Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

Gospel of John

Gospel of John

               The Gospel of John is believed to be the last of the four Gospels in the New Testament to be written.  While the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar in their common view, the book of John is distinct.  In contrast, none of the parables are recorded in John, and only seven of the miracles are featured.  Instead, John delivers the meaning of Jesus by giving the readers a deeper insight and a deeper understanding of Him.  He establishes that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah that was prophesized in the Old Testament, who was sent to earth by God in human flesh, gives his life on the cross, and then returns to the Father – all with the view that we may believe in him and receive eternal life.  According to Hahn (2010), the Gospel of John, “very quickly became the favorite gospel of most Christians and has long been the most influential Gospel and one of the most influential books of the New Testament”.
               The author is not stated, but is traditionally attributed to John the Apostle, brother of James and son of Zebedee.  Content of the Gospel and early church tradition were both considered when determining the author.  From the scripture, we can presume the following about the gospel of John and its author (Gaebelein, 1981, p. 6-7):
   * it was written by a Palestinian Jew who knew Jewish opinions and customs;
   * he was a disciple and was one of the sons of Zebedee (John 21:2; Matthew 4:21; 10:2);
   * he personally witnessed the events he described (John 1:14; 19:35; 21:24-25);
   * he was part of the inner circle of disciples, and knew of Jesus’ inner consciousness (John 6:6, 61, 64; 13:1-3, 11; 18:4);
   * it was not written by Peter, because it frequently mentions him in  third person;
   * it was not written by James, the son of Zebedee because he died prior to A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2), which is believed to be prior to when the Gospel of John was written.
It is evident that someone who knew Jesus personally and followed him throughout his ministry wrote the Gospel of John.  Gaebelein (1981) confirms that, “by process of elimination, it seems reasonably certain that this anonymous disciple and author must have been John the son of Zebedee” (p. 7). 
Date and Place of Origin
               The Gospel of John was the last of the four gospels in the New Testament to be written.  According to Keener (1993), “tradition holds that the Gospel was written in the 90s of the first century; that it could have been written no later (against some nineteenth-century scholars’ views) has been confirmed by a manuscript fragment of the Gospel dating to the early second century” (p. 260).   There is really no evidence that would give a clear indication of where the Gospel was written, but the tradition of the early church was that John was written from Ephesus.  John settled in Ephesus after leaving Palestine and based on statements from Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1), John wrote from Ephesus (Gaebelein, 1981, p. 10).   
The Gospel of John was directed toward Christian Gentiles and not Jews.  This is seen when he continually references “the Jews” in a derogatory manner and as enemies of Christ.  John frequently explained customs and often described places in Palestine.  Wallace (1999) suggests that the author uses “many explanations, interpretations, and asides which would be unnecessary if the audience were Jewish” (p. 9).  Some examples of these can be found in John 1:38, 41-42, and John 5:2.

The Gospel of John has the clearest purpose of all four Gospels:  to portray Jesus Christ as God and to confirm or strengthen Gentile believers in their faith.  This is most evident in John 20:31 (English Standard Version): “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”.  Morris (1971) insists this statement clearly indicates that John is out to show Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and aims to persuade people to believe in Him and enter a new life eternal (p. 39-41).  The audience is given evidence that Jesus is indeed the Son of God when John lists seven signs “that symbolize the life-changing results of belief in Jesus:
   1. Water to wine: the ritual of law is replaced by the reality of grace (2:1-11);
   2. Healing the nobleman’s son: the gospel brings spiritual restoration (4:46-54);
   3. Healing the paralytic: weakness is replaced by strength (5:1-16);
   4. Feeding the multitude: Christ satisfies spiritual hunger (6:1-13);
   5. Walking on water: the Lord transforms fear to faith (6:16-21);
   6. Sight to the man born blind: Jesus overcomes darkness and brings in light (9:1-7);
   7. Raising of Lazarus: the gospel brings people from death to life (11:1-44)” (Wilkinson & Boa, 1983, p. 339).
Major Theme
               The main theme of the Gospel of John is straightforward:  The way to the Kingdom of God is not by doing good works; it is by being born of God.  The key to being born again is “believing”.   This means to believe with the whole person, not just mentally.  According to Gaebelein (1981), the word “believe” is used ninety-eight times in the Gospel of John, which is more than any other key word in the Gospel.  John makes it clear that men are born “of God” and they can be born in no other way.  This new birth is a miracle in itself and is a gift of God, only obtainable through belief.  Key verses in the Gospel that signify this theme are:
   * “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God , who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:11-13 English Standard Version);
   * “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (3:3 English Standard Version);
   *  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16 English Standard Version);
   * “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30-31 English Standard Version).
Special Characteristics
The Gospel of John focuses more on spiritual themes rather than historical events.  It does not provide a synopsis of the life Christ: from birth to death and resurrection (as in Matthew and Luke) or from Christ’s baptism to his resurrection (as in Mark).  John spends a large part of his Gospel describing the week of Christ’s death and resurrection.  There is a clear message in the Gospel that helps the reader understand the truth about God, the truth about eternity, and the truth about making a choice to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.  The book contains teachings and vivid instructions from Jesus Christ on how we should live according to God’s will.  It tells us the priorities that are important in life which still hold true today.  It proves that the Holy Spirit can speak a message from God to us today, from the words written over nineteen hundred years ago.  
               Tenney (1975) acknowledges that some of the other special characteristics of the Gospel of John include the following:
   * Life:  A dominating concern of John’s is eternal life; the life that is in God and can be shared with man if he believes in Jesus as the Son of God.
   * Witness:  The term “witness” occurs forty-seven times as compared with sixteen in the other three Gospels.  The author classifies himself primarily as a witness (1:14, 16; 19:35; 21:24; cf. 5:30-47).  John’s Gospel is distinctive because of the emphasis it puts upon witness.
   * Belief:  Belief is intended to be a product of witnessing; belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to eternal life.  
   * Regeneration:  “New birth” is a metaphor developed by John and not found in the other Gospels.  He uses the entrance into the Christian life as being “born of God” (1:12).
   * The World:  There is a heavy importance placed upon the two opposed forces of good and evil (light and darkness).  This subject is prominent throughout the Gospel, but is focused heavily in the prologue (1:5, 10-12).  John shows there is only one choice between good and evil, between light and dark; we are either lost or saved; the Gospel is either true or false, and the ultimate end is either life or death.
   * Love:  A prominent theme among all Christian writing is love, but in John’s Gospel it is particularly pronounced several times including these two verses:  
      * John 13:35-35: Love distinguishes Jesus’ disciples from all others
      * John 17:26: The highlight of Jesus’ prayer is request for love that unites the Father, the Son, and the believers.
I. The Prologue: The Incarnation of the Son of God (1:1-18)
A. The Deity of Christ (1:1-2)
B. The Preincarnate Work of Christ (1:3-5)
C. The Forerunner of Christ (1:6-8)
D. The Rejection of Christ (1:9-11)
E. The Acceptance of Christ (1:12-13)
F. The Incarnation of Christ (1:14-18)
II. The Presentation of the Son of God (1:19-4:54)
A. By John the Baptist (1:19-34)
B. To John’s Disciples (1:35-51)
C. At the Wedding in Cana (2:1-11)
D. At the Temple in Jerusalem (2:12-25)
E. To Nicodemus (3:1-21)
F. By John the Baptist (3:22-36)
G. To the Samaritan Woman (4:1-42)
H. To an Official of Capernaum (4:43-54)
III. The Opposition to the Son of God (5:1-12:50)
A. At the Feast in Jerusalem (5:1-47)
B. During the Time of the Passover in Galilee (6:1-71)
C. At the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (7:1-10:21)
D. At the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem (10:22-42)
E. At Bethany (11:1-12:11)
F. At Jerusalem (12:12-50)
IV. The Instruction by the Son of God (13:1-16:33)
A. Concerning Forgiveness (13:1-20)
B. Concerning His Betrayal (13:21-30)
C. Concerning His Departure (13:31-38)
D. Concerning Heaven (14:1-14)
E. Concerning the Holy Spirit (14:15-26)
F. Concerning Peace (14:27-31)
G. Concerning Fruitfulness (15:1-17)
H. Concerning the World (15:18-16:6)
I. Concerning the Holy Spirit (16:7-15)
J. Concerning His Return (16:16-33)
V. The Intercession of the Son of God (17:1-26)
VI. The Crucifixion of the Son of God (18:1-19:42)
VII. The Resurrection of the Son of God (20:1-31)
A. The Empty Tomb (20:1-9)
B. The Appearances of the Risen Lord (20:10-31)
VIII. The Epilogue: The Appearance by the Lake (21:1-25)
A. The Appearance to the Seven Disciples (21:1-14)
B. The Words to Peter (21:15-23)
C. The Conclusion of the Gospel (21:24-25) (Keathley, 1999)

Gaebelein, F. E. (1981). The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Publishing House.
Hahn, R. (2010, July 8). Voice Bible Studies. Retrieved November 20, 2010, from The Voice
CRI/Voice, Institute:
Keathley III, J. H. (1999). The Historical Books of the New Testament. Retrieved November 22,
2010, from Bible.Org:
Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press.
Morris, L. (1971). The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
Wallace, D. B. (1999). The Gospel of John: Introduction, Argument, Outline. Retrieved
               November 22, 2010, from Bible.Org:
Wilkinson, B., & Boa, K. (1983). Talk Thru the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.on to the
References:  NIV Study Bible.  Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI. 1995.
Andy Gaus  The Unvarnished Gospel , 2001.

Rev. Steve Dunkley


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