The Gospel According To John


Audience of John: John 1:41, 47

Like all the gospels, there is a sense in which the Gospel of John was intended for the whole church throughout the ages. It has infinite value for all of God’s people. But there are also parts of John’s gospel that seem to have had special relevance for the church in a particular place and time. At least in parts of the gospel, John appears to have had in mind members of a Jewish community who had come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but who had continued to worship in the synagogue, or to have other significant contacts with the Jewish community. In fact, almost the entire central part of the gospel, chapters 5–12, deals with the intense conflict between Jesus and the Jews. 

This conflict is also highlighted by John’s use of the phrase “the Jews,” which John used more than 70 times, but which appears less than 20 times in the other three gospels combined. In most instances John used this term to refer to the religious leaders who set themselves against Jesus. 

By contrast, when John spoke positively about the Old Testament people of God, he typically used words like “Israel” or “Israelite.” For instance, in John 1:47, Jesus called Nathanael “a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.”

John also used the Greek word Christ more often than any other gospel writer. The term “Christ” translates both the Greek word Christos and the Hebrew word Mashiach, both of which mean anointed one. The Christ was God’s anointed Redeemer who was to rescue Israel from their sins and free them from foreign rule. 

The term “Christ” would have been especially important to Jewish Christians because the focus of the differences between the synagogue and the growing Christian church was the belief that Jesus was the Christ, the long-awaited Savior of God’s people that had been prophesied in the Old Testament.

The topics addressed by John and the way in which he addressed them shows that his primary readers were Jewish Christians that were struggling as followers of Jesus. But like all Scripture, the Holy Spirit also intended John’s book to be used by the entire church throughout the ages. And in fact, in John 1:41 and 4:25, John even translated the Hebrew term “Messiah” for the Gentiles in his audience. And of course, history has proven that John’s gospel is of great value both to Jewish and Gentile believers.