And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John
Authored by A. W. Tozer
Critiqued by Kathy L. McFarland
Dr. A. W. Tozer, minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance from 1919 to 1963, preached weekly on the Gospel of John for one year in his Chicago Church. Though each sermon was unplanned to become anything more than one sermon each week, his effort was driven by the Gospel itself which eventually formed the chapters of this book. After the year of sermons were completed, Dr. Tozer recognized the significance of the journey that relied upon the Holy Spirit's movement each week. This was evidenced further by the amount of people that came forward to acknowledge new life with Christ through the study of John. During these supernatural presentations of the Gospel of John that contained the Holy Spirit's enlightened revelations, spiritual growth intensified amongst the congregation as they responded to mystical places often unknown or overlooked in the Book of John.
Tozer compiled, ordered and shared the mystical and deep learnings of his focused year of sermons based upon the Book of John in thirteen chapters. The purpose of his book was to provide mature Christians with study materials that helped remove the "spiritual boredom” through an immature, limited concept of God prevalent in Evangelical Churches in his day. Tozer was convinced that most believers rested in the truth of the Word and forgot that the Spirit of the Word continues to spiritually nurture believers.
Creations by God
Chapter 1, God has Put Everlasting in our Souls, begins with the concept of an everlasting God whose eternality cannot be grasped by limited human thought. Yet, a piece of eternality is placed within God's creation of men made in His own Image. This concept of eternal timelessness defining the presence of the Lord with His self-sufficiency and self-existence connects directly to His created human beings that are able to share eternal time and space with Him moves deeper into this concept with the next chapter.
Chapter 2, A Time before Time Began, teaches that the Creator formed the laws of the Universe to govern its time, space, and motion that eventually led to all things created. According to the author, John 1:3-5 identifies Christ as begotten from the very Word of God to become Christ the Creator. This should cause all mature believers to contemplate His omnipotence and existence before time and through eternity and not limit their knowledge of the Lord in simple ideas alone.
Chapter 3, The Beauteous World Made by Him, encourages the consideration of the magnificent, beautiful Creations of God in both the physical sense of nature, and the spiritual creation of humanity. The word pictures that Tozer forms in describing the creation nature and humanity with an unimaginable beauty, including those things that humanity is not yet able to comprehend, and transports the reader to mystical places that are usually overlooked. John 1:10, becomes supporting Scripture for Tozer's deepest thoughts concerning the connection of pre-incarnation times of creation, and Christ's embodiment in the flesh of humanity as he visually paints a picture of created awesome wonder.
Incarnation of Eternal Christ into Human Form
Chapter 4, The Tragic Side of Christ Becoming Flesh, moves from the beauty of creation towards the consideration of the tragic unrecognition and persecution against the incarnate Christ. The world belongs to the Trinity, and through God's grace we are allowed to live; God does not need us for His survival, we need Him to grant us life. The author stresses that Jesus does not need our pity; He was quite able to take himself off the cross. According to Tozer there are five tragic reasons why Christ is unrecognized by His own (John 1:11); those are a change in priorities, change of habit, lack of personal cleansing, and a change in direction difficulty with faith in the unseen. These reasons water down his excellent presentation that upholds the powerful God that needs no defense, and is a glaring weakness in his presentation.
Chapter 5, The Mystery of the Word Made Flesh, focuses upon John 1:14, "And the word is made flesh” as human thought's most deep, mystical message. The author simplifies the message by separating "God from Not God” and declares that "all that which is not God was made by God, but God was made by none.” This is the mystery whose great chasm between God and Not God is irreparable, unsurmountable, and limitless if not for the Christ-bridge built by God to His Creation. "Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, is the only medium in which God dispenses His benefits to His creation.” The author claims that nothing can separate God from His Son and infers that nothing can separate the Son from His followers that is fully supported in his next chapter as he discusses the coming of the Messiah ready to fulfill his destiny as the sacrificial lamb.
Chapter 6, The Old Testament Messiah versus the New Testament Christ, concentrates upon the potent Scripture of John 3:17 whose meaning the author can narrow down to as "I mean something to God.” The author proves the extraordinary nature of this verse, by challenging the readers to try to forget its meaning, as if it were never written. It is impossible. God's proclamation sends the Lord to the world to claim those that belong to Him and accordingly He came to save, not to judge.
Tozer then moves to the personal application stage of his book that takes his previous deep, mystical teachings, mainly from John 1, and tries to apply it in Chapters 7 and 8. His focus is to encourage mature Christians to do the things that really matter to God that was taught them when Christ came into the world. Chapters 9-13 teach about the eternal Triune Christ and the Two Kingdoms, to give further connection and application to mature Christians, and to connect them to God in perfect harmony. The mystery of the eternal Christ is fully explored by Tozer, with a goal to teach mature Christians to live victoriously in the two Kingdoms. Finally, Tozer sets the importance of the proper concept of God, and encourages Christians to know him more deeply so they can intimately experience His relationship with them.
Meeting the eternal Lord Jesus Christ as part of the Triune God that existed before the creation of time, space, motion, and laws introduces mature believers to God and helps form a more intimate relationship to Him as they consider their own eternality through Christ. This mystical study of the Book of John opens the senses of spirit, and challenges the reader to look deeper and deeper into the Word of God, and experience it with such intensity that the relationship with the Triune God expands into receiving Him with increased awe and wonder. It encourages the rejection of spiritual boredom by challenging mature Christians to seek the eternal Word in the deepest of studies.
The author brilliantly analyzes the important points that God does not need our pity, nor our help. It is He that grants us life; the Creator is recognized in His world by all of nature. It is only humanity that tragically ignores His Presence and His ownership of all things created. Though God can exist without us, He created man in His own image, there is something in God that responds to us. When He responds, we should immediately we should and grasp all that He allows us to reach. These points are not common; but, they are revealing and recognizable as God's Truth that should be understood by all mature Christians.
It is bothersome that Tozer chose to analyze God's beautiful creation through the word "world” as both "nature” and "humanity,” stating that both meanings are used in the sentence "He was in the world, and the world knew him not” (c.f. John 1:10) in Chapter 3. His suggestion of defining the different meanings has to do with context; however, it seems his choice of "nature” is not supported in that context, and "humanity” is the best translation when all is considered. While this is not a glaring weakness, it has created the need to make sure his definitions of words from Greek are independently confirmed.
The author's five reasons why Christ is unrecognized seems uninspired with a list of possible self-improvement changes (Chapter 4). Rather than confronting the devil in the countdown details, the author tries to offer fix-it tips that resonate with modern-day, self-help projects. His neglect of inserting the real enemy, Satan, and the real condition, sin, watered down his excellent points concerning the tragedy humanity's unrecognition.
Finally, Tozer's explanations of the Trinity seem off-balanced. He discusses prayer to the Holy Spirit as acceptable, and uses the Song of Songs as proof. This is a flimsy reference that should not be relied upon for confirmation of prayer specifically to the Holy Spirit, excluding God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It does not seem acceptable to give the Holy Spirit such attributes that He is equal to worship in the Triune Godhead as is both God and Christ. Though the Holy Spirit is indeed the Triune God, He exists as the vehicle for communication, not the receipt of full worship of God exclusively.
Tozer's encouragement to increase the depth of relationship through the revelations contained within the Book of John are perfectly suited to maturing Christians. The author clearly reaches deeper, more mystical places in the study, with an apparent connection to the Holy Spirit that adds more knowledge to him that is carefully shared with his readers. The enlightenment possible through a careful study of John with the study map of Tozer's will lead knowledgeable Christians to a path that is more intimate with the Triune God. It also allows readers to know the Lord Jesus Christ in his important pre-incarnate and incarnate roles. The readability does not create apparent barriers of misunderstanding, and correctly presents the new considerations with the proper prose that encourages spiritual growth among maturing Christians. Further, Tozer's instruction of the mystical parts of John often overlooked, surely stirs the souls of hungry Christians, and causes them to seek further the depths that Tozer goes to reach towards a more intimate relationship with God.
Chapters 1-6 are the most important chapters in this book. Though there are much needed introductions to the real Triune God, there are other Scriptures that can teach about Him. But, the teachings that Tozer derived from John 1-3 are mystical learnings that are unequaled in other Scripture. John's mysticism shines brightly and stirs the souls to meet their God closer to His level rather than theirs.
It is crucial for young Christians to spiritually mature and seek closer relationship with the Triune God. Christian maturity cannot come unless the mystical qualities of God's Word are explored in the depths necessary to meet their Savior, Creator, and Teacher at the more intimate places they share. Dr. Tozer has discovered a beautiful, mystical, and wonderful path in the Book of John, especially chapter 1, to contemplate the things of God that only a more mature Christian can begin to fully absorb. While there are some limited weaknesses, a measure of the strengths so outweighs these, that no discouragement against the Tozer-led-journey through the Book of John for mature Christians should be given. Tozer recognizes the need to develop spiritual maturity Christians, and modern-day studies often neglect this vital journey. Tozer's study is magnificent, and reflects the touch of the Holy Spirit in the creation of these sermons, and later the book. The Spirit continues to flow through his words and touches the hearts of those chosen to hear the revealing Word of our eternal Triune God through the context of the Lord's beloved John.
Tozer, A. W. And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John. Ventura, California: Regal, 2009.
Kathy L. McFarland is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She has received her Bachelor of Science degree in Religious Studies from Liberty University, is on track for the Master of Divinity (Professional Ministries Track) degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary & Graduate School in 2015 and will be seeking a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Theology and Apologetics beginning in the fall of 2015. She is the Curriculum Developer for Becker Professional Theology Academy and a teaching faculty member. Kathy's favorite studies to teach include the connections between Old Testament exegesis, Christian Apologetics, and Bible typology and mysteries.