New Christians and searching non-Christians.John does not reveal his audience directly, but several characteristics of the book provide insight into the people he was trying to reach.
1. The Gospel of John differs greatly from the other three Gospels in content and approach. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present much historical data with few explanations or interpretations. John, however, selected key events and took time to explain and apply them. (
In addition, John chose to write about a few important, miraculous signs (20:30-31) in order to give a clear picture of the person of Christ.
2. John illustrates the tension between faith and unbelief and emphasizes the importance of responding to Christ. He states this fact at the very beginning and carries it throughout the book—“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (1:12 niv).
3. John uses simple vocabulary but chooses special words and loads them with meaning—for example, word, truth, light, darkness, life, and love.
4. John repeats four main points: the true identity of Jesus, the necessity of responding to Christ in faith, the gift of eternal life, and the church’s mission to the world.
5. John explains his purpose clearly: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31 niv).
Written almost as an evangelistic tract, John presents the evidence for Jesus as the God-man and the Savior of the world, and he challenges readers to follow his Lord. So we can conclude that John wrote to unbelieving Asian Jews and Gentiles.But John also wrote to Christians, to help strengthen their faith. John was the last surviving apostle and one of the few still living who had seen Jesus in the flesh. It would be easy for young believers—removed from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by a generation and surrounded by a hostile government and unbelieving neighbors—to have doubts and second thoughts about their faith. Remember, this is the late eighties, after the terrible persecutions by Nero (a.d. 54–68) and the total destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70). The church had flourished under persecution, but believers needed reassurance of the truth of Christianity. John, the venerable eyewitness to all that Jesus had done and faithful follower of his Lord, would give that assurance through his personal account of the gospel story.