New Testament Lesson 04 (John 1)
For the week of January 16–22
JOHN’S WITNESS OF CHRIST’S DIVINITY
The Symbolic Language of the Apostle John
● John was the Beloved Apostle who emphasized the divine Sonship of Christ. He was a member of the First Presidency and eventually became a translated being.
● John’s Gospel was written to the Saints—members of the Church who understand the scriptures and symbolism. It emphasizes Christ’s relationship to the Father, and His relationship with the Twelve.
● At the first of his Gospel, John speaks symbolically about the status of Jesus Christ (the “Word”) in the beginning (John 1:1–4), and after He came to earth (John 1:5–11). The choice of the symbolic name “the Word” is typical of John’s symbolic language. By this means he hides the meaning from those who are not Saints of God and makes it crystal clear to those who are.
WHO WAS JESUS CHRIST IN THE PREMORTAL WORLD?
Christ Was the Firstborn Spirit Child of God
● The First Presidency said in a statement issued in 1916: “The Father of Jesus [in the spirit] is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth, when He instructed His disciples how to pray: ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God. . . . Among the spirit children of Elohim the firstborn was and is Jehovah or Jesus Christ to whom all others are juniors . . . (Colossians 1:15–19). . . . There is no impropriety, therefore, in speaking of Jesus Christ as the Elder Brother of the rest of human kind. That He is by spiritual birth Brother to the rest of us is indicated in Hebrews [2:17].
Let it not be forgotten, however, that He is essentially greater than any and all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.”
Christ Was Chosen to Be the Savior
● The plan of salvation was presented at the council in Heaven (Abraham 3:24–28). The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “At the first organization in heaven we were all present, and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.” The Savior offered Himself to be the Redeemer which our Father’s plan required, and said to the Father, in doing so, “the glory be Thine.”
● Lucifer offered an alternate plan which would have denied all of us our agency, and it was rejected (Moses 4:1–4). He also was ambitious, wanting to become the God of us all, in place of the Father. Isaiah provided a graphic description of Lucifer’s foolish ambition and pride (Isaiah 14:12–21).
● The result of this disagreement was a “war in heaven” which Lucifer lost (Revelation 12:7–9). The war was won by the blood of the Lamb (i.e., the gospel plan which called for the sacrifice of the Son of God) and the word of their (the followers of Christ’s) testimony (Revelation 12:10–11).
Christ Was a God Before He Was Born
● Christ is referred to as “God himself,” who would come down and dwell with us (Mosiah 15:1).
● One of His names was Immanuel—meaning “God with us” (Matt. 1:23; Isaiah 7:14).
● He was “made flesh” and “dwelt among us” in order to save and exalt us (John 1:12–14).
● Christ is Jehovah—the same God who spoke to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses (1 Nephi 19:7–10).
● Christ is the one who gave the law of Moses to the children of Israel (3 Nephi 15:5–6).
● He was—and is—the God of the whole earth (3 Nephi 11:13–14).
Christ Is the Source of Salvation
● Jesus was the given name of our Savior. As we spell it, the name is of Greek derivation. Its Hebrew equivalent was Yehoshua or Jeshua, or as we render it in English, Joshua. In its original form, the name literally meant “Help of Jehovah,” “Savior-Deliverer,” or “Jehovah Is Salvation.” The name was made known to Joseph by the angel who appeared to him. (Matthew 1:21).
● Christ is the Greek equivalent name of the Hebrew title “Messiah” or “Anointed One.”
● Jehovah means the “Self-Existent One” or “The Eternal.” It is written in our Old Testament as “Lord” in capital letters. According to ancient Jewish practice, the name Jehovah or I Am (the Self-Existent One) was not to be spoken for fear of incurring divine wrath. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Whatever the world may imagine, whatever any of . . . Christendom may attempt to expound relative to Jehovah, whatever the wisdom of men may suppose, the plain, unalterable fact is that the Lord Jehovah was the promised Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, and Messiah, and that he is Christ.”
● Additional name-titles which Christ used to describe himself at the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110:1–4).
● There is no other person through whom we can be saved (Mosiah 3:17).
● Christ himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and “no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).
WITNESSES OF CHRIST’S DIVINITY
All Things Typify and Testify of Christ
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, ” . . . everything that has been given in the gospel and everything that has been in any way connected with it has been designed for the express purpose of bearing record of Christ and certifying as to his divine mission. . . . In fact, as Jacob says:.. ‘All things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him’ (2 Nephi 11:4).”
Old Testament Prophets Testified of Christ
● All the prophets since the world began have prophesied of Christ (Mosiah 13:3).
● Christ quoted Moses and all the prophets concerning Himself (Luke 24:27–32).
● The disciples knew that all the prophets had testified of Him (John 1:43–45).
● The woman at the well knew that the scriptures testified of Him (John 4:25–26).
Book of Mormon Prophets Testified of Christ
● Nephi prophesied of His birth, mission, and death (1 Nephi 11:31–34; 19:7–10).
● King Benjamin prophesied of His miracles, death and resurrection (Mosiah 3:5–10).
● Alma prophesied of His atonement, mercy and resurrection (Alma 7:9–12).
New Testament Disciples Testified of Christ
● Matthew testified that Christ is the son of David and of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
● Mark testified that Christ is the son of God (Mark 1:1).
● Gabriel testified that Christ is the son of the Highest (Luke 1:31–32).
● John testified that Christ is God’s only begotten son (John 3:16–17).
● Luke testified that Christ is a resurrected being (Acts 1:1–3).
● Paul testified that Christ is the resurrected Son of God (Romans 1:1–4).
● James testified that Christ is the Lord of glory (James 2:1).
● Peter testified that Christ is the resurrected Son of God (1 Peter 1:1–5).
● Jude testified that Christ is the all-wise God and our Savior (Jude 24–25).
The Testimony of John the Baptist Concerning Christ (John 1:15–18):
— “For he was before me” (v. 15) means “because he existed before me.”
— Through Christ we can obtain “the fulness of the Father” (vv. 16–17).
— JST John 1:18 says: “And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved.”
The Jews Rejected Their Messiah
Because they did not recognize him as their promised Messiah, the Jews rejected him (John 1:10–11). President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Why was it at that time or why is it now that some will not receive him? No doubt they had expected something entirely different. They were looking for a leader in political and social reform and they had little interest in spiritual things. ‘The world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). There are those today who pass him by without recognizing him.”
What are the doctrinal insights we receive from John’s witness of Jesus Christ? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.
● Jesus Christ Was In the Beginning with God (John 1:1-2). He was the birthright son, and he retained that birthright by his strict obedience. Through the aeons and ages of premortality, He advanced and progressed until, as Abraham described, he stood as one “like unto God. ” (Abr. 3:24). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Our Savior was a God before he was born into this world, and he brought with him that same status when he came here. He was as much a God when he was born into the world as he was before.”
● Jesus Christ was the Creator of All Things (John 1:3). Elder James E. Talmage said, “The Father operated in the work of creation through the Son, who thus became the executive through whom the will, commandment, or word of the Father was put into effect. It is with incisive appropriateness therefore, that the Son, Jesus Christ, is designated by the Apostle John as the Word; or as declared by the Father ‘the word of my power. (Moses 1:32).”
● The Plan of Salvation Was Our Father’s Plan. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “The plan of salvation is the gospel of the Father. The plan of salvation originated with the Father; He is the author and finisher of our faith in the final sense; He ordained the laws by obedience to which both we and Christ can become like Him. The Father did not ask for volunteers to propose a plan whereby man might be saved. What He did was ask whom He should send to be the Redeemer in the plan He devised. Christ and Lucifer both volunteered and the Lord chose His Firstborn and rejected the amendatory offer of the Son of the morning.”
● Christ Is the Creator of All Things (Mosiah 7:27–28). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Under the direction of his Father, Jesus Christ created this earth. No doubt others helped him, but it was Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, who, under the direction of his Father, came down and organized matter and made this planet, so that it might be inhabited by the children of God.” Christ is also the creator of the visible universe and all worlds within it (Moses 1:27–33).
● Jesus Christ is the Light and Life of the World (John 1:4–9). Christ is the source of all light, both physical and spiritual (D&C 88:6–13). Christ is also the source of life and of the resurrection (John 11:25).
● The Importance of Knowing Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:21–23). The Inspired Version changes “I never knew you” to “you never knew me.” The word knowledge is translated from the Greek epignoseos rather than gnosis. Gnosis denotes to know about something. Epignoseos is knowledge based on experience or close association with something. We are to seek to know Him and not just know about Him.
What we think of Christ will determine who and what we are. President David O. McKay said, “What you sincerely in your heart think of Christ will determine what you are, will largely determine what your acts will be. No person can study this divine personality, can accept his teachings without becoming conscious of an uplifting and refining influence within himself.”
● How to Obtain a Testimony of Christ.
— First we must know Him and our Heavenly Father (John 17:3).
— Then we must understand what He taught us (1 John 5:20).
— Then we must live the principles that He taught (D&C 132:24–25).
1. “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” in Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. , 471–472.
2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 181.
3. The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ , 164–165.
4. In Conference Report, October 1948, 24.
5. In Conference Report, October 1968, 141.
6. “Our Relationship With The Lord,” BYU Devotional Address, 2 March 1982.
7. Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74.