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A study of Eternal Life by Leslie G. Thomas

27 Dec

I was blessed a few years back to be on a church staff in Tennessee with Leslie G. Thomas, a wonderful Christian man with a brilliant mind. The following material was shared with me during that time, and I am pleased to present it now.

 Preface

The question of eternal life has occupied the mind of mankind from time immemorial. The central character, in what is probably one of the oldest books of the Bible, raised the question; “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14: 14). The dream of the Indian warrior, who probably had little or no knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, was his heaven, which he called the happy hunting ground.

 But it remained for Jesus to give the most authoritative and complete answer to the question, when he said: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.” (See John 11:25-26.)

There are two aspects of eternal life which must be carefully considered, in any adequate dealing regarding the subject, namely, quality and duration. Quality must be ours, here and now; while duration will be assured, only after we have maintained faithfulness to the end of our life here upon the earth.

 (John 6:47-58 NIV)  I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. {48} I am the bread of life. {49} Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. {50} But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. {51} I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will John 3:16 (30 kb)give for the life of the world.” {52} Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” {53} Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. {54} Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. {55} For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. {56} Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. {57} Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. {58} This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

 (Titus 1:2 NIV)  a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,

 (1 John 2:25 NIV)  And this is what he promised us–even eternal life.

 (1 John 5:10-13 NIV)  Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. {11} And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. {12} He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. {13} I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

These lessons were written with the conviction that the Bible contains all that we need to know regarding eternal life; and that many people are satisfied with that. But it is also true that there are people who would like to know what well known and respected scholars say about the subject: hence, the careful, and trustfully adequate, documentation.

The scriptural text used in these studies, unless otherwise indicated, is the American Standard Version.

I am grateful to our heavenly Father for enabling me to complete these studies, on the life which will never end. And it is my hope that others will be led to a sincere study of the Holy Scriptures, so that they can live in the full expectation of being with the Lord and the redeemed, while eternity continues to unfold before their grateful eyes. — LESLIE G. THOMAS.

THE GIFT AUTHORIZED AND IDENTIFIED

These things spake Jesus: and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee: even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given him, he should give eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom that didst send, even Jesus Christ. (John 17:1-3; cf. Romans 6:23.)

The passage just quoted contains the words of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, words which he addressed to the heavenly Father, just before Judas betrayed him into the hands of his enemies.

When one considers the setting of the prayer, in which the words are found, it is not difficult for one to understand that Jesus was pouring out his very soul unto his Father in heaven, and was giving utterance to the deepest thoughts and feelings of his spirit, as he faced death upon the cross for the sins of the world.

However, as one reads and studies the Lord’s intercessory prayer, which he offered on the occasion now before us, one is unable to detect the slightest indication of depression or dejection. Instead, Jesus spoke of his joy, as he reviewed his past and contemplated his future.

Jesus was deeply concerned for the welfare of his disciples, especially their eternal welfare; and he mentioned at the very beginning of his prayer, the fact that God has authorized him to “give eternal life” to all his people, that is, the people whom the Father had given him. (See John 17:2.) Every normal and thoughtful person, who is responsible in God’s sight, is interested in the subject of eternal life, or, at least, that is what most such people would say. But how many of us ever stop to ask the question, “Just what is eternal life”?

The nearest approach to a definition of eternal life is found in the words of Jesus himself. which are quoted above; but even those words do not contain a formal definite, in the purely scientific or metaphysical sense.

The words just referred to, however, are the Lord’s own description of the subject; and they clearly reveal his conception of that wonderful issue. These words of Jesus, therefore, are more precious to us, than a formal definition would be. And so, as we begin the study of this question, let us ask,

WHAT DOES JESUS MEAN BY ETERNAL LIFE?

The average person would probably answer, Jesus means by the expression, a life which will last forever, that is, a life which will never end. But if one will only take the time to read all that Jesus says about the question, one will soon see that the Lord was not talking merely about an existence which will last forever, or which will never end; but rather about a certain kind of life. All men, both good and bad, have a life, that is, a soul or spirit, which will always exist; but mere duration or existence is not necessarily desirable.

Furthermore, duration is not the only, or even the principal feature which should be emphasized when one studies the subject of eternal life: quality also enters into the definition of the term.

God is eternal. not merely because he will always exist: rather, he will always exist because of the quality of his being. God himself would not always exist, if he were not what he is.

Jesus wants us to understand that he came to give us more than merely an existence. If we expect to live with God forever, we must have a quality of life which will endure forever. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth: and some unto honor, and some unto dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor. sanctified, meet for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20, 21; read also verses 4-19).

People who are interested in the question of eternal life, should always keep in mind the words of Jesus, quoted at the beginning of this study, namely, “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3).

The original Greek term for “know” is ginoskosin which, as A.T. Robertson points out, is the “present active subjunctive with hina (subject clause), ‘should keep on knowing’.” [1]

Marvin R. Vincent, in commenting on the term “know”, as used by Jesus, says: “Might recognize or perceive. This is striking, that eternal life consists in knowledge, or rather the pursuit of knowledge, since the present tense marks a continuous, a progressive perception of God in Christ. That they may learn to know. Compare ver. 23; x. 38; I John v. 20; iv. 7,8.”[2]

The apostle John, the writer who recorded the Lord’s intercessory prayer, wrote, many years after that momentous occasion, about how we may know that we know the Lord:

And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. (I John 2:3-5.)

Rudolf Bultmann notes that “it is plain that ginoskein does not mean the knowledge of investigation, observation or speculation, nor of mystical vision remote from historical contacts or action: it achieves concrete expression in historical acts.

The agape of God for the kosmos is actualized in the sending of the Son (In. 3: 16; 1 In. 4:9f.), and the agape of Jesus in obedience to the Father and service for the world or for his own (In. 14:31; 13: Iff.; 15:9, 12f.). Since the knowledge of Jesus or of God expresses itself accordingly in agapan, observing the commandments (which have in agape their content) might also be called a criterion of ginoskein (I In. 2:3-5; cf. 3:6). [3]

Jesus says that to know the Father and the Son is to have eternal life; or, that life eternal is to know the Father and the Son. The apostle John, as we have already seen, shows just exactly what it means to know the Lord. This, of course, should be a matter of great concern to people who sincerely desire to have eternal life.

This concern, indeed, should prompt people, seeking for eternal life, to make a diligent search in the Scriptures, in order to ascertain just what the Lord expects of them. When once the seeker knows what the commandments of the Lord are for him, he should immediately, with a heart filled with love, for that which the Lord has ordained for him. (Cf. John 14: 14,23: I John 5:3.)

There are two types of life or character set forth in the Scriptures. This is clearly seen in the passage quoted above (2 Timothy 2:20-21). One type will always endure, and one will prove to be only temporary.

Gold, for example, will always endure because of its nature: it cannot be destroyed because of what it is. “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23: l0b.) The materials which are placed in contrast with gold, do not possess the enduring quality of the precious metal; and they will, of course, be destroyed when the testing times come. (Cf. I Corinthians 3:12-15.)

There would be little satisfaction in the endless continuation of life, even in heaven, apart from the issue of its quality. When Jesus spoke about eternal life, he had reference primarily to the life which is imparted by the Father, following a complete surrender of the will of the recipient to the will of God, as revealed in the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8: 1,2).

This kind of life must be ours, here and now (cf. I John 5:10-13: Colossians 3: 1-4); and such a life must be continued, if we have the right to expect to enter into heaven at the last day (2 Peter 5:5-11).

LIFE, SOUL, CHARACTER, PERSONALITY

Gospel preachers, in an effort to bring about a better understanding of the meaning and use of the term “church”, frequently compare it with some related terms, such as kingdom and body. All three of the terms just mentioned refer to one and the same thing, namely, God’s people in Christ, considered from three points of view.

The people under consideration are the church (ekkiesia): because they have been called out of the world and unto Christ.  They are the kingdom (basileia), because Christ rules over them as king. And they are the body (soma). because Christ is their head (Colossians 1: 18, 24).

The eternal life which God authorized his Son to give to his people, may in precisely the same manner, be better understood when it is compared with the terms/ soul, character, and personality.

Most Bible students are aware of the fact that the word “soul” is sometimes used in the sense of life, as may be seen by reading Matthew 16:25, 26. (Cf. this reading in the King James and American Standard Versions.) But the average person, it may be, does not usually think of the terms “character” and “personality” in this connection.

Character has been defined as the deepest fact of human life; the essential truth concerning man, that is, the truth about him which is written upon his personality. Or, which is the same thing, the aggregate of the distinctive qualities which belong to him.

Personality is also the aggregate of the distinctive qualities, which belong to an individual. But the term “personality” differs from the word character, in that it implies that the individual is distinguished as a person, rather than simply as a moral being.

All four of the designations now being considered, belong to the same individual; and ifhe enters into heaven at the last day, he will enter with his life, his soul, and character, and his personality.

Not a single one of them will be left behind.

When the individual is redeemed by Christ, a new life is imparted unto him (Romans 6:3,4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:9b, 10: Titus 3:5.) Such a one is expected to spend the remainder of his time here upon the earth, in developing that life and growing a character, which God can take into the society of heaven (Matthew 6:l0b; Revelation 22:3) and if this is done, the individual’s personality shall survive the shock of death, and his redeemed soul shall enter into the glory world to be with the Father forever.

The expression “is being renewed”, in Colossians 3: 10 (cf. 2 Corinthians 4: 16 and the contrast in Ephesians 4:22), is from the Greek word anakainoo. The form used in the passage is the passive participle, and it indicates a continuous refreshing of the new man in Christ Jesus.

Thayer calls this a new kind of life, as opposed to the former corrupt state.[4] Vincent says that the word kainos (new), which enters into the composition of the verb anakinoo, gives the idea of quality. [5]

The apostle Peter, in the first chapter of his second epistle, presents both sides of this transaction. He first tells what God did to enable us to become “partakers of the divine nature” (verses 3, 4): and then he tells us what must be done, in order to make the process complete (verses 5-7). The remaining verses of the paragraph (verses 8-11) show that the final results will be, namely: “For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle or unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins. Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble: for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

It is essential that we keep before us in these studies at all times the distinction between life, as such, and the new life which is imparted to the believer, when he becomes obedient to the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Cf. I John 5: la: Ephesians 4:22-24.)

People who are born anew (John 3:3-5: d. Titus 3:5,6) become new creatures in Christ: or , which is the same thing, there is a new creation in the Lord (cf. Ephesians 2: 10): and such people are expected to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3,4).

CHRIST IS THE SOURCE OF OUR LIFE

The quality of life, which every genuine Christian possesses, here and now, is in Christ Jesus our Lord. “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4: cf. Romans 6:3,4: I John 3: 1-3.)

The words of the apostle Paul, which have just been quoted, may be thought of as setting forth “the true sphere of the Christian life”. It should be carefully noted, however, that before this life which we have from Christ begins, a death must take place.

“For ye died, . . .” refers to the same truth which is graphically and pictorially set forth in Romans 6:3,4  where the apostle Paul says that we are raised from our burial with Christ in baptism, “so we also might walk in newness of life”.

The original word for “newness” is kainoteti dative singular of kainotes, found in the New Testament only here and in Romans 7:6. Johannes Behm, in commenting on kainotes, says: “In the NT it is found only in Paul. In accordance with the use of kainos (- 449), it denotes the fulness of the reality of salvation which Christ has given to Christians in comparison with the worthlessness of their former condition. . . Where there is kaine ktisis (-449), law and sin are left behind. The Spirit is the completely different force which determines the new life.” [6]

The new life which the child of God has in Christ Jesus as a result of his having been raised from his death to sin (Romans 6: 1-2), was imparted to him by the Holy Spirit. This entire process is described by Jesus himself as the new birth (John 3:3-5), and by the apostle Paul in the following words: “Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7.)

The new birth, which Jesus says is essential to entrance into the kingdom of God, is described by our Lord as being a birth “of water and the Spirit”. The water in John 3:5 is equivalent to the “washing of regeneration” in Titus 3:5; while the Spirit in both passages is, of course, the Holy Spirit.

A birth, in its comprehensive sense, involves both a begetting and a bringing forth. (see Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:14, where both the begetting and the bringing forth are implied. Read Luke 1:26-35.) The term “birth” is also used in a narrower sense, namely, that of bring forth (Hebrews 11 :23).

But anyone is familiar with the facts in the case, knows that what is commonly referred to as the “birth” or bringing forth, is not that which imparts life to the person who is born. Life must always exist before the birth or bringing forth takes place, if the birth is to be normal. The birth simply introduces the living child into a sphere or condition suited to its needs; and where it can grow, develop, and function as God intended that it should.

That which has just been said is what water baptism does, that is, it simply delivered the child of God into a sphere, in this case the family of God – the church (I Timothy 3: 15), where he can grow, develop, and function as the Lord wills that he should. But if there were no prior life, that is, life before the bringing forth or deliverance, there would be no normal child of God to add to the church (Acts 2:38, 47).

The imparting of life to the one who has been dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2: 1), is the part which is performed by the Holy Spirit in the new birth. This always takes place at baptism or the deliverance of one into the body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). R.C.H. Lenski, in commenting on this significant designation, says: “The Holy Spirit is thus significantly called ‘the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus’. This is the life we live with Christ, which makes us alive (6:8, 10, 13), the end of which is life eternal (6:22, 23). So its creator, the Spirit, is called ‘the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus’, for the fact that we have it ‘in Christ Jesus’ is shown in 6:1-11, and is stated in 6: 11.  This spiritual life constitutes the life of our inner man and animates our ‘mind’ and moves our will to will the good law of God and not to will the base things of the sin power (6: 15, etc.). ” [7]

The apostle Paul declares that people who are in Christ Jesus are new creatures, or, as the marginal note has it, there is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5: 17; cf. Ephesians 2: 10; Colossians 3: 10). That, if course, implies the beginning of a new life, that is, a new kind of life, that is, a new kind of life (Romans 6:3, 4; Titus 3:5,6).

The “renewing”, or the making of the new creature, is done by the Holy Spirit (see Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, article, ana-kainosis, page 38). Thus, the new creation brings into existence the new life (Ephesians 2:5, 6; Colossians 2: 13); and that life is introduced into God’s family, the church by water baptism (cf. Acts 10:47-48), where its needs are met or supplied. This, in brief, is what is meant by obeying the gospel (Mark 16: 15, 16; Acts 18: 18; Galatians 3:26-27; cf. 1:6-9).

Every Christian, therefore, has a new kind of life in Christ Jesus, a life begotten or created by the Holy Spirit; a life which did not exist before obedience to the gospel; and the quality of that life is eternal in its nature.

This life, to use another metaphor, flows from Christ; and surely no thoughtful person will contend that is anything less than eternal. This is especially significant, if one will only consider the source of this life.

THE TESTIMONY OF THE SCRIPTURES

He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36.)

The verb “hath” (echei) is present indicative which, according to Webster, pertains to that mood of the verb “which represents the denoted act or state as an objective fact.” [8]

In the words of A.T. Robertson: “Hath eternal life (echei zoen aionion). Has it here and now
and for eternity. [9]

R.C.H. Lenski, in commenting on John 3:36, says: “These are not abstract or theoretical propositions that the Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hands. They apply most directly to these disciples-and to us. Since all things are in Jesus’ hands, ‘life eternal’ is included. It is the highest gift dispensed by the Messiah. Therefore everything depends on each man’s personal relation to Jesus.” (Cf. John 17:2.) [10]

And, in the words of Marvin R Vincent: “Compare the future tense with the present ‘hath eternal life’, and the simple life with the fully developed idea eternal life. He who believes is within the circle of the life of God, which is essentially eternal. His life ‘is hid with Christ in God’. Life eternal is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Hence, to such an one, eternal life is not merely something future. It is a present possession. He hath it. . . “[11]

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. (John 5:24.)

The identical expression “hath eternal life” (echei zoen alionion,) found in John 3:36, is used in the passage just quoted, and in the same present tense.

The same truth is set forth, in identical language (echie zoen aionion), in John 6:47, 54. It should be noted that to eat the flesh of the Son of man, and to drink his blood, is equivalent to partaking of the quality of his life, namely, to believe and obey the will of the Father, and to share in the benefits of the Savior’s death.

The apostle John, from whose record of the gospel narratives the preceding quotations were taken, also wrote: He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son. And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life. even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God. (I John 5:10-13.)

Anyone who reads the passage just quoted, can easily see that the verb “gave”, in the expression “that God gave unto us eternal life” (verse 11). is in the past tense. The tense in the original is the aorist indicative active, according to The Analytical Greek Lexicon. [12]

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines “aroist” as “expressing action or, in the indicative mood, past action without further limitation or implications. [13]

Marvin R Vincent notes that “the reference is to the historic fact of the gift”. He then cites I John 3:23, 24, where the same tense of the verb “gave” (edoken) is used in precisely the same sense. (See Vincent’s comments on I John 5: 11.)

It should be noted that the term “hath” (has) of verse 12 is in the present tense, which indicates a present possession. Thus, according to the inspired apostle John, if one has the Son of God, he has the life which the Father authorized the Son to give to his people. But if he does not have the Son of God, he does not have that life, that is, the life which both Jesus and John call eternal. [14]

Furthermore, Jesus declares: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) the life which Christ is, is eternal; and he said that the Father authorized him to give eternal life to his people (John 17:2ff.).

Eternal life is the only kind of life which Jesus has been commissioned to give to the people who come unto him from the kingdom ruled over by Satan.

This is another way of saying that Christ is the source and the giver of the life which is declared to be eternal. (Cf. John 1 :4.) There is no life which Christ imparts to his people, which is less than eternal in its nature.

It appears quite certain that John had in mind, primarily at least, the false teachers of his day, that is, the false teachers who denied the basic truth regarding Jesus as the Christ, when he wrote I John 5: 10-13 (ef. I John 2:18,22,4:3; 2 John 7). Inasmuch as the antichrists denied that “Jesus is the Christ”, it was in keeping with their philosophy to deny that Jesus Christ, as God’s Son, gave eternal life to his people.

God, of course, was displeased with those false teachers; and he is also displeased with any other person who disrupts the fact, that it is through the Son that God has, indeed, give eternal life to those people who are in Christ Jesus.

John, in fact, says that anyone who does not believe that God gave eternal life to his people in Christ, has “made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath born concerning his Son. And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son”. Such a sin is, indeed grave, and it will certainly prove to be fatal, if the guilty person does not repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

Brooke Foss Westcott says that “the Mission of His Son, which He attested, was the gift of life (John x. 10,28; xvii. 2), of life in His Son (John xx. 31, en to onomati).”. . .The reference is to the historic facts by which this life was communicated to humanity. That which before Christ’s coming was a great hope, by His coming was realized and given. The gift, as far as St. John here regards it, was made to Christians (hemin), who appropriate it.” [15]

A.T. Robertson, in commenting on the expression “that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (verse 13). calls this a “purpose clause with hina and the second perfect active subjunctive of oida, to know with settled intuitive knowledge. He wishes them to have eternal life in Christ (John 20:31) and to know that they have it, but not with flippant superficiality (2:3ff). [16]

CHRIST IS OUR LIFE

Not only is Christ the source of our life, as was set forth in the preceding chapter; he is, in truth, our life itself. Spiritual life, insofar as we are concerned, would be impossible without our union with Christ. (Cf. John 15:4-6.)

Here is the testimony of the Scriptures: “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2: 12-13; cf. Romans 6:3-4.)

When people die, the life which they had been experiencing is over; and if they are ever to live again, a new life must come into existence, a life which they have not had before. That is exactly what happens to people who die to sin, that is, the old way of living ceases, and they come into a new way of living in Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5: 17; Titus 3:5; Colossians 3:9b, 10; Ephesians 2:8-10.) The apostle Paul. therefore continues:

“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is. seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not upon the things that are upon the earth. For ye died. and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ. who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.” (Colossians 3: 1-4; cf. Philippians 3:20. 21.) Thoughtful and conscientious students of the Holy Scriptures should experience no difficulty in seeing that people who have this new life in Christ, must come into it in the Lord’s own way. Dead people are not capable of raising themselves into a new kind of life.

The apostle Paul says that after our death to sin, and our burial with Christ in baptism, we are raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3, 4). This life is a new kind or quality of life, which is created by the power of God, that is, by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5: 17). That the Holy Spirit is God’s power may be easily seen by reading Luke 1:34-35.

The original Greek term for “newness” is kainoteti, dative singular of kainotes. [17] Thayer calls this “the new state (of life) in which the Holy Spirit places us, Rom. vii. 6; . . . in a new condition or state of (moral) life, Rom. vi. 4, . . . so as to produce a new state which is eternal life? The same over-all issues are set forth in Titus 3:5, where “the washing of regeneration” (palliggenesia) and “renewing” (anakainosis) of the Holy Spirit, are made to stand for two fundamental ideas, the new birth and the living of the Christian life. [18]

R.C. Trench, in discussing their basic relationship, as set forth in Titus 3:5, says: “. . .the new-birth is contemplated as already past, as having found place once for all, while the ‘renewal’ or ‘renovation’ is daily proceeding-being as it is that gradual restoring of the Divine image, which is ever going forward in him who, through the new birth, has come under the transforming power of the world to come. It is called ‘the renewal of the Holy Ghost’, inasmuch as He is the efficient cause, by whom alone this putting on of the new man, and the putting off of the old, is brought about. These two then are bound by closest ties to one another; the second then following up, the consequence, the consummation of the first. The palliggenesia is that free act of God’s mercy and power, whereby He causes the sinner to pass out of the kingdom of darkness into that of light, out of death into life; it is the anothen gennethenai of John 3:3; the gennethenai ek Theou of I John 5:4;. . . with anakainosis it is otherwise. This is the gradual conforming of the man more and more to that new spiritual world into which he has been introduced, and in which he now lives and moves; the restoration of the Divine image; and in all this, so far from being passive, he must be a fellow-worker with God. “[19]

It should be noted that Thayer points out the same use of the term from which we have “renewal” in Titus 3:5.[20] Johannes Behm, in discussing “renewal” (anakainosis), says that it “refers to the renewal of thought and will, which Christians constantly need if they are to show by their moral conduct that they belong to the new aeon and are members of the new humanity (cf. Col. 3:10, – 452). The subject of this inward renewal, which affects the centre of personal life, is the Spirit of God (R. 8:9-13; cf. I C. 12:13) who dwells and works in Christians. The saying in n. 3:5. . . refers to the unique and basic beginning which the Spirit makes in man at baptism. Without any human cooperation there arises in baptism kaine ktisis (2 c. 5: 17; – 449) by the miracle of renewal through the Holy Spirit who created a life that was not there before (-44 7f; 449).” [21]

This life which was not there before, is the new life in Christ Jesus. It is the life which comes to us from Christ. It is his life which is extended to us; and it is eternal in its nature. It is a life which will never end, if we remain faithful to our Lord.

Thus, to sum up that which has just been said so far in this chapter, God makes people who obey the gospel, that is, those people who respond favorably to the message which the Lord commanded to be proclaimed (cf. Mark 16:15, 16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; I Peter 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14), alive with Christ.

And it is this life which the obedient believer has in Christ, that has the quality of endurance. And if it is maintained, as God intends that it should be, it will never be taken away from the child of God. The life itself is eternal in its nature or quality; but the believing possessor has the God-given responsibility of guarding that which has been committed to him. (See I Timothy 6:20; cf. 2 Timothy 1:12.)

THREE WORDS: LIFE, DEATH, RESURRECTION

Jesus, in his conversation with Martha, regarding the death of her brother Lazarus, brought to light some very important truths, as they relate to three words now under consideration: Jesus said unto her, Thy brother shall live again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:23-26.)

Three of the most tremendous words in human language are found in the passage just quoted, namely, life, death, and resurrection. These three words stand for ideas, concerning which men most earnestly desire information.

The context of the passage now before us appears to indicate that Martha had some information regarding the words in question; but the knowledge which she possessed did not bring her much comfort. Her brother had lived and died; and while she did expect a resurrection, it was in her mind a far-away event, and she would therefore have to wait until the last day, before her brother could live again.

It was in response to Martha’s thought-pattern, that Jesus spoke that which is recorded in John 11:25-26. Martha had been thinking of death only as a physical experience, and of the resurrection only as a doctrine regarding a far-away event, as already indicated. She had never associated the resurrection with Jesus; but the Lord made it plain to her, and to all others who will accept his word, that he, and not some far-away event or doctrine, is “the resurrection and the life”.

Merrill C. Tenney, in commenting on John 11 :23-26, says: “. . .By his reply, Jesus turned Martha’s acceptance of a dogma into faith in his person. In what is surely one of his most majestic and comforting utterances, Jesus said that he embodied the vital power to bring the dead to life: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ (cf. 25-26), the one who believes in Christ has eternal life that transcends physical death. If he is living and believing, he will never die but will make an instant transition from the old life to the new life. . .”[22]

When one considers the words of Jesus, in the passage now under consideration, it is important that one pay attention to the order of the words “resurrection” and “life”. Resurrection comes first, because the teaching of Jesus, on the occasion now before us, began with death, that is, the death of Lazarus. Of the three terms now being considered, the idea of life is the greatest and most inclusive. Resurrection is involved in life, as an incident made necessary by the temporary and apparent triumph of physical death.

John Albert Bengel notes that Christ is the Resurrection of the dying, and the Life of the living: and that in the presence of Christ, Death must restore all his prey.[23]

One of the principal features of the Gospel According to John, is that of life; and it will be helpful, at this point in our study, to look again at some of the great affirmations regarding this issue, while at the same time considering their significance: “In him was life: and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4.) “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36.) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24.)

This last quotation should be considered in the light of Romans 8:31-39. No sincere and faithful child of God, who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, will ever be subjected to an adverse sentence, as long as he remains in Christ (cf. Romans 8: I, 2).

R.C.H. Lenski. in commenting on John 5:24, says, in part: “This is made more vivid by the statement, ‘but has passed from the death into the life’, the perfect tense meaning that once having gone from the one to the other he remains where he is, I John 3: 14. Whereas Jesus speaks of ‘the dead’ in v. 21 he now speaks of ‘the death’, and the article points to the specific death here meant, namely, spiritual death that ends in eternal death, the opposite of ‘the life’, again the article and again the specific life that ends in eternal blessedness.

“In saying these things Jesus utters the most effective call to faith in the ears of the hostile Jews. In every word the gift of life was knocking at the hearts of his hearers, trying to break the bonds of their death; but they held to death and wilfully rejected the gracious giver of life. “[24]

It was on the night of his betrayal, that Jesus said to his disciples: “Yet a little while, and the world beholdeth me no more: but ye behold me; because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14: 19.)

The only death which would ever affect Jesus or his faithful disciples, would be physical death; and that, insofar as they were concerned, would only be the prelude to eternity. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed the issue in this way:

There is no death! What seems so is transition. This life of mortal breath Is but a surburb of the life elysian, Whose portal we call Death. – Resignation.

Thus, when Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die”, he was, in effect saying that those who die physically shall be raised up; but there is no spiritual death for those who are in him.

Quintin Hogg notes that “if we Christians believe the smallest fraction of what we pretend to believe, there is but little to mourn over in death. I know not when or how that veiled messenger may come to me, but this I do know that it can come only at the bidding of my Father. I know its mission can be nothing more than the unclothing of this poor weak body of my humiliation to clothe me with the body of his glory. . . Death is not only an exodus, it is also an entrance: while we stand by the bedside and say, ‘He is gone’, they on the other side are welcoming him with unspeakable joy”. (Cf. I Thessalonians 4: 13-18.)

The geniune believer in Christ has the right to be disturbed by the thought of physical death: for that is certain to come to all men, unless the Lord comes first. But what the Lord’s people should always keep in mind, is that physical death will always be overcome by the resurrection of all the dead at the last day (John 5:28, 29; cf. Daniel 12:2).

All true life, as well as everything essential to it, including its origin, maintenance, and consummation, is in Christ: and it is all conveyed to the believer through his union with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).

It is hardly necessary to say that the life which pleases God must be lived by faith. In the words of the apostle Paul. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20; d. I Peter 4:1-2.)

Faith implies a sense of the “Divine-dimension”, a conforming to its purpose and order, as well as a perception of its working in and through the present system in which we live. The lack of faith implies that we are out of harmony with the divine plan and purpose. And as long as this condition prevails, we can never please God. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6.) It is regrettable that so many professed Christians thinks of eternal life as something we shall have, only after this earthly pilgrimage is over. This view of eternal life, of course, thinks of it only in terms of duration, thereby ignoring its qualitative aspect.

The Bible nowhere teaches that the life which we are now considering, is ours eternally, while we are still in the flesh. But the Scriptures just as clearly teach that the redeemed children of God do, indeed, have eternal life, here and now. (Read again I John 5:10-13, and note the tenses of the verbs.)

That the unfaithful child of God, that is, one who does not carefully guard that which has been committed to him and live as God ordains that he should, will certainly lose his inheritance in the end, is clearly implied and plainly taught in such scriptures as Luke 15:25-31; Hebrews 6: 4-8; 2 Peter 2:20-22.

The life of the faithful child of God is forever linked with our heavenly Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can therefore, sing with Jennie Wilson her beautiful and encouraging song, Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand: Time is filled with swift transition, Naught of earth unmoved can stand. Build your hopes on things eternal, Hold to God’s unchanging hand. Trust in him who will not leave you, Whatsoever years may bring, If by earthly friends forsaken, Still more closely to him cling. When your journey is completed, If to God you have been true, Fair and bright the home in glory Your enraptured soul will view. Hold to God’s unchanging hand! Hold to God’s unchanging hand! Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

And finally, in the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: God’s child in Christ adopted-Christ my all – What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply rather Than forfeit that blessed name, by which I call The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Father? Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee Eternal Thou, and everlasting we. The heir of heaven, hence forth I fear not death; In Christ I live! in Christ I draw the breath Of the true life! Let then, earth, sea, and sky Make war against me; on my front I show Their mighty Master’s seal. In vain they try To end my life, that can but and its woe. Is that a deathbed where a Christian lies? Yes, but not his- ‘Tis Death itself there dies.

A PRESENT POSSESSION AND A FUTURE FRUITION

When it is affirmed that the Scriptures teach that the Lord’s people have eternal life here and now, the emphasis, let it be repeated, is not upon its duration, but rather upon its nature or quality. The life which we have in Christ comes directly from him (cf. Colossians 3: 1-4); and it can no more be destroyed than can Christ himself. (Read again John 11:23-26: 14:6.)

Christians, of course, can lose their life, which they have in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 John 8: Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31: 2 Peter 2:20-22) but it cannot be destroyed. If one will carefully consider the passages just cited, one will be able to see that the Bible teaches, that as long as we are in the flesh it is possible for us to lose our life (soul – Mathew 16:24-26): however righteous we may have been at any given time. Here is the testimony of the Scriptures:

“He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36.)

“For I know nothing against myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” (I Corinthians 4:4.)

“But I buffet my body. and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others. I myself should be rejected.” (I Corinthians 9:27.)

The original word for “rejected” in I Corinthians 9:27 is adokimos. Its basic meaning in the passage just cited, is disqualified, according to Arndt-Gingrich. [25] The original word is found in the New Testament in the following passage: Romans 1:28; I Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 13:5. 6, 7; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus 1: 16; Hebrews 6:8.2 Anyone who will study these scriptures will have no trouble in seeing that the inspired apostle Paul means to teach that it is possbile for an unfaithful Christian to lose his life eternally. The rendering of adokimos, in all the passages cited is “reprobate,” except in I Corinthians 9:27 and Hebrews 6:8,2, where the rendering is “rejected.” When the privative prefix “a” (equaling “un” or “non”) is removed, that result is dokimos, which is the Greek term for approved or genuine, or that which is acceptable.

Marvin R. Vincent, in commenting on adokimos, in I Corinthians, says: “. . .rejected, and unworthy of the prize. ” [26] And, according to A.T. Robertson. “Most writers take Paul to refer to the possibility of his rejection in his personal salvation at the end of the race. He does not claim absolute perfection (Phil. 3: 12) and so he presses on. At the end he has serene confidence (II Tim. 4:7) with race run and won. It is a humbling thought for us all to see this wholesome fear instead of smug complacency in this greatest of all heralds of Christ.” [27]

The question for the duration of the life which has been given to us in Christ Jesus, will not be settled therefore until this earthly sojourn is over. And herein lies the significance of such passages as Titus 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 2:25; Matthew 25:46; Mark 10:29,30; John 10:27, 28; Galatians 6:7. 8; Romans 6:23; I Timothy 6:12; and similar statements.

We can have eternal life in the sense of its nature or quality, here and now, without having it eternally. But when once we have gained the other shore, there will be no further danger of losing our glorious and eternal inheritance. (Cf. Hebrews 9: 15; 10:35, 36; I Peter 1:3-5; Ephesians 1: 13, 14.) So then, whatever hope of the future we may have, in the light of the over-all teaching of the New Testament, depends upon our having in our life an eternal quality. Transient things are always transient. here and anywhere; but eternal things are always eternal, here and everywhere: they cannot help but last.

The apostle Paul expresses these truths in this way: “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16; cf. Colossians 3:10.)  Our “inward man” is the new creature, which has been created in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2: 10; Colossians 3: 10; and it is for this reason that the Lord calls us to a quality of living. which is eternal here and now.

There is a contrast throughout the New Testament between “eternal life” and “eternal death”, or, which is the same thing, eternal punishment. (Cf. Matthew 25:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12.) That which is emphasized in eternal death is loss (the individual in question has lost his life, along with its consequent blessing, which were possible for him in Christ Jesus. Cf. Matthew 16:24-26). And so, after we have grasped the qualitative sense of the term “eternal” whether of eternal life or eternal death, it is then in order to consider the idea of duration.

Life in Christ is according to God’s eternal purpose; and its duration is a natural consequence. That which is f an enduring quality. will last forever; it cannot be destroyed. Therefore, when this life in Christ is gained and kept. it will never end. But if one fails to obtain it, or fails to keep it. the loss will likewise be eternal. (Cf. Daniel 12:2; John 5:28. 29.) THE KNOWLEDGE WHICH BRINGS LIFE “And this is life eternal. that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send. even Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3; I John 2:3-6.) The knowledge about which Jesus spoke is vastly more than mere intellectual perception and understanding. It is moral knowledge, personal acquaintance, and fellowship with the Father and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. I John 1:5-7; John 8:55). Fellowship clearly implies union; and where there is union with Deity, there is always life.

The knowledge which is essential to eternal life also implies similarity of attitude, disposition, outlook and interest (read again 2 Corinthians 5:9; I John 1:5-7). Such knowledge is the bringing of the whole personality of man into right relationships with the Personality of God (Romans 12:1; Galatians 4:19). The expression in the latter passage, “until Christ be formed in you,” according to Thayer, literally means “until a mind and life in complete harmony with the mind and life of Christ shall have been formed in you.” [28]

With this thought in mind, it is impossible for one to conclude that somewhere along the line, between the time one becomes a child of God that is, is made a new creature in Christ Jesus, and the time he enters into heaven itself, that this life undergoes a change in nature – from mortal, transient, or finite, into immortal or eternal.

Johannes Behm notes that the only occurence of the original term for “formed” (morphoo or morphoomai – for the second spelling, see Moulton and Geden[29]) is in Galatians 4: 19. He then goes on to say that becoming a Christian is here depicted in terms of birth; and the goal is the fashioning of Christ in man. Christ, according to the apostle’s view, lives in Christians (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8;10; 2 Corinthians 13:3.5; Colossians 1:27; 3:11).

Christ therefore dwells in the hearts of Christians (Ephesians 3: 17). And so, in order for this Christ-life to come into being in Christians, Christ himself must take form in them. He must in some sense be incarnate afresh in each individual. The nerve of this metaphor, which is based on the development of the child in the mother’s womb, is that Christ should come to full growth to maturity, in the Christian. This growth-process must continue throughout the Christian experience here upon the earth.[30]

The physical life which is nurtured in the womb of the mother, is the same life which will characterize the child who is born into this world; and it will continue with him as long as he is permitted to remain here upon the earth.

And so, in keeping with this principle, the spiritual life which begins with the new creation, and which is described as Christ himself (Colossians 3:1-4), will remain unchanged, insofar as its nature is concerned, until it enters into heaven itself. Its growth and development, in the process of Christian living. only makes it more Christ-like.

George Braumann makes this observation: “In Gal. 4: 19 Paul speaks of being ‘in travail until Christ be formed (morphothe) in you’. The thought is not that of having correct teaching in contrast to the erroneour teaching of the Galatian. It is rather that of coming into the world as a child comes into the world through conception and – birth. Christ himself is to be formed in them in the reality of his being.”[31]

Marvin R. Vincent, in commenting on the expression “until Christ be formed in you” says: The forming of Christ in them, their attainment of the complete inner life of Christians, is the object of the new birth. By their relapse they have retarded this result and renewed Paul’s spiritual travail. The idea under different aspects is common. See Rom. viii. 9; I Cor. 11. 16; vi. 15; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27.” [32]

It is difficult for one to see, in the light of the scriptural statements, which have just been quoted and referred to, along with the testimony of scholars of recognized and respected ability, how anyone can possibly doubt the truth which boldly affirms, that the faithful child of God has eternal life, here and now (I John 5:10-13) along the glorious declaration that Christ himself is our life (Colossians 3:4)!

Anyone who is conscious of the fact that he has something in his possession as valuable as eternal life. will be much more likely to try to keep it. But if he is not aware of that fact. the manner of his living will be in keeping with his thinking. (cf Proverbs 23:7.)

AN OPPOSITE VIEWPOINT

It is alleged by some, that is, asserted without proof, that those who hold to the proposition, that the Lord’s people do indeed have eternal life, in the sense of its nature or quality, here and now, are being influenced by human theology rather than by the Scriptures themselves.

The effort is also made to show that such passages as Titus 1:2 and I John 2:25, on the one hand, and I John 5:11-13, on the other, negate each other, if they are taken at face value. The affirmation made in I John 5:13 “cannot be properly interpreted to mean that we have in actual possession eternal life here, since this conflicts with the apostle’s own statement that we possess it in promise.”

“It must mean that we have eternal life in prospect to be realized at the end of the age when, in triumph, we are forevermore beyond the possibility of apostasy. Until that glorious day, our approach to life is through the Son who has it: ‘And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life” (I John 5:11-12).”

One fundamental principal of sound Biblical interpretation is this: No two or more passages of Scripture should be made to contradict each other, if they can be explained, in harmony with the over-all teaching of the Scriptures, so as to avoid such a confrontation.

Practically all believers in the Bible are in agreement regarding the hope of actually possessing eternal life in heaven; that, indeed, will be our glorious inheritance. But the hope we have of that great achievement, in no way conflicts with the Lord’s gracious gift to his people in this age of our relationship with him. This may be clearly seen by the testimony of the Scriptures themselves, along with the present tense of the verbs in question: “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36.) It is in this earthly life that one must believe on and obey the Son, if one expects to be saved.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath eternal life and cometh not into judgment but hath passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24.)

The “judgment” referred to here is condemnation (cf. Romans 8: 1) and “death” is spiritual death (Ephesians 2: 1). All people both good and the bad will stand before the Lord in the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) and all people both the saved and the lost will die physically unless they are living when Christ comes (I Thessalonians 4: 15).

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die. yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11 :25. 26.) All believers who die physically will be raised up at the last day; but all believers who continue in Christ will never die spiritually.

“He that believeth on the Son of god hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son. And the witness is this. that God gave unto us eternal life. and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life. “These things have I written unto you. that ye may know that ye have eternal life. even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.” (I John 5:10-13.)

It is in this life that we have the Son or do not have him. If we have the Son, we have the life, that is, the eternal life; but if we do not have the Son of God, we do not have the eternal life. The statements made by John in the passage just quoted, are too easily understood for any honest believer to mistake their meaning and implication.

The people who have been redeemed by Christ were dead in trespasses and sins, when the gospel message reached them (Ephesians 2: lff) and, responding to that message, they were buried with Christ “through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father”, so that they also might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). This new kind of life, which was created in Christ Jesus. and which did not exist before, is ours in Christ, and it will never end. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5: 17, and the marginal note.)

It is only when one is united with Christ, that the new life flows into his being, that is, the life which comes from Christ, and which the Father authorized him to give to his people (John 17:2, 3). The life which is in Christ, and which flows from him, is certainly eternal in its nature and quality. Certainly no rational humange being would contend that Christ imparts an inferior life to his people, who are members of his body.

When pure electricity flows from a generator, and eventually reaches an imperfect appliance, is the quality of the electricity changed into something less than its pure character, so that it will be compatible with an inferior appliance? The only life which comes from Christ is eternal in its nature and quality; and it is certain that it does not undergo any change. When it becomes the possession of the redeemed child of God. The truth is, we have eternal, here and now; but we do not have it eternally. It is only when we have passed the state of responsibility, in this earthly sojourn, that we shall receive the promise which will make the possession eternally ours. And so, we can sing with Mrs. C.H. Morris:  Eternal life, begun below, Now fills my heart and soul; I’ll sing his praise forever more. Who has redeemed my soul.

OUR LIFE IN CHRIST IS SUSTAINED BY DIVINE MEANS

It should always be kept in mind, when the life which is being discussed in this series of studies, is being considered, that is, the life which we have in Christ Jesus, is the life which was divinely imparted. Here is the testimony of the Scriptures: “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2: 12. 13.)

“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not upon the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.” (Colossians 3: 1-4.)

 “These things spake Jesus; and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee: even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou has given him, he should give eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God. and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.” (John 17: 1-3.)

Life is always united with the source of life, just as death comes when the life-life has been severed. (Cf. John 15: 1-6.) No man can live, even the physical life, apart from the provisions which God has made for its sustenance (see James 2:26). And in keeping with the same principle, the child of God must depend upon the divine resources which Deity provides. If one s new life in Christ is to be continued and developed as God has ordained. Or, to say the same thing in another way, it is utterly impossible for one to continue the life which he received in Christ, by his own unaided efforts.

Note carefully these words of Jesus: “And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life.” (John 5:40.)

“I came that they may have life. and may have it abundantly.” John 10:10.)

 “Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life. which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the Father, even God, hath sealed.” (John 6:27; d. 17:2)

 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth hath eternal life, I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat this bread he shall live forever: yea and the bread which I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

 “The Jews therefore strove one with another saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Jesus therefore said unto them Verily, verily, I say unto you. Except ye the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me. and I in him. As the living Father sent me. and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me. he also shall live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven: not as the fathers ate. and died; he that eateth this bread shall live forever. These things said he in the synagogue. as he taught in Capernaum.” (John 6:47-59.)

Some of the Lord’s disciples found it difficult, and some indeed impossible, to accept his teaching regarding the eating and drinking of his flesh and blood. (See John 6:60-66.) This was because they tried to understand that which the Lord said literally.

Jesus explained to his troubled disciples, that they had missed the point in his teaching. “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life.” (John 6:63.)

This is to say that the Lord’s words must have a spiritual, rather than a literal or fleshly, application: “It is the spirit that giveth life.” (Cf. James 2:26) To think of the “flesh and blood” of a person, is to think of his being. And so, to think of eating the flesh and the drinking of the blood of Christ, in a spiritual sense, is to think of partaking of his life and the benefits of his death. Of, to say the same thing in another way it is to inbibe his spirit and be governed by his word. (Cf. John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-40; 17:4.)

R.C.H. Lenski, in commenting on the thought now before us, says: “To parallel the eating of the flesh with the drinking of the blood of the Son of man, as Jesus parallels them here, is to point in the clearest way to his own sacrificial death. The parallel explains what eating and drinking really mean, namely, participation in the sacrifice. By the death of the Son of man his blood is shed in sacrifice. It is folly, then, to think for one moment of drinking that blood in a physical (Capernaitic) manner. To drink the blood thus shed is a spiritual act in toto, and acceptance by the soul of the efficacy of that blood once shed and of the atonement and expiation wrought by its being shed.”[33]

The two-fold reaction of the Lord’s disciples to his address on the bread of life may be seen, in part at least, by the words of the apostle who recorded these events: “Upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him, Jesus said therefore unto the twelve, Would ye also go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69.)

The attitude of the unbelievers among the Lord’s disciples, and his response to them, are set forth in the preceding paragraph: “Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it. But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said unto them, Doth this cause you to stumble? What then if we should behold the Son of man ascending where he was before. It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him. And he said, For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it be given unto him of the Father.” (John 6:60-65; cf. verses 44, 45.)

 If one will read the first twenty-five verses of the sixth chapter of John, it will be relatively easy for one to see the setting for the Lord’s discourse on the bread of life. The feeding of the five thousand had created an atmosphere of great excitement among the people.

Jesus perceived that the people were about ready to use force in their effort to compel him to become their king. He certainly could furnish the food to feed an army; and now, in their opinion, was the time to fight the Romans for the Jewish independence.

It was under these circumstances that Jesus felt that he should leave the multitudes, which he did by returning again to the mountain, where he could be alone and spend some time on communing with his heavenly Father.

When evening arrived his disciples went down to the sea, entered their boat, and started in the direction of Capernaum. The great wind which began to blow made it extremely difficult for them to make much headway in their boat. Later on, the Lord came to them, walking on the water; and inasmuch as they did not recognize him, they were filled with great fear. Jesus, however, calmed their fear, and they were soon at their landing place.

The next day the multitude began their search for Jesus, and soon found him in Capernaum. They immediately asked him how he came to be there. Jesus knew, of course, the motive which prompted them to seek for him; and it was at that point that he began his great address on the bread of life.

The ministry of Jesus had grown to be very popular with the multitudes; but it was very evident that the majority of the people were following Jesus for the wrong purposes. Their motivation was for material and political gain, while Jesus was emphasizing the spiritual. And so, instead of falling in line with the Lord’s intention for them, the people, on the whole, sought satisfaction for their own ideas of what was best for them.

Therefore, it became necessary for Jesus to sift the crowd, which he did by speaking unto them regarding his mission to the earth. But only the most spiritually-minded of his hearers, would accept that which he said. The majority of the people left him, as already pointed out, because they professed not to understand his teaching. They did, however, understand that which he said well enough for them to see that he was not the teacher and leader who would satisfy their desires.

Not only did the teaching of Christ have the effect of separating the people, on the occasion now before us; that has ever been the Lord’s method of dealing with the peoples of the earth.

Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19: 10), and he does not want anyone to be condemned forever (2 Peter 3:9: 2 Timothy 2:3.4: d. Mark 16: 15, where the gospel was authorized to be preached to all men). But it ever remains true that only obedient believers have the promise of eternal salvation. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8,9.) The principle of separating people, on the basis of their attitude toward the Lord’s teaching was stated by Jesus himself: “Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter, against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lost it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39.)

Christianity has been defined as the reproduction of the life of Christ in the human heart: and that is the goal toward which every person who expects to go to heaven should strive. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24.)

 

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death.” (I John 3: 14: cf. 2:9-11.)

 

 

THE GLORIOUS CONSUMATION

“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that If he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall I see him even as he is. And everyone that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3: 1-3.)

The writer of the words just quoted wants all Christians to know what a glorious thing it is for them to be children of God. But the future state of the faithful child of God, is far more wonderful than his present relationship. It is wholly beyond the ability of any human being to conceive of the glory which shall be his, when he is finally made into the complete likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

All people who are redeemed by Christ Jesus, are made into new creatures, that is, they are given a life which they did not have before (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5,6; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 2: 10); but their transformation into the complete likeness of their Lord Jesus Christ, will not be finished until they shall see him, even as he is.

When one becomes a Christian he is made a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3.4). But the must continue to grow into the divine likeness all the remainder of his time here upon the earth (2 Peter 1:5-11). That is what John means when he says, “And everyone that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (I John 3:3; d. Matthew 5:8; Colossians 3: 1-4).

Thus, beginning with the knowledge which has been vouchsafed to all believers, namely, “We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him: for we shall see him even as he is”, we can turn to the Lord’s own transfiguration for a glimpse of that which we may expect, when he comes again. Peter was one of the three disciples who were privileged to be present on the glorious occasion of the Lord’s transfiguration; and he refers to that which happened as the Lord’s “majesty” (2 Peter 1: 16-18).

Luke describes the scene in these words: “And as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling.” (Luke 9:29.) It is probably not out of place, therefore, to think of the transfiguration of Christ, as a “preview” of his glory, when he comes again. And it will be in that day that his faithful disciples shall with him be glorified together.

And so, in the words of Mrs. Frank A. Breck: Face to face with Christ my Saviour, Face to face-what will it be, When with rapture I behold him, Jesus Christ who died for me? Only faintly now I see him, With the darkling veil between; But a blessed day is coming, When his glory shall be seen. What rejoicing in his presence, When are banished grief and pain, When the crooked ways are straightened, And the dark things shall be plain! Face to face! 0 blissful moment! Face to face-to see and know; Face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who loves me so. Face to face shall I behold him Far beyond the starry sky; Face to face in all his glory, I shall see him by and by.

Life here upon the earth, has many things to commend it; but there is no life here which is comparable to the life, which is given to new creatures in Christ Jesus. The Lord himself teaches us that life (soul) is more valuable in God’s sight, than the whole world itself (Matthew 16:24-26). It is this life which the believer possesses, which shall never die: “and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:26).

It appears that even the Roman poet Virgil, who lived before Christ, had at least a passing glimpse of the relationship of the human spirit with God. His words, as transplanted by F.W.H. Myers, the English poet and essayist, are as follows: Then since from God those lesser lives began, And the eager Spirits enter into man, To God again the enfranchised Soul must tend, He is her Home, her Author is her End. No death is hers; when earthly eyes grow dim Starlike she and Godlike melts in Him.


[1] A.T. Robertson: Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume V, page 275. Ray Long & Richard R Smith. Inc.. New York 1932.

[2] Marvin R. Vincent: Word Studies in the New Testament. Volume II, page 263, Wm. R. Eerdmans Publishing Company’, Grand Rapids. Michigan, U.S.A.

[3][3] Rudolf Bultmann: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,  Volume I, page 711. Wm. B.Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan – London.

[4] Joseph Henry Thayer: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. article. ana-kainoo. page 38. Zondervan Publishing Company Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[5] Marvin R. Vincent: op. cit. Volume Ill. page 503.

[6] Johnnes Behm: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume III, page 451. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[7] R.C.H. Lenski: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, page 496. Augsburg Publishing House. Minneapolis, Minnesota

[8] Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary – A Merriam-Webster, 1961. G. & C. Merriam, Publishers. Springfield, Mass. U.S.A.

[9] Archibald Thomas Robertson: Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume V, page 57. Ray Long & Richard R Smith. Inc.. New York – 1932.

[10] R.C.H. Lenski: The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, page 293. Augsburg Publishing House. Minneapolis. Minnesota.

[11] Marvin T. Vincent: Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume II, page l09f.. Will. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[12] The Analytical Greek Lexicon, article, edoken, page 115. S. Bagster and Sons. limited. London, James Pott & Co.. New York.

[13] The Random House Dictiouary of the English Language – the Unabridged Edition Jess Stein Editor in Chief. Random House, New York. . ,

[14] Marvin R. Vincent: op. cit. page 368.

[15] Brooke Foss Westcott: The Epistles  of St. John – The Greek Text with notes, page 187. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[16] Archibald Robertson: Word Pictures In the New Testament, Volume VI, page 242. Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York and London – 1933.

[17] The Analytical Greek Lexicon, article. Kalnoteti, page 208. S. Bagster and Sons, Limited. London. James Pott & Co.. New York.

[18] Joseph Henry Thayer: Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, article. Kalnotes, page 318, Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[19] Richard Chenevix Trench: Synonyms of the New Testament, page 65f” Kegan Paul, Trench. Trubner & Co.. Lid.. London – 1890.

[20] Joseph Henry Thayer: op. cit., articles, anakainoo and ana-kainosis.

[21] Johannes Behm: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume III. page 453. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[22] Merrill C. Tenney: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Volume 9. Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, page 118, Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

[23] John Albert Bengel: Gnomon of  the New Testament. Volume I,  page 657. A New Translation by Charlton T. Lewis and Maryln R. Vincent. Perkinpine & Higgins. Philadelphia – Sheldon & Company. New York.

[24] RC.H. Lenski The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, page 390, Augsburg Publishing House Minneapolis. Minnesota.

[25] Arndt. William F. and Gingrich. f. Wilbur: A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature articles, adakinos and dokimos, pages 18, 202. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Illinois.

[26] A Concordance to the Greek Testament by W.F. Moulton and A.S. Geden, article. adokimos. Page 22. T. & T. Clark, 38 George Street. Edinburgh.

[27] Marvin R. Vincent: Word Studies in the New Testament, Volume III. page 238, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Grand Rapids. Michigan. U.S.A.

[28] Joseph Henry Thayer Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, article morphoo, page 418. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids. Michigan.

[29] Moulton and Geden. op. cit.. article morphoomai, page 657.

[30] Johannes Behm: Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume IV, page 753f, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

[31] Georg Braumann: The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume I, page 708. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids. Michigan 49506.

[32] Marvin R Vincent: op. cit. Volume IV page 147.

[33] R.C. Lenski: The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel, page 492. Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis. Minnesota.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Doctrine

 

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