1 ADVENT ABF STUDY John 1:1-18 November 28 December 19 The following study looks at the coming of Jesus through the lens of John 1:1-18. This is one of the most remarkable passages in all of Scripture for both its poetic form and its rich theological content. Each study is broken up into three sections. An introduction provides some initial comments on the text and an outline for the passage. Next, a selection of information from commentaries gives further background on the passage and its meaning, along with some additional texts for further study. The final section offers suggested questions for leading a class discussion through the study. This study is designed to be general and informative so that you as a teacher can take the material and cater it to your particular class. Feel free to alter the outline or questions to uniquely fit the style and demographic of your own group. It is our prayer that this study will honor God as we treasure the coming of Christ together throughout the Advent season. November 28, 2010 Simply Believe Christ Has Come AS PROMISED John 1:1-5 December 05, 2010 Simply Believe Christ Has Come IN THE DARKNESS John 1:6-8 December 12, 2010 Simply Believe Christ Has Come FOR YOU John 1:9-13 December 19, 2010 Simply Believe Christ Has Come IN THE FLESH John 1:14-18
2 Christ Has Come AS PROMISED Sunday Nov 28 John 1:1-5  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. If you were looking to read the Bible s Christmas story to your children this season, you probably wouldn t turn instinctively to the Gospel of John. John bypasses the biographical details provided by Matthew and Luke and opts to portray the coming of Christ in his own unique way. John s Christmas story doesn t begin with an angelic visit to Mary and it doesn t end at a manger scene in Bethlehem. Instead, John stretches his version of the story out to include all of eternity. He begins in the beginning before the world was even formed. He speaks of Jesus divine nature and involvement in the very creation of the world. He demonstrates that Jesus is the very light of the world who shines in the darkness. His emphasis in these first few verses is to highlight who Jesus was before he begins to explain what Jesus did. In describing Jesus as the Word of God, John provides his readers with at least five important points about Christ in this text: The Word is Divine (v1) The Word is Eternal (v1) The Word was an Agent of Creation (v3) The Word was the Source of Life (v4) The Word is Shining in the Darkness (v5)
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4 Commentary [1:1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. o In the beginning was the Word echoes the opening phrase of the book of Genesis, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The term the Word (Gk. Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich OT background. God's Word is effective: God speaks, and things come into being (Gen. 1:3, 9; Ps. 33:6; 107:20; Isa. 55:10 11), and by speech he relates personally to his people (e.g., Gen. 15:1). John also shows how this concept of the Word is superior to a Greek philosophical concept of Word (logos) as an impersonal principle of Reason that gave order to the universe. o Leon Morris: In the beginning has a double meaning as both the beginning of history and the root of the universe. o And the Word was with God indicates interpersonal relationship with God, but then and the Word was God affirms that this Word was also the same God who created the universe in the beginning. Here are the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed. o Andreas Kostenberger commenting on the word translated as with in verse 1: In terms of relationship, [this word] establishes a relationship between God and the Word but also distinguishes the two from each other. o The claim of Jesus divinity would have been very controversial in John s day. Consider how others reacted when Jesus did the same (John 5:18, 8:58-59) [1:3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. o All things includes the whole universe, indicating that (except for God) everything that exists was created and that (except for God) nothing has existed eternally. Made through him follows the consistent pattern of Scripture in saying that God the Father carried out his creative works through the activity of the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). o John Calvin commenting on the transition from verse 2 to verse 3: Having declared that the Word is God and proclaimed His divine essence, he goes on to prove His divinity from His works. o This verse disproves any suggestion that the Word (or the Son, John 1:14) was created, for the Father would have had to do this by himself, and John says that nothing was created that way, for without him was not any thing made that was made. [1:4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. o The references to life, light, and darkness continue to draw on Genesis motifs (cf. Gen. 1:3 5, 14 18, 20 31; 2:7; 3:20; cf. also Isa. 9:2; 42:6 7; 49:6; 60:1 5; Mal. 4:2; Luke 1:78 79). Against this background, Jesus as the light brings to this dark world true knowledge, moral purity, and the light that shows the very presence of God (cf. John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). o R.V.G. Tasker on the phrase the life was the light of men in verse 4: The source of man s intellectual and spiritual perception, his conscience as well as his consciousness, is the divine Word. There is thus an affinity between the light that man possesses and the greater Light from which it comes.
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6 Discussion Suggested Texts for Further Study The Word in the Old Testament: o Genesis 1, Psalm 33:4-9, Psalm 19:7-11, Psalm 147:12-20, Isaiah 55:10-11 Light & Dark imagery in the Old Testament: o Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 60:1-5 References to Life in John s Gospel: o 10:10, 3:16, 6:51, 6:53, 5:40, 10:28, 10:18, 11:25, 14:6, 5:26 References to Light in John s Gospel: o 8:12, 9:5, 12:46, 8:12, 12:36 Discussion Questions 1. In the Prologue to John s Gospel, John seeks to establish who Jesus is before he begins to tell the story of what Jesus did in his time on earth. In our day, people are still seeking to define Jesus and discover who He really was. What are some of the ideas about Jesus that you hear your friends and family discuss? How do you think these ideas measure up to the Gospels portrayal? 2. Why do you think John chose to begin his Gospel with this kind of prologue? What is significant about the language he uses? 3. Why is it important that Christians understand that Jesus was both divine and eternal? What would be the consequences if this were not true? 4. If all things were made through Jesus, what kind of authority should He have over this world? 5. How would you explain this passage to a non-believer who asked you about the divinity of Jesus?
8 Christ Has Come IN THE DARKNESS Sunday Dec 5 John 1:6-8  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. John the Baptist was an incredibly important person. Old Testament prophecies anticipated his arrival. Angels instructed his parents to set him apart from birth. Throughout his life, he was used by God to prepare the people of Israel for the coming Messiah. But John was just a man. He was not the Messiah. This is the main point of this passage and this Gospel s overall portrayal of John the Baptist. He was sent by God to be a witness to Jesus but he must not be confused with the one and only Son of God. In this study, we will explore the life and ministry of John the Baptist and think about what we can learn from the example he set. What does it mean to bear witness to Jesus? How does one point to Jesus without taking His place? These are the kinds of questions that this study will seek to answer. In introducing John the Baptist, this passage makes the following key points: God is a Sending God God s people are called to bear witness to Jesus so that others can believe through us We are not the Light but others can believe in Jesus through us
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10 Commentary [1:6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. o Andreas Kostenberger: In the context of John s opening lines, the present description of John makes two things clear: (1) John was a man, not, as Jesus, God; and (2) John was sent by God to carry out a particular mission, in distinction from, but in relation to, Jesus. o R. V. G. Tasker on the role of John the Baptist: John s testimony was unique. His function was to direct men s attention to the Word not as an invisible influence to be contemplated only by the imagination, but to the Word-made-flesh, a Man visible to their eyes and human like themselves. o Andreas Kostenberger on the phrase sent from God: The phrase sent from God is reminiscent of the Old Testament description of a prophet whose role was to function as a spokesperson for God (2 Chron. 24:19, 25:15; Jer. 7:25, 25:4, 28:9, 35:15, 44:4: Ezek. 2:3). The Jewish crowds thought of John as a prophet (Matt. 21:26), and that is how Jesus referred to him as well (Matt. 11:9 = Luke 7:26). [1:7] He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. o John MacArthur commenting on the words witness and bear witness: The terms witness or bear witness receive special attention in this Gospel, reflecting the courtroom language of the Old Testament where the truth of a matter was to be established on the basis of multiple witnesses (8:17, 18; cf. Deut 16:6; 19:15). o Witnesses to Jesus in John s Gospel [Chart in ESV Study Bible] 1. John the Baptist (5:32-36; 1:7-8, 15, 19, 32-34; 3:26) 2. Jesus own works (5:36; 10:25, 32, 37-38; 15:24) 3. God the Father (5:37-38; 8:18) 4. The Scriptures, esp. by Moses (5:39, 45-47) 5. Jesus himself (3:11, 32; 8:14, 18; 18:27) 6. The Spirit (14:26; 15:26; 16:8-11, 13-14) 7. The disciples, esp. John (15:27; 19:35; 21:24) o Leon Morris: This bearing of witness was not an end in itself. Behind it was the purpose that all might believe through him Men are said to believe in Christ, not through Him. For John, on the other hand, it was a great privilege to be the means of bringing men to the place of faith. Believe is not in the continuous tense, and this is perhaps significant. John came to bring men to decide, to make the definitive act of faith. [1:8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. o John MacArthur on He was not that Light: While John the Baptist was the agent of belief, Jesus Christ is the object of belief. Although John s person and ministry were vitally important (Matt. 11:11), he was merely the forerunner who announced the coming of the Messiah. o Many in John s day confused him for being more than a messenger. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus makes an effort to clearly define the scope and limits of John s ministry (Matthew 11:1-19). Years later, some were still confused about John s role in redemptive history. According to Acts 19:1-7, Paul encountered men who were disciples of John the Baptist but had never received the Holy Spirit. This confusion is probably part of the backdrop for this verse s emphasis that John was not the light.
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12 Discussion Suggested Texts for Further Study Prophecies about John the Baptist: o Isaiah 40:1-5, Malachi 4:5-6, Luke 1:5-25, Life & Ministry of John the Baptist o Matthew 3:1-17, Matthew 11:1-19, Mark 1:2-6, John 1:19-37 Death of John the Baptist o Matthew 14:1-12 Discussion Questions 1. Like John the Baptist, we are commissioned to tell others about Christ. Do you feel like you do a good job as a witness for Jesus? What challenges and struggles keep you from witnessing to others on a regular basis? 2. In what ways did John set an example for believers in how to be a witness to Jesus? 3. What do you think it means for someone to believe through someone else? How can you help others to see their need for Jesus? 4. In this passage, Jesus is called the light. How was the life and teaching of Jesus a contrast to the darkness of the world around Him? 5. This passage alludes to a challenge that some believers face when trying to point others to Jesus. How do we help others see their need for Jesus while keeping the focus on Christ rather than ourselves?
14 Christ Has Come FOR YOU Sunday Dec 12 John 1:9-13  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. When Jesus came into the world, He came with a clear purpose: to rescue God s people. Although He was the Word of God and the Light of the World, not everyone responded to Him as you might expect. As John lays out in this passage, there were (and still are) two basic responses to Jesus: receive Him or reject Him. In this study, we will explore the different reasons why people receive or reject Jesus and think about how God has graciously acted in your life to cause you to be born again. In this passage, John makes the following key points about Jesus coming to the world: Jesus came from heaven to earth for your sake Some people rejected Jesus, choosing to continue to live their lives in rebellion To those who received Him, He gives the right to become children of God God s children are secure in their salvation because they are born of God not of man
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16 Commentary [1:9] The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. o John MacArthur on the idea that the true light enlightens everyone: Through God s sovereign power, every person has enough light to be responsible. God has planted His knowledge in man through general revelation in creation and conscience. The result of general revelation, however, does not produce salvation but either leads to the complete light of Jesus Christ or produces condemnation in those who reject such light. The coming of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment and embodiment of the light that God had placed inside the heart of man. [1:10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. o John moves from his own things (see ESV footnote) that is, creation to his own people, the Jews. The Jewish rejection of the Messiah, despite convincing proofs of his messianic identity (esp. the signs ), is one of the major emphases of the Gospel (see esp. 12:37 40). o R. V. G. Tasker: The disordered world could not continue to exist for a moment apart from the life imparted to it by its Creator, but fallen man, in spite of the light that is in him, fails to recognize the world s Creator and Preserver. o You can almost read the sense of tragedy John writes with here as he explains that even though the world was made through the Word it still does not know Him. Paul writes further on this matter in Romans 1:18-23, saying that ever since the creation of the world, God has made his eternal attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature plain to everyone, so they are without excuse (v20). Paul also writes in verse 19 that for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. It is plain to them and yet, they still chose to reject Him. [1:12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. o Receive him implies not merely intellectual agreement with some facts about Jesus but also welcoming and submitting to him in a personal relationship. Believed in (Gk. pisteuō eis) implies personal trust. His name refers to all that is true about him, and therefore the totality of his person. Born, not of blood, but of God makes clear that neither physical birth nor ethnic descent nor human effort can make people children of God, but only God's supernatural work (8:41 47; cf. 3:16). This extends the possibility of becoming God's children to Gentiles and not just Jews (11:51 52; cf. 10:16). See also John 3:3 8. To all who believed he gave the right indicates that saving faith precedes becoming members of God's family through adoption as his children. o Leon Morris: John now turns his attention to those who received the Word...To them did the Word give the right or the authority to become God s children The end of the story is not the tragedy of rejection but the grace of acceptance. o John MacArthur on all who did receive him: To receive Him who is the Word of God means to acknowledge His claims, place one s faith in Him, and thereby yield allegiance to Him. o John MacArthur on those who were born of God: The divine side of salvation. Ultimately it is not a man s will that produces salvation but God s will (cf. 3:6-8).
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18 Questions Suggested Texts for Further Study On General Revelation: o Genesis 1:26-27, Psalm 8, Romans 1:18-25 The Theme of Rejection in John s Gospel: o John 3:16-21, John 8:31-47, John 12:36-43 Man s Call to Repent and Believe: o Mark 1:14-15, Romans 10:9-10, Philippians 2:12 God s Will in Salvation: o Romans 3:21-26, Ephesians 1:3-10, 1 Peter 1:3-5 Discussion Questions 1. When Jesus came into the world, people responded to Him in a variety of ways. What are some different ways to respond to Jesus? How do you see people respond to Jesus in your world today? 2. If Jesus is the true light which enlightens everyone, how should that impact how you address a non-believer? 3. What does it mean for someone to receive Jesus? 4. Why do you think people rejected Jesus when He came into the world? Why do people continue to reject Him today? 5. What does it mean to be born of the will of God? How does this truth impact how you think about the security of your salvation?
20 Christ Has Come IN THE FLESH Sunday Dec 19 John 1:14-18  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me. )  And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. The prologue to John s Gospel culminates in one of the clearest descriptions of the Incarnation in all of Scripture: the Word became flesh. When Jesus came to earth, He revealed to the world the glory of God by demonstrating God s character through His actions and words. While the law of Moses helped man see how far we had gotten away from God, Jesus came to reveal (and to become) the way back home. In this study, we will look at the following key points from this passage: The Word of God became a human, bringing the presence of God to His people Jesus is the only Son and therefore uniquely reveals God to the world Jesus was full of grace and truth, summarizing the primary attributes of God s character The law demonstrated man s need for a Rescuer while the grace and truth of Jesus gave men hope
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22 Commentary [1:14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, This was he of whom I said, He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me. ) o The Word continues the opening words of the prologue in v. 1. Became flesh does not mean the Word ceased being God; rather, the Word, who was God, also took on humanity (cf. Phil. 2:6 7). This is the most amazing event in all of history: the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinitely holy Son of God took on a human nature and lived among humanity as one who was both God and man at the same time, in one person. Dwelt among us means more literally pitched his tent (Gk. skēnoō), an allusion to God's dwelling among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Ex. 25:8 9; 33:7). In the past, God had manifested his presence to his people in the tabernacle and the temple. Now God takes up residence among his people in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:17). Thus, the coming of Christ fulfills the OT symbolism for God's dwelling with man in the tabernacle and the temple. Later, through the Holy Spirit, Christ will make into a temple both the church (1 Cor. 3:16) and a Christian's body (1 Cor. 6:19). the only Son from the Father. Jesus is the Son of God, not in the sense of being created or born (see John 1:3), but in the sense of being a Son who is exactly like his Father in all attributes, and in the sense of having a Father-Son relationship with God the Father. [1:16] And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. o Grace indicates God's (unmerited) favor that brings blessing and joy. Grace and truth most likely recalls the Hebrew behind the phrase steadfast love [Hb. hesed] and faithfulness [Hb. emet] in Ex. 34:6 (cf. Ex. 33:18 19), where the expression refers to God's covenant faithfulness to his people Israel. According to John, God's covenant faithfulness found ultimate expression in his sending of his one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ. The contrast is not that the Mosaic law was bad and Jesus is good. Rather, both the giving of the law and the coming of Jesus Christ mark decisive events in the history of salvation. In the law, God graciously revealed his character and righteous requirements to the nation of Israel. Jesus, however, marked the final, definitive revelation of God's grace and truth. He was superior to Abraham (8:53), Jacob (4:12), and Moses (5:46 47; cf. 9:28). o John MacArthur on the phrase grace upon grace: This phrase emphasizes the superabundance of grace that has been displayed by God toward mankind, especially believers (Ephesians 1:5-8, 2:7). [1:18] No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father s side, he has made him known. o No one has ever seen God, that is, in a full and complete way (cf. 6:46), but some people did see partial revelations of God in the OT. To see God in Christ would be far better (see 14:6). Some ancient manuscripts say the only Son here, but the earliest manuscripts say the only God (using the same word for only as 1:14, meaning unique, one-of-a-kind ). John refers to two different persons here as God, as he did in v. 1. o John MacArthur on the relationship between Jesus and the Father: "This term (at the Father's side) denotes the mutual intimacy, love and knowledge existing in the Godhead (see 13:23; Luke 16:22, 23).
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24 Discussion Suggested Texts for Further Study God s Presence with His People: o The Tabernacle Exodus 25:1-8, 33:7-11, 40:34-38 o The Temple 1 Kings 6:11-13, 8:27-30, 9:1-9 o The Son John 1:14, 2:13-22; Hebrews 9:1-14 o Heaven Revelation 21:1-3 Discussion Questions 1. In today s study, we will be looking at how God came to earth through Christ taking on the form and nature of a human. Why do you think that God chose this way to reveal Himself to mankind? How else might He have gotten His point across? 2. What is the significance of knowing that the Word became flesh? How does that comfort you in daily life? 3. Throughout the history of the Church, people have often misunderstood the nature of Jesus. Historic orthodoxy, however, has always taught that Jesus was fully God and fully man. How does this passage teach that reality? 4. How did Jesus uniquely reveal the glory of God to the world? 5. What was the purpose of the law in redemptive history? How did Jesus manifest grace and truth to the world?