came that they might have life" (John 10:10).
When we come to the
Gospel by John, we see that this is the Gospel of
spiritual education. The others are largely a matter of
history the history of the earthly life, work, and
teaching of the Lord Jesus, but the Gospel by John is the
spiritual life and interpretation of Christ in Person.
Do you notice how the Gospel begins? It begins with these
words: "In Him was life; and the life was the
light of men" (John 1:4). The main part of the
Gospel ends with these words: "Many other signs
therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples,
which are not written in this book; but these are
written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in
His name" (John 20:30-31). (Notice that chapter
21 is something added afterward it is quite clear
that John intended to finish with what is chapter 20, and
he really finished with these words.)
The Gospel begins with: "In Him was life." It
ends with: "That you may have life." The main
Gospel comprises 20 chapters, and halfway through 20 is
ten. In chapter 10, verse 10, we have "I came
that they might have life."
The beginning: "In Him was life;" the
middle: "I came that they might have life;"
the end: "Believing, you may have life."
In that one word "life" we have the full answer
to our question: "Why did Jesus Christ come into
Note one or two things: All the teaching and works of the
Lord Jesus related to this thing that He called life. All
His teaching and all His works were in relation to life.
The second thing to notice is this: Jesus demonstrated
that to possess this life is a miracle, and He showed
that it is impossible to have it without a miracle. To
come to be possessed by this life is something
The third thing we have to notice is: It is revealed by
the Word of God that the possessing of this life is the
basis of all God's works. He can do nothing in us until
we have this life. He has to stand back and say: "I
can do nothing until I have My life in you." His
life in us is the basis of all His work.
So now we are going to look at this Gospel by John to
instruct us in this matter of life.
Teaching Of The Disciples
Notice again what it
says in chapter 20: "Many other signs therefore
did Jesus in the presence of His disciples."
Note "in the presence of His disciples."
John said, in effect: "All these signs that Jesus
did, He did in the presence of His disciples." That
was because it was His disciples whom He was teaching.
They were the ones who had to learn the meaning of these
things because they had to carry on His work.
So we can take it that Jesus never performed a miracle
unless His disciples were there. If there was some great
work to be done, He looked round to see if the disciples
were there. He was not just doing these things for the
benefit of the multitude, though they may have had some
benefit, as in the case of the feeding of the 5,000, but
these things were for the education of the disciples.
Jesus was most careful that they came to understand the
meaning of what He was doing. We are going to see how
important that is.
I do hope that when I use that word "disciple"
you are not thinking back 2,000 years! I think the
majority of the people reading this, if not all, are
disciples those who are learning Christ. Just as
the chief business of the disciples in those days was to
learn Christ, so it is our chief business today. The most
important thing for Christians is to learn Christ.
We turn once more to those two verses at the end of
chapter 20, and I want you to underline three words. In "Many
other signs did Jesus" underline the word
"signs." In "These are written that you
may believe" underline the word
"believe." And in "that believing you
may have life in His name" underline the word
"life." Signs believe life. The
whole of this Gospel is summed up in those three words,
and we are going to look at them now.
Purpose of "Signs" In Jesus Ministry
The whole of the teaching of the Gospel by John is
gathered around seven signs, and they were seven
especially selected signs. John says: "Many other
signs did Jesus do," and that if they were all
written "even the world itself would not contain
the books" (John 21:25). There must have been
many more signs, but John has selected seven and has
gathered the whole of this matter of learning Christ into
There are four words
used for "miracles" in the New Testament. In
some places they are called "wonders," and that
conveys the idea of something quite unusual, or
extraordinary, a wonderful thing. In other places they
are called "powers," which conveys the idea of
spiritual, supernatural energy. In other places they are
called "paradoxes," which, as you know, is a
contradiction. They were called "paradoxes"
because they were something which contradicted the
natural order of things. But the fourth word for
"miracles" is this one which John always chose
and is his favourite word for them.
He always called them
"signs," which meant that these works indicated
something more than themselves. The work was not just
something in itself: there was a meaning behind it. It
signified something. There was the actual work, but it
had a spiritual meaning and was a sign of something more.
That is John's word for "miracle."
We leave that for the
moment we are going to take it up again.
True Nature Of "Believing"
The second word: believe.
This is the key word to the whole of the Gospel by John
and occurs 98 times in it. Everything in this Gospel
gathers around that word: "That you may
believe." But what does the word
It means two things,
which are in the word itself. It means an acknowledgement
of the truth, that is, the reaction which says,
"That is true," or "He is true,"
"I believe He is true." But it means more than
that. The word in the Greek means: "Believing that
it is true, you commit yourself to the one who says
John puts that in
another way in one place: "As many as received
Him" (John 1:12). That is only another way of
saying "They committed themselves to Him."
Believing is not only a mental thing. It is the
committing of the life to the one whom you believe.
I once heard Dr. Billy
Graham put it in a very simple way. I was sitting on the
platform just behind him, and, as you know, he is quite a
big man physically. He could put his weight on to the
platform where he stood. He said: "Now, when I come
on to this platform I do not stand on the steps and say:
`I wonder if the platform will hold me or whether, if I
get on to it, it will collapse and let me down. I
have such confidence in this platform that I walk right
on to it and commit myself to it. I have no question
about the platform. I put my full weight on to it."
He went on to say: "That is what the New Testament
means by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ."
"That believing" ... that is, committing
yourself to the Lord Jesus.
Blessing Of Divine Life
Now our third word: life.
This brings us to the main object of our consideration.
The signs were the instruments used by the Lord Jesus;
the believing was the reaction of men to the signs, and
the life was the result of their reaction. They committed
themselves and they received life.
Let us look at this
life. What is it? What is its nature and what does it
mean? I do not think it is necessary to remind you that
this is a kind of life that no one has who does not
possess the Lord Jesus. The very word that is used for
life here is different from other words for life. This is
not animal or human life, but divine life, the life that
is in God alone.
It is a life that is
different from every other kind of life because it has a
different nature in it. Every kind of life has its own
nature, and divine life has divine nature in it. Peter
speaks about being made "partakers of the divine
nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and with this life the
very nature of God is implanted in us. It is a different
nature from our own nature. We are going to see how that
But, remember "In
Him was life" (John 1:4). Is He different in
nature from other men? Everyone can see that He is
different from other men in His very nature, and the
difference is made by this life that is in Him. This life
brings with it a new and different consciousness.
Look at the Lord Jesus!
What was His real consciousness? This was a thing about
which He was always speaking, and it was so very evident
in His case. He said, "I and the Father are
one" (John 10:30). "I do always the
things that are pleasing to Him [the Father]"
(John 8:29). "The works that I do in my Father's
name" (John 10:25). Oh, this word
"Father" in John's Gospel!
The consciousness of
Jesus Christ every day was of His union with His Father,
the oneness that existed between them: "As you,
Father, are in me, and I in you" (John 17:21).
The consciousness of the Lord Jesus was of the very
closest union with God as His Father, and that was
because the very life of God was in Him. His life was a
God-conscious life; but God-consciousness in the sense of
That is what it means to
have this life. Man never had that. Jesus came to bring
it in His own person not to talk about union with
God, but to live out a life of union with God and to
bring His disciples into the same union. "I came
that they might have life" in other
words, "I am come that they may have the same
consciousness of God as Father that I have and that they
may have the same divine nature in them as I have."
(Not deity, but nature.)
Life Must Grow
This life means another
thing. Life must always grow. You know that very
well! Whatever kind of life it is, if it is really life
it must grow. You know that in your garden, and it is
true in human beings. The law of life is constant
This was true of the
Lord Jesus. It is said of Him that He was made "perfect
through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10) and that word
"perfect" means "complete." He was
made complete, full-grown, through sufferings. "Though
He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things
which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). Jesus was
growing by the power of this life in Him, and if we
possess this life we should grow.
Paul says, "That
we may be no longer children ... but ... may grow up in
all things" (Ephesians 4:14-15). "Till
we all attain ... unto a full-grown man, unto the measure
of the stature of the fulness of Christ"
(Ephesians 4:13). So, to possess this life really means
that we ought to be growing, and if we are not, there is
something wrong with us.
Life Is "Different"
Now notice these things:
a different nature a different consciousness
a different relationship and a constant
You see how these things
are illustrated in this Gospel. Nicodemus came to Jesus
by night. Let us think of Nicodemus as being a perfectly
honest man. A great many things have been said about him
which are not to his credit, but I believe that he was a
very sincere man. He came and he called Jesus
"Teacher." "We know that you are a
teacher come from God" (John 3:2).
What did he come to
Jesus about? Evidently he had come to talk about the
Kingdom of God, because the Lord Jesus read his thoughts.
He knew that Nicodemus was interested in the Kingdom of
God, but He said to him, in other words: "You will
never get into the Kingdom of God unless you have God's
life. You and I cannot even talk about the Kingdom of God
because we have not the same life. How do you get this
life? You must be born again, and if you have never been
born you are not alive."
So it is quite clear
that Nicodemus had not the nature of the Kingdom of God,
because he had not the life. For any of us to get into
the Kingdom of God we have to receive the life of God,
which is His very nature.
Then we said it is a
different consciousness. How beautifully this is
illustrated by the woman of Samaria! Poor woman, she
wanted to know the secret of life. She had missed it, had
tried to find it but had never done so. Hers was only a
poor existence! Jesus began to speak to her about life
and said, in effect: "The water that I give you will
be living water in you, springing up into eternal life.
When you have the life that I can give you, or that is in
Me, then you will find the secret of life."
What about this matter
of a new consciousness? A whole section of John's Gospel
is taken up with this. On one side stands Jesus alone; on
the other are the Jewish leaders. They are in two
different worlds and do not understand one another
at least, the Jewish leaders do not understand Jesus. How
different they are!
Jesus puts His finger
upon the very point of the difference. He speaks of God
as His Father. He says to them: "You just do not
know the Father" "You are of your father the
devil" (John 8:44). "I came from above; God
is My Father." He had the consciousness of God as
His Father, and they had no such consciousness. The
reason was that they had not this life in them.
Then what about this
matter of constant development? There is a very beautiful
illustration of this in John's Gospel, in chapter 12,
where Jesus says, "Except a grain of wheat fall
into the earth and die, it abides by itself alone"...
By itself alone ... "But if it dies, it
bears much fruit" (John 12:24). The new life
that comes in resurrection means that that seed is
multiplied a hundred-fold. There is no end to the
development of it once resurrection life comes into it.
There is constant development by the power of this new
life, and that is a law of life.
Dear friends, all these
things are meant to be true of you and of me, for this is
what it means to have this new life. I trust that what we
have been able to say makes very real this wonderful
thing that Jesus Christ came into the world to give to
In his first letter,
John said, "He that has the Son has the
life" (1 John 5:12). If we have the Lord Jesus,
then we have this life, and what this life is in all
these respects is supposed to be true of us. That is the
miracle of eternal life. May it be true of every one of
us! We have the Son and we have the life; we know that we
have the life and that, as we said, we are having it more
abundantly, meaning that the life has to grow forever.
An extract from "Discipleship in the School of Christ", Chapter 2. First published as a book by Witness and Testimony Publishers in 1961.