4. What action does God take in John 1:29-42 toward others?
In verse 29, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
In verse 33, John the Baptist also recounts that God spoke to him and told him, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
In verse 39, Jesus instructs two of John’s who disciples (who had already started following Jesus) to “Come and you will see” in response to a question of where he was staying. Philip says these very same words to Nathanael (verse 46) when he asked if anything good could come out of Nazareth.
In verse 42, we see that Jesus changes Simon’s name to Cephas (which means Peter).
5. What action does God call me to take toward God? Toward others?
It is important to recognize that there is no direct command from God instructing us on what to do towards God or towards others in this passage. Many times throughout the Scriptures, the directive is very clear, but in this case it is not.
This makes it all the more important to understand the context of this passage. Understanding what comes before John 1:29-42 and what comes after will help us to understand what God is asking us to do.
In looking at all of John 1, one fascinating aspect of John 1 has to do with identity. In John 1:23, John the Baptist correctly identifies himself as the voice crying out in the wilderness.
In John 1:29-30, John the Baptist correctly identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God and again in verse 34 as the Son of God. After another correct identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God, two of John’s disciples follow him in verse 37. And, as we mentioned above, in verse 42, Jesus identifies Simon and changes his name to Cephas (vs. 42).
In verse 45, Philip identified Jesus to Nathanael. In verse 46, Nathanael asks an “identifying question” of Jesus, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth,” and Philip invited Nathanael to come and see. In verse 47, Jesus identifies Nathanael as an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. In verse 49, Nathanael identifies Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel.
Again, it is by no means a clear command of this passage, but we do get the sense of how important correct identification is . . . particularly of God himself. Jesus is identified as the Word, the Light, King of Israel, the Son of God, and the Lamb of God.
Most of these identifications are not only descriptive, but very specific. It seems wholly different from how God is often identified in our culture . . . even within Christian culture. God is often identified simply as “God,” and while it’s not wrong to identify God this way, it has become a non-offensive way to discuss spiritual matters with non-believers.
The problem is that people have different ideas of who God is. God could be a God of unicorns and rainbows or the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This passage of Scripture should cause us to examine the way we identify God, especially within the context of our relationship with others.
6. What actions did I take? Or, what actions will I take?
A very basic way to begin would be to identify the different names given to God in the Old and New Testament, and to begin to use those names in both in conversation with God (prayer) and with others.
One area that would immediately be affected is in how we proclaim the gospel to others. For example, many Christians would evangelize by asking someone if they believe in God. But with our understanding of how important it is to correctly identify God, we might determine it be better to ask someone if they believe in the Trinitarian God . . . Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
One way we’ve implemented this at VOM Korea, was by ensuring that the name of God was accurately portrayed in the North Korean Bible. The version of the Bible that we use is considered the best translation in the North Korean language, but the word used to describe God, “Hanulnim,” doesn’t clearly portray that he is the one-true God. It only implies that God is the god of the heavens. We changed the word to “Hananim,” the protestant word meaning the one true God.
What actions will you take as a result of studying this passage of Scripture?