John 1:16-17, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
In these verses it is not the Baptist but the Evangelist who is speaking. To understand what is being stated, it is necessary to note the message of verse 14 is being elaborated on by John, namely the declaration of the fullness of Christ. John expounds on and substantiates this truth by adding that he and all other believers with him had experienced the blessed fruits of this fullness. Specifically, they had received grace upon grace from that infinite fullness. The meaning of verse 16 is that believers are constantly receiving grace in the place of grace. Our manifestation of the unmerited favor of God in Christ is hardly gone when another one arrives, hence grace upon grace.
Verse 14 points out that the only begotten One is characterized by a fullness of grace and truth, a concept repeated in verse 17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
There was nothing wrong with the law, moral or ceremonial. It had been given by God through Moses. It was preparatory in character, it revealed man’s lost condition, and it foreshadowed his deliverance from sin through Christ. But there were two things which the law did not nor was intended to supply: 1) grace so that transgressors could be pardoned and helped in time of need and 2) truth, i.e., the reality to which all the types pointed such as the sacrificial system contained in the Mosaic Law. Christ, by His atoning work, furnished what the Law could not. He merited grace and he fulfilled the types. Interesting to note is that while the Law “was given,” grace and truth “came” through the Person and work of Him, who is here for the first time in the Fourth Gospel, called by His full name, Jesus Christ.
One of the most difficult things about the Christian life and particularly about apologetics is the balance of authority and gentleness necessary to actually do apologetics in the manner Scripture requires. It is easy to move too far to one side or the other. We can become so excited about the authority that we have in the truth that God has given to us that our only goal is to speak unwisely. Such zeal may be anything but meek and gentle. It can communicate that the truth that we have is ours because of who we are, rather than because of what Christ has done on our behalf.