SHOULD WE USE THE BOOK OF JOHN IN EVANGELISM?
by Shawn Brasseaux
If you are familiar with Protestant churches, especially “Evangelical” circles, you have seen or heard them use verses from the book of John during their salvation invitations. John 3:16 is probably the most well-known Bible verse—”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is still being used in Gospel tracts and Gospel literature, and can be found on T-shirts, bracelets, church signs, bumper stickers, church bulletins, plaques, mugs, et cetera.
One commentator, representing the average Bible teacher or pastor, wrote the following: “The gospel of John is the one book of the Bible specifically written with the purpose of leading men to Jesus Christ and salvation.” The author went on to talk about how we needed to use John’s Gospel to be “effective witnesses for Christ.” While we agree that John’s Gospel contains many exhortations to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (John 1:12; John 2:11; John 2:23; John 3:15-18,36; et al.), what exactly were they to believe about Him? (We will answer that question in this study as well.)
The above people encourage us to use the book of John when we witness to lost people. Also, they urge new Christians to begin reading the Bible in the book of John. I heard it constantly during the years I attended denominational churches. Just the other day at a store, a lady was telling me how her church had recommended that she get a new modern-English Bible and start reading in John’s Gospel. (We had a nice discussion after she said that!)
As previously mentioned, many a tracts and books have John 3:16 in them. The famous “ye must be born again” phrase is extracted from John 3:3-7 and placed in Gospel tracts and messages. For some time, I used the Gospel of John to preach and/or teach people about their need to be saved from their sins. While the Gospel of John is most definitely the inspired Word of God, over the years, I have come to understand—like other Pauline dispensationalists—that John is a very important piece of Israel’s Scriptures. We should study the Gospel of John, and we can quote the Gospel of John during salvation messages, but we should be mindful of its original place in God’s Holy Word. (For more information about the original meaning of John 3:16, please see our study linked at the end of this article.)
In this study, we will look at three common points that very few know concerning the Gospel of John and Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. You will surely read some shocking statements. The average denominational person does not like them, either. However, my friend, it is my hope and prayer that you will let the verses speak for themselves. Above all, by faith, take your stand on the verses!
1. JOHN’S GOSPEL IS WRITTEN TO LOST JEWS TO TELL THEM THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD, MESSIAH/CHRIST.
The Bible book we call “The Gospel According to John” is the fourth and final record of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. John is starkly different from the so-called “Synoptic Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, and Luke): the Apostle John emphasizes aspects and events of Christ’s earthly ministry that Matthew, Mark, and Luke usually entirely disregard.
John 1:11-13 introduces the theme of the book of John: “ He [Jesus Christ] came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 20:30,31 elaborate: “ And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
When moving the Apostle John to write his Gospel record, the Holy Ghost selected specific events of Christ’s earthly ministry, eight unique miraculous demonstrations through which Jesus taught Israel various doctrines (our King James Bible calls these miracles “signs”). These signs communicated to Israel that Jesus Christ was their Christ/Messiah, the Son of God, and that He had the ability, the power, to equip them to function as “the sons of God,” men and women who could work with God and delight in accomplishing His earthly purpose and program.
Those last few verses of John chapter 20 are not at all a salvation message for Gentiles. These verses are the heart of the Gospel of the Kingdom, a Gospel message that focuses on who Jesus is. He is the Messiah/Christ, the Son of the living God. There is no mention of His death, burial, or resurrection in the Gospel of the Kingdom. The good news of Calvary was not declared until the Lord Jesus Christ revealed it to the Apostle Paul, over a year after the events of Calvary. Notice the confessions of these Messianic Jews, believers in the Gospel of the Kingdom:
- Andrew told his brother Simon Peter, “We have found Messias, which is, being interpreted, Christ” (John 1:41).
- Nathanael said to Jesus, “Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49).
- Peter said to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
- Martha said to Jesus, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27).
- The Samaritans of John 4:42 said of Jesus, “we… know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
- In Acts 2:36-38, Peter stressed Jesus’ Lordship and Christship and urged Israel to repent and be water baptized in Jesus Christ’s
- Even as late as Acts 8:37, a year after Calvary, the Gospel was still “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Modern Bible versions and their underlying manuscripts omit this important verse!)
There was nothing in the above verses that made reference to Calvary. The message was simply who Jesus was/is. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. Notice how in John’s Gospel, as well as in other passages of Israel’s program, that the “name” of Jesus Christ is emphasized. Again, it is a reference to who He is rather than what He did:
- John 1:12: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”
- John 3:18: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
- Acts 3:16: “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”
- Acts 8:12: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”
- 1 John 3:23: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”
- 1 John 5:13: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
2. WE DO NOT KNOW JESUS CHRIST AFTER THE FLESH.
Moved by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul made it very clear that we do not know Jesus Christ according to His fleshly ministry, and this would include the book of John: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have know Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:16). There was a time in the Bible when people knew Jesus Christ according to His ministry to the circumcision, the nation Israel.
Read Romans 9:5: “[The Israelites] Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” And Romans 15:8: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” Ephesians 2:12 says that we Gentiles were “without Christ.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ dealt with people on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). He said, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). He also declared, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).
That distinction of Jew/Gentile was done away with when our Dispensation of Grace began. Once Paul’s “all-men” ministry began, God taught mankind not to judge between “Jew and Gentile.” God considered all lost Jews and all lost Gentiles equally satanic and hell-bound. Unbelieving Israel lost her status before God—God considered all lost people “Gentiles,” consigned to hell. Furthermore, in Paul’s ministry, God was taking believing Jews and believing Gentiles and forming the Church the Body of Christ, in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:26-28; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Colossians 3:10-11). That formation of the Body of Christ is all predicated upon the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
3. MUCH OF THE BOOK OF JOHN OCCURRED BEFORE CALVARY.
Absolutely, Jesus Christ talked about His death and His resurrection (see John 2:18-22), but the merits of that crosswork were still unknown to mankind. That was God’s secret that He kept in Himself. If we want to know an exposition of the importance of Calvary’s cross to us Gentiles (Body of Christ), we need to go to the book of Romans. (The book of Hebrews functions as such for the nation Israel.) The first five chapters of Romans discuss how Jesus’ finished work at Calvary can save sinners, chapters 6 through 8 discuss how that crosswork impacts the Christian’s life on a daily basis, and chapters 12 through 16 are a further explanation of how we are to apply those grace doctrines to life.
Now, contrariwise, over 90 percent of the book of John deals with Jesus Christ’s miracles—eight specific signs to be precise. There is no salvation for us contained in Jesus’ miracle ministry. That special ministry was to prove who He was to Israel. It was not John’s intent to evangelize Gentiles with his Gospel record. John said that he was leading people to recognize and believe on the name of Jesus as Messiah/Christ. Such a message would mean nothing to Gentiles. Jews were looking for a Messiah—Messiah was to come to Israel. Gentiles are not looking for a Messiah, friends!
Many well-meaning people have urged us to use John’s Gospel record as a salvation tool and as an introduction to the Bible. While we agree that John’s Gospel contains many exhortations to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (John 1:12; John 2:11; John 2:23; John 3:15-18,36; et al.), what exactly was the message that audience was to believe about Him? Was it “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day?” No. Most of the Gospel of the John details Jesus’ miracles and records His words to His disciples the night before He died. There is actually very little about Calvary in the Gospel of John. We see Jesus crucified in chapter 19 of John, but that is just one chapter and it is dedicated to the historical event of Calvary’s cross. John spent much of his Gospel Record focusing on who Jesus was and how He preached and performed eight miracles to validate who He was. People are taking Paul’s epistles and simply reading them back into the Gospel of John, and that is only blurring the distinction between Paul’s ministry and the other ministries in the Bible.
What John wanted his audience to believe about Jesus was that He was the Son of God, the Christ/Messiah. In John’s Gospel, it was all about who Jesus was rather than what He did at Calvary. Jesus’ identity was in fact no mystery (secret). What Jesus accomplished at Calvary was a mystery/secret (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). Before Paul came, people believed Jesus was Messiah/Christ. What God had not revealed to them was the full merits of His crosswork. (For more information, you can see our study titled, “Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?,” linked below.)
The primary Bible book that we should be using for Gospel messages, Gospel tracts, et cetera, for this the Dispensation of Grace, is the book of Romans. Chapters 1-5 talk about the full benefits of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. The very first Bible book a person should read (when new to the Bible) is the book of Romans. Chapters 6-8 and chapters 12-16 discuss how the Christian life functions on the basis of the doctrine outlined in the first five chapters. I believe it is in accordance with the Devil’s agenda that most Christians and most lost people overlook the book of Romans and start with John, or Acts, or Matthew, or Psalms, or Genesis. In doing so, they never get the clear Gospel message and clear-Christian-living message that the book of Romans gives, thus remaining lost in their sins or confused about how their Christian life should function.
» Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?
» What is the real meaning of John 3:16?
» I am new to the Bible so where should I begin?