Having heard the theological breakdowns of John’s gospel, I am acknowledging that these portrayals are most assuredly there. However, all those word pictures seem to do little for me as I am always taken back by the power and depth of this introduction –
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Sadly, most of us do not grasp what is being said here; it is a point which goes on for several verses and magnifies the concept that “NOTHING” was made without Him.
My fiance recently had a run in with a lady who is an adamant defender of Replacement Theology. (I might add that I mentioned this to my men’s group, and in that group is a retired teacher. Immediately the teacher responded with, “this is what Hitler was advocating in Nazi Germany as he was rising to power.) The woman espousing Replacement Theology, threw her hand up in my fiance’s face on several occasions. It’s the kind of gesture people use when they refuse to allow for communication. How effective it is I am not sure, but they are telling you I am not listening. As my fiancee tried to enlighten her through simple, apologetic defenses, she included the fact that the Bible is a Jewish book, written to the early church, which primarily consisted of Jewish converts. My fiancee made me proud by asserting that we need to come into line with the concept if we want to understand so many of those things that we consistently miss – like the Book of Revelation. Thankfully, the Pastor came into view, and without full knowledge of what had been said, reiterated those same ideas to this lady. (It is nice to know you are on the right track, or at least in line with your pastor’s theological position, something we were not aware of previously.)
Why was any of that important?
Because reading for understanding will help to quell the false teachings, like Replacement Theology.
Reading for depth is exactly what I want to do with John’s gospel. Having done this once before in a group setting, I can tell you that it is long. Now, before you berate me for not being concise, I must inform you that I stumbled upon a commentary by Arthur Pink. This commentary is exclusively focused on the Gospel of John and is as thick as my 4 version comparative Bible, and I value the insights I find there.
Why did John write this Gospel?
First, let me comment on the timing.
We understand that John wrote this gospel about A.D. 90. As a comparison, John wrote the Revelation, on the Isle of Patmos, about A.D. 96.
- Luke wrote his gospel about A.D. 56-63
- Mark, it appears, was writing on behalf of Peter, and wrote between A.D. 57-63
- Matthew, one of the disciples, and like John, a first-hand witness, wrote, according to tradition, A.D. 37.
It is possible that John, having read what the others had said, wanted to make a point, a point that the others seemed to have missed.
Secondly, as we come to understand by the reading of Paul’s missionary journeys, that John was ministering exclusively to the Jewish community.
It is possible that having heard Jesus say, “I have come for the lost sheep of Israel,” that John took this to heart as well.
John also witnessed the impact of the Holy Spirit, not only on the life of Peter on the Day of Pentecost but in the number of Jews (over 3000) that came to an understanding that Jesus was the Messiah that they longed for.
Suddenly, there was a great need for a Pastor. What would that need have looked like to the young disciple John, considering that all they knew about leading people came out of the synagogues, and, even though we do not see this in Scripture, is it possible that this is what Jesus might have been teaching them?
The third point I want to consider is that John wrote, almost exclusively, to a Jewish audience.
One piece of evidence for this comes from the Revelation, written some time later.
Revelation 1:11 KJV Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
Church. This is the Greek word ekklesia – a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2564 – and means a calling out, that is, (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both): – assembly, church.
We can also see from Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words that the word ekklēsia can be interpreted Assembly.
1. ekklesia (G1577), from ek, “out of,” and klesis, “a calling” (kaleo, “to call”), was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens “gathered” to discuss the affairs of state, Act_19:39. In the Sept. it is used to designate the “gathering” of Israel, summoned for any definite purpose, or a “gathering” regarded as representative of the whole nation. In Act_7:38 it is used of Israel; in Act_19:32, Act_19:41, of a riotous mob. It has two applications to companies of Christians, (a) to the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era, the company of which Christ said, “I will build My Church,” Mat_16:18, and which is further described as “the Church which is His Body,” Eph_1:22; Eph_5:23, (b) in the singular number (e.g., Mat_18:17, RV marg., “congregation”), to a company consisting of professed believers, e.g., Act_20:28; 1Co_1:2;
I know that many will not buy into this idea of John writing to a Jewish community of believers based upon one scriptural witness, so, allow me to give you another.
Revelation 2:9 KJV I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Things to make a note of here. Satan does not have a synagogue, but Jews do.
But John was not writing to Jews in general; he was specifically writing to Jewish converts, many of whom were still meeting in their synagogues.
Verse 9 above, says, “I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but of the synagogue of Satan.”
This tells me that they did not have to give up their traditions – feasts of the Jews – holy days, nor abandon being a part of the life that is found in the synagogues.
For those who wish to espouse the false teaching of Replacement Theology, it does not take much to see that God, even in this example, had not ordered them out of the synagogues but merely desired to become the center of their focus as the living Messiah, the primary person that they, as Jews, were looking for.
This word, synagogue comes up in several other NT books as well and is not exclusive to John’s writings.
Assuming then, that John biggest impact would be in the Jewish community that is now believers, why would he think he needed to emphasize, in the strongest way, that Jesus was God?
Perhaps the answer lies in Revelation 2:9 when it says,
“and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”
We Western thinking Christians are notorious for asking, how can I know if I committed the unpardonable sin of blasphemy? The mere fact that you are concerned demonstrates that you have not. So, the sole reason we ask this question is that we do not know what the word blasphemy means or what it, in its context, applies itself too.
Jesus answered this question in Matthew 12:32 when He said,
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”
Go back to Matthew 12 and see what the context is. The Pharisees, much like our modern day politicians, were attempting to repudiate, not only what Jesus had said but what He had done. In their attempts they had attributed the healing He had done to Satan/Beelzebub. The relevance, ties back into Revelation 2:9, as Jesus tells John to write this to the angel of the Church of Smyrna because this body, considered to be believers, had attributed God’s works to Satan.
If I had come to understand that this was your frailty, I would want to bring you back to center, and that might sound like this, “and the Word was God Himself.”