1. John 1:14 (ESV)
  2. Application

God's goodness made known

John 1:14 (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John assures us that God is full of grace and truth. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, the Lord said to him in response, I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim my name. The glory of the Lord is seen in his goodness.

To us this is a new idea. Normally when we think of God’s glory we talk about displays of God’s power and might: thunder and lighting, the Red Sea splitting in two, hailstones falling from the sky, the heavens proclaim the glory of God. Yet now we are told that this is not the only place where God’s glory is to be seen. God’s glory is also displayed in his goodness—he is full of grace and truth.

As Christians, we often speak about grace; it is an important word in our vocabulary. At a basic level, to receive grace is to receive something you do not deserve. It is different from mercy, which is when you are spared a punishment that you deserve. To illustrate this, imagine you drive home one evening and without realizing it you break the speed limit. The police officer pulls you over. If the officer simply gives you a warning without writing a ticket, that would be mercy. You deserve a penalty but you are not getting one. Grace, however would be different. Grace would involve the officer not only offering to pay your ticket himself, but also giving you some money to go and fill up your tank or enjoy dinner at a lovely restaurant. Grace is getting more than what you deserve.

Coming back to the goodness of God as seen in the law given to Moses, we should realize that the law was a testimony to God’s grace. The Lord rescued his people from slavery in Israel and then he graciously showed them how to live. He provided them with rules and regulations that would enable his people to enjoy real fellowship with him and have his presence among them in the tabernacle. No other nation on earth had this privilege. The tabernacle, then temple, was the only place on earth where you could go to meet with God.

The law was also a revelation of God’s truth. It revealed God’s character to his people; it showed them that he is holy, that he hates evil and delights in what is good. Because he is their God, his people must live in a way that displays God’s goodness. Under the old covenant we therefore already had a clear testimony to God’s goodness from God’s law. However, with the coming of Jesus Christ, we now have grace upon grace or, as a better translation, grace in place of grace (John 1:16). The Word came to give and supply what the law could not.

Remember that the law also revealed God’s holiness. It showed people their sin and need for forgiveness. But the law was not able to make people holy. The law could not provide God’s people with the righteousness they needed to come into his presence. The sacrifices were unable to make the people clean; the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin, but were merely pointers looking forward to the mediator who would be able to do so. And so even as the law was a result of God’s grace, the law could not supply God’s people with grace. The law could not secure a future in God’s presence.

The Old Testament is full of examples showing us that the law could not provide life on account of people’s sin. In Joshua 7 there is the famous incident of Achan and his family. They broke covenant with God when they took from the devoted things. Even though they confessed their sins, there was no mercy for them. The Mosaic law stipulated an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Achan and his family were stoned to death for their sin. Likewise in Ezra 9:1 – 10:44, the law required the Gentile women and their children to be sent away. There may have been strong bonds between husband and wife, but there is no place in Jerusalem for those who serve other gods; they are kicked out of the land and sent back to their fathers' houses. The law was a gracious provision from God to his people, but it was unable to give life.

With the coming of the Word, however, we receive grace upon grace. The Word provides what the law was unable to provide. The ultimate proof of God’s goodness would be seen in the person of Jesus Christ.

In his life on earth, he acted in exactly the way that we always hoped God would act if he walked among us. He cared deeply for all people; men, women and children were welcome to spend time with him. Even though he was respected by prominent leaders being invited into their homes, he never allowed his head to be turned by quests for power or fame. When people opened up to him he never gossiped or let them down. He was happy to spend time with the sick and the marginalized without being impatient or coming across as superior. He loved people enough to tell them about their sin and rebuke them for their behaviour, but he always did so in a manner that was appropriate—there was no vindictive or improper motive in his heart. The life of Jesus Christ testified that God is good.

Yet the proof of God’s goodness would be seen most clearly in the death of the Son. Jesus taught his disciples that the hour in which the Son of Man would be most glorified was the hour of his death (John 12:23–24). His miracles were impressive, but his death was glorious because it demonstrated to all creation that God graciously gives what we do not deserve, and he does so without compromising truth and justice.

Grace and truth come through Jesus Christ because his death made it possible for a just and holy God to forgive sins. The Son is punished for the sins of God’s people, he pays the fine that sinners deserve, and his perfect righteousness is credited to those who trust in him. Through his life and death, Jesus Christ brought the law to fulfillment, the types and shadows were done away with, and he provided atonement with his one sacrifice for sins. And in so doing he graciously gives to us what the law is unable to provide: eternal life in God’s presence, and real access to God the Father through the Son by the Spirit.