by Randy White Ministries Monday, Mar 7, 2022
A RARE BUT PERPLEXING QUESTION
• Few people are mulling over the question of today’s sermon, yet when the question is asked, it becomes one of great interest.
• John 3:16 has been called “the Gospel in a nutshell.” It is the most concise message of the grace gospel found in the four Gospels.
• But wouldn’t you expect such a clear message to be found in all four gospels?
• Even with a different focus to each Gospel, should we expect a clear Gospel presentation in each of the Gospels?
FOUR GOSPELS…FOUR MESSAGES?
• It is often taught that the four Gospels each had a different purpose. Then it is surmised that because the first three were not “evangelistic” in purpose, that they did not need to present the message of John 3:16.
• A common understanding of the four Gospels is…
Matthew Mark Luke John
Jesus as Jewish Messiah Jesus as suffering Son of God Jesus as Savior for all people Jesus as the eternal Son of God
• This common view is only stated by theologians, not by the books themselves.
• Even if true, wouldn’t we expect a John 3:16 type message in these Gospels?
o Wouldn’t Matthew want to let Jews know they could believe on Him for eternal life?
o Wouldn’t Mark want to let readers know that because Jesus suffered, they could believe on Him for eternal life?
o Wouldn’t Luke, presenting Jesus as “Savior for all people” want to provide a “whosoever” kind of message?
• I think that the “different focus” argument for why the three Gospels do not contain a John 3:16 “faith alone” message is weak. If the John 3:16 message is so central to the ministry of Jesus as to enable us to call it the “nutshell,” shouldn’t we at least have some semblance of the message in Matthew, Mark, and Luke?
TO RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM IS A GOOD START
• Many (most) in the church do not even recognize that the synoptics do not include a “faith alone” message at all.
• Some of the evidence speaks for itself:
o The word Believe (and its various forms) appears 35 times in the synoptics, and 100 times in John.
o The word Repent (and its various forms) appears 16 times in the synoptics and 0 times in John.
o The “what must I do” scenarios bring very different answers in the synoptics.
The rich young ruler - Matthew 19:16-29 | Mark 10:17-30 | Luke 18:18-23
The question of the lawyer - Matthew 22:37-40 | Mark 12:29-31 |Luke 10:25-28
SO WHY IS THE JOHN 3:16 MESSAGE NOT IN MATTHEW, MARK, OR LUKE?
FIRST, BECAUSE OF THE PERSPECTIVE OF TIME
• We do not really know the exact date of the writing of any of the Gospels, but there is a fair amount of early testimony that the first three Gospels were written as early as the middle of the first century.
• The fourth Gospel is almost always considered to be written much later, perhaps even after AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple.
• If this is accurate, then we would expect John to be a Gospel that includes the full revelation given to Paul, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke were not written with this perspective. Remember that the Jerusalem council, which dealt with the new doctrine of Paul, was not until AD 50-52, so the synoptics could have been written prior to the revelation of the “faith alone” Gospel of Paul.
SECOND, BECAUSE OF THE COMMENTARY OF THE AUTHOR
• The Gospel of John is filled with a running “author’s commentary.”
o An example: John 2:16-25
o Note even in chapters 1-2 how the author’s commentary and the narrative of the story are woven together seamlessly, moving from one to another.
• This is all very significant, because Jesus would not have revealed the “faith alone” Gospel before such Gospel was revealed to the Apostle Paul. Colossians 1:26 (and Ephesians 3) teach that this Gospel was unrevealed until Paul.
• This means that Jesus could not have spoken John 3:16. And that would be a huge problem except that we have easily identifiable ways of knowing that the writer of John inserted running commentary.
• The conclusion: Jesus never said the words of John 3:16, but the words are very true, and written by the Gospel writer as an explanation to his readers, bringing them up-to-date on the full work of God.
• Is there any evidence in the text that the Gospel writer wrote John 3:16?
o Verses 10-12, Jesus is clearly speaking, using the first person singular.
o Beginning in verse 13, the narrative suddenly switches to the third person.
o In verse 13, the topic is the ascension, which clearly had not happened yet!
• Note: the “red letter edition” is to blame. Though verses 13-21 are “red letter,” I think they are author’s commentary, fitting the context of the Pauline revelation.