This coming Lord’s Day, October 11, 2015, I’m taking a break from our study of Psalms, and will begin a new sermon series. It is a book rich in doctrines and its applications to the life of a Christian. Says Gary M. Burge in his NIV Application Commentary on John:
Today, the fourth Gospel is the legacy of John’s ministry – and it is no less beloved today than it was in the earliest years among his disciples. Few books of the Bible have influenced the life and thought of Christendom as has the Gospel of John. Its profundity and literary energy have always been noted. Here Christians have discovered a portrait of Christ that has been deeply satisfying.
Author and Title: The title says that the Gospel was written by John, the son of Zebedee. Biblical evidence indicates John’s authorship: (1) an apostle (1:14; cf. 2:11; 19:35); (2) one of the 12 disciples, specifically, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:20); and (3) John the son of Zebedee (Mark 10:35). The early church fathers also support John’s authorship.
Date of Writing: Since John lived till about A.D. 100, a late publishing date (after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70) is between A.D. 80-100. The early date consensus is between A.D. 60-65, although John and his disciples might have published later editions.
Place of Writing: Tradition places John in Ephesus later in life until his death. If he had jurisdiction over the seven churches in Asia of Revelation 1-3, he might have made Ephesus his ministry base.
Purpose of Writing: This is summarized in John 20:31: “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Revelation and Redemption. Jesus Christ revealed the glory of God the Father in his appearing. But he also revealed God’s plan for redeeming the world through his sacrifice.
Conflict with the Jews. Jesus consistently attacked the religious traditions of “the Jews,” specifically the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and chief priests. Because of this, he and his disciples were persecuted by them.
Early Christian Needs. John writes and explains to his Christian readers many theological issues, including: (1) the role of John the Baptist in redemptive history; (2) the sacraments in worship; (3) the doctrine of Christ’s two natures, divine and human (Christology); (4) the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and his role in regeneration and sanctification; and (5) the Second Coming of Christ.
The Development of the Gospel:
Most believe that John developed his book over a period of time. Most likely, he composed his Gospel in a long series of editions, the final form of which is what we have today.
The Gospel of John differs from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) in that it is arranged thematically, not necessarily chronologically. Most scholars agree on a twofold division in the book. The Prologue is John 1:1-18, the incarnation of the Word. The Epilogue is Chapter 21, the resurrection narrative. Burge’s structure is very helpful.
“The Book of Signs” (John 1:19-12:50). Here, Jesus performs signs (Grk. semeion) and teaches in public. John uses Jewish institutions (Chapters 2-4) and festivals (Chapters 5-10) as a backdrop to Jesus’ teachings. For example, in John 2:13-25, Jesus teaches that the time of the Jerusalem temple is ending, to be superseded by himself as the true Temple. In Chapters 7 and 8, Jesus teaches that he is the true “Light of the World,” not the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast of Water and Light.
“The Book of Glory” (John 13-19). Here, John writes about Jesus’ last week on earth, when he teaches his disciples in private, and then is crucified by his enemies.