BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday December 8, 2013
(Knowing for sure what GOD is like)
It is the belief of most scholars that the Gospel of John is the fourth Gospel. It was most likely written sometime between A.D. 85 and 95. John’s depiction of JESUS is the most theological of the four Gospel accounts. He presents to us, a JESUS WHO existed with GOD, and, as GOD, even before the creation of the universe itself. John’s unique style confronts us with an overwhelming necessity to believe on our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST, as the word, “believe” (pisteuo in the Greek), is used in his gospel account 98 times. He presents JESUS as the focus of a cosmic struggle between light and darkness, truth and deceit, love and hate, and most of all, life and death.
Each Gospel writer seems to deliberately try to emphasize a slightly different aspect of the life of CHRIST and HIS works, but none of the writers seem to observe a strict chronological order. In fact, all four Gospels are much more “interpretation”, than they are “chronicles”, with Luke’s Gospel coming the nearest to being chronologically in order.
Scripture itself gives us considerably more information about John than it does about any of the other Apostles. John Mark tells us in his Gospel that John was the brother of James, and son of Zebedee (Mark 1:19). He also tells us that John and James worked with the “hired servants” of their father (Mark 1:20). Most scholars agree that John’s mother was Salome, one of the women who observed JESUS’ crucifixion (Mark 15:40). And, if Salome were the sister of Mary, JESUS’ mother (John 19:25), then, that would make the Apostle John “a cousin of JESUS”.
John may not have been as outspoken as the Apostle Peter, but he did possess a bold personality that served him well at the time of JESUS’ death. We know this, because scripture tells us that he was the only apostle, who dared to stand at the foot of cross, on that terrible day of JESUS’ crucifixion at Golgotha.
Jewish tradition tells us that John was obedient to JESUS’ command to take care of HIS mother Mary, and he did so, while pasturing a church in the city of Ephesus, the city where Mary is said to have died. Tertullian, the great Church Historian, tells us that the Apostle John, who lived longer than all of the original disciples, was taken into Rome in his later years, and plunged into boiling oil, and was miraculously unhurt. He was then exiled to the Greek island of Patmos, where he later penned the book of Revelation, after receiving his, now famous, vision from JESUS CHRIST.
Jerome, the author of the “Vulgate”, the first Latin translation of the bible, tells us in his commentary on Galatians, that, when the Apostle John was old in age and could no longer walk, they used to carry him into the temple. At that time, his sermon consisted of one sentence; “Little children, love one another”. It is an astounding testimony to the affirmation and belief that John had in his heart, for the doctrine and teachings of CHRIST JESUS.
He was a man who was truly prepared for spiritual service to the LORD. He had thoroughly learned from the instructions of CHRIST JESUS, and he lived a long life in conformance to the will and ways of the MASTER TEACHER. And perhaps, John, with his own life, demonstrated to us more clearly than all the other disciples that, “JESUS is Faithful”, “JESUS is longsuffering”, and, most of all, “JESUS is love”.
In verses 1-14 of his gospel account, the Apostle John seeks to put the Word of GOD into perspective, and show us the true power of its meaning, and, its effect upon the world. Here John reminds us that the Word of GOD is already here, and in fact, has been with us since the beginning of time. It simply cannot be, nor will not be disregarded. We cannot ignore GOD’s Word and get away with it. It has always been, is now, and will forever be synonymous with life. It is effective and penetrating, and it absolutely scrutinizes all of our thoughts, desires, and intentions.
In the biblical Greek, the term used for “word” is “logos” (log-os), and it, more or less, emphasizes the message of that which is spoken. Here John expresses to us that our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST personifies the Word of GOD in the flesh. He is trying to get us to understand that one of the key reasons for JESUS’ first advent, was and is, for “communication”. JESUS is the “Spoken Word”, and “Living Expression” of all that which GOD ever sought to communicate to us about HIMSELF. John is saying, particularly in verse 1, that, JESUS is both, “identical” to the GOD of the Old Testament concept, and yet, is distinct from HIM.
One can imagine how stunning this must have been to the people of the first century. Even today, many people have a problem with embracing this concept, which has now become familiar, and yet still remains just as mysterious as it ever was. Here though, we can see that, while the concept may be difficult, John’s teaching seems to be very clear. He is saying that JESUS existed eternally with GOD the FATHER, as one GOD, yet, with a distinct and separate personality. Those of us, who understand the concept which unity in a family and marriage represents, can certainly grasp the concept of “unity as one” between the FATHER and the SON.
In John chapter 1, verses 6-34, the Apostle John writes of the fulfilling of the role of the “witness” (martus- mar-toos), John the Baptist, that had first been prophesied by Isaiah some 700 years earlier (Isaiah 40:3), and then again by the prophet Malachi 300 years later (Malachi 3:1). John the Baptist was born to be the “forerunner” for JESUS’ ministry, and he fulfilled his mission well. He came to announce the coming of the “bearer” of the gift of Salvation.
It is true that in human society, if someone hands someone else a gift, and that person doesn’t perceive that gift to be real, then they probably aren’t going to reach out and accept it. Our believing in GOD, in all of HIS fullness, can be likened to that. GOD is giving us the gift of eternal life through HIS only begotten SON, JESUS the CHRIST. Believing in HIM involves seeing HIM as real, and, as coming from GOD, and then, reaching out and accepting HIM. By accepting JESUS, one also accepts GOD the FATHER’s wonderful gift of eternal life in Heaven, and, at one and the same time, becomes what they weren’t before, and that is, quite simply, “a child of GOD”.
JESUS came into the world to teach us how to live our lives under GOD, and, to teach us how to die and live again with GOD. HE taught us how to give and forgive, and, HE taught us how to love, and how to give thanks. John points to JESUS as being the LIGHT of the world, a true light for all people. In HIM we see exactly what GOD is like, and only HE can usher us into GOD’s OWN glorious presence, without fear, without guilt, and, without shame.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website