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Sunday, May 17, 1998

2 - Introduction

John 20:30-31 & John 1:1-4 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 10 mins 29 secs

John 20:30, 31 & John 1:1-4
John Lesson #002
May 17, 1998

John 20:30 NASB "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." This tells us right away that John's approach was to look at everything that Jesus had done and then to select certain things to wrote about. What was it that governed his selection? What was it that determined what he would put in the Gospel and what not? When we look at verse 31 it says "these things," and what we have here is the neuter plural of the near demonstrative tauta [tauta] which refers to these things. What things is he talking about? The things that he mentions in verse 30: "many other signs." So the correct translation of verse 31 would be: "But these signs have been written…" So this book revolves around certain signs that Jesus has performed as part of His ministry that are the calling cards of who he is as the Messiah. How do we know that Jesus is who He claimed to be? One reason is because of what He did; He performed the acts of deity, the acts that only God could perform.

There are seven signs listed in the Gospel of John and this roughly will be the outline of the Gospel

1)  He changes the water into wine at the bridal feast in Cana in Galilee, 2:1-11. This is the first of the signs that Jesus did.

2)  The healing of the official's son in Capernaum, 4:46-54.

3)  He heals the cripple at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, 5:1-18.

4)  He feeds the five thousand near the Sea of Galilee, 6:5-14.

5)  He walks on the water, 6:15-21.

6)  He heals a blind man, 9:1-7.

7)  He resuscitates Lazarus from the dead, 11:1-45.

He says here that these signs have been  written for a purpose: that you  might believe something. First of all, that Jesus is the Messiah. The signs demonstrate something about Jesus of Nazareth: that he is not merely a man but that he is who he claimed to be, the Messiah promised in the Old testament, the Son of God. He is fully God, undiminished deity united with true humanity in one person forever. That is what we call the hypostatic union. Secondly, that believing we might have life through His name. That is not merely eternal life, life without end, because even the unbeliever has eternal life in a way. His soul never disintegrates, it never stops existing; it continues to exist forever and ever in a place of eternal punishment in the lake of fire.

We need to start by asking the question: What is faith?

1)  Definition: There are four different way people know things, epistemology—how do you know what you know? a) Rationalism: the idea that to come to know truth it all starts in the mind; b) Empiricism: this has as its starting point the sense—seeing, hearing, touching, smelling. The basic assumption is that you can trust the senses and that the mind is basically empty and you have to start from sense data; c) Mysticism: like rationalism, this starts in the mind, but its basic principle is intuitive. Instead of being logical it is irrational: "I just know this is true because it feels right." In fact, logic is the enemy. The fancy name that this has been given today is postmodernism; d) Faith: trust in someone or something else, another authority. Faith is basically a non-meritorious system of knowledge based on confidence in the authority and veracity of another. Faith is also based on knowledge, it has as its object knowledge, and is rational because it is reasonable, and it is logical. Therefore, if you are in mysticism which operates on a, irrational modus operandi then that is going to be at odds and antagonistic to any other system that operates on logic or reason as a means of arriving at truth. The starting point is not the human mind alone, not human senses, as Christians it is the revelation of God. So we start with divine revelation and then we develop and understand it through the use of our minds, our intellect, and we develop thoughts from it based upon the right use of reason or logic. Perception by faith is always non-meritorious. The faith itself has no merit, the person who exercises faith has not merit; faith gains all of its merit from its object. Therefore what does faith mean? Faith means to trust, to rely on, to have confidence in, to believe something is true, to accept something to be true. Faith does not mean to submit to, to invite Jesus into your heart, to feel; all of these have to do with emotion or something that is not related to the basic meaning of the word.

2)  Etymology. There are several Greek words that are important here. The first is pistis [pistij] which is sometimes used as an attribute. It is that which causes trust or faith, reliability, or integrity, as in Titus 2:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:4. In the active sense it means faith, confidence, trust, belief. It is used three different ways in the Bible. First of all, it refers to saving faith, the faith or trust that an unbeliever expresses towards Jesus Christ that moves him from being an unbeliever to a believer. Ephesians 2:8, 9, "by grace through faith." In the Greek it is dia [dia] plus the genitive which indicates means. If it had been dia plus the accusative case it would have been cause, but it is not. So we are saved by grace through faith, it is the channel by which God gives us salvation. Secondly, we have the faith-rest drill. This can refer to mixing promises with faith. It refers, secondly, to the doctrines of Scripture. We know certain principles and therefore can use doctrinal rationales. There is also a passive meaning to faith in which it refers to what is believed, and that is basically what we call Bible doctrine, the principles that are extracted from the Scriptures. Galatians 1:23; 2 Peter 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19. The verb pisteuo [pisteuw] which is used 98 times in the Gospel of John means to believe, to trust something or someone, to express belief in some object. Acts 16:31 NASB "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." In the Greek there are two phrases, pisteuo and then two prepositions, eis [e)ij] which is sometimes translated "that," and en [e)n] which is a synonym and means the same thing—believe in; believe that; it doesn't matter. When you believe in Jesus you have to believe that Jesus [died on the cross]. The issue is believing what the Scripture says about Jesus.

3)  Faith is a mental activity triggered by volition. A such, faith is not an emotion.

4)  Faith is always directed toward an object which can be expressed as a proposition. The proposition is that Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for your sins, and if you believe in Him you will have eternal life. A proposition is the expression of a thought which can be verified or falsified.

5)  Therefore you do not believe in a person or come to salvation through a relationship with Jesus, but first, no matter who you are, you believe the propositions in Scripture that inform you about Jesus and His saving work on the cross. We are people of the Book. We believe that Scripture is propositional revelation. We do not come to the Scriptures to have an emotional or mystical encounter with God so that we go away feeling better. We come to learn specific things that God has given to us, it is propositional in nature. That means faith is rational, it has rational content to it, it is based on knowledge.

6)  Therefore faith is an activity of the mentality of the soul which is directed toward a proposition. The Scripture, therefore, is the object of faith for the unbeliever and the immature believer. For the mature believer the doctrine that is extrapolated from Scripture is the object of faith as he grows to maturity.

7)  Faith has no merit in itself. It is not faith that saves. You can't just have faith; faith must always have an object. All the merit lies in the object of faith, not in faith itself. What matters is what you believe.

8)  Faith, then, as an intellectual activity of the soul excludes emotion, irrationalism and mysticism. That doesn't mean that as you believe what Christ did for you that that may not have an emotional response of happiness and joy and relief, but faith itself, the activity of believing for salvation excludes emotion. When these are made part of faith they destroy faith.

9)  Faith is rational and logical, in conformity with the ultimate person of the universe.

10)  All the faith in the world secures nothing but condemnation from the integrity of God. It is the object of faith that makes the difference. When our faith is in Jesus Christ that makes the difference; He is the object of faith.

11)  The tiniest bit of faith in Christ secures eternal salvation.

12)  Faith is not something you do, it is not the cause of our salvation; it is the channel by which we appropriate what God has done for us.


1)  There is no biblical distinction between head and heart belief. Heart in the Bible refers to the mentality of the soul.

2)   Saving faith is not a different kind of faith but a faith with a saving object.

3)  Salvation is not based on a personal relationship with Christ—Judas had that, James had that, and all the brothers and sisters had that—it is based on the acceptance of the true proposition that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you.                 

 The outline of the Gospel is very simple. It begins with the prologue in the first eighteen verses which emphasises the eternal logos of God and how the logos, the Word, became flesh or incarnate. So 1:1-18 is the introduction of the eternal logos of God incarnate; 1:19-12:50, the seven signs that testify that Jesus is the Messiah; chapters 13-20, the greatest sign: the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ; chapter 21 is the epilogue: the final statements related to Jesus as the Messiah.

John 1:1 NASB "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The simplicity of this is almost deceptive because John writes in such a way that the smallest child can find something of value by studying the Gospel of John and the most erudite thinker can have his thinking challenged profoundly by what this writer says. So there is something here for everyone. No matter how much you study it you will never plumb the depths of what is here. This is the most incredible writing that you will ever find. He doesn't have the complexity of a Paul but in his simplicity he is profound.

"In the beginning" is the phrase en arche [e)n a)rxh]. En is the preposition; arche is the word meaning first principles, beginning, foremost, sometimes it is translated "principalities" in some of the passages that talk about the angels, but it basically has the meaning of primacy. En is the preposition which means "in" here. In the English it is translated with the definite article: "In the beginning." There is no definite article in the Greek. In English if you want something indefinite you leave out the article; if you want something definite then you put the article in there. But in Greek the absence of the definite article does not necessarily make the word definite. There are three options here: a) the noun is indefinite, which would be "in a beginning"; b) the noun is inherently definite or that the preposition itself takes the place of the definite article, in which case the noun would be definite and it would be translated "in the beginning"; c) the absence of the definite article would be to emphasize the quality of the noun. Often the definite article is left out in the Greek, not to make it indefinite, but to emphasize the essence or the quality of a thing. This is very important in the last phrase here, "and the Word was God." In the original there is no definite article in front of God. The so-called Jehovah's Witnesses translate that in their New World translation, "and the word was a god."

Kiddell's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: "In its temporal significance arche denotes beginning in the exact sense, i.e. the place in a temporal sequence at which something new which is also finite commences." That's the definite idea: the exact sense. What he is saying is this word is inherently definite. It doesn't need an article to be definite. Secondly, we need to0 observe that whenever this noun occurs with the preposition in the New Testament the article is always absent. It is used about 50 times and about forty of those times it is used with the preposition, either apo [a)po] "from the beginning" or "in the beginning." It never has an article if it has a preposition; not once. That tells us automatically that when this noun takes a preposition the preposition replaces the definite article. Not only that, but of the ten times that the noun occurs without a preposition, five of those times it occurs without a definite article, but in those phrases where just the word arche appears (without a preposition and without an article) it is  meaningless if it is taken indefinitely. For example, Mark 1:1 NASB "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Would that make sense to say, "A beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ"? It wouldn't. It is "The beginning," it is inherently definite. It is used without the preposition in Matthew 24:8 NASB "But all these things are {merely} the beginning of birth pangs." Would it make sense to say, "All these things are a beginning of birth pangs"?  No, it would not. Acts 11:15 NASB "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as {He did} upon us at the beginning." Would that make sense to translate that as "a beginning"? No, he is talking about Pentecost, the specific point in history when the church began. Acts 26:4 NASB "So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my {own} nation and at Jerusalem." So the point we see here is that this phrase arche should be translated with the definite article.

Accurate translation: "In the beginning." The beginning of what? You have a point of time: eternity ends and time commences. It is the beginning of creation when God first created the universe. To the Jew who read this en arche would immediately bring to his mind the very first phrase in his Greek Old Testament. By the time that John is writing very few Jews could read Hebrew. They read their Septuagint [LXX] which was the Greek translation made in the 2nd and 3rd century BC of the Hebrew Old Testament. The very first phrase of "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," was translated into Greek en arche. So when a Jew saw this phrase the first thing he was going to think about was Genesis 1:1. At that point in time when God created the universe—that is the verb from the imperfect active indicative of eimi [e)imi]—the Word already was in existence. In the beginning when everything began the logos [Logoj] was already continually existing in eternity past. The point is, the eternity of Jesus Christ is present in the Gospel of John from the very first clause. Eternal life is part of deity and only God can have eternal life. So from the very beginning the apostle John is making us understand that Jesus Christ is God.

To the Greek this phrase would have had even greater significance. In Greek philosophy the phrase arche stood for first principles. It was used in cosmic physics. It denoted the original material from which everything in the universe evolved (the concept of evolution did not start with Darwin). So even in ancient Greek philosophy this term arche was wrapped up with religious and philosophical concepts about the origin of the universe and the fundamental laws of the universe. It was intimately connected with all Greek thought about origins, God, and the fundamental realities of the universe. So if you were a Greek coming to the Gospel of John and reading this, then what John is getting ready to do it say, In the beginning of your first principles, you Greek philosopher, you  never could go beyond that, want is the beginning beyond that? What created that? They couldn't define what that was at the very beginning, so they just called it arche, first principles. Now John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is going to blast right through that barrier, and say, In the beginning, when the arche began, the Logos was already in existence; He is eternal.