and truth of Jesus? Grace makes righteous the believer’s heart and sanctifies his body to walk in the truth. In so doing, believers live the divine life and experience divine prosperity. In the process of regeneration, God does two things:
1. Makes righteous: God puts His law in the believer’s heart causing him to love the truth. This is a process where man’s desires are continually made righteous to love God and to love others as himself (see Mark 10:27). Making righteous is a divine gift, or an act of grace which man cannot do for himself. The prophet Jeremiah said concerning the New Covenant,
“I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” Jeremiah 31:33-34
What are the effects of the New Covenant:
a. I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it – humanity possess the inert ability to discern what is truth or falsehood.
b. I will be their God, and they shall be My people – Those who gravitate towards the truth will acknowledge God as Father and be called sons of God.
c. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me – They have a inert desire to know God’s will and to obey it.
2. Sanctification: While making righteous pertains to the regeneration of man’s heart and desires, sanctification pertains to putting to death man’s fleshly nature. It is not sufficient just to transform one’s desires, he must put to death the deeds of the body in order to experience eternal life. Paul said,
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14.
However, this requires man’s participation in disciplining his body and putting its fleshly passions to death. Paul said,
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5
Through divine grace, the believer’s heart is regenerated and made alive. Through grace, the believer’s fleshly instincts are put to death resulting in abundant life.
What is the difference between the Law of Moses and grace and truth of Jesus? The Ten Commandments (the centrepiece of the Law) is a code of conduct that is established by God. The Ten Commandments stipulates how men should relate to God and to one another. However, moral standards alone cannot change the behaviour of sinners. Truth first seeks to establish a divine desire or righteousness within a man’s heart. And this in turns leads to a godly lifestyle. The Law by itself although necessary has no power to change a man’s behaviour. While the Law pertains to behavioural standards, truth pertains to the virtues of the heart. In order for man to walk in the Law, he must first possess righteousness or truth in his heart. Hence, Jesus counselled the young man and led him from dead conformance of the law to righteousness of the heart; love (see Matthew 19:16-22).
Gaze at the truth while casting occasional glances at the law
Moral standards are important in that it provides an objective evaluation of our moral state; the moral law keeps man’s behaviour in check. However, dwelling on moral standards can be counterproductive for it distracts the believer from the grace and truth of Christ. Instead, the believer should fix his eyes on the truth in humble self-reflection, while allowing divine grace to work. Thus, he should gaze at the truth while casting occasional glances at the law (see figure below).
Divine grace works in making alive the heart and in putting to death the sinful inclinations of the body. During the Old Testament, believers have no access to this grace thus making it difficult to overcome their fleshly nature. Paul taught,
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus… For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:11,14
Many believers develop a love for the word for the sake of knowledge as opposed to the truth. They have a penchant for correctness while frequently asserting their idiosyncratic ways. Therefore, believers must quickly progress from the premises of knowledge and correctness into the zone of truth so that they may experience eternal life.
Grace works in converting knowledge into truths and truths into actions.
The word is not meant to be heard, but to be believed and to be lived out. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life” John 5:24. “Hears” refers to receiving the word with understanding. “Believes” refers to the process of turning knowledge into truths by assimilating them into our beliefs system. “Has eternal life” involves living out the truth by God’s empowering grace.
The mind is the receptacle of knowledge, when knowledge is assimilated provides truth and wisdom to life. The grace of Jesus does not negate the process of gaining knowledge through rigorous study of the word. Without the knowledge of the word, grace has no material to work with. The believer must make every effort to study the word in its biblical and historical context. That said, what does grace do? Grace transforms the knowledge gathered in the mind into the heart in the form of truths which leads to repentance. Truth in turn gives divine insights, faith and power to take on the challenges of life. Lastly, the believer must discipline himself through divine grace to practice the truth (see figure below).
Without grace, knowledge remains as dry and lifeless bits of information. It is like chewing on food without swallowing and bringing it into the digestive system.
One may know the truth, but without grace, we can never live it out. Grace regenerates the heart, equips the mind and empowers the body to do the right thing in the face of challenges.
Grace works when there is humility
Prideful people focuses on knowledge, whereas humble people focuses on knowing the truth and self-reflection. Prideful people refuse change, instead, they use knowledge to cover up their inadequacies and to set up moral standards. Paul has words for such people,
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
The gathering of knowledge must ultimately lead to love and edification. Otherwise, he knows nothing of value. The tendency of some people is to use knowledge to set a standard of righteousness without self-reflection. Such do not deal with the issues of the heart but outward conformance.
The opposite of pride is humility. Pride focuses on personal gain and supremacy. Whereas humility focuses on the love for God and for the truth. James taught that God gives grace to the humble,
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6.
In order for the word to come alive, believers must adopt a posture of humility. A humble person practices self-reflection in the light of God’s holiness and love. Because his eyes are opened to his own imperfections and deceitfulness, grace is given to him for the purposes of regeneration and sanctification.
Are you focused on setting up moral standards as opposed to truth for living? Moral standards alone do not lead to regeneration and sanctification. While knowledge pertains to moral standards, grace and truth pertains to love and edification. If grace and truth are properly applied, the enforcement of moral standards becomes effortless. Therefore, do not use knowledge primarily to set up laws, but more importantly let knowledge lead to truth, love and edification. Paul said,
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8
Therefore, humble yourself. In so doing, the grace of God will work continually enlightening the mind when the word is read. At the same time, grace puts to death the deeds of the flesh when the believer disciplines himself to reject sin.
Dear Lord, I thank you for making me divine. Give me more grace to live out the divine life of Christ. Give me wisdom to discern the situation and to do what is right regardless of oppositions. Give me grace to love the less lovable. Give me strength to press on and overcome the challenges of my work and ministry. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.