The Gospel of John is considered by most believers to be their favorite book of the Bible. John’s Gospel is amazing. Recently, I was happy to receive a question about the Gospel of John. See what you think about the question. The questioner’s name is Josh, who asked,
“Hello and thank you so much for your time. In all the years you have preached and been a Christian, what is your thoughts on the gospel of John vs the other three. When I read Matthew, Mark and Luke I find myself highlighting all these teachings of Jesus. Now when I read John it seems like all the teachings and commandments are not as much but the focus is more on believing in Jesus with all your being. In the other three for example there is not as much focus on Jesus saying believe in me I am the Son of God but rather the focus seems to be on obedience and his teachings. Now when you read John it seems like the focus is not on commandments as much as it is believing in Him. What is your thoughts? It seems as if when you read the first three gospels salvation is based upon the teachings of Jesus and how close you follow them. IN the gospel of John it seems as if salvation is based upon believing in Him. Now of course I know it takes both in the end but if one just read the gospels it seems like a big jump from the first three to John. I hope I have made since.”
Yes, these are some insightful observations and excellent questions. As requested, here are some of my thoughts,
All the Gospels are unique and distinct. The Gospel of Matthew covers 5 major teachings of Christ in His ministry and uses a number Old Testament scriptures to prove Jesus to be the Christ. Mark is brief, but comprehensive and divinely precise in presenting Jesus’s personal devotions and the great influence of Christ’s ministry. Luke is very unique from these. Luke focuses and records the last year of Jesus’s ministry in detail while Jesus traveled from Galilee to Judea, and you can find that last year in Luke from chapters 9–19.
The Gospel of John is amazing. John focuses on Jesus’s ministry in Judea. The Gospel of John demonstrates the qualities of a legal document. You may have noticed that it was John who let Peter into the court of the High Priest when Jesus was tried. Why did John have access to the court and how does he know so much about the Law and its application of jurisprudence in the Jewish courts? We can make some intelligent inferences why, but simply, John knew how to use the standard of evidence in the Law that he learned about from Christ. When we read John, we read John presenting Jesus’s legal proof for being the Christ in John 5 and 8. We also read His Gospel as John testified about Jesus’s life, miracles, death, burial, and resurrection (John 19:35; 20:30–31; 21:24).
Under the Law of Moses, a person charged of a crime must have two or three eyewitnesses against him that could be examined. By this process, witnesses could be easily found out to be false witnesses or prove to be true by their reports agree on 2 or more points without 2 or more contradictions. Those witnesses could be writings, monuments, or examinations of a single witness. This standard of evidence is used by Christ in John’s Gospel and commanded to be used by the Church (2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; Heb 10:28). The references to witnesses is found throughout the Gospel of John, because John’s gospel is very much an ancient affidavit testifying of Jesus of Nazareth and confirmed by the early church (John 21:24). The whole of the Gospels form a casebook of evidence for Jesus Christ, and in such fashion, that it is perfect to prove historical fact. Likewise, police reports record the history of legal offenses. The standard of 2 or more witnesses is still the standard for historical proof today. Even scientific evidences, must prove past experiments and be recorded in scholarly journals. Good professors require there students to prove each point with 2 or more primary sources. The standard of 2 or 3 witnesses still applies today in the United States for legal wills, marriages licenses, and charges of treason in the US Constitution (Art. 3, Sect. 3). In John’s Gospel, Jesus relied on the universal standard of proof, and so did John in his first epistle (1 John 1:1–4). John’s Gospel really is awesome. ‘And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe’ (John 19:35).
You are right that John’s Gospel focuses upon belief at least more overtly, and that is why John refers to the witnesses so much. The other Gospels do speak more of Jesus’s teachings, but recognize that the locations differ from Matthew and Mark recording Jesus’s work in Galilee, Luke while traveling, and John in Judea where Jesus is proving Himself to be the Christ. However, I do not see John emphasizing believing over obedience. John does refer to Jesus’s words concerning those who really love Him will have His Word and keep it (John 14:23–24). Jesus also speaks of abiding in Him by abiding in His word and those who do not will be thrown into the fire (John 15:6–7). John evidently did not record Jesus’s teaching in Galilee, because he knew that Christ already had those teachings in writing. Therefore, I do not see the “synoptic” Gospels, the first 3 Gospels, as a great jump to John. John is more like the perfect cap uniting all the Gospel testimonies. Regarding obedience and faith, we know that real faith produces works (Jas 2:14–26).
John apparently knew the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. For instance, John refers to Jesus’s baptism, but John does not depict the event again like Matthew and Mark (John 1). John referred to Jesus’s predictive words concerning baptism in John 3:5 before Christ instituted baptism after His resurrection in Matthew 28:19. John also recorded Jesus’s words referring to the Lord’s Supper in John 6:51–56, but John does not record the Lord’s Supper in John 13 as the others Gospels do. John described Jesus washing feet and speaking and preparing His disciples for their coming work after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension. There is more to be seen for how John supplemented Matthew and Mark. Luke’s Gospel also supplements the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Luke mentioned that previous narratives had been written by apostles in Luke 1:1–3. Luke supported the teachings in Matthew showing that what Jesus taught in His last year matched His teachings in the beginning (Matt 5–7; Luke 12:22ff), and that Jesus taught the same in different locations (Matt 5–7; Luke 6).
I also find that John wrote his gospel and his first general epistle before Peter and Paul died. Peter died about AD 67 and Paul died about AD 65. The reason I see this is 1 John 1:4 where John speaks for and of the apostles as witnesses of Christ, and in the present tense, he says, ‘And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.’
You asked me about one of my favorite subjects, so I may have given you much. May God bless you in your studies.”