Summary Verses of the Gospel

While all of the Bible provides us with an expression and explanation of the Gospel, there are some verses that serve as summary verses.  These verses, when understood within the big picture and proper context fire up believers.  They serve as succinct reminders of the Gospel.

Taken out of context and simply quoted to nonbelievers often doesn't produce the results we hope for because these are summaries and reminders.  (Of course this is not to say we shouldn't share these verses with nonbelievers.  We should and we should seek to provide the big picture and context.)

Allow me to use the movie, "The Empire Strikes Back" as an illustration.  Imagine you've never seen the movie or the one that came before it.  All you have is a 2 minute clip from the film.  You see a young man walk into a strange industrial area.  Suddenly a large, black, robotic looking warrior in a cape enters the scene.  They fire up their light sabers and engage in battle.  The young man eventually gets his hand hacked off and his weapon plummets far below.  He's defeated yet still manages to crawl out onto a catwalk far above an endless pit.  The darker character says something about the two of them ruling the galaxy together and something else about the power of the dark side. (Whatever that is?)

Then the dark character speaks with a deep voice and says, "Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father."

The younger man says, "He told me enough. He told me you killed him!"

Then the other character says, "No, I am your father!"

If we had see the entire movie, we'd gasp in shock and horror.  Having seen the the previous movie as well as this one up to this point, we can easily understand this absolute plot-twisting shocker.  If you've seen this movie, emotions and thoughts may already be welling up from this single summary clip. (I mean really, what voice did you use when you read that last line?)  Cultural references have been made from this scene for years, to include a scene where the character, "Tommy Boy" is speaking the words "Luke, I am your father" into an oscillating fan, just as many of us have likely done in our own lives.  But without understanding the movie, the clip is not as valuable.  So it is the case with the summary gospel verses of the Bible.

Those who don't know the Bible should ask many questions about these verses.  Who is this Jesus?  Who is the 'he' being referred here?  Why is this sin so series that we need rescued from it?  What is so significant about the death of this one man?  What is so amazing about the grace being referenced in this verse?  Salvation from what?  What do I do with this summary verse?  These are important questions, which is why believers should strive to understand these verses in their proper context, know the bigger story, and strive to explain these verses in greater detail to those who don't know the Bible.

But the gospel is for Christians.  We should be reminded of it often.  We should be spurred on by it, driven and motived by the gospel.  So the summary verses serve a great purpose.  They remind us of the bigger picture.  In one or two lines, these highly loaded statements fuel us.  They are very significant.

Listed below are a sample of the many summary verses that remind us of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  (They are quoted in the ESV.)

Isaiah 53:5 - But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.

Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Jared Jenkins and I discuss John 3:16 on Salty Believer Unscripted. Listen here.)

Acts 10:43 - To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Acts 13:38-39 - Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Romans 4:24-5:1  It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:7-8 - For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 - For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 - All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Hebrews 9:27-28 - And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ also suffered nonce for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

1 John 4:10 - In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

*Photo by user, Ihar, is registered under a creative commons license.

Team Ministry and the Shared Pulpit

In his book, Love Your God With All Your Mind, J.P. Moreland argues, "No one person has enough gifts, perspective, and maturity to be given the opportunity disproportionately to shape the personality and texture of the local church.  If Christ is actually the head of the church, our church structures ought to reflect that fact, and a group of undershepherds, not a senior pastor, should collectively seek His guidance in leading the congregation" (Moreland, 191).  Yet in many churches today, we have a very strong senior pastor model with very little vision, preaching, or leadership coming from anywhere else.    

The Bible however, seems to suggest that the local church should be lead from a plurality of elders with a leader among leaders.  In Paul's letter to Titus, Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders in every town and then proceeds to instruct Titus in the method of selecting men of character to fulfill this role.  Only a couple verses later, Paul refers to these elders as overseers or bishops, translated from the word ἐπίσκοπον.  In Acts 20:18, Paul assembles all the elders (plural) in the Church of Ephesus, where Timothy pastors and later (verse 28) calls them overseers or bishops taken from the plural Greek word, ἐπίσκοπους. This, however, is not to say that every pastor is an elder and every elder is a pastor, nor is it so say that all the elders and overseers are gifted in the same way, if we understand Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 correctly. It does seem likely that Timothy was a leader among a leaders in the Church in Ephesus.  It was probably the same for Titus.  We see this model of a leader among leaders with the Apostles so it does stand to reason the same should hold true for elders.  While Moreland disagrees that there should be a leader among the leaders, the Bible does appear to present this picture.  It does not however suggest that the leader among leaders is the only one to provide vision, preaching, teaching, or leadership for the local church.  This should come from a team.

Furthermore, the biblical picture of ministry is in teams.  Moses was teamed with Aaron (Exodus 4), Jesus sent the 70 (or 72) out in teams of two, or ministry pairs (Luke 10), Peter and John appear to be a strong ministry team in the Book of Acts, as do Barnabas and Paul.  And think about the differences in giftings, skills, and personalities that each man brought to the team!  For example, think about that first mission trip and church planting excursion by Barnabas the encourager and Paul, the hard hitting theologian. I discuss the biblical picture of team ministry in the following video that I recorded some time ago as part of a community group leader's training process:

 So it stands to reason that the ministry of the pulpit, that is, the preaching should be shared among a team of gifted preachers.  Moreland argues for this as well, saying, "[F]or two reasons I do not think a single individual ought to preach more than half (twenty-six) of the Sundays during the year" (Moreland, 194).  His first support is that "no one person ought to have a disproportionate influence through the pulpit because, inevitably, the church will take on that person's strengths, weaknesses, and emphases" (ibid).  How easy it is to find churches that demonstrate his point!  He continues: "By rotating speakers, the body gets exposure to God's truth being poured through a number of different personalities, that is more healthy" (ibid).  One objection that may come up is that the ability to preach among those preaching is not of comparable skill, but Moreland argues that this presents an opportunity for the one of higher quality to train the one of lower quality which will actually produce a spirit of training up preachers and teachers. But this is not to say that every preacher must preach the same way and in the same style, for that would attempt to trump the calling and gifting of God upon each individual preacher.

Moreland's second argument for a shared pulpit has to do with capability.  He says, "no one who preaches week after week can do adequate study for a message or deeply process and internalize the sermon topic spiritually.  What inevitably happens is that a pastor will rely on his speaking ability and skills at putting together a message" Moreland, 194).  The sermon will actually be stronger, sturdier, and more sound because the preacher will have more time.  The result for the congregation is a well prepared sermon every week of the year that doesn't fall into the trap made in Moreland's first support.  Additionally, each preaching pastor will have ample time to minister to the flock through visitation, counseling, teaching, prayer, and personal devotion because he will not be responsible for preparing every sermon.  And the preacher can take time off to rest, rather than burn out from being in the pulpit 52 weeks of the year along with all of his other responsibilities.

I am blessed to have personal experience with a shared pulpit.  I serve on the pastoral staff at Risen Life Church where we highly value team ministry.   We have a shared pulpit between two preaching elders.  On occasion, two other pastors--myself and Jared Jenkins--have been afforded the opportunity to preach.  This summer, we are actually engaging in a four-preacher rotation as an experiment to see how we work together and how it is received by the congregation.  (At the time of this writing, I have already preached the opening sermon in the series.)  Not only has this arrangement been instrumental in the post-seminary training of Jared and I, it has allowed us to learn and grow well under two other gifted preachers.  The sermons are indeed well prepared and the variety of a two-preacher rotation lends itself as a support of Moreland's argument.  I suspect a four-preacher rotation will have a similar effect.  I can see firsthand how much a shared pulpit has allowed the primary preachers to have time to minister throughout the week as well as train up future leaders, teachers, and ministers.  Rest and time off is often not too challenging as we work in teams.  Support for one another may also be stronger.  Additionally, for the most part Risen Life Church is not built around a single pastor. If any one of us left, it would not be a serious blow to the local church, and really, that is how it should be.      

1. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs, Colo: NavPress. 1997.

* Photo of the USA Lightweight 2003 World Champions is in the public domain.

Writing a Doctrinal Statement

It seems every Christian organization, be it a church, school, seminary, conference, denomination, church-planting body, or whatever has a doctrinal or confession statement.  Even I have provided one on this website called, This I Believe.  These things are everywhere.  Some people notice the multitude of doctrinal statements and confessions and only see division while others see diversity and still others see them as a continuing conversation, something of a 'movable feast.'

But the question we should be asking is why?  Why so many different doctrinal statements?  Why the differences?  And why do organizations need them?  After recently finishing my part in shaping the new doctrinal statement at Risen Life Church, I have been thinking about these questions.

As we examine why, we should remember a couple things.  First, there have been disagreements for a very long time and as a result different creeds or doctrinal statements have developed.  In his letters Paul often lays out a confession statement so there is no confusion where he stands. He must do this because there are others preaching and teaching different beliefs and even different gospels.  There is an entire party of believers who hold to the idea that gentile Christians must keep the Law and be circumcised (see Acts 15 and Titus 1:10-11, for examples) .  To resolve this problem a counsel was convened in Jerusalem and a letter was written outlining the outcome (see Acts 15:19-30).  This letter serves as an early New Testament doctrinal statement.  Moving forward in the Church, we see a number of different creeds and confessions.  Entire schools of monks developed because of different views. The reformers had differing ideas and many evangelicals have differences with the reformers today, although they may be unaware.  Most denominations identify themselves by their doctrinal statements and confessions, which unifies them within the organization and differentiates them from other groups.  Differences are certainly not new.

Second, it is important to remember that not all doctrinal statements are equal.  Some organizations set themselves to stand only on those things they believe are of the utmost importance and essential to salvation, leaving room for differences in the lesser things; while other organizations feel they must include all matters of their beliefs as well as methods of their practice.  Some groups hold very strongly to their doctrinal statements while others see them as soft guidelines.  For example, I know of schools who ask their students to "generally" agree with the school's doctrinal statement, while others are very strict that their students firmly agree with every word.  Pastors are often expected to sign a doctrinal statement or write one, although the degree of seriousness to these statements vary among organizations and pastors.  Individuals of organizations may know their creeds well or have no idea that their organization even has a statement of beliefs.  Some churches require parishioners to memorize creeds, confessions, or a catechism as a requirement for membership.  We can read the statements, but sometimes it is best to examine how the group functions within their doctrinal statements and creeds.

A doctrinal statement, article of faith, creed, or a confession of faith is (or should be) a statement or list of things believed that must be shared by the others among the organization if they are to be unified in purpose and practice.  However, these statements normally stick to the most important items and are usually associated with those beliefs which are essential to salvation, but not always. 

So, this brings us back to our initial questions.  Why?

Ultimately, differences arise due to different interpretations of the Bible, reactions to various beliefs, or differencing practices.  In regard to different interpretations of the Bible, these surface when believers hold to different understandings of hermetical principles, place a higher focus on different passages and doctrines than others, or simply have a poor interpretation. In other cases, the Bible may not be as clear in a specific area, and in these instances it is best of we do not hold them with such a strictness.

When it comes to reactions to various beliefs, we find particular statements that stand in support of the hot issues of the day, or against them. This is often the result of different interpretations, but not always.  This became rather serious when believers called for believer's baptism, Luther challenged the pope, others challenged the Eucharist, the charismatic movement shifted into high gear, people started calling the Bible a book of error, women entered the pulpit, and so-on.  There are often code words contained within a doctrinal statement that help us identify where the organization stands but to understand the code words, we have to understand our history and the arguments.  We've got to see the luggage each code work is carrying and we need to understand the history of the baggage.  We even see this with the revisions to the A.D. 325 Nicene Creed at Constantinople in A.D. 381.

Finally, like the reactions to various beliefs we find statements that stand against differing practices.  Church government is sometimes listed in a doctrinal statement although with the exception of a plurality of elders, the Bible is fairly vague on this topic.  Sometimes the method of how worship is conducted or which translation of the Bible the church prefers appears in a doctrinal statement.  Sometimes when churches or organizations hold strongly to preferences they begin to believe that their way is the only correct way and we see this bleed into their doctrinal statements.  Not all church do this, but it does happen.  Another instance is when a single doctrine is elevated above all others and then influences all practices of faith eventually being written into creeds and confessions.  This is most common within the charismatic debates as well as the arguments regarding the role of the different sexes or the end-times understandings.  Often the debates start in the realm of belief but on occasions belief exits the conversation and pride drives the statement.

Despite the reasons for differences, doctrinal statements are good.  If you are a part of a church or maybe a para-church organization, there is great benefit in knowing the doctrinal statement.  As you examine the statements of your organizations, it may be fruitful to start developing your own statement.  What is most important?  What is not?  What is essential? What's not?  These are good questions to ask yourself as you become more and more grounded in what you believe.  And of course, be sure that your beliefs are shaped by what God's Word teaches rather than your preferences.

*Photo by Karen Tan is registered under a creative commons license and is used with permission.

The Tasks of a Pastor?

While many well meaning people could generate lists of what a pastor should be or do, it is best to start with what God's Word, the Bible says of the pastor.

First, every pastor should already be doing the work of every believer. That is, he or she should be making disciples, loving one another, serving, and above all, keeping a growing relationship with God. Second, it would be reasonable to examine the Apostles' practices and assume that many of those things could also be the task of a pastor. Jesus told Peter, "Feed my sheep" and it seems that this could extent even to the pastor today. All of these things are seen repeatedly throughout the Bible.

But what does the Bible specifically say for the pastor? What instructions are available? to answer these questions, the Greek words presbytersos, episkopos, poimēn, kērux, or didaskalos are where a study like this should focus. These are the words that translate to elder, overseer, shepherd, preacher, and teacher, respectively. For the sake of this post, the uses and instruction to the overseer or episkopos will be examined. This is the word that is most often translated in English as bishop, pastor, or overseer.

In Acts chapter 20, Paul shows some concern that some wolves may slip into the church and teach false doctrine. He encourages the leaders to "pay careful attention" to themselves and to the "flock which the Holy Spirit has made [them] overseers" (Acts 20:28, ESV). He further encourages them to remain alert for those who would do harm to the church. And in this task of protector and caregiver to the church they must give much to the Church, just as Paul did.

Philippians is addressed to the saints, overseers, and deacons. This letter provides lots of instruction, especially that they would grow and mature in love and knowledge. In 1 Timothy, Paul provides of list of attributes and characteristics to examine when looking for an overseer for the church. But among this list he provides two clues about what the pastor seems to be expected to do. He says in 1 Timothy 3:2, that the overseer should be "able to teach" and in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 he writes, "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" (ESV). It would seem from this question, that the pastor is to care for the church in like manner to caring well for his household.

And finally, in Titus 1:9, Paul says of the overseer, "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it" (ESV).

Based on this instruction as well as the others, it would seem that the primary duty of the overseer is to teach sound doctrine and protect the flock from those who may try to teach otherwise. The teacher must also be the protector. And while the pastor is many things, these are the instructions specifically given to the overseer.

Training Programs: Sunday School, Small Groups

Throughout the New Testament, believers are warned of false doctrine and charged with the responsibility to make, train, and encourage disciples.  Jesus, after instructing the eleven disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” told them that they must also, “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20, ESV).  Too often it seems that preachers will preach on a passage and follow it up with an invitation for non-believers to accept Christ as Savior, right then and there; not after years of training to understand all that Jesus commanded those eleven disciples.  There is nothing wrong with this, but it is extremely limited in its training extent.  Therefore, it seems that the believer’s journey with the preacher or teacher is not done.  And if a Christian is to understand what is good and what is false doctrine, a process of biblical education is necessary.  Traditionally, disciples spent a lifetime listening to elders teach on the Scripture, and they (if they could read or had access to scriptures) would keep a regular routine of Bible reading.  Eventually, additional training programs were implemented, generally called "Sunday school."  In recent years among some churches, this training has shifted to a mid-week gathering in members’ homes.  Although the name (and the format) has changed, the principle remains—“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 29:20, ESV).

For the sake of brevity, only a brief offering of scripture will be offered here.  In Acts 17:11, Luke, the author, praises the brothers in Berea for “examining the Scriptures daily” (ESV).  Paul instructs Titus in Titus 1:9 that an elder or overseer “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it” (ESV).  To Timothy, Paul suggests that elders should be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2) and discern the difference between sound and false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10, Timothy 6:3). In Ephesians 4, Paul suggests that a poor understanding of doctrine is like a child “tossed to and fro by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV). Training is expected of the members of the Church, as Paul sees teaching as a gift given by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:28); and it is a reasonable assumption that in teaching, he means teaching the Word of God and sound doctrine.  And remember, Jesus warns that false prophets will come in sheep’s clothing, but will be recognized by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16). It is clear even from these few selected passages that the Church must understand correct doctrine and to do so requires teaching from those able and spiritually gifted to teach. In the modern church, Sunday school programs and small groups fill this role, in part.

W. A. Criswell sees Sunday school programs as an evangelistic tool. He writes of Sunday school, “This is the great outreaching arm of the church. This is our primary instrument of visitation, soul-wining, and Bible teaching” (Criswell 1980, 176). While this may have been true some years ago, and it might be (or was) happening in Criswell’s church, my observations in my area suggest something different.  And based on the Scripture provided above, evangelism and training differ in that one is a starting point and the other is lifetime of teaching and learning.

In the church today, Sunday school and home group programs serve to build up the body.  As members learn the teaching of the Bible, they grow.  As they grow, they tend to become bold.  As they understand the gospel and doctrines of the Bible, and as they become bold, they become powerful evangelists in their circles of influence, such as in their places of work and circle of non-believing friends.  It is in this way that Sunday school programs and small groups strengthen evangelist work.  But that is not where it should end.  Leaders do have a responsibility to build up the believers.  Sunday school programs and small groups are also are inline with the scriptures directing members to know doctrine.  Classes, taught by believers that are gifted with the ability to teach, help build the foundation, under girding, and framework that the Holy Spirit uses to bring about spiritual formation in the lives of the believes.  Therefore, Sunday school is a natural extension of Jesus’ instruction to teach all that he commanded.

Criswell, W.A. Criswell's Guidebook for Pastors. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman Press, 1980.

* I have no material connection to this book. This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website. 

** Photo taken by Flickr user Old Shoe Woman and is registered under  Creative Commons License. 

Christianity Today, Dr. Ergun Caner, and Liberty

May 4, 2010
In light of yesterday's Christianity Today article, "Bloggers Target Seminary President," I thought I would share some of my thoughts. (If you are unaware of the events, articles, YouTube videos, or blogs surrounding Dr. Ergun Caner at the moment, it may be helpful that you read the Christianity Today article prior to reading my ramblings. [Update, 5/5/10. The Associated Baptist Press has release an article titled, "Liberty U. backs seminary president amid charges of misrepresentation." It is also worth a look.])  

I am not a Southern Baptist, nor am I presently (or was I ever) a Muslim.  And although it doesn't mean much, I am a student of the Distance Learning Program at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary where Dr. Ergun Caner is President.  In addition, my apologetics course used a textbook by Dr. Caner as well as his lectures and discussions on various topics specifically recorded for the course.  But none of this makes me qualified to discuss the controversy of Dr. Caner's past with any authority.  These are just my thoughts.

It seems some accusations were brought against Caner, first by a Muslim or a Muslim group.  They claimed that Caner's background might have been puffed up, exaggerated, or even fabricated.  While I have no idea if these individuals contacted (or attempted to contact) Caner directly, it is clear that there were blogs and YouTube videos making claims against him.  Then some Christian bloggers joined the Muslims, leveling their own claims.  I am unaware if any of these Christians approached Caner before making claims publicly on the Internet.

Jesus outlined what should be done when a brother sins against us.  In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus says,
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
This passage raises some interesting questions.  First, should a seminary be treated as the church?  How about the readership and purchasing base of Caner's books?  The YouTube community and blogosphere?  Second, when an individual is a public figure, such as Ergun Caner, who has he sinned against?  Is it against the public who have read his books which may contain incorrect information about his past?  Maybe; probably.  Close friends and brothers in his local church where he worships?  If nothing else, they could at least offer him some oversight and maybe insight.  But more significantly, there very well could be a sin against the school Dr. Caner is expected to represent.  His actions could hurt the reputation of the seminary and its students.

So then it seems that an individual at the school, likely in a position of authority, holds a responsibility to address Caner on these maters.  Based on the CT article, it looks as if this task fell to Elmer Towns.  The article also indicates that this matter was brought before others.  It reads, "The Liberty board has held an inquiry and directors are satisfied that Caner has done nothing theologically inappropriate."  Towns adds, "It's not an ethical issue, it's not a moral issue," but doesn't clarify what kind of issue it is, if any. He then says in the article, "We give faculty a certain amount of theological leverage. The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court."  I personally find this statement concerning given that the secular standard of the court system is used rather than anything biblical.  (Using a secular system as the final authority is not what I have been taught at the seminary under Dr. Caner's direction.)

"Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us."  [Titus 2:7-8, ESV]

However, being that Dr. Caner is a public figure and acts as the face of the seminary, I would find it rather valuable if the committee (or Caner) provided the information that proved that Caner was not in any kind of ethical or moral wrongdoing.  If they felt Caner had done nothing wrong, I trust that it was based on more than the poor quality of the charges against him.  I understand that the Bible dictates that charges of wrongdoing be brought by two or more witnesses, but I am not sure how that measures up regarding a public figure in the world of mass book publication and the Internet.  Whatever the case, this information would certainly put my mind at ease.  It would also help demonstrate Dr. Caner's credibility as an apologists, educator, and representative of the Christian community. 

On the other hand, if the Liberty board is not adhering to high biblical standards, instead condoning a fellow believer and colleague, they are hurting a brother in Christ, the reputation of the school, and themselves.  I would find it rather problematic if my fellow students were expected to maintain a high standard of honesty and credibility as we write papers and engage in study while the President was not an example of this same standard of moral fortitude.

I'd like to conclude with one final thought.  In January, I was sitting in a coffee shop with a pastor when the apologetic work of Dr. Caner came up in conversation.  It might have been something from one of his books or maybe from a recorded discussion.  At that moment, it seemed as if a rolling cloud of thunderous anger moved over the pastor sitting across from me in the booth.  "That man is a liar!" he shouted.  I asked him how in the world he could know, and this pastor friend said he had seen a YouTube video.  I would like to caution against this type of behavior.  I don't believe my pastor friend had ever spoken with Ergun Caner, nor had he done any further research on the matter (as far as I could tell).

The best thing here is to evaluate the evidence provided by those making accusations (and I'll admit it is compelling), and we must also evaluate the evidence (or statements) provided by (or in support of) Dr. Caner.  But first we need to see the evidence of all sides.  We should also remember that the inability to provide evidence serves as evidence as well.  Only then should we make statements with such certainty.  If it turns out that these other Christians have incorrectly slandered Ergun Caner, than they should be rebuked and restored in love.  However, if they are right and Dr. Caner has lied to the extent that they claim, it is my hope that Caner takes up a repentant heart and those around him support him back to restoration.

Dr. Caner and the leadership of Liberty remain in my prayers.  I also pray that this article acts as a reminder in my own life.  If there is anything that I might have exaggerated or misrepresented in areas of my life, I pray it is made know so that I may repent and faithfully represent Christ's gospel as honestly as I am able.  If given the opportunity I would appreciate any additional conversation on this, especially with Dr. Caner.

[UPDATE, 5/10/2010: Liberty University has formed a committee to investigate Dr. Caner's statements.  Dr. Caner has stated that he welcomes this process.]

*The above photo is taken from and uses by implied permission.

Jesus is the Truth

[I realize this post is extremely long and will likely only be read by other seminary students looking for some angle for a paper, or maybe by a die-hard who doesn't have a TV or a girl friend.  However, I still wanted to post it here in the off event that the material in this lengthy post might actually help someone or point a reader toward at least one truth about Christ.]


 “Truly, Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal live.”[1]
Twenty-five times in the book of John, Jesus begins a statement with the words “Truly, truly.”  The author of John is the only gospel contributor to use this combination of words, likely employing the phrase for greater emphasis[2].  What generally follows is a statement from Jesus providing clarification, or—more often than not—a declaration of Jesus’ Truth.  Many of Jesus’ spoken words throughout John are lengthy proclamations or corrections, often addressing misunderstandings of the messiah and his connection to God.  Through this technique, the author of John portrays Jesus not only as the Messiah, but also as the Truth.  John strings these conversations into a larger interconnected narrative that illustrates this theme.  Accordingly, readers of John can learn much through Jesus’ declarations, corrections, and illuminations of the Truth.  After providing a brief summary of the authorship and background of the book of John and then a survey of the many Christological declarations demonstrated together through the pages of the book, this study will examine the interconnectedness of the John’s Gospel by looking at portions of three narratives of Jesus’ declarations in order to seek a greater understanding of Jesus as Truth. 

About the Book: Its Author and Purpose

            In a time when students of the Bible often ignore libraries filled with scholarly work on the author and purpose of the book of John, one might ask why it is necessary to include this information here.  While certainly a reasonable question, it overlooks the historical reliability of the book and neglects what might be learned by understanding the narrative through the perspective of the person who wrote it.  In addition, “If we can feel that there are good grounds for thinking of an eyewitness,” writes Leon Morris, “and specifically of John the Apostle, as being behind [the book of John] our view of what it says will be one thing.  But if we see it as written by a second-century Christian who had never set eyes on Jesus it will be quite another.”[3]  If Morris is correct, than the reader is well served by understanding who the author is and the purpose behind his work.
            Tradition has long held that a man named John is the author of the Gospel that bares his name, although it is important to remember, as Colin G. Kruse asserts, that “the titles that appear in the NT today were added by early editors of the NT cannon.”[4]  This particular John is often thought to be the Apostle John, son of Zebedee, and a Jew who witnessed the ministry of Jesus.  Although not free of dispute, the more common external evidence in favor of the Apostle John as the book’s author includes the writings, verbal transitions of tradition, and testimony of Papias, Polycarp, Clement, Eusebius, and Irenaeus, who, Kruse argues wrote the “clearest affirmation of the writing of the Forth Gospel by the apostle John.”[5]  In his work identified as Against Heresies iii, Irenaeus suggest that John was the man who reclined on Jesus—written in John 13:23—and “published a Gospel.”[6]  Internal evidence, as examined with the use of the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, Revelation, and letters understood to be penned by Paul and John strongly suggests the Apostle John as the book’s author, although nothing in these biblical documents implicitly attributes John as its author.  Therefore, although there is substantial debate regarding the authorship of the book of John, for the sake of brevity, this study will accept the Apostle John, son of Zebedee, as the author of the book and therefore examine it on the “good grounds” that it is written by an eyewitness. 
            John tucks his purpose toward the end of his Gospel, writing, “Now Jesus did may other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”[7]  By his own words, belief in Jesus, it would seem, is John’s objective.  “More than anything else,” writes Kruse, “it is the emphasis of the Fourth Gospel upon the need to believe in Jesus and the stories of people who did so that suggest its primary purpose is evangelistic.”[8]  Francis J. Moloney would likely agree, but also argues that the book of John is not purely evangelistic.  He suggests that the first eighteen verses comprise a tremendous claim of “remarkable truths.”  This is not, as Moloney proposes, a book for those who have never heard of Jesus.  “The Prologue completely unveils the Evangelist’s understanding of who Jesus is and what he does,”[9] states Moloney.  “The reader is left with no doubt concerning the Evangelist’s beliefs about Jesus.  Whether or not he or she accepts them is another matter.”[10]  From verse 19 of the first chapter through the last word of the book , John’s effort is to further persuade those who may not have accepted his opening claims.  D.A. Carson & Douglas J. Moo write, “John’s work is a gospel: all the movement of the plot is toward the cross and the resurrection.  The cross is not merely a revelatory moment: it is the death of the shepherd for his sheep (John 10), the sacrifice of one man for his nation (John 11), the life that is given for the world (John 6), and victory of the Lamb of God (John 1), the triumph of the obedient Son, who in consequence bequeaths his life, his peace, his joy, his Spirit (John 14-16).”[11]  And as will be demonstrated in this paper, John often presents Jesus in dialog with those who, it may be argued, either do not recognize Jesus as the Truth or outright reject this notion.  The implied idea is that the reader may see these narratives as a whole and feel compelled to side with either those who do not believe or with Jesus.

What is Truth: A Survey of Jesus’ Delectations
            From the middle of the second chapter when Jesus cleanses the temple,[12] first claims God as his father,[13] and then makes a bold declaration answering the Jew’s demand for a sign[14] to Jesus redirecting Peter’s concerns about John[15] five verses from the end of the book, John is filled with narratives of Jesus correcting people and making bold statements about himself and his purpose, but never clearly defining what is Truth.  However, John provides twelve key conversations that demonstrate a unified purpose regarding Jesus as the Truth, collectively and individually serving to persuade the reader to make a decision.  By John’s design, each conversation is structured to sway the reader toward a belief in Jesus and a greater understanding of the Truth.  The Truth is a major theme of John’s Gospel and where this study places its focus. 
            Provided below, a brief identification and summary of Jesus’ key conversations should provide an overview of the subject matter and where they fit within the larger theme.  In the section following this one, three passages—selected specifically to demonstrate the collective theme—are examined in detail.
            3:1-21.   A member of the Sanhedrin and a Pharisee, Nicodemus seeks out Jesus by cover of darkness.  He opens with a statement that appears to beg Jesus for more information: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that do unless God is with him.”[16]  What follows is remarkable conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus that outlines how one may become a child of God.  Nicodemus then asks, “How can these things be?”[17]  Unlike the rest of the key conversations, the reader is given no clear indication of Nicodemus’ reaction to Jesus’ statements.  One sees that Nicodemus does not understand, but whether he rejects Jesus’ Truth is difficult to determine.  It is as if John intends to deposit Nicodemus’ question into the mind of the reader so that it might resurface as each conversation builds upon the Truth.  This passage is one of the three that will be examined in detail in a subsequent section of this study.
            4:5-30.   In what might be one of the quickest exchanges of the key conversations, Jesus goes to Samaria where he encounters a woman drawing water at Jacob’s Well.  After Jesus asks her for a drink, she questions how it is that he, a Jew, would ask anything of a Samaritan, let alone a woman.  He turns it around with a conversation about a living water that he can give which leads to eternal life.  Jesus then demonstrates a supernatural knowledge about the woman’s marital status and she decides that he is a prophet.  The woman asks Jesus about the proper location of worship.  To which Jesus corrects her understanding, stating that soon, neither Jerusalem nor the mountain she identified will be the required place of worship.[18]  Jesus adds, “But the hour is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”[19]  Following one more exchange, Jesus shares with her that he is the Messiah and she believes. 
            5:2-47.  After Jesus heals a long-time invalid on the Sabbath, the Jews find fault with first, the healed man carrying his mat on the Sabbath, and second, Jesus healing that same man on a day that the Law (under their understanding of the law) allows for no work.  Jesus and the Jews enter into a one-sided conversation, whereby Jesus identifies himself as God, or, at least equal with God, stating, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”[20]  Andreas J. Kostenberger points biblical students to Old Testament Scripture and other Jewish writings[21] when he says, “The OT and Second Temple literature concur that raising the dead and giving life are the sole prerogatives of God.  Jesus’ contemporaries therefore did not believe that the Messiah would be given authority to raise the dead.”[22]  Jesus again teaches the common thread through the key conversations when he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”[23]  Following this statement, Jesus lambastes the Jews for their rejection of his Truth, arguing that they do not hear the voice of the Son of God and will not have eternal life.  Interestingly, John identifies that the Jews, at this point, are plotting to kill Jesus before the lengthy diatribe on their disbelief, potentially to plant a preconception in the mind of the reader.
            6:22-71.  Before this selected passage, Jesus feeds five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fish.  The following day, Jesus enters into a discussion with his disciples about Moses, belief, and eternal life, all wrapped up in the symbolism of the bread.  Then Jesus declares himself the “Bread of Life.”[24]  The Jews who heard him speaking question Jesus; which Jesus, again, declares that he is God.  Drawing on imagery of the Israelites eating manna in the wilderness, Jesus says, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”[25]  As the conversation continues, many disciples choose to discontinue following Jesus, rejecting his Truth.  However, when Jesus asked the Twelve if they too were going to leave him, “Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”[26]  They believed.  And through this narrative, John places the reader in a tough spot: walk away, or believe as Simon Peter and the Twelve do.
            7:1-51.  Wasting no words, John immediately starts another narrative to pull the reader to a decision point.  This time, John shows the audience from the perspective of those trying to understand the Truth.  Jesus’ brothers challenge Jesus to go to the Feast of Booths, but the passage says, “For not even his brothers believed in him.”[27]  Eventually, Jesus does go to the temple and begins teaching.  Some in the temple were arguing about the nature of Jesus when the Jews asked Jesus where he had studied.  He provides them an answer (which dictates that his teaching are from God and are true) and then turns the tables on them, bringing up the Law of the Sabbath and their desire to kill him.  As Jesus is speaking, some of the people of Jerusalem start asking themselves if Jesus could be the Christ.  They are weighing the facts and considering the signs.  At this point, the Pharisees send for the authorities to arrest Jesus.  A prediction of Jesus own death is given and then Jesus again teaches on the living waters.  John uses the remaining chapter to show the Pharisees debate with one another about Christ Jesus.  Interestingly enough, Nicodemus is mentioned by name and seen arguing the law regarding witness testimony in favor of Jesus, although there is still no mention of what Nicodemus believes about Jesus. Most of the other Pharisees can be easily identified as rejecting Jesus even to the point of wanting him arrested.
            8:12-59.[28] Mirroring chapter 5, verses 2-47, Jesus again converses with the Pharisees about Truth, Light, and the deity of the Messiah.  This is a turning point of the key conversations as John ratchets up the intensity of the rejection from the Pharisees.  Through this narrative, the reader sees some believe and some disbelieve; and by the end of the passage, those rejecting Jesus are picking up stones to throw at Jesus.  Portions of this passage will be discussed in detail later in this paper.  
            9:1-41.  Chapter 9 centers around a blind man.  The disciples ask Jesus about the cause of blind man’s sin.  Jesus point out that the question as to whose sin is responsible for the blindness (the blind man or his parents) is misguided and clarifies their thinking saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”[29]  After Jesus heals the man, John follows the blind man now healed to show the reader his perspective.  And as the Pharisees try to figure out what happened to this man, he confesses that it was Jesus who healed him, resulting in the man being barred from the synagogue.  The reader now sees that those rejecting Jesus and the Truth are also rejecting any person who believes.  Significantly, John shows the reader that Jesus seeks out the rejected man, individually and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[30]  In what follows, the man says, “Lord, I believe” and the scripture indicates that he worshiped Jesus.[31]  After this, Jesus draws upon parallels about himself and the ability to see.
            Although the next passage, 10:1-21 is addressing the Jews rather than the Pharisees, it seems to follow the previous one.[32]  Now, John shows the reader that a decision about Jesus’ Truth is becoming more necessary.  Using a parable of a sheep pen and a good shepherd, Jesus explains that anyone not entering by the door of the pen is a thief or robber but the person using the door is the shepherd.  “To him the gate keeper opens,” says Jesus, “The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”[33]  As Jesus continues, he says that the sheep will not recognize a stranger’s voice.  He also identifies himself as the door.[34]  Jesus (again declaring himself as the Messiah) says, “I am the good shepherd.”[35]  As Morris suggests, “It makes an instant appeal to the depths within man, even though man may be a citydweller and have never seen a shepherd in his life.  But the thought of the care for the sheep that is involved in the title is plain enough.”[36]  A prediction of his own death and resurrection follows and ties to this parable; after which, John shows the reader that “There was again division among the Jews because of these words.”[37]  Some, it would seem, felt that there was no reason to listen to Jesus and that maybe he had a demon in him, while others felt the quite the opposite.
            10:22-42.  John has now completely shifted away from the inquisitive fact-finding style readers see in the first conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.  In this key conversation, Jesus is walking in the colonnade of Solomon when the Jews ask Jesus to tell them whether he is the Christ.  The reader should remember that John the Baptist was also asked this direct question in the first chapter of the book of John and he answered, “I am not the Christ.”[38]  Jesus’ answer to the same question: “I told you, and you do not believe.”[39]  They are not part of his flock, and again, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”[40]  Then, answering their question whether he is the Christ or not, Jesus plainly states, “I and the Father are one.”[41]  Infuriated, the Jews reject this answer, grab stones, and are ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy right there in the colonnade of Solomon.  Jesus escapes however, and crosses the Jordan where, as John draws sharp contrast, “many believed in him there.”[42]
            11:1-53.  Enough talk, enough debate; John has brought the reader to what might well be the initial point of decision.  This is the pinnacle of conflict, the moment of no return as far as the narrative is concerned.  Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  John tells this portion of the story through action, with only a few direct words from Jesus.  After Lazarus has died, Jesus tells his disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”[43]  After arriving at Lazarus’ home, Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”[44]  Then Jesus adds something significant.  Jesus asks Martha, “Do you believe this?”[45]  According to Donald A. Carson, “...he is not asking if she believes that he is about to raise her brother from the dead, but if her faith can go beyond quiet confidence that her brother will be resurrected at the last day to personal trust in Jesus as the resurrection and the life, the only person who can grant eternal life and promise the transformation of resurrection.”[46]  Carson’s commentary seems correct when one looks at Martha’s answer: “She said to him, ‘Yes Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”[47]  As John’s narrative continues, the reader sees Jesus pray to the Father, saying that he prayed as he did so that the people may believe.[48]  Lazarus is raised, and John completes this key conversation indicating that “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”[49]  And the Pharisees, fearing that everyone might believe in Jesus, which could bring about the loss of “both our place and our nation,”[50] plot to kill Jesus.
            Three key conversations remain, but after this passage, the remaining two should only served to help the reader settle into one side of belief of the other.  After Martha’s confession, there is little else for John to present to his reader before entering into the Passion phase of his Gospel.
            12:20-50.  As John, again, attempts to bring the reader back to his opening eighteen-verse premise, this passage serves as something of a threshold.  It begs the question of the reader, Are you a disciple or are you not?  Do you or do you not believe?  As Jesus is speaking to some Greeks and explaining that the hour of his glory has come, a voice from heaven speaks.  The people are amazed and Jesus tells them it came for their sake.  It is here that John shifts away from the narrative toward his own commentary, explaining that the people have seen the signs and still do not believe.  In addition, John quotes Old Testament prophecy to demonstrate even more of their unbelief.  Verses 42-43 show the reader a picture of one who believed but was fearful to confess this belief.  This person says John, “loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”[51]  Likely, this is a foreshadowing the next key conversation with the disciples.  When John resumes the narrative, the reader finds Jesus restating the message, the Truth—essentially, Jesus is the Light of the World and all who believe in him will have ever lasting life.  What more could be said that hasn’t already been said? 
            14:1-16:33.  Chapters 14-16 are drastically different than the previous ten key conversations.  It is here, that John, in direct language, lays out what Jesus teaches to his disciples, to those who believe.  However, this is not simply a handbook for believers or John could have concluded his book without the Passion.  Instead, this is a confirmation for the believer and a teaching tool to prepare the believer for tough times ahead.  And while it may seem at this point that the reader should have already found a position on one side of belief or the other, John demonstrates that this decision is just not that easy.  At the conclusion of this long dialog, John writes, “His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.’”[52]  But Jesus’ response suggests that belief is not as easy as one may think.  There is something more.  Richard C. Lenski writes, “But even as the disciples had said that Jesus knows all things so he now adds the severe trial that already awaits their faith.”[53]  Jerome H. Neyrey takes it a step further stating, “The time notation indicates that they are not finished with their liminal period of learning and discipleship; moreover, the testing of their belief will prove that they do not measure up to the grade.  Despite their claims, they are still in a time of figures, not plain speech.”[54]  This is the reason John’s book records Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  And now, after John’s first eighteen verses of Truth and then eleven key conversions to encourage the reader to a position of belief, John tells his reader that the belief can not be like those who believed without confession for fear of being put out of the synagogue.  John has now brought his readers to the point of decision.
            18:33-38.  The final key conversation is John’s way of forcing the reader to come to some kind of conclusion.  Jesus is standing before Pilate being judged (and himself judging as some argue), as symbolically the reader is judging for oneself.  Pilate asks if Jesus is a king and Jesus discusses his kingdom.  For the second time, John discusses kingdom issues, the first being during Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus.  It is also in this passage that John records Pilate’s timeless question, “What is truth?”.[55]  This, being the other bookend of John’s evangelical argument, is the third selected key conversation that will be examined in depth in the next section.

John’s Evangelical Argument: Jesus is the truth
John records Jesus words, saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”[56]  But what is this truth?  In chapter 17, while praying, Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.”[57]  And in John’s opening, he writes, “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,”[58] and once more, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”[59]  But again, one must ask, what is truth?
The Greek word John uses in the previously mentioned passages is aletheia, meaning “truth, truthfulness, corresponding to reality.”[60]  Guy Duffield and Nathaniel M. Can Cleave suggest that “Because God is truth, His Word is true.  It is the true revelation of His nature, His will and purpose for man, and His plan of salvation.  His promises and covenants are made in truth and are unfailingly dependable.”[61]  Wayne Grudem argues, “God’s truthfulness means that he is the true God, and that all his knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth.”[62]  And Titus 1:2 states that God never lies.[63]  But what does John say about Truth?
John’s Gospel, one will find, discusses truth often but never clearly defines the Truth that is Jesus.  The only way to understand this Truth is through the narratives of the previously mentioned twelve key conversations and Jesus responses, declarations, and corrections aimed at misunderstandings.  It is in these narratives that Jesus’ Truth holds meaning and comes to life.  All twelve of these key conversations deserve an in depth study, but for the purpose of this paper, only specific portions of three will be examined: Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus (3:1-21), which serves as the opening discussion; one of Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees and Jews (8:12-59); and Jesus’ discussion with Pilate, which serves as the close of John’s evangelical argument.
In what might be the most well known declaration of Jesus’ gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus why he came into the world; however, at this early point in the book of John, Jesus does not clearly tell Nicodemus that he is the Son of God.  John on the other hand, has identified Jesus as the Son of God in the opening of his Gospel and the reader should make the connection through Jesus’ monologue on light and darkness.[64]  The light of John 1:9 is “the true light.”  Carson states, “The word for ‘true’ (alethinos), here and often in John, means ‘real,’ or ‘genuine.’”[65]  He points out that John characteristically applies this word to, “light (here), worshippers (4:23), bread from heaven (6:32), the vine (15:1), and even to God himself (7:28); 17:3).  Other persons or institutions may claim to be the light, to be worshippers, to be the vine, to be bread from heaven, even to be ‘god’; John sets out to present the true light, vine, bread and so forth.”[66]  Thus, Johns’ statement, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world”[67] is a reference to the Word, which became flesh, that is, the Son of God, “full of grace and truth.”[68]  The light Jesus discusses with Nicodemus is the same true light John opens with in the beginning of his book.  Therefore, the connection to the true light connects the previous declaration in verses 3:16-21 to the Truth and the Light.  Jesus, therefore makes his first and most significant declaration of Truth, and it is this truth-statement that is echoed through the rest of the conversations: “...that whoever believes in him should not parish but have eternal life.”[69]
In the second selected section of dialog, one finds Jesus arguing with the Jews and the Pharisees.  Craig S. Keener suggests that how chapter eight looks today is probably not how John wrote it.  “In the likelihood that 8:1-11 is not part of the context,” writes Keener, “8:12—10:21 still takes place on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2, 37).”[70]  If this is indeed the case, when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world”[71] he could have been drawing on the imagery of the lighting of the lamp stands during the celebration; but looking at the larger reading, one sees the use of true light employed by Jesus and the author John on more than just this occasion.  Alan Culpepper and Gail O’Day argue that there is more imagery than the lamp stand alone.  “The use of light symbolism in the Fourth Gospel provides the final context within which to place Jesus’ words in 8:12a,” writes Culpepper and Day, “In 1:4-10, light is the central image for the presence of the Word in the world.  ‘Light’ (phos) and ‘life’ (zoe) are identified in 1:4 as two ways in which the Word expresses itself in the world.”[72]
Another passage worth noting (although there are many verses in this key conversation that show an interconnectedness, space limitations restrict this study to only a few examples) is verses 31-32.  Here Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[73]  Those who hear him say this think he is talking about actual slavery, not realizing that Jesus is talking about slavery to sin and the condemnation that comes from sin.  As Morris put it, “The truth of which John writes is the truth that is bound up with the Person and the work of Jesus.  It is saving truth.  It is the truth which saves men from the darkness of sin....”[74]
            As one looks to the final key conversation, that is Jesus’ discussion with Pilate, two declarations by Jesus draw from the previous conversations throughout the book of John.  These two statements seem to complete John’s evangelistic effort.  The first is Jesus’ kingship and the Kingdom of God.  Kostenberger points out that, “Apart from 3:3 and 3:5, this is the only instance of ‘kingdom’ terminology in this Gospel, which stands in stark contrast with the Synoptics, where the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ is exceedingly common.  In both cases in the present Gospel, the use of the term seems to be constrained by the specific encounters of Jesus with Nicodemus and with Pilate....”[75] Looking back to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, one sees that both times Jesus is telling Nicodemus how to obtain entry into the Kingdom of God.  In the latter conversation, Jesus tells Pilate that this kingdom is in fact his kingdom, one that is “not from the world.”[76]  And based on Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, it would seem that one must be “born again” to enter this kingdom.  To be “born again” this conversation suggests that one must believe in the Son of God, that is, the King of the Kingdom.
            The second statement of Jesus’ of which to give special attention should be familiar to the reader, only now it is very clearly spoken.  Pilate hears Jesus talking about a kingdom and inquires, “So you are a king?”  Here it would seem, that Pilate doesn’t fully understand Jesus purpose.  “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”[77]  To the reader that hears, or is starting to hear Jesus’ voice, this should sound extremely familiar.  This reader should see the Truth.  But Pilate simply (or maybe even flippantly) asks, “What is truth?”[78]

            This study has attempted to demonstrate how John portrays Jesus as the Truth through several key passages of his book.  John 1:1-18 is a gospel of Truth; it is the gospel of Jesus.  Everything that follows is John’s evangelistic effort to share that Truth.  Additionally, through Jesus’ recorded declarations and corrections, one can come to find a better understanding of what that Truth is.  Certainly, more than three passages can be examined in detail to further demonstrate how the interconnectedness of John’s Gospel tells the larger narrative of Jesus’ Truth, and it is this author’s desire that these studies are indeed conducted. 
Carson, Donald A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.
Carson, D. A. and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Zondervan, 2005
Culpepper, R. Alan, and Gail R. O'Day. The Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of John. The new
interpreter’s Bible. Volume IX. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 1995.
Duffield, Guy P., and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave. Foundations of Pentecostal Theology. Los
Angles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008.
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester,
England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill:
InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Kostenberger, Andreas J. John.  Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament. Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004.
Kruse, Colin G. The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New
Testament Commentaries. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2003.
Lea, Thomas D., and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message.
Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Lenski, Richard C. The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg
Publishing House, 1961.
Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of John. Boston, Massachusetts: Brill Academic Publishers,
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans,
Neyrey, Jerome H. The Gospel of John. New Cambridge Bible commentary. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Strong, James, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson. The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive
Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001.  

[1] Jn 6:47. All biblical references, unless otherwise indicated, will be taken from the English Standard Version.
[2] James Strong, John R. Kohlenberger, and James A. Swanson, The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001), 1590.  In the Greek, the word is amen (amen) #281, meaning “the truth, a formula of solemn expression of certainty.” 
[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1971), 8.
[4] Colin G. Kruse, The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2003), 27.
[5] Ibid., 25.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Jn 20:30-31.
[8] Kruse, 21.
[9] Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John (Boston, Massachusetts: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005), 6.
[10] Ibid.
[11] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), 277.
[12] Jn 2:13-16
[13] Jn 2:16.
[14] Jn 2:18-20.
[15] Jn 21:21-22.
[16] Jn 3:2.
[17] Jn 3:9.
[18] Jn 4:21.
[19] Jn 4:23, emphasis added.
[20] Jn 5:21.
[21] Dt 32:39, 1 Sm 2:6, 2 Kgs 5:7, Tb 13:2, Ws 16:13
[22] Andreas J. Kostenberger, John, Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004), 187.
[23] Jn 5:25.
[24] Jn 6:35.
[25] Jn 6:51.
[26] Jn 6:68-69.
[27] Jn 7:5.
[28] Because much debate is centered on Jn 8:1-11, there is the possibility that this conversation and the previous one are actually one single conversation interrupted by a passage that might not belong where it is.  However, for the sake of this paper, this author will treat this section as a separate conversation.
[29] Jn 9:3.
[30] Jn 9:35.
[31] Jn 9:38.
[32] Morris indicates that the opening of “Verily, verily” suggests that this is not the opening to a new discourse, but a continuation of the previous one.  Morris, p. 501.  Certainly the Jews questioning Jesus’ ability to heal a blind mind (Jn 10:21), ties chapter 10 to chapter 9.
[33] Jn 10:3-4.
[34] Jn 10:7.
[35] Jn 10:11
[36] Morris, 509.
[37] Jn 10:19.
[38] Jn 1:20.
[39] Jn 10:25.
[40] Jn 10:27.
[41] Jn 10:30.
[42] Jn 10:42.
[43] Jn 11:14-15
[44] Jn 11:25-26.
[45] Jn 11:26.
[46] Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991), 414.
[47] Jn 11:27, note the connection between this narrative and the John’s opening through the use of “coming into the world” here and in Jn 1:9.
[48] Jn 11:42.
[49] Jn 11:45-46.
[50] Jn 11:48.
[51] Jn 12:42-43.
[52] Jn 16:29-30.
[53] Richard C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 1110.
[54] Jerome H. Neyrey, The Gospel of John, New Cambridge Bible commentary (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 275.
[55] Jn 18:28
[56] Jn 14:6.
[57]  Jn 14:17.
[58] Jn1:14.
[59] Jn 1:17.
[60] Strong, 1589.
[61] Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (Los Angles, California: Foursquare Media, 2008), 81.
[62] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 195.
[63] Ti 1:2.
[64] Jn 3:19-21.
[65] Donald A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991), 122.
[66] Ibid.
[67] Jn 1:9.
[68] Jn 1:14.
[69] Jn 1:16b.
[70] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 285.
[71] John 8:12.
[72] Alan R. Culpepper and Gail R. O'Day, (The Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of John. The new interpreter’s Bible. Volume IX. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon, 1995), 632.
[73] Jn 8:31-32.
[74] Morris, 457.
[75] Kostenberger, 528.
[76] Jn 18:36.
[77] Jn 18:37.
[78] Jn 18:38.

*This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.