The Gospel of John: The Christian Gospel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, December 29, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

As the age of the first apostles was drawing to a close, a body of believers was left with only the youngest of the original apostles left in their midst. The body of work that the others had left behind was certainly sufficient for helping the church to grow in faith, but something seemed to be missing. As more and more challenges arose inside of the church, one question needed more clarity than any other commandment or issue of obedience: the true identity of Jesus. The last of Jesus’ 12 apostles just happened to be the best man to take on the task of writing an account of who Jesus is on a personal level. It was up to the Apostle John to write a gospel account that would instruct, encourage, and empower Christians by learning how to have a deeper personal relationship with Jesus.

The Apostle John is one of the most incredible of Jesus’ disciples. It is well documented within the Gospels that Jesus had three disciples that walked within his nearest circle: Peter, James, and John. Of the three it appeared that John was the closest to Jesus, which is particularly interesting because he was also thought to be the youngest of the 12 apostles. He was present during every major event of Jesus’ earthly ministry: The Transfiguration, the various miracles and teachings, the Last Supper, and even the crucifixion. Whenever the others wanted to ask Jesus something that they were afraid to ask themselves, they went through John. At the Last Supper, the other apostles told John to ask Jesus who his betrayer would be. Although the other three Gospels contain similar information, John’s gospel is completely unique.

The Gospel of John includes several unique components. The first and most noticeable is that it does not include an account of Jesus’ birth. This will be discussed later. It includes themes of water, bread, and Spirit throughout its narrative. John clearly sought to emphasize Jesus’ ability to satisfy a person’s eternal needs by connecting these three elements. John’s Gospel also puts a stronger emphasis on Jesus personal relationships than the other Gospels. For instance, the other Gospels do not say much concerning what Jesus talked about with his disciples the night he was betrayed. John devotes what we have categorized as chapters 13-17 to the dialogue Jesus has with his disciples in the upper room. On that note, the only other account that really gives any details about the resurrection is Luke. Luke, however, only mentions one and a half appearances to his disciples before he ascended to heaven. John details three as well as a detailed account of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus. In relation to the resurrection, Matthew’s gospel emphasizes its mystery, Mark focuses on its awesomeness, Luke focuses on its beauty, and John focuses on its reality. In just about every appearance of Jesus after his resurrection in John includes an initial sense of joy, a moment of hard truth, and then assurance according to whatever need the disciple had.

Ultimately this reassurance stems from the confirmation that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. John’s Gospel is not written in a way in which you are supposed to study and think about what Jesus is trying to get across. Certainly there are portions like that, but John’s message is very clear from the beginning of his Gospel. Jesus can bring us peace because he is God and he has forgiven us of our sins. John has to contain more direct references to Jesus’ divinity than any other Gospel. The opening verses state, “The Word [Jesus] was with God and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1).

Now, I am going to take a moment to clarify something. Jesus never says the words, “I am God.” Very true. But did you know that the word “God” actually never appears once in the Bible? I did a little bit of research on this word to find out where it came from and it is actually derived from the Norse god, Odin, who in another dialect was referred to as Godin, which is suspected to have been shortened to God. The word was probably invented strictly for translating the Bible into their language so that they would get an idea of who this Yahweh character was. And that’s just it, the God of the Bible is the only God, but even in the Hebrew it is hard to communicate that until he reveals that he has a personal name (YHWH, which people pronounce as Jehovah or Yahweh despite the fact that the Hebrew word is unpronounceable) and that he is the only heavenly being of his sort (noting that even the word Elohim, which is translated as God, can also be translated as heavenly beings or angels). But one name of God that is definitely pronounceable that God tells to Moses is I AM.

Although Jesus never says I am Elohim (remember YHWH is not pronounceable), even if he did it would still be vague concerning who he was. All that would announce is that he is a heavenly being. At a climactic moment in John chapter 8, in which Jesus is arguing with the religious teachers about his identity, he knocks the air right out of their lungs by informing them, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). To the Jews, this was considered blasphemy because they did not believe that Jesus truly was God and they immediately sought to execute him. There are many clear references to Jesus’ divinity throughout John, and I believe this is all for the sake of making clear to the believer who it is they worship and what their message to non-believers is.

John was a much needed gospel in its day. This is not just because they needed to define and identify their faith, but also so a believer could build a strong and meaningful relationship with their Savior. It is written by the apostle to whom Jesus was the closest, with stories that show how Jesus is in a personal setting, and statements that declare Jesus’ full divinity. It’s no wonder this is many Christian’s favorite gospel. For those who are seeking after Christ and have not yet found him, I would honestly recommend the other three. But for the one who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior, John’s gospel will refresh your spirit with living water.

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