The Cross in John’s Gospel -- By: John H. Niemelä

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 16:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: The Cross in John’s Gospel
Author: John H. Niemelä


The Cross in John’s Gospel1

John H. Niemelä

Professor of Greek and Hebrew
Chafer Theological Seminary
Orange, California

I. Introduction

The signs section of John’s Gospel (John 1–12, 19–20) encompasses about two thirds of the book. The prominence of this section shows that John’s overriding purpose is to explain, through the signs, how the readers can obtain eternal life (John 20:31). Therefore, it is not surprising that he has many nutshell statements on how to pass from death to life. What may surprise us is the strange absence of Christ’s cross and resurrection from John’s message-in-a-nutshell verses for unbelievers.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36).

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life (John 6:47).

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30–31).

II. Three Proposals in Response to the Absence of the Cross in Evangelistic Passages in John

The author has heard three proposals from Christians who reflect upon the absence of the cross and resurrection in these verses. Each proposal creates its own difficulties. (This article will present a fourth option that avoids these pitfalls.2 )

A. The Argument That the Pre-Cross Message Is Irrelevant Today

Some who hold that believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection is a prerequisite to gaining eternal life say that the pre-cross message as found in John doesn’t apply today since we live after the...

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