John 1:17-18
Preached by Dr. John E. Marshall

John 1:17 AFor the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.@

This verse presents three Contrasts

A. The Communication Methods: given vs. came.

The law was given, grace and truth came. The law was a gift separate from God. Grace and truth are God giving the gift of Himself.

Giving gifts is good, but nothing replaces the giving of self. The former is often attempted as a cheap substitute for the latter, but not so with God. His giving of the law hinted something better was coming. The law provided
A. . . a shadow of good things to come@ (Hebrews 10:1).

The law needed to be given, but was only a foundation on which to rear a better thing (Maclaren). The gift was a token of, not a substitute for, giving self.

B. The Communication Materials: law vs. grace and truth.

Truth bespeaks reality; law was but an image or shadow of divine things. Before Christ, people sought to obey law like slaves, but this was not God=s intent. His intent (truth) was for us to answer to His love like children.

Grace bespeaks gentleness, but the law has no tenderness, pity, or feeling. Tables of stone and a pen of iron are its fitting vehicles (Maclaren). Law tells us what we ought to be, but does not help us be it. Augustine said the law threatened, not helped; commanded, not healed; showed, not took away, our feebleness, but made ready for the Physician to come with grace and truth.

The law shows us how badly we need help, but cannot help heal us. Only grace can do this. Law demands; grace bestows. Law says ADo this.@ Grace says, AI will help you do this.@
C. The Communication Men: Moses vs. Jesus Christ.

Moses produced law. He did not even originate this, for it was given through him. Take Moses away, the law remains. However, remove Christ, and grace and truth are lost. Everything worthwhile crumbles to ashes without Jesus.

This is John=s first use of the name AJesus,@ which denotes our Savior=s humanity. The name occurs 905 times in the New Testament. John=s Gospel uses it 237 times, more than a fourth of its New Testament appearances. John the Beloved had known Jesus as a personal friend and spoke of Him as such.

AChrist,@ more than merely an identification label, marks Jesus as the special man, the anticipated, anointed One, combining in Himself the roles of prophet, priest, and king, all of whom were anointed at the start of their ministries.

When speaking of Christ=s divinity, John usually uses Son (denoting same essence as the Father). Paul uses Lord (referring to the Old Testament designation for YHWH).

John 1:18 ANo man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.@

Moses could not dispense the fulness of grace and truth, for he had no immediate sight of God. No one can have. God said, AThere shall no man see Me, and live@ (Ex. 33:20). Moses was allowed to see only the hind parts of God.

Since God is spirit, He cannot be seen by physical eyes. Even Christ was not Aseen@ as God. We saw the flesh that veiled His divinity. People see visions of God and theophanies, but no one has seen God in His essential being. The three Hebrews saw a form in the fiery furnace. Moses saw a burning bush. Jacob wrestled God=s angel. Isaiah saw a vision of God in the temple.

Knowing God cannot be seen with our eyes may cause us to despair. We may feel like saying with Plato, ANever man and God can meet.@ To keep us from such pessimism, John rings three notes of hope in our text.

1. ASeen@ would be better translated as Aever yet seen@ (Westcott). Don=t despair, someday we shall see Him. AWhen He (Jesus) shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is@ (I John 3:2). Our natural bodies will be raised as spiritual bodies (I Corinthians 15:44) having new eyes able to see God.

2. A . . . the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father . . .@ No one has seen the Father, with one important exception, our Savior and Friend.

ABosom@ is not an anatomical term, but refers to an area, an enclosure formed by a person=s chest and arms. An individual in the bosom of a friend can hear heartbeat and breathing. Almost by reflex action, the friend=s arms encircle such a person with love and protection.

AIn the bosom@ is a Hebrew phrase expressing the deepest intimacy possible in human life. It is used of father and child (Numbers 11:12), husband and wife (Deuteronomy 13:6), and two friends in complete communion with one another.

Lazarus found security, love, and happiness in Abraham=s bosom (Luke 16:22ff). Our author leaned on Jesus= bosom at the Last Supper (John 13:23) and cherished it as a precious memory (John 21:20).

By using the phrase here, John is saying between Jesus and God is complete and total intimacy. The verb Ais@ shows this intimacy is uninterrupted. Jesus, having completed His mission, is receiving gratitude and honor.

3. AHe hath declared Him.@ Jesus could have kept His knowledge a secret, but didn=t. The One who has seen the Father, who was with the Father, who is in the Father=s bosom, He has declared the Father.

ADeclared@ means to expound, interpret, reveal. The word is AExegesato,@ from which we derive Aexegesis.@ Jesus exegetes the Father, interprets Him, expounds Him, reveals Him.

As humans, our knowledge of God is inherently limited. It is impossible for us to have direct knowledge of God as God. We come to know Him only through One who has been with the Father intimately. That One is Jesus Christ.