THE GOSPEL OF
O U T L I N E
(P) = Perea; (G) = Galilee; (S) = Samaria; (J) = Jerusalem or Judea
Not a Synoptic Gospel. The first three gospels are sometimes called “synoptic” gospels because they give a synopsis of the Lord’s life and ministry. John is different. John gives us the Lord as seen through the lens of Christianity. John was the only New Testament writer that wrote after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. John wrote around A.D. 90, by which time John had been a Christian for sixty years! At that time a powerful heresy was in the making, a group known as the “Gnostics” with so-called “higher knowledge”. The Gnostics were denying some of the fundamental truths concerning the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. John’s gospel and epistles combat that heresy. Another difference is that the synoptic gospels focus on the Lord’s ministry in Galilee, and do not bring in the Lord’s time in Jerusalem until His final visit prior to His death. The vast majority of John’s gospel brings out the other visits to Jerusalem and Judea (see right-hand column of outline) for the feasts, etc. (Deut. 16:16). One reason the majority of John’s gospel takes place in and around Jerusalem is that the Spirit is highlighting the Person of Jesus as a contrast to Jerusalem in every way. In the synoptic Gospels, we have Christ presented to man to be received, but man fails the test and Christ is rejected. In John, Christ is rejected by man and Israel from the beginning, and God’s sovereign ways in grace and resurrection are brought in.
The Theme of John’s Gospel. In Matthew we have the Lord presented as the Christ, the Son of David. In Mark we have Him presented as the Perfect Servant. In Luke we have Him presented as the Son of Man. But in John He is presented as the Son of God. The Apostle John summarizes the purpose of his gospel in John 20:31; “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” The great theme of this gospel is that the God has sent His Son into the world to make the Father know, and that God can only be known in the Person of His Son.
“The sum and substance of all blessedness, both in this life and in that which is to come, is to know God… and He can only be known in the Person of His Son.”1
There are marked differences between John and the other gospels. The account of the Transfiguration of Christ is given in all three Synoptic Gospels, and yet neither Matthew, Mark, nor Luke were present for that event. The only gospel writer present was John, and he doesn’t speak of it! If the scriptures were of human authorship, John would never have neglected that majestic experience. But the scriptures have a Divine design, and there is a reason for the inclusion or exclusion of every detail. In John, the whole Gospel is a transfiguration, where we can behold the glories of the only-begotten Son of God! The deity of Christ comes out on every page of this gospel. We find all the essential attributes of God to be in the Person of the Son even as a man on the earth!
Connection between Matthew, John, and Paul. Matthew documents the rejection of Jesus as the Christ, and John begins with His rejection as a forgone conclusion! In Matthew, man's rejection of the Christ is the cause of Him retreating into His eternal identity as the Son of God (Matt. 11:17, Matt. 16:16), but just mentioned in a kernel-form. Then in John, the glories of the Son of God and the revelation of the Father are fully treated of. In Paul's writings, we have the glories of the Son as a foregone conclusion, and the main subject is the unfolding of those blessings that are ours as associated with the Person of the Son! There is a doctrinal progression therefore from Matthew to John, and from John to Paul.
Old Testament history of Israel
Christ presented and
rejected by His people
Christ presented and
rejected by His people
The glories of the Son,
the Father revealed
The glories of the Son,
the Father revealed
Our blessings in
association with Christ
Eight “I AM” statements in John:
- “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48)
- “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5)
- “I am” (John 8:58; John 18:5)
- “I am the door” (John 10:9)
- “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11)
- “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
- “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)
- “I am the true vine” (John 15:1)
A Transition from Judaism to Christianity. In the Gospel of John we get the transition from Judaism to Christianity emphasized in every chapter. For example: in ch.1 Jesus is presented as the new gathering center in contrast with the earthly center of Jerusalem: for the Church (day #1), for the remnant of Israel (day #2), and for the Millennial kingdom (day #3).
Seven “Hours” brought before us in John’s Gospel:
– – T H R E E P a s t – –
- John 7:30; 8:20…The Hour of His Sufferings From Man’s Hand
- John 12:27…………The Hour of His Atoning Sufferings
- John 13:1; 17:1…The Hour of His Return to the Father
– – T W O P r e s e n t – –
- John 5:25…………..The Hour of His Grace When Souls Are Quickened
- John 4:21…………..The Hour of Worship in Spirit and Truth
– – T W O F u t u r e – –
- John 5:28…………..The Hour of Resurrection
- John 2:4…………….The Hour of His Manifestation to the World
As a side note, it tells us in 1 John 2:18 that “it is the Last Hour”, referring to the dark day we live in now.
Seven Figures of the Holy Spirit used in John’s Gospel.
- ch.1 – a dove – representing spotless purity
- ch.3 – the wind – representing an unseen power
- ch.4 – a fountain – representing satisfaction and worship
- ch.7 – a river – representing channels of blessing to others
- ch.10 – the porter – representing a power to chance circumstances
- ch.14 – the comforter – representing sustenance and guidance
- ch.20 – breath – representing the character of resurrection life
Eight Signs in the Gospel of John – all to do with Israel:
- ch.2:1-10 – the marriage of Cana – Christ supplies Israel’s joy in the Millennium.
- ch.4:46-54 – the healing the nobleman’s son – Christ shows grace to the faithful remnant.
- ch.5:1-9 – the healing the infirm man – Christ does for Israel what the Law could never do.
- ch.6:5-14 – the feeding the 5000 – Israel under the Millennial, Melchizedek Priesthood of Christ.
- ch.6:15-21 – walking on the sea – Christ brings the faithful remnant through the tribulation.
- ch.9:1-7 – the healing of the blind man – Christ opens the spiritual eyes of the Remnant.
- ch.11:1-44 – the raising of Lazarus – Christ effects the national resurrection of Israel.
- ch.21:1-14 – the haul of fishes – Israel casting the Kingdom Gospel net into the sea of nations.
While the majority of the Lord’s time in John’s Gospel is spent in Judea and Jerusalem, five of the eight signs are done in Galilee! The three done in Judea were: the healing of the powerless, the blind, and the dead men (figures of Israel)!
Jesus often taught by contrast. In ch.3, Jesus used the most upright of pharisees to teach man’s need of new birth. In ch.4, Jesus used the most degraded woman in Samaria to teach the privileges of Christian worship. In ch.5, Jesus used an impotent man to teach His life-giving power. In ch.6, Jesus used a hungry crowd to teach that He alone can satisfy the hungry soul.
Gnosticism. The word Gnostic comes from the Greek word ‘gnosis’, which means knowledge. Gnosticism arose from a group of evil workers who claimed to have higher light, or “secret wisdom”. This movement began in the days of the apostles, and continued into the 5th century. Before John died the seeds of Gnosticism had been sown… perhaps even before Paul's death. John’s epistles are written to defend against it. He refers to the Gnostics as "the deceivers" (2 John 1:7), and those that "go forward and abide not in the doctrine of Christ" (2 John 1:9). Paul speaks of the Gnostic system as "oppositions of false-named knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20). Peter warns of their false teaching, and Jude warns of its moral effect on the Christian testimony. In this evil system, the Greek tendency to spiritualize and allegorize took over. To them, the spiritual was good, and matter was evil. Thus, they rejected the incarnation, because it was connecting the human with the divine. The Gnostics would try to separate “Jesus” from “Christ”, by making Christ an emanation (a shining out from a source) from God that was united to a mere man named Jesus at his baptism, but returned to God before Jesus’ death on the cross. In doing so, this evil system annulled the incarnation and the atonement. Gnosticism made Jesus a mere man, and even made their false-Christ less than God, because an emanation is less than its source. They taught that Christ was sent to make known the good God of heaven, and to expose the mischievous Demiurge (or, Jehovah of the Old Testament), who made the “evil world of matter”. The doctrine of the New Testament anticipates this irreverent and wicked system of doctrine by stating the simple truth of Christ's Person and work. Many of the false cults today are, in a sense, a modern form of Gnosticism.
Life & Light & Love. Three great principles run throughout this Gospel:
- Life – the manner of existence that the Father and Son enjoy (love, joy, peace, holiness), which is far beyond what humans experience naturally. The Son came into this world and fully displayed that life; hence He is called “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). This life is “in the son”. Not only is the Son able to impart that life to men (initially), but that life cannot be practically enjoyed and sustained apart from Him.
- Light – the character of God displayed toward man. There are really two aspects of light: (1) that which exposes man’s true moral condition, and (2) that which reveals the character of God to man. Christians “are light” in the Lord, and we “walk in the light”.
- Love – the heart of God revealed. Divine love is a settled disposition of favor. Love is what led Father to send the Son, and led the Son of God to the cross.
This provides us with a simple outline of the body of John’s gospel:
- John 1 – 7 ……………….Life
- John 8 – 12 ……………Light
- John 13 – 19 …….……Love
John’s Ministry vs. Paul’s Ministry. In John’s writings we have God presented to us, come down to us as a man; “the Word became flesh”. In the epistles of Paul we have man presented to God, accepted “in Christ”.
- Hole, F. B. The Gospel of John Briefly Expounded. Central Bible Truth Depot.
- Grant, Leslie M. Comments on the Gospel of John. Believers Bookshelf Inc.
- Kelly, William. An Exposition of the Gospel of John. T. Weston, 1898.
- Darby, J. N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. G. Morrish, 1940.
- Huebner, R. A. The Eternal Relationships in the Godhead: Fundamental Truth Concerning the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Word, the Eternal Life, and the Eternal Sonship. Vol. 1, Present Truth Publishers, 1997.