Faith in His Name: Listening to the Gospel of John. By Zane C. Hodges. Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2015. 149 pp. Paper, $15.00.
The author of this book, Zane Hodges, died in November 2008. He was in the process of writing this commentary on the Gospel of John. At the time of his death, he had only completed the work through John 6:21. That is where the book ends.
Since the commentary only averages approximately 20 pages for each chapter of John it covers, it does not go into great grammatical detail. It is written at the layman level. However, everybody can benefit from the insights contained in it.
Anybody familiar with the writings of Hodges will not be surprised to learn that the commentary is written from a Free Grace perspective. He makes it clear that the Gospel of John proclaims that eternal life is given to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ for that gift. The Gospel of John is the Gospel of eternal life, and this is the life Jesus came to give (p. 18).
In 1:17, the name Jesus Christ is very important. John wants his readers to believe that Jesus is the Christ and thus have eternal life (20:31). Jesus is the name of the historic Person, while the word Christ is the title that shows He is man’s Savior.
To receive Jesus Christ (John 1:12) is to believe in Him for that gift. All who believe in Him become the children of God (p. 19).
From the very beginning of the Gospel, there are those who believe that Jesus is the Christ in this sense. These include John the Baptist, Andrew, Philip, and Nathaniel (1:35–51, pp. 33–38).
Hodges points out that the purpose of the Gospel of John is that the reader would believe this about Jesus (John 20:30–31). John included the miracles that Jesus performed for this very reason (p. 39). In other words, the miracles recorded in John were given to arouse faith in Jesus.
There are eight miracle “signs” in the book from 2:1–20:29. Included in these eight signs is the resurrection of Jesus Himself. Hodges calls this the “consummate” sign of the book (p. 49). After each miracle John speaks of events and discussions that indicate and show the significance of each sign. After each sign people believe.
For example, the first miracle is the turning of water into wine. This was a miracle of transformation. This is followed by the discussion of the transformation of new life that the believer has in Jesus Christ. This spiritual transformation is seen in the discussion with Nicodemus and the woman at the well in John 3–4 (p. 43).
The reader of this commentary will be pleased to see the high regard that Hodges has towards the inspiration of the Scripture. This attitude is seen in the discussion in general, but also in specific details. For example, he states that John did not make an error when he recorded the cleansing of the Temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Instead, there were two cleansings (p. 47).
Hodges states that according to the Gospel of John, eternal life cannot be lost even if our faith fails (John 3:18, p. 64). In his discussion of the woman at the well, he points out that there are two underlying items of knowledge when it comes to saving faith. One is the offer of eternal life as a gift. The other is that Jesus is the Christ (John 4:10, p. 76).
The second and third signs of the Lord involve the healing of the nobleman’s son and the healing at the pool of Bethesda (John 4:46–5:9).
These miracles show the power of the words of Jesus to accomplish whatever purpose He desires without the aid of any additional means (p. 87). Jesus’ word can bring physical life. His word can also bring spiritual life.
The fourth and fifth signs are the feeding of the multitude and walking on water. They show that He has complete control over nature and that Jesus can meet the needs of mankind. In the fourth sign, Jesus is the bread of heaven that comes down to give life. In the fifth we see that those who rely on Him safely reach their preferred destination.
In this short commentary, Hodges includes discussions that expound Biblical truths other than those that deal with eternal life and assurance. For example, he points out that the prohibition in the Law of Moses against work on the Sabbath was in reference to one’s normal work. Exceptional forms of activity, such as healing a man on the Sabbath, were not the point of the original command (John 5:9–10, p. 98).
Another example is his discussion in John 6:11–13. The Christ and the “Prophet” are two different individuals. If the Jews had believed in Jesus, He would have assumed both roles. Since they rejected Him, the Prophet will come in the person of one of the two witnesses described in Rev 11:3–6 (p. 133).
This short commentary on the Gospel of John is full of insights and sound teaching about eternal life by faith alone in Jesus Christ. After reading it, this reviewer feels confident that the reader will have the same reaction I did. The reader will regret that the commentary ends at 6:21 and that Hodges did not have the opportunity to finish this work. I give it my highest recommendation.
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society