Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
With this study we begin our searching the Scriptures together.
A few things before we begin.
First, as to the manner in which we ought to engage in Bible study: May we ever be as the Bereans! May God grant us His grace and Holy Spirit to search the Scriptures as becomes Christian nobility! May the profit of our searching be our sanctification unto the praise of God!
Second, we plan on continuing a study of the gospel according to John. This study was begun a few years ago in this magazine by the Rev. Carl Haak. The reader or societies which are interested in studying John and who do not have Rev. Haak’s previously published articles are welcome to copies of these. Just contact the business office of the SB.
Third, as we study the Scriptures together there may be questions the reader may have. Here is an open invitation to ask them of me in the pages of this magazine. I do not claim, of course, to have all the answers. But certainly we shall search the Scriptures together, and be built up in our faith!
The gospel according to John was inspired for a special purpose. That purpose is expressly stated in John 20:31: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” Though the text tells the reason, first of all, why Jesus’ signs (miracles, v.30) were written down, it is clear from the whole book of John that the whole book was written for the same purpose. John is inspired by the Spirit of God to reveal the identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and to give faith and life through His name!
I would like the purpose of John expressed in John 20:31 to be our “mountaintop,” from which we view the fertile plain which is this entire gospel. This being the case, three things follow which will be important for our study of John.
First, since the Spirit inspired John to reveal that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, we ought to search John especially for this truth. In other words, we ought to be focused. To be sure, we should learn everything we can about every aspect of this Word of God. We must know, for example, who the Pharisees are of whom John speaks. We ought to investigate the various ceremonies involved in the Old Testament Passover feast, and other feasts mentioned in John. And knowing the geography of Palestine will be helpful. But in all things we must see how Jesus is set forth as the Christ, the Son of God. If we miss this, then our study will be hindered.
Second, since the Spirit’s purpose for writing John is that we believe what is said of Jesus, then we too will want to be confirmed and built up in our faith. We want to know the Scriptures, and to be able intelligently to discuss them and witness to the truth. But our primary purpose is to believe, and to grow in faith in Jesus the Christ of God!
Third, since the Spirit’s purpose in writing John is that we believe what is said of Jesus in order that believing we might have life, as we study John we will want to be appreciating more and more that life we have in Christ. Our goal, too, will be that our believing study will help us to live out of that life, and to look forward to the glorification of that life in heaven.
The first chapters of John seen from the mountaintop
* Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
The reader will note how the identity of Jesus as the Christ the Son of God is brought out in every chapter of the book of John. The whole book is, as one commentator has said, a veritable “self-disclosure” of Jesus. In John Jesus is revealed: both through His own deeds and words, and through John’s inspired commentary on the blessed Savior.
See how this is the case! In the beginning verses we are introduced to One, Jesus, who is the eternal Word of God, very God Himself and the revelation of this God (1:1-18). In the same chapter Jesus is pointed out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29,36). In chapter 2 He performs His first miracle at the marriage in Cana, showing plainly His divine, creative person and His office as Messiah. John 3 reports that the Son was sent into the world to be its Savior. And so on through the chapters: the revelation of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God!
That ye might believe!
John emphasizes the importance of true faith in this Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of God. More than Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined, John uses the verb “believe.” In addition, there is much instruction given on true faith, and many miracles are recorded in John for the express purpose, as John says, “that ye might believe.”
Thus we read that John came to bear witness of the light, that all through Him might believe (1:7), and that as many as received (believed) Christ, to them gave He power to become the sons of God (1:12); that the disciples when they witnessed the miracle of Cana believed (2:11); that the Son of God is sent that whosoever believeth on Him might have everlasting life (3:16). Faith is described as “drinking” of the water Jesus gives (4:14); believing Christ is believing Moses and all of the Old Testament which testifies of Him (5:39ff.); and in John 6:50, believing is described as eating Christ, the bread of life.
Having life through His Name!
What blessed life there is through the Name, and believing the Name of Jesus! This life of faith, John teaches, is a life not from blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (1:13). Further, the life we receive through faith is a life of the fullness of God in Christ (1:16); a born-again life (3:1-13); a life sustained by the water of life which is a well of water springing up into everlasting life (4:14). It is a life, too, of body and soul due to the Father’s raising up the dead, the Son quickening whom He will (v. 21), and our being raised up in the resurrection unto life (v. 29). And in John 6, through the record of the feeding of the 5000, we learn of the abundance of the life Jesus gives: for eating of this One, the bread from heaven, is to have everlasting life (v. 47).
For study, meditation, and discussion:
* The Bereans “searched” the Scriptures daily. They probably did not have concordances and commentaries as we do. Discuss how these “helps” to our searching are beneficial. What else is important for our searching the Scriptures?
* In introducing this study I have suggested a “perspective,” a viewpoint from which we might study John. Do you think that the entire Scriptures may be read, for our edification, from this same vantage point of John 20:31?
* I have cited only some examples of how John, in the first chapters of his gospel, reveals that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and leads us to faith in Him. Search these Scriptures yourselves for many more examples!
* Since John 20:31 is our “vantage point,” let us make sure we are familiar with the names “Jesus,” “Christ,” “Son of God,” and what these signify. Also, be sure to understand “faith,” and “believing,” and the “life” we have through faith. You may wish to consult the Heidelberg Catechism for a summary of Scripture’s truth regarding the names of the Mediator: L.D. 11-13, and also L.D. 7 on “faith” (cf. also The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 14). But most importantly: discern from the Scriptures all that these names and words mean.
* The purpose of the Spirit through John is that God’s elect might believe — for the first time, and, when they are given faith, that believers might also continue to believe and be strengthened in faith. What does this purpose in John 20:31 teach ought to be our focus and goal as we witness to those who do not believe? John’s purpose in our believing is that we might “have life.” What is life without faith? How does one know when he or she has life? How do we live, enjoy, and show the life we have? What is the origin of the life of which Jesus speaks? Can you show all this from Scripture?
Next time I hope to study with you John 7:32-36.
May God richly bless our Bible study!