And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.
I. THE EXPOSITION.
1. Some take the phrase to have reference to the Law and the Gospel; but St. John is speaking of what takes place after Christ comes and the Law is abandoned.
2. Others to faith in Old Testament saints and light in New Testament saints. That does not hold, because both had faith and light.
3. Others, grace in the believer resembling grace in the Saviour; but that would only give us the moral qualities of Christ, and leave us destitute of those evangelical blessings which He came especially to bestow.
4. The real sense is that of exchange; "for" — instead of a new grace coming in the place of the old, and, when that is done with, another fresh from the fulness, and so on until grace becomes glory.
II. THE ILLUSTRATION:
1. Grace in the believer dies, wastes away, as all living things do, and the faster they live, the faster they die. Granite rocks might last for ever, their life and motion are so slow; but the most exquisite flowers stand in their prime rich-blossomed state only for a short time. "You must come to-day," we say, "or you will not see the best of it." So with that most living thing called grace. Indestructible in its fountain and principle, it yet comes and goes, flowing in, flowing out, blossoming, fading. In the human soul, if there were not replenishment, grace for grace, it would soon be empty and dead.
2. This does not mean simply a steady continuance of the same class of gracious ministration. You stand by a river and watch the flow, the drops of water coming and going to the ocean. But then other drops succeed them, and others them, so evenly and incessantly that we hardly realize that the waters are passing away. So with the supply of grace. Suppose the colour of the river should change with the day, now black from muddy hills, now yellow as the Tiber, now blue as the Rhone, now crystal as the Tweed, it would be a singular phenomenon; but grace for grace means a change like that. There is an element of sameness in all graces, just as water is water, but in many respects one kind of grace is not like another.
3. There is no invariable order, but in general —
(1) The grace of forgiveness is the first bestowed. This may come after much anxiety, or quite gently; but, come as it will, peace is a special grace.
(2) But the believer dots not rest long in his peace. Next comes a totally different kind of grace — active strength and the spirit of boldness. Not that he is deprived of his peace, but that becomes secondary. This is very necessary, as uniform tranquillity would be injurious. To root the tree firmly rough winds are necessary.
(3) The grace of patience for the grace of active strength. Working time comes to an end, or work goes on, patience comes to prevent discouragement.
(4) The grace of victory for the grace of preservation in battle. As thy day so shall thy strength be. Not dying grace till death.
III. THE APPLICATION:
1. Do not try to live in or by the past. Live in it by a grateful memory that will help you; but not so as to get a present living nourishment out of states, and frames, and feelings that are dead and gone. You would not get on in June seeking the withered leaves of last autumn. Let them sink into the soil. Trust nature to get all the good that is in them, and send that good up again.
2. We ought to be afraid of stagnation, but never of new experiences or enterprises.
3. Christ offers grace for — not grace, you have none, brother sinner; you would never take it — but for sin and its condemnation.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.