Monday, January 14, 2008

Grace Instead of Grace

In John 1:16, the Apostle says that from the Word-made-flesh we received χαριν αντι χαριτος. This phrase has been translated in almost all of the modern translations as "grace upon grace" or "one blessing after another" (NIV). The KJV gets it right here--"grace for grace". Gramatically, the preposition should be translated as "instead of." As I was reading this morning, D. A. Carson argues convincingly that it should be translated that way and addresses the common objections to his viewpoint. It's worth the time to read his comments on vv.1-18.

Essentially, John is saying that in the law, we had been given grace; but in Jesus Christ we have received even greater grace. Whether or not you agree that there is a Covenant of Grace lying behind all of the covenants given, you must agree with this: God is the God of All Grace. When Moses asked God to show Himself to him, he said this: "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin..."

While it sounds good and is theologically true to say "grace upon grace" or "one blessing after another", it seems as Carson puts it, "to miss the point." v17 comes along and explains what "grace instead of grace" means by starting the whole verse with the "for". "Because" in the law we received grace, but in Christ we have received even greater grace.

Say what you want about the TNIV (which most of its criticisms are deserving from what I've read), but it gets this particular verses translated right on the nose: "Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given." Isn't it amazing to be called a child of God, the God who will continue to abound in grace forever and ever?!

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