Why a New Sermon Series on the Gospel of John?
God willing, this Fall I will begin a new extended series of sermons on the Gospel of John. When Jon Bloom, the Executive Director of Desiring God, heard this, he wrote me a note. He was both thrilled and curious:
I’m thrilled that you will be preaching through the Gospel of John! It is my favorite Gospel. Over the last two years, 2006–2007, I memorized it, and it was so rich. To have you preach through it will be a great joy! Hebrews has 303 verses: You preached 52 sermons. Romans has 433 verses: You preached 224 messages. John has 879 verses...
He left the sentence dangling. The curiosity is: How long will this series of messages on the Gospel of John last? Romans took eight years. John is twice as long.
The answer is: I don't know. Don Carson warns about preaching through this Gospel too slowly because its main point (John 20:30–31) is made over and over again, and a long series may be too repetitive (The Gospel According to John, 102). I will take that to heart. And as with Romans, we can always break into the series with some urgent issue or timely need demanding some other text.
I am 62 as we begin. So someone may ask, “Why start a series of messages on the fourth-longest book in the New Testament? Do you want to die in this book?” I cannot think of a better place to die.
There are several reasons I am led to do this kind of sustained exposition of John’s Gospel.
1) It is the word of God. And the discipline of preaching through it will protect me from simply focusing on my favorite topics, or even on my fallible judgments about what I think the people need on any given weekend.
2) I have never preached through one of the four Gospels. That’s a void I would like to fill before I die.
3) There is a unique majesty to this portrait of Christ. There is no higher vision of Christ in Scripture. Andreas Köstenberger has written that “John’s Gospel, together with the Book of Romans, may well be considered the enduring ‘twin towers’ of [New Testament] theology” (John, 1).
4) John is an unparalleled combination of simple diction and profound doctrine. It is simple in its evangelistic usefulness (John 3:16) and has the most thoroughgoing doctrine of predestination in all the Bible (6:37, 44; 10:26).
5) John was written by one who had a uniquely intimate relationship to the Lord Jesus on the earth. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (13:23; 20:2, 21:7, 20). There is a flavor of intimate depth in this book unlike any other.
6) When I sought counsel from the Elders last year concerning the direction of my preaching, they recommended this order: marriage, regeneration, and a new extended expository series. I have followed their wisdom. The two books that rose to the top of their recommendations for exposition were Genesis and John. I have chosen John.
7) Finally, I am hungry for Christ. I feel the way John Owen did near the end of his life. When he died, he was writing a book called Meditations on the Glory of Christ. He wanted to be focused on the main reality of the universe in his last years. So do I. In this book Owen said,
The revelation...of Christ...deserves the severest of our thoughts, the best of our meditations and our utmost diligence in them.... [W]hat better preparation can there be for [our future enjoyment of the glory of Christ] than in a constant previous contemplation of that glory in the revelation that is made in the Gospel. (Works, I, p. 275)
Amen. How better can we be made useful for the world, or ready for heaven, than to give our “best meditations and our utmost diligence” to the revelation of the glory of Christ?
No book in the Bible has a more sustained focus on the glory of Jesus Christ than the Gospel of John. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14).
Would you pray for me? And for the greatest possible blessing of the Holy Spirit on our church for the sake of the good of the world and the glory of Jesus?
Full of expectation,