And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.(I John 5:11-13)
The letter of the apostle John is all about clarity.His burden is to let christians know what is what and who is who, because the knowledge of God has been redefined by experience based distortions of the faith, just like today.
Therefore John’s epistles seek to clarify for us, who truly knows God? Who speaks for Him? How would one know the true from the false knowledge of God? Are the gnostics right or the Apostles? What is the nature of true spirituality?
Another way to ask these questions would be to ask, Who has eternal life? Or, What is eternal life?
Eternal Life is one of those phrases that is so familiar to so many, they automatically assume they know what it means. Few of us even think about it. Perhaps this is because it is part of the most beloved and translated bible verses ever, John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)
However there ar a couple of very simple but significant misapprehensions of this important theme, that we must address.
* Eternal life doesn’t refer to prolonged life. Because man is made in the image of God, all men,saints or sinners, will be in existence forever. Some will spend eternity in Heaven, worshipping and enjoying God forever.
Others who have rejected God’s salvation, and refused to acknowledge their need of God, or His forgiveness, will spend an eternal conscious existence under God’s condemnation forever. These are the words of Jesus, in John 3 ,
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.(John 3:36)
* Eternal life doesn’t begin when you die. There are many who believe that eternal life is given after death. They hope that they will have been found to be “good enough” to merit eternal life.
This is a tragic miscalculation, those who believe this(and there are many) will be shocked to find upon death that they have”died in their sins”, which is the ultimate disaster.
First of all, no one is “good enough” to obtain eternal life, it is the gift of God. Secondly, if you haven’t recieved eternal life by the time you die, it is too late for you. Now is the time to recieve Life.
* Eternal Life starts now. “He that has the Son, has the Life.” Eternal life is a present possession, a gift God gives in love and grace to those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, as the sacrifice for their sins.
According to our opening scripture, those who have eternal life can know it. Also we don’t have to assume that all who confess to be christians actually possess eternal life, for eternal life can be tested.
* Eternal Life is sharing in the life of God. When I was young and first came under conviction of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness was my obsession. How can I possibly be forgiven of my sins by a Holy God? This is where the gospel of Jesus’ death in my place became my salve.
But as I have progressed in faith I have realized that my deepest need of all was Life.My problem was not only what I had done, but who I was. I needed a new nature, as well as forgiveness.
God’s gift is eternal life. He saves by allowing us to become partakers of the Divine nature. He gives us a share in his Life.
* Eternal Life is knowing God. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus prayed , acknowledging that God had given him “power to give eternal life to as many as thou hast chosen. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”(John 17:3)
Knowing God and being known of Him is what we were created for. God made us to love, enjoy and fellowship with Him, but it was sin that alienated us from Him. We lost the knowledge of God when the human race went into sin.
God cannot be known , other than through Jesus Christ. Eternal life is a restoration of the Image of God to man through Jesus. It is a return to favor with God, for “In thy favor is life”.
* Eternal Life is not a separate and independent existence. The gift of God does not come in distinct units to each person who accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
The allegory that Jesus used to describe Eternal life, is that of the vine and branches. Having eternal life is an ongoing communication of life, as in a grape-vine, a continuous reception of life from the source as the branch remains in the vine.
* Eternal life produces qualities that can be tested. This is the essence of the epistle, that you can know that you have eternal life.
If eternal life is the Life of God, than those who have this life should be able to point to specific aspects of their spiritual life which reflect ,no matter how dimly, that Divine life.
Remember, God is Light…God is Love… and Jesus Christ has come and remains in the flesh.Therefore those who have the Life of God, can know it by applying the three tests of eternal life, the test of Righteousness, Love, and Truth. Eternal life is the cause of all three of these attributes in the believer’s life.