For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
Fullness. He has fullness. There is a completion, an abundance, a sufficiency in His glory. In verse 14 John says that the Word made flesh is full of grace and truth. This fullness, this grace and truth, is something we have received. It isn’t distant and theoretical and ephemeral; no one has seen god, but we have received of the fullness of His grace and truth in Jesus Christ. His fullness of grace and truth is something which can be apprehended by people.
In what sense might we understand His fullness? He fulfilled the requirement of the law, through obedience, and for us, as a blood propitiation. He fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah. He completed our salvation when He cried out from the cross, “it is finished”. He fulfilled our needs in being the way, the truth, and the life. He is the path, the destination, and party once we get there. He is the fulfillment of all justice, so that we have a fullness of forgiveness and acceptance all the way to eternal life.
Of His Fullness. What does it mean that we have received “of His fullness”? He has completed and fulfilled grace and truth, and we have received some portion of that. We received “of” it. We are yet incomplete, as Paul the Apostle says in his famous treatise on love in 1 Corinthians:
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
We have all received. Who is “all”? All believers, of which the apostle John is one? Or the whole world, as in John 3:16? One might think, who has received of His grace? Those who believe, or those who do not? Don’t those who do not believe also receive of it? God causes the rain to pour on the righteous and the unrighteous, after all. This question is a recurring motive in John’s writings, as in 1 John 2:2 and John 3:16. Jesus died for all but not all received the gift through faith. Yet, perhaps, all humanity has received some portion of His fullness of grace.
Grace upon grace. So, He has the fullness, and we have received of it. We have the promise of receiving fully of the fullness. For now, there is always room for the revelation and application of more and more grace. Grace, and then more grace! Grace upon grace! And people say I’m obsessed with grace! Leon Morris says,
“Probably also he means that as one piece of divine grace (so to speak) recedes, it is replaced by another. God’s grace to His people is continuous and is never exhausted. Grace knows no interruption and no limit. In contrast with the Law it stresses the dyadic character of the Christian life.”
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John; the English Text with Introduction, Exposition and Notes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971. 110-111.