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Marie's Study of Fullness

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Study for Marie on John 1:16

Fulness and Grace

By: John W. Worley, Ph.D.


John 1:16

The New International Version The King James Version New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  16 And of his fulness have           all we received, and grace for grace. 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.



4138 pleroma { play’-ro-mah}

from 4137; TDNT - 6:298,867; n n

AV - fulness 13, full 1, fulfilling 1, which is put in to fill up 1, pierce that filled up 1; 17

GK - 4445 { πλήρωμα }

1) that which is (has been) filled

1a) a ship inasmuch as it is filled (i.e. manned) with sailors, rowers, and soldiers

1b) in the NT, the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ

2) that which fills or with which a thing is filled

2a) of those things which a ship is filled, freight and merchandise, sailors, oarsmen, soldiers

2b)  completeness or fullness of time

3) fulness, abundance

4) a fulfilling, keeping



5485 charis { khar’-ece}

from 5463; TDNT - 9:372,1298; n f

AV - grace 130, favour 6, thanks 4, thank 4, thank + 2192 3, pleasure 2, misc 7; 156

GK - 5921 { χάρις }

1) grace

1a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech

2) good will, loving-kindness, favour

2a) of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues

3) what is due to grace

3a) the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace

3b) the token or proof of grace, benefit

3b1) a gift of grace

3b2) benefit, bounty

4) thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward


1:16. The Word made flesh is the source of grace (charin), which is the sum total of all the spiritual favors God gives to people. The words we . . . all refer to Christians and include John the author. Because of the fullness of His grace . . . one blessing after another (charin anti charitos, lit., “grace in place of grace”) comes to Christians as waves continue to come to the shore. The Christian life is the constant reception of one evidence of God’s grace replacing another.

Verses 15-18

In these verses,

I. The evangelist begins again to give us John Baptist’s testimony concerning Christ, v. 15. He had said (v. 8) that he came for a witness; now here he tells us that he did accordingly bear witness. Here, Observe,

1. How he expressed his testimony: He cried, according to the prediction that he should be the voice of one crying. The Old-Testament prophets cried aloud, to show people their sins; this New-Testament prophet cried aloud, to show people their Saviour. This intimates, (1.) That it was an open public testimony, proclaimed, that all manner of persons might take notice of it, for all are concerned in it. False teachers entice secretly, but wisdom publishes her dictates in the chief places of concourse. (2.) That he was free and hearty in bearing this testimony. He cried as one that was both well assured of the truth to which he witnessed and well affected to it. He that had leaped in his mother’s womb for joy of Christ’s approach, when newly conceived, does now with a like exultation of spirit welcome his public appearance.

2. What his testimony was. He appeals to what he had said at the beginning of his ministry, when he had directed them to expect one that should come after him, whose forerunner he was, and never intended any other than to lead them to him, and to prepare his way. This he had given them notice of from the first. Note, It is very comfortable to a minister to have the testimony of his conscience for him that he set out in his ministry with honest principles and sincere intentions, with a single eye to the glory and honour of Christ. Now what he had then said he applies to this Jesus whom he had lately baptized, and who was so remarkably owned from heaven: This was he of whom I spoke. John did not tell them that there would shortly appear such a one among them, and then leave them to find him out; but in this he went beyond all the Old-Testament prophets that he particularly specified the person: "This was he, the very man I told you of, and to him all I said is to be accommodated.’’ Now what was it he said?

(1.) He had given the preference to this Jesus: He that comes after me, in the time of his birth and public appearance, is preferred before me; he that succeeds me in preaching and making disciples is a more excellent person, upon all accounts; as the prince or peer that comes after is preferred before the harbinger or gentleman-usher that makes way for him. Note, Jesus Christ, who was to be called the Son of the Highest (Lu. 1:32), was preferred before John Baptist, who was to be called only the prophet of the Highest, Lu. 1:76. John was a minister of the New Testament, but Christ was the Mediator of the New Testament. And observe, though John was a great man, and had a great name and interest, yet he was forward to give the preference to him to whom it belonged. Note, All the ministers of Christ must prefer him and his interest before themselves and their own interests; they will make an ill account that seek their own things, not the things of Christ, Phil. 2:21. He comes after me, and yet is preferred before me. Note, God dispenses his gifts according to his good pleasure, and many times crosses hands, as Jacob did, preferring the younger before the elder. Paul far outstripped those that were in Christ before him.

(2.) He here gives a good reason for it: For he was before me, proµtos mou eµnHe was my first, or first to me; he was my first Cause, my original. The First is one of God’s names, Isa. 44:6. He is before me, is my first, [1.] In respect of seniority: he was before me, for he was before Abraham, ch. 8:58. Nay, he was before all things, Col. 1:17. I am but of yesterday, he from eternity. It was but in those days that John Baptist came (Mt. 3:1), but the goings forth of our Lord Jesus were of old, from everlasting, Mic. 5:2. This proves two natures in Christ. Christ, as man, came after John as to his public appearance; Christ, as God, was before him; and how could he otherwise be before him but by an eternal existence? [2.] In respect of supremacy; for he was my prince; so some princes are called the first; proµton, "It is he for whose sake and service I am sent: he is my Master, I am his minister and messenger.’’

II. He presently returns again to speak of Jesus Christ, and cannot go on with John Baptist’s testimony till v. 19. The 16th verse has a manifest connection with v. 14, where the incarnate Word was said to be full of grace and truth. Now here he makes this the matter, not only of our adoration, but of our thankfulness, because from that fulness of his we all have received. He received gifts for men (Ps. 68:18), that he might give gifts to men, Eph. 4:8. He was filled, that he might fill all in all (Eph. 1:23), might fill our treasures, Prov. 8:21. He has a fountain of fulness overflowing: We all have received. All we apostles; so some. We have received the favour of this apostleship, that is grace; and a fitness for it, that is truth. Or, rather, All we believers; as many as received him (v. 16), received from him. Note, All true believers receive from Christ’s fulness; the best and greatest saints cannot live without him, the meanest and weakest may live by him. This excludes proud boasting, that we have nothing but we have received it; and silences perplexing fears, that we want nothing but we may receive it. Let us see what it is that we have received.

1. We have received grace for grace. Our receivings by Christ are all summed up in this one word, grace; we have received kai charineven grace, so great a gift, so rich, so invaluable; we have received no less than grace; this is a gift to be spoken of with an emphasis. It is repeated, grace for grace; for to every stone in this building, as well as to the top-stone, we must cry, Grace, grace. Observe,

(1.) The blessing received. It is grace; the good will of God towards us, and the good work of God in us. God’s good will works the good work, and then the good work qualifies us for further tokens of his good will. As the cistern receives water from the fulness of the fountain, the branches sap from the fulness of the root, and the air light from the fulness of the sun, so we receive grace from the fulness of Christ.

(2.) The manner of its reception: Grace for grace-charin anti charitos. The phrase is singular, and interpreters put different senses upon it, each of which will be of use to illustrate the unsearchable riches of the grace of Christ. Grace for grace bespeaks, [1.] The freeness of this grace. It is grace for grace’ sake; so Grotius. We receive grace, not for our sakes (be it known to us), but even so, Father, because it seemed good in thy sight. It is a gift according to grace, Rom. 12:6. It is grace to us for the sake of grace to Jesus Christ. God was well pleased in him, and is therefore well pleased with us in him, Eph. 1:6. [2.] The fulness of this grace. Grace for grace is abundance of grace, grace upon grace (so Camero), one grace heaped upon another; as skin for skin is skin after skin, even all that a man has, Job 2:4. It is a blessing poured out, that there shall not be room to receive it, plenteous redemption: one grace a pledge of more grace. Joseph-He will add. It is such a fulness as is called the fulness of God which we are filled with. We are not straitened in the grace of Christ, if we be not straitened in our own bosoms. [3.] The serviceableness of this grace. Grace for grace is grace for the promoting and advancing of grace. Grace to be exercised by ourselves; gracious habits for gracious acts. Grace to be ministered to others; gracious vouchsafements for gracious performances: grace is a talent to be traded with. The apostles received grace (Rom. 1:5; Eph. 3:8), that they might communicate it, 1 Pt. 4:10. [4.] The substitution of New-Testament grace in the room and stead of Old-Testament grace: so Beza. And this sense is confirmed by what follows (v. 17); for the Old Testament had grace in type, the New Testament has grace in truth. There was a grace under the Old Testament, the gospel was preached then (Gal. 3:8); but that grace is superseded, and we have gospel grace instead of it, a glory which excelleth, 2 Co. 3:10. Discoveries of grace are now more clear, distributions of grace far more plentiful; this is grace instead of grace. [5.] It bespeaks the augmentation and continuance of grace. Grace for grace is one grace to improve, confirm, and perfect another grace. We are changed into the divine image, from glory to glory, from one degree of glorious grace to another, 2 Co. 3:18. Those that have true grace have that for more grace, Jam. 4:6. When God gives grace he saith, Take this in part; for he who hath promised will perform. [6.] It bespeaks the agreeableness and conformity of grace in the saints to the grace that is in Jesus Christ; so Mr. Clark. Grace for grace is grace in us answering to grace in him, as the impression upon the wax answers the seal line for line. The grace we receive from Christ changes us into the same image (2 Co. 3:18), the image of the Son (Rom. 8:29), the image of the heavenly, 1 Co. 15:49.

2. We have received grace and truth, v. 17. He had said (v. 14) that Christ was full of grace and truth; now here he says that by him grace and truth came to us. From Christ we receive grace; this is a string he delights to harp upon, he cannot go off from it. Two things he further observes in this verse concerning this grace:—(1.) Its preference above the law of Moses: The law was given by Moses, and it was a glorious discovery, both of God’s will concerning man and his good will to man; but the gospel of Christ is a much clearer discovery both of duty and happiness. That which was given by Moses was purely terrifying and threatening, and bound with penalties, a law which could not give life, which was given with abundance of terror (Heb. 12:18); but that which is given by Jesus Christ is of another nature; it has all the beneficial uses of the law, but not the terror, for it is grace: grace teaching (Tit. 2:11), grace reigning, Rom. 5:21. It is a law, but a remedial law. The endearments of love are the genius of the gospel, not the affrightments of law and the curse. (2.) Its connection with truth: grace and truth. In the gospel we have the discovery of the greatest truths to be embraced by the understanding, as well as of the richest grace to be embraced by the will and affections. It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; that is, it is grace and truth. The offers of grace are sincere, and what we may venture our souls upon; they are made in earnest, for it is grace and truth. It is grace and truth with reference to the law that was given by Moses. For it is, [1.] The performance of all the Old-Testament promises. In the Old Testament we often find mercy and truth put together, that is, mercy according to promise; so here grace and truth denote grace according to promise. See Lu. 1:72; 1 Ki. 8:56. [2.] It is the substance of all the Old-Testament types and shadows. Something of grace there was both in the ordinances that were instituted for Israel and the providences that occurred concerning Israel; but they were only shadows of good things to come, even of the grace that is to be brought to us by the revelation of Jesus Christ. He is the true paschal lamb, the true scape-goat, the true manna. They had grace in the picture; we have grace in the person, that is, grace and truth. Grace and truth came, egenetowas made; the same word that was used (v. 3) concerning Christ’s making all things. The law was only made known by Moses, but the being of this grace and truth, as well as the discovery of them, is owing to Jesus Christ; this was made by him, as the world at first was; and by him this grace and truth do consist.

3. Another thing we receive from Christ is a clear revelation of God to us (v. 18): He hath declared God to us, whom no man hath seen at any time. This was the grace and truth which came by Christ, the knowledge of God and an acquaintance with him. Observe,

(1.) The insufficiency of all other discoveries: No man hath seen God at any time. This intimates, [1.] That the nature of God being spiritual, he is invisible to bodily eyes, he is a being whom no man hath seen, nor can see, 1 Tim. 6:16. We have therefore need to live by faith, by which we see him that is invisible, Heb. 11:27. [2.] That the revelation which God made of himself in the Old Testament was very short and imperfect, in comparison with that which he has made by Christ: No man hath seen God at any time; that is, what was seen and known of God before the incarnation of Christ was nothing to that which is now seen and known; life and immortality are now brought to a much clearer light than they were then. [3.] That none of the Old-Testament prophets were so well qualified to make known the mind and will of God to the children of men as our Lord Jesus was, for none of them had seen God at any time. Moses beheld the similitude of the Lord (Num. 12:8), but was told that he could not see his face, Ex. 33:20. But this recommends Christ’s holy religion to us that it was founded by one that had seen God, and knew more of his mind than any one else ever did.

(2.) The all-sufficiency of the gospel discovery proved from its author: The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. Observe here,

[1.] How fit he was to make this discovery, and every way qualified for it. He and he alone was worthy to take the book, and to open the seals, Rev. 5:9. For, First, He is the only-begotten Son; and who so likely to know the Father as the Son? or in whom is the Father better known than in the Son? Mt. 11:27. He is of the same nature with the Father, so that he who hath seen him hath seen the Father, ch. 14:9. The servant is not supposed to know so well what his Lord does as the Son, ch. 15:15. Moses was faithful as a servant, but Christ as a Son. Secondly, He is in the bosom of the Father. He had lain in his bosom from eternity. When he was here upon earth, yet still, as God, he was in the bosom of the Father, and thither he returned when he ascended. In the bosom of the Father; that is, 1. In the bosom of his special love, dear to him, in whom he was well pleased, always his delight. All God’s saints are in his hand, but his Son was in his bosom, one in nature and essence, and therefore in the highest degree one in love. 2. In the bosom of his secret counsels. As there was a mutual complacency, so there was a mutual consciousness, between the Father and Son (Mt. 11:27); none so fit as he to make known God, for none knew his mind as he did. Our most secret counsels we are said to hide in our bosom (in pectore); Christ was privy to the bosom-counsels of the Father. The prophets sat down at his feet as scholars; Christ lay in his bosom as a friend. See Eph. 3:11.

[2.] How free he was in making this discovery: He hath declared. Him is not in the original. He has declared that of God which no man had at any time seen or known; not only that which was hid of God, but that which was hid in God (Eph. 3:9), exeµgeµsato—it signifies a plain, clear, and full discovery, not by general and doubtful hints, but by particular explications. He that runs may now read the will of God and the way of salvation. This is the grace, this the truth, that came by Jesus Christ.


PLERŌMA (πλήρωμα , (4138)) denotes fulness, that of which a thing is full; it is thus used of the grace and truth manifested in Christ, John 1:16; of all His virtues and excellencies, Eph. 4:13; “the blessing of Christ,” Rom. 15:29, R.V. (not as A.V.); the conversion and restoration of Israel, Rom. 11:12; the completion of the number of Gentiles who receive blessing through the Gospel, ver. 25; the complete products of the earth, 1 Cor. 10:26; the end of an appointed period, Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10; God, in the completeness of His Being, Eph. 3:19; Col. 1:19; 2:9; the Church as the complement of Christ, Eph. 1:23. In Mark 6:43, “basketfuls,” R.V., is, lit., ‘fulnesses of baskets.’ For Matt. 9:16; Mark 2:21 see Fill, (B); for 8:20 see Fulfil, B.

Note: For plērophoria, “fulness,” Heb. 6:11, R.V., see Assurance.


B.         The Word in the New Testament.

It should be noted that πλήρωμα is already used in different senses in Romans. Because of its wealth of meaning Paul is relatively fond of the term.

1. “That which fills,” “content,” Mk. 6:43; 8:20; in an OT quotation 1 C. 10:26 (→ 299, 28 f.); “patch,” Mk. 2:21 == Mt. 9:16 → V, 717 f.

2. a. In measurement, “full measure,” R. 11:25 numerically “the whole,” for πάντα τὰ … (cf. 1:5), with πα̂ς ʼΙσραήλ, v.26 intentionally chosen as a fuller expression, → II, 370. In Eph. 4:13 it is used along with an image from personal life: the ἀνὴρ τέλειος is the adult; ἡλικία corresponds to this, denoting maturity (→ II, 941 f.) in contrast to the νήπιοι of v. 14; Christ is the example (v. 13). Hence πλήρωμα can hardly be rendered “vessel”33 nor taken in a Gnostic sense (→ II, 942 f.); it can only mean “full measure.”34 The members of the community (→ III, 624) which has attained the measure of adulthood, the full measure of Christ, are no longer children who can be easily influenced (v. 14). b. “Fulness,” “wealth,” R. 15:29vl. πληροφορία → 311, 1 ff. The use here is almost adjectival: with the “full” blessing. The noun, however, underlines the overflowing wealth (Vg abundantia) of the blessing with which Christ accompanies His apostle. The ἵνα clause in Eph. 3:19 gathers together the petitions of vv. 16–19a: that you may be completely filled, that the whole fulness which God gives may be yours, especially in the knowledge of the love of Christ, v. 18f. (→ I, 49).35 In Jn. 1:16 πλήρωμα takes up the πλήρης (→ 285, 15 ff.) of v.14.36 The reference in the context is to the incarnate Word. In Him the whole fulness of divine grace has become actively present.37 For this reason the relation of the believer to Him can be described as a continual receiving from the superabundance in whose historical manifestation God has more than fully made Himself known as the Saviour.38

In Col. 1:19 πλήρωμα is used directly in the abs., but here precisely in the context of a developed terminology, cf. already ψ 67:17: εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς κατοικειν ἐν αὐτῳ̂ (Mt. Zion). There are similar formulations in the Rabb. Writings. Here however, because of the emphasis on God’s transcendence, the concept of the shekinah is introduced, → 290, 14 ff. Cf. esp. Tg. on 1 K. 8:27: “Has it really pleased the Lord39 to cause his shekinah to dwell among men who live on the earth?”40 In Col. Christ replaces the Jewish temple.41 But both formally and materially the statements in Col. go much further than the Jewish statements (cf. Mt. 12:6),42 including those on the eschatological Jewish expectation that God will dwell among His people (Test. L. 5:2), which means, acc. to Jub. 1:17, in His sanctuary “in their midst.”43 The word πλήρωμα emphasises the fact that the divine fulness of love and power acts and rules in all its perfection through Christ. The choice of the word is thus easy to understand. It is selected because it suggests completeness44 (cf. the πληρ— group in Paul generally, also → 59–61). For this reason it is not enough to say that in πλήρωμα the author is simply catching up a slogan of the false teachers at Colossae,45 quite apart from the liturgical character of the two sayings (1:12–20, a prayer of thanksgiving), → V, 154, 20.

Col. 1:19: It has pleased God46 that the whole fulness of essence should take up dwelling (aor.) in Christ. According to the context, in a combination of thoughts from 2 C. 5:19 and 8:9 etc.,47 the reference is to the historical Jesus (v. 20: διὰ του̂ αἵματος του̂ σταυρου̂ αὐτου̂), and hence to the fulness of the essence of the God of love. In Col. 2:948 the whole fulness of Godhead, understood from the standpoint of power,49 is ascribed (pres.) to the exalted Lord; this belongs wholly and undividedly to Christ. πλήρωμα τη̂ς θεότητος is a higher form of πλήρης θεότης50 (→ σωματικω̂ς). The πλήρωμα statements in Col. present the full unity of the work of God and Christ in such a way that the distinctness of person is preserved and yet monotheism is not imperilled. God works through Christ in His whole fulness (1:19), in His full deity (2:9).

In should be noted that the use of πλήρωμα in Eph. and Col. is consistent neither formally nor in content.51 The use in Col. follows a single line materially, but this differs from the three lines which are unquestionably to be found in Eph. both formally and in part materially. The varied use makes it difficult to explain the word as a tt. at least in Eph. Nor should it be overlooked that in both Col. and Eph. the expression with πλήρωμα can often be replaced by a construction with the adj. πλήρης or the verb πληρόω (though there are good material reasons for the choice of πλήρωμα when it is used); this would be impossible if the use of πλήρωμα were technical in the Gnostic sense.

The πλήρωμα sayings occur in part in passages which speak of Christ as Head of the ἐκκλησία. The connections are as follows. In Col. 1:18 ff. Christ, the historical bearer of the divine fulness in whom God has reconciled His enemies, has become the Head of the Church. From the head vital powers flow into the body. It can thus be said that Christ has actively fulfilled this (Eph. 1:22 f.). As He in whom the fulness of Godhead dwells with power, Christ is also in Col. 2:9 f. the Head of the powers which are to some degree drawn into the reconciliation acc. to 1:18ff. The idea of a gigantic aeonic body cannot be deduced from these statements.52

3. In Eph. 1:23 the πλήρωμα saying is elucidated and expanded by the genitive which follows (→ 292, 7 ff.). πλήρωμα denotes the σω̂μα as that which is wholly filled by the mighty working of Christ.53 Here, then, is an obvious development of the thought of the body in 1 C. 12 (cf. Eph. 4:16 etc.).54

Eph. 3:19 could be taken in the same way: So that you may be that which is wholly filled by the manifold work of God (on εἰς cf. 2:22); nevertheless, the similarity between the two passages (1:23; 3:19), which form a general frame for the basic part of the epistle, should not cause us to attempt an analogous interpretation in detail.

4. The “act of filling”; a. active: as ἀγάπη is not an ethical disposition, so πλήρωμα in R. 13:10 is not a formal ethical concept (“sum”). Both words refer to the act. Loving conduct (cf. vv. 8–10a) is a “complete and entire fulfilment” of what God demands in the Law.

An act. meaning is suggested for R. 13:10 by v.8b (→ 292 f.). We have a compact train of thought in vv. 8b–10b. The statement in 8b is proved in 9–10a (v.9 γάρ) and then recapitulated in 10b when proof has been given (οὐ̂ν). The argument would be poorly handled, however, if πλήρωμα had the same meaning as ἀνακεφαλαιου̂ται, which is part of the actual proof.55 πλήρωμα, then, does not mean “sum”; it is the “complete fulfilment” of the Law in deed, and in this sense it is the opp. of the formal ἀνακεφαλαιου̂ται.

b. Passive: In R. 11:12 the verbal sense is suggested by the play (→ 299, 23 ff.) on ἥττημα; πλήρωμα is an antonym and thus means πληρωθη̂ναι,56 “to come to full strength.” Only when the number of the redeemed of Israel is complete (opp. “remnant”; → IV, 211 f.) can the Gentile world receive the riches of eschatological consummation. πλήρωμα is clearly used in a pass. temporal sense in statements about the divine plan of salvation. Gl. 4:4 would seem to run more simply as follows: ὅτε δὲ ἐπληρώθη ὁ χρόνος.57 But the fuller expression is not accidental, ἠ̂λθεν (par.3:23) is a specific word for the eschatological event (→ II, 674, 24 ff.). Gl. 4:4 is not just saying that a divinely determined span of time has run its course or that a divinely ordained point has been reached.58 Gl. 4:4 carries the concept of the fulfilment of time decisively beyond the Jewish view (→ 294, 25 ff.).59 With the sending of the Son time (cf. Eph. 1:10) is fulfilled absolutely; it attains to its full measure in content as well as extent. The saying does not refer to the abolition of time but to the fact that God’s saving work has come directly into history;60 in the historical event of the earthly Jesus (γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικόσ) God accomplishes His eschatological act. This understanding of the πλήρωμα statements is confirmed and elucidated by Eph. 1:10a. The pretemporal resolve of God leads to the saving dispensation (→ V, 151 f.) of the fulfilment of the times, in which the times are to be and have been fulfilled.61 The original decree of God had this fulfilment of the times (αἰω̂νες, 1 C. 10:11, → τέλος; cf. χρόνος Gl. 4:4) in view. It is grounded solely in God’s free will (v. 9 heaps up terms to this effect: θέλημα [→ III, 57, 1 ff.], εὐδοκία [→ II, 747, 1]).

John 1:1–18



The Gospel of John speaks more clearly than any other of the deity of Christ. There can be no doubt: the Bible does teach that Jesus of Nazareth was fully God as well as truly man.

This teaching does not, of course, rest only on what we find in John’s Gospel. There are many other passages that affirm Jesus’ deity. Among the most powerful are:

Colossians 1:15–20. Jesus who expresses the invisible God was Himself the Creator of all things, and has priority over all.

Hebrews 1:1–13. Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s being, and sustains all things by His own powerful word. He is, as God, above all created beings, including the angels who are so superior to mortal man.

Philippians 2:5–11. Jesus, though “in very nature God” voluntarily surrendered the prerogatives of Deity to become a true human being. Now that He has been resurrected He has been exalted again, and in the future every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

It is this Jesus, God from before the beginning, whom John wants to show us in his Gospel. And from this Gospel John wants to teach us how to respond, from the heart, to Him as Saviour and Lord.

➔     Grace. “Grace” reveals both God and man. It shows human beings as helpless, trapped in sin. And it shows God willing and able to meet our deepest needs.


The last of the apostles laid down his pen. His fingers brushed away one of the tears that still came so easily when he thought about the death and resurrection of his beloved Jesus. Even after all these years, he could still feel the same sorrow and joy he had felt so intently then.

John had been bewildered when Jesus died, and amazed by His resurrection. It had taken John and the others so long to understand, so long to really know who Jesus was … no, is.

John remembered those days just after the Resurrection when Jesus again walked with and taught His disciples. Taking up his pen again, the apostle bent over his manuscript to add: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30–31).

John, the last of the apostles to die, gave us in his Gospel one of four portraits of Jesus written in the decades after Christ’s death and resurrection. John’s Gospel is unique in a number of ways. It was written long after the others, possibly some 40 years after the end of Jesus’ life on earth. Unlike the other Gospels, which were written to present Jesus to different cultural groups, John was written as a universal Gospel. It is to all people of all times, and particularly to the church. John’s purpose is to unveil the Man, Jesus, and to reveal Him as God.

Of course, the other Gospels present the deity of Jesus, but the central message and focus of John’s Gospel is Jesus’ deity. John’s many years of ministry had taught him the importance of believers coming to know Jesus as God. John wrote his book for this purpose: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (italics added).

But why is this so important? And why is the present tense so important: that Jesus is the Christ. Not was. Is!

It’s important because when we recognize Jesus as the God who lives now, we also discover that we “may have life” now through His name.

John was making no retreat from the facts of the Christian faith. John’s failure to speak of Christ’s birth does not deny the historic events that actually took place in space and time. It does not imply that these are unimportant. It is simply that John’s goal was to help you and me see, through the historic Person, the living Christ who is present with us even now. John wanted us to understand not only who Jesus was, but who Jesus is. John wanted us to grasp the fact that in our personal relationship with the living Jesus we can experience new life as a present reality.

So, in the Gospel of John, the writer selected and organized historical events in order to unveil the living Jesus of today. As we see His glory, we will find in Him the vital source of a new life of our own.

Why is it so important that Jesus be unveiled? Recently I talked with a girl in her junior year in college, who wondered about her future. Should she continue in her church ministry major? Or take a course in some specialty that will prepare her for a job? How can she look ahead and know what is best for her to do?

Yesterday I spoke with a friend whose wife has asked him to move out. He knows that much of the pain both feel right now has been his fault: they are each struggling with deep hurts and even deeper uncertainties about their futures. Whatever choices they make now will shape the future for their children as well as for themselves.

From your own life, or the lives of members of your class or group, you can add other illustrations. You can point to incident after incident which bring home the fact that we must live in the constant company of uncertainty, and with the possibility of loss. For each of us, the future is hidden behind a veil. We are forced to make our choices blindly, hoping but never sure that what we do will turn out for the best, and hoping as well that the things we fear will never happen.

No wonder it was so important for John to unveil Jesus. We cannot know our personal futures. But we can be free to live with joy when we strip away the veil of history, and see there a Jesus who is the Son of God, and who brings us new life, now.

♥     Link to Life:

Have your group members work in pairs to list “things I can’t control.” Then combine to write a group list on the chalkboard. Let members add new things as they think of them. And be sure that, along with the weather, terrorism, and other international or universal things, your group members include what happens to them tomorrow, the outcome of their choices, etc.

Discuss: “Which of these areas make you most uncomfortable or anxious?”

Lead into the study of John’s Gospel by pointing out that John presented a Jesus who is God—living today, and able to bring us a new life as well as to exercise His own control over those things which are beyond ours.

Eternity Unveiled: John 1:1–5

With the first words of the Gospel of John we see that John’s task is to unveil. The other Gospels begin with the birth of Jesus or with an account of His human ancestry. Matthew and Luke emphasized that a man, a human being, was actually born in the normal way to a young woman named Mary in the ancient land of Judea at the time Herod the Great was living out his last days. John, on the other hand, tells us immediately the Child born then was the eternal God! His origin was not at His physical conception, but, as Micah said, his “origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). And Isaiah called Him “Mighty God, Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6).

John’s way of taking us back to eternity was to identify Jesus as “the Word” who was “in the beginning.” Moreover, this Word “was with God, and the Word was God.” Finally John said plainly that “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us” (John 1:14).

The Word. The Bible gives many titles or names to Jesus. When He is called “the Word,” we are reminded of His role in the Godhead from the very beginning. Human speech has the capacity to unveil thoughts, feelings, and emotions; to reveal the person behind the words. Jesus is God expressing Himself through Jesus.

When Philip asked Jesus to show the disciples the Father, Christ answered in gentle rebuke. “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9). Another time Jesus explained to His disciples, “No one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22).

This title, “the Word,” teaches that Jesus is now, and always has been, the One through whom God expresses Himself. But how did God express Himself in history past, even before the Incarnation? Obviously God was known before Jesus’ birth.

In Creation (John 1:3). Paul wrote that “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the Creation of the world God’s invisible qualities … have been clearly seen” (Rom. 1:19–20). The material universe itself speaks of a Maker, loudly shouting His handiwork:

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:2–4

This Word of Creation is the word of Jesus before the Incarnation. “Through Him all things were made,” John said. “Without Him nothing was made that has been made.” From the very beginning Jesus has expressed God to humankind.

In life (John 1:4). But it was not just in the creation of inanimate matter that Jesus communicated God. On the spinning sphere hung in the emptiness of space, the Creator placed living creatures. These living creatures are different from dead matter; they moved, ate, responded to stimuli, and reproduced themselves. The creation of life was a voice testifying to God.

Only One who was a living Being Himself could be the source of other life. Dead matter does not generate life now, nor has it ever.

And then, among all the living things, the Creator planted another kind of life that was made “in Our image, in Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). Not just life, but self-conscious life, came into being. This life that came from Jesus the Creator remains deeply rooted in Him. Our very awareness that we are different from all other living creatures is another wordless testimony to the existence of the God whose likeness we bear. Jesus gave us life itself, and by that life He expressed God to us.

In light (John 1:5). This final term introduces one other way in which God has expressed Himself through the preincarnate work of Jesus. In John’s writings the terms light and darkness are often moral terms. Light represents moral purity, holiness, righteousness, good. In contrast, darkness as a moral term represents evil, all those warped and twisted ways in which sin had perverted the good in man, and brought pain to individuals and society. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood [or, extinguished] it.”

The moral light is one of the most powerful and pervasive evidences of God’s existence. Paul described pagans who have never known God’s Old Testament revelation of morality, yet they “show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Rom. 2:15). There is a moral awareness planted deep in the personality of every person. Different societies may develop different rules to govern, for instance, sexual behavior. These rules may be glaringly different from the pattern set in Scripture. Still, in every culture, there is the awareness that sexual behavior is a moral issue, and that no individual can simply have any other person he or she wants, at any time or in any way.

The deep-seated conviction that there is a moral order to things is present in every human society. But society is in darkness; even though some sense of moral order and rightness exists, people in every society choose to do what they themselves believe is wrong. So conscience struggles, and individuals accuse themselves (or perhaps try to excuse as “adult” behavior they know is wrong).

Moral awareness in a world running madly after darkness is another testimony to us that light comes from the preexistent Word. Light, like creation and life itself, shouts out the presence of God behind the world we see.

Then, finally, the Word took unique expression in space and time. “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Grace and Truth: John 1:6–18

A totally new level of communication begins with the Incarnation. We catch a glimpse of this fact in the ministry of John the Baptist. John, the Bible says, was sent “to testify concerning that light.”

What a strange expression. John was sent to identify the light! Why? What was there about Jesus as the Light that demanded identification? When we examine the Baptist’s message in the other Gospels, we see that John focused his preaching on twin ideas: (1) the promised King of Old Testament prophecy was about to appear, and (2) His coming demanded a moral renewal.

John rebuked sin in ruler and common man alike. His tongue lashed the religious. “You brood of vipers!” he cried scornfully. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7–8).

The Baptist’s prescriptions were clear, simple reflections of Old Testament Law. “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same,” John told the people. “Don’t collect … more [taxes] than you are required to,” John told the tax collectors. “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay,” John told the soldiers (vv. 11–14).

The moral light shed in the Old Testament shone through the Baptist’s message. His words pointing to the Person about to appear promised a kingdom in which moral light would not be lost in the darkness, but instead, darkness would be exiled by light. “The true Light,” the Gospel writer said, “was coming into the world.” And John the Baptist’s mission was to make it clear to all that that Man is the Light.

But still, why? Why must John announce Jesus? Why did a people who already had the light of the written Law need to have light—an expression of true morality and reality—identified for them? The Gospel writer explained it to us with another term: grace. When the Word became flesh, we were given new light—a revelation that the divine morality is “grace and truth.”

Law. It is important to understand that all revelations of God before Jesus came were true, but incomplete. Creation spoke of God’s existence and power, but not of His essential character. Life testified to God’s personhood, but told nothing of His deepest emotions or plans. Light, as awareness of morality, reflected God’s holiness, but somehow His heart remained hidden. Even the Law of the Old Testament, which defined holiness and morality more fully and gave a glimpse of God as One who cares about people, still did not communicate God’s heart.

There were still some questions left unanswered. What does God truly want with us? How does He react when we fail to meet His standards? “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” It is the Son who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Heb. 1:1–3). In Jesus, the Word is spoken! And what do we hear when the final revelation comes? “Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). In Jesus we see a morality that goes beyond law and can only be identified as grace.

How is grace portrayed in verses 9–13 of this chapter? The Creator entered the world He had made. He came to His own people, to whom He had given life. But His own people would not receive Him. He was rejected, scorned, and ultimately crucified. In spite of this, He reached out to individuals who would receive Him, and He gave them the right to become the children of God.

The human race did not seek out a family relationship with God. The reaching out was God’s, and His alone. In spite of mankind’s failure, God drew men and women to Himself and lifted them up, adopting them as His children and heirs. In this act of pure grace, a glorious light bursts into history. In Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, we discover that God’s ultimate morality is one of love and of grace.

At first it is hard to realize that the God who spoke in the past is the same God unveiled in Jesus. We had never grasped the full extent of His glory. But John the Baptist was a witness to that light, and testified that He is the same. The splendor of God seen in the Son goes so far beyond the glimpses of glory that shine through the Law. Now, we must learn to live in grace’s new relationship with the Lord, so that we can share His glory.

And so the theme of Jesus, the Living Word, unveiling God, dominates the Gospel of John. Jesus, full of grace and truth, unveiled now the relationship which God the Father had always yearned to have with humankind. And we, as His sons and daughters, must learn a way of life guided by the splendor of grace rather than by the flickering candle of Law.

For this, we must know Jesus. We must see Jesus as He is, God’s ultimate Word of revelation. We must hear His Word, come to understand, and believe in Him. When we trust ourselves to Jesus, forever, and daily, we will learn what it means to “have eternal life in Him.”



Look at a verse-by-verse commentary, such as the Bible Knowledge Commentary, pages 271–273.


1. Jesus was the “Word” (that is, the revealer of God) even before the Incarnation. Three concepts in John’s introduction to his Gospel express how.

Give a minilecture on Jesus’ roles in Creation, as life, and as light, and how each of these unveil God to human beings. Afterward discuss: “How much do we know about God from each source? What important knowledge is still lacking?”

2. The author suggested that John wanted us to realize fully that Jesus is God, and that this is vitally important to our Christian experience.

Use the launching activity found in “link-to-life,” to help your group members sense how important it is for us, who can control so little in our lives, to trust the living Jesus who controls all.


1. John was called to “bear witness to” (identify!) Jesus as the Light. This was linked to the fact that Israel thought of God’s revelation in terms of the Law that came through Moses, while “grace and truth” came (were unveiled) through Jesus.

Discuss: “How did people who received all their moral light from the Law pictured God? How might Jesus, who emphasized God’s grace, have changed that image?”

2. Or look at parallel passages that deal with the full deity of Jesus, as outlined in “link-to-life.”


Have each person share: “What is one evidence of God’s grace through Jesus that you have experienced since becoming a believer?”

1:14-18, Incarnation and Confession.

That the Word has entered the realm of the flesh as a historical person is now made quite explicit, even though Jesus is not yet named (→ Incarnation). “Dwelt” (rsv) translates a Greek verb that implies tenting or tabernacling, evoking the motif of God’s dwelling with his people, in the wilderness tabernacle and in the Temple on Mount Zion. The “we” who have seen Jesus’ glory may be the whole Christian community, the circle of Jesus’ disciples, or some other and smaller group. An exact identification eludes us. Near the end of the Gospel, however, those who see are clearly differentiated from all who may believe (20:29); John apparently distinguishes seeing from believing. Presumably, a group exercising authority speaks of the revelation of God, because they have actually seen the glory of Jesus the only Son and can bear witness that he is full of grace and truth.

A reference to John the Baptist (v. 15) follows the explicit mention of the incarnation (v. 14), and the content of John’s witness is now given (cf. v. 30). The Evangelist’s belief in the preexistence of Jesus is here voiced by the Baptist, who says nothing like this in other Gospel accounts. Significantly, the Baptist makes Jesus’ superiority clear at the outset; no one should make any mistake about that.

Verse 16 continues the thought of v. 14 as if it had not been interrupted by the Baptist. The meaning of “fullness” is not obvious. Probably it signifies the saving gift of God (cf. Col. 1:19); “grace upon grace” would then expand upon this fullness (→ Grace). Verse 17 makes an important differentiation in that for the first time Jesus Christ is explicitly named. Conceivably, the giving of the law through Moses (v. 17a) is to be construed as grace (v. 16b) to which the grace (and truth) of Christ is now added (v. 17b). In the light of the treatment of Moses in the entire Gospel, however, v. 17 is best understood antithetically, putting Moses over against Jesus. Still the law of Moses is regarded as valid (7:51) if rightly understood (5:39), but the Jews neither understand it (5:46-47) nor obey it (7:19).

The conclusion of the prologue (1:18) rounds out its message as it refers to v. 1. That no one has seen God is a commonplace of ot theology (but cf. Exod. 24:9-11; 33:20-23; 34:6). The rsv reads “the only Son,” which makes good (Johannine) sense but is not found in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts, where “only (begotten) God” is read. The latter reading is also supported by the fact that it echoes John 1:1b, where the Word is called theos (“God,” but, as here, without the Greek article). Jesus Christ’s having been in the bosom of the Father signifies his close intimacy with him. The Word Incarnate has not only seen God, he himself is theos and thus able to make him fully known.

At the end of the prologue one sees that it is an overture to or summation of the Gospel. Of course, the Gospel must be read, or Christian tradition known, in order to perceive this. Jesus Christ as the Word is the light who shines in darkness, who comes into the world he was instrumental in making. Rejected by his own people as a group, he was nevertheless received by individuals who believed in him, who gained the right to be children of God. As soon as the incarnation of the Word is announced, more traditionally Christian terms are employed, e.g., “grace,” “glory,” “truth,” “only (begotten) Son,” and “fullness.” Finally, at the end of the prologue (v. 18), the historical revelation of God in Jesus is succinctly summed up: “He has made him known.”

God Bless you Marie,

I love you,


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