A number of years ago, a church I know purchased something like 100,000 copies of the Gospel of John. Why? So that they could share the message of salvation with everyone in their Chicago suburb. That is to say, by putting a copy of John’s Gospel in everyone’s mailbox, they hoped to share the good news of salvation with all their neighbors.
I don’t know the fruit of that endeavor, but I know it was motivated by a commitment to the Word, a passion to sow the seeds of the gospel, and a prayerful desire to see their neighbors know God and find salvation in the Son. And the use of John makes sense. As John tells us, the Evangelist wrote his book so that his audience would believe in Christ. As John 20:30–31 reads,
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
“Life in his name” is another way of saying salvation (John 3:16) or entrance into the kingdom of God (John 3:3–5). And so, John’s Gospel is rightly associated with the theme of salvation. And more, it is usually not associated with judgment. Jesus even says as much. “For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47).
Case closed. Jesus has come to save, not to judge, and so let’s print up the Gospel of John and send it to everyone who needs salvation. So good, so far. Except, we haven’t answered the question: Saved from what? Saved from death? From sorrow? From sin? From what? Well, that’s what brings us back to judgment—a theme ignored or despised by many who offer Christ today.
The answer to the question about salvation in John’s Gospel is inextricably related to Jesus’s testimony regarding his judgment and the role of the Spirit who brings to completion the judgment of Christ reigning in glory (cf. Psalm 110). To show this, and to better appreciate what salvation is, I will show from John’s Gospel how the theme of judgment develops. And in its development, it may be surprising how prominent judgment is and how important it is for John’s message of salvation. Continue reading