For a man who has been so prominent in Christian thinking throughout the centuries John is a strangely shadowy figure. In the Gospels and Acts he is almost invariably accompanied by someone else and the other person is the spokesman (there is an exception when John tells Jesus that he forbade a man to cast out demons; Luke 9:49). He is often linked with Peter and with his brother James, and these three were specially close to Jesus (Matt. 17:1; Mark 14:33; Luke 8:51). He and James were called "sons of thunder" (Boanerges; Mark 3:17), which perhaps points to the kind of character revealed in their desire to call down fire from heaven on people who refused to receive Jesus (Luke 9:54).
We learn more from the writings linked with his name. The Fourth Gospel as it stands is anonymous, but there is good reason for thinking that John wrote it and that he was the beloved disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast at the Last Supper (John 13:23) and to whom the dying Jesus commended his mother (John 19:26-27). The impression we get is that John had entered into the mind of Jesus more than any of the other disciples had.
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The Father is constantly active (John 5:17); he upholds his creation and brings blessing on those he has made. He is a great God whose will is done, particularly in election and salvation. "No one can come to me," said Jesus, "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44); and again, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16; cf. 8:47; 18:37).
The book of Revelation was written by John (Rev. 1:1-3), though which John is not specified. But there is good reason for seeing it as coming from John the apostle and as stressing an important aspect of Johannine thought, namely that of divine sovereignty. It is easy to get lost in a strange world of seals, trumpets, bowls, and animals with unusual numbers of heads and horns. But this is not the important thing. Throughout this book God is a mighty God. He does what he wills and, though wickedness is strong, in the end he will triumph over every evil thing. There is a great deal about the wrath of God in Revelation (and something about it in the Gospel), which brings out the truth that God is implacably opposed to evil and will in the end overthrow it entirely.
The Spirit is active in leading Christians in the way of truth (John 16:13), and John has a good deal to tell us about the Christian life. He speaks of "eternal life," which seems to mean life proper to the age to come, life of the highest quality (cf. John 10:10). Entrance into life is by believing, and John uses this verb 98 times (though never the noun "faith"). Believers are to be characterized by love (John 13:34-35). They owe all they have to the love of God, and it is proper that they respond to that love with an answering love, a love for God that spills over into a love for other people. This receives strong emphasis in I John. John emphasizes the importance of light (for believers are people who "walk in the light"; I John 1:7) and of truth. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and the Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). To know the truth is to be free (John 8:31-32).
John's is a profound and deep theology, though expressed in the simplest of terms. It sets forth truths which no Christian can neglect.
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
J. E. Davey, The Jesus of St. John; W. F. Howard, Christianity According to St. John; R. Kysar, The Fourth Evangelist and His Gospel; C. F. Nolloth, The Fourth Evangelist; N. J. Painter, John: Witness and Theologian; S. S. Smalley, John: Evangelist and Interpreter; D. G. Vanderlip, Christianity According to John.
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