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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!

  1. The Story Recorded

    1. 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.)

      1. What does "to draw up an account" mean? (To organize and write it down.)

      2. 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!)

      3. How many accounts do we have right now? (We have only the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

        1. What happened to the rest? (They have been lost over time.)

        2. Why do you think God allowed that?

          1. Do you think that God preserved the best, most beneficial accounts?(That is my conclusion.)

    2. 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.")

      1. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. How does that affect your view of your coming study of the Gospel of John?

    4. 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.)

      1. Do you wish that more had been recorded about the life and works of Jesus?

        1. If you said "yes," have you read the four gospels?

  2. The Goal of the Story

    1. Read John 20:24-25. Put yourself in Thomas's place. What would you be feeling?

      1. Is Thomas's reaction appropriate?

    2. Read John 20:26-27. What does this teach us about Jesus?

    3. This story is recorded only in John's gospel. Why do you think John recorded it while none of the other gospels included it?

    4. Read John 20:30-31. What is John's goal in writing his gospel?

      1. 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.)

      2. 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 eyewitnesses.)

    5. Read John 20:28-29. What is Thomas' reaction to Jesus' proof? (He acknowledges that Jesus is Lord and God.)

      1. How does John 20:29 apply to us?

      2. 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.)

  3. Selections to Fulfill the Goal

    1. 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 trigger faith.)

    2. Read John 2:1-3. How many of you know this story? (If not, read the entire account in verses 1-11.)

      1. 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.)

        1. What kind of "qualities" are involved in this story? (Embarrassment, joy, celebration.)

    3. Read John 11:43-44. How many of you know this story? (If not, read the entire account in chapter 11 of John.)

      1. 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 God!)

        1. What lessons do we learn about Jesus in this story?

      2. 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?)

    4. Read John 13:3-5. How many of you know this story? (If not, read the entire account in John 13:1-17.)

      1. This account appears only in John's gospel. Why do you think he included it?

        1. What lessons do we learn for our relationship with other Christians?

          1. Would your attitude be different if this story was not in the Bible?

        1. 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.)

    1. 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!

  1. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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