Recently I received preacher Al Maxey’s “Reflections” in my email inbox. A section of this issue caught my attention and caused me to consider some facts about the Gospel of John in the Bible, and it’s importance. These observations did not originate with Al Maxey but I am very thankful that he chose to include this in the most recent “Reflections”. I quote Al Maxey:
The following thoughts come from Virgil Fiske, who lives in the northern part of New Mexico. He says, “I came out of the Church of Christ a few years ago and do house churches now. I preached for theChurch of Christ for over 30 years, but fought the legalism and the arrogance all the way.” I can certainly identify with this frustration. The following is an article he shared with me that he wrote over a year ago, but which came to his mind when he read my last Reflections. I’m pleased to be able to pass it along to each of you.
First principles, the essentials, the basics of Christianity have dominated my mind lately. I was asked which denomination is right, what rules are required to be saved. I had just started a study in John, and it suddenly yelled at me. Since John’s Gospel was written that we might believe and have eternal life (John 20:31), then it can be accepted that the Gospel of John contains everything we need to know and believe. It must also contain every behavior required to gain salvation. Therefore, it could be understood that the rest of the information presented in the NT comes as an illustration of how the basics presented by John play out in the life of the first century church. Should one agree with many scholars that John’s Gospel was the last text written before the canonization of Scripture, then it can be assumed that any emphasis on doctrinal concepts not mentioned is excessive. Since John’s Gospel contains little regarding baptism, Communion, church leadership and attendance, the contribution, worship styles, women’s roles in the church, etc., how can these issues be areas over which we bicker and divide?! If we can recognize the basic principles of love and forgiveness demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice as the foundation of our faith, then all the other behavior of Christ-like people should not divide us. Jews worshiped one way, Gentiles worshiped another, and though the discussion in Acts 15 was heated, the conclusion was that both groups were accepted by God, though radically different.
Many years after the discussion on how to deal with Gentiles, the apostle John penned the Gospel and the letters that carry his name. 1 John 5:13 says that he wrote this small letter to those who believe so that they might know they have eternal life. How much should we add to what John wrote if we really want to know we have eternal life?!
John wrote as a very old Christian who happened to be the last living apostle. He must have felt that the letters written by others over 30 years earlier were important, yet he does not mention them. I started studying John’s Gospel and his letters as if I was living at the end of the first century and they were all that I had. What would my saving faith and my worship actually look like? You might want to try the same. It has really changed my view of all those who believe in Jesus.
Finally, I heard John say that we should be careful not to listen to the other teachers, but instead focus on the “anointing” we have all received (1 John 2:26-27). I have seen firsthand the damage done by following our emotions, but we may have more damage by following only that which is written. For me personally now, the NT is the tool that I use to verify what I sense in my heart as I am led by the Spirit.
At a minimum Virgil Fiske makes some compelling points about the importance of John’s writings, especially the Gospel of John and 1 John. Both were written that we might believe in Jesus Christ and that by believing we should have eternal life.
Most Bible scholars agree that the Gospel of John was probably written between 85 and 95 a.d.. And, there is also general consensus that John was written from the city of Ephesus where John was a leader. There is some disagreement about his title, (elder, bishop, presbyter, etc…) but not that he was an important figure in the Ephesian church.
In my view it is without question that John had read all of the earlier writings that are now the New Testament. It is especially important, and worthy of consideration, that the elderly John was very familiar with the writings of Luke (the Gospel of Luke and Acts), and the letters of Paul, especially Romans and Ephesians.
Considering the fact that John was “the disciple Jesus loved“, one of the disciples of Jesus in the very inner circle during Jesus’ ministry, and having read the writings mentioned above, the Gospel of John does not emphasize some of the things one must do to have eternal life that many people today do.
I have long thought that of all the Bible, the Gospel of John is the principal book on Christology. John has no equal in regard to the person and work of Jesus, his deity, and that salvation is by believing on Him.
I am thankful that Mr. Fiske shared his thoughts on the Gospel of John with Al Maxey and that Al shared it with the readers of his Reflections. By the way, if you are not receiving “Reflections” by Al Maxey you can easily subscribe here firstname.lastname@example.org . Send an email and ask for Reflections and you will be blessed by this good man’s common sense approach to Scripture and wonderful ability to communicate the truths he finds there.
I am especially interested in your thoughts on this post.