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Introduction to the Gospel of John

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            Welcome to a study of the most challenging of the four Gospels.  John is not one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) because it is so different.  The style is different and the content is different.  It is less chronological than the synoptics, but it is more theological.  Over all, John writes with a stated purpose: to convince the reader that Jesus is the Son of God, and that a believing faith in Him will result in eternal life.  John 20:30-31; 19:35  John presents the most powerful case in the entire Bible for the deity of the incarnate (incarnate = God made flesh) Son of God.  “The man who is called Jesus” (9:11) is also “the Holy One of God” (6:69).  John’s gospel revolves around seven miracles (to validate that Jesus is the Son of God) and the seven “I am” statements of Christ, thus proving His deity. 

¨      “I am the bread of life” (6:35, 48)

¨      “I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5)

¨      “I am the door” (10:7, 9)

¨      “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14)

¨      “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25)

¨      “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6)

¨      “I am the true vine” (15:1-5)

            First of all, let’s establish that John (brother to James, the “Sons of Thunder” [Mk. 3:17]), the son of Zebedee, is the author of this gospel.  Some have said that the author is the one “whom Jesus loved.”  Jn. 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20  It’s evident that the author is familiar with Palestinian geography and Jewish customs.  The fact that the gospel pays attention to numbers and names indicates that he is an eyewitness.  1:14; 21:24, 25  To be one “whom Jesus loved,” he would have to be one of the inner circle of Peter, James and John.  But Peter is not the one “whom Jesus loved” because he talks about him: Jn. 21:20.  So it is either James or John.  James was martyred too early to be the author (Acts 12:1-2), so that leaves John as the author of this gospel.  After Christ’s ascension, John became one of the pillars of the church in Jerusalem along with James and Peter: Acts 3:1; 4:13; 8:14.  The Romans exiled John to the island of Patmos for a time.  Rev. 1:9  Tradition says that he later went to Ephesus where he wrote this Gospel.  Since John’s three epistles (1 John, 2 John, 3 John) and the book of Revelation were written after this gospel, the probable date for this book is AD 60-90.  By this time, John would have been one of the last surviving eyewitnesses of the Lord.  Jerome (one of the first historians after the first eyewitnesses) wrote in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, ”When John tarried at Ephesus to an extreme old age, and could only with difficulty be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples, and was unable to give utterance to many words, he used to say no more at their several meetings than this, ‘Little children, love one another.’  At length the disciples and fathers who were there, wearied with hearing always the same words, said, ‘Master, why do you always say this?’ ‘It is the Lord’s command,’ was his worthy reply, ‘and if this alone be done, it is enough.’”  Think of it, could the disciple “who Jesus loved” really say anything any different?

            As an example of John wanting to show the deity of Christ, he opens with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.” (1:1-2)  There’s the deity.  Then fourteen verses later John shows Christ’s humanity: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (1:14)  Beautifully done.  But Jesus’ humanity is also seen in His weariness (4:6), thirst (4:7), dependence (5:19), grief (11:35), troubled soul (12:27), and His anguish and death (ch. 19).

            What’s the key to the Gospel of John?  To believe that Jesus is the Son of God!  Belief requires both knowledge (8:32; 10:38) and volition (a conscious choice or decision) (1:12; 7:17).  Those who place their faith in the Son of God have eternal life, but those who reject Him are under the condemnation of God (3:36). 

            What’s the key verses to this gospel?  John 1:11-13; 20:30-31

            The Gospel of John can be divided into five basic sections.

1.      The incarnation of the Son of God.  1:1-18

2.      The presentation of the Son of God.  1:19 – 4:54

3.      The opposition to the Son of God.  5:1 – 12:50

4.      The preparation of the disciples by the Son of God.  13:1 – 17:26

5.      The crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of God.  18:1 – 21:25

            The seven miracles are found in the first 12 chapters.  The upper room discourse covers from chapter 13 through chapter 17.  And the supreme miracle of His resurrection and appearances is in chapters 18 through 21.  The first 12 chapters are written so that you might believe; the final 9 chapters so that you might have life.

            In our next study we will begin the first chapter.  But as we make our way through this unique gospel, always read with these questions in the back of your mind: What does the author write that would convince me that Jesus is the Son of God?  If Jesus loved John more than the others, what did this disciple write that would give us insight that others might have missed?  What would be missing if John’s gospel were omitted from the Bible? 

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