"So That You Might Believe"
Before we dive in to a Bible study, we should ask ourselves, “Why?” Why do we daily read and study our Bibles, and why do we gather together to talk about what we have learned?
The answer is simply that we believe this book to be the very words of God, as 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “Breathed out by [Him].” We were created to know and enjoy the God who spoke the universe into being, and we know him by reading what he has revealed about himself in the Bible.
John was one of the 12 original disciples. He walked and talked with Jesus throughout Jesus’ ministry. He saw Jesus crucified and ate fish with him after he was raised from the dead. He seems to have had a deep personal awareness of the love of Jesus—in his Gospel he calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. As we read, we’ll see that John was, indeed, very close to Jesus. Even as Jesus hung on the Cross, he appointed John to take care of his mother, Mary, to treat her as if she was John’s own mother.
In addition to his Gospel, John wrote three letters to churches he pastored; and, after he was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel, he wrote the Book of Revelation. (We are going to have a very Johannine year, studying his Gospel, hearing Revelation preached on Fridays and studying 1 John in Thursday night Bible study!)
The Gospel of John is going to be a great joy to study because it particularly focuses on who Jesus is and what his purpose was. When studying a book of the Bible it is important to know why the author wrote the book. The last two Fridays, John (Folmar) has emphasized that John wrote Revelation to bring hope to the saints who were being severely persecuted. This is so helpful because knowing the author’s purpose keeps us focused and prevents us from being sidetracked with details that might point us in the wrong direction.
John is clear about why he wrote what he wrote in his Gospel. Near the end of his book, John 20:30-31 says, “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.”
The very last verse of the Gospel of John adds, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:26). I think we can see in this verse how overwhelmed John was with the greatness and sovereignty of Jesus. But we also see John’s purpose reinforced. Jesus did many things, but John wrote about particular words and actions that would show that Jesus is the Christ, and that he is the Son of God, so that we would believe and receive abundant and eternal life through our faith in him.
John recounts seven signs pointing to Jesus being the Messiah, the Christ, the long-awaited Savior who was prophesied about in the Old Testament. The signs show him to be a greater Savior than the Jews expected, for they show him to be the Son of God, God in the flesh. Who else can change water to wine or multiply food to feed thousands or raise the dead from the grave? Only God can.
In the Old Testament it is God himself who says, “I am who I am,” and assigns that name to himself. But in the gospels it is Jesus who takes upon himself the name, “I am.”
John quotes seven “I am” statements of Jesus that are full of meaning and show that Jesus was no hapless victim but was purposefully teaching and acting in accordance with what his Father had sent him to do. Watch for the “I am” statements in this Gospel.
And watch for the tangible images of what it means to believe on Jesus and have life in his name. Drinking living water and having “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Eating the bread of life and living forever (John 6:51). Feeding on the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus and having eternal life, being raised up on the last day. Having the light of life (John 8:12). Abiding in Jesus and his Word (John 15:7). Pay special attention to these images, as they will help us understand faith in Jesus in a deeper way.
These works and words of Jesus are included in this Gospel so that John’s readers will believe and so have eternal life with Christ. One of the most famous verses in the Bible comes from John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. That is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ dying to save sinners, and that is why John wrote his Gospel, so that we might believe!
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