John 1:29 and 3:16
Please explain to me your understanding of how John 1:29 and John 3:16 “pertain to the gospel of the kingdom (or Israel’s program) and not to the body of Christ.”
First of all, there are areas of commonness in God’s two programs. For example, the only way for an Israelite to ever be made spiritually fit to be utilized by God in His plan and purpose with Israel on this earth is for God to provide for making him fit through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is also true for us Gentiles today in this present dispensation of God’s grace. The only way we could ever be made spiritually fit to be utilized by God in his now-revealed plan and purpose for His new creation, the church the body of Christ, is for God to have provided for making us fit through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That basic need and fundamental value of Christ’s redemptive work is common to both of God’s programs, and naturally it is a doctrinal issue and is dealt with by God in both of His programs. In similar manner, the doctrine of justification by faith unto eternal life is common to both of God’s programs. No one either in God’s program with Israel or in this present dispensation of His grace is justified unto eternal life by their works, or by faith plus works, but by faith only. Hence in both programs when justification unto eternal life is being dealt with, the common issue of justification by faith will be found. And there are some other areas of commonness as well. But even though there are issues of commonness in God’s two programs, they are still two distinct and different programs with a far greater number of differences between them in view of the two distinct purposes of God being accomplished by each respective program. Howbeit, sometimes the issues of commonness can puzzle people. And when that happens, it can result in them taking the things in those areas of commonness as they apply to us today in this dispensation and reading them back into those areas of commonness in Israel’s program. And the place where this most frequently happens is in John’s Gospel, and two of the most common places in John’s Gospel where this happens are John 1:29 and 3:16.
It also needs to be understood that God’s program with Israel has the salvation of the world in view. In fact a result of the establishment of God’s kingdom with Israel on this earth will be the issue of God’s salvation going out to the ends of the world, just as set forth in the prophets. This needs to be recognized because often times when people see the emphasis in John’s Gospel on the world, with phrases such as “For God so loved the world” and the like, they can think of nothing else but God’s dealings with the world in this dispensation of grace as described by the Apostle Paul in his epistles. But this present dispensation of grace is not God dealing with the world according to Israel’s program. Rather in this dispensation God is dealing with the world in an entirely different manner than that. In fact, He isn’t dealing with the world in connection with Israel’s program at all. He is dealing with the world completely apart from Israel’s program, and with Israel’s program suspended. However, that is not what is being spoken about back in John’s Gospel when the salvation of the world is referred to. There the world is spoken about in connection with the outworking and fulfillment of God’s program with Israel.
Therefore with respect to John’s Gospel, even though the salvation of the world is spoken about and even though justification by faith unto eternal life is emphasized, these two issues are being dealt with within Israel’s program and as they pertain to Israel’s program. All four of the Gospel accounts, including John’s, record the time of the arrival of the climactic stage in God’s program with Israel, when the time schedule God had given to Israel for the establishment of the kingdom of heaven was nearing its completion and the kingdom was being preached to be “at hand.” John is recording things that pertain to the exact same time in Israel’s program as is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However John, in connection with the things that God has him record, deals especially with the issues that pertain to the spiritual fitness of both Israel and the world to participate in the kingdom of heaven; and two of those issues of spiritual fitness have points of commonness with the issue of spiritual fitness in this dispensation of grace. But nevertheless, John’s Gospel is still a part of the portion of God’s word that pertains to His program and dealings with Israel, and everything in it needs to be understood and appreciated as such.
With respect, therefore, to the two verses in question: When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming unto him, as related in John 1:29, and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” he wasn’t declaring something that God had kept silent about since before the world began. He wasn’t declaring the issue of God suspending His program with Israel and in grace and mercy turning to the Gentiles in spite of Israel. In other words, John the Baptist wasn’t declaring “the gospel of the grace of God” for obedience to the faith among all nations and/or “the mystery of Christ” which was only later revealed to and proclaimed by the Apostle Paul. Instead John the Baptist was simply identifying Jesus of Nazareth for who He was in connection with providing for the fulfilling of Israel’s program. In particular he was identifying Jesus as the Christ when it came to Him as Christ fulfilling the first mandate of the Davidic Covenant. That first mandate was the issue of Him fulfilling what the first of the Jehovah-compound-names called for Him to do and that was to be what the name “Jehovah-jireh” described as set forth back in Genesis 22. As Genesis 22 sets forth, “Jehovah-jireh” is the issue of ‘In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen,’ where what shall be seen is the issue of God providing Himself a lamb for a burnt offering. “Jehovah-jireh” is the issue of God providing Himself a lamb for a sacrifice for sin, and that lamb being God’s only-begotten Son, just as Abraham was told to offer his only-begotten son for a sacrifice. The issue of Christ fulfilling what the name “Jehovah-jireh” called for and offering Himself a sacrifice for sin was not only Israel’s only hope of ever being made fit to be utilized by God in what the Abrahamic Covenant called for them to be, but it was also the only hope of the rest of the world ever being able to participate with Israel in God’s kingdom when it is established on this earth with them in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Israel’s fitness for the kingdom, and the world’s ability to participate in that kingdom once established, depend upon Christ being “the Lamb of God” in fulfillment of “Jehovah-jireh.” And this is who John the Baptist is identifying Jesus to be when He declared what He did in John 1:29. But now once again, what John declares and why he declares it is not the issue of what is going on in this present dispensation of God’s grace.
In like manner to John 1:29, what John 3:16 says is also not a declaration of the “gospel of the grace of God” for us Gentiles in this dispensation. I know how often times John 3:16 is treated as if it is a one-verse explanation or summarization of the gospel of our salvation today. But in reality it is not. One has to read our gospel of grace back into it in order to treat it as such, which is just what people do. However, that is neither being honest with the text nor is it true to “rightly dividing the word of truth.” John 3:16 does declare the issue of God’s love for the world and the issue of faith in God’s Son for everlasting life, but strictly speaking and honestly speaking the verse declares that in connection with the spiritual need for justification unto eternal life with God’s program with Israel still in effect and the present dispensation of grace not having even been revealed yet. And it should also be noted in connection with the issue of faith in God’s Son at this time, that this did not involve an understanding of the Lord’s work on the cross. Passages, for example, like Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 9:43-45; 18:31-34, make this abundantly clear. Peter, James, and John, for example, were justified by faith unto eternal life; but they didn’t get justified by trusting in the Lord’s work on the cross as their substitute-Redeemer as we do in this dispensation. The “preaching of the cross” that is preached in this dispensation was not what they heard. Therefore, believing in God’s Son at that time, as stated in John 3:16, did not involve understanding His work on the cross. And once again, strictly speaking and honestly speaking that is the program, context, and situation in which John 3:16 exists and to which it pertains.
– K.R. Blades