Jesus Brings Grace

by Spiros Zodhiates

The Greek noun chris (grace) occurs in the LXX as well as the New Testament. Old Testament scholars have even concluded that chris is most likely of Hebrew origination. All these facts are true, but they do not necessarily suggest that the chris of the New Testament should be equated with its use in the Septuagint or its Hebrew root.

At the beginning of John's Gospel, the Apostle introduces us to our Lord God incarnate (John 1:1) being "full of grace [chris] and truth" (v. 1:14). When Jesus Christ came to earth, His person contained the full essence of God (Col. 2:9). The Savior possessed every characteristic that belonged to the Father and when men observed Him, they were seeing God Himself. Jesus was sinless (Heb. 4:15) and His work culminated in canceling man's debt of sin (Col. 2:14-15) and filling believers with the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-20).

In my book Was Christ God? (AMG Publishers, 1998), an exegetical study of John 1:1-18, I note that John 1:15 is a parenthetical statement between verses 14 and 16. In other words, the fact that Jesus is "full of grace and truth" (v. 14) should be connected with the declaration: "And of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace."

Therefore, John is saying that as our Lord was full of grace so we believers who have received Christ have also become partakers (koino\ns [2844]; 2 Pet. 1:4) of that fullness. Fullness is illustrated in the filling of an empty cup with water. Before man becomes a believer he is spiritually empty; he is dead and the life of God is not in him (Eph. 2:1). Yet when Christ comes into a person's life, He invariably brings that which overflows from Him, the chris of God, and thus regenerates man and infuses him with spiritual life.

The qualitatively new creation into which God transforms the believer (2 Cor. 5:17) must not be severed from the grace that has entered his life through Jesus Christ. When Paul declared, "By grace are ye saved through faith" (Eph. 2:8), he was saying that salvation involves faith (pstis [4102], trust) on the part of man and grace (chris) on the part of God to change man from a sinner into a saint. Salvation through grace is the power that causes believing man to embark on the lifelong process of sanctification.

In light of Ephesians 2:8, let us examine John 1:16 more closely. In the Greek, "grace for grace" is chrin ant ([473], in lieu of) chritos which, in order to more fully grasp the significance of the phrase, I have translated "grace in exchange for grace." God gives grace (James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5) to men and women who receive it through receiving Jesus Christ.

 But a new believer cannot receive all of God's grace at once—it would be too much for him to handle. So the Father apportions grace to the believer based on his capacity for receiving it. Hence, chrin ant chritos, grace is added on top of grace and new grace is given in exchange for grace already shown in serving God and others (1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 12:8; James 4:6).

We are in desperate need of grace. The judgments of God on sin—spiritual and physical death—work against our having any genuine joy (char [5479]; derivative of chris) in this world. In Romans 3:10-11, Paul says, "There is none righteous [dkaios {1342}, just], no not one [oudes {3762} from ou, the absolute negative; {1161}, even; and hes {1520}, one; therefore, absolutely not a single one]. There is none that seeketh after God." Since true joy lies in righteousness and seeking God, there is absolutely no man who has joy apart from God.

To obtain joy, man needs to have both the guilt and the power of sin removed. The only One who can do this is Jesus Christ, who came into our world to disannul, to cancel out (athéte\sin [115]; Heb. 9:26) sin. In this way, God restores the original joy man had in the Garden of Eden by satisfying His perfectly righteous judgments against sin.

At the cross, all grace is realized—the grace of justification, the grace of regeneration, and the grace of sanctification, extending from the legal reconciliation of all things to Himself in Christ (Col. 1:20) to the divine power of regeneration and sanctification. Therefore, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, the grace of Jesus Christ is filled to overflowing with power (dnamis [1411]) not only to forgive but to recreate and renew mankind in His image.

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