The purpose verse for the book of John is John 20:31.
“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” – John 20:31
John did not write his book as an historical narrative of every word or deed of Jesus. He confesses that there are many things that Jesus did that he did not write (John 20:31). He left them out because John is not an historical narrative, it is written to prove that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This was John’s gospel.
John’s gospel was the gospel of the name of Jesus. This was also the gospel preached in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The gospel missing in John is the gospel given to the Church today for eternal life.
The Gospel of Jesus’ Name
Before entering the promised kingdom it was important for covenant Israel to correctly identify their Messiah and follow him.
The good news to Israel in Matthew-John was that the Messiah had come and was identified by the greatest of the prophets as Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus had been sent from God to minister to God’s chosen people: Israel (John 1:11).
Whosoever believed in the authority (name) of Jesus, as sent from God to be King of Israel, and followed him into the kingdom would find life (John 5:24).
Whosoever denied the name (authority) of Jesus as the Messiah would not find life, even if they claimed to be a part of covenant Israel.
The Messiah king of Israel would be given power to grant life and take it away (John 5:21).
What’s His Name?
This gospel of the kingdom and the name of Jesus can be found also in the three narratives of the Lord’s ministry.
At the turning point in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he asks a question evaluating how successful their preaching of the gospel of his name had been.
“Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” – Matthew 16:13
Their ministry would have been a success if the overwhelming response of Israel was, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Instead, only his few disciples believed this.
The Rejected Messiah
Eventually Israel rejected their Messiah, and crucified him instead of welcoming him as King.
A dead king, a dead Messiah, was no Messiah at all.
Yet, the authority of Jesus was not yet finished. As he was indeed the Son of God, and death had no power over him, he resurrected and commissioned the apostles to continue preaching the kingdom and the king, the gospel of his name.
The Messiah of Israel left and ascended to heaven, and would return in the future to judge and make war in establishing his kingdom (Acts 3:21).
But the apostles continued to preach the gospel of the name. Jesus was truly the Messiah of Israel, and his resurrection proved it.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
The Missing Gospel
Jesus is the Christ, and he is the Son of God. He is the promised Messiah to Israel, and yet he has not yet returned to setup his kingdom as Peter preached at Pentecost.
Instead, the kingdom ministry of the twelve apostles was interrupted by an unknown return of the Lord to give to Paul a dispensation of the gospel (1 Cor 9:17).
The Lord returned to his chief persecutor to further reveal another gospel for salvation sent to all men. The gospel of his name has been superseded by the gospel of the grace of God.
This greater gospel includes the good news of the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection for salvation, which Paul calls the preaching of the cross (1 Cor 1:18).
How could the cross be good news? The answer is in the revelation of the mystery of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 2:7-8, Rom 16:25).
The mystery of Christ is that he is not only the Messiah to Israel, but is the Saviour to all, Jew and Gentile, without Israel’s kingdom, Israel’s law, and without Israel’s faith (Rom 11:32).
While Israel would be saved by Jesus name as the promised kingdom Messiah, the world can now receive the gift of eternal life by what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross.
Through his death on the cross sins could be forgiven, death could be destroyed, and eternal life freely given to Gentiles who were never given a promise from God (Eph 3:6).
The gospel of his name found in John 20:31 was the theme of the Lord’s earthly ministry to Israel in the book of John. Not one verse in John mentions the mystery gospel of the glory of the cross (Gal 6:14).
There is a difference between the gospel of his name, and the gospel of his finished work on the cross. John’s gospel of his name does not include the good news of his death, burial, and resurrection as found in the mystery of Christ later given to Paul.
For this more glorious gospel we must continue reading in our Bible to Paul’s ministry (starting with his epistle to the Romans), where the Lord returned to reveal the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:9-10).
While John 20:31 will always be a true testimony of who Jesus is, it will always be missing the gospel that saves today which concerns what Jesus did for us.