Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Purpose of John's Gospel

After spending two and a half years in the Gospel of John, I feel something of a bittersweet emotion nearing the end of the book. I hope for our people that as we have traveled along verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter, that it has increased our love for John's Gospel, but more importantly, that it has increased our love for Jesus Christ, who is the focus of the book.

I believe there is great value in studying the Word of God carefully, line upon line and precept upon precept. But there's also a danger of "staring at the trees and missing the forest."

In John 20:30-31, John helps us get the "big picture" of his Gospel, finally explaining why he wrote the book. We saw four points as we studied it together last Sunday:
  1. John's Gospel is a record of signs. There is no way he could have recorded them all (Jn. 21:24-25), so John hand-picked seven of them and arranged the first half of his gospel around them: turning water into wine (Jn. 2:1-12); healing the nobleman's son from a great distance (Jn. 4:46-54); healing the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years along the Pool of Bethesda (Jn. 5:1-17); feeding over 5,000 people (Jn. 6:1-14); walking on water (Jn. 6:16-21); healing a man blind from birth (Jn. 9:1-34); and raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11). Every one of these was astounding. And the pinnacle of them all was Christ's own resurrection in John 20. What were these signs for?
  2. The purpose of a sign is to point you to something. In this case, to Jesus Christ. A sign is a marker, a proof, an authenticating work. Jesus made seven bold "I AM" statements in the Gospel of John: I am the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35); the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12); the Door (Jn. 10:7-9); the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11, 14); the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25); the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6); the True Vine (Jn. 15:1, 5). Every one of these was a bold and exclusive claim that Jesus was equal with Yahweh, the Great "I AM" of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). What proof did Jesus give? In addition to His own testimony (Jn. 5:31-32), Jesus called forward four other witnesses: John the Baptist (Jn. 5:33-35), Jesus' miraculous works or "signs" (Jn. 5:36), the verbal testimony of God the Father (Jn. 5:37-38), and finally, the Old Testament Scriptures themselves (Jn. 5:39-40). What more proof could Jesus have given? The evidence is overwhelming that He is truly the Messiah, the Son of God. The only reasonable thing to do is believe.
  3. The result of these signs should be faith. This is not a mere intellectual assent, but a complete trust, a total surrender. It is pictured in a variety of ways throughout the Gospel (drinking of the water He gives, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, entering through the door, etc.). Everyone must make a choice. Either you choose to believe in Jesus, or you choose to reject Him (Jn. 3:36). There is no middle ground. Not choosing to believe is actually choosing not to believe.
  4. The result of true faith will be eternal life. By trusting in Jesus, we can have eternal life (Jn. 3:15-16; 20:31). What a promise! This is John's desire for every reader of His gospel. He has written primarily that unbelievers will put their trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and receive the free gift of eternal life.
Questions for Thought and Discussion:
  • Do you believe Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, Anointed One)?
  • Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God (making Him equal with God, according to Jn. 5:18)?
  • Are you living as though these statements are true? James tells us that faith without works is dead and useless, and will not save anyone (James 2:17-24)
  • According to John 20:31, what is the result of genuine faith in Jesus Christ?
  • How should this comfort us as Christians?
  • Are you inviting and calling others to believe in Jesus?
  • How does the world view Jesus today?
  • How does this contrast with John's testimony?
  • Give a one sentence summary in your own words of John's Gospel
  • What is one key lesson you have learned in our study of this Gospel?
Sunday's sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site and is available for free download. I apologize for the audio cutting in and out during the message. We will try to resolve this problem before next week.

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