The Gospel by John speaks for itself,
but there may be help in a few suggestions as to its deeper
1. The theme of "John" in all his writings (Gospel, Epistles,
and Apocalypse) is "The Testimony of Jesus."
This Testimony is shown to be Christ Himself.
The Testimony is carried on, not
merely by teaching, but by the vital union of Christ and His
2. The special word used by John for "Miracle" is "Sign". This
means that everything is for instruction, not only interest and
This really is the key to
"John". Everything has a hidden meaning.
What is said and done is a sign of something else. We have to look
deeper for the things signified.
3. "John" is not an earthly history; it is a spiritual history;
related to heaven and not merely to earth; to eternity, and not
merely to time.
"John" is in the same realm as "Ephesians".
4. John's Gospel is a comprehensive embodiment of great truths
and their laws. Every great truth has its own law, and obedience to
that law is the way into the experience of
1. From Eternity:
(a) One in being with God, verses 1-2‚
(b) All creation through Him, verse 3
(c) The fountain of life, verse 4
2. Into Time:
(a) His Forerunner-Witness, vv. 6-8, 15-42
(b) The Shekinah in the Tabernacle (not condemnation as with
Moses; but grace and truth) vv. 14-17
(c) An unrecognised Visitor received by a few only, vv. 10-13
(d) God has provided Himself a Lamb for a sacrifice, vv. 29, 36
A Company Gathered out to Him vv. 43-47
Chapter 1 contains the whole Gospel of John in germ. (See
"The Beginning of Signs" (verse
In the sign of the Marriage of
Cana all the subsequent signs and truths are found in germ. This
is the foundation of the whole "Gospel".
"Third Day." Verse
Three in the Bible is the sign of fulness of Divine Testimony.
Taking up contents of chapter 1:
(a) The truth of the Person of Christ, verse 11
(b) The witness of John the Baptist, verse 11
(c) Gathering of disciples, verse 11
Type of Christ's union with His Church. Revelation 19: 7 (By
same writer). See also Ephesians 5:25.
(a) Waterpots - vessels. Type of humanity.
(b) From emptiness to fulness. What Christ's company enjoy. (See
(c) From death unto life. ("No wine.") What
Christ's company enjoy.
(d) From despair to joy.
(e) From shame to glory. What Christ's company enjoy, verse 11
Wine a type of Blood and Life.
Blood the means of a Covenant (Marriage).
Key words: "Mine hour," 4; "Sign,"
11; "Glory," 11.
The Testimony here is that of Life
triumphant over Death, and it is gathered up in verses 13-25 in
relation to the Passover.
(1) Lamb slain
(2) Blood shed.
(3) Death destroyed.
(4) A people secured.
The Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is not merely a
realm, but a state; not merely an order of outward things, but a
condition of life; not a system imposed from outside, but a kind
of life and nature which is from God.
1. The need and concern for being
in this Kingdom.
2. The law which governs this
Kingdom. "Ye must be born again."
(1) Difference verse 6
(2) Essence verse 6
(3) Basis vv. 15-18
Nicodemus corresponds to the wine
having failed and the miracle of new birth.
The Serpent in the Wilderness,
(1) The Curse.
(2) Man by nature is under a curse. (Even a religious leader
(3) Christ was made a curse for us, that we might be saved.
(4) Faith in Christ crucified delivers from the curse.
The Truth of Eternal Life
Nicodemus represents death in the
realm of man by nature, and the demand for new birth; thus he
prepares the way for New Life.
The Local Setting. Illustrating
absence of God's life.
(1) Spiritual; an abiding sense of lack. Abiding
(2) Moral; life out of harmony with God's mind.
(3) Religious: Powerless tradition. Religion against rather than
This is life which is not life,
The Nature of Eternal Life.
It is God's own life; differing from man's; and its quality
gives it its death-overcoming power, implied by "Eternal."
The Law of Eternal Life.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, verse 14. Chapter
7:38,39.This is related to Christ in Person, verse 14.
This makes everything spiritually alive, verse 23.
The Testimony here is again life
in Christ delivering from death, and is summed up in verses
Walking in the Power of God
The impotent man at the pool.
Key verses: 19, 20, 21, 30.
In this chapter Christ takes the
position of man by nature, and shows that as such he can do
nothing of (out from) himself.
The man 38 years a cripple.
This was the period of Israel's
journey in the wilderness up to the death of Moses: Israel's
impotence and probation.
This man signifies the impotence
on the bed of the Law, unable to carry it.
Christ comes in after the Law in
"Grace and Truth" (chapter 1:17).
A new inward strength enables to
carry the Law.
The man could do nothing out from
himself. The word of life came through Christ and he walked
The Law - like the bed - was
intended for a blessing; but human weakness makes it a bondage.
Christ delivers from the bondage
of the Law.
The law of this walk in life and
power is: meeting everything as out from the Lord, and not
ourselves. This was the law of Christ's own life of moral and
The Sabbath in this chapter speaks
of God's rest.
It is related to Christ as He
brings God's works to perfection.
Life Triumphant over Death as a
Present and Continuous Testimony (verse 50).
The Passover at Hand (verse
4). Life victorious over death (Exodus 12).
The Manna (verses
30-32). Life victorious over death (Exodus 16).
1. Speaks of the initial salvation from death through the blood
of the Lamb.
2. Speaks of our maintenance in life by constantly receiving
Law of this Victory over Death.
Feeding on Christ.
Verse 53. "Except ye eat" (Greek, once for all) connects with
Verse 54. "He that eateth" (Greek, continues eating) connects
We feed on Christ by:
(2) The Word of God.
(3) Obedience to Him.
(4) Fellowship with believers.
Chapter 3 - The need for new
Chapter 4 - The new life.
Chapter 5 - The new walk.
Chapter 6 - The new victory.
A New Day Foreshadowed
Chapter 6 brings to a close the
"Life" section of the Gospel.
It is seen that life is only
possible in Christ, and many are offended and go away.
Chapter 7 is a transition from
Life to Light, and combines both. The Light section will close
as did the Life, with unbelief and sifting.
The Feast of Tabernacles is the
background here. At this Feast a great candelabra was lighted,
and great vessels of water from the Pool of Bethesda were poured
out in the Temple.
Christ takes hold of this custom
and puts Himself in the place of both, uniting in Himself the
twofold symbolism of the Light and the Life.
A New Day is here in view - the
eighth day (verse 37; Lev. 23:36), which is to be the day of the
Spirit on the ground of Christ glorified (verse 39).
There is a vital secret contained
in this chapter. In the presence of almost universal unbelief
(even in His own family), hostility, suspicion, prejudice, and
danger to His life, Jesus maintains a calm, steady, strong moral
ascendancy, and moves as one protected until His work is done.
Why? Because He has a secret life
with God, from which He refuses to be drawn out. He moves, not
at the dictates of men, nor under the government of set
religious ordinances, nor yet by what is either expected of Him
or what is politic, but by the inner witness of the Father;
waiting for His sanction and time for movement (verses 8, 9).
Chapters 8 & 9
Christ Presented as the Light
To the end of chapter 6 the
subject is Life (1:4).
Chapter 7 is a transition chapter.
Chapter 8 brings in the subject of
Verses 1-11 are an introduction;
the Jewish Rulers, blind even in the presence of the Law, are
convicted in the presence of Christ Who is the Light, revealing
Chapter 8 is an emphasis upon the
fact that Christ is the Light; that man by nature is in
darkness; that liberty comes through knowledge of and obedience
to the truth; and that Christ is the Truth, and the full
revelation of God.
Chapter 9 is a sign (object
lesson) of Chapter 8 (see especially verses 1, 4, 5, 39, 40,
Man "born blind."
This is connected with the works of God.
Salvation is not by believing
certain doctrines, but by Christ giving a new spiritual faculty,
which has never before operated in us.
This man's condition was an
illustration of the condition of all men by nature, even of the
The law which governs this new
living knowledge is the absolute Lordship of Christ. Not
tradition, men, religious systems; but personal and complete
surrender to Christ. This runs right through chapters 8-9.
The sequel to this surrender is
seen to be a great cost; being cast out by men. But Christ takes
up such and more than satisfies.
Chapter 9 ends with what happens
to those who surrender to Christ; they are cast out.
Chapter 10 begins with what Christ
does with such; He leads them out of one order and into the true
He becomes their Shepherd.
marks a Big Transition.
Up to this point all has been
individual; now it is collective. All the great truths
illustrated in individual cases are now embodied in a called-out
The movement begins with coming
out to Christ, and ends with having eternal life.
Christ is here seen as :
(1) Shepherd - leading out, vv. 2, 3
(2) Door - leading in, verse 7
(3) Good Shepherd - inspiring confidence, verse 11
(4) One Shepherd - bringing unity, verse 16
The Issue: Division. Verses 31, 42
Chapter 11 & 12
The Church which is His Body
Note that a distinct movement is
taking place now. Christ is closing in with His own; public
ministry is ceasing, while He concentrates upon His Church for
future testimony (11:54).
"Bethany" (verse 1).
(1) Luke 10:38. Strain and discord.
(2) John 11. Death.
(3) John 12. A feast in resurrection.
is the Spiritual History and Nature of the Church.
(1) Connected with the Passover. Because of sin there is
judgment and death, in order to newness of life (11:49-51;
(2) Related to the glorifying of Christ (4).
(3) Spiritually related to the incurable state of man by nature,
needing a new life (39).
Note the many delays of Christ.
(4) The obiect in view is a vessel of testimony to Christ
(5) The issue, antagonism toward Christ and the vessel of
Corn of Wheat (12:24):
(1) Much out of little.
(2) Gain out of loss.
(3) Life out of death.
This is "Bethany". Christ, and His
The Servant and
Service of God
As embodying all the spiritual
truths of chapters 1-11.
The chosen company now come to
Chapter 3 Heavenly Birth.
Chapter 4 Eternal Life.
Chapter 5 Walking in victory.
Chapter 6 Life triumphant over death.
Chapter 7 The fulness of the Spirit.
Chaps. 8-9 Spiritual revelation.
Chapter 10 A separated company.
Chaps. 11-12 The nature of the Church.
Chapter 13 Service.
Church is to Carry on Christ's Ministry.
(1) Sin and ruin entered because Satan in pride refused
place of a servant and sought equality with God.
(2) Sin and ruin are dealt with through Christ laying aside
(temporarily) equality with God and becoming a servant.
(3) The Church has to have the mind of Christ in this way. (See
Chapter 13 teaches that the way to
glory is through humility, suffering, and shame, to save from
At verse 34 of chapter 13, the
"Gospel" enters specifically upon the theme of Love.
Heavenly Fellowship with
What Christ has been saying about
going away and the manner thereof was beginning to touch them as
with a chill hand.
A state of uncertainty about
everything was created. This was an inevitable thing, and
necessary as a part of spiritual history. They were spiritually
on resurrection ground since chapter 12, and that means the
world left behind, and heavenly things taking the place of the
earthly. Thus Christ introduces another spiritual factor - the
mystery of spiritual fellowship with Himself after His
departure; union with Christ in heaven.
With everything earthly, uncertain
and passing, He introduces a word which touches the whole
means - to stay, remain, abide, continue, enduring, permanence.
Verse 2. (1) Heavenly abiding
places ("mansions"), Greek, Monai.
(2) The Father abides in
(3) The Holy Spirit will abide in them.
(4) The Godhead will make His abode in believers.
Their questions are:
(1) How shall we get to God? "I am the Way," verse 6
(2) How shall we know the truth about God? "I am the Truth,"
(3) How shall we know the life of God? "I am the Life," verse 6
To go, to know, to live, Christ is
Fruitfulness by Heavenly Fellowship with Christ
Israel was of old called the
Christ now takes the place of
Israel: "I am the Vine" (verse 1).
The object of the Vine is the
glory and satisfaction of God.
(See link with chapter 2: Wine,
vine, glory, marriage, union, life, joy, fulness.)
The law of fruitfulness is
Christ's fruitfulness was because
He abode in the Father.
Theirs (and ours) is to be a
continued expression of the principle of His own life.
He abode in the Father - not in
He did this by obeying the Father,
and neither consulting Himself nor obeying the Evil One.
We abide in Christ and bear much
fruit by seeking to do everything as out from Him and not from
Love is the secret of
The Gain of His Going
Christ said that the Holy Spirit's
coming was more important than His own remaining (verse 7).
(1) His presence was outward.
The Holy Spirit would be within.
(2) He would only be able to be
with some in one place at a time.
The Holy Spirit would be with all everywhere.
(3) He could at most only stay for
a few years.
The Holy Spirit would abide for the age.
(4) He came to do a work for our
salvation by dying an atoning death.
The Holy Spirit would convict men worldwide of the need of that
Chapter 16 shows that persecution
will come from the religious world, but that the Holy Spirit
would be with them to be their strength.
It also teaches that their
equipment for service would be the same as His.
The Prayer Beside the Altar
Christ here takes the place of the
High Priest. He has already taken the place of the Jewish
Feasts, the Sacrifice, the Temple, the Vine, etc.
He is now about to offer the Whole
Burnt Offering (Himself) (verse 19).
His prayer will be sealed with His
The prayer includes the three
sections of this Gospel, viz. :
Life, Light, and Love.
(These are mentioned and dealt with).
The prayer is:
1. That the Father may be glorified in the Son, Verse 1
2. That the Son may be glorified in the Father, Verse 5
3. That He may be glorified in His disciples, Verse 10
4. That the disciples may be glorified in Him, Verse 24
5. That they all may be one, Verse 21
6. That they may be kept from the Evil One, Verse 15
Was this prayer answered?
Yes! The book of the "Acts" shows
God is glorified in Him in His
All believers are one because they share
The answer to the prayer will yet
be revealed universally.
Chapter 17 takes up most of the
great words of "John": Life, Light, Love, Truth, Believe, Know,
Glory, Father, Son, etc.
Chapter 18 & 19
CHRIST THE KING
When this trial (?) is closed,
there is not a vestige of true ground for anyone but Himself to
See how He rules in the midst of
1. He Rules by His Person.
As to the soldiers and officers: They fell back when He said, "I
am" (verse 6).
He commanded then what to do (verse 8).
He Rules by the Word already spoken by Him.
As to His flock (17:12).
As to His denial (13:38).
As to His betrayal (13:2,18,21).
As to His death (12:32,33; Mark 10:33).
He Demoralises the Jews.
They have repeatedly to change their methods to make up a case.
They charge Him with:
(a) Evil doing (verse 30).
(6) Sedition (verse 33) (implied).
(c) Religious misdoing (19:7).
(d) Rivalry to Pilate (19:12).
They stood for ceremonial cleanness, but stooped to moral infamy
He compelled them to say the most humiliating thing about
He Disconcerted Pilate.
(a) Proved him guilty of accepting reports without getting
(b) Made him hide behind a veil of cynicism, verse 38
(c) Compelled a verdict of innocence, verse 38
(d) Drove him to subterfuge, verse 39
(e) Drew out his inconsistency,19:1
(f) Made him repeat his verdict twice, vv. 4,6
(g) Discovered a secret fear (note "more"), verse 8
(h) Put him in the place of a puppet, verse 11
(i) Disclosed more moral weakness, vv. 12-13
(j) Proved him to be a mere worldly time-server, vv. 12,16
(k) Drew forth an acknowledgment (even if in irony) of universal
sovereignty, vv. 19-22
(1) A deliberate laying down of His life; not having it taken
(2) A universal uncovering of man's sin and wickedness.
(3) A prophecy that He will universally reign in righteousness.
It seemed that evil was in the
place of supreme control, but the references to the fulfilment
of Scripture (e.g., 19:24,36) show that God was over all in
The Great Shepherd Returns
This chapter gives a beautiful and
concrete presentation of what the Church is in principle.
1. An exclusive witness to the
Resurrection of Christ. He confined (and always does confine)
the revelation of Himself as the Risen Lord to His own, and
never to the world.
2. He constitutes the Church a
Resurrection company, and then a heavenly people by first
ascending to His Father as its Head (verse 17).
3. He constitutes the Church upon
the basis of the peace which He has made by the blood of His
Cross (verses 19, 20, 26; see Hebrews 13:20).
4. He establishes the fact that
the Holy Spirit will be the governing reality of the Church in
this age (verse 22).
5. He makes it clear that the full
blessing of fellowship with Him as risen is through faith
6. He gives to the Church the
beautiful character of a family (verse 17). "Father," "Brethren"
(see Hebrews 2:11-13,17; 3:1).
(This chapter is
an after-inspiration. John evidently closed his narrative with
The chapter tells of the events of
Christ's third appearance to His own after His resurrection
As three is the number of Divine
completeness, we look for completing factors here.
What is the main feature of this
It is a new attaching of His own
to Himself on the different basis which resurrection represents.
(1) The Church is out on the sea ("Sea" is a Biblical type of
(2) It has known failure because of self-energy (verse 3).
(3) Christ is on the distant shore, and knows all about them.
(4) When they come absolutely under His government (above
natural reasoning) the place of failure becomes the place of
fulness (verses 5, 6).
(5) The precision as to "one hundred, and fifty, and three,"
speaks of the elect gathered out of humanity in this age under
the direction of Christ in service. This represents a special
relationship to Him (verses 15-18).
THE GOSPEL BY JOHN
APPENDIX FOR STUDENTS.
A Suggested Outline.
1. The Prologue (1:1-19).
2. The Narrative.
The whole Gospel is an exposition
of two great opposites:
1. Unbelief and Faith.
2. The World and Christ and His own.
The Narrative is in two main
1. The presentation of Christ to the world (1:19-12:5).
2. The revelation of Christ to His disciples (13-21).
Each of these two main sections
has its phases:
(a) Presentation to the world (1:19-4:54).
(b) Recognised in the world (3-4).
(c) Antagonised by the world (6-12:50).
the Upper Room.
2. (a) Reveals the mind which is basic to the service of God and
purges the chosen company of internal antagonism (13; Cp. Phil.
(b) Reveals the spiritual position of the Church by reason of
His departure (14).
(a) The presentation to the world is in two parts:
to Him (1:19-2:11).
(2) His work
The Testimony is threefold:
(1) John the Baptist - the old dispensation (1:19-34).
(2) Disciples who recognised Him
(3) The "signs" (2:1-11).
(b) The recognition
is threefold :
(1) Nicodemus -
Jewish Pharisee (2:13-3:36).
(2) Samaritans (4:1-32).
(3) The King's officer (4:43-54).
antagonism runs right through alongside of works and testimony;
both become more and more emphatic, is mainly in Judea -
especially Jerusalem. The greatest testimony and signs in and
near Jerusalem; the final burst of antagonism also there.
(c) Reveals the secret and nature of fruitfulness (15).
(d) Reveals the manner of His presence with them for the new
dispensation. (The Holy Spirit) (16).
(e) The prayer before the Altar (17).
(1) For Himself
(2) For those in fellowship (6-19).
(3) Those to be in fellowship (20-26).
(f) The final scenes.
The antagonism prevails.
He remains dead to unbelief.
He triumphs and lives to faith.
His death is the source of life.
His sufferings were voluntary,
pre-determined and did not obscure His moral glory.
The great significance that John
was the last apostolic writer, and that the contents of this
book is the last revelation and emphasis. Before John's death a
fatal tendency set in to sever the person of Christ; i.e., of
the two natures to make two persons. That the Divine nature only
joined Him at His baptism and forsook Him at His Cross. John
wrote to refute this, and to affirm the indivisableness of Jesus
Christ - the Son of God.
Chapter 1 sums up the whole book
in its words:
Life, verse 4
Light, verse 4
Father, verse 14
Glory (and Glorify), verse 14
Truth, verse 17
Witness, verse 7
World, verse 10
Believe, verse 7
Name, verse 12
"To judge" and "judgment."
"To abide in."
"Love" and "to love."
Give the number of occurrences of
each of the above words and phrases in the whole Gospel; then
note in which part of the Gospel there are special
First published in 1934 by "Witness
and Testimony" Publishers.