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The Fulness of Christ

John 1:14-17 

 

    And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [15] John bore witness of 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 fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace. [17] For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (NASB)

 Matthew and Luke tell the Christmas story from the perspective of the first century inhabitants of Bethlehem and beyond.  It is through their eyes that we meet the wise men from the east, the shepherds tending their flocks, the Angel of the Lord that brightens the night sky with "good news of great joy."   Because of them we know the details of the census that brought the blessed unwed mother and her fianc‚ to their home town and the overcrowding in the city that resulted in them spending that blessed night in a barn.  These two writers provide us with all the nostalgic details that form the context for our annual celebration of the birth of our Lord.  The evangelist John writes from a completely different perspective.  His Christmas story is void of the earthy details we snuggle up with on Christmas Eve.  He begins his story long before the fulness of time; he begins it in eternity.  "In the beginning was the Word," he writes, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1 KJV) 

 Aristotle identified three artistic proofs, the ethos, pathos and the logos.  Ethos is the overall impression you form about a person's honesty and integrity.  It is the feeling you have about people that makes you believe that you can believe them.  You can't necessarily quantify it, but nonetheless, it is one of the elements that persuade you.  We tend to believe believable people.  The second of Aristotle's trilogy is the pathos.  It is gut feeling you have about the rightness of something.  It is persuasion from within.  The last word Aristotle used was logos the very word John used in this text.  It meant the final word.  The logos is the truth that convinces you to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt.  It is the indisputable evidence.  In the opening words of John's gospel he makes an important theological statement.  Jesus is the preincarnate logos.  He is the final word that was from the beginning. As Rev. 1:8 says, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" (NASB) Before time began, in the great expanse of eternity, Jesus co-existed with the Father He "was with God," but He wasn't just with God, John also writes that He "was God."

 Jesus is the final word the truth that was from the beginning.  In 1 John 5:20, John wrote, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."  (NASB)   John makes the same claim using apocalyptic language in the Revelation.  In Rev. 3:7 he wrote, "He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens," (NASB) And in Rev. 19:11 he wrote, "And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war." (NASB) 

 In John 14:6 Jesus said  "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (NASB)  Notice that Jesus is not claiming to know the truth; He is claiming to be the truth.  That is the same claim John made about Him in the opening comments of his Christmas story. 

 He is the truth that was from the beginning that John the Baptist proclaimed.  Though John was older than Jesus, he proclaimed that "He existed before me."  John the Baptist understood that the Logos the final word the alpha and the omega transcended chronology and calendars and that His story began before history.  The promised prophet ran before Jesus to tell the world that the coming one was the promised one.

 John began the Christmas story with the fulness of Christ not the fulness of time.  In verse 16 he wrote,"For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace."  When truth came in His fulness we received grace piled upon grace.  In God's economy, grace and truth are things that should not be separated. They are complimentary extremes. In verse 14, the Logos was "full of grace and truth" and verse 17 says, " For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."  Notice the contrast.  Moses' law had truth, but no grace and it led to guilt.  The first part of Galatians 3:19 says, "Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are."  (NLT) The best truth can do without grace is produce guilt.  Which I suppose is better than the ignorance that falsehood creates.  At least truth can create a need for change; the only problem is that it can't produce the change, because guilt doesn't have transforming power.  Truth tells you what you deserve and justice gives you what you deserve.  While we want a world with truth and justice we need more than those things. Zech. 7:9 says, "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.'" (NIV) Justice needs mercy and truth needs grace.  If justice is getting what you deserve then mercy is not getting what you deserve.  Truth tells you what you do deserve and grace gives you what you don't deserve.  It isn't that grace replaces truth, it is that it completes it.  In 2 John 1:3 John wrote, "Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (NASB) 

 Jesus was the preincarnate logos the final word that existed before the beginning of time He is the truth.  He is fully that, but He is more than that because He was the truth that came in grace.  Because of His grace, He didn't come to bring condemnation and guilt into the world.  He came to bring salvation.

 This is the fullness of Christ.  John skipped the details of the fullness of time and rushed to tell us the good news about the fullness of Christ.  The same fullness that Paul wrote about in 
1 Tim. 1:14-16 "and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in  Christ Jesus. [15] It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. [16] And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life." (NASB) 

 How gracious was Christ?  "More than abundant," Paul wrote, "more than abundant!"  The mission of the incarnation was straightforward: "to save sinners."  He wasn't born for any less of a purpose than to shower his mercy upon sinful people who believe in Him and immerse them in His grace resulting in their salvation.

 Christmas is an enchanting time of the year when we celebrate the intersection of the fullness of Christ with the fullness of time.  We remember the details of His earthly birth because they form the tapestry of the revelation of the fullness of truth and grace exploding onto the scene of human history. 

 Paul wrote, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich." (2 Cor. 8:9 NASB) 

 In the fullness of time, the fullness of Christ became a child who was born into poverty.  His parents couldn't offer him a sanitary place to sleep or a warm room to wake up in.  But the poverty of his circumstances are eclipsed by the poverty of His condition.  The Eternal God, the Lord God Almighty became man.  He'd emptied Himself of so much, and accepted the poverty of His circumstances and condition. As Mary held Him next to her chest as His heartbeat synchronized with hers, in that vulnerable state, He was no less God than when He spoke a word and the world came into being, or when the trumpet will sound and He will return to bring judgment to the world He created He was the same God.  He was God, who came in truth and grace.

 Now that's something to celebrate!  Merry Christmas.

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