Summary: comparison is made between Moses and Christ; between law, and grace and truth, or between law and the gospel. Our text shows clearly the superiority of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ: Superior to the Law
16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17
By way of introduction, as we are studying John one thing to keep in mind that in Jesus’ time the Pharisees were the prominent religious group; they were law-keepers, those who thought that they were honoring God by keeping and teaching the Law.
The problem is that for all their teaching of the law they, themselves, were law breakers and hypocrites. Jesus said in Matthew 23:25, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:25 The religion of the Pharisees, then, was an external religion, focusing on appearance, behavior; looking good on the outside, but entirely neglecting matters of the heart and thought life.
And in reality the religion of the Pharisees, is every other religion except Christianity, which is not focused on law and rules, but rather on Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and truth. This type of religion that focuses on the law, on the dos and don’ts, is a hypocritical religion. It is a religion that requires others to measure up, demands others to meet the standard, but does not do so itself. It is a religion that is externally focused, caring more about appearance and behavior than hearts and lives.
I want to say something to you very clearly this morning: this type of religion has no part in Christianity, and it has no part in our lives. True Christianity is about extending God’s grace to those who fail, loving those who sin, forgiving those who do wrong, restoring those who fall, and then teaching them how to live. It’s about grace and truth: Jesus!
So now we come to our text for today and immediately we see a comparison, and this comparison is the subject of the sermon. Note the comparison in verse 17: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
The comparison is between Moses and Christ; between law, and grace and truth, or between law and the gospel. Now, when we talk about this comparison, I do not want to say that these two are in opposition to each other, as if to say law is bad and grace is good. That is not true. They both serve a good purpose; the law to show us our sin and condemnation, grace to show the pardon and salvation that is in Jesus for everyone who repents and believes. So the law is good and necessary; its stated purpose is to show us how horribly wicked and ungodly we are by birth, that is, to magnify sin so that we might despair of ourselves and be led to Jesus for shelter and safety.
So John brings a comparison to our hearts and minds, a comparison between Moses and Christ, between law and gospel. So I want us to take this comparison a little deeper, so that we might understand more fully the benefits of being in Christ. Look at 2 Corinthians 3. In 2 Corinthians 3 we will note the comparison very clearly:
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:7-18