John 1:15-16
Preached by Dr. John E. Marshall

John 1:15 AJohn bare witness of him, and cried, saying, this was he of whom I spake, he that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.@

Jesus was younger than John and began preaching at a later date than John. To Jews, this made Jesus inferior to John. They believed each generation was worse than the previous one. Precedence in time meant priority.

John, though, emphatically (Acried@) promoted Jesus above himself. Though Jesus followed the Baptist in time, John knew in some way Jesus preceded him. According to our text, John saw Jesus as preferred by God.

John the Author and John the Baptist saw Jesus as more than man. Both used whatever words they could find to express their adoration for Christ: the Word was with God, the Word was God, all things were made through Him, He is life, light, glory, preferred Lamb of God.

John the Baptist and John the Beloved came to see Jesus as more than merely a vessel to be admired. They saw Him as a cup from which to drink.

John 1:16 AAnd of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.@

Jesus did not come to dazzle us. He came not only to manifest the Father, but also to communicate Him. Christ=s fulness is not for teaching purposes only; it is for transformation. To behold his glory (v. 14) is one thing; to possess His fulness is more. Verse 16 raises three questions worth considering.

I. What is fulness?

Believers are recipients of Christ=s fulness. The word literally means the sum total of all that is in God. This is John=s way of saying Jesus is inexhaustible. Paul used the same word in Colossians 2:9, AIn Him (Jesus) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.@
Jesus is the well that never runs dry. Long after the saints have drawn from His fulness, there will be fulness still. Jacob, not the angel of God, limped down the mountain.

Can we imagine a man dying of thirst refusing to drink from a mighty river due to fear he might drink it dry? It is as foolish to think we can deplete the fulness of Christ.

Seek repentance a million times; find solace continually; draw wisdom forever. Take all you want from Jesus. His fulness remains. Spiritual water may be taken perpetually, yet Jesus Ocean shall be as full as ever.

II. What is grace for grace?

Better translated as grace Aupon@ grace, this phrase describes the way Christ=s fulness comes to us. It is carried on wave after wave of God=s grace. His blessing knows no interruption and no limit (Morris).

Like a rolling ocean, wave after wave of God=s fulness comes to meet our need. It is God=s nature to overflow with free mercy. The phrase denotes continuity, and progressive gifts. Each measure of Christ received makes us capable of possessing more of Christ (Maclaren).

III. If Christ brings fulness, why are we often so empty?

Since Jesus is always giving, He obviously intends us to be always receiving. Unfortunately, many of us are like a drainage ditch, filled with water some times, empty at other times. Much of God=s overflowing grace intended for us is wasted. We are too often weak, unhappy, defeated. Why?

We know the problem is in us, not God. Jesus has not lost His fulness, we have lost our receptivity. There is perpetual outflow from Him to us. If there is not perpetual inflow into us from Him it is our fault, not His (Maclaren).

What=s the problem? I offer four possibilities.

A. APATHY. Many don=t want more of God=s fulness. They are, as it were, barely saved, having scarcely enough grace to float them into heaven, the keel of their vessel grating on gravel all the way (CHS). Many don=t care. If we want more of God, we=ll receive more. ABlessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled@ (Matthew 5:6).

B. PRESUMPTION. If we had a large chunk of God once, it is easy to assume that assures us of always having it. But the image of wave upon wave bespeaks an ebb and flow tide. We must constantly renew God=s fulness in us. Don=t try to run on the memory of yesterday=s fulness. Renew the supply daily.

C. OVERCROWDING. The vacuum principle can be applied to the spiritual realm. Emptying of self draws Christ=s fulness within. To receive His fulness we must realize our own emptiness. No vessel can receive beyond the measure of its emptiness. The more we empty ourselves, the more Jesus fills us with Himself.

The fuller the container, the less is its capacity for reception; the emptier it is, the larger the space that can be filled (CHS). Waves on a beach can eventually erode the coast into a huge bay. Christ also can chip away at our hearts and make His portion large within us.

D. SELFISHNESS. It is not enough to want to be wholly consecrated to Christ. Our desire has to be that the whole world be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (CHS). God is reluctant to pour His blessings down a dead end street.

Jesus overflows into us and expects us to overflow onto others. If we are full of God, it will spill over onto others. He who hath lain in the beds of spices will perfume the air through which he walks (CHS).

I want God=s grace to spill out of me onto you. Beggars used to leave a mark to indicate for other beggars a good house to knock at. I want to put a mark by Christ=s door. Here is a place you will be well received. All saints of all ages have been what you and I must be if we would be saved B receivers (CHS). Rejoice, the fulness of God dwelt in Jesus, the friend of sinners. Receive.