Sunday Morning Bible Study
May 21, 1995
Who wrote the Gospel of John?
A Jewish man who had found Jesus, named John
He was a fisherman by trade.
He was usually referred to in the other gospels along with his brother as:
"James and John the sons of Zebedee"
He had been one of the "inner three" of Jesus' friends (Peter, James, and John)
He and his brother had developed a reputation during their time with Jesus.
They were known as "The Sons of Thunder" (Boanerges)
»Mark 3:17-AV And James the [son] of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
We believe this reputation came about because of a request they had made of Jesus:
»Luke 9:51-56. And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw [this], they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save [them]. And they went to another village.
They didn't like the way the Samaritans were treating Jesus, so they wanted to toast the Samaritans.
It's kind of like how we can get angry with people for the things they do, especially when it's things they do against the Lord.
We feel like we can have this "righteous anger".
Jesus said they had it all wrong, He came to save, not destroy.
The people aren't the enemy, they're the prize that's being fought over. The battle is in the spirit.
Would they ever learn?
In the book of Acts, John acts primarily as the sidekick to Peter.
They heal the lame man in the temple (Acts 4)
They are sent to bring the Holy Spirit to Samaria as revival breaks out there (Acts 8)
Last time John was in Samaria, he wanted to call down fire.
Now he's calling down the fire of the Holy Spirit.
That's the last we hear of John in Acts, in Samaria.
Later on, in Acts 12, his brother James was the first of the 12 disciples of Jesus to die a martyrs death.
At some point, he finally ends up at Ephesus, the city in Asia Minor, and pastors the church (so says Iranaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John).
This seems to happen shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70).
I find this interesting, since Paul had started the church, young Timothy had taken over the church and pastored it, and now old Apostle John heads it up.
It's there that he writes this book, and writes the letters 1-3John (around A.D. 90)
When a heavy persecution arises against the church, he is taken and thrown into a pot of boiling oil, which does not hurt him.
So, nothing else to do, he is banished to a desert island, Patmos, where he receives his "Revelation" and writes it down (A.D. 95)
Later he is returned to Ephesus and there dies (around A.D. 98)
Interesting characteristics about John's elderly years:
He never refers to himself by name in this gospel.
The only "John" mentioned by name is John the Baptist, another guy altogether.
Instead, he just refers to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved".
More than any other gospel, more than any other New Testament author, John's emphasis was always love.
It was said that in his last years, he would lie on a bed, unable to get up, and just tell everybody, "Just love one another".
Give Jesus a chance, He'll change you!
We get impatient at times, but just hang in there.
Look at what God can do!
When did he write it?
Possibly around A.D. 90.
It was the last of the gospels to be written down.
Who did he write it for?
Though John's ministry began with Jewish people, it ended with his ministry in Ephesus, to a Gentile church.
There's going to be an element of John that is written specifically to those who aren't real well acquainted with Judaism, and in fact, speaking their language.
Why did he write it?
John gives us his reason himself:
»John 20:30-31 AV And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
John wants his readers to understand just who Jesus is.
It's been a good 20-30 years since the other gospels were written.
John is going to now supplement the other writings, telling some of the things that they didn't include.
And it's all for one reason, to bring his readers into a place of believing in Jesus.
It's often recommended that if you know of a friend who is searching for God, suggest that they read the Gospel of John.
It's also recommended that for people who have recently given their heart to Jesus, to study the Gospel of John, and find out more about who Jesus is.
And for those of us who have been believers for a while, the Gospel of John gives us a fresh look at Jesus.
The old Greek Scholar A.T.Robertson said of the Gospel of John:
"The test of time has given the palm to the Fourth Gospel over all the books of the world. If Luke's Gospel is the most beautiful, John's Gospel is supreme in its height and depth and reach of thought. The picture of Christ here given is the one that has captured the mind and heart of mankind."
:1-5 The Logos
:1 In the beginning was the Word
Warning: John is going to do a lot of talking in metaphorical language.
He's going to be using a kind of symbolic language to talk about Jesus and what He was like before He was born as a baby in Bethlehem.
John takes us back to the very beginning, not just the beginning of the creation of the world, but the very beginning of time and eternity.
It kinds of reminds us of the beginning of Genesis:
»Genesis 1:1-AV In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Yet John's writing is from a different perspective.
Genesis starts with the creation of the universe.
John says that at the time that everything started, that "the Word" already existed. It already "was".
The word for "Word" in Greek is "logos"
It means: "speaking, a message, or words".
This "logos" was used by various Greek philosophers, as early as Heraclitus (600 b.c.) who felt there was some kind of over-riding principle that the universe was built upon, the "logos". Some called the "soul of the world" the "logos".
But it doesn't seem likely that John is referring to some pagan philosophy.
It was also used in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy.
Some even think that the Greek philosophers got their ideas about the "logos" from the Jews. (see Gill's commentary on John 1:!)
Some commentators see a possible link with "logos" with the way that wisdom is portrayed, as a person, in Proverbs 8.
Some of the Babylonian Jews, in their copies of the Old Testament, would substitute "Memra-Jah" (the Word of the Lord) for the name of the Lord, Yahweh.
For John, he's going to use the term "logos" to refer to Jesus.
I think it's going to capture the attention of the Greeks and the Jews.
But John is going to go way beyond their concept of "logos", and give it new meaning and life.
Logos is in fact a name for Jesus uniquely expressed by the apostle John:
»1John 1:1-AV That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
»Revelation 19:13-AV And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
:1 the Word was God
You're going to have to bear with me this week, because I'm going to have to use some Greek words and explain some Greek grammar to you.
I think this is one of the most important verses in the entire book of John, even in the Bible itself.
It's at the core of what we consider correct Christianity.
One of the cults, Jehovah's Witnesses, tries to get around the rock solid truth explained here. Why? Because they don't believe the essential truth that Jesus is God.
Please follow me, and you'll be able to explain this verse accurately to your JW friends.
What the JW's teach:
They translate this phrase, "the word was a god".
Jesus isn't fully God Himself, but instead a created being.
Their reasoning goes like this
In the original Greek, there is no definite article, therefore you must translate it with an indefinite article. The word "a" is the English indefinite article, thus you must translate it "the word was a god".
What the Bible teaches:
First, let me say that the Jehovah's Witnesses are absolutely correct in saying that the Greek does not contain the definite article.
The problem is, they just don't understand how to correctly translate Greek.
What is an "article"?
In English, the definite article is the word "the", the indefinite article is the word "a" or "an".
We use the definite article to point out a specific thing.
There's a definiteness about saying "I'm going to THE store", as opposed to saying something indefinite like "I'm going to A store".
NOTE: In English, we have a specific word for our definite article, and a specific word for our indefinite article.
First: The Greek language has no indefinite article.
There is no word that we would translate as "a" or "an".
The JW's have assumed that when there is no definite article, that we must translate it with our own indefinite article. This is WRONG!
Understand what the purpose of the article is in Greek.
From a first year Greek Grammar (Essentials of New Testament Greek, Ray Summers)
(I'm using a first year grammar to emphasize the point that this isn't suppossed to be deep, difficult Greek, just the kind of stuff you learn from the beginning, like Kindergarten kind of stuff)
"The basic function of the Greek article is to identify. At this point an important diffentiation should be observed. When the article is used with a construction, the thing emphasized is "identity"; when the article is not used, the thing emphasized is quality of character." (pg.129)
If I said in Greek, "I am going to THE store", I have used the definite article.
I'm trying to say that I am going to a specific place with the IDENTITY of being a store.
If I say in Greek, "I am going to store", and not using the definite article,
Then I'm saying that I'm going to a place that has the QUALITY of being a store, though it may not in fact be a store, it may be a post office that sells things like a store.
I could translate it, "I am going to a store", or I could translate it "I am going to a store-like place".
Sum it all up:
Without the definite article, this phrase is correctly translated as:
"The Word was by nature or by quality God".
Or, "The Word was God".
In fact, there's even a great emphasis in the Greek here.
In Greek, the order of the words used shows where the emphasis is in the sentence.
The actual order of the words in Greek are:
"And - God - was - the Word" (kai Jeos hn o logos)
To understand how this should come into English, we would place a greater emphasis on "GOD", saying,
"And the Word was GOD"
Why is it important to believe that Jesus is God?
1. If it's not true, then Jesus is a liar, and we're all fooling ourselves.
Jesus claimed to be God, several times.
We're going to be seeing a few of these up ahead in the Gospel of John.
If Jesus weren't telling the truth, He's either a liar, or He's some crazy guy.
Would you like to spend your entire life following a liar or crazy guy?
If He's wrong in this subject, how about the other things we hold so dear?
2. If it's not true, then our salvation has no basis.
We believe that man is sinful and separated from God.
We believe that the only way to bridge the gap created by sin is for somebody to pay the pricetag on the sin - life.
You can pay the price yourself, and go to hell.
Or, somebody else could pay the price for you.
We believe that Jesus came to be a sacrifice for our sins.
If Jesus were to pay the price for all of our sins, there must be two requirements:
a. Jesus must be sinless Himself - otherwise, when He gives up His life, He's only paying for His own sins.
b. Jesus must have more than the quantity of one life to pay.
If He was just a man, though a sinless one, He would only be able to pay for one other person's sins.
If He was in fact God, having immortal life, having an infinite amount of life, then in laying down His life, He was offering to pay for an infinite amount of sins.
You can kind of get "metaphysical" about these terms used in John, and some of the earliest cults in Christianity did.
Some felt that Jesus was just an ordinary man.
Some took this "Logos" as some kind of impersonal kind of force, that later kind of possessed Jesus.
Cults today still teach this kind of thing, and that the Christ-spirit has also come on people like Buddha, Sung-myung Moon, etc.
Some looked at Jesus as if He wasn't really flesh and blood, but some kind of a ghost.
Watch carefully, and you'll see that John is going to very clearly define just who Jesus is.
He's fully human.
He's fully God.
In Jesus divine omnipotence moved in a human arm;
In Jesus divine wisdom was cradled in a human brain;
In Jesus divine love throbbed in a human heart;
In Jesus divine compassion glistened in a human eye;
In Jesus divine grace poured forth in human lips.
-- Lloyd Cory, ed., Quotable Quotations, p. 61.
:3 All things were made by him
Jesus was the General Contractor of the Creation.
It's interesting to note that with Jesus being called the "logos", the Word, that during the creation of the world, there are eight times that we read, "And God said ..."
»Genesis 1:3-AV And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Paul also writes of Jesus:
»Colossians 1:16-17 AV 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: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
:4 in Him was life
This kind of life (zwh) is real life, full and complete
of the absolute fulness of life; life real and genuine
all life, the very principle and essence of life.
In Jesus there is not just simple, physical life, but a complete, full, total life, spiritually and physically.
:4 life ... light of men
Somehow, John describes this life that's in Jesus as a kind of light.
»John 8:12-AV Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
:5 the light shineth in darkness
Darkness is a picture of the state of sin.
»1John 1:5-AV This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
Darkness is sin, God has no sin.
If we say we are walking with God, we won't be walking in sin.
When light shines in darkness, it means that God's life is being offered everywhere, even when there's sin.
:5 the darkness comprehended it not
other translations: "apprehended", NIV - "understood"
Some translate this as "did not overcome it". I'm not sure I think it's the best translation.
The word in the Greek means "to lay hold of", "to lay hold of with the mind" "to understand, perceive, learn, comprehend"
The light (Jesus) has been shining in the world, even though the world has for the most part been "clueless".
We can see this all around us when we talk to people about Jesus and about what it's like being a Christian.
You're a person of the light, trying to describe the light to a person who's blind, living in the dark.
Not an easy thing to do.
A number of years ago a story appeared which told of a man who picked up a beautiful rock from a North Carolina stream bed and used it as his cabin doorstop. Years later a geologist who was hiking in the area stopped at the cabin and noticed the doorstop, which he immediately recognized as a huge lump of gold. In fact, it proved to be one of the largest gold nuggets ever found east of the Rockies.
He didn't realize what great treasure he had found.
:6-14 Unreceived by World, Becoming Flesh
Throughout the Gospel, whenever you see the name "John", it always refers to John the Baptist.
This was the guy who was a cousin to Jesus, who lived in the desert, ate locusts and honey, preached repentance, and baptized people in the river Jordan.
:7 came for a witness
John's purpose in life was to tell people about the Messiah.
His goal was to bring people to believe in Jesus.
:8 he was not that Light
John the Baptist wasn't the Messiah.
:9 which lighteth every man
Jesus shines on every person who has ever been born.
No person is without the witness within himself that there is a God, and that He's personal.
The problem is that most have run from the light, convincing themselves that there's no such thing as light.
:11 He came unto his own ...
Jesus came to His chosen people, the Jews.
They for the most part didn't receive Him as their Messiah, but instead rejected Him.
You may have experienced rejection.
Jesus knows what thats like.
:12 But as many as received Him
Here's the key to making the gospel real.
What's the gospel?
The bad news: You are a sinner, and your sins have made it impossible for you to know God.
The good news: Jesus paid the price for your sins, making it possible for you to know God.
So how do I come to know God?
By receiving Jesus.
How do you receive a gift?
You accept it.
You make it your own.
You say "Yes".
When a person decides to make Jesus' payment for sins to be Jesus' payment for their sins, they are receiving God's gift, they are receiving Jesus.
If you were very sick and I had the medicine to cure you, how could you be cured?
You wouldn't unless you took the medicine.
Just believing I had the medicine isn't enough, you have to take it yourself and drink it.
»Revelation 3:20-AV Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
We look at receiving Jesus as simply opening the door of your heart, the door of your inner will, and letting Him become a part of your life.
When you're witnessing, it's important for people to know that there's a step they must take, that they must receive Jesus.
It's not enough to mentally agree with you.
They must ask Jesus to be their Savior, to come and live inside of them.
A woman came up to an evangelist after hearing him preach and said that she could not understand salvation.
The evangelist asked, "Mrs. Franklin, how long have you been Mrs. Franklin?"
"Why, ever since I was married," she replied. "And how did you become Mrs. Franklin?" he asked.
"When the minister said. 'Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband?' I just said, 'Yes.'"
"Didn't you say, 'I hope so,' or 'I'll try to'?" asked the evangelist.
"No," she replied, "I said, 'I will.'"
Then pointing her to God's word, he said, "God is asking you if you will receive His Son. What will you say to that?"
Her face lighted up and she said, "Why, how simple that is! Isn't it strange that I didn't say 'Yes' long ago?"
That is the simple believing the Bible calls for -- for you to say, "Yes," and God will receive you as long as you come in the name of Christ.
Two friends went for a boat ride. The boat upset. The river was swift and deep. The man to whom the boat belonged had taken two life jackets along. He said "I put one on, but my friend laid his down beside him. When we were thrown into the river, my life jacket soon brought me to the top, but my friend never came up again." Christ's death, like the life jacket, will not save you unless, by faith in Him, you put it on.
:13 which were born ...
If a person has become a "child of God", how did they come to be born like that?
Not of blood - It's not a matter of human genetics. You don't inherit the quality of being a child of God from your earthly father.
nor of the will of the flesh - it doesn't come from a person with a sin nature
nor of the will of man - Man just can't make himself to be a child of God.
but of God - It has to be God who gives birth to a child of God.
Makes sense, doesn't it.
But the reality is that we need to see that it is totally a work of the Lord.
Man doesn't earn his way into heaven.
You don't do all your scout projects, and then ask God to make you His child.
All we do is believe and receive, God does all the rest.
:14 the Word was made flesh
Now this person we have been calling "the Word" actually takes on human flesh.
We call this the "incarnation"
Jesus existed before His own birth - unlike humans whose existence begins at conception.
Nine months before the birth at Bethlehem, this is what took place:
»Philippians 2:5-8 AV Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus did not hold tightly to the idea that He was in the form of God, but was willing to let go of His place in heaven.
He emptied Himself - not in laying aside His deity, but in veiling His glory.
Jesus never stopped being fully God.
He was also fully man - so He could identify with us.
:14 dwelt among us
The Greek word here speaks of pitching a tent. Some translations say "tabernacled".
:14 we beheld his glory
Though Jesus veiled His glory much of the time, every once in a while, He let some of it leak out.
»Matthew 17:1-2 AV And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
John claims to be one of the eye-witnesses to this fact.
:14 the only begotten of the Father
Some cults want to say that this means that Jesus was created or birthed by the Father at some time while in heaven.
This doesn't refer to some kind of origin of Jesus in the spirit realm, but the fact that Jesus was the product of the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary, and she gave birth to a baby boy named Jesus.
»Luke 1:35-AV And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Jesus' real Father while on earth wasn't Joseph, but God.
:14 full of grace and truth
More about this next week ...