In my previous article for this series, Understanding the Dual-Authorship of the Bible, I list five questions we can start using to help us understand the various books of the Bible. When we look at a book or passage of the Bible asking these questions about it will take a lot of the mystery out of it:
- Who wrote it?
- Who was he writing to?
- Why was he writing this?
- What was his original attended meaning to his original audience?
- What application does his original intended meaning to his original audience have for me today?
Let’s take a look at how answering these questions help to introduce us to John’s gospel.
- Who wrote it? The apostle John.
- Who was he writing to? John’s gospel was written mainly for Jews who lived outside of Judea and didn’t have the privilege of immediate exposure to Jesus’ ministry.
- Why did he write it? John wrote this gospel so that people would believe in Jesus, that He is the Son of God, and receive eternal life. This is stated in John 20:30,31
“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
These first three questions are the main ones you are going to look at when examining entire books in the Bible. The other two questions will be used more so when examining specific passages within those books. Another question you may want to look at when examining a book as a whole is what kind of book is it? Or to put it another way, what literary genre does it fall in? The gospel of John is obviously a gospel. But what exactly is a gospel? Basically, a gospel is simply a historical account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ written by chosen men of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
So let’s recap. The apostle John wrote the gospel of John. He was one of the original 12 disciples who were a part of Jesus’ inner circle and was with him from day one (day and night) during Jesus’ three-year ministry before the crucifixion and resurrection. He wrote his gospel mainly for Jews who lived outside of the Roman province of Judea and had not had the privilege of direct exposure to Jesus’ ministry. He wanted to get the good news about the Messiah to these Jews who had probably never heard of Jesus because they lived outside of Judea. This why he tells us, “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31).
Although John wrote his gospel mainly for Jews, his purpose for writing it is what makes it one of the best books to read and study when you first start reading the Bible. Because everything John writes in this gospel focuses on introducing Jesus to us as the Son of God, the Messiah whom God promised to send to the world so that people would believe in Him and be saved. He makes this very clear in his purpose statement in John 20:30,31 which we have already looked at. He basically says there, “Jesus did a whole bunch of other stuff which I didn’t write about, but I wrote about these things specifically to show you He is the Christ so that you would believe in Him and be saved.”
So now you have a little introduction to the gospel of John. And with this background information when you’re reading through John you can ask yourself questions like:
- In what ways does this passage show me Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God?
- And how does this (or should it) affect my life? (This is the application question.)
Now, you may be thinking, Wow, Joseph! That’s really cool. I didn’t know that. Thanks! But how can a regular person like me find that information on my own? I’m glad you asked! 🙂 It’s honestly not hard at all. All you need is a good study Bible and/or a good Bible dictionary. I recommend both. I have several but you only need one. The ones I use most of the time are The MacArthur Study Bible and the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary. But there are a lot of good ones out there. If you go to a local Christian bookstore (LifeWay is a popular one) or check out some websites like Christianbooks.com you can look around and find one you like and think you will actually use. Hope this has been a blessing to you! I am praying for you as you begin your journey into the Bible for yourself!