Theology of the Fourth
Gospel: An overview
by John R. Tyson
In the Fourth Gospel God is unknown and unknowable until He reveals Himself through
or Son (1:18; 5:37; 6:46; 7:28-29; 8:19, 54-55; 14:6, 7; 15:21; 16:3; 17:25).
Revelation, when it is given, is utterly complete; it is so complete that to see the Son is the same
as seeing the Father
God the Father is, above all, the Father of Jesus Christ.
example, Jesus says "my" Father, and "your" Father but He never says "our" Father -- as
though He and the disciples are "sons" of the Father in a similar way.
Thus, the Father is
secondarily the Father of those who are Christ's, by virtue of their union with Christ (17:21; 1:12-
"God is Spirit" (4:24), which is the most abstract conception of God we meet in
Johannine literature (and perhaps in the whole NT).
The affirmation of God as "Spirit" not only
speaks of His essence, but also implies His omnipresence and transcendence -- since Spirit is
not locked into time and space -- as in the passage in question "true Worship" is not
geographically specific (not in Jerusalem or on "this mountain").
Closely connected with his
conception of God as Spirit is a second idea, that He is invisible: "No man has seen God at any
This is a way of emphasizing the hiddeness of God and the importance of the
Johannine doctrine of Divine Revelation.
Since God is not accessible immediately to our eyes
and ears and cannot be "known" in the immediate and direct sense that we know other human
beings, it is only by a manifestation of God's will that we know Him in the person of His Son.
Yet whosoever stands in fellowship with the Son stands in fellowship with His unseen Father;
whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father.
This spiritual, invisible, God, John insists, is the only true God (I. 5:20).
He is the only
God (5:44), and Eternal Life consists only in knowing Him (17:3), and knowing Him whom God
sent -- Jesus Christ.
Thus the Johannine conception of God stands in direct contradiction to all
anthropomorphic conceptions of God, against all polytheistic conceptions, and against all Son-
denying conceptions which fail to pierce the veil before the hidden God.
All of the features thus far considered treat the Deity from a metaphysical perspective.
But God, in the Johannine writings, is not thought of as a self-contained Being who dwells in
complete isolation from the world of men and things.
On the contrary, the main emphasis of the
literature is laid upon the relationship and interaction which occurs between God and humanity,
and the way in which God brings His mercy and love among us.
Thus moving from the ethereal to the attributes of God the first major theme we meet is
the affirmation that God is love.
John exhorts his readers to love because the basis of their love
is in God (I. 4:7).
Those born of God's love, and their lives, are ruled by that principle;
conversely those who do not love cannot be in fellowship with God because God is love (I. 4:8).