The Gospel According to the Apostle John - Part 1
The Gospel of John
Welcome to this study of the book of John. So often I say this or that book is one of my favorites books, but this truly is one of my favorite books. There is much by way of introductory material so get your Bible and notes, and let us get started.
Of course, the author of the Gospel of John is John the Apostle. John was the last of the four gospels to be written. It was probably written sometime between 95-100AD. John was the last of the gospel writers to pass from this earth. Matthew, Mark, and Luke had already died by the time John wrote his gospel account.
It has been my experience that quite often a new believer is directed to begin reading the book of John, maybe because of its supposed simplicity. The truth is that the Gospel of John is very deep and profound despite the fact that John uses mostly one and two syllable words.
Consider John 1:11, 12. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” Out of a total of 36 words, 28 words are one syllable and eight are only two syllable words. Look at John 14:20. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” The only two-syllable word in the statement is “Father”, but think of the deep spiritual teaching that John is giving here. Christ is in the Father, the Father is in Christ, and Christ dwells in us. It is not so easy to digest.
Although John’s choice of words was simple, the teaching is not. The purpose of the book was to give spiritual meat and depth to the other three gospels. It is a book of meat, not milk.
Before we go any further in our study, let us go back to Ezekiel 1:10. Ezekiel sees a vision from God. In his vision he sees four living creatures (verse 5), each one having four faces. They had the face of a man on one side, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle behind.
Matthew wrote his gospel depicting Christ as the King, the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Mark wrote his gospel showing Christ to be the humble servant, beast of burden - the ox. Luke wrote of the humanity of Christ. Luke was the physician writing to the Greeks (gentiles) about the Son of Man. The last and final gospel written by John pictures the Christ, the Son of God (eagle) as John wrote both to and for the church.
Believe is the keyword of the gospel bearing John’s name. It appears 101 times. Also consider that seven is an important number in Scripture. The number seven usually designates completeness or perfection. We see God created the earth in six days, and then rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:2). Joshua circled Jericho seven days and on the seventh, he circled it seven times led by seven priests (Joshua 6). Naaman dipped in the Jordan River seven times (II Kings 5:10). In the book of Revelation we have seven churches, seven angels, seven stars, seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, and seven bowl judgments. In the Gospel of John you’ll find seven discourses, seven miracles, and the seven “I Am’s”.
Genesis is the beginning of time. Revelation is the beginning of eternity. John is the beginning of redemption.
Tracing the Line of Chirst
Before we begin in chapter one, please go back to Matthew 1:1-17. We have here the genealogy of Jesus traced through the seed of Abraham and David showing that He is both Jew and entitled to sit upon the throne. Mark, because he is writing to the Romans and wants to draw attention to Christ’s actions (the Romans were very action oriented,) does not list a genealogy. Luke 3:23-38 traces Christ back to eternity past. Verse 38 says “…which was the son of Adam which was the Son of God.” Just as a side note this verse teaches no evolution. Adam was a direct creation of God. This verse also teaches that Christ came from eternity past.
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In the Beginning
When we come to John, it may seem that he did not leave us a genealogy, but he did. Verse 1:1 picks up where Luke left off. “In the beginning” is a phrase we see in Genesis 1:1. To be in the beginning, one must be before the beginning. If I am present in the beginning of a play or concert, I must necessarily be before the beginning or else I am not in the beginning.
In the next 14 verses (verses 1:1-14) John continues to lay out Christ’s eternal genealogy. Notice in verse 1 that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What about this Word? We know, of course, that the Word is Christ, and that He is the eternal God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses incorrectly translate this verse as “…the Word was a god.” No, Jesus was not a god, but God. The eternal existing God of the universe was embodied in Jesus Christ.
When we think of a “word” we think of many things. We think of an audible sound which represents an unseen thought. The word is a medium of manifestation, and it is a method of revelation. Jesus Christ is all these things and more.
Verses 2-4 shows us that the Word was the Creator God. Colossians 1:16,17 tells us, “For by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
Manifestation of the True Light
Verse 5 teaches us that Jesus is the true light. Satan may appear as an angel of light from time to time, but Jesus Christ is the true light. Whether the darkness comprehends it or not, He continues to shine.
There are three basic ways that the Light shines today. First, through creation. Psalm 19:1-3 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” This is a totally different study, but God wrote the redemption story in the stars. The constellations tell the beautiful story of Christ’s virgin birth, His redemption, and coming again.
The second way the Light is seen is through our conscience. Consider Romans 2:14, 15. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;).” With or without the heavens declaring the glory of God, our conscience thunders to be heard. Problems begin when we refuse to listen to what our conscience tells us.
Our conscience can be somewhat shaped and bent, even seared. I Timothy 4:2 says, “Speaking lies in hypocricy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” The phrase “seared with a hot iron” can literally be translated as insensitive. In other words, the pure conscience God gave to each person can be rendered insensitive and useless.
The conscience can be bent, shaped and seared through the rebellion of an individual. A murderer feels a certain sense of guilt the first time he murders, but as his conscience comes to accept the act, it becomes easier with less guilt each time a murder is committed. The first time an individual commits a homosexual act, it is accompanied by pangs of guilt, but with each successive act guilt becomes less until the individual accepts his sin as natural and right.
A conscience can be twisted from the outside in as well. Individuals suffering from abuse can find it very difficult to know right from wrong. Even though it is never right for the abused to retaliate, quite often, that is what takes place. For sure, the abused needs to be free of the abuser, but two wrongs never make a right. Their perception of right and wrong, through no fault of their own can be twisted. Nevertheless, they are without excuse.
Thirdly, the Light is given through the Word of God. Psalm 119:105 tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” If we are to be guided aright, we must be in the Scriptures for the Scriptures reveal the right. II Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Doctrine is just the teaching of the Bible on any subject. Reproof relates to what is wrong. Correction relates to what is right. Instruction in righteousness relates to keeping things right.
We will continue next time beginning at John 1:15 as we see John the Baptist coming to Prepare the way of the Lord. In preparation, read through John 1:15-34.