Keith Hunt - Church History #26 - Page Twenty-six   Restitution of All Things

  Home Previous Page Next Page

History of the Church #26

The Gospel of John #1


30-100 AD

From "History of the Christian Church " by Philip Schaff


The best comes last. The fourth Gospel is the Gospel of Gospels,
the holy of holies in the New Testament. The favorite disciple
and bosom friend of Christ, the protector of his mother, the
survivor of the apostolic age was pre-eminently qualified by
nature and grace to give to the church the inside view of that
most wonderful person that ever walked on earth. In his early
youth he had absorbed the deepest words of his Master, and
treasured them in a faithful heart; in extreme old age, yet with
the fire and vigor of manhood, he reproduced them under the
influence of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in him and led him, as
well as the other disciples, into "the whole truth."

His Gospel is the golden sunset of the age of inspiration, and
sheds its lustre into the second and all succeeding centuries of
the church. It was written at Ephesus when Jerusalem lay in
ruins, when the church had finally separated from the synagogue,
when "the Jews" and the Christians were two distinct races, when
Jewish and Gentile believers had melted into a homogeneous
Christian community, a little band in a hostile world, yet strong
in faith, full of hope and joy, and certain of victory.

(Thinking this Gospel of John was written after Revelation is
weak in that I doubt it would have been possible for John not to
have mentioned the destruction of Jerusalem; I admit he could
have done, but most scholars today believe the Gospel of John was
written much earlier in John life than at its end - Keith Hunt)

For a satisfactory discussion of the difficult problems involved
in this Gospel and its striking contrast with the Synoptic
Gospels, we must keep in view the fact that Christ communed with
the apostles after as well as before his visible departure, and
spoke to them through that "other Advocate" whom he sent to them
from the Father, and who brought to remembrance all things he had
said unto them. Here lies the guarantee of the truthfulness of a
picture which no human artist could have drawn without divine
inspiration. Under any other view the fourth Gospel, and indeed
the whole New Testament, becomes the strangest enigma in the
history of literature and incapable of any rational solution.


If John wrote long after the Synoptists, we could, of course, not
expect from him a repetition of the story already so well told by
three independent witnesses. But what is surprising is the fact
that, coming last, he should produce the most original of all the
The transition from Matthew to Mark, and from Mark to Luke is
easy and natural; but in passing from any of the Synoptists to
the fourth Gospel we breathe a different atmosphere, and feel as
if we were suddenly translated from a fertile valley to the
height of a mountain with a boundless vision over new scenes of
beauty and grandeur. We look in vain for a genealogy of Jesus,
for an account of his birth, for the sermons of the Baptist, for
the history of the temptation in the wilderness, the baptism in
the Jordan, and the transfiguration on the Mount, for a list of
the Twelve, for the miraculous cures of demoniacs. John says
nothing of the institution of the church and the sacraments;
though he is full of the mystical union and communion which is
the essence of the church, and presents the spiritual meaning of
baptism and the Lord's Supper (ch.3 and 6).

He omits the ascension, though it is promised through Mary
Magdalene (20:17). He has not a word of the Sermon on the Mount,
and the Lord's Prayer, none of the inimitable parables about the
kingdom of heaven, none of those telling answers to the
entangling questions of the Pharisees. He omits the prophecies of
the downfall of Jerusalem and the end of the world, and most of
those proverbial, moral sentences and maxims of surpassing wisdom
which are strung together by the Synoptists like so many
sparkling diamonds.

But in the place of these Synoptical records John gives us an
abundance of new matter of equal, if not greater, interest and
importance. Right at the threshold we are startled, as by a peal
of thunder from the depths of eternity: "In the beginning was the
Word." And as we proceed we hear about the creation of the world,
the shining of the true light in darkness, the preparatory
revelations, the incarnation of the Logos, the testimony of the
Baptist to the Lamb of God. We listen with increasing wonder to
those mysterious discourses about the new birth of the Spirit,
the water of life, the bread of life from heaven, about the
relation of the eternal and only-begotten Son to the Father, to
the world, and to believers, the mission of the Holy Spirit, the
promise of the many mansions in heaven, the farewell to the
disciples, and at last that sacerdotal prayer which brings us
nearest to the throne and the beating heart of God. John alone
reports the interviews with Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, and
the Greek foreigners. He records six miracles not mentioned by
the Synoptists, and among them the two greatest - the changing of
water into wine and the raising of Lazarus from the grave.  And
where he meets the Synoptists, as in the feeding of the five
thousand, he adds the mysterious discourse on the spiritual
feeding of believers by the bread of life which has been going on
ever since. He makes the nearest approach to his predecessors in
the closing chapters on the betrayal, the denial of Peter, the
trial before the ecclesiastical and civil tribunals, the
crucifixion and resurrection, but even here he is more exact and
circumstantial, and adds interesting details which bear the
unmistakable marks of personal observation.

He fills out the ministry of Christ in Judaea, among the
hierarchy and the people of Jerusalem, and extends it over three
years; while the Synoptists seem to confine it to one year and
dwell chiefly on his labors among the peasantry of Galilee. But
on close inspection John leaves ample room for the Galilaean, and
the Synoptists for the Judaean ministry. None of the Gospels is a
complete biography. John expressly disclaims this (20:31).  
Matthew implies repeated visits to the holy city when he makes
Christ exclaim: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I
have gathered thy children together" (23:37; comp. 27:57). On the
other hand John records several miracles in Cana, evidently only
as typical examples of many (2:1 sqq.; 4:47 sqq.; 6:1 sqq.).     
But in Jerusalem the great conflict between light and darkness,
belief and unbelief, was most fully developed and matured to the
final crisis; and this it was one of his chief objects to

The differences between John and the Synoptists are many and
great, but there are no contradictions.


Irenaeus, who, as a native of Asia Minor and a spiritual
grand-pupil of John, is entitled to special consideration, says:
"Afterward" [i.e., after Matthew, Mark, and Luke] "John, the
disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did
himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in
Asia." In another place he snakes the rise of the Gnostic heresy
the prompting occasion of the composition.
A curious tradition, which probably contains a grain of truth,
traces the composition to a request of John's fellow-disciples
and elders of Ephesus. "Fast with me," said John, according to
the Muratorian fragment (170), "for three days from this time"
[when the request was made], "and whatever shall be revealed to
each of us" [concerning my composing the Gospel], "let us relate
it to one another. On the same night it was revealed to Andrew,
one of the apostles, that John should relate all things in his
own name, aided by the revision of all... What wonder is it then
that John brings forward every detail with so much emphasis, even
in his Epistles, saying of himself, What we have seen with our
eyes, and heard with our ears, and our hands have handled, these
things have we written unto you. For so he professes that he was
not only an eye-witness, but also a hearer, and moreover a writer
of all the wonderful works of the Lord in their historical order.

The mention of Andrew in this fragment is remarkable, for he was
associated with John as a pupil of the Baptist and as the first
called to the school of Christ (John 1:35-40). He was also
prominent in other ways and stood next to the beloved three, or
even next to his brother Peter in the catalogues of the apostles.
Victorinus of Pettau (d. about 304), in the Scholia on the
Apocalypse, says that John wrote the Gospel after the Apocalypse,
in consequence of the spread of the Gnostic heresy and at the
request of "all the bishops from the neighboring provinces."
Jerome, on the basis of a similar tradition, reports that John,
being constrained by his brethren to write, consented to do so if
all joined in a fast and prayer to God, and after this fast,
being saturated with revelation (revelatione saturatus), he
indited the heaven-sent preface: "In the beginning was the Word."

Possibly those fellow-disciples and pupils who prompted John to
write his Gospel, were the same who afterward added their
testimony to the genuineness of the book, speaking in the plural
("we know that his witness is true," 21:24), one of them acting
as scribe ("I suppose," ver.25).
The outward occasion does not exclude, of course, the inward
prompting by the Holy Spirit, which is in fact implied in this
tradition, but it shows how far the ancient church was from such
a mechanical theory of inspiration as ignores or denies the human
and natural factors in the composition of the apostolic
writings. The preface of Luke proves the same.


The fourth Gospel does not aim at a complete biography of Christ,
but distinctly declares that Jesus wrought "many other signs in
the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book"
(20:30; comp. 21:25).

The author plainly states his object, to which all other objects
must be subordinate as merely incidental, namely, to lead his
readers to the faith "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;
and that believing they may have life in his name" (20:31). This
includes three points: (1) the Messiahship of Jesus, which was of
prime importance to the Jews, and was the sole or at least the
chief aim of Matthew, the Jewish Evangelist; (2) the Divine
Sonship of Jesus, which was the point to be gained with the
Gentiles, and which Luke, the Gentile Evangelist, had also in
view; (3) the practical benefit of such faith, to gain true,
spiritual, eternal life in Him and through Him who is the
personal embodiment and source of eternal life.

To this historico-didactic object all others which have been
mentioned must be subordinated. The book is neither polemic and
apologetic, nor supplementary, nor irenic, except incidentally
and unintentionally, as it serves all these purposes. The writer
wrote in full view of the condition and needs of the church at
the close of the first century, and shaped his record
accordingly, taking for granted a general knowledge of the older
Gospels, and refuting indirectly, by the statement of facts and
truths, the errors of the day. Hence there is some measure of
truth in those theories which have made an incidental aim the
chief or only aim of the book.

1. The anti-heretical theory was started by Irenaeus. 

Being himself absorbed in the controversy with Gnosticism and
finding the strongest weapons in John, he thought that John's
motive was to root out the error of Cerinthus and of the
Nicolaitans by showing that "there is one God who made all things
by his word; and not, as they say, one who made the world, and
another, the Father of the Lord." Jerome adds the opposite error
of Ebionism, Ewald that of the disciples of the Baptist.

No doubt the fourth Gospel, by the positive statement of the
truth, is the most effective refutation of Gnostic dualism and
doketism, which began to raise its head in Asia Minor toward the
close of the first century. It shows the harmony of the ideal
Christ of faith and the real Christ of history, which the ancient
and modern schools of Gnosticism are unable to unite in one
individual. But it is not on this account a polemical treatise,
and it even had by its profound speculation a special attraction
for Gnostics and philosophical rationalists, from Basilides down
to Baur. The ancient Gnostics made the first use of it and quoted
freely from the prologue, e.g., the passage: "The true light,
which enlighteneth every man, was coming into the world" (1:9).
The polemical aim is more apparent in the first Epistle of John,
which directly warns against the anti-Christian errors then
threatening the church, and may be called a doctrinal and
practical postscript to the Gospel.

2. The supplementary theory. 

Clement of Alexandria (about 200) states, on the authority of 
"presbyters of an earlier generation," that John, at the request
of his friends and the prompting of the divine Spirit, added a
spiritual Gospel to the older bodily Gospels which set forth the
outward facts. The distinction is ingenious. John is more
spiritual and ideal than the Synoptists, and he represents as it
were the esoteric tradition as distinct from the exoteric
tradition of the church. Eusebius records also as a current
opinion that John intended to supply an account of the earlier
period of Christ's ministry which was omitted by the other
Evangelists. John is undoubtedly a most welcome supplementer both
in matter and spirit, and furnishes in part the key for the full
understanding of the Synoptists, yet he repeats many important
events, especially in the closing chapters, and his Gospel is as
complete as any.

3. The Irenic tendency-theory is a modern Tubingen invention. 

It is assumed that the fourth Gospel is purely speculative or
theological, the last and crowning literary production which
completed the process of unifying Jewish and Gentile Chris-
tianity and melting them into the one Catholic church of the
second century.
No doubt it is an Irenicon of the church in the highest and best
sense of the term, and a prophecy of the church of the future,
when all discords of Christendom past and present will be
harmonized in the perfect union of Christians with Christ, which
is the last object of his sacerdotal prayer. But it is not an
Irenicon at the expense of truth and facts.

In carrying out their hypothesis the Tubingen critics have
resorted to the wildest fictions. It is said that the author
depreciated the Mosaic dispensation and displayed jealousy of
Peter. How in the world could this promote peace? It would rather
have defeated the object. But there is no shadow of proof for
such an assertion. While the author opposes the unbelieving Jews,
he shows the highest reverence for the Old Testament, and derives
salvation from the Jews. Instead of showing jealousy of Peter, he
introduces his new name at the first interview with Jesus (1:
42), reports his great confession even more fully than Matthew
(6:68,69), puts him at the head of the list of the apostles (21:
2), and gives him his due prominence throughout down to the last
interview when the risen Lord committed to him the feeding of his
sheep (21:15-19). This misrepresentation is of a piece with the
other Tubingen myth adopted by Renan, that the real John in the
Apocalypse pursues a polemical aim against Paul and deliberately
excludes him from the rank of the twelve Apostles. And yet Paul
himself, in the acknowledged Epistle to the Galatians, represents
John as one of the three pillar-apostles who recognized his
peculiar gift for the apostolate of the Gentiles and extended to
him the right hand of fellowship.


The object of John determined the selection and arrangement of
the material. His plan is more clear and systematic than that of
the Synoptists. It brings out the growing conflict between belief
and unbelief, between light and darkness, and leads step by step
to the great crisis of the cross, and to the concluding
exclamation of Thomas, "My Lord and my God."

In the following analysis the sections peculiar to John are
marked by a star.

*I. THE PROLOGUE.   The theme of the Gospel: the Logos, the
eternal Revealer of God

(1.) In relation to God, 1:1,2.
(2.) In relation to the world. General revelation, 1:3-5.
(3.) In relation to John the Baptist and the Jews Particular
revelation, 1:6-13.
(4.) The incarnation of the Logos, and its effect upon the
disciples, 1:14-18.

WORD AND WORK, 1:19 to 12:50.

*(1.) The preparatory testimony of John the Baptist pointing to
Jesus as the promised and expected Messiah, and as the Lamb of
God that beareth the sin of the world, 1:19-37. 
*(2.) The gathering of the first disciples, 1:38-51. 
*(3.) The first sign: the changing of water into wine at Cana in
Galilee, 2:1-11. First sojourn in Capernaum, 2:12. First Passover
and journey to Jerusalem during the public ministry, 2:13.
*(4.) The reformatory cleansing of the Temple, 2:14-22. (Recorded
also by the Synoptists, but at the close of the public minis-
try.) Labors among the Jews in Jerusalem, 2:23-25.
*(5.) Conversation with Nicodemus, representing the timid
disciples, the higher classes among the Jews. Regeneration the
condition of entering into the kingdom of God, 3:1-15. The love
of God in the sending of his Son to save the world, 3:16-21.     
*(6.) Labors of Jesus in Judaea. The testimony of John the
Baptist: He must increase, but I must decrease, 3:22-36.
(Departure of Jesus into Galilee after John's imprisonment, 4:
1-3; comp. Matt.4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:14.)
*(7.) Labors in Samaria on the journey from Judaea to Galilee.
The woman of Samaria; Jacob's well; the water of life; the
worship of God in spirit and in truth; the fields ripening for
the harvest, 4:1-42. Jesus teaches publicly in Galilee, 4:43-45
(comp. Matt.4:17; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 4:14,15).
*(8.) Jesus again visits Cana in Galilee and heals a nobleman's
son at Capernaum, 4:46-54. 
*(9.) Second journey to Jerusalem at a feast (the second
Passover?). The healing of the infirm man at the pool of Bethesda
on the Sabbath, 5:1-18. Beginning of the hostility of the Jews.  
Discourse of Christ on his relation to the Father, and his
authority to judge the world, 5:19-47.
(10.) The feeding of the five thousand, 6:1-14. The stilling of
the tempest, 6:15-21.
* The mysterious discourse in Capernaum on the bread of life; the
sifting of the disciples; the confession of Peter: "To whom shall
we go," etc.; the hinting at the treason of Judas, 6:22-71.
*(11.) Third visit to Jerusalem, at the feat of the Tabernacles.
The hasty request of the brethren of Jesus who did not believe on
him. His discourse in the Temple with opposite effect. Rising
hostility of the Jews, and vain efforts of the hierarchy to seize
him as a false teacher misleading the people, 7:1-52. [x(12a.)
The woman taken in adultery and pardoned by Jesus, 7:53 to 8:11.
Jerusalem. Probably an interpolation from oral tradition,
authentic and true, but not from the pen of John. Also found at
the end, and at Luke 21.]
(No reason at all to doubt it was not from John - Keith Hunt)
*(12) Discourse on the light of the world. The children of God
and the children of the devil. Attempts to stone Jesus, 8:12-59.
*(13.) The healing of the man born blind, on a Sabbath, and his
testimony before the Pharisees, 9:1-41.
*(14.) The parable of the good shepherd, 10:1-21. Speech at the
feast of Dedication in Solomon's porch, 10:22-39. Departure to
the country beyond the Jordan, 10:40-42.
*(15.) The resurrection of Lazarus at Bethany, and its effect
upon hastening the crisis. The counsel of Caiaphas. Jesus retires
from Jerusalem to Ephraim, 11:1-57.
(16.) The anointing by Mary in Bethany, 12:1-8. The counsel of
the chief priests, 12 9-11. 
(17.) The entry into Jerusalem, 12:12-19. (Comp. Matt.21:1-17;
Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44.)
*(18.) Visit of the Greeks. Discourse of Jesus on the grain of
wheat which must die to bear fruit; the voice from heaven; the
attraction of the cross; the opposite effect; reflection of the
Evangelist; summary of the speeches of Jesus, 12:20-50.


During the fourth and last Pass over week. Jerusalem, 13:1 to 17:
*(1.) Jesus washes the feet of the disciples before the Passover
meal, 13:1-20.
(2.) He announces the traitor, 13:21-27. The departure of Judas,
*(3.) The new commandment of love, 13:31-35. (Here is the best
place for the institution of the Lord's Supper, omitted by John,
but reported by all the Synoptists and by Paul.) 
(4.) Prophecy of Peter's denial, 13:36-38.
*(5.) The farewell discourses to the disciples; the promise of
the Paraclete, and of Christ's return, 14:1 to 16:33.
*(4.) The Sacerdotal Prayer, 17 :1-26.

RESURRECTION, 18:1 to 20:31.

(1.) The passage over the Kedron, and the betrayal, 18:1-11.
(2.) Jesus before the high priests, Annas and Caiaphas, 18:
12-14, 19-24.
(3.) Peter's denial, 18:15-18,25-27.
(4.) Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, 18:28 to 
19:16. Original in part (19:4-16). 
(5.) The crucifixion, 19:17-37.
(6.) The burial of Jesus. 19:38-42.
(7.) The resurrection. Mary Magdalene, Peter and John visit the
empty tomb, 20:1-10.
(8.) Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, 20:11-18. 
*(9.) Christ appears to the apostles, except Thomas, on the
evening of the resurrection day, 20:19-23.
*(10.) Christ appears to the apostles, including Thomas, on the
following Lord's Day, 20:26-29.
*(11.) Object of the Gospel, 20:30,31. 


(1.) Christ appears to seven disciples on the lake of Galilee.
The third manifestation to the disciples, 21:1-14.
(2.) The dialogue with Simon Peter: "Lovest thou Me?" "Feed My
sheep." "Follow Me," 21:15-19.
(3.) The mysterious word about the beloved disciple, 21:21-23.
(4.) The attestation of the authorship of the Gospel by the
pupils of John, 21:24,25.


The Gospel of John is the most original, the most important, the
most influential book in all literature. The great Origen called
it the crown of the Gospels, as the Gospels are the crown of all
sacred writings. It is pre-eminently the spiritual and ideal,
though at the same time a most real Gospel, the truest transcript
of the original. It lifts the veil from the holy of holies and
reveals the glory of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of
grace and truth. It unites in harmony the deepest knowledge and
the purest love of Christ. We hear as it were his beating heart;
we lay our hands in his wound-prints and exclaim with doubting
Thomas: "My Lord and my God." A book is so plain and yet so deep,
so natural and yet so full of mystery. It is simple as a child
and sublime as a seraph, gentle as a lamb and bold as an eagle,
deep as the sea and high as the heavens.

It has been praised as "the unique, tender, genuine Gospel," 
"written by the hand of an angel," as "the heart of Christ," as
God's love-letter to the world," or "Christ's love-letter to the
church." It has exerted an irresistible charm on many of the
strongest and noblest minds in Christendom, as Origen in Egypt,
Chrysostom in Asia, Augustin in Africa, the German Luther, the
French Calvin, the poetic Herder, the critical Schleiermacher,
and a multitude of less famous writers of all schools and shades
of thought. Even many of those who doubt or deny the apostolic
authorship cannot help admiring its more than earthly beauties.
But there are other sceptics who find the Johannean discourses
monotonous, tedious, nebulous, unmeaning, hard, and feel as much
offended by them as the original hearers.

Let us point out the chief characteristics of this book which
distinguish it from the Synoptical Gospels.

1. The fourth Gospel is the Gospel of the INCARNATION, that is,
of the perfect union of the divine and human in the person of
Jesus of Nazareth, who for this very reason is the Saviour of the
world and the fountain of eternal life. "The Word became flesh."
This is the theoretical theme. The writer begins with the eternal
pre-existence of the Logos, and ends with the adoration of his
incarnate divinity in the exclamation of the sceptical Thomas: 
"My Lord and my God!" Luke's preface is historiographic and
simply points to his sources of information; John's prologue is
metaphysical and dogmatic, and sounds the keynote of the
subsequent history. The Synoptists begin with the man Jesus and
rise up to the recognition of his Messiahship and divine Sonship;
John descends from the pre-existent Son of God through the
preparatory revelations to his incarnation and crucifixion till
he resumes the glory which he had before the world began. The
former give us the history of a divine man, the latter the
history of a human God. Not that he identifies him with the
Godhead (Greek); on the contrary, he clearly distinguishes the
Son and the Father and makes him inferior in dignity ("the Father
is greater than I"); but he declares that the Son is "God"
(Theos), that is, of divine essence or nature.
And yet there is no contradiction here between the Evangelists
except for those who deem a union of the Divine and human in one
person an impossibility. The Christian Church has always felt
that the Synoptic and the Johannean Christ are one and the same,
only represented from different points of view. And in this
judgment the greatest scholars and keenest critics, from Origen
down to the present time, have concurred. For, on the one hand,
John's Christ is just as real and truly human as that of the
Synoptists. He calls himself the Son of man and "a man" (8:40);
he "groaned in the spirit" (11:33), he "wept" at the grave of a
friend (11:35), and his "soul" was "troubled" in the prospect of
the dark hour of crucifixion (12:27) and the crime of the traitor
(13:1). The Evangelist attests with solemn emphasis from what he
saw with his own eyes that Jesus truly suffered and died (19:

The Synoptic Christ, on the other hand, is as truly elevated
above ordinary mortals as the Johannean. It is true, he does not
in so many words declare his pre-existence as in John (1:1; 6:
62; 8:58; 17:5,24), but it is implied, or follows as a legiti-
mate consequence. He is conceived without sin, a descendant of
David, and yet the Lord of David (Matt. 22:41); he claims
authority to forgive sins, for which he is accused of blasphemy
by the Jews (quite consistently from their standpoint of
unbelief); he gives his life a ransom for the redemption of the
world; he will come in his glory and judge all nations; yea, in
the very Sermon on the Mount, which all schools of Rationalists
accept as his genuine teaching, He declares himself to be the
judge of the world (Matt.7:21-23; comp. 25:31-46), and in the
baptismal formula He associates himself and the Holy Spirit with
the eternal Father, as the connecting link between the two, thus
assuming a place on the very throne of the Deity (28:19). It is
impossible to rise higher. 

Hence Matthew, the Jewish Evangelist, does not hesitate to apply
to Him the name Immanuel, that is, "God with us" (1 23). Mark
gives us the Gospel of Peter, the first who confessed that Jesus
is not only "the Christ" in his official character, but also "the
Son of the living God." This is far more than a son; it
designates his unique personal relation to God and forms the
eternal basis of his historical Messiahship (Matt.16:16; comp.
26:63). The two titles are distinct, and the high priest's charge
of blasphemy (26:65) could only apply to the latter. A false
Messiah would be an impostor, not a blasphemer. We could not
substitute the Messiah for the Son in the baptismal formula.     
Peter, Mark, and Matthew were brought up in the most orthodox
monotheism, with an instinctive horror of the least approach to
idolatry, and yet they looked up to their Master with feelings of
adoration. And, as for Luke, he delights in representing Jesus
throughout as the sinless Saviour of sinners, and is in full
sympathy with the theology of his elder brother Paul, who
certainly taught the pre-existence and divine nature of Christ
several years before the Gospels were written or published
(Rom.1:3) 4; 9:5; 2 Cor.8:9; Col.1:15-17; Phil. 2:6-11). 


2. It is the Gospel of LOVE.  Its practical motto is: "God is
love." In the incarnation of the eternal Word, in the historic
mission of his Son, God has given the greatest possible proof of
his love to mankind. In the fourth Gospel alone we read that
precious sentence which contains the very essence of
Christianity: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish,
but have eternal life" (3:16). It is the Gospel of the Good
Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (10:11); the Gospel
of the new commandment: "Love one another" (13:34). And this was
the last exhortation of the aged disciple "whom Jesus loved."
But for this very reason that Christ is the greatest gift of God
to the world, unbelief is the greatest sin and blackest
ingratitude, which carries in it its own condemnation. The guilt
of unbelief, the contrast between faith and unbelief is nowhere
set forth in such strong light as in the fourth Gospel. It is a
consuming fire to all enemies of Christ.


3. It is the Gospel of MYSTIC SYMBOLISM. The eight miracles it
records are significant "signs" (Greek) which symbolize the
character and mission of Christ, and manifest his glory. They are
simply his "works" (Greek), the natural manifestations of his
marvellous person performed with the same ease as mer perform
their ordinary works. The turning of water into wine illustrates
his transforming power, and fitly introduces his public ministry;
the miraculous feeding of the five thousand set him forth as the
Bread of life for the spiritual nourishment of countless
believers; the healing of the man born blind, as the Light of the
world; the raising of Lazarus, as the Resurrection and the Life. 
The miraculous draught of fishes shows the disciples to be
fishers of men, and insures the abundant results of Christian
labor to the end of time. The serpent in the wilderness
prefigured the cross. The Baptist points to him as the Lamb of
God which taketh away the sin of the world. He represents himself
under the significant figures of the Door, the good Shepherd, the
Vine; and these figures have inspired Christian art and poetry,
and guided the meditations of the church ever since.
The whole Old Testament is a type and prophecy of the New. "The
law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (1:
17). Herein lies the vast superiority of Christianity, and yet
the great importance of Judaism as an essential part in the
scheme of redemption. Clearly and strongly as John brings out the
opposition to the unbelieving Jews, he is yet far from going to
the Gnostic extreme of rejecting or depreciating the Old
Testament; on the contrary "salvation comes from the Jews" (says
Christ to the Samaritan woman, 4:22); and turning the Scripture
argument against the scribes and Pharisees who searched the
letter of the Scriptures, but ignored the spirit, Christ
confronts them with the authority of Moses on whom they fixed
their hope. "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he
wrote of me. But ye believe not his writings, how shall ye
believe my words?" (5:46). John sees Christ everywhere in those
ancient Scriptures which cannot be broken. He unfolds the true
Messianic idea in conflict with the carnal perversion of it among
the Jews under the guidance of the hierarchy.

Keith Hunt

To be continued

  Home Previous Page Top of Page Next Page

Navigation List:

Word Search: