Have you ever considered the number of decisions we make based on someone else’s testimony? For example:
How many of you have decided to go to a barber or hair dresser because someone told you—and then SHOWED you—how great a hair cut they got there?
How many of you purchased a car because someone told you they owned the same model and it had been reliable?
How many of you have ever bought something on line because of the positive testimonies of satisfied customers that were posted on a handy link to the website?
How many of you went to a restaurant because someone told you how good the food was?
Well, I could go on and on because we read books, shop at stores, watch TV shows or movies, pick a doctor, choose a church—we make so many DECISIONS based on the testimonies of others.
But—of course, the greatest DECISION anyone can make in life is what they will do with Jesus Christ—which brings me to not only our text for this morning—but our text for the next several months. You see, today we’re beginning a verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John—and the apostle John plainly said that his gospel was his personal TESTIMONY about his relationship with Jesus Christ.
He’s not alone. The other gospel writers said the same thing. In fact, I would say that a good synonym for the word “gospel” is the word “testimony.” The GOSPEL according to Matthew is Matthew’s TESTIMONY about Jesus…and so on.
Well, John not only said his gospel was his testimony. He also repeatedly said that He wrote his testimony…his GOSPEL…in the hopes that it would help readers like you and me DECIDE to make that step of faith I spoke of last week and ask Jesus Christ to come into our hearts and lives…believing that He is indeed the Son of God Who came to save us from our sins. Listen to the 31st verse of his 20th chapter. John says,“[I am writing this book]…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
As you can see on the screens and in the bulletin, I’m taking the title of this series from this THEME verse. Now, if you are a Christ follower, I pray our study will help deepen your relationship with Jesus such that you come away knowing Him in a greater, more powerful, more personal, more dynamic way than you ever have before. This would be a wonderful thing to happen because being a Christian is not about trying to be good or voting a certain way or sending your kids to certain schools. No—being a Christian is about having a personal, one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ—and all believers need to grow in that relationship.
By the way, this would be a great time to invite your non-Christian friends to church. In fact, if you’re here this morning and are NOT a Christian, then I hope you’ll join us in this study every week because I believe God will use John’s testimony to convict you of your need to become a believer…a Christ-follower.
Okay—any time you plan on studying an entire book you need to build a solid FOUNDATION first and that kind of thing is built on a good grasp of the BACKGROUND…the CONTEXT..so, let’s begin there. The first thing we need to note is that John wrote his gospel in his later years while he was serving as the pastor of the church in Ephesus. God inspired him to pen these words some time after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred in 70.A.D. Some scholars date John’s gospel as late as 120A.D. and it could have been written then because tradition says John was very young when he decided to follow Jesus…and that he lived a very long life. In any case, it’s late date is important for us to note because it was the LAST of the four gospels to be written.
The other three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke—they are called “they synoptic gospels” and the word, “synoptic” means “to see together…” which reminds us that these first three gospel accounts contain many of the same stories and teachings—things they SAW TOGETHER—albeit from a different perspective.
Now—how many of you have ever wondered why we have FOUR gospels?
Perhaps ORIGEN, one of the early church fathers, answered that question best when he said that we don’t so much have FOUR GOSPELS as we have a FOUR-FOLD GOSPEL. In other words, each of the gospel writers had a particular PERSPECTIVE or PURPOSE in mind as they penned the accounts of the life of our Lord.
MATTHEW wrote to his fellow JEWS to establish the fact that Jesus fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies. One clue to this theme is that he begins by giving the legal genealogy of Jesus…to prove to the Jews that Jesus was indeed the promised One of old.
MARK wrote about the miracles that Jesus did in order to convince the GENTILE world that Jesus meets the needs of the human heart.
LUKE wrote from the standpoint of a HISTORIAN. In his writing he showed that he had done a great deal of research—giving more attention to the CHRONOLOGY and DETAILS of Jesus’ life than did any of the other gospel writers.
Well, as I inferred, all three of the synoptic gospels were already written and in distribution when John was inspired to write his own. So, God led John to include things the others had omitted…parts of Jesus’ ministry and teachings that the other three had not covered. In baseball terms, you could say that John was playing “clean-up.”
But JOHN also had a different PURPOSE in mind. You see, he wrote his gospel for those who had not yet made up their minds about Jesus—both Jews and Gentiles. One way we see this is in the way that John used the word “SIGNS” to describe the miracles that Jesus did. You see, there are three words that are used consistently in the New Testament for miraculous, supernatural events of God: “POWER,” “WONDER,” and “SIGN.” I know this sounds obvious—but “POWER” refers to the supernatural power of God. “WONDER” refers to the results of that power. And “SIGN” was that significant PURPOSE that God has in doing the miracle in the first place. Well, John’s repeated use of the word “SIGN” shows us his purpose was to lead people to believe that Jesus was the Christ—so you’ll see this word throughout our study.
By the way, over the millennia John’s gospel has been very effective in doing just that. In fact, many times seekers are given a copy of the Gospel of John to read before they read the rest of the Bible and reading the things written on its pages has indeed led many of them to believe in and follow Jesus. Perhaps this is why John’s gospel tends to be everyone’s favorite. In fact, let’s have a show of hands, “How many of you would say John is your favorite gospel?” “Is there anyone here who became a Christian primarily by reading John’s testimony?”
Another reason many people favor this particular gospel is the way God has used John to express His great love. In fact, this gospel has been called “God’s love letter to the world.” MARTIN LUTHER wrote these words about John’s gospel: “This is the unique, tender, chief gospel. Should a tyrant succeed in destroying the Holy Scriptures, and only a single copy of the Epistle to the Romans and the Gospel of John escape him, Christianity would be saved.” Luther showed his love for this fourth gospel because he preached from it for many years from the pulpit of his church in Wittenberg. William Barclay said, “The gospel of John is the most precious book in the New Testament.” A more contemporary scholar, CHARLES CARTER says,“Without a doubt, the Gospel of John is the best loved and most used of the gospel accounts. There is a simplicity to it that speaks to the most humble Christian, and a depth to it that speaks to the most committed scholar.”
I would agree….especially with his comments about its simplicity. I say that because when I studied New Testament Greek in seminary in the “beginner class” — also known as “baby Greek” because it keeps you up at night studying…in that first class we began by translating John’s epistles and portions of his gospel…because he writes such that a beginning translator can understand. John used short sentences with few if any complex phrases. He used a very simple style that was easy to translate. Paul, on the other hand, used combinations of run on sentences that can go on for half a page or more—making it much more difficult to read. But not John.
One more thing we need to know about this gospel—is that when John wrote it, the church was being attacked by its first heresy—a group of false teachers known as the GNOSTICS. Basically the gnostics believed that all matter was evil and only the spirit was pure—so they taught that Jesus was not real flesh and blood—because otherwise He could not be God. They also said that God did not really create the world because as a Spirit, God is pure and, as matter, the world is not. So, they believed that the world’s actual creator was an emanation of an emanation of an emanation of God sort of a copy of a copy of a copy. In their minds, the original—God—well, He was too pure to have anything to do with the physical world. He was detached from us and our world. He had to be to remain holy. And finally they taught that people could only attain eternal life by attaining absolute mysterious knowledge…so forget the Gospel message that God became flesh and died for our sins. Now—you may be thinking, “Mark, why even mention this? There are no gnostics today.”But—there are. In fact, the popular film, DA VINCI CODE was full of gnostic teaching. Plus—anyone who denies Jesus’ divinity…anyone who reduces Jesus from what the Bible teaches…is espousing the tenets of this old religion. But as we study—especially our text for this morning—take note of the things John says to refute the false teaching of the Gnostics.
Okay…with our foundation built, let’s get to this morning’s text: John 1:1-18…but before we read I have to say, if I were told I could only preach from one text of the New Testament, I would probably pick these verses that form the prologue to John’s gospel. I say this because, as we’ll see, they contain the basic gospel message in its entirety. The old great preacher Clarence Macartney said that these verses make up “the profoundest page of the New Testament” and I would agree. Follow along as I read and see if you agree as well.
1-In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 – He was with God in the beginning.
3 – Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.
4 – In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
5 – The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6 – There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.
7 – He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all men might believe.
8 – He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 – The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10 – He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.
11 – He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.
12 – Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…
13 – …children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 – The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 – John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, “This was He of Whom I said, ‘He Who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’”
16 – From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.
17 – For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 – No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, Who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
Are those eighteen verses packed full of truth or what!? John has indeed stuffed a lot of truth about Jesus into these verses—but I want to try and hang our study on just three of the main words he uses—words that give us a better understanding of Who Jesus is.
(1) So here goes: John says, “Jesus is: ETERNAL.
Look at verses 1 and 2. “In the BEGINNING was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Now—before we go any further—I need to explain why John refers to Jesus as “the Word” — and to do that I need to refer back to his purpose in writing. Remember, I told you that John wrote his TESTIMONY about Jesus in the hopes of convincing both Jews and Gentiles who had not yet decided what to believe about Jesus of Nazareth. He wanted to convince them that Jesus was the Son of God—the Savior of the World.
Well, at this point the Gospel message had spread beyond the JEWISH world and into the GENTILE world. Thanks to the work of missionaries like Paul, Christianity had gone from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and Greece and even to Rome itself. So, in John’s day, Christianity was no longer a Jewish religion. In fact, by this time there were probably 100,000 gentile Christians for every Jewish Christian…and John was writing to people in both people groups who had not yet made their mind up about Jesus. So he picked a term that would be familiar to both—and “the WORD” was that term. To the JEWS this was a way of saying that to see the creative power of God—the WORD that brought creation into existence—they need only look to Christ. To the GREEKS it was a way of saying that the controlling power of the universe—which they called LOGOS or THE WORD—became an actual Person. So THE WORD was Jesus and this would have spoken to both cultures.
Okay—back to my point. John begins his gospel in an unusual manner. Unlike the synoptic gospels that begin their account in a historical context, John opens in ETERNITY.
- Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus.
- Mark began with the ministry of John the Baptist.
- Luke starts with the story of Jesus’ birth.
But not John. In his first two verses John transports us to eternity past—before creation, before man—before the existence of time itself. He starts his book in the same way the Bible starts and says, “In the BEGINNING…” was the WORD. In the BEGINNING was Jesus. In fact, the word “was” here means “to exist independent of any beginning.” So this phrase literally means, “…in a beginning that had no beginning…was the Word…” John was saying that Jesus—the WORD—existed before His birth in Bethlehem and lives even after His death on the cross. He was saying that Jesus was not “made.” He did not “come into being.” He always was. He is eternal. There never was a time when Christ was not! And I don’t know about you—but that speaks to me in a powerful way because John is saying all that Jesus IS, He ALWAYS WAS. Isn’t that a wonderful thought to think?!
Well, we can’t say this about the founders of the world’s other religions. I mean, Buddha had a beginning and an end. So did Mohammed and Confucius and Zoroaster and all the rest. But not Jesus…not the WORD. No—Jesus is ETERNAL for Jesus was and is and always will be. Do you know what else this means? It means that God has always like Jesus. Sometimes we think of God as just stern and avenging—and we tend to think that something that Jesus did changed God’s anger into love, and altered God’s attitude to men. Well you don’t find that in either Old or New Testament. The Bible tells us—and especially this passage of John tells us—that God has always been like Jesus. What Jesus did when He was born was open a window in time that we might see the eternal and unchanging love of God.
It was only when Jesus came that men saw fully and completely what God has ALWAYS been like…which leads me to point out a SECOND way John describes Jesus.
(2) He says that Jesus…IS GOD.
Look at the last part of verse 1 where he writes, “…the WORD was God” or literally, “God was the WORD.” John was no doubt inspired by Jesus’ own statement. Remember? Jesus Himself said, “The Father and I are ONE; he that has seen ME has seen THE FATHER.” (John 10:20; 14:9)
So—understand—John did not say that Jesus was identical to God….a perfect copy….like an identical twin. No…in a way we cannot understand on this side of eternity, He WAS God. That means that the baby nestled against Mary’s breast that first Christmas night was GOD. The child in the temple confounding the priests was God. The Man Who taught and fed the multitudes…Who healed the sick and raised the dead…the Man Who hung on that Roman cross….was God.
I mean, when you look at Jesus Christ, you are not seeing an isolated JEW who lived a brief span of years 2,000 years ago. No…you are looking at ETERNAL GOD, Who existed before time began. This means that everything that can be said about God the Father can be said about God the Son. Jesus is in every way God, yet He is a separate person from God the Father. In their New World Translation of John, the Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this phrase in verse 1 like this: “and the word was a god.” They do this by supplying the indefinite article “a” but there is no indefinite article in the Greek.
So—unlike any other widely-followed religious leader in history, Jesus Christ made a unique claim. He declared Himself God. Not a god, not god-like, but God incarnate – the Creator of the universe in human flesh. John underscores and affirms this truth in verse 3 by saying, “Through Him (the WORD) all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Literally this says, “Every single part of the universe came into being through Him.” John was saying that, as God, Jesus created everything from atoms to suns.
And while we’re on the subject, not only did Jesus create the universe—in Colossians 1:17 Paul reminds us that even now, “…the universe as a whole in Him holds together.” We speak of the law of gravity that holds the things of this planet in place…when it would be more accurate to speak of the law of Christ that holds not just the earth and the things on it in proper position but also holds the entire universe together…beginning with the atoms that make up your body…all of it is held together by Jesus. I once heard a powerful sermon by Louie Giglio in which he talked about a very important protein that is in the cells of our bodies—a protein called LAMININ. He heard about this from a molecular biologist who heard him speak one night. This biologist told him that in our body’s cells organize themselves into certain molecular structures…and that there are between 10 and 16 thousand different proteins in our bodies. One of the proteins that scientists have identified is laminin. Basically these laminin proteins are cell adhesion molecules—because they literally hold our cells together. In construction terms they are the “re-bar of the human body” in that they are like those steel wires and rods contractors put down before they pour concrete. That REBAR holds the concrete together and LAMININ molecules hold our bodies together.
To explain why I bring this all up I need to show you a scientific diagram of a laminin molecule.
Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t it make that verse come alive? Let me say it again as you look. Paul says, “In Him—in JESUS—the universe as a whole holds together.” Here’s a photo of an actual laminin molecule. I don’t know about you but that blows me away—because it reminds me of the Bible’s clear teaching—that Jesus is God—the Creator—Who made me—and holds not just my BODY together…but my LIFE together! I mean, I read this text from John and think back on all the tough times I’ve had in life, the physical ailments…surgeries…the cancer…the emotional crises brought on by the stresses of life…like the death of a loved ones. I look back and I can see that YES…JESUS…THE WORD MADE FLESH…He held me together in those times.
Even now, He holds me in the palm of His almighty hand! Doesn’t that bring you comfort? Doesn’t it re-assure you to know that Jesus—GOD—holds you?! Listen to a paraphrase of this verse from Colossians:“Jesus was before all else began and it is His power that holds everything together.” Jesus is God…the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Listen to some other texts that support this fact. Hebrews 1:1-3 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…”Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist.”
So, to review. John says Jesus is ETERNAL…Jesus is GOD…and then he uses one more word to describe the WORD. As I have already alluded…
(3) John says that in Jesus the Word became FLESH.
Look at verse14 where John writes, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In other words, John says that the eternal Jesus—God—Who created us—became flesh to redeem us…to RE-create us, as I said last week. Contrary to what Gnostic teachers were saying, in Jesus the Holy God created this world and then became flesh in order to re-create it. He’s not detached from us—no, He left Heaven and “made His dwelling among us.” Evangelist Leith Anderson tells of a time he visited the Philippine capitol, Manila. He says,
“I was taken, of all places, to the Manila garbage dump and saw something I have never seen anywhere. On the dump in Manila there are tens of thousands of people who make their homes. Shacks are constructed out of the things other people have thrown away, and their children are sent out early every morning to scavenge for food out of other people’s garbage, so they can have family meals. People have been born and grown up there on the garbage dump. They have had their families, their children, their shacks, their garbage to eat, finished out their lives, and died there without ever going any place else, even in the city of Manila. It is an astonishing thing. But, what caught my attention as much, if not more, is that there are Americans who also live on the garbage dump. They are American missionaries, Christians who have chosen to leave this country and go there to communicate the love of Jesus Christ….to people who otherwise would never hear it or receive it. That is amazing to me.
People would leave what we have to go and live on a garbage dump. Amazing, but not as amazing as Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth. The Son of God made that journey, and He knew what He was doing. He knew where He was going. He knew what the sacrifice would be.
He journeyed from heaven to earth on a mission to save the human race. For the earth and humanity he had created had gone terribly wrong. Sin had turned us against God and polluted our earth, [once] full of paradise to what sin has left it to become. I think if God had a consultant who was a modern business person, probably the advice would be to cut his losses and forget about this human race and start over someplace else. Except God so loved the world and us in it that He sent His One and Only Son from heaven to earth.”
John’s powerful prologue forces us to face a dilemma. I mean we read his TESTIMONY that Jesus Christ is the eternal God—the Creator—become flesh…Who came to earth to die on the cross in order to save us from our sins…and we are compelled to decide whether or not to BELIEVE what John has written. Do you remember what I said about John’s purpose? He wrote these words, that we might BELIEVE…and in that BELIEF…in that commitment…we might have life…ABUNDANT life…life like Adam and Eve experienced every day before the fall…life as it was intended to be….a caliber of life that in comparison to life without Jesus…is more like DEATH than life.
John says that when Jesus came He was rejected by some—but those who received Him…those who BELIEVED in His name were given this life…a life reserved for the children of God.
Well, here’s the dilemma. What about you? What are you going to do with John’s testimony? Will you accept or reject the WORD?
LET US PRAY
Let the WORD OF CHRIST dwell in you richly
and whatever you do…in word or in deedDo it all in the NAME OF CHRIST giving thanks to God the Father