Part I: John 1:1-18

In the previous post I asserted that a Christian’s obedience is necessitated by the fact that we are God’s. Within an aura of truth, pragmatic philosophy—which has infiltrated our church—cannot stand. The Apostle John exactingly states that any person who has received the gracious gift of salvation is God’s. Therefore, since we are God’s I believe one of the key themes John presents to his readers is how obedience is to be lived out.

Interestingly enough, the Greek word for obedience never occurs in any of John’s literature; instead he chooses to utilize a variety of different terms to better convey his intentions. It is important to note here John’s purpose for writing his gospel account, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). John’s purpose was to record the signs Jesus performed in order that the reader may believe and have everlasting life. That brings us to the first term John used to express obedience: belief.

The first major sign recorded by John is the wedding in Cana. Here we see Jesus turn water into wine, the result: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11). Along with this the second major sign was Christ cleansing the temple of the money changers. Once again John records, “…many believed in His name when then saw the signs which He did” (John 2:23). These verses, while highly significant, do not fully explain what John is intending through the world belief. For that we need to examine what John the Baptist says to Christ, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). The word used here denotes a person who is disobedient or in rejection of truth. John the Baptist contrasts the person which places their faith in Christ with a person who will not trust in him. The primary issue here is trust; and it is trust which the Apostle presents as the whole focus of Jesus’ ministry.

So what is the relation between trust and obedience? The answer is listening.

The third major sign presented by John is the healing of the official’s son. As in previous events, more people came to believe in Christ (see John 4:46-54). Yet, here we also see Jesus chastising the peoples unbelief “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48). I believe an examination of the fourth sign greater explains Jesus’ concerns. After He heals the lame man, the Jews attack Him on the unfounded grounds of healing on the Sabbath. During this discussion Jesus states, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). The Greek verb ‘to hear’ plays a primary role in understanding John’s obedience terminology. While the primary translation is to hear, this word caries further underlying principals then just the cursory notion of listening. This verb encompasses the aspect of actively obeying what is heard, or to fully understand what is being heard with the full intention of going through with what was heard. On the surface hearing and believing do not connect, however if one obeys what he hears, he demonstrates that he has placed trust in what was heard by obeying; hence, he believed. Therefore, a connection exists with how a person responds to what they hear.

How does all this fit in to the Christian life? Your walk.

To tie in all these concepts together one final word is examined. John illustrates obedience by the use of the Greek word ‘to walk.’ This word is first found in John 8:12; Jesus states: “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Jesus is not merely speaking of ethical behavior; he is focusing on how a person conducts their entire life. It is highly important to note that for John the notions of ‘following” and “believing” are virtually synonymous concepts. Therefore, Jesus speaks of a person who fully trusts in him will not walk in darkness, a person who will conduct their life properly, that is lives obediently.

In order to bind this all together the remaining three major signs are explored. In the fifth sign John records the events surrounding Jesus healing the man born blind from birth. When questioned by the Pharisees the man answered, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” Do you also want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27). You see in the Jewish culture when one tells someone something there is an automatic assumption that what was told would now be followed. This thought process is evident in the healed man’s response. Hearing and obeying are explicably linked.

The sixth sign—often referred to as the climatic sign—further correlates the notions of trust, hearing, and walking with obedience. Prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, His disciples questioned why Jesus would return to Judea after what transpired on their previous visit. Jesus response is significant, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11:9-10). Here the contrast between night and day is connected to how one conducts their life. This notion is further developed after He raises Lazarus and triumphantly enters Jerusalem, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going” (John 12:36). Here Jesus denotes himself as “the light” and directs his disciples to move within said light. Taking the thrust of this verse and those discussed above, a clear delineation is drawn. There are two choices: 1) walk in darkness, or 2) walk in light. These distinctions are highly important, for this choice must be understood as a personal decision. Jesus clearly asks his disciples to follow him, and tells them that their lives will reflect their decision; how one conducts their life directly relates to their obedience in Christ. James Montgomery Boice refers to this statement as a two-part challenge:

“In the biblical sense, believing someone means to take that individual at his or her word and then to act upon it. In the case of Jesus, it means to take him at his word when he declares himself to be the Son of God and our Savior and then to act upon that conviction by trusting him as Savior and following him as Lord.

…[Second] is the challenge to ‘walk’ in Christ’s light. This is a step beyond mere believing, though it is related to it. It involves continuing activity or progression. In other words, a proper response to Jesus involves much more than merely committing oneself to a set of truths and acting upon them once. Rather, it involves committing oneself to Jesus, who is on the move, and following him continuously. It means walking in his steps. It means doing what he does, thinking as he thinks, acting as he acts. To do that is to walk in the light, for he is the light. To refuse to follow him is to fall back into darkness.”

This, in turn, leads us into the final sign of the Messiah; the rejection of Christ.  In response to the Pharisees rejection, Jesus declares, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:44-48).

In conclusion, the conduct of a Christian is directly related to the trust they have placed in Christ. If you claim to be a Christian yet chose to not follow His ways, it is because what has been heard is not believed. Trust and conduct go hand-in-hand. The narrow road is followed by walking in response to what is heard by who is trusted.

Next, obedience and Messiah’s glory; John 13:1-20:31

Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, BECTN (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), p 254.

James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, vol 3(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), p 966.