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Introduction to the Gospel of John

John 1:1-3, 14

Today we begin a new series through the book of John and as we begin, we need to understand the author and time period as well as the background and theme of the book. Although John’s name does not appear in his gospel account early church tradition consistently identifies John as the author. The early church father Irenaeus (A.D.130-200) was a disciple of Polycarp (A.D. 70-160), who was a disciple of the apostle John, and he testified on Polycarp’s authority that John wrote this gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia Minor when he was advanced in age. John wrote his gospel about 50 years after the ministry of Christ (80-90 A.D.). John’s gospel is complementary to the other three gospel accounts, containing largely different material.

John and  his older brother James (Acts 12:2) were known as the “sons of Zebedee” (Matt 10:2-4) and Jesus named them “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17). John was an apostle, an eyewitness to our Lord’s ministry, and became a pillar in the church at Jerusalem (Gal 2:9). He went to Ephesus before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) and there wrote his gospel as well as his three epistles (he wrote Revelation while exiled to isle of Patmos). His theme is found in John 20:31–“these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” His purpose was evangelistic and apologetic. He organized his gospel around seven signs or miracles that reinforced Jesus was God, leading to faith in Him. In addition, there are seven emphatic “I am” statements that identify Jesus as the Messiah. John presents Jesus as the Son of God. The first three Gospels major on describing events in the life of Christ. John emphasized the meaning of those events.

As we start into chapter one, we see the incarnation of the Son of God (1:1-18). Jesus is the Word (1-3, 14). Just as our words reveal our hearts and minds, so Jesus Christ, the “Word,” reveals God’s heart and mind to us. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:11), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is everything God could to say to mankind.

Then we see that Jesus Christ is the eternal Word (1-2). John uses the phrase “In the beginning” to refer to the beginning of the time-space-material universe, highlighting the eternal pre-existence of Jesus Christ, the Word. This is described theologically as the eternal sonship of Christ. Matthew and Luke list Christ’s human genealogy, proving his humanity. John lists no human genealogy because he is emphasizing Christ’s deity. Jesus said in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Describing Christ as “The Word” serves as a bridge to reach both the Jews and the Greeks. The Greeks used “logos” in a philosophical sense as the embodiment of wisdom and reason. Jews understood the term to describe an aspect of God. The Word, the second person of the trinity had always experienced intimate fellowship with God the Father throughout eternity. But He willingly gave up the splendors of heaven, taking the form of a man to die on the cross for the redemption of mankind.

Next we see that Jesus Christ is the creative word (3). There are parallels between John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1, the new creation and the old creation. God created the worlds through His word; He spoke, and it was done. God created all things through Jesus Christ (Col 1:17, 17). Jesus Christ was the agent responsible for creating everything in the universe. “Was made” is perfect tense in the Greek, which means a completed act. Creation is finished, it is not a process still going on as evolutionist would have us believe.

Finally we see that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word (14). God robed Himself in human flesh. The infinite became finite; the eternal was confined to time; the invisible became visible; the Supernatural One reduced himself to the natural. He did not, however, cease to be divine. Christ gave up His glory but not His deity. He voluntarily restrained the use of His divine attributes when He took on human form. Though John’s emphasis is the deity of Christ, he makes it clear that Jesus came in the flesh and was subject to the infirmities of human nature. Jesus grew weary, thirsty, tired, he groaned and wept, he bled and he died. “The Word” was not an abstract philosophical concept, but a real Person. “Dwelt” means to pitch a tent, to tabernacle, a temporary and ordinary dwelling. “We have seen His glory” through that ordinary body the personage and power of God shone through. The disciples and many others saw the wondrous miracles that authenticated that Jesus was God. Peter, James, and John also were with Christ on the mount of transfiguration when Christ’s glory was seen in full array. Jesus Christ was full, brimming with “grace” in the way he lived and treated people, and “truth,” the words he spoke changed peoples’ lives and granted them life eternal.

That grace, “God’s undeserved favor” or “God’s divine enablement,” and great truth change men’s lives now as well as their eternal destiny and it is available to all who will trust Him. (John 1:16)