A Brief Introduction to the gospel of John

Of all of the Gospels, John’s is without a doubt my favorite, just as John is my favorite New Testament author. John just has a certain way with words. His language isn’t the best grammar, and sometimes he has a way of writing in circles, yet as he does so, he leads to major revelations in which he takes the complex and makes it so very simple that it’s not easy to miss the point. Of course, much of the theology written in the centuries that have passed has succeeded in doing so, but it usually takes an awful lot of education and training to miss John’s points!

His Gospel is unique in that it is not synoptic, which is to say that it is the only one of the four that is not always in chronological order. It is a biography of sorts, but it is not merely the story of the life of Jesus, it is a revelation of deeper significance than one would gain from a recitation of narratives as Mark’s contains, for instance. John relates Jesus’ life from a heavenly point of view, while Matthew relates it from a Jewish point of view, Luke from a Greek point of view, and Mark from a Roman viewpoint. As a consequence, John is the only Gospel author who wrote to a universal audience. Why did he write the book? Here is John’s answer to that question:

“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:31

Simple enough.

He wrote the book sometime between 85 and 95 AD, with a clear New Covenant orientation, and begins in a way that only John writes about; a deeper view of the birth of Christ. He introduces Jesus Christ to us in a way that is similar to Hebrews 1:1-4 and 1John 1:1-4 which provides us with a Heavenly overview of His nature, position, identity and purpose, beginning with the words, “In the beginning….”  The “Christmas story” is usually told from Luke chapter 2, but in John chapter one you see the theology of that story.  Thus we can easily say that Luke, the historian gave us the facts, but John the Apostle of love gave us the behind the scenes background that gives Luke’s account a significance that is the reason this birth is celebrated 2,000 years later.

We’ll get started in earnest next time, when we go back to the very beginning…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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25 Responses to A Brief Introduction to the gospel of John

  1. Mel Wild says:

    My favorite gospel, too. We not only get a fuller revelation of who Jesus is, and of God’s love for us, but also who we are in Him and our relationship with the Father in Him through the Spirit.
    Looking forward to the series. 🙂

  2. dwmartens says:

    Over the past 3+ years I’ve been reading, most days, one or two chapters from the Gospels in various versions/translations of the Bible, repeating versions when I find no other versions on the shelf. As I came across John on my second time through the Gospels in the ESV, I found myself checking the opinion on various topics of the College Press “Bible Study Textbook Series” volume on John by Paul T. Butler. Then it occurred to me that I’d not read the gospels in the American Standard Version which these study books use, so I started reading Butler’s volume on John and am about to start chapter 8.

    Knowing that you are familiar with this series of studies, it will be interesting to see when your comments align directly with Bulter’s wording, and what you add to my understanding beyond that.

    Thanks for taking on John again. John is an exciting revelation (as another of his writings is named) of our Lord and His designed purpose for us.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Boy, it’s been 20+ years since I read Butler… so I’ll be curious about that too! (I’m tempted to run downstairs and see if I still have that one, but I guess that would be cheating)

      • dwmartens says:

        You can download it as a PDF for free now from College Press’ website, but I bought the New Testament series as a book club deal when they offered it back in the day. I also have the PDF’s for the complete series now that they are free.

        And, what commentator doesn’t, as you put it, “Cheat?” We all learned it somewhere, even if it was from the Spirit as we studied His Word! (Imagine that!) And, others’ insights have helped; hopefully also from the Spirit, if they are of any value.

        • Don Merritt says:

          I’ll have to get those on pdf, thanks for the tip. I’ve given most of my library away in recent years… you know why. I do have a rule when I write these posts which is that I don’t read anything about what I’m posting until I’m done. I know most people would think that’s crazy, but it seems to work for me.

      • dwmartens says:

        … in keeping with your policy of avoiding preconceptions and letting the Word speak for and interpret Itself/Himself. Such a policy not only instructs in the Word, but leads others to study, learn and apply it properly as well. I believe that is one reason why your following is quickly approaching 5200.

        I will email you the link to the PDFs.

  3. Pingback: A Brief Introduction to the gospel of John | The Life Project-Don Merritt | franciscansonthemountains

  4. Thanks for enlightening me on the meaning of synoptic. Now I understand why john is the most common book handed to non believers/ new converts

  5. pipermac5 says:

    That is why it was no “accident” that I chose to teach through John’s Gospel in our Sunday afternoon Bible Fellowship. It is equally-understandable by “new” Believers and “seasoned” Believers alike. I CAN’T assume that everyone who walks through the door is “Biblically-knowledgeable”. I am also tying important events, such as Passover, to their Old Testament and historical contexts, showing how they are significant both in the life of Christ and in the greater Jewish-community. Where John’s Gospel has omitted some “details” about some events, I am picking up those “details” from the other Gospels.

    Some of the lessons are “tedious” to prepare, but well worth it in the end.



    (Yes, I “cheat” too)

  6. pipermac5 says:

    Brother Don, you are SO kind, because I feel SO inadequate to be teaching the Word of God. With Paul, I willingly-affirm, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) I also stand on God’s promise, “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

    I know that this ministry doesn’t belong to me, but to our Lord, who has said, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18b) As we open each session in prayer, I ask our Lord to be present among us as He has promised, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst of them”. (Matthew 18:20)

    I know that the results AREN’T up to me, that the Holy Spirit will do as He so pleases, which takes a huge burden off of me.



  7. Thank you for visiting our blog, The Horizontal Church. Your comment was that you thought the post was “pretty awesome,” so I decided to visit you and read this post, since i also think John’s gospel is amazing. I completely agree that reading it “leads to major revelations in which he takes the complex and makes it so very simple that it’s not easy to miss the point.” Then I nearly laughed out loud when you added, “Of course, much of the theology written in the centuries that have passed has succeeded in doing so, but it usually takes an awful lot of education and training to miss John’s points. Thanks Don

  8. Berni says:

    I’ve read all the gospels in cursory manner and have always stuck with Gospel of Matthew. I’d like other perspectives.

  9. Interesting stuff. I actually wrote a blog proving that the author of the Gospel of John was the historical John. Nice.

  10. To think about it, the Gospel of John is probably my favorite as well, but I have not actually considered having favorites when it comes to God’s Word.

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