Open as PDF
Jesus points out the object of the lesson on the vine and braches as follows:
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:11)
In the sixteenth chapter the dear Savior again speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the personal comforter that was yet to be received by the Disciples; and, to stimulate their minds to seek after this great blessing, He says unto them:
Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you; hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name. Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24)
Here was a new grace—a fullness of joy—yet to be received from the Father by asking for it; though they were already Christians; for, immediately following this promise Jesus said, “For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”
But the “new commandment” of perfect love, this second experience, Christ insists upon as necessary to abide in His love and retain His joy; for this divine fullness “no man taketh away from you.” It is a salvation that carries us “above the world and sin” and extracts honey from every circumstance in life. A peace that flows as constant as a river: a joy that all the cunning and power of men and devils cannot interrupt. On this eternal Rock the soul “rejoices evermore” and even “glories in tribulation.” Now this unmingled and eternal joy of the soul the Lord presents to His regenerated disciples as the full fruition of His kingdom of grace; not by works or growth, but a direct gift from God in answer to prayer.
We find this same blessing connected with sanctification in that most memorable prayer of Jesus.
And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. (John 17:13)
But some may think that when the kingdom was once finished and all its elements present this distinction ceased and we are inducted at once into all the “fullness of the blessing of the Gospel.” This we have already seen in chapter four is anti-scriptural as we also show from the present class of texts.
Now, the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)
Here Paul invokes the same blessing upon the believers at Rome to be received in the same way that Christ directed, i.e., “in believing” and “through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
After the Ephesians had been “quickened” and made fellow citizens with the saints, Paul prayed the Father to grant them this “fullness of God.” He did not think with some at present that this great blessing could only be attained by superior minds, or those of many years experience in the way of the Lord; nor that it could only come to us at death; but, in the very strongest terms, proclaims it the privilege of the young converts at Ephesus, who had quite recently merged from the low and dissolute habits of heathen idolaters (Ephesians 3:14-20).
The Apostle John writes to his “brethren,” the “sons of God,” of their privilege to be cleansed in the blood of Christ from “all sin” and “ all unrighteousness: and enjoy the cloudless glory of “perfected love” (1 John 1:7,9, and 15-17). And, says he, “These things write we unto you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).
This proves that the two works of grace wrought in the first disciples continued the order to the end of the Apostolic ministry and, of course, has never been changed.
It is believed that John wrote his Gospel about A.D. 97, but three years before his death. In his introduction he testifies to the fulfillment of this promise Christ gave to His church before leaving. “And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16).
I can see no way to interpret this language so as to avoid the conclusion that the fullness is a second enduement of grace. It makes no difference whether we take “for” in the sense of because of, or in order to; the first rendering teaches a crowning grace, a fullness of joy, consequent upon a previous grace, the second a degree of grace preceding the fullness; both amount to the same thing, and emphatically declare two distinct measures of grace; the first a transition state, the second the fullness of God “wherein we stand.”
Doddridge, Wesley, and others, translate the above, “grace upon grace;” the Emphatic Diaglott, “favor upon favor.” In this version favor takes the place of grace, generally. These renderings make the proof of two successive degrees of grace still more emphatic. A fullness of grace bestowed upon a previously received measure of grace.
This divine fullness Christ and Paul identify with sanctification (John 17:14-17 and Romans 15:13-16), and John with perfect purity (1 John 1); and these being the same and wrought by the power of God in the Christian’s heart, are necessarily “grace upon grace” and proof positive of two successive works of grace.
The Blood, the Word and the Spirit proclaim,
Both pardon and cleansing in Jesus’ name.
Oh, glory to God, for grace upon grace;
An ocean of love, and river of peace!
The Blood, the Word and the Spirit agree:
A fullness of joy they offer me.
The promise made sure with an oath divine,
Inspires my trust. I’m sure it is mine.
Believing the Word; I’m cleansed in the blood,
The Spirit now fills the temple of God .
I’ve paradise found in the bliss of faith,
A heaven of joy in the second grace.