The Beloved Gospel
Inspiration has left us with four distinct versions of the life of Jesus,
those found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, commonly known as the four
We might think that one version of the gospel story would be enough, as long
as it were inspired by God. But the Holy Spirit provided us with four versions,
each with its own unique perspective on the life, ministry, teaching, and
sacrifice of Christ. The greatness of Jesus is such that no single inspired
writer fully could communicate it; hence, there's more than one account.
As Ellen White so succinctly expresses it: The gospel story was given "through
different writers, each having his own individuality; though going over the
same history."—Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21. One, simply,
wasn't enough to do it justice.
By using different accounts, God meets a variety of readers where they are.
Each Gospel writer "has an experience of his own, and this diversity broadens
and deepens the knowledge that is brought out to meet the necessities of
varied minds."—Page 22. In the past century, some literature has taken
up the approach of recounting the same story from different perspectives,
a move that was deemed new, innovative, and progressive at the time. How
interesting that our Lord did the same thing nineteen centuries earlier.
In film and biography (such as the book The Desire of Ages, by Ellen
G. White), many have sought to share a combined picture of the life of Jesus,
based on all four Gospels. These efforts have been a great blessing. People
of varied backgrounds and ways of thinking will gain a richer experience
with Jesus as they interact with the variety of emphases provided for us
in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Much is to be gained, however, by focusing
on the unique perspectives of the individual Gospel writers. Under the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, each writer put his own unique perspective
on the life and teachings of Jesus. This quarter we look at John's.
John's often has been called "the beloved Gospel." Its author is repeatedly
called "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23-25, 19:26, 20:2,
21:20-24). His book, therefore, was written by one who was especially
intimate with Jesus, in the same way that Jesus was intimate with His Father
(compare John 1.18 with 13.23). Out of this deeper understanding came
a Gospel that probes the depths of Jesus' character and mission in a way
that its other three counterparts do not.
unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Fourth Gospel seems uniquely designed
to speak directly to a generation who had no access to anyone in physical
contact with Jesus. Every generation since has faced this same problem, so
John speaks directly to us in a way the other Gospels do not. His Gospel
was designed, therefore, to answer what may be the most crucial question
of contemporary Christian faith: How can I have a living relationship with
Someone I cannot see, hear, or touch?
The dual focus of this quarter's Bible Study Guide, therefore, is on the
unique picture of Jesus provided in the beloved Gospel and on the steps that
the Gospel provides toward a deeper and more genuine relationship with Jesus.
John, with his own unique stamp on the Gospel, has provided a powerful source
of encouragement, hope, and faith for the millions who have learned to love
our Lord through what the inspired disciple has placed in it.
John Paulien, the author of this quarter's Bible Study Guide, is chair of
the New Testament Studies department at Andrews University Seminary and a
recognized expert in the writings of John. Thus, we are privileged to have
his insights this quarter as we—who have never met Jesus in the
flesh—study the account of someone who did and who shares his life-changing
experience with us.
May it change our experience, as well.
(all lessons may not be posted)
Giardina Sabbath School
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl, prepares a
series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes all related
scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New King James Version"
of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission. The study
helps are provided in three wordprocessing versions
Word; RTF for our MAC friends; and
HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on December 27, 2003
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributors: John Paulien
Editor: Clifford R. Goldstein
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Publication Manager: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Editorial Assistant: Larie S. Gray
Pacific Press Coordinator: Paul A. Hey
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Concept Design: Dever Design
Copyright © 2004 by the Office of the Adult Bible Study
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
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