2.2 John -- A Wrinkle in Revelation
Christians believe that all Scripture is inspired of God. In other words, the tremendous shift in worldview and language in this book is not just the outflow of John's own overactive mind, but is an expression of the Holy Spirit moving in a new and fresh dimension outside of His prior revelation throughout Jewish history. The same is true of Paul's own re-interpretation of redemption history, which we will look at later: original and brilliant, yes. But more than this -- it is divinely inspired. Through John and Paul, God was doing two things:
First, He was saying to the Gentiles that they were not a mere appendage to the Jews in His eyes. We have read the entire Old Testament, and it is very easy to get the impression that the Gentiles were an afterthought in God's plan. In terms of inheritance, they are the younger son, who will receive only the leftovers.
But John and Paul do not agree with this view. They do not require the conversion of the Gentiles to a Jewish mindset, because the Christ they preach speaks to the hearts of all mankind. The wall of separation, and its consequent status of superior/inferior, that began with the adoption of Abraham by God, is overcome, superseded and broken down by Jesus Christ. Jew and Gentile are reunited at the Cross and the Communion table -- there are not two heavens, two chosen people, two holy nations, nor two levels of closeness to God. To the Jew, Jesus was presented as the fulfilment of his greatest hopes -- the Messiah of the lineage of David, the perfect and permanent atonement for sin, the indwelling Presence of God in the human heart. And to the Greek, Jesus was presented as the fulfilment of his greatest hopes -- the divine Ideal made historical, the rule of perfect wisdom, the body freed from its bondage to imperfection and corruption.
Second, neither John nor Paul taught that God was revoking or repudiating prior revelation. He was not starting over from scratch. The inclusion of the Gentiles was essentially a second stage in God's cosmic plan. Their inclusion did not mean the permanent and final dispossession of the Jews -- IF the Jews would believe in the Anointed One God had sent to them. The time of the Old Covenant and its means of grace was over. But a new "fountain" was opened, to Jew and Gentile alike. This was an extremely difficult transition to make, especially for those dedicated to the Mosaic forms of righteousness and sanctification. The new revelation in Christ broke new ground, and in some ways was incompatible with the Old Covenant. Paul, especially, grappled with the problem of the continuity/discontinuity between Jewish practices and Christian faith. Yet he held out hope for Israel (Ro 11:24-26). And John, despite extending salvation to all who believe, wrote that Jesus told the Samaritan woman that "salvation is from the Jews" (Jn 4:22).
Thus, as we proceed to study the racial teachings of this remarkable book, we hold the point of view that the author was bringing together two rival, hostile worldviews and forcing them into dialogue. He was breaking down the wall not just between Jewish and Gentile people, but between Jewish theology and Greek philosophy. Judaism provided the foundation, philosophy the contemporary terms of expression, but it was Jesus' acts and teachings that are the central message of this book.