In His divine wisdom, God chose four disciples to write a biography of Jesus’ life, so that together they would paint a fully rounded portrait of His Son persuading people from every culture under heaven to believe in Him. The first three Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are called the Synoptic Gospels. “Synoptic” means to give a comprehensive view so that the whole picture can be seen in its entirety. That’s why many of the stories and teachings in the first three gospels are repeated. Each of the writers is helping to fill in the details so we get an accurate portrait of God’s Son.
But that wasn’t John’s purpose for writing. He repeats very little from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. For example, he says nothing about the birth, the genealogy, the baptism, or the temptation of Jesus, because that wasn’t his purpose. He didn’t want to present another earthly narrative of Jesus’ life; he wanted the events of Jesus’ life to prove His Deity. As a result, 90% of what John includes is found nowhere else in Scripture. For example, He devotes five chapters to Jesus’ parting words to His disciples on the night before His death. He also includes just 8 miracles—water turned to wine, healing a nobleman’s son, curing a paralytic, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, restoring the sight of a man born blind, raising Lazarus from the dead, and the miraculous catch of fish. Each is included for one purpose only—to prove that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth with all authority given to Him by God the Father.
It is also the simplest yet most profound of the Gospels. As a student of Koine Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, I can tell you that John is by far the simplest of all the books to read. However, its truth is so profound it will take the most brilliant scholar among us eternity to plumb its depths. J. Sidlow Baxter says of it in his introduction to the Gospel of John,
“My pail I’m often dropping deep down into this well;
but it’s never touched the bottom however deep it fell;
and though I keep on dipping by study, faith, and prayer,
I have no power to measure the living water there.”
The reason is because of what it’s trying to communicate to our finite minds—the infinite power, majesty, and wisdom of the Son of God whose heart is revealed in this Gospel like no other. The Bible teacher, John MacArthur, calls it “the Holy of Holies of the New Testament, for in it the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ is displayed and what was inaccessible to people in the Old Covenant is now accessible to us in the New Covenant, because the veil has been torn in two and the way is now open, so that we may come boldly into the presence of God. In this Gospel we fellowship in the deepest way with the Lord Jesus. We hear His beating heart. We touch His wound prints and hopefully with Thomas will say, ‘My Lord and my God! In some ways this gospel is simple enough for a child, yet as sublime as an angel; as gentle as a lamb, and as bold as a lion; as deep as the sea and as high as the heavens, and yet its truths can be and must be contained in a single human heart.”
One advantage of the language, because it is so simple, is that it gives us an opportunity to learn a little Greek together. The reason I want to do so is because there are several controversial passages in the book of John which are translated in very different ways by the translators, which means they’re interpretations rather than translations. So one of the things we need to do is go behind the translations at certain points and see what the simple Greek text says. That’s our goal at Principles for Life Ministries. Instead of relying on the teachings of a church or organization, we want to develop a Biblical theology based on Sola Scriptura—the Bible as the sole authority for what we believe and do.
Join me tomorrow as we practice this Reformation principle by hearing, understanding, and believing the message of John. (At that time, I will also provide both the written and audio studies of this entire introduction, so you can share it with others.)