“For the Law Was Given Through Moses, but Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ”

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“For the Law Was Given Through Moses, but Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ”

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“For the Law Was Given Through Moses, but Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ”

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John 1:17 John 1:17For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
confuses some people because of the way it’s translated in many Bible versions: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” In the King James Version and New King James Version (used here and most places in this study guide), the word “but” is italicized. This means the word doesn’t appear in the original biblical manuscripts, but was added by translators.

Often such additions help readers better understand the meaning, but not in this case. Here the addition of “but” creates a contrast that never existed in John’s original wording.

Translators of various other Bible versions, understanding the “but” doesn’t belong here, render this verse differently. In two versions we see it as: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (NIV, English Standard Version). Other versions give something similar (see, for example, the Christian Standard Bible, New American Standard Bible, Bible in Basic English, New Revised Standard Version, Twentieth Century New Testament and Young’s Literal Translation).

The apostle John, being a devout Jewish Christian, certainly understood that grace existed before Jesus Christ came into the world. He knew that Israel’s God was gracious and merciful (Exodus 34:6 Exodus 34:6And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
American King James Version×
; 2 Chronicles 30:9 2 Chronicles 30:9For if you turn again to the LORD, your brothers and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.
American King James Version×
; Nehemiah 9:17 Nehemiah 9:17And refused to obey, neither were mindful of your wonders that you did among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but you are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsook them not.
American King James Version×
; Nehemiah 9:31 Nehemiah 9:31Nevertheless for your great mercies' sake you did not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for you are a gracious and merciful God.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 103:8 Psalms 103:8The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 116:5 Psalms 116:5Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful.
American King James Version×
; Joel 2:13 Joel 2:13And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil.
American King James Version×
; Jonah 4:2 Jonah 4:2And he prayed to the LORD, and said, I pray you, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before to Tarshish: for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent you of the evil.
American King James Version×
). He also knew that the law God gave through Moses was a great blessing—a gift of God’s grace (Psalms 19:7-11 Psalms 19:7-11 [7] The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. [8] The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. [9] The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. [10] More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. [11] Moreover by them is your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 119:86 Psalms 119:86All your commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help you me.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 119:127 Psalms 119:127Therefore I love your commandments above gold; yes, above fine gold.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 119:140 Psalms 119:140Your word is very pure: therefore your servant loves it.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 119:172 Psalms 119:172My tongue shall speak of your word: for all your commandments are righteousness.
American King James Version×
; Romans 7:14 Romans 7:14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
American King James Version×
).

For this reason John himself would write of the necessity for Christians to keep God’s commandments in passages such as these:

• “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3 1 John 2:3And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
American King James Version×
).

• “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4 1 John 2:4He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
American King James Version×
).

• “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
American King James Version×
).

• “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him” (1 John 3:24 1 John 3:24And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he stays in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
American King James Version×
).

• “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments” (1 John 5:2 1 John 5:2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
American King James Version×
).

• “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
American King James Version×
).

• “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 6).

• “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14 Revelation 22:14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
American King James Version×
).

John never stated or implied that no form of grace came through Moses. John understood that everything good has come by God’s grace—including the law revealed through Moses. In fact, John explained that Jesus was the Word who acted as God on behalf of the Father during the Old Testament period (John 1:1-3 John 1:1-3 [1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
American King James Version×
; John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×
, see also “Jesus’ Identity: Who Gave the Law?”). This means that the law God gave through Moses was given by the One who became Jesus Christ! Yet in coming to the earth Jesus revealed much more about this law—presenting the fullness of grace and truth (see John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×
).

God’s law was given to mankind for humanity’s own good and benefit (Psalms 94:12 Psalms 94:12Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O LORD, and teach him out of your law;
American King James Version×
; Psalms 112:1 Psalms 112:1Praise you the LORD. Blessed is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in his commandments.
American King James Version×
). That of itself was a great blessing, a wonderful bestowal of grace to mankind, made full through Jesus Christ. (To learn more, download or request our free book The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law?)

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