Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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John said that we have received "grace upon grace" because John understood that it was by God's grace not only that Christ came to save us but also that His first covenant (the Old Testament) was made with Israel. The first covenant was made when God gave Israel the Law through Moses. It was so very generous of God to condescend to reveal the Law to us. What would man have done without it? The Law was, as Paul said, "our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." It was holy, and the commandments contained in it were "holy, and just and good" (Rom. 7:12).
It is true that the greater grace was shown to man by the sacrificial work of Christ Jesus, but that grace was not contrary to the grace which God had previously shown. It is true that the way of the Spirit is far better than the way of the Law, but the coming of the Spirit did not destroy the Law; on the contrary, it established the way of the Law in people's hearts. Paul demanded, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish your law!" (Rom. 3:31). Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Mt. 5:17).
When God sent His Son from heaven to save us, that Son brought with him a grace that was greater than any grace that God had ever shown before. But that does not mean that God had never before shown mankind any grace. The grace given in Christ was grace on top of grace, and this is the "grace upon grace" that John said we have received from God's fulness.
May God make us all partakers of that grace while it may be found.