With this lesson, we began an exciting six-month journey in the Gospel of John. According to early church tradition, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel in the last decade of the first century. John wrote the Gospel for an evangelistic purpose (20:30-31). The purpose statement contains four key concepts foundational to this book. First, the Gospel sets forth eight “signs” (the resurrection is the final sign) to point to or signify the identity of Jesus.
Second, Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. In many ways, the fourth Gospel is the most Jewish. This Gospel demonstrates Jesus fulfilled all the major festivals of Judaism and at key junctures people confess Jesus as Messiah (Jhn. 1:41; 4:29; 11:27). Third, John set forth Jesus as “the Son of God.” The Gospel contains seven explicit “I am” sayings. The name “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” means ‘I Am” (Ex 3:14); thus, Jesus explicitly claimed deity through these sayings. Finally, the fourth Gospel highlighted the role of believing. The noun “faith” never occurs in this Gospel, but the verb “believe” occurs nearly one hundred times.
The opening verses of the Gospel set forth Jesus as the supreme revelation of God.
First, Jesus possesses equal status and nature with God (1:1-5). The concept of “the Word” was important in biblical revelation and first century philosophical thought. In Jewish thought, “Word” signified the revelation of God. In philosophical thought, “Word” was the one principle that explained everything. John highlighted four truths regarding Jesus as Word. First, Jesus was equal with God. Jesus was co-eternal with God (in beginning), co-equal with God (“with” means a ‘face-to-face equal), and possessed all the nature of God (was God). Second, Jesus was the active agent in the creation of all things spiritual and physical (Col. 16; Heb. 1:2). Third, “Life” and “Light” are in Him. Rather than terms describing physical realities, “Life” and “Light” in John describe spiritual realities. Fourth, Jesus was not defeated. As the “Light” He shined into the darkness—the reality of humanity and evil spiritual forces estranged from God and dominated by Satan—and overcame this opposition to God.
Second, Jesus, the eternal Word, entered into human experience (1:9-13). As Light Himself, Jesus invaded the world of darkness by coming into the world. As the true Light, Jesus forces all people in darkness to make a response— either rejection or belief. “Believe” and “receive” are synonymous terms. A person receives Jesus by believing. A person believes in Jesus by receiving Him. Receiving Jesus by faith brings in individual into the family of God through the new birth—a spiritual birth not the result of ancestral heritage (descendent of Abraham).
Third, the incarnation of Jesus is the supreme and ultimate revelation of God (1:14-18). The eternal Word became flesh, that is, a human. The HCSB translation “took up residence among us” literally means “tabernacle” or “tented” among us. Jesus’ life on earth was tent-like, that is, temporary. The key concept, however, is “tabernacled.” The OT pointed to the tabernacle as the dwelling of God and the location of the glory of God.
The fullest revelation of God’s glory occurred historically when the Eternal Word and unique Son of God became human. In the fourth Gospel, the revelation of the glory of God is connected to the sacrificial death of Jesus. The coming to the Word into human experience means all who receive Him receive “grace after grace.”
The fullness of graceful life through Jesus is a progression. Believers experience a lifetime journey of grace. Jews regarded the law given through Moses as the supreme revelation of God, yet Moses never saw God. The incarnate Son provided God’s ultimate and supreme revelation, or literally, “explanation of God (1:18).
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