17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
There are three contrasts in this verse:
17 For [because]
“For” is an explanation of “grace upon grace.” The law was an expression of God’s grace, and now pure grace has come.
“For” also indicates that we “received” multiplied grace from Jesus Christ (v. 16). We “beheld,” and then we “received.” It is because grace and truth came through Christ.
the law was given through Moses,
The law, not grace, characterized Moses’ administration. The law expressed God’s standards of righteousness, but it could not justify anyone. However, it was our “tutor” to lead us to Christ (Ga 3:24). Moses was simply a “servant” in God’s house, but Christ was a “Son” who was “over” the house (He 3:5-6).
but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
This phrase contains the only mention of Jesus’ name in the prologue (1:1-18). Finally, we get the name John has been talking about throughout this chapter—the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace does not displace the law but rather fulfills it. This makes what Christ did superior to the law.
The Mosaic law was a previous display of God’s grace. Now a succeeding grace came that is greater than the previous grace. The Mosaic law offered the type, but Jesus came as the Antitype, the reality.
“Grace and truth” occurred in verse 14, where it says that Christ was “the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.” In Him was the truth of salvation and in Him was the offer of grace. God revealed Himself in the clearest way possible in Christ (Co 1:15). “Truth” is God’s disclosure of Himself in Christ.
The grace of Christ is greater than the law of Moses.
Jesus the Messiah is the fulfillment of the Mosaic law. He did not reject the law but He fulfilled the law. The law is the standard of God’s righteousness; Jesus filled all the requirements of that standard for us perfectly.
Ro 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We now live in the economy of grace because of the coming of Christ to this world. This economy is superior to the legal system Moses inaugurated. Jesus met all the requirements of the Mosaic law on our behalf. He did what we could not do—He measured up to the law.
Grace is what is needed when we find that we cannot keep the law. We need grace from Christ and what He did on the cross. There is a vast superiority of Christ over the law (Ga 3:24).