The Book of John
Having finished Romans, we’re now going to dissect John, which happens to be my favorite book of the Bible. Apparently, for centuries, this Gospel was ignored. The church fathers found it to be vapid. I find it to be diametrically opposite. Not even Song of Solomon matches the tenor of love expressed by this writer. John’s completely platonic love of this man, Jesus, goes far beyond the bounds we know as love. May we, through our study, transform our love life—first for Jesus, then for our brothers and sisters in Christ, then for our world—into what love was designed to perform: to become one with God Almighty. That is the chief reason why Jesus came to the earth: to present His Father in truth and to bring us to Him as children, climbing onto His lap.
Early in my walk with the Lord, He asked me to go and love the world and not be concerned with who loved me. I’ll be perfectly honest. I can only do that from His lap. My heart forgives and loves easily; it’s my mind that gives me the problem. Always analyzing, always figuring, always wanting to be in control, always finding fault with those who don’t love me. After listening to my mind for a while, I then remember to Whom I belong, and I climb back up into His lap.
For this month I want to offer an overview of the Gospel of John, and to encourage you to read the whole book as many times as you can fit it into your schedule. Please purchase a notebook just for the study of John, as I will be asking you to write out verses and to write other entries as well. The purpose of this is to plant the Word in your hearts so that it becomes automatic behavior. Knowing things, like how to pick up a fork and use it to eat with, come from trial and error. Once you’ve learned this necessary behavior, you never lose the knowledge of how to use utensils at a meal. The same will be for the Word of God, and John gives us the best to have for automatic behavior!
First of all, look at the voice with which John writes. He speaks lovingly, urging us to purify ourselves, like a parent instructing a child in matters of bathing. He shows us that our behavior and attitudes must conform to our Lord Jesus Christ. Walking in the Light is a choice, which with practice will become automatic behavior.
When I was a child living in Minnesota, walking to and from school in the winter, low, heavy clouds constantly hung over my town, and never moved. They seemed to hang there for nine months without a day of sunshine. But once in a while, the clouds would part a little, and suddenly, a section of town would be bathed in brilliant sunlight. I could chart my way to or from school according to the streets that had sunlight.
Because I was accustomed to the gloom, and because the light was reflecting off so much snow, as well as being brilliant, I could barely see. At times I had to keep my eyes closed, and I’d get disoriented and dizzy. But it was worth it to go out of my way to be in the sunlight and to trust my instincts instead of my natural eyesight. The light brought warmth and beauty and joy.
The life John portrays is like that, only we aren’t trusting our own instincts; we’re trusting the leading of the Holy Spirit, the One Jesus called “exactly like Me.” In all of John’s writings, the little letters as well as this Gospel, one of his goals is to warn the people about the work of the devil. In his love for us he tries to protect and keep us on the highway of holiness. At that time, Satan labored long at infiltrating the church with philosophy, idolatry, and circumcision.
There were three prominent philosophies threatening to disrupt the church, the chief one being Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that knowledge is good, and matter is evil. Therefore, Jesus could not and did not take on human, bodily form. His was not a physical existence. This is still a prominent philosophy.
Epicureanism came from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who taught that the highest good is personal happiness. He was a devotee of sensual enjoyment. This group was pleasure-seeking, hedonistic, carnal, and overindulgent. Sound familiar?
The Stoics come from an ancient Greek philosophy which taught control of one’s feelings and passions. In an advanced state these dear folks were impassive, resigned, cool, unemotional. They practiced austerity, self-control, fortitude, calmness, coolness, and imperturbability.
To answer the Gnostics, John strongly proclaims that Jesus came as both Son of Man and Son of God. He was born of a human mother so that He could be 100% human Himself (a necessary state in order to fulfil God’s plan for man’s redemption). He was born of a Spiritual Father so that He could be 100% Spirit as well (thus rendering Him perfectly sinless in the same state as Adam). But the wonder of wonders that John presents is that He put His Deity aside. He did not use His God-Powers while He was on the earth. No! He worked with and through the Holy Spirit, as a man, in order to demonstrate to us how to do the same. We are only human, as the saying goes, but we have God in the form of the Holy Spirit living in us to perform the power we need. The Holy Spirit helps us to the extent that we trust His Power.
To answer the Epicureans, John shows us a Jesus who enjoyed His rest times, feasts, laughter, and friendship. I can attest to that with my own life. One of the biggest discoveries about becoming a Christian was the adventure my life became. I have traveled places, done things, and enjoyed myself in ways I never dreamed possible, all coming to me by following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
One time, while folk-dancing in Israel (whoever thought I would go there!), I knew the Lord was dancing with me, laughing and having fun Himself! Like riding through the mountains in Guatemala, traveling on barely built roads, going right through a gun battle between guerillas and the army to take a medical team to a remote village. As I recall, we sang bright, happy songs right through that gun fight. I laugh again when I remember the train ride in Scotland, laughing with the champion soccer team occupying our car. I think you get my drift!
To answer the Stoics, self-control is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. The other eight fruits are led by the first fruit mentioned—love. Controlled love, controlled joy, controlled peace, etc. Controlled by self? Heavens no! Controlled by the Holy Spirit! What’s the point of having Him live inside of us if we don’t give Him full control?
John wrote his portion of the New Testament to confirm the truth of Jesus Christ, who He is, and to confirm the love of God. His words encourage us to believe, at all times, in the Son of God, who He is to God, who He is to us, and to believe in this God made of love, who can do nothing but love. His words warn us to turn away from that which lies in wickedness, twisting the truth into hideousness.
Here is an overall look at what we will find in John.
John 1:18 Prologue
John 1:19–12:50 Public Ministry
John 13:1–17:26 Private Ministry to His own disciples (that includes us)
John 18:1–20:31 Suffering/Glorification
John 21:1–25 Epilogue
I’ll be back next month with hope that your notebooks are already filled with private, personal revelation!