Recently I was talking with Brad again about John again. He quoted a number of snippets of verses from John and 1 John and dealt at length with my last post. It is my observation that a lot of Christians in America tend to take snippets of three to five verses and make doctrines out of them. Let me give you an example. Brad quoted John 3:36:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the son will not see life, for God’s wrath abides on him.”
This is a common passage quoted by conservative evangelicals to support their position. But what it lacks is context. It lacks understand of the chapters around them. If they are really interested in “contex” as they speak of it, they would have understood first, that this is John the Baptist speaking. If one reads it, it is talking those who have noticed more people are going to Jesus. John proclaims that he “me must become less” in light of this.
This passage, then, should focus on the humility of John. If we are to interpret it for ourselves today, we too should be come less and allow ourselves to enter into the reign of God where it is not about us, but it is about God. Just as it was then, God has given Jesus “the spirit without limit” and “placed everything in his hands.” That is, that Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth, as he has said in other places.
But what exactly it means to “believe on” Jesus is not clear until chapter four. Here we need to have the context of the last chapter to understand the response of the pharisees. The pharisees hear that Jesus is “gaining disciples” and “when Jesus learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.” First of all, we must understand that the text does not tell us why Jesus left. We don’t know if he had a fight or what. All we know is that it was a result of the pharisees attitude that Jesus left.
And the place that Jesus goes next is very important to the understanding of this passage as a unit. He goes to Samaria, the place where God isn’t supposed to work, a place where the half breeds lived. And what happens? Jesus tells them that it is not about the Jews, it is about worshipping God “in spirit and in truth.” In other words, the Kingdom of God is now opened to all in “spirit and in truth.” No longer is it just open to the Jews, but to those like John and the Samaritan woman who believe that Jesus’ way of life is significant and powerful enough for living life now.
Jesus contines by talking to his disciples who are confused because he is talking to a woman. Jesus exclaims that his “food is to do the will of him who sent” him. That is, to collect the harvest “for eternal life.” And notice also that it states the “Samariatians from the town believed in him because o fthe woman’s testimony…we no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man really is the savior of the world.” Never did they say anything about sins, about being forgiven from sins or anything of the like. It is because I do not believe this confession of faith is as central as many Christians have made it.