Completeness – JC Ryle
John testified about him and cried out, "This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’" For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in the presence of the Father, has made God known.
The passage before us contains three great declarations about our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of the three is among the foundation-principles of Christianity.
I. We are taught, firstly, that it is Christ alone who supplies all the spiritual needs of all believers. It is written that "of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace."
There is an infinite fullness in Jesus Christ. As Paul says, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." "In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Coloss. 1:19; 2:3.) There is laid up in Him, as in a treasury, a boundless supply of all that any sinner can need, either in time or eternity. The Spirit of Life is His special gift to the Church, and conveys from Him, as from a great root, sap and vigor to all the believing branches. He is rich in mercy, grace, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Out of Christ's fullness, all believers in every age of the world, have been supplied. They did not clearly understand the fountain from which their supplies flowed, in Old Testament times. The Old Testament saints only saw Christ afar off, and not face to face. But from Abel downwards, all saved souls have received all they have had from Jesus Christ alone. Every saint in glory will at last acknowledge that he is Christ's debtor for all he is. Jesus will prove to have been all in all.
II. We are taught, secondly, the vast superiority of Christ to Moses, and of the Gospel to the Law. It is written that "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
Moses was employed by God "as a servant," to convey to Israel the moral and ceremonial law. (Heb. 3:5.) As a servant, he was faithful to Him who appointed him, but he was only a servant. The moral law, which he brought down from Mount Sinai, was holy, and just, and good. But it could not justify. It had no healing power. It could wound, but it could not bind up. It "worked wrath." (Rom. 4:15.) It pronounced a curse against any imperfect obedience. The ceremonial law, which he was commanded to impose on Israel, was full of deep meaning and typical instruction. Its ordinances and ceremonies made it an excellent schoolmaster to guide men toward Christ. (Gal. 3:24.) But the ceremonial law was only a schoolmaster. It could not make him that kept it perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. (Heb. 9:9.) It laid a grievous yoke on men's hearts, which they were not able to bear. It was a ministration of death and condemnation. (2 Cor. 3:7-9.) The light which men got from Moses and the law was at best only starlight compared to noon-day.
Christ, on the other hand, came into the world "as a Son," with the keys of God's treasury of grace and truth entirely in His hands, (Heb. 3:6.) Grace came by Him, when He made fully known God's gracious plan of salvation, by faith in His own blood, and opened the fountain of mercy to all the world. Truth came by Him, when He fulfilled in His own Person the types of the Old Testament, and revealed Himself as the true Sacrifice, the true mercy-seat, and the true Priest. No doubt there was much of "grace and truth" under the law of Moses. But the whole of God's grace, and the whole truth about redemption, were never known until Jesus came into the world, and died for sinners.
III. We are taught, thirdly, that it is Christ alone who has revealed God the Father to man. It is written that "no man has seen God at any time–the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him."
The eye of mortal man has never beheld God the Father. No man could bear the sight. Even to Moses it was said, "You can not see my face–for there shall no man see me, and live." (Exod. 33:20.) Yet all that mortal man is capable of knowing about God the Father is fully revealed to us by God the Son. He, who was in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, has been pleased to take our nature upon Him, and to exhibit to us in the form of man, all that our minds can comprehend of the Father's perfections. In Christ's words, and deeds, and life, and death, we learn as much concerning God the Father as our feeble minds can at present bear. His perfect wisdom–His almighty power–His unspeakable love to sinners–His incomparable holiness–His hatred of sin, could never be represented to our eyes more clearly than we see them in Christ's life and death. In truth, "God was manifest in the flesh," when the Word took on Him a body. "He was the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person." He says Himself, "I and my Father are one." "He that has seen me has seen the Father." "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Coloss. 2:9.) These are deep and mysterious things. But they are true. (1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3; John 10:30; 14:9.)
Application: And now, after reading this passage, can we ever give too much honor to Christ? Can we ever think too highly of Him? Let us banish the unworthy thought from our minds forever. Let us learn to exalt Him more in our hearts, and to rest more confidingly the whole weight of our souls in His hands. Men may easily fall into error about the three Persons in the holy Trinity if they do not carefully adhere to the teaching of Scripture. But no man ever errs on the side of giving too much honor to God the Son. Christ is the meeting-point between the Trinity and the sinner's soul. "He that honors not the Son, honors not the Father which sent Him." (John 5:23.)
Soli Deo Gloria!