What is meant in John 1:14 that Jesus was "full of grace?"


John 1:14 says that “.. the Word [the “Logos,” that is, Jesus Christ the Spokesman] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory… full of grace and truth.”

The Greek word “charis,” which is commonly translated as “grace,” has a variety of meanings. It can and very often does refer to God’s forgiveness of our sins–His “unmerited pardon”–and to our justification. We read in Romans 3:24 that we are “being justified freely by His grace” (compare also Titus 3:7).

But we have to realize that Jesus Christ never sinned and that He therefore did not have to receive any “unmerited pardon” for sin. Still, we read in Luke 2:52 that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in grace with God and men. Most translations render this verse as, “Jesus increased… in favor with God and men,” but in the Greek, the word “charis” is used which is translated as grace in John 1:14.

This shows that the word “grace” can also have the meaning of “favor.” We find that later, “great grace was upon” all of the early apostles when they witnessed to Christ’s resurrection with great power (Acts 4:33).

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible states that Christ was full of “favor, kindness, and mercy to men; teaching the way to the kingdom of God, with all the simplicity, plainness, dignity, and energy of truth.”

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible supports this understanding, stating: “The word ‘grace’ means ‘favors,’ gifts, acts of beneficence. He was kind, merciful, gracious, doing good to all, and seeking man’s welfare by great sacrifices and love; so much so, that it might be said to be characteristic of him, or he ‘abounded’ in favors to mankind. He was also ‘full of truth.’ He declared the truth. In him was no falsehood…”

In 1 Corinthians 16:3, we read that Paul told the disciples that he wanted to send someone to “bear your gift to Jerusalem.” The Authorized Version says, “your liberality.” The Greek word is “charis”–commonly translated as “grace.” This shows that the concept of grace includes gifts which are given freely and with liberality.

We read in John 1:16-17: “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explains that the phrase “grace for grace” means, “grace upon grace… in successive communications and larger measures, as each was able to take it in.”

John was not saying here that we need to sin more so that God’s forgiveness of our sins might abound (compare Romans 6:1-2 and Jude 4), but that Christ bestowed gradually more and more favors on His disciples.

The Greek word for grace can also mean “gracious.” We read that Jesus spoke with “gracious words” (Luke 4:22), so that all marveled at them. And so, we are admonished today to always speak “with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).

When we read that God gives us grace, then this does not only mean forgiveness of our sins upon repentance, but it can also refer to special favors and physical and spiritual help which we may need. We read in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The Greek word for grace (“charis”) can also mean “thanks” or “thankworthy” (compare Romans 6:17; 1 Peter 2:19 in the Authorized Version). To be truly thankful is a gift or favor from God, which we must use and apply toward God and man.

Christ, full of grace, is willing to bestow His grace on us. But we also read that we must be truly humble in order to obtain God’s grace (1 Peter 5:5; compare James 4:6). We must be careful and diligent, lest through a root of bitterness, “anyone fall short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).

When we read that Christ was full of grace, we need to understand that He was gracious to people, full of compassion and mercy. Since He was also full of truth, we need to comprehend that He never lied or compromised with God’s truth, just to “please” someone or avoid confrontation or persecution.

The One Volume Commentary by Dummelow states regarding John 1:14: “… grace is the divine favour and loving-kindness; truth … is not simply veracity, but holiness in general… Christ was full of grace and holiness, not that He might keep them to Himself, but that He might bestow them upon men.”

We must become people full of grace and truth–to be used for the benefit of others (compare Ephesians 4:29). Hebrews 12:28 says: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” We are to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10)–not for selfish purposes, but for the purpose of sharing it with others.

We must be gracious and compassionate, filled with lovingkindness and goodwill, bestowing favors on others, as we have opportunity (compare Galatians 6:10). At the same time, we must be upright and dependable, truthful and trustworthy. As Christ’s disciples, we must grow in HIS grace and in HIS knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).

We must develop in us and embrace Christ’s gracious character traits, and we must steadily increase in the understanding of Christ–including how to answer someone truthfully and tactfully who asks us about our faith (1 Peter 3:15). Let us strive then to imitate Christ by reflecting His character, filled with grace and truth.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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