15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:15-18)
1:15 He Existed Before Me
The amazing thing about John the Baptist’s witness is that he says, “He existed before me.” Remember that John had been born several months before Jesus was. But John knew that Jesus was preeminent; that before the beginning of time, Jesus existed.
In chapter 8, we’ll see the Jews arguing with Jesus. Jesus tells them,
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad. (John 8:56)
“Wait a second! Abraham lived thousands of years ago, mister! How can you say that?”
Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:57-58)
John the Baptist knew this already and said, “He existed before me.”
1:16-17 Grace Upon Grace
Grace is God’s unmerited favor – Grace is that He loved us when we were unlovable, that He saved us when we were unsavable, that He forgave us when we were unforgivable. Not only has He loved us, not only has He forgiven us, not only has He saved us, but we have received of His fullness – His complete abundance. The riches available in Christ are surpassing and unfathomable (Ephesians 2:7; 3:8). He has blessed us so abundantly – He has given us grace upon grace. Grace on top of grace, grace added to grace.
Law And Grace
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to give to the people. These were rules and regulations that the people had to adhere to in order to have fellowship with God. But of course, they continued to sin, and that sin had to be covered for the people to have fellowship with God. In Leviticus, we learn about the complex system of offerings that had to be sacrificed in order for the people to have fellowship with Him.
But their sin couldn’t be erased, only covered. So what the Law of Moses couldn’t accomplish, Jesus did. He offered Himself as a sin offering, just as Abraham had prophesied:
And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:8)
He offered Himself to completely cleanse His children from all sin, as we read:
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
So when John says that:
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
He is not putting down the Law of Moses. He is comparing the old covenant with the new covenant, the ongoing covering of sin with the once-for-all erasure of sin, the incomplete righteousness by works with the complete righteousness by faith.
1:18 No Man Has Seen God
Let me ask you something: what would you do if you actually saw God? Would you freak out? Would you fall on your face? Would you change your ways?
It is true that no one has seen God at any time, at least not God the Father. Remember when Moses requested a glimpse of God?
And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”
Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:18-20)
To actually view God in these mortal bodies would mean instant death. Moses was only allowed a glimpse of the fading glory of God after He had passed by. That alone was enough to make his face glow in the dark!
Now there are times when we read that people see God face to face. Some examples include Hagar in Genesis 16, Abraham in Genesis 18, and Jacob in Genesis 32. It was actually Jesus Christ they saw. No one has seen the Father, but they have seen the Son. The Son has explained, has revealed, the Father. Remember the conversation Jesus had with Philip…