Monday, January 08, 2007

Verse for 2007 : John 1:16

Well, it's that time of the year again.

If you're wondering what I'm talking about then read what I wrote last year HERE . The Lord Jesus Christ who is the Living Word continued to use our text for 2006 to prepare me for what could have been the shock of redundancy which came knocking last October.

The thing about trials is that unpleasant as they are, they ALL come from a God who is sovereign - which means He is in control over everything that happens and nothing happens anywhere at any time without His knowledge, permission and timing.

And He is also a God who is loving. This is not just a theoretical idea but proven in the fact that God became man to die on a cross to suffer the punishment for the sins of those who will receive Him (see John 1:12 and Romans 8:32)

So now a few words about this year's verse :

"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." (John 1:16, NIV)

If you compare the translation of this verse with others you will soon realise that it is not a strictly literal rendering of the original Greek. When I notice that I get extremely sceptical. Why ? Because it means that the translator or the translating committee is making an interpretation in the very act of translation. It nearly always strikes me something like eating pre-digested food.

Since we use the NIV in our church, I was simultaneously quite sceptical but also listening quite intently when our Pastor was preaching on this passage last Sunday (and can be listened again HERE ).

I have to report that while the passage is a paraphrase, in my opinion it does help better understand the text which is quite densely packed and requires a lot of unpacking in its literal state.

For example, John 1:16 reads as follows in the ESV (English Standard Version) which is a literal translation :

"And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

We must first ask ourselves what "fullness" is being spoken of here before we can ever hope to understand what we are dealing with. Since context is nearly always decisive in answering questions such as this we find the answer in verse 14 where it says that Jesus was "full of grace and truth".

And "grace upon grace" means the same thing as "blessing after blessing". The Pastor's sermon has an excellent illustration which explains this quite vividly and helpfully. (UPDATE: In addition to our Pastor's excellent illustration I give you the following elaboration of the expression " grace upon grace" :

" Those who are Christ's receive of His fulness. This fulness comes to expression in the lives of believers in terms of “grace upon grace” (1:16, Greek: charin anti charitos) Literally, this means “grace in the place of grace” — like one wave rolling in after another endlessly on the shore.

John then immediately reflects upon what characterized the past age, and what now characterizes the new age. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (1:17). A reign of condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:9) has been succeeded by a reign of grace. This does not mean that there was no “grace” under Moses, and no “law” in Christ. But it does mean that the coming of Christ ushered in grace in such a decisive way that it is as though grace is only now in the fulness of time bursting into human history (just as Paul marks the appearance of “law” with the time of Moses, Romans 5:13-14).

Can you now better understand what Paul means when he states that
Christians are “not under law, but under grace” (6:14)? In the new age, “grace”is now our teacher (Titus 2 11-14)."

Haleluia ! Thank you, Jesus. Bless you Name. It is fitting to praise You always.

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