This Sunday we begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. As we prepare for that series here are ten things to keep in mind as we enter this incredible book.
1. John has a simple four-part arrangement.
If you want to understand a book’s message, begin with its structure. And in John, we find a simple, four-part organization.
- Prologue (1:1–18)
- Book of Signs (1:19–12:50)
- Book of Glory (13:1–20:31)
- Conclusion (21:1–25)
In this basic outline, the prologue and epilogue balance the book with two interior sections. The first interior section, the book of signs, introduces who Jesus is through a series of extended narratives that identify him with many Old Testament shadows. The second interior section, the book of glory, shows the events leading to Christ’s death on the cross—the event that displays the pinnacle of his glory.
Setting up these two “books,” the prologue introduces us to the Son of God, who is the Word of God Incarnate. With a highly tuned chiastic structure, John opens his book by focusing on how the Divine Son will bring children into the Father’s family (v. 12). Additionally, the prologue introduces themes about the Son of God—his eternality, his deity, his dwelling with humanity, and his fulfillment of history—which will be found throughout the book.
Finally, the epilogue closes the book with the events that took place after Jesus’s resurrection. In this final section, the purpose of the book has already been disclosed (John 20:30–31), and now Jesus is sending his disciples out to bear witness to Christ. It is with great symmetry, that the book opens and closes with men bearing witness about Christ—John the Baptist is the witness who prepares the way; John and Peter are the witnesses who find greatest attention in John 21. Interestingly, this focus on witnessing is found throughout the book too and indicates the way that the Spirit blows through these pages.
As we study this book, we will look more carefully at the organization of this book. But for now, these four sections give us a place to begin. If you want to see a more detailed outline of the book, watch these two videos by the Bible Project.