Sunday Leftovers (1/27/08)

The gospel of John was written to introduce the readers to Christ in such a way that they would be stimulated to believe Him. John accomplishes this through the seven-fold declaration of Christ’s “I am’s,” through the seven miracles of Christ, and even through the very names that John uses to refer to Christ. Each distinct name and usage reveals something about John’s theology, but even more about the glory and character of Christ and God.

What names does he use?

Word. This title is used only 4 times (1:1, 14), but it is significant, nonetheless. The emphasis is obviously on His deity: He is eternally pre-existent, lives in “co-ordination” with God, and yet possessing His own identity, and in fact being God Himself.

Christ is used 16 times in the first 12 chapters of the book, and only twice after that. The word is designed to point to the truth that Jesus is the promised Messiah of God. After His ministry becomes private (beginning in chapter 13), that is not nearly as important. That this name refers to His Messianic work is clear from 1:41; 10:24; 11:27; 17:3. Moreover, those who rejected Jesus as the Messiah understood the implication that He claimed to be Messiah (e.g., 3:28; 7:26-27).

Jesus. This is the most common name, being used more than 200 times. It is a reference to His genuine manhood.

Jesus Christ. Used only 2 times in the book (1:17; 17:3), both times it emphasizes the divine nature of Jesus, emphasizing in 17:3 that he came from “the only true God.” One of the favorite titles of the epistles “Christ Jesus” appears in none of the Gospels.

Son of God. The title is used 9 times in John, several times in conjunction with “Christ” (1:49; 11:27; 20:31), and once with “only begotten” (3:18). These alone suggest that the title is designed to emphasize the divine nature of Jesus. He is not merely a man, but God Himself.

Son of Man (1:51; 3:13-14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34) and “the Son” (3:17, 35-36; 5:19-23, 25-26; 6:40; 8:36; 14:13; 17:1). These two terms are used interchangeably, and likely are a reference to Daniel 11. Interestingly, they are used almost exclusively of Jesus during His public ministry (chs. 1-12), and only twice during His private ministry (chs. 13-21). They refer to His purpose and mission as the Redeemer.

Lord is used of Jesus 53 times in this gospel, with nearly an even split between the public and private ministries of Jesus (25 times in chs. 1-12; 28 times in chs. 13-21). However, 12 of the references in chs. 1-12 are in chs. 11-12! This title was often used generically to demonstrate respect for another human, being translated more simply as “sir” or “master” (e.g., 4:11, 15, 19). However, Christ used this title to refer to Himself (e.g., 13:14), and it is used also with a sense of the recognition of Christ’s deity or power (e.g., 6:68; 9:38; 13:37; 14:5, 8; 20:28; 21:17). It is after the resurrection that this name gets to be used more commonly of Christ.

Only Begotten. John is the only NT writer to use this word of Jesus (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 Jn. 4:9). However, Hebrews 11:17 uses the same word to refer to Isaac as the “only begotten” of Abraham, and from that use we gain understanding about its meaning. Hebrews 11 cannot be a reference to Isaac’s status as the “only” child of Abraham, as Abraham had other children, both through Hagar and his concubines. “But Isaac was unique: he was the son given to Abraham and Sarah as the result of the promise of God. The people of God were to be descended from him and not any of the other sons of Abraham. That Jesus Christ is God’s [only begotten] then means that he is ‘Son of God’ in a unique way. Others may be called ‘sons of God’, but the are not ‘sons’ in the same sense.…[John] is saying that no one else stands in the same relationship to God the Father as does Jesus Christ. Christ is the Son of God not only in the sense that he is the object of God’s love, but also in the sense that his being is bound up with the being of the Father.” [Morris, pp. 92-3.]

In every passage in John, Jesus Christ is presented in numerous ways — through His own words, through the record of His activity, through the responses of both those who believe and those who do not believe, and through a variety of descriptions of Him. And all these things declare: “believe Me!”

The belief called for is not just an initial saving faith, but the ongoing faith of sanctification that continues in and with Christ. There is no one else like Christ. We can not think too much or too often of Him. This is the message of John’s gospel.

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