2. Key Verse: John 1:49, 20:31
This outline is more conventional than the one for the book of Matthew and accounts for every verse. However, the details are more straightforward, objective observations than in the Matthew outline, and no cross-references are given.
I. God's Witness to Men ** Chapters 1-4
A. The witness from eternity (John 1:1-2)
B. The witness of creation (John 1:3-5)
C. The witness of men (John 1:6-14)
D. The witness of John, an OT. prophet (John 1:15-34)
E. The witness of the apostles, the NT. prophets (John 1:35-51)
F. The witness of His works (John 2)
1. His Lordship over creation (John 2:1-11)
2. His Lordship over His temple (John 2:12-25)
G. The witness of His Word (John 3:1-21)
H. The personal witness of John (John 3:22-36)
I. The personal witness of a sinner (John 4:1-30)
J. The witness sent out (John 4:31-38)
K. The witness to Samaritans (John 4:39-42)
L. The witness to kings (John 4:43-54)
II. Man's Unbelief ** Chapters 5-8
A. In Jerusalem (John 5)
1. The miracle of healing (John 5:1-9)
2. The accusation (John 5:10-18)
3. The defense (John 5:19-39)
4. The witness against the Jews (John 5:40-47)
B. In Galilee (John 6)
1. The miracles of provision (John 6:1-13)
2. The earthly focus (John 6:14,15)
3. The preservation of the true disciples (John 6:16-21)
4. The defense (John 6:22-65)
5. The witness against the false disciples (John 6:66-71)
C. Man judges God (John 7)
1. By His brothers (John 7:1-5)
2. By the world (John 7:6-9)
3. By the people in the temple (John 7:10-13)
4. By the leaders of the temple (John 7:14-49,52,53)
5. By Nicodemus (John 7:50,51)
D. God judges man (John 8)
1. Mercy upon sinners (John 8:1-11)
2. The judgment of two witnesses (John 8:12-20)
3. Faith removes judgment (John 8:21-32)
4. Judgment based upon the Word (John 8:33-47)
5. Unbelief seals judgment (John 8:48-59)
III. The Conflict Continues ** Chapters 9-11
A. The witness of the Light (John 9)
1. The miracle of sight (John 9:1-11)
2. Unbelief (John 9:12-34)
3. Belief (John 9:35-38)
4. Judgment (John 9:39-41)
B. The witness of the Shepherd (John 10)
1. The voice of the Shepherd (John 10:1-18, 40-42)
2. Unbelief (John 10:19-39)
C. The witness of the Life (John 11)
1. The miracle of life (John 11:1-46)
2. Unbelief (John 11:47-57)
IV. The Witness Fulfilled ** Chapters 12-21
A. The witness of Christ's anointing (John 12:1-8)
B. The witness of the world (John 12:9-22)
C. The witness of Christ's death (John 12:23-36)
D. The witness to the apostles (John 13-16)
1. They are chosen (John 13:1-30)
2. They are shown the Way (John 13:31 - 14:7)
3. They know the Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 14:8-31)
4. They abide in the Vine (John 15:1-17)
5. They are not of the world (John 15:18 - 16:4)
6. They are guided by the Spirit (John 16:5-15)
7. They rejoice in the Son (John 16:16-22)
8. They are loved by the Father (John 16:23-28)
9. They have peace (John 16:29-33)
E. The witness to the Father (John 17)
F. The witness in the Garden (John 18:1-12)
G. The witness before Jews (John 18:13-27)
H. The witness before Gentiles (John 18:28 - 19:16)
I. The witness on the cross (John 19:17-37)
J. The witness of the tomb (John 19:38-42)
K. The witness of the resurrection (John 20:1-10)
L. The witness of believers (John 20:11-31)
M. The witness through believers (John 21)
4. General Comments
The apostle John is not mentioned by name in this book, although he is referred to many times as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 20:2, 21:7). This is not a display of ego, but a God-directed reference to John's intimate relationship with Jesus (John 13:23). In addition, John, with Peter and James, seems to have been included in a special way in the events in Jesus' life (Matt. 17:1, Luke 8:51, 9:28). These events to which John was a witness qualified him to reveal a deep portrait of Jesus. Accordingly, this book contains more dialogue and commentary on the words and works of Jesus than the other gospels. We learn from more explicit statements about Jesus' character and mission and from fewer types and pictures.
Although John seems to be a reflective and thoughtful person, he was not a passive man. In fact, he was a vigorous, if at times misguided, defender of his Lord (Mark 9:38, Luke 9:54). Jesus called him and his brother James, Boanerges, that is, the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17).
Despite the close human touch that John experienced with Jesus, one fact became clearer and clearer to John, not only when he was with Jesus, but also upon later reflection before he began to write this book. That fact was that Jesus Christ was truly God Himself come in the flesh. Such an amazing idea dominates the gospel of John, and we can see the need for the hand of God to guide John to even begin to write these things out.
There are several observations we can make in the gospel of John which demonstrate the theme of Jesus' divinity. One observation concerns the different references to Jesus Christ which are almost too numerous to count: "word," 1:1; "light," 1:5; "lamb," 1:29,36; "Jacob's ladder," 1:51; "temple," 2:19-21; etc. The variety of words associated with Jesus supports the idea that Jesus is God Almighty, for no one single name or label is adequate to describe His infinite attributes.
Another observation concerns Jesus' own explicit personal testimonies to His divinity. Notice the use of "I am" in 8:24,28,58, 13:19. In fact, all the "I am" parts of the phrases and sentences Jesus speaks are His divine testimony. For example, "I am the bread of life" (6:35) really means "I am" is the bread of life; that is, God is the bread that gives and sustains life. Similarly, the phrases "I am the light of the world" (8:12, 9:5) and "I am King of the Jews" (19:21) are also "I am" testimonies to His divinity.
To these two observations, we can add the many other evidences in the gospel of John which show Jesus is God. See for example, 1:1,14,48, 2:9, 3:2,31, 4:17,18, 5:17,18,23, 6:40,44,54,64, 7:23, 8:6,9, 9:7,30, 10:18,33, 11:43,44, 12:41,48, 13:18, 17:5, 18:37, 20:28,31.
5. Observations on Specific Verses
a) John 1:1
This verse does not mean Jesus had a beginning which coincided with that of the universe. It means that Jesus was present at the creation of the universe. In fact, He was the Creator, as we read in verse 3 (Isa. 45:11,12, Col. 1:16).
b) John 1:10-12
This statement about the world-wide scope of the Gospel's concern follows a declaration of Jesus as Creator. To some of those whom He gave physical life with His own hands, He also gave new life as sons of God. The words "his own" in verse 11, reflect back to the words "the world" in verse 10 and refer especially to men of all nations of the world. They are all His creation, and His salvation is directed to men throughout the world, no matter what their nationality.
It is instructive to note that verse 12 illustrates the necessity of comparing Scriptures with Scriptures. While the action of "receiving" Jesus and the life that is in Him seems to be in the personal power of man, John the Baptist comments in 3:27 that receiving is an action which must be given to a man by God as a gift. As in creation, all things concerning salvation originate from God's hands alone (see John 1:13).
c) John 1:17
This verse points out the contrast between the Law and grace. The best illustration of this verse is found in the book of Joshua. The Israelites are a picture of the elect, people whom God will save. The land they are about to enter is a picture of Heaven, the country of which the believers are citizens, once they are saved. Moses is a picture of the Law of God, and Joshua, whose name means "savior," is a picture of Jesus Christ. In other words, Moses led the Israelites to the boarder of the promised land, but did not lead them into it. Moses died before the people went into the land. Instead, Joshua led the people into the land. Therefore, the spiritual idea in the first two verses of Joshua 1 is that the Law was able to lead God's people to the border of salvation, but it was not able to bring them into salvation. On the other hand, the Savior does bring the people into salvation.
This line of thinking is supported by Romans 8:3, in which we learn that the Law has no power to reconcile a man to God. The Law can only condemn a man (Rom. 3:20) or show him the grace that only God can provide (Gal. 3:24). Romans 8:3 goes on to say that what the Law could not do, Jesus Christ Himself provided upon the cross, namely, payment for sin. Based upon that payment, Jesus offers His grace to His people.
d) John 2:4
This verse is part of a story of a wedding feast to which Jesus and His family was invited and where Jesus' mother asked Him to help because the feast ran out of wine. Jesus answers her request with this question. Jesus' question is not a rebuke of Mary. Also, Jesus was not surprised or react negatively to Mary's request. He never reacts or is bothered by people's requests. He is God and knew she would ask Him before she spoke. Consistent with His custom and the custom of the whole Bible, Jesus took the opportunity at this wedding to teach an important spiritual lesson.
By addressing Mary with the word "woman," Jesus reminded Mary that she was part of the human race, as if to say, "You are a woman, a daughter of Eve." Jesus wanted her to think seriously about who she was and who He is. Jesus was asking her, "Do you know what my relationship to you is?" He then proceeded to help with the feast in such a way that He answered His own question. However, before He went to work, he added the statement, "My hour (of sacrifice, John 12:23,24) is not yet come," indicating that some of the things He was about to reveal concerning Himself would not be fulfilled until He went to the cross.
The miracle that Jesus performed was the answer to the question He asked Mary. First of all, by changing water, which contains only the elements of hydrogen and oxygen, into wine, which contains the additional element of carbon, Jesus demonstrated His power as the Creator. Secondly, John 2:6 states that Jesus used the water of purification, which was used in the temple for cleansing Levites (Num. 8:7). In this light, Jesus transformed the water into wine as a picture of His blood, the only thing which can really purify (I Pet. 1:19-23), and the cleansing agent to which the ceremonial water of purification pointed.
As the guests drank, they testified that they drank "good" wine. Spiritually speaking, that means that they drank of Jesus, who is the only one who is good (Matt. 19:17). Therefore, these people were a picture of those who are saved by His blood (John 6:53-63). In fact, the wedding itself, as well as the guests, was a picture of God's salvation (Matt. 22:10, Rev. 19:9). Therefore, the answer to the question in verse 4 is, "I have much to do with thee. I am thy Creator and Savior." This is the glory of God that was manifested (verse 11).
e) John 3:5-10
This passage contains one of the many explicit statements concerning the Gospel. Yet even as straightforward as it might seem to be, it can still be easily misunderstood. Verse 5 presents two parallel ideas. Both the water and the Spirit can be understood in light of Ezekiel 36:25 and Titus 3:5 to refer to the fact that salvation means to be cleansed of sin. Verse 6 emphasizes that salvation is totally a spiritual concept. The word "again" in verse 7 is translated "top" in Matthew 27:51 and "from above" in John 3:31. The idea is that the source of salvation is above, from God alone. Verse 8 points out that no one can tell from any outward sign the moment they or anyone else is saved. When a person begins to exhibit evidence of salvation, the spiritual event has already taken place. Verse 10 tells us that these are not just New Testament ideas but are also Old Testament truths, prophesied long before Jesus came to earth to provide salvation by going to the cross.
f) John 3:16
This is one of the most well known verses in the New Testament. In fact, it is so commonly quoted that many people think that they understand it without bothering to verify what they have been told it means. Unfortunately, there are many wrong ideas about this verse, and it is important to spend a little time making sure we are thinking correctly and clearly about it.
The word "world," which this verse states is the object of God's love, can refer to the physical universe (Rom. 1:20, Acts 17:24), the people in the universe (John 12:19), or both (John 1:9,10). The love that is mentioned in this verse is a redemptive love that consummates in the salvation of the world. In this light, the word "world" can refer to the promise that God has for the physical creation (Rom. 8:18-21, II Peter 3:13), as well as His promise to the elect, those people in the world whom He will save (John 17:9, Phil. 2:15).
The words "only begotten," referring to Jesus Christ, do not mean that He is a created being and therefore less than Almighty God. Rather, they refer to Jesus from the point of view that He is the resurrected Son; for this is how the words are used in Luke 7:12,15, 8:42,54, 9:38,42 (compare Mark 9:26,27) and especially Hebrews 11:17,19.
The words "whosoever believeth" are often misquoted as "whosoever wills," implying that every man has the will or ability to believe latent within himself. But that is a wrong way to think about these words. This verse does not teach, nor does any other verse in the Bible teach that men have a potential to believe. In fact, the Bible says just the opposite in such places as Jeremiah 10:23 and Romans 3:11,12, 8:8. John 3:16 is a statement of fact, of what actually happens; namely, it is only believers "who should not perish but have everlasting life." The full story is that men do not believe as they will but as God wills (John 1:13, Rom. 9:16). Certainly men need faith to obtain eternal life, but faith is a gift that only God can give (John 6:29, Eph. 2:8, Phil. 1:29).
The word "perish" does not mean unbelievers are annihilated and no longer exist. It refers to the fact that all men originally had life in Adam. When Adam sinned and immediately died spiritually, it insured that all men who were to come from him would be spiritually dead as well. All men are dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1) and, unless they believe, they will experience the second death of eternal damnation in Hell (Matt. 26:46, II Thess. 1:9, Rev. 20:14,15).
The word "everlasting" does not mean "a long time," such as a million years, nor does it mean "until a person falls into a grievous sin," as if a person could lose his salvation later on. "Everlasting" means that if a person is saved, there is nothing that can ever change that (John 10:28). He has life that never ends.
Although eternal life begins the moment a person is saved (John 5:24, Rom. 6:23), it is more than just life that never ends. Eternal life is also a statement of the quality of life that a person receives when he is saved. Eternal life has a character all of its own. Those who have eternal life behave in a particular way which is different than those who do not have that life. There is something special about a person's behavior who finds eternal life in Jesus Christ. In fact, eternal life really describes the life that is Jesus Christ Himself. It is He, the everlasting God, who alone is life (John 14:6). Believers live because He lives in them (Gal. 2:20, Col. 1:27).
g) John 3:18-21
Many people teach that the only sin that casts a man into Hell is to reject Jesus Christ as Savior. But that is a wrong idea. It is not taught in this passage. The word "because" is more of the idea of "since," in that the person's unbelief reveals what he is like before Christ even comes to him in the first place. In other words, a person's neglect and resistance of the only escape from condemnation is evidence of his unbelief. It is true that men are condemned for their rejection of Jesus Christ, but as verse 18 states, that is just one more sin among many others that have already sealed them in their doom. Verses 19 and 20 continue to describe the actions of unbelievers and the attitude that motivates them. Therefore, we should not be surprised by men's rejection to the offer of salvation. That is par for the course. In fact, all men would react the same, unless, as verse 21 states, God works in them to behave differently. Only by the grace of God is there any hope that we would seek salvation in Jesus rather than reject Him. Otherwise we would all go to hell to pay for all of our sins.
h) John 4:35
This rather strange statement can be understood in the light of Leviticus 23, which describes the events in the Jewish ceremonial calendar. The "harvest" time is in the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish religious or biblical calendar (Lev. 23:39). It is part of the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:34). The words "there are yet four months and then cometh harvest" must mean that Jesus is speaking in the third month of the Jewish ceremonial year.
There was a Jewish called the Passover which was held from the 14th to the 21st day of the first month (Lev. 23:5,6). Another event, called the feast of weeks, or Pentecost, was held 50 days later, which would place it in the fifth day of the third month (Lev. 23:9,10). Therefore, we can understand the time reference in John 4:35, the beginning of the "four months" period when Jesus is speaking, points to the feast of Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost is also the feast of the first fruits (Ex. 23:16, 34:22).
Although when Jesus spoke it may have been the time of Pentecost, He was not giving them a lesson on how to recognize the special events in a Jewish calendar year. He was explaining some important ideas about God's timing for evangelism. The feast of Pentecost or first fruits represents the time that the gospel began to go out into the world for the first time. The feast of tabernacles or harvest represents the time at the end of the world, when the gospel plan is finished. Putting together what we have learned, we can say that Jesus' statement "there are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest" in John 4:35 means that the harvest time was just beginning. It was only the time of the first fruits. It was not the time of the big harvest at the end.
The point of all of this is that Jesus did not want His disciples to think that the only time God will gather His people into His Kingdom is at the end of time. They must not think that Jesus will come at the last day and save His people. They must remember that Pentecost was only the beginning of the harvest, a harvest that would continue until the end. The fields are ready, as verse 35 says. Verse 37 says, One has sown (God, I Cor. 3:7-9). Therefore, Jesus sends His disciples to reap and gather now, as He speaks, not later when He returns at the end of time (John 4:38). The gathering associated with the day of atonement at the end of the harvest is not the time to bring people into the Kingdom. That is the harvest for judgment. The time of harvesting for salvation is all through the summer, when the Gospel is available. Now is the time for salvation so Jesus' disciples must get busy bringing the gospel while there is yet time, before it is too late.
i) John 5:19
This verse is not saying that the Son is a puppet, mindlessly doing what the Father tells Him. We must not have the idea that there is a difference in the authority of the Father and the Son; for as verse 23 states, they have equal honor. The point of this verse is understood in light of the words "these also doeth the Son likewise." Jesus says in this verse that He cannot do anything different than the Father, because He cannot violate His own will. The Father's will is Jesus' own will as well. Jesus does not want anything else but to do the Father's will. That is to be expected because they are one in motive and will, and they existed before creation, designing the will that was to be done. What else can we expect the Messiah to do, except what the Father does? It is His delight.
j) John 5:31
This verse highlights the necessity of completing the understanding of a verse by means of other passages. John 5:31 certainly does not mean Jesus' testimony is deficient. His integrity is not suspect. Since Jesus is God, His Word alone is sufficient to authenticate His witness. However, since He has set up the principle that everything is established by two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15), He abides by His own Word. For that reason, He declares that one witness is not sufficient. If we put the word "only" before the word "witness," so that the idea of the verse is, "If I am the sole witness," then the verse is clear. Jesus' witness is still proper and true. But according to His own rules, another witness is needed. This observation is supported by John 8:14-18. In fact, Chapter 5 goes on to list several supporting testimonies other than Jesus' own words. One is John the Baptist's testimony (5:33), another is Jesus' own works (5:36), another is the Father's testimony (5:37), and another is the Word of God (5:39).
k) John 6:15, 18:36
These verses clearly show that Jesus' Kingdom is not a physical kingdom in competition with all the other kingdoms of this world. Having witnessed Jesus' physical miracle (John 6:14), the people wanted to forcefully make Him their political earthly king. Jesus quickly departed, not because he was afraid of what the Roman authorities would think, but because His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); it is not a physical kingdom like all the other nations of the world (Luke 17:20, Rom. 14:17, I Cor. 15:50, Col. 1:13, I Thess. 2:12, Rev. 1:6).
John 6:26 points out that most men's desire and expectation is a physical kingdom. In fact, when many who followed Him perceived that their expectation would not be fulfilled, they forsook Him (John 6:66).
Incidentally, there is a common misunderstanding of the word "disciple" that is corrected in John 6:66. Many people use the word "disciple" to refer to a Christian who has reached a certain level of maturity. The idea is that a disciple is more faithful than the average Christian. However, the Bible does not make any such distinction among Christians. In fact, the word "disciple" is a general term that refers to anyone who outwardly follows Jesus, and according to John 6:66, may not even be saved at all. That is why Jesus, in John 8:31, warns His believers that if they consider themselves a disciple, they must really be a disciple and demonstrate it by their behavior.
l) John 6:29, 44
We must not miss this important testimony to the source of faith. We must not think of faith as an ability which we inherently possess and control. Instead, we must think of faith as a gift which God gives to those whom He saves and which is evidence that they have already been saved by Him (Eph. 2:8,9). Similarly, the action of a man coming to God must be thought of, not as a display of that man's ability, but as evidence that God is drawing him.
m) John 7, 8
We shall use these two chapters as an illustration of how the many verses in a long passage fit together by tying them to common theme.
Chapter 7 could be entitled, "Man Judges God." The chapter lists different people and their conclusions concerning Jesus. In this light, it is appropriate that it was the time of the feast of tabernacles; for the feast took place at harvest time (Deut. 16:13), which is a spiritual picture of the time of judgment at the end of time (Rev. 14:18,19). It is as if the Bible was saying, "At the time of judgment, whose judgment is the one that is correct and that counts, man's or God's?"
First, we read about Jesus' own family members who assessed Jesus and made their own conclusion. They did not believe in Him (verse 5). Secondly, we read about the conclusion of the people of the world in general. They hated Him (verse 7). Next, we learn about the assessment of those who had personally heard Him teach and saw Him work. As men have always done, they made Jesus a topic of debate rather than worship (verse 12). Some thought of Him only as a good man and not for who He really was, the Son of God. Their assessment of Him was intellectual and not from the heart; therefore, it had no strength of conviction, especially in the face of opposition (verse 13). In verse 15, we read that the Jews did not think much of His education and were surprised at His teaching. Jesus warns them all that if they insist in judging Him, they better use the right standard and come up with the right assessment (verse 24). The fact is that the Jews knew quite well who He was. Their wrong judgment was deliberate and an indication of their rebellion against God (verse 28). The hatred that is in the heart of all men made the Jews incapable of giving the right verdict, no matter what the facts (verse 30). Nevertheless, some people were impressed by Jesus' miracles and made their assessment on that basis (verse 31). Verses 40-44 show the continual confusion people had concerning who He was, even leading up to wanting to destroy Him.
In verses 50 and 51, we begin to see how God graciously guides a man to make the correct assessment of Jesus. These verses capture Nicodemus in the middle of a great personal spiritual struggle. We meet him in John 3 as a man who is fearful of the Jewish leaders but is seeking the wisdom that Jesus can give. In John 7, we see him beginning to question the Jewish leaders as he speaks in defense of Jesus. The evidence of John 19:39 is that Nicodemus has come all the way spiritually as we see him taking a bold stand of identification with and affection for Jesus. God's grace is seen as Nicodemus is drawn into the fold of the Shepherd.
In Chapter 8, the tables are turned. After man has had his day in court, it is God's turn to judge. This chapter can be entitled, "God Judges Man." We see in verse 2 the Judge who sits in authority and speaks the truth. Verse 6 shows, by comparison with Exodus 31:18, that Jesus is the Lawmaker. Jesus is God who wrote the law of God with His finger on the tables of stone and gave hem to Moses. Therefore, He alone has the authority and right to judge. Verse 11 shows the contrast between the character of men and the character of Jesus the Judge. Man is always a harsh judge of others, showing no mercy. Only God can and does show mercy. Notice that this is the observation of David in II Sam. 24:14. Verse 12 states that Jesus is the Judge, inasmuch as He alone can reveal truth (John 3:19-21). Verse 15 explains this, in fulfillment of the command in John 7:24. In other words, Jesus does not judge in the same way that men judge. That is, Jesus does not judge after the flesh. Verses 17 and 18 reveal that Jesus' judgment is true, and it is supported by the testimony of two reliable witnesses, the Father and Himself. Verse 24 tells us that Jesus' judgment is final, without any appeal to another court. If a man does not see Jesus as God Himself ("I am"), then he is condemned, and that is the end of the matter. Yet God is gracious, and the very One who is man's Judge can make men free from condemnation, forgiving all who trust Him as their Savior (verse 36,51).
n) John 8:1-11
Some modern scholars dispute the authenticity of this passage, and many modern Bibles leave it out. Yet it has survived the test of time and agrees perfectly with the rest of the Bible. In it we see Jesus as the perfect Judge. Let us see how this is so.
Verse 2 says He "sat down," which is a statement of His Divine authority (Acts 2:30, Eph. 1:20-22). The word "taught" implies that Jesus has authority over the truth. We are not told what He taught, but it must have been either the Law of God, of which He was the Author, or some new revelation, which is also absolute truth, inasmuch as Jesus is God.
His "finger" (verse 6) is a reference to the fact that He is the original Lawgiver (Ex. 31:18). The words "he that is without sin" in verse 7 is especially a reference to Himself. He alone is without sin and has the right to execute the death penalty prescribed by the Law. Jesus stands alone as the supreme Judge of sinners (verse 9).
In verse 10, we see that Jesus, by the word "woman," places the sinful woman among the human race. He is her Creator. She is His fallen creature. Jesus has the right and authority to Judge His sinful creatures (Isa. 29:16, Rom. 9:21).
The good news is in verse 11. God has forgiveness for His fallen creatures (Psalm 130:3,4). He who alone could judge shows mercy (Rom. 8:31-34).
In this analysis, we see that this passage is in perfect harmony with the rest of the Bible and must therefore be trusted as part of God's Word.
o) John 8:56, 12:41
These two verses show that the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is not just a New Testament idea. All believers must trust in the Son of God, whether they lived before Jesus came to earth and looked forward to the promise, as Abraham or Isaiah did, or lived after He came and looked back at the fulfillment of the promise.p) John 9:39, 12:47
These two verses provide an illustration of how the perspective of a wider context helps to resolve an apparent contradiction in the Bible.
First, let us consider John 12:47. The message of this verse is that when Jesus came into the world, it was not His plan at that time to bring judgment. Judgment is planned for the end of time. Jesus came the first time for the purpose of dying on the cross as a Savior of sinful men. That will not be true the second time He comes (Heb. 9:27,28). In fact, the next verse, John 12:48, explains that there will be a time of judgment, but it is on the last day. Therefore, John 12:47 teaches that Jesus came the first time to save His own. However, since Jesus came, and all through the succeeding years, most people have rejected Him.
That brings us to John 9:39. We can understand the verses in the following way. Many people, either because they think they have the truth already or because they just do not care about spiritual things and love this sinful world too much, reject the truth of the Gospel. Because there is no alternative plan to avoid judgment, they seal themselves in their doom by means of their unbelief. Their evil hearts are revealed through their rejection of the Gospel, and they are ripe for judgment. Their reaction to the Gospel reveals them to be who they have been all along, men under the sentence of judgment. By leaving them in their unbelief, Jesus is preparing them for judgment. Therefore, John 9:39 means that Jesus' coming reveals and prepares those who will be judged on the last day. This happens through their rejection of Jesus. Jesus came to give grace to His people, but many others will show by their unbelief that they are not His people.
John 9:39 and John 12:47 can be understood in the following way. Jesus came the first time to do the job of a Savior. He proclaimed the Gospel in person then, and later, through His witnesses, calls His elect into the Kingdom. However, the things He said then and says now through His witnesses cut both ways. Some will believe and be saved. Some will reject the Gospel in preparation for judgment at the last day. Jesus' words spoken when He was on earth and through His people as they bring the Gospel will be used to judge unrepentant sinners (John 12:48, Rom. 2:16). This idea is similar to the logic of John 3:17-21 and II Cor. 2:14-16.
q) John 9:41
This verse illustrates the need to add some words to a verse to help complete the thought. The words that are added come from the context, that is, the rest of the verses in the passage. This verse can be understood in the following way. The words "If ye were blind" can be phrased as, "If ye say ye were blind" or "If ye admit that you were as spiritually blind as that man was physically blind" (that is, the man who we read about in the beginning of chapter 9).
The issue is about sin, as the next phrase tells us, and about judgment for sin, as verse 39 states. The problem was that the people Jesus spoke to would not recognize Jesus as the Son of God or admit that they were sinners in need of His help (verses 31-34). Therefore, the words "ye should have no sin" can be expanded to say, "If ye would come to me, I would remove your sin."
Then verse 9:41 adds "but now ye say." These words show that we are justified in appending the word "say" to the first phrase we looked at above. That is, the logic of the two halves of John 9:41 are the same, and we are correct in rephrasing John 9:41 as "If ye say ye are blind."
Finally, John 9:41 ends with the words "ye say we see, therefore, your sin remaineth." We can render these words as follows: "You still think that you can spiritually see your situation and conclude that you have no sin. Therefore, since you do not seek help, you will remain in your sin." They are spiritually blind, and as verse 39 puts it, "they which see (which say they see, but do not) might be made blind (remain in their sinful delusion)."
r) John 10
This chapter has tremendous comfort for the Christian. The comfort is based upon the complete control that God has over the affairs of men. Because this is only a survey course, we shall only highlight a couple of ideas. One comfort is the fact that those who are saved will not stray from the faith and listen to another gospel (verses 5,14,27). Another comfort is that true believers are eternally secure in their salvation and can never fall (verses 11,15,28,29).
s) John 11:43,44
John 11:11-14 is a flag that should alert us to the fact that we must not necessarily understand Jesus' words or any Biblical words in an obviously physical way (compare John 2:19-21). We must always seek the spiritual intent of what we read in the Bible. The physical events of John 11 are a picture of the spiritual salvation of the gospel. As we read in John 11:25 and 26, Jesus focus is always spiritual. Jesus has the unique authority and power to give life, as the Almighty Creator and He has the desire to give eternal life as the gracious and loving Savior.
Applying that principle to verses 43 and 44, we can think of them as teaching the following spiritual truths: one, the words "he that was dead came forth" mean that salvation is going from death to life (Eph. 2:1,5, Col. 2:13). Two, the words "he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus" mean that the dynamic power of salvation is totally in God's hand as He calls His own by name (John 10:3, Rom. 8:30). Three, only God has a voice that can create life where there was none before (Gen. 1:26, John 5:28,29, I Pet. 1:23).
t) John 13:31 - 14:6
This section of the gospel of John illustrates the fact that the chapter divisions in the New Testament are not inspired and can sometimes lead to confusion by separating verses that belong together. For example, a "where" question asked in verse 36 ("Whither goest thou?") is not fully answered until we get to John 14:2. A "why" or "when" question in verse 37 ("Why cannot I follow thee now?") is answered in John 14:3. This back-and-forth exchange continues into Chapter 14 with a "how" question in verse 5 answered in verse 6.
u) John 14:28
This verse, like many others we have encountered, cannot be properly understood without a careful comparison with other Scriptures. We cannot expect to understand a verse unless we do our homework in the Bible itself.
First of all, we must set aside one wrong view of this verse. The phrase "for my Father is greater than I" does not mean that Jesus is somehow less than the Father. After all, verse 12 uses a similar phrase, and we certainly cannot conclude that Christians today will do works that are greater than those which Jesus did. For one thing, no one has fed 5,000 people with only 5 loaves of bread or walked on water or raised people from the dead. For another thing, Jesus works in all Christians; so it is really He who does all that they do in their life (Gal. 2:20).
As it turns out, John 14:12 means that when Jesus was on earth, He did not travel very far, nor were many people saved when He preached the Gospel. However, after He went to Heaven, His disciples went to the ends of the world and thousands were saved as they preached the Gospel. This does not mean Jesus' ministry was deficient. It means that the great work of world evangelism was assigned to Christians. It was not Jesus' objective for His own personal ministry when He was on the earth.
What then does John 14:28 mean? The word "for" in verse 28 does not mean "I will now give you a fact that you should know." The word "for" is hoti and is best translated "because." That is how it is used in John 7:1,7, as well as in John 14:12,17, and 19. The idea of John 14:28 is that the phrase beginning with "for" explains the previous phrase. Jesus has said "I go (because) my Father is greater." The word "greater" means Jesus is not where the Father is, so He will go there. The Father is in a greater place than the Son while the Son is temporarily on Earth. Therefore, John 14:28 is talking about location, not personal value or authority. The Father is in a greater place than the Son because He is in heaven while the Son is on earth.
v) John 15:1-16
A common mistaken notion concerning this passage is that the word "fruit" refers to those to whom believers witness and who subsequently become saved in response to that witness. But that is not the meaning of the word "fruit." The meaning of the word "fruit" is found by comparison with Galatians 5:22. That is, fruit is a result of God's work in the hearts of people whom He has already saved. The fruit is evidence which reveals whether the person is saved or not. In fact, this passage emphasizes the kind of fruit Jesus expects from His disciples, namely, love (verses 9,12,13,17), which is the greatest evidence that a person is a believer (verses 9,10).
A person either has the Spirit and shows it or he does not have the Spirit (Rom. 8:5,9). This passage does not say that a man who bears no fruit is less faithful, but still a Christian. Instead, the passage states that those who do not bear fruit are to be burned (verse 6). A man either abides in Christ, is saved (Rom. 8:1), and bears fruit, or does not abide in Christ, is not saved, does not bear fruit, and will be cast into the fires of Hell. The issue here is not whether a Christian is more fruitful than another Christian, but whether a person is a believer and so produces fruit, namely, evidence that he is a believer, or a person is not a believer and so produces no fruit, namely, no evidence that he is a believer.
w) John 15:19,20, 16:2,33
From these verses, we can distill at least one important principle. That principle is that a Christian must not make a direct link between the spiritual blessings of the gospel and his physical experiences.
A believer must never get the idea that because he is saved, he is guaranteed certain immunity or protection from physical tribulation. In other words, there are no physical blessings that are promised in the Gospel or necessarily accompany salvation. In addition, physical comforts are not necessarily an indication of the blessings of God. Christians are not saved into the least amount of physical discomfort, but to bear witness (John 15:27) as the Spirit gives them the words (John 15:26, 16:13,14).
x) John 17:9
This verse strongly supports the teaching that out of all mankind, God has sovereignly elected some only to salvation (Rom. 9:18). Those who object to that idea say that the words "them which thou hast given me" refer to just the 11 remaining disciples, as if Jesus was focusing upon their special task as apostles. It is true that the 11 disciples were ones whom the Father had given to the Son. Yet that phrase really defines all the elect of all ages. This view is supported by verse 2, as well as John 6:37, 10:29, 15:16. Not only that, we read in John 17:9 that Jesus excludes the "world" from His prayers. So the word "world" is used to refer to the non-elect for whom Jesus was not sent and who are His enemies (John 15:18,19).
It is true that later in John 17:20 Jesus speaks of the evangelistic effort that must be made to bring the Gospel to the world. However, in this evangelistic command, He refers to those individuals in the world who will eventually believe by God's grace as "them also which shall believe." They are not included in the word "world." They may be "in the world" (verse 18), but God's people are not called the "world" here.
y) John 19:15
There is a very strong similarity between the rejection of Jesus by the Jews then and their historical rejection of God's kingship throughout their history. Compare the phrase "we have no king but Caesar" with I Sam. 8:4-9. What they said was true in the deepest sense. Jesus is not the King of their physical political nation nor is He the Lord of their lives in the sense that they do not delight to do His will. And yet, He is the Lord of all as Creator and Judge and they will obey the command to give an account on Judgment Day for their sins. The big principle is that all nations stand the same before God.
z) John 20:17
Jesus is not concerned here about touching in the sense of physical contact. After all, Jesus allows Himself to be touched, as we read in Matthew 28:9 and Luke 24:39.
The idea behind the word "touch" is of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman in which touch is that physical contact that continues into a strong intimate relationship reserved for marriage (I Cor. 7:1,2). The word "touch" is pointing to the consummation of a marriage. However, Jesus does not have any physical or romantic idea in view. The marriage relationship He is thinking about is the spiritual relationship of Himself and His bride, the church comprised of all true believers. Mary, as a believer and as a woman, is representative of all true believers.
The idea Of John 20:17 is that the church cannot expect the marriage feast and the consummation of salvation at the time of Jesus' resurrection. The Gospel plan is not complete as Jesus stands before Mary. Someday it will be; then they can touch, in the sense that the bride of Christ and Christ will consummate the marriage. Until then, there is work to be done. As He says in this verse, "go...say." The job now is to bring the Gospel to the world. Later, the time to bring the Gospel will be past, and the church will be with Jesus forever in Heaven.
aa) John 20:31
This verse does not apply just to the Gospel of John, for the Bible is one piece, authored by one God. The idea of this verse is that whatever God has spoken and caused to be written down has an evangelistic dimension. No matter what the subject, if it is in the Bible, a person who is seeking the Lord will be able to read it and find the message of the Gospel (II Tim. 3:16).
bb) John 21:25
This verse shows that the Bible is a careful and deliberate work of God. Many things could have been included in the Bible, but we must not think that there are missing books or that if the early Christians were more careful, we would have more of the Bible. The Bible is absolutely adequate and sufficient for our needs. In fact, the Bible is a perfect book, in the sense that it contains the exact amount and kind of information that God decided to give men. Of all the words the Bible could have contained, the words we find in it are the result of the sovereign plan and work of God Himself (Deut. 29:29, Rev. 22:18,19).
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