The Law Through Moses, Grace and Truth Through Jesus Christ

John 1:17  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
O, WEIGH these wondrous words for sinners to hear and receive from God in all their force “And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of an Only-begotten from beside a Father) full of grace and truth... For of His fullness we all received, and grace for grace; because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.”
What grace in Him to come here below as truly Man as God! Neither God nor man had ever been so seen and heard before.
God made man sinless and set him in a garden of delight under the simplest possible test of refraining from a single tree. But man's first recorded act was to transgress; and thus sin, death, and ruin entered for him and all put under him. Yet it was not without God's word of saving mercy in the very sentence on the enemy who misled: the woman's Seed, however crushed, should crush the serpent. All for man's blessing turns, not on the first man, but on the Second, and is therefore of God's sovereign grace through faith in Jesus.
Meanwhile rebellious man who fled from God was expelled from Paradise. Left to himself, he waxed worse and worse, though not without divine goodness leading to repentance, till corruption and violence brought down the deluge to sweep all away save one man and his house. Noah began with sacrifice the world that now is, where God has wrought and spoken in many measures and in many manners, till all was eclipsed and surpassed in His Son incarnate to declare Him and do on the cross the work which efficaciously supersedes all shadows for man to His glory.
Here came He in whom was life, the light of men; but the darkness comprehended it not: a darkness so dense was it that it yielded not to the True Light. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to His own things, but His own people received Him not. Yet at that time Greece boasted of its knowledge, Rome of its power, Jerusalem of its religion. But what was all worth when the Gentiles knew not their own Creator, and the Jews received not their own Messiah? O the grace that brought Him down from heaven to live as man among men, that they might believe and follow Him who was God as He also perfectly represented the Invisible! But some did and do receive Him, “all we” that believe, who receiving Him receive of His fullness, and grace for grace, in overflowing abundance. For it is divine giving and so without measure in Him.
The explanation is added, “because the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came into being through Jesus Christ.” The law was the divine requirement, if the first man sought to draw near to God. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good:” what could it do then but condemn the Israelite like any other, because the race is unholy, unjust, and bad? Even if favor were joined to the law, as when Moses went up the second time (Ex. 34:1-171And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. 2And be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning unto mount Sinai, and present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. 3And no man shall come up with thee, neither let any man be seen throughout all the mount; neither let the flocks nor herds feed before that mount. 4And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. 5And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. 8And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped. 9And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance. 10And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all thy people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee. 11Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 12Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: 13But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: 14For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: 15Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; 16And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. 17Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. (Exodus 34:1‑17)), it is a ministry of death and condemnation; for favor only aggravates the guilt if man is under law which will by no means clear the guilty.
Salvation is impossible save for sovereign grace apart from law. And this is what God provides in Christ. Hence the Galatians (chap. v. 2-4) were warned that to require or submit to circumcision, though it was of the fathers, was to derive no profit from Christ and be fallen from grace. The same chap. 18-24 excludes law as the rule of life, which is solely Christ in the power of the Spirit according to the written word. It is therefore grace from first to last; and grace means not God's love only, but His love rising above all our evil, love wholly undeserved, love in Christ to give us a new and holy nature and to suffer for our sins, but also strengthening us to all holy obedience and suffering for Christ and righteousness' sake.
Nor is this all. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. It came in Him when He came. It was what He manifested, taught, and lived. His death made it effectual for the worst who turned to God repentant and believing in His name. The veil was rent, the sanctuary on earth annulled to its innermost shrine, the way of the Holies manifested for every believer, Gentile no less than Jew.
This is truth no less than grace, never made known before He came and accomplished the work of sacrifice which supersedes and more than fulfills all sacrifices on behalf of sinful man, yet necessarily through faith. And “the law is not of faith” but of doing, as alas! we all sinned, instead of doing right only. But our Lord suffered with the fullest efficacy for our sins. Hence His blood cleanses the believer from every sin; and the gospel is God's glad tidings that all might believe.
For the truth is the manifestation of every person and everything as it is. Hence Christ is declared to be “the truth,” and this not personally alone but as making known every one and everything really. It could not be till He came. God Himself dwelt in the thick darkness; but Christ declared Him as He is, not only as Savior in Christ to every one who owns his sins and believes on Him through whom He saves, but as the Father of all who believe, His Father and their Father (as He Himself said), His God and their God. For this is life eternal to know the Father and the Son; as it is through His word and Spirit. It is not law, but the truth, “the grace and truth” which “came through Jesus Christ.”
If only so we know God as He is, so too we know man as he is. Only Christ made man thus known, ungodly, lost, powerless, God's enemy, yea, dead in offenses and sins, the Jew as well as the Gentile children of wrath by nature, and only salvable and saved by grace through faith; and this not of ourselves, God's gift, not of works that none might boast.
It is through Christ that we know the devil as he is; not merely the tempter of our first parents in the Paradise of Eden, or the adversary of Israel in the land, or as he had proved to righteous Job in patriarchal days, but above all the antagonist and hater of Jesus the Son of God, the holy angels being revealed as occupied with Him and His as the continual object of their service.
Through Jesus we know heaven truly, as filled with His praise and homage, and in particular the Father's house where He is the object of His Father's delight, and whither He will bring us in His delight to share love and glory with Himself to their fullest.
Through Him we know, not only His coming kingdom as Son of man over all the nations, and with His ancient people as His nearest earthly circle, but as the Head over all things to the church, His body, associated in the closest relationship. Then the blessing of Melchizedek shall characterize the most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth, and those of faith are everywhere blessed with faithful Abraham.
Through Him too we know the awful and endless doom of all who live only to disregard Christ and to please themselves, to reject His word and gratify their self-will and superstition always idolatrous, and their skepticism always hostile to God and self-exalting. It is Christ who made known, as Moses and the prophets never did, “Gehenna where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” or as the beloved disciple says, “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone:” tremendous figures of a still more tremendous and everlasting reality for “cowardly, and unbelieving, and those that make themselves abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars.” Yet such is the dark background of a new heaven and a new earth for all eternity, with the new Jerusalem the blessed and holy city of love.