JOHN THE APOLOGIZER
John was different. Matthew, Mark and Luke
recorded the many sermons in which Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God,
calling it "the gospel" and
clarifying how God's kingdom is different from the kingdoms of the
world. In John's gospel however, Jesus specifically
spoke about the kingdom only one time.
John's book looks different from Matthew, Mark and Luke, because John had a different purpose. Mark named his purpose in his first verse, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus the King..."* Mark was a reporter intent on sharing good news, specifically the most important events surrounding the unique Kingship of Jesus. Luke stated his purpose too, "it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order..." Luke had the same purpose as Mark, but with the explicit intent of keeping the events chronological which modern reporters assume, but was far less important to Mark and to the culture of their day.
John was different though. John explicitly aimed his book at proving something. He stated at the end of his 20th chapter, "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. But these have been recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah..." While Mark, Luke and apparently Matthew (based on similarity of style) were reporters, John wrote as an apologist. An apologist is someone who provides proof to skeptics. John explicitly aimed at providing "signs" which proved Jesus was the Messiah King.
THE ACTS OF THE APOLOGIZERS
After the events reported by Matthew, Mark and Luke, the book of Acts recorded how Peter, Philip, Paul and others went around reporting the good news of God's kingdom and the fact that Jesus is King. But in Acts, the Apostles were more than just reporters; they were also apologists because they constantly provided the proof of Jesus' kingship. They spoke everywhere of His resurrection from death and gave their personal eyewitness testimony to it. Like in Romans 1:4, Paul explicitly clarified in Acts 17:31 that the resurrection of Jesus from death is proof from God that Jesus is the ultimate authority over this world.
WHAT KIND OF KING?
John did more than Peter, Philip, and Paul though. In Acts, the apologists only proved the authority of Jesus as King. John went further. John told the signs which proved what kind of king Jesus is. The Apostles proved in Acts Jesus was the "Christ" which means the promised King in Psalm 2:2-6. John proved Jesus is the Christ which means the begotten Son of God in Psalm 2:7. While Christians are the adopted children of God, Jesus is the only "begotten" Son of God. The adopted children get benefits of sonship, but only God's Begotten is of the same substance as God the Father just as a human child is of the same substance as a human father.
As a side note, I find it instructive that John did not think it necessary to explain the Trinity in great detail. He taught us that Jesus is God, that Jesus is not the Father, and that Jesus is one with the Father; but John did not think it necessary give a detailed explanation of the Trinity. Earlier writers had made it clear the Holy Spirit is God and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share one Name. The Apostles did not find it necessary to give a detailed explanation of the Trinity, so I have no interest in teaching the Trinity to those who do not yet believe the two simpler truths that the apostles explicitly preached to outsiders, that God made Jesus the King and that God proved Jesus is King by raising Him from the dead.
THE APOLOGIZER'S GOSPEL
The preaching by Jesus about God's Kingdom was crucial to the reporter-books, but not to John's proof-book. While John did not include the preaching of Jesus about the Kingdom, John did accomplish what he intended to do; he proved the gospel: Jesus is King, the Son of God. Matthew, Mark and Luke simply reported the events surrounding King Jesus' life and death. John more narrowly provided the select signs which proved Jesus to be King of Kings. The first three New Testament authors were reporters. The fourth was an apologist.
*NIV with "King" substituted for "Christ" as explained here.
"John the Apologizer" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on March 30th, 2013. All rights are reserved. Except where otherwise noted, all scriptures are quoted from the NASB and used by permission www.lockman.org.