Read the Old Testament. Seriously. There is so much that you miss when you read the New Testament and you don’t have a solid grasp of the Old Testament. Here’s an example.
It’s fairly common in Christianity to set up a Law vs Grace distinction. The Law separated us from God. Jesus has abolished that separation and brought us near to God. This is a huge theological mistake, and if you are operating under this paradigm, then you are missing out on quite a lot of the New Testament and almost all of the Old. I won’t spend a great deal of time deconstructing this view. Suffice it to say that the Law was given by God, and therefore it makes no sense that it separates us from him. Essentially it helps us to see the separation that already exists. Read Romans and Galatians several times until all of this starts to make sense.
Let’s take a look at a passage, shall we?
14And 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. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Now let’s look at some of the Old Testament language that is hiding in this passage. “…dwelt among us…” is literally “to tabernacle” (σκηνόω, Strongs #4637). The Word (a reference to the Torah, the word of God) has come down to us and tabernacled with us. Tabernacle is indeed a strange word to hear as a verb, but that’s essentially what it is saying here. The Word of God (who is apparently a who and not a what) came down to humanity, tabernacled here, and we witnessed his glory.
Then the text tells us exactly what kind of glory we saw when he was here. “…glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Okay, so the Word of God is the Son of God. But aren’t we all his children? Nope, not in the same way. The text says, “the only Son from the Father.” This is a special sonship. And guess what? Psalm 2 tells us about just such a person. Psalm 2 was the coronation Psalm for Israel, and it reminded them of the eventual final Messianic King.
So according to John, in just verse 14, he’s told us that the Word of God is a person, that he came down to be around us, while he was here we beheld his glory, and that the glory we saw was the glory of the unique Son of God who is the culmination of the Messianic hopes, and who will reign eternally. That’s pretty cool. But it doesn’t stop there.
“…full of grace and truth…” The glory of the Son, the Word of God, the one who is tabernacled among us…that glory is full of grace and truth. If this sentence were written in Hebrew, it would be רַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת. That’s “abounding in faithfulness and truth.” Guess where else that occurs?
God is on Sinai with Moses, and he declares to Moses who he is. It’s noteworthy that Moses has only recently asked that God would allow him to see His glory (Ex 33:18). What does he say? He’s full of grace and truth. What is God doing on Sinai with Moses? Giving him the Law!!!!!!!!! There isn’t a dichotomy here between the ministry of Jesus and the Law. Jesus was the Lawgiver.
It doesn’t stop there.
What atones for iniquity? Grace and truth. The character of God atones for iniquity.
So here’s how this passage sounds when considered through the lens of the Old Testament:
The Torah of God became flesh and made His tabernacle among us. In doing so, we saw His glory, and not just any glory but the glory of the unique Son of God who is the Messiah and who will reign eternally. He shares the character of God, He is God, and He is full of atonement for our sins.
Look forward then to verse 17. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Doesn’t that take us back to a dichotomy? NO! The law was given through Moses, but the Law couldn’t save us (Galatians 2:21). Moses gave us the Law but he couldn’t give us salvation. Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ. Grace and Truth are the character of God. And only God can atone for our sins.