The Gospel of John

“No man hath seen God at any time.” —John 1:18

EVEN THOUGH JOHN said that no one has ever seen God, in fact, many have seen him. John, himself, helped us to ‘see’ God. This does not mean, of course, that anybody has ever actually seen God with their natural vision. God exists in a dimension far beyond anything that earthly minds could comprehend. But we have ‘seen’ God in a very real way. At one point during Jesus’ sojourn on earth, Philip asked him to show the disciples the Father. Jesus responded by saying, “Have I been so long time with you and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”—John 14:8,9

Each of the four Gospel writers described Jesus from quite different perspectives. Matthew described him as the king of Israel, the Messiah. He mentioned the wise men and their expensive gifts, but said nothing about the shepherds coming to worship the Savior at his birth. Mark saw Jesus as the perfect servant of God, one who acted quickly and had little to say. Luke presented Jesus as a perfect man. His account had a prologue, a growing-up period, and included Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

Each of these Gospel writers revealed the humanity of our Lord. But John’s account is different. He described Jesus as the Son of God—God’s personal representative on earth. His is a theological account, not a biological one, and consists mainly of the words which Jesus spoke. In fact John is the only one who recorded the private conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Pilate, when the two of them were alone.

Each of the Gospels can be described by a single ‘L’-word:

Law: Matthew showed how Jesus was the promised Messiah to the people of the Law—the Jewish nation.

Labor: Mark showed Jesus as God’s servant who does things quickly and says little.

Love: Luke emphasized the love of Jesus for all mankind, particularly the poor, the disadvantaged, children, women, and even the hated Samaritans.

Life: John used the word ‘life’ many times more often than the others. ‘Life’ was the whole point of his Gospel: “These [signs] 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 20:31

The ‘Word’

John gives us no genealogy of our Lord, and starts at a time earlier than any of the other writers: “In the beginning was the Word [Greek: Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1

When we read this verse from the King James Version we could get the impression that the Logos and God were the same being. Most Bible Students prefer the reading of Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott, word-for-word translation: “In a beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and a god was the Word.” However, an argument based on the presence or absence of the definite article ‘the’ is not particularly compelling. There are many instances when the definite article ‘the’ is missing in the Greek text and the context dearly shows that the Father, the Supreme Creator, is meant. Here are a few:

“There was a man sent from [a?] God. … He gave power to become the sons of [a?] God. … No man hath seen [a?] God.”—John 1:6,12,18

In these three verses the definite article, ‘the’, is missing, yet we read the text as though it were present. And there is an instance when the definite article, ‘the’, is present yet it does not refer to God the Father: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.”—II Cor. 4:4

Clearly, we must interpret the meaning of scriptures by the context, and not by the presence or absence of Greek articles. So what is the context of John 1:1 in terms of the entire Gospel? The relationship between God and the Logos in John’s Gospel is unmistakable. It is God the Father and Jesus his Son.

Logos is John’s title for Jesus, God’s Son. He said, as recorded in John 1:14, “The Word [Logos] was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Why did John invent a new title, Logos? Was it because he wanted to describe in his Gospel the role which Jesus had here on earth. Just as invisible thought is revealed by words, the invisible God was revealed by a living “Word.” We use words to communicate our will; God used a Logos to do the same. “He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God.”—John 3:34

Jesus was six times more likely to say, “My Father” as the account of his life was recalled in John’s Gospel, than in any of the other three Gospels. You will never find Jesus saying, “Our Father,” or, “Your Father,” in the Gospel of John, although these expressions are found twenty-five times in the other Gospels. John never said that Jesus prayed ‘to the Father’, though Jesus did so frequently, as mentioned in the other Gospels. The English word ‘pray’ does occur in the King James Version of the Gospel of John, but it is a different Greek word than generally used, and has a different meaning. There is no temptation scene recorded by John—no baptism, no agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, and, surprisingly, no parables. The word ‘parable’ as used in John 10:6, is a different Greek word—one translated “proverb” in the three other places it is used in John.

John drew a portrait of God from Jesus’ life on earth, one that encompassed many themes. We list them here:

Theme 1: Life

John used the word ‘life’ thirty-nine limes, although it occurred only seventeen times in all the other Gospels combined. The best known scripture from this Gospel is in chapter three: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16

This scripture emphasizes the father-son relationship, and that God’s object in giving his Son, was to give life. This was not to be life just for Jews, or just for those living in Jesus’ time. It was to be for “whosoever believeth,” regardless of race, age, sex, national origin, or time period. The next verse says that this is in order that “the world might be saved.” John showed our Heavenly Father as a God who is accessible to all.

Why does God love the world when Christians are explicitly told not to love it? (I John 2:15) Here is the answer: we are not to love the world the way it is at present—with its spirit of selfishness, strife, and sin. God does not love the world in its present form either. He loves it because he knows the way the people of the world will be at the conclusion of his marvelous plan of salvation, in much the same way that a parent loves his children, although sometimes he might not like their behavior at the moment.

John is the only Gospel writer who recorded the literal gift of life which Jesus gave to one of his friends: “He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes.” (John 11:43,44) Since John recorded no parables, it was left to Luke to record the parable of the ‘rich man’ and ‘Lazarus’, given just a few weeks before Jesus raised his friend, Lazarus, from the dead.

Theme 2: Love

John used the word love ten times more frequently than the other Gospel writers. We have this word three times in a single verse: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”—John 13:34

Notice that this thought was expressed as a new ‘commandment’. We are to love as Jesus loved. And just how did he love? Did he love his neighbor as himself? Certainly. In fact, he loved his neighbor more than himself, because he laid down his life for his fellow man. Jesus was asking us, as his footstep followers, to be ready on all occasions to lay down our lives for each other!

John never referred to himself by name in his Gospel. Instead he speaks of himself as the recipient of the Master’s love: “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23) As we see evidenced in this Gospel, his three letters, and in the Book of Revelation, John warmly returned that love with an undivided heart

Theme 3: Truth

John used the words translated ‘truth’, ‘true’, or ‘truly’, three times more often than the other Gospel writers combined. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) Here again John shows that Jesus is not the Father. He is the one who shows the way to the Father; he spoke the truth about the Father; he offers life to “whosoever believeth.”

The word ‘verily’ has the same meaning as the word ‘truly’. John always doubled this word by repeating it: “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:47) He did this on twenty-five occasions. The other writers never did it. Why is this the case? Perhaps it was, to emphasize the great authority with which our Lord spoke. He spoke for God, and because of this, his words should be considered as having much greater—double—importance.

“Sanctify them through thy truth, thy Word is truth.” (John 17:17) John introduced Jesus as ‘the Word’. This conveys the idea that he is an embodiment of the truth, one who is able to sanctify us, to set us apart for his service.

Theme 4: Light

Light is still another theme in this Gospel. John wasted no time introducing the themes of light and life: “All things came into being through him, and apart from him nothing that now exists came into being. In him was Life, and that life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never overpowered it. … There was the true Light, which lightens every man, coming into the world.”—John 1:2-4,9, Weymouth Translation

Once again John emphasized the worldwide scope of the love of God: every person is to be enlightened. We say ‘to be enlightened’, because Jesus has not yet enlightened every man. He has certainly not enlightened those who lived and died before he was born. Countless billions have died without hearing a word about the one through whom salvation is possible. This means that there must be a future time of resurrection and instruction in righteousness, to fulfill this scripture.

John was the only Gospel writer who recorded a particular miracle, when Jesus literally gave the gift of light to someone: A man born blind “said, … One thing I know, once I was blind, but now I can see.”—John 9:25

Theme 5: Water

John liked to use water as a symbol of life and truth. He used it four times more frequently than the other Gospel writers. Note these occasions, most of which are exclusive to John:

And then there is a puzzling scripture about water in chapter 7, which reads: “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37,38) What exactly did Jesus mean by this? He might, of course, be simply repealing publicly what he had already told the Samaritan woman at the well: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14) But these two statements are quite different. In John 4 the water is said to have sprung up within the one who received it. In John 7 it is described as flowing outward to nourish others. Jesus could have been referring to that pure river of water of life that will flows will out from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the kingdom.—Rev. 22:1

Water is a symbol of truth. Perhaps Jesus’ statements meant that as we have received truth from him, we in turn become conveyors of truth to those with whom we come in contact. Even if we accept this understanding as the answer, one problem still remains. Jesus said that this happens “as the scripture hath said.” No Old Testament scripture speaks of a believer’s belly having rivers of living water flowing from it. Therefore, it is possible that Jesus was not talking about ‘believers’ at all. Instead, he could be talking about himself. We could punctuate and divide the words this way: “Jesus cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and let him drink, he that believeth on me. [End John 7:37; begin verse 38] As the scripture hath said, out of his [Messiah’s] belly shall flow rivers of living water [making truth and life available for believers to drink].”

By using the expression, ‘his belly’, he would very likely mean that he was the source of all spiritual blessings—the source of life and truth available to the believer. Water is a particularly good symbol of life because it is critically important to maintain life. We do have Old Testament scriptures that talk about waters being available to heal people. Here is one example: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”—Zech. 13:1

John did explain what Jesus meant by the words recorded in John 7:39. He did not say that Jesus was speaking of believers. He said, Jesus “spoke of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive.” Water is here explained as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. This may also elucidate Jesus’ words when he spoke with Nicodemus: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be [begotten] of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”—John 3:5

At that very time, water was being used by John the Baptist as a symbol of cleansing the people from their past sins when they had repented of them. But Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit, of which water was only a symbol. Literal water begets no one. If there is no begetting of the Spirit, there is no New Creature, there is no life!

What Is God Like?

What kind of God emerges from the portrait drawn by John?

John’s great themes of truth, love, and light as seen in the life of Jesus are actually characteristics of God, himself. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30) Because of this ‘oneness’, we ‘see’ God in the life of Jesus.

John recorded more words spoken by Jesus than any other Gospel writer. Especially important to us are the five chapters that record what was spoken the night before the crucifixion. Chapters 13 through 17.) It was then that Jesus asked his Father that we, his followers, might share the oneness they had: I ask “that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”—John 17:21

The Logos and God were one, and true Christians should look forward with great anticipation to the time when they will become part of that oneness, as well.

At the close of Matthew’s Gospel, we learned that Jesus had “risen.” (Matt. 28:6) In Mark’s Gospel, it was recorded that Jesus both rose and ascended. (Mark 16:6,19) In Luke’s Gospel Jesus arose, promised the Holy Spirit, and then ascended. John was the writer who added another important promise: “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you.” (John 14:28) This is the promise of his Second Corning, an event which we believe has already occurred. However, the world’s situation remains much the same as it was 2,000 years ago. We can still say, as did John the Baptist, “There standeth one among you whom you know not.”—John 1:26

We have been given a perfect example to imitate in word, thought and deed. This is our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be ‘well-doers’, and to follow his marvelous, perfect example to the best of our ability. By keeping our eyes on him, we truly can say that we ‘see’ God. As John wrote, “My dear friend, do not imitate bad examples, but good ones. The well-doer is a child of God; the evil-doer has never seen God.”—III John 11, New English Translation

“The Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isa. 7:14) Immanuel means, ‘God with us’. Because of John’s faithfulness in recording his Gospel, we can repeat the words of Job 42:5: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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