Wednesday evening we start a new Bible Study group with a group of friends in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. After some thought, we settled on the Gospel of John for our study. John of course is one of the four Gospels, but it is different from the other three, Matthew, Mark, Luke in a number of respects. Most of the narrative in the Gospels is missing in John. There is no transfiguration, no long narrative parables, no Lord’s Supper, no mention of the temptations in the wilderness and there is no mention of casting out demons. The other three Gospels focus on the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, but they are not the focus of John’s gospel.
Why John is so interesting for a Bible Study group is because he wrote the Gospel to answer the question, why does Jesus matter? As a result John reveals fresh material to us that is not found in the other Gospels. In John, for example, is the story of the changing of the water into wine, the story of Nicodemus, and those seven wonderful “I Am” statements scattered throughout his work. Only in John is Jesus explicitly identified with God. Also of interest is that in John Jesus speaks 130 words that are not recorded anywhere else in Scripture. All these insights along with many more unfold for us the reasons why Jesus matters to us.
The study of John, however, is more than learning why Jesus matters to the world; it is also learning how that wondrous grace applies to our every day life. We can know the Bible inside out, but if the themes of the Gospel don’t touch our lives and change our attitudes, it really means very little.
John’s Gospel leads us into the world of the New Testament where Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures all collide. John writes the Gospel under the pressure of severe persecution from the Emperor Domitian so there is urgency in his writings. He knows many of the readers of his Gospel will die at the hands of the Roman Emperor so it is important that he focus on the assurance and love of God to encourage them though their trials. The writings surrounding Jesus death, resurrection and exaltation have a triumphal quality to them that gives security and hope to a beleaguered community of Christians. The same assurances John presented to his first century readers also encourages us on our Christian walk.
If you’ve never belonged to a small Bible Study group you might want to think about joining a group or starting one of your own. Anyone can lead out, all you need is a willing heart, be open to learn and have respect for other people’s opinions. Find a few friends, invite them over to the house, open up the Bible and you will be surprised at what God will reveal to you.I know from the emails I receive that many of you don’t attend church regularly if at all, but many of you are astute Bible students and are more than capable of leading a group. My dream is that people in different areas of the country will start up studies, invite their friends and watch God change lives.
That reminds me, if you live in the St. Stephen area and would like to join our study please contact me at email@example.com and I will let you know where the study is going to be held and at what time. Unfortunately, we have limited space so we have to limit the number of people for this study but if there is more interest we will start another group in another location. We live in changing times and it is hard to know from day to day what condition politicians are going to leave our world, so it is imperative that we open the word of God and study together so that we have the strength and courage for whatever comes our way.