The Gospel of John – The Essentials of Christianity

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 . 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.

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

Truth in easy to chew bites.

God is more concerned about  your holiness than your happiness.

I don’t remember God making any promises to believers about being happy. That is unless suffering and persecution make you happy. God’s purpose for his children is not to make us comfortable but to make us Christlike.

God is just as concerned about how you live Monday through Saturday as how you worship on Sunday.

Many people live as practical atheists except on Sunday when they go do some religious rituals, give a bit of spare change, listen to a homily, and then rush out to a local restaurant and soon forget about God until next week. Some people who are God conscious every day still live under the illusion that Sunday “worship” is more important than going to work on Monday in their walk with God. When God calls his people to deny self, to present their bodies as living sacrifices, and to bring glory to him alone, he does not say what day of the week to do it. If you are a great worshiper on Sunday, doing it all right, but are a jerk at work or a poor sport at the ball field, sorry but you just canceled out Sunday’s activities for all practical purposes.  Spiritual worship is done with complete openness and transparency, it is not a costume party.

Churches should not be in competition like businesses are.

Some people seem to believe that God’s will for their community or town is that their church, the one they attend, should be the largest, get the most attention, receive the most accolades from the media, and be the church in town. Nope, not so. God only has one people. There is only one body of Christ and likely some of them attend almost every church in your town and you are just not that special. It just might be that God, if he is able to favor one congregation over another, might just give the nod to the little group on the wrong side of the tracks that is more humble than the loudest bunch in town. Until we learn that every group of Christ followers are our brothers and sisters, and are just as valuable as we are, we have a lot to learn.

If we don’t love our forever family members we don’t love God.

Now we can pretend it an’t so, but it is. We can look down our self-righteous noses at people who claim Jesus as Lord because they have a different view of theology than we do, or because they have different worship styles, or God forbid because of their skin color…and when we do we have proven that we really don’t love God. We are in fact pretenders. Oh, we might be saved, but we are far from mature believers with those sorts of attitudes. Any group that makes the claim they are the only true church, an’t (that’s isn’t to those of you with earned degrees).

Living a life that pleases God is easy easier said than done.

When I give up God shows up. When I trust more than I try I just might be a disciple of Jesus. But oh how I want some credit! I don’t want the glory that is only due God. I just want you to think about what a good man I am, how devout, how humble, etc. to the point of nausea… What God has always wanted is people who just take him at his word and obey instantly, every time. That should be easy. But there is a part of me that rebels against that idea with a fury born of hell and the war in constantly on. That is except when I am in willing retreat, on leave, allowing my flesh to rule me. Have you ever been there? Are you now?

I am in no better position with God than the lowest, most rotten sinner, except for the worth and work of Jesus, and you are not either.

Jesus came to life a life I couldn’t live, die a death I should have died, pay a price I owed, and take the punishment I deserved. He met all of God’s demands for me, took all of God’s wrath against me, died for me freeing me from the law and its penalty, was raised for me so I can live a new life, and made me an adopted son of God with heirship, sonship, and relationship with the Creator God. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Will I ever do everything right? No. Will I ever stop doing some things wrong? No, not on this side of the grave. Without Jesus Christ I am completely lost, alone, helpless and hopeless. But in Him I am a victor! I am destined to immortality and not to wrath and the second death. And though safe and secure I can only say with the song writer “Nothing in my hand I bring, only to the cross I cling”.

This is the way I see it, what about you?


Christianity is Christ

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
( 2 Peter 1:1-4)

Unique among all of the world’s religions, Christianity alone rests solely upon what God has done for sinful people. Every other belief system is in one way or another about how people can gain favor with their god, appease him, or do some acts to convince him that he should be less harsh in punishment than he would otherwise have been.

What is already Done?

The great Apostle Peter addressed his second letter to those people “Who have obtained a faith with equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”. Christians have not been set right with God based on what they have done or will do but because of what Jesus has already done. It is his righteousness that makes sinners whole and clean.

Christ’s representative death is not unlike Adam’s representative transgression. In the same way that by Adam’s disobedience sin and death began its reign, by the obedience of Jesus many are made righteous. (Romans 5:19) Sinners are justified as a free gift based wholly upon the merit of Jesus and not their own. (Romans 3:24)

Our salvation was completely accomplished when Jesus offered himself for our sins, by himself, one time for all people, one time for all time, and sat down, finished with His redemptive work. When we became Christians we only appropriated for ourselves what was already fully accomplished for us. Faith in Christ Jesus and ensuing obedience to his will is in no way meritorious. God gives, we only receive.

What now?

Since we have been “set right” or justified, reconciled to God, what do we do now? Listen to the Apostle’s words. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

I don’t claim to know everything you and I need to live like who we are and whose we are, but I do know that whatever those things are they are given to us in the person and provision and in the power of Jesus. “All things…” covers “all things” doesn’t it?

Jesus is our life  (Colossians 3:4)

He is our righteousness  (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Jesus is our peace  (Ephesians 2:14)

He is our wisdom  (1 Corinthians 1:24)

He is our blessed hope  (Titus 2:13)

While we now wait for He who is the “blessed hope” and who is our blessed certainty, we are now to live out His life in our flesh.  Through our knowledge of Jesus and our continual surrender to His Lordship, with the help of the Holy Spirit we are becoming more like Him in daily living.

What’s next?

Again, Peter’s words are instructive and encouraging. “through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature”.

By knowing him we have been called to glory and excellence. We have been given great promises of a here and now and a future glory. We are heirs and joint heirs with him, we are promised immortality, a body like His body, one perfectly fitted for both the earth’s atmosphere and the heavenlies.

In view of these blessed truths is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul would say:

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:4-9)

Wow! “You are not lacking in spiritual gifts, you will be sustained in the end, you will be guiltless in the day of judgment! Why? God is faithful!

I say again, Christianity is Christ! Depend only upon Him. He is quite enough.