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E. Examples From The Book Of John

The following material contains three examples from the book of John. The goal is to move from observation, asking and answering questions, summarizing in a subject/complement to outlining the passage. Once you get to the outlining stage you are ready to think about how to teach the passage. This will be taught in the next lesson, “How to Teach A Lesson from the Bible.”

In the examples I gave you above, you were working with Titus and Ephesians, both of which are expository writing. In the following three examples we will begin to work with narrative, though John 1:1-18 and John 14:1-14 are primarily expository in nature. Nonetheless, they ought to be related to the larger story of John’s gospel in which they are found. Further, the healing of the blind man in John 9:1-41 is mostly narrative.

When approaching narrative be sure and observe the setting (where the action occurs) and any details about the setting as well as the characters and plot. For example, note that in John 3 Nicodemus came at “night.” What does this tell you about him? How does this relate to the theme of light and darkness in the rest of the chapter and in John as a whole (cf. 3:20)? These will become important in teaching the passage. You don’t just want to raise the “truths” that the story illustrates to the level of abstract propositions and teach colorless precepts. You will want to engross your audience in the story. More of this in the next lesson. But for now, observe the setting, characters, and plot development. They will be crucial to the outline of your passage.

1. John 1:1-18

Book: John Passage: 1:1-18


Before: It’s the beginning of the book

After: John the Baptist’s ministry (1:19-34) and the calling of the first disciples (1:35-51). There are many important themes in 1:1-18 and I should look for them throughout the book. They include: Jesus’ deity, his humanity, creation, light, life, darkness, revelation of the Father, rejection, believing, the world, grace, truth, etc.

You will want to use the commentaries by Wallace, Harris, and Deffinbaugh in order to understand the background to the book as well as its major themes and structure. You should also read the book one or two times to become familiar with its contents.

A. Analyze and Summarize the Paragraph

Note: Use the NET Bible notes to help you answer your questions in the study of this challenging passage. After studying the passage and getting a handle on the content and answering some questions you will want to read Harris’s commentary (Greek) and/or Deffinbaugh’s commentary (English) in order to crystallize your thinking and begin to construct an outline of the passage.




    1:1 “word

    Who is the “word”? Cf. v. 14



    What is the meaning of the term “word”? Cf. v. 14, 18

    The idea of communication and revelation, also creative power. The phrase “in the beginning” reminds one of Genesis 1:1 and the creating which God did by his spoken word.


    What are the names or titles given to Christ in 1:1-18. Perhaps they can serve as an outline for my lesson?

    Word; God; Creator; True Light; Life; the One and Only; God himself, Jesus Christ in 1:17; etc.

    1:2 There is a distinction made between the “word” and “God”

    What does this distinction imply?

    That Jesus is God, but it is not correct to say that God is Jesus.

    1:3 Jesus is creator

    In what sense is he creator?

    Apart from him nothing was created that has been created. He is equivalent to the supreme creator, yet he is not the Father (cf. v. 1:14)

    1:4 John uses the term Life and says it was the light of men

    What is “life” here and how is it the “life” of men?

    Read NET notes on verse. Eternal life, that is knowing God personally (John 17:3) is the light given men from God.

    1:5 John uses three important words here: (1) shines;
    (2) darkness; (3) mastered.

    What does John mean by the darkness? How does the light shine in it? What does “mastered” mean?

    The world in John’s gospel is morally and spiritually dark. It rejects God’s message, i.e., the Word (cf. chapter 16). The Light “shining on” in the darkness could refer to the testimony of Christians who live righteous lives and faithfully communicate the gospel to a fallen world. The light began with Christ.

    1:6-8 God used a man to testify to the light

    Why does John add this in here?

    Cf. 1:15-16

    Probably to explain how the True light of v. 4-5 came into the world historically. He came after the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist; he wasn’t just a good theological idea!


    How did Jesus give light to every man when he came into the world? Why didn’t the world recognize Jesus (cf. 3:20)?



    What does v. 12 mean by “believe”? What does “in his name” mean? Why the switch to children in v. 12-13? What does this communicate? Is the idea of born-again already implied in these words (see John 3:5)?

    Believing and receiving Christ appear to be synonymous in certain respects. They both involve embracing Christ. “In his name” means according to Jesus’ character and all that he is (cf. 16:24). The idea of children and belief go together and children born of God indicates a brand new family and new creation (cf. 1:3). The idea of born-again is implied in these verses, but we have to wait until chapter 3 to see the involvement of the Spirit.

    1:14-18 Note: Make sure you use the NET Bible notes to help you work your way through these fascinating passages.


    1:14 John turns back to the idea of Jesus as the word (1:1)? Here we have a succinct statement of the incarnation, namely, the addition of humanity to the second person of the trinity. Jesus was God (1:1), but he became flesh (1:14)

    Why does v. 14 follow on the heels of the v. 13 which speaks about salvation and becoming God’s child? What does it mean “to take up residence among us?” (see sn in NET Bible)


    1:15-16 “We have received”

    How have we received from his fullness one gracious gift after another?


    1:17 Jesus is contrasted with the Mosaic law



    1:18 Jesus has made God known

    How does this relate to the idea of Christ as the Word (1:1, 14)?




    Summary Statement of the Entire Passage

    The Subject: The reason that the eternal Word of God became flesh

    The Complement: was so that by revealing God to all men they might believe in him and become God’s children.




      B. Relate the Passage to the Book as a Whole

      C. Outline the Passage

      So we have studied the passage in some detail and have written out a subject-complement. Now we need to outline the passage according to the details of the text. We will call this a textual (i.e., exegetical) outline. The point of an outline is the capture the structure and flow of the passage’s subject-complement. Once you have the “big idea” and outline of the passage, you have completed this aspect of the study of a biblical passage. Obviously you will want to apply this to your life and share it with others—as we have shown you above.

      I. The Deity of the Word (1:1-5)

        A. The Word Was God (1:1-2)

        B. The Word Was Creator (1:3)

        C. The Word Was the Life and Light of Men (1:4-5)

      II. The Preparation for the Earthly Ministry of the Word (1:6-8)

        A. John Was Sent from God (1:6)

        B. John Testified to the Light So That All Men Might Believe (1:7)

        C. John Himself Was not the True Light, Only A Witness (1:8)

        D. The True Light Enlightens Every Man in the World (1:9)

      III. The Response to the Word (1:10-13)

        A. The World Did not Recognize Him (1:10)

        B. His Own Did not Receive Him (1:11)

        C. Those Who Received (Believed) Became Children of God (1:12)

        D. God’s Children Are Born not by Any Human Origin, But by God (1:13)

      IV. The Humanity and Revelation of the Word Brings A New Era of Grace (1:14-18)

        A. The Word Who Came from the Father Became Human (1:14)

        B. John’s Humble Testimony Concerned the Preexistence of Christ (1:15)

        C. We Have Been Blessed from the Fullness of Christ’s Grace (1:16)

        D. The Contrast Between Jesus and the Law of Moses (1:17)

        E. Jesus, the One and Only God, Has Made Him Known (1:18)

      2. John 9:1-41

      We now need to look at our second example from the book of John. We will use a section of John’s gospel that is more narrative in nature (i.e., more story oriented) than John 1:1-18. Let’s develop some observations, interpretations (Q’s & A’s), and a subject complement for John 9:1-41. Yes, that’s right. We’re going to study an entire chapter (not just a paragraph) and write a subject-complement for it. I can just hear someone saying, and understandably so, “But, I thought subject-complements were only for paragraphs.” Answer: “No.” They can be done (and should be) on an entire book (remember our comment about your synthetic message of a book). For example, we may want to say off the top of our heads that the subject-complement for the entire book of John is something like: subject: The reason the eternal Word of God took on humanity, did special sign miracles, suffered, died, and rose on the third day…complement: was so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life. Does this sound strangely similar to a particular verse in John itself? Check 20:30-31 and see if John hasn’t given you his subject-complement (or subject-purpose) statement for the entire work.

      NB: You need to keep in mind the difference between narrative material and expository material like Ephesians. Narrative proceeds forward scene by scene, episode by episode, along a certain plot line, and not necessarily paragraph by paragraph. Therefore, narrative should be studied scene by scene. We will discuss this more in the next lesson, How to Teach the Bible: For Beginners.

      Book: John Passage: 9:1-41

      Context: See the introductions and outlines in the commentaries (Wallace, Harris, and Deffinbaugh) provided for you (www. This will help you with the initial survey and synthesis of the entire book. Assuming you have done that and read the book one or two times, you are now ready to proceed with the study of this section.

      Before: The Feast of Tabernacles (7) and chapter 8 where the credibility of Jesus’ testimony is questioned again (8:12-30). There is also the discussion of who are Abraham’s children (8:31-41), the children of the Devil (8:42-47), and the Pharisees’ accusation that Jesus is a Samaritan and demon-possessed (8:48-58).

      After: John follows the story of the healing of the blind man (9:1-41) with Jesus as “the good shepherd” (10:1-21), persistent Jewish unbelief (10:22-42), the story of the resurrection of Lazarus (11:1-44), and persistent Jewish unbelief (11:45-57).




    9:1 The Jews picked up stones to stone him (8:59), but Jesus went along a found a blind man (9:1).

    What is the connection between chapter 8 and chapter 9? See the tn on 9:1

    Is it possible, given 9:39-41, that the blind man in 9:1-12 is a “picture” of the Pharisees blindness regarding the person of Jesus in chapter 8 (and 9)? The blind man ends up seeing who Jesus really is (9:38), while the “seeing” Pharisees are unable to “see” him for who he really is (8:48). Also, the story as a whole is an illustration of what Jesus said in 8:12: “I am the light of the world.”

    9:2-3 “neither this man nor his parents sinned”

    What connection are the disciples presupposing here? See the sn on 9:2; Exod 34:7


    9:4-5 “Night is coming when no man can work”

    What is the night to which he refers? Why can’t a person work at night?


    9:6-7 the use of mud in the process of healing

    Why did Jesus do this?

    Read the commentaries. Since this man was born blind, perhaps the formation of mud recalls the creative acts of God in Genesis 1. His healing was not remedial, but a completely new creative act of God. In the end, we cannot be certain why Jesus made mud with spittle.

    9:11-12, 16

    What is the significance of referring to Jesus as “the man they call Jesus” or “that one”?


    9:16 The leaders say that Jesus does not honor the Sabbath

    How so? What is the nature of their claim against Jesus? Was this genuine concern for God’s law?


    9:17 a prophet

    Why would the man refer to Jesus as a prophet?


    9:18 refused to believe

    What is the connection between refusing to believe the truth and spiritual darkness?


    9:29 We do not know where this man comes from

    Is there irony in this statement compared to the following verse, i.e., 9:30?


    9:35 Son of Man

    What does this expression mean? Why doesn’t Jesus ask him if he believes in the Messiah (cf. John 4:25-26)?

    Refer to Daniel 7:13-14 and connect it with the theme of judgment in the passage.

    9:38 “Lord”

    Why does he refer to Jesus as “Lord”?


    9:39 for judgment…

    How does he carry out that judgment?


    9:40-41 “blind,” “guilt,” “sin remains”

    How are they blind? What guilt and sin does he refer to?

    Summarize: If you do not really see spiritually, then you are not guilty of sin. But since you claim that you can see, and yet you still do these things to me (implying that you understand that I am the light, but that you want to extinguish me), you are truly guilty of sin, an eternal sin.

    Jesus simply takes the image and turns it around since they are so insistent that they are not blind. Well, since this is so then, what are the other options? Answer: You do see what you are doing and this makes you infinitely more guilty.

    The bottom line is that if they are convinced that they can see when indeed they can’t, no hope remains for them. The only that remains is their guilt and sin. It will go with them to the final judgment.

    Summary Statement of the Entire Passage

    The Subject: Jesus’ healing of the blind man, the blind man’s faith, and the reaction of the Pharisees

    The Complement: shows that anyone can be saved by trusting in Christ, but to those who persist in unbelief there will only be spiritual darkness and ultimately judgment.




    What did you notice was different about observing and interpreting narrative as opposed to discourse (didactic) material (e.g., John 1:1-18)? Was the breakdown of the chapter fairly easy to see? Did you see the major divisions as: The Healing of the Man (9:1-12); The Inquiry of the Pharisees (9:13-34); The Pronouncements of Jesus (9:35-41)? The divisions in the NET Bible are similar and should help you with this. Let’s do an outline of the passage:

      I. The Healing of the Blind Man (9:1-12)

        A. The Occasion

          1. The Man Born Blind Man (9:1)

          2. The Question: “Who sinned?” (9:2)

          3. The Answer: “No one…but that the work of God might be revealed” (9:3-5)

        B. The Miracle (9:6-7)

          1. The Method: Spittle and mud on the eyes (9:6)

          2. The Command and Result: “Go wash… and He saw” (9:7)

        C. The Neighbors’ Response (9:8-12)

          1. The Division (9:8-10)

          2. The Blind Man’s Testimony (9:11-12)

      II. The Pharisees’ Reaction to the Healing (9:13-34)

        A. The Problem: The Healing Was on the Sabbath (9:13-15)

        B. The Pharisees Respond: Anger and Refusal to Believe (9:16-34)

          1. They Are Divided (9:16)

          2. They Question the Man: First Time (9:17)

          3. They Question the Man’s Parents (9:18-23)

          4. They Question the Man: Second Time (9:24-34)

      III. Jesus’ Reaction: His Contrast of the Blind Man and the Pharisees (9:25-41)

        A. Jesus Finds the Man: Do You Believe…? (9:35-39)

          1. Jesus’ Question (9:35)

          2. The Blind Man’s Response (9:36-38)

          3. Jesus’ Pronouncement: The Blind and Those Who See (9:39)

        B. Jesus’ Verdict Concerning the Pharisees: They Are Guilty (9:40-41)

          1. The Pharisees’ Question: Are We Blind Too? (9:40)

          2. Jesus’ Response: Your Guilt Remains (9:41)

      3. John 14:1-14

      Book: John Passage: 14:1-14




      You will need to fill most of this out for yourself. We have provided an outline at the end, but we encourage you to try and outline the passage for yourself first. Then look at the outline provided.




    14:1 Do not…

    What is the connection between 14:1-14 and the material which has come before?


    The structure of the passage seems to be built around the statement, question/answer model

    What is the breakdown and development?

    14:1-4 Jesus’ Departure and the Need to Trust

    14:5-8 Thomas’ Questions and Jesus’ Response

    14:9-14 Philip’s Questions and Jesus’ Response


    Why does Jesus tell them not to let their hearts be troubled?











    Summary Statement of the Entire Passage

    The Subject:

    The Complement:




      An Outline of John 14:1-14

      I. Jesus Reassures the Disciples in Light of His Departure (14:1-4)

        A. The Need to Trust in God and Jesus (14:1)

          1. The Command: Do not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled (14:1a)

          2. The Means: Trust (14:2b-c)

            a. Indicative: Trust in God (14:2b)

            b. Imperative: Trust in Jesus (14:2c)

        B. The Need to Go and Prepare a Place (14:2)

        C. The Assurance of His Return (14:3-4)

      II. Two Disciples Ask Questions in Light of His Departure (14:5-14)

        A. Thomas: Show Us “The Way”

          1. Thomas’ Question Proper (14:5)

          2. Jesus’ Response (14:6-7)

            a. “I am” the Way… (14:6)

            b. He Who Knows Me Knows the Father (14:7)

        B. Philip: Show Us “The Father” (14:8-14)

          1. Philip’s Question Proper (14:8)

          2. Jesus’ Response (14:9-14)

            a. Jesus in the Father and the Father in Jesus (14:9-11)

            b. The Believer and Miraculous Deeds (14:12-14)

    Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Teaching the Bible, Bible Study Methods

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