This next section of Scripture strikes me odd; odd because the Apostle Paul was the man who taught us about grace, and yet here is a witness to John the Baptist saying, “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
Paul would have been the most unlikely character to teach us grace as he seemed to have no comprehension of what grace was, and, was willing to have those who showed an acceptance of this man Jesus put to death. So where did Paul learn of grace, a theme by-the-way that is integrated all throughout the Law and the Prophets? From Jesus himself, a process that began on the road to Damascus.
Now, here we are, in a sense, listening to the words of the Apostle John, as he defines John the Baptist. A man, for whom we are given no record of where he came to understand this grace he testified to. But we do have a piece of evidence that evades most people, and that is that John the Baptist, was filled with the baptism of the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. For the skeptics, I give you scripture to back up my statement.
Luke 1:15 NASB “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.
Speaking religiously, how would John the Baptist know what to do with such a gift and how would he have the restraint to control the outlandish outbursts often associated with those who are filled with the Holy Spirit? Why do we have presumptions that the Holy Spirit must be constrained? Do you actually believe that God is incapable of controlling those who are His?
Between John the Baptist and Jesus, what then was the common factor? If you said the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you would have been right. John himself witnessed the event.
Luke 3:21-22 NASB Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, 22) and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
Continuing on our trek through the Gospel of John we have come to John 1:15-17.
John 1:15-17 NASB John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” 16) For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
As always, I find myself looking for clarity. The Easy to Read version meets that need.
John 1:15 ERV John told people about him. He said loudly, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The one who is coming after me is greater than I am, because he was living before I was even born.'”
Every nationality and language have it’s own peculiar catch phrases meant to give emphasis to a point being made. One I have heard lately sounds not so dissimilar to this: “This is the one I was talking about!” The phrase is usually associated with some vigorous hand waving and body language.
I feel like I have previously covered this ground when I ask, what did John the Baptist say about Jesus to the crowds that gathered around him? Since the word testify (the Greek word martureō) means to bear witness, testify, and attest to, you might think that John’s accounts would be those drawn from personal experience. But here we have a problem because we have a passage of scripture that could imply one of two things:
That John the Baptist did not know him. When you consider that this was a time with no cell phones, no Facebook, and no rapid transportation. You would have been deemed wealthy to have a ridable animal. Therefore maintaining communication between relatives meant you had to walk thirty miles to visit. Since most good Jews would make it to Jerusalem once, a year it most likely meant you got together with family.
John 1:31 NASB “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.”
- Or, the Greek is merely conveying that John did not perceive all that Jesus would become. Recognize is the Greek word oida; to have seen or perceived, hence to know: – to appreciate, or be aware.
One of the arguments moving toward John’s imperception would be the tremendous grief Jesus felt when John was beheaded.
Matthew 14:13 NASB Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.
We do not see Jesus acting this way with anyone else but Lazarus.
‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
Consider that statement for a moment. It conveys someone yet to come, and I can understand that on several levels. But what of this aspect, “He existed before me.“
John seemed to know that Jesus ministry was about to bloom, but he had no precise definition of what that would look like. Having pointed out John’s statement “I did not perceive him,” tells us that John was not aware of God’s plan for Jesus. Since we know that Herod brought the Chief Priests before him, to explain the star in the east and why these Magi and their entourage were coming to Jerusalem, those same religious leaders defined, from the Torah and Tenach, that the Messiah would come out of the City of David, among other things.
Keep in mind the relative scarcity of written materials and how each “book” was an original scroll held at the synagogue as though they were museum pieces. Each would have been very precious and valuable. So, regular attendees at Synagogue would only have the spoken word, read to them, and then expounded upon by those particular teachers who profoundly argued interpretation. Teaching would have been entirely verbal, and surprisingly, every Jewish boy would have been expected to memorize those same scriptures.
“He existed before me.“
Does this imply that John understood that Jesus took not only a role in creation but was personally invested in the lives of the Jewish father’s throughout the history of the chosen people? A concept deeply embedded in John’s thinking, as well as that of his Jewish audience.
How many different ways can you attempt to wrap your mind around this idea that someone had already been or been here, and yet, coming once again? This scenario is what many see as the basis for science fiction. The major difference, though, this is for real. Apologetics uses scripture, logic, and science to prove that what we believe is real. For me, I had to look at the things Jesus said, and then did, for my proof. In all honesty, I do this frequently. So then, He who was before me, will, not only come after me but again for all to see.
“For of His fullness we have all received,”
What does the NASB mean by fullness? Fullness comes from the Greek word plērōma and means repletion or completion, fullness, a filling up.
Alright, you lost me with the word repletion. Repletion is “The state of being completely filled; or superabundant fullness. In medicine, it conveys the fullness of blood, as in you having all you needed for the time being.
If I only look at my life, there are far too many times I would not or could not say that I was close to being completely filled. I would also have to ask, filled with what? If the answer is the Holy Spirit, then I am not sure I am filled enough because I do not act like “prophets” such as Kim Clement, or demonstrate the gift of healing like Benny Hinn.
Maybe that is not what he is talking about when he says, “For of His fullness we have all received,” perhaps this is referring to His life and the changes that happen within when we accept Jesus Christ as our own. The problem here is that we are looking for something associated with a feeling, and not finding that feeling we think we have not been “saved.”
Having grown up in church, I think I found my fullness, long before I learned the fine art of sinning. Isn’t that a crazy way of looking at things. Since the idea behind “sin” is missing the mark (an old English term for missing the bulls-eye while target shooting), treating sin as a fine art would certainly imply that I practiced missing. If I spent my life without Christ and therefore no inner peace, then finding my fullness in Him would feel dramatically different than if I grew up under the umbrella of safety and was accustomed to many of the feelings associated with a life in the Spirit. Without all the dramatic feelings makes me wonder sometimes. This lack of feeling is precisely why I said, I remind myself of what Jesus Christ did for me, who I am, and what my hope is in – a future with the Father, in peace and safety.
What is the bottom line for me on this aspect?
Because Jesus Christ was obedient, all that was necessary for my peace and yes, I am going to say it, eternal security with Him, was accomplished. In my spiritual walk, there is nothing more for me to do, unless I have these moments when I feel that I have lost my way. I have not, but my head doesn’t seem to know it at those moments; however, my spirit does and recognizes His voice as he gently calls me back to Him.
What was the Apostle Paul’s example to us?
He cried out for the Lord to remove some tortuous aspect from his life. The Spirits response was, My grace is sufficient for you. I do not see this as a negative, but a reminder that Jesus life in Him, was the fullness and Paul had received it already. Wow, we really are well equipped if we would accept it. You will find this story in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
“and grace upon grace. 17) For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
So God just keeps pouring out His love upon us; hence, grace upon grace and all of this is realized through Jesus Christ. Maybe this is why Jesus said, no one comes to the Father, but through me. This fullness and sufficient grace are only found in Him.