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Sabbath School Lessons on John
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 1: The Unique Purpose of John's Gospel *
Introduction: If you have been studying these lessons with me for a
long time, you know I love studies on specific books of the Bible.
Our lesson quarterly more frequently covers Bible topics than Bible
books. When we study topics, we change from a God-inspired order of
presentation to a human-inspired order of presentation. Of course,
the Holy Spirit inspires modern human teachers, but I feel on
stronger ground when the order comes more directly from God. For
these reasons, I am delighted this quarter we will be studying the
book of John - one of the most important books of the Bible. This
week we are introduced to this great book. Next week we begin a
serious study of John. Let's jump in and introduce ourselves to the
book of John!
- The Story Recorded
- Read Luke 1:1-2. What is Luke talking about when he writes
of "the things that have been fulfilled among us?" (He
means the life, teachings and work of Jesus. These
fulfilled the prophecies.)
- What does "to draw up an account" mean? (To organize
and write it down.)
- How many wrote about Jesus? (John doesn't quantify
the word "many," but it seems like quite a few. This
same word appears in Matthew 7:13 to describe the
number of people who will be lost!)
- How many accounts do we have right now? (We have only
the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)
- What happened to the rest? (They have been lost
- Why do you think God allowed that?
- Do you think that God preserved the best,
most beneficial accounts?(That is my
- Notice in Luke 1:2 the source of these many accounts. What
are they? (Eyewitnesses and "servants of the word." Our
lesson says these "servants of the word" are "professional
memorizers." The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the
New Testament refers to "Oral Storytellers.")
- Which would be a more accurate source of information:
eyewitnesses or professional story tellers?
(Eyewitnesses are generally the "gold standard," but
someone who surveys the accounts of various
eyewitnesses could give a broader perspective.)
- Was John an eyewitness? (Yes. Not only that, he was one
of the leaders of the disciples and one of the inner
circle of Jesus' closest friends.)
- How does that affect your view of your coming study
of the Gospel of John?
- Read John 21:25. What does this suggest about the book of
John? (It tells us that John did not begin to tell
everything that he knew. If you read the introduction to
William Barclay's "The Gospel of John" you will be amazed
at his list of what John leaves out of his account.
Barclay notes John omits the birth, baptism and
temptations of Jesus. The Last Supper, Gethsemane and the
Ascension are not reported. None of Jesus' parables made
their way into John's account. Barclay, at 1-2. Since it
seems that John wrote his account after the other gospels,
he had a specific message that he wanted to convey to give
us a fuller picture of Jesus.)
- Do you wish that more had been recorded about the
life and works of Jesus?
- If you said "yes," have you read the four
- The Goal of the Story
- Read John 20:24-25. Put yourself in Thomas's place. What
would you be feeling?
- Is Thomas's reaction appropriate?
- Read John 20:26-27. What does this teach us about Jesus?
- This story is recorded only in John's gospel. Why do you
think John recorded it while none of the other gospels
- Read John 20:30-31. What is John's goal in writing his
- What does John's goal have to do with the selective
nature of what he records? (John has two goals:
First, to guide us to believe that Jesus is the Son
of God. Second, believing in Jesus will open the door
to eternal life for us. John decided what to report
to further these goals.)
- Why does John add the note that these other miracles
were done in the presence of the disciples? (John
tells us that he knows more than he is writing. What
he knows is accurate for it been witnessed by other
- Read John 20:28-29. What is Thomas' reaction to Jesus'
proof? (He acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and God.)
- How does John 20:29 apply to us?
- How does John 20:29 fit into the purpose of John's
gospel? (Clement of Alexandria believed that John
wrote his gospel to supplement the other three. If
this is true, then John would be writing to people
who were not eyewitnesses to Jesus. We can clearly
see what John is teaching us. Thomas would not
believe unless he could see. John's audience (and we
today) cannot see what Thomas saw. Thus, we must
believe based on the record of John and the other
gospel writers. This refines our answer about what
John has in mind. Of everything he knows, he is
picking stories that will convince those who have not
seen Jesus. Notice that John reported Jesus' blessing
on those who believe without seeing.)
- Selections to Fulfill the Goal
- Put yourself in John's place. Assume Clement (and others)
are correct in their assertion that John wrote his gospel
last. In addition to encouraging those who were not
eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry, what other things would
you have in mind? (The natural thing would be to try to
fill in any "gaps" in the other gospels. It would be
natural to want to give a picture of Jesus that you
thought was not clear enough from the existing writings.
You would want to fill in those things that would help to
- Read John 2:1-3. How many of you know this story? (If not,
read the entire account in verses 1-11.)
- This story appears only in John's gospel. Why do you
think he included it?(This story shows Jesus' concern
for us goes beyond the mere basics. Jesus is
concerned about the quality of our life.)
- What kind of "qualities" are involved in this
story? (Embarrassment, joy, celebration.)
- Read John 11:43-44. How many of you know this story? (If
not, read the entire account in chapter 11 of John.)
- This account appears only in John's gospel. Why do
you think he included it? (How could the others leave
it out? What a glorious revelation of the power of
- What lessons do we learn about Jesus in this
- Contrast the story of the wedding in Cana with the
resurrection of Lazarus. What lessons do you learn
for your daily life? (That Jesus is not only
concerned about the "frills" in my life, He is
concerned and able to overcome the most fundamental
tragedy - death. Nothing is too small. Nothing is
too difficult for Jesus. Can you see how this would
give an insight into Jesus' character for those who
had not actually seen Him?)
- Read John 13:3-5. How many of you know this story? (If
not, read the entire account in John 13:1-17.)
- This account appears only in John's gospel. Why do
you think he included it?
- What lessons do we learn for our relationship
with other Christians?
- Would your attitude be different if this
story was not in the Bible?
- What lessons do we learn about Jesus'
relationship with us? (Jesus' willingness to
come to this world, live a perfect life and die
a painful death for us teaches us about His love
and self-sacrificing attitude towards us. This
is self-sacrifice in the big things of life.
These big things involve moments when you know
"this is important." The account of Jesus
washing His disciples feet teaches us to be
loving and self-sacrificing in even the little
things of life. These are matters about which
you might not give a second thought. Again, we
see a personal insight in Jesus' character for
those who did not know Him.)
- Friend, I hope this introduction to John has fired your
imagination about the Gospel of John. What important
lessons does John have in mind for us as we begin our
journey through his book? I invite you to commit to
studying this series on John to find out!
- Next week: Jesus Is the Best.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.