John 1:16, continued
h(mei=$ pa/nte$ e)la/bomen
“we all (have) received”
This is the second of the three phrases in verse 16 (on the first phrase, cf. the previous note):
“and out of his fullness
we all (have) received“
The preposition e)k in the first line indicates the source, since it literally means “out of”. What we, as believers, receive comes out of the fullness of the Son.
There are three words to the phrase here in the second line, and it is worth examining each of them in some detail.
h(mei=$ (“we”)—the pronoun is specified and emphatic, occurring in the first position: i.e., “we have received”. This is significant, as it makes a crucial theological point of emphasis: that we, created human beings, are able to share in all that God possesses (and which He has given to the Son). This is the fullness (plh/rwma) of the Son, referring to everything that God has given to His Son. In particular, He has filled the Son with His favor and truth, but these descriptive attributes, in the Gospel of John, function as an allusion to the Spirit of God.
The first person plural “we” is a collective reference to believers in Christ. It encompasses both the first generation of believers—those who trusted in Jesus during his ministry on earth—and all who have come to believe since (cf. 17:20ff). Compare the references here in vv. 14, 16 with the opening of 1 John 1:1-4ff.
pa/nte$ (“all”)—this is the same adjective (pa=$, “all”) that was used earlier in the Prologue (vv. 3, 7, 9). The first reference was cosmological, i.e., “all things” (pa/nta) in the universe. The next two references have been narrowed to all human beings—and, in particular, all those elect/chosen ones who respond to the Light of God (i.e., His Word and Wisdom) and who come to trust in Jesus. Thus the cosmic scope of the adjective properly refers, as a comprehensive term, to all believers, everywhere in the world.
The comprehensive, universal aspect of the adjective also carries with it a great promise in the Gospel: everyone who trusts in Jesus will be united with him (and God the Father) through the Spirit, and will come to possess the eternal Life of God. Tied to this point is a strong sense of election/predestination in the Johannine Gospel—believers come to trust in Jesus because they/we already belong to God. On the key references, where the adjective pa=$ occurs, cf. 3:8, 15-16; 4:13; 6:37-40; 10:29; 11:26; 12:46; 15:2; 17:2; 18:37. There are also important references in 1 John, where the sonship of believers (i.e., as the “offspring” of God [cp. vv. 12-13 in the Prologue]) is emphasized—2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18.
la/bomen (“we received”)—this verb occurred earlier in the Prologue (vv. 12-13), under the traditional motif of the righteous receiving the Wisdom of God, i.e., giving it a welcome and a place to dwell. In the Johannine context, of course, this applies to trust in Jesus, who is the incarnate Wisdom (Logos). Now the situation is reversed, and believers receive from Jesus in turn. This aspect of an exchange is emphasized in the final line of verse 16, and will be discussed in the next note.
The verb lamba/nw occurs frequently in the Gospel of John, and often with this same specialized theological meaning. We may say that all of the references expressing a promise for believers were essentially fulfilled at the end of the Gospel, when the resurrected Jesus gives to his disciples the Spirit, with the words “receive [la/bete] (the) holy Spirit” (20:22). I have noted on several occasions in the prior notes how the “fullness” (plh/rwma) of the Son, the favor and truth of God, with which he is filled, essentially refers to the Spirit of God. And it is through the Spirit that believers are united with God and have access to his life-giving Power and Presence—the same Divine Presence that fills the Son.