[28] Theology of John


1. Titles for Jesus


While Jesus only called Himself “Son of Man”, many titles (17) are given to Him in the first chapter:

·         the Logos (v.1),

·         God (v.1),

·         the light of men (v.4),

·         the true light (v.9),

·         the only Son from the Father (v.14),

·         a greater than John the Baptist (v.15, 26-27, 30),

·         Christ (v.17),

·         the one and only God (v.18),

·         the Lord (v.23),

·         the Lamb of God (v.29, 36),

·         he that baptizes with the Holy Spirit (v.33),

·         God’s Chosen One (v.34),

·         the Son of God (v.49),

·         Rabbi (v.38, 49),

·         the Messiah (v.41),

·         he of whom Moses and the prophets wrote (v.45),

·         the King of Israel (v.49).


2. Logos, the Word


a.         Gr. Logos is translated as “the Word” in English (Jn 1:1,14; 1Jn 1:1; Rev 19:13) but the exact meaning is not well-defined.

b.         The use of Logos among Greeks:

·         The word is frequently used among the Greeks. It might be thought of as remaining within a person, when it denoted thought or reason. Or it might refer to the word going forth from the person, when it denotes the expression of the person’s thought, that is speech.

·         Logos, as a philosophical term, depended on the former use. It denotes the soul of the universe, the rational principle of the universe (“world soul”). It was creative energy. In one sense, all things came from it, in another people derived their wisdom from it.

·         Stoics developed the concept of the Logos: the universe is pervaded by the Logos, the eternal Reason, thus emphasizing the rationality of the universe.

c.         “Word” in Jewish use:

·         Jewish background in Gen 1:1. “In the beginning” parallels John 1:1. “God said” parallels the Word.

·         The Word is God’s creative Word.

·         Throughout the OT, the Word of the Lord is thought of as an effective agent for accomplishing the divine will. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” (Ps 33:6)

·         The Word also similar to “the law” or “Wisdom” (Is 2:3; Mic 4:2) which the OT personified (Pr 8:22-31).

·         The Word is also used in OT to designate God. In Ex 19:17, “to meet with God” reads “to meet with the Word of God” in Targum (a running translation of Hebrew in the synagogue when the language had ceased to be a spoken language).

d.         John’s use of the word:

·         John used a term that would be widely recognized among the Greeks and the Jews.

·         The term Logos will remind the Jews that the Word is divine while it will remind the Greeks that the Word is the higher rational principle of the universe, something supremely great.

·         But John’s essential thought does not derive from the Greek background. His idea of Logos conveys a God who is passionately involved, opposite to the Greek thought of the gods as detached from the world.

·         John’s ultimate intention is to draw to attention Jesus’ greatness.

e.         Characteristics of Logos in this Gospel:

·         personal pre-existence of Jesus (8:58)

·         deity of Jesus: the Word was deity but not fully identified with deity (1:1)

·         agent of creation (1:3)

·         incarnation (1:14): Word became flesh

·         come in flesh as revealer to men: life (1:4), light (1:4-5), grace (1:14), truth (1:14), glory (1:14), and God Himself (1:18)


3. Messiah or Christ


a.         Messiah (Heb. Mashiach) or Christ (Gr. Christos) means “anointed”:

·         Meaning in OT:

·         ‘Anointed’ in OT denotes offices of divine appointment, the king

·         2Sa 7:16  the ideal king, from David’s line, who would deliver Israel and reign in righteousness forever.

·         the fulfiller of prophecies of Isaiah (Isa 29:18, 35:5, 61:1) bringing healing, life and good news to God’s needy children

·         recalls Zec 9:9 the servant, Ps 22 the righteous sufferer

·         Jesus claimed that He is the Messiah (Jn 4:26, Mk 8:29, Mk 14:62), but the title was used in spiritual and eschatological terms (Jn 1:45), not in nationalist and political terms (people tried to force Jesus to be king but He refused, Jn 6:15).

b.         John shows step-by-step that Jesus is Christ, but at the same time not the kind of Messiah that the Jews thought:

·         witness of John the Baptist and Nathanael (ch.1)

·         cleansing of the temple (ch.3): a sign of the advent of the Messiah (Mal 3:1)

·         first messianic claim before the Samaritan woman (4:26)

·         claim as the One of whom Moses wrote (5:46)

·         reference to manna (6:30-31): Jewish expectation that the miracle of the manna would be renewed when the Messiah comes (2 Baruch 29:8)

·         claim as light of the world (8:12); as rabbis say that “Light is the name of the Messiah”

·         explicit claim by Jesus (10:25)

·         accepted messianic address by Peter (6:69) and Martha (11:27)


4. Son of God


a.         The Son of God (Jn 5:19, 10:15, 14:6, 16:15) refers only to Jesus. For the believers, John uses “children of God” rather than “sons”. The word “son” when linked to God is reserved by John for Jesus alone.

b.         Meaning:

·         Old Testament: applied to Israel (Ex 4:22), to kings (2Sa 7:14), to angels (Job 1:6)

·         Synoptics: equivalent to the Messiah (Mt 16:16, Mk 14:61)

·         Meaning in John:

·         unique sonship: one and only (Greek: “monogenes”) son, Greek meaning kind or sort, not ‘beget’

·         object of divine love (5:20, 10:17), sharing this love with His disciples (15:9)

·         equality with the Father: claim equal glory or honour (5:23), and oneness (10:30)

·         Use of the name by Jesus: divinely commissioned, sent by the Father:

·         Jesus’ works are divine works (5:17-19), and came from the Father (10:32)

·         Jesus’ words are the words of God (8:26,28,40, 14:24)

·         possess exclusive knowledge of the Father (6:47, 10:15)

·         the Father has given all things into the Son’s hand (3:35)

·         the Father has given all judgment to the Son (5:22)


5. Son of Man


a.         The term “Son of man” is a literal Greek translation of the Aramaic simply meaning “man”. It is used by Jesus as His favourite self-designation (50 times in the gospels, 13 times in John). Noobody else ever uses it of Jesus except Stephen (Ac 7:56) and the people who ask who Jesus means by the term (Jn 12:34).

b.         Meaning in OT:

·         Prophet Ezekiel (Eze 2:1), meaning ‘a human being’, man in his weakness in contrast to the Almighty

·         Ps 8:4-5  signifies frail and insignificant man, yet destined for authority second only to that of God

·         Ps 80:17  stands for Israel made strong out of weakness

·         Dan 7:13-14 one who represents ‘the saints of the Most High’ to whom God is about to entrust judgment and sovereignty

c.         Meaning in Jesus’ use:

·         an earthly figure, possessing authority, eating and drinking, having no place to lay His head (earthly Son of man)

·         suffers to bring people salvation (suffering Son of man)

·         will come in glory as judge (apocalyptic or heavenly Son of man)

d.         Reasons for its use by Jesus:

·         it had undertones of humanity; He took upon Him our weakness

·         it had overtones of divinity, Dan 7:13 echoed in Jesus’ sayings (Mk 14:62, Lk 12:32)

·         it was a rare term and one without nationalistic associations; it would lead to no political complications

·         Because of its mysterious and ambiguous meaning, it was a way of alluding to and yet veiling Jesus’ messiahship. It was a title of both majesty and humility. It contains fuller meaning to those with ears to hear.

e.         John’s emphasis of the human side of Jesus:

·         described as a man (4:29; 5:12; 7:46; 9:16; 11:47)

·         wearied from the journey (4:6)

·         thirsty on the cross (19:28)

·         participated in human festivities (2:1)

·         normal family life (2:12), relationship with His brothers (7:3-5)

·         concerned about human needs of His mother (19:26-27)

·         loved His friends (11:5)

·         shed tears at Lazarus’ tomb (11:35)

·         troubled before His death (12:27)

·         troubled in spirit with Judas’ betrayal (13:21)

·         though with supernatural knowledge (2:24-25; 5:42; 6:61; 7:29; 10:15), yet sometimes apparent lack of knowledge: need to find the man He cured of lameness (5:14), “came to know” (5:6; 6:15), asked where the tomb of Lazarus was (11:34), asked for information from Pilate (18:34)


6. “I am” Sayings


a.         When the OT was translated into Greek, the translators evidently felt that divine speech should be treated in a special way. So, when God is the speaker, instead of using the normal way of translating “I am,” they often used the emphatic pronoun with a predicate. It designates God’s revelation.

b.         This is the form that Jesus used in 7 occasions.

·         bread of life (6:35, 48)

·         light of the world (8:12, 9:5)

·         door of the sheep (10:7, 9)

·         good shepherd (10:11, 14)

·         resurrection and the life (11:25)

·         the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)

·         true vine (15:1,5)

c.         In other instances without adding a predicate, but there is always a hint of deity:

·         I am He (Messiah) (4:26)

·         Believe that I am (8:24; 13:19)

·         you will know that I am (8:28)

·         Before Abraham was, I am (8:58)

·         I am; don’t be afraid (6:20)

·         others: 4:26; 7:34, 36; 8:16, 18

d.         Jesus frequently used “Amen, amen I say…” (translated as “I tell you the truth” in NIV) to emphasize His teachings (single “Amen” in Synoptics, 50 times: Mt 31; Mk 13; Lk 6; double “Amen” in John, 50 times).

·         The word is the participle of a verb meaning “to confirm”.

·         It is normally the response of a congregation to something uttered by the leader on the people’s behalf, equal to an acknowledgment that the words spoken were their own.

·         For Jesus, it is something that is specially solemn and carries His attestation. In effect, Jesus is saying that God accepts these words and that He will see that they are fulfilled.

·         Similar to the “I am” sayings, such use hints His deity.


7. God the Father and the Son


Father (137 times in John)

John may speak about what the Father is doing, or about the Father’s relationship to people. But the most important theme about the Father is the Father’s association with Christ.





8. The Holy Spirit or Paraclete


·      In Synoptics:

·      birth of Jesus attributed to the creative power of the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18, Lk 1:35)

·      Jesus coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:8)

·      descent like a dove at Jesus’ baptism

·      power over evil spirits given by the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:28)

·      give Holy Spirit to the disciples (Lk 11:13)

·      disciples taught by the Holy Spirit (Lk 12:12, Mt 10:20)


·      Nature of the Holy Spirit in John:

·      Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit (3:34)

·      Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to the disciples to equip them for ministry (which will involve the forgiveness of sins) and continue His mission (20:21-22)


·      Work of the Holy Spirit:

·      continue the ministry of Jesus after His ascension (7:38-39): Jesus is the source of living water; through indwelling of the Holy Spirit, disciples become source of life for those who heard and believed

·      comforter, helper (Greek parakletos, Jn 14:16): “advocate” (1Jn 2:1), a teacher to instruct and lead the disciples, not an advocate to defend them

·      permanent indwelling of God’s people (14:16-17)

·      glorify Christ, bear witness to Christ (16:14, 15:26).  Work of the Spirit is Christ-centred (16:14): explaining meaning of Christ’s person and saving works

·      Spirit of truth (14:17, 15:26, 16:13, 1Jn 4:6, 5:7), leading men into revelation of truth about redemption

·      convicting power (16:8-11), making the world and sinners realize guilt

·      motivate believers in their worship of God (4:23): here ‘spirit’ = Holy Spirit (see Php 3:3).  Man may worship God anywhere if they are motivated by the Holy Spirit; worship mediated through Jesus and inspired by the Holy Spirit, form and place of worship are irrelevant


·      Born of the Spirit (3:5-8)


·         Meaning of Paraclete:


·         The Greek adjective parakletos (passive) means “called to the side of”, that is, for the purpose of helping. Like its Latin equivalent advocatus, it is a legal term indicating the counsel for the defence, legal assistant, advocate. Strangely, the Church Fathers seemed to have used the word in the active sense of consoler or comforter. But this is not supported by the general use of Greek.


·         In 1Jn 2:1, Jesus is described as the parakletos who pleads His people’s cause before the Father. Thus it was translated as advocate.


·         The Holy Spirit was sent to supply the need of Jesus’ followers after His departure by providing assistance that will deliver us from difficult situation. His work involves: (a) suggesting true reasoning to our minds and true courses for our lives, (b) convicting our adversary the world of wrong, and (c) pleading our cause before God our Father. Such work will be provided by a Counsellor.


9. The World


a.         The term “the world” (Gr. kosmos) is used 78 times in John, 24 in Johannine epistles, 3 in Revelation, and much less frequent in the Synoptics (8 in Mt, 3 in Mk, 3 in Lk).

b.         It is used for the universe at large, with order and beauty.

c.         But the usage of this term changes in the NT writings by John and Paul. It now carries negative connotation, referring to people in opposition to Christ. When Jesus came, the world at large opposed Him, rejected Him, and in the end crucified Him. Yet God did not reciprocates the action of the world; He loves the world (3:16).

d.         Thus the word has many shades of meaning.


10. Miracles


John uses two words:


(a)  “a sign” (semeion, 17 times) pointing people to God.

For John, the miracle is a means of teaching people spiritual truth, and specifically pointing them to God.

The sign at Cana set forth the life-giving power of Christ over against the ritualism of Judaism, and his disciples believed (2:11).

The healing of the nobleman’s son points to Jesus as the Life, and life came to the nobleman and his house (4:53).

The healing of the man born blind shows Jesus as “the Light of the world” and leaves the man with light for his body and light for his soul (9:38).


(b)  “a work” (ergon, 27 times) as the work that no one else did (15:24). It was the Father’s works.

These works have a function in teaching people. They have value as revelation. They testify of him (5:36; 10:25)


11. Truth


In Greek writings, the basic idea of truth is similar to today’s, that truth is opposite to falsehood.


The OT Hebrew words for truth can also refer to faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, and sureness. They are especially used for God. Truth is characteristic of God, and it is only as we know God that we know truth.


In the NT, truth is again associated with God (Ro 3:7; 15:8). Truth is also associated with Christ (2Co 11:10). Paul is saying that the very truth of God resides in Christ. Gal 2:5 describes “the truth of the gospel” while “the word of the truth” can be explained as “the gospel of your salvation” (Eph 1:13).


Truth is a very important concept in this Gospel (25 nouns and 23 adjectives). Jesus said, “I am...the truth” (14:6). This truth is not about intellectual truth but about the death and resurrection of Jesus.


Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (8:31-32). Some people apply this verse to mean that acquiring intellectual knowledge (truth) will free a person from the bondage of ignorance. Some apply this verse to mean that telling truth will free a person from the bondage of lies. These are all wrong interpretations.


Here, to know the truth is not to enter intellectual freedom but to enter into the liberating experience of being disciples of Jesus, having freedom from sin and guilt. Jesus is not describing truth as an ethical virtue or a philosophical concept. He describes eternal life in terms of the “true” God and of Jesus Christ.


Jn 1:17 describes “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” thus indicating a close link between truth and the gospel of God’s grace.


A further concept is that truth can be associated with the Holy Spirit (who was to continue Christ’s work). The Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (14:17; 15:26; 16:13) and the Spirit is to guide people “into all the truth” (16:13).


12. Eternal Life


Eternal life is the purpose of Jesus’ coming (Jn 10:10) and the main purpose of John’s gospel (Jn 20:31).  How is eternal life taught?


·      In Synoptics: life of the Age to Come (Mk 10:23), future eschatological blessing (Lk 10:25)

·      In John: both eschatological (12:25, 3:36, 4:14, 6:27, 5:29) and present

·      Eternal life as a present experience:

·      The life of the Age to Come is already imparted to the believer.  It is a life resident in Jesus (5:26, 11:25, 14:6).  Since a believer already has this life through faith in Jesus, he will never die (11:25-26)

·      He came to give life to the world (6:33), to satisfy the world’s spiritual hunger and thirst (6:35) in the form of living bread (6:51) and living water (4:10,14)

·      Eternal life as a future enjoyment:

·      a fountain of life that will issue in eschatological eternal life (4:14)

·      resurrection in End times (6:40,54)

·      live forever (6:51), never perish (10:28)

·      Nature of eternal life: knowledge and vision of God (14:7), knowledge of truth (8:32) (truth not as commonly perceived but referring to God’s saving purpose)


13. Believing or Faith


In John, the Greek verb pisteuo occurs 98 times.

He uses the word in 4 ways:

(a)        believing facts

(b)        believing people or Scripture

(c)        believing in Christ

(d)       believing absolutely (no object expressed, meaning believing in Christ)


Faith for John is an activity, a personal trust. It is similar to what John says as “abiding” in God or in Christ. (“Faith is not something one has. Faith is something one does.”


The basic idea is that the activity of believing takes the believer out of himself and makes him one with Christ. It stresses the attitude of trustful reliance on God that is basic for a Christian.