John 1:16

Sermon preached on December 28, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

What is Christmas all about? What's the real meaning of Christmas? Some people will tell you that it's all about family. There is not doubt that Christmas is a wonderful family time for so many people. It is so nice to have family members visit and we enjoy them so much. When Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary celebrated the arrival of their firstborn, and their family grew. Because of Jesus Christians are adopted into God's family—Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

But there was much more to the coming of Jesus than just teaching us about family. It was the work of Jesus that enabled our adoption. His work accomplished much more than our adoption. So our adoption, as wonderful as it is, is not the central thing about Jesus' coming. Family, as wonderful as it is, is not what Christmas is all about.

Other people will tell you that Christmas is all about giving. In his book,
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens highlighted the plight of the poor. He depicted them in a very good light and his portrayal of them was very sympathetic. Dickens' message to those who have means is to have a kind heart and to help those less fortunate than themselves. Indeed, Jesus Himself taught us that, (Acts 20:35)

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."

John 3:16 teaches us that the Father gave His One and only Son for us. Giving is a very noble and great biblical teaching. There is no doubt that Christmas has much to teach us about giving. But again, giving is not the central thing about Christmas. The Father didn't give His beloved Son merely for us to learn how to give.

I know very little about pop music today but Natalia introduced me to a Taylor Swift Christmas song couple of years ago. It's called, "
Christmas Must Be Something More". I was surprised at its message, that Christmas must be something more than all the peripheral stuff associated with it—that it's about something holy, not superficial—it's about the birth of Jesus, who saved our lives.

People can try to ignore that—but she has it right. Jesus came for a reason—to die for us. He came to save us. He came to make us His own people. He came in order that we would be blessed.
He came in order that grace would be able to come to us. This last thing is what is taught in our text—that

any grace we receive comes to us through Jesus Christ.

It comes only from Him. It says, (John 1:16-17)

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received
one blessing after another.
For the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

Christ is the source of all our blessings. Every good thing we have comes to us through Him, through His mediation. All grace comes to us through Him and only through Him. In John 3:34 we are told that the Father has placed all things in the hands of the Son. He is the one mediator between God and man. (1 Timothy 2:5) In our text grace and truth coming through Jesus is made parallel to the law coming through Moses. As Moses was the mediator in the giving of the law, He was the one that God chose and delivered the law to Israel, so Jesus is God's chosen one to deliver grace and truth us.

This is important. To a certain extent our society celebrates the coming of Jesus. Marg and I were in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago and we were surprised that they were playing Christmas Carols. The songs weren't Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, but all the songs were celebrating our Lord's birth. It was wonderful. That's still tolerated in some public places. But when it comes to Christianity's exclusive claims, like Jesus' claim that He was the only way to the Father—those are not celebrated. Indeed, they are vehemently denied.

But we must take seriously that Jesus is the only way to the Father. He's not one way among several. In John 14:6 Jesus said,

"I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."

In Acts 4:12 Peter spoke to the Sanhedrin and said about Jesus,

"Salvation is found in no one else, for
there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

This was the same teaching in the Old Testament—that it was only through the God of Israel that salvation existed. In Hosea 13:4 God said to His people, (HCSB)

"I have been Yahweh your God
ever since the land of Egypt;
you know no God but Me,
and no Savior exists besides Me."

In this context John tells us that all the grace that we receive comes to us through Jesus. He is the One who died for us and who is able to bless us. He is the one who has received Spirit without measure. As we read in John 3:34,

"For the one whom God has sent
speaks the words of God,
for God gives the Spirit without limit."

He has been given the Spirit without measure for our benefit. He gives us grace out of His unlimited supply. Ephesians 4:7 says,

"But to each one of us grace
has been given as Christ apportioned it."

The lesson from this is that

we must be focused on Christ.

Any grace we received comes to us from Him because of His work. When we need grace, we should go directly to Him for it.

Just this past week I heard some advice about what to do when you're having difficulties and how there are numerous saints that one can go to for help. That's nonsense. I found that incredibly sad. What bad advice. To think that you can't approach Jesus directly, that you can't look exclusively to Him for help, that you have to go through intermediaries—that misses the truth. You should go to Jesus directly.

John Calvin summarizes what the apostle John is doing in our text,

"He begins now to preach about the office of Christ, that it contains within itself an abundance of all blessings, so that no part of salvation must be sought anywhere else.""he warns us that, as soon as we have departed from Christ, it is ill vain for us to seek a single drop of happiness, because God hath determined that whatever is good shall reside in him alone. Accordingly, we shall find angels and men to be dry, heaven to be empty, the earth to be unproductive, and, in short, all things to be of no value, if we wish to be partakers of the gifts of God in any other way than through Christ."

If you're not a Christian you should understand that you need Jesus.

Grace is in Him alone. In our verse I believe John is speaking to Christians. He says that from Christ's fullness Christians have received one blessing after another. The blessings that Christians have received come only from Christ.

But the same is true for non-Christians. In Matthew 5:45 Jesus said that God,

"causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

In Acts 17:25 Paul talked about God the Creator and said,

"because he himself
gives all men life and breath and everything else."

Jesus created all things. Everything good that comes to people comes through Him.

This means that you need to go to Jesus. He's your only hope. He has been so good to you in spite of the fact that you haven't believed in Him. Ask Him for the greatest gift, salvation.

The second thing we see in our text is that

in Christ there is fullness of grace.

There are two things to note about this.

First, note the abundance of God's grace that is available to us.

We receive blessings from

"the fullness of his grace…"

Leon Morris says, (John, NICNT; p. 97)

"There is a hint at the infinite extent of his resources, for 'all' receive from him."

John Calvin writes,

"the abundance which exists in Christ is intended to supply our deficiency, to relieve our poverty, to satisfy our hunger and thirst."

One of the reasons we don't have to look to any one for help, for blessings, for grace—is because in Christ we have everything we need.

We don't need to go to any saint or anyone else for grace. The saints don't have it.

Only Jesus has it. Not only does He have it, but He has it in abundance. He is not only the only one with the resources—but He has infinite resources to help us.

To help us see this, John then writes,

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received
one blessing after another."

One blessing after another.

The phrase 'one blessing after another' is very interesting. One commentator has complained that none of the English translations do a good job of translating this phrase. Andreas J. Köstenberger writes, (John, BECNT; p. 46-47)

"The major translations are inadequate…"

The NIV has it, "one blessing after another". The NASB and the ESV render in as, has it, "grace upon grace". The HCSB has, 'grace after grace'. The KJV and the Geneva Bible has, 'grace for grace'.

The reason the major translations are inadequate is because sometimes it's impossible to render the exact meaning in a few brief words in another language. If we were to translate this phrase literally, it would be that we have received, (Leon Morris, John, NICNT; p. 98)

"grace instead of grace."

Grace instead of grace? That doesn't seem to make sense. Young's Literal Translation puts it a little differently, but perhaps makes it a little more intelligible.

"grace over-against grace;"

But even that seems confusing. It's no wonder translators have trouble with it.

But the overall point is clear. John is speaking about how we received from Christ's fullness, grace and grace. Leon Morris writes, (John, NICNT; p. 98)

"Probably… he means that as one piece of divine grace (so to speak) recedes it is replaced by another. God's grace to his people is continuous and is never exhausted. Grace knows no interruption and no limit."

M. J. Harris suggests that this phrase "grace upon grace" or "one blessing after another," (NIDNTT, Vol. 3, p. 1179)

"denotes a perpetual and rapid succession of blessings, as though there were no interval between the arrival of one blessing and the receipt of the next."

This is worthy of note. Christian, how do you view God's grace to you? Maybe you haven't thought about it much, but unconsciously you have the idea that at times God's grace has been poured out to you in abundance, and at other times, it has been withheld from you.

No. That's not the way it is.

Outward blessings may come and go. Sometimes we prosper and at other times we lack things. Even inwardly, sometimes we feel such joy, such closeness to God, we have such peace and then at other times we struggle, feel alone and are troubled. We all know the cyclical pattern of things like that.

But God's grace is not like that.

We must not confuse God's grace with outward blessings or with how we feel.

Material blessings are but one manifestation of God's grace. Material blessings can come and go but God's grace is always with us. Inward feelings of joy and peace are but specific manifestations of God's grace. They can come and go. But God's grace does not come and go. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is with you always. It's wall to wall grace. It's abundant grace that is ever-present. As the apostle reminded us in Hebrews 13:5 of God's promise,

"God has said, 'Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.'"

How did the apostle respond? He said,

"So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'"

God's grace is tied to His presence and it is always with us. It's going to be with you when you die. Whether you die in peaceful circumstances or in the utmost pain—God's grace will be there with you.

John Calvin says,

"he assures us that we shall have no reason to fear the want of any thing, provided that we draw from the fullness of Christ, which is in every respect; so complete, that we shall experience it to be a truly inexhaustible fountain;"

This is truly a wonderful teaching. It has so many implications. It should give us comfort and joy. It should give us confidence about the Christian life, about our trials, about our sorrows, about the future.

In Christ we have an inexhaustible fountain of grace. That grace always with it. When one manifestation of grace starts to recede, another manifestation is right there, pressing against it—so that God's grace is always with us in abundance.

The coming of Jesus brought all this for us. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.