By Leslie Grant
The eight biblical expressions we intend to consider have reference to the marvelous and immediate giving of eternal life to every soul who is born of God. Yet, each statement has its own special emphasis and significance. Without these and many more in the New Testament, we could not have a proper view of the wonder and preciousness of eternal life. May we greatly value these truths that serve to deepen in our souls a pure appreciation of the Lord Jesus and of the glory of the Father revealed in Him.
“The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.” —John 5:25 NKJV
This Scripture and the next two deal with the soul’s reception of the great blessing of eternal life, not simply from the viewpoint of divine sovereignty, but from that of the soul’s response to the gospel. First, the spiritually dead hear the voice of the Son of God. They are not said to have life before they hear; but “those who hear will live.” The individual’s responsibility of hearing and the sovereign work of the Son of God in giving life are put together here. Wonderful it is that God has decreed that by the Word of God souls are born again (1 Pet. 1:23) and possess everlasting life (Jn. 5:24). This last verse also emphasizes hearing the voice of the Son of God and then living the life that is eternal.
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” —1 John 5:1
New birth, or birth from God, certainly gives new life – the life which is of God, eternal life. New birth, in contrast to our natural birth as children of Adam, stresses the precious fact of a vital, real relationship with the eternal God as Father: “As many as received Him [the Lord Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (Jn. 1:12-13). Thus by new birth, the relationship of children to the Father through the Son is eternally established. How precious beyond thought! Of course this could only be possible by possessing eternal life. Notice too that personal faith is seen as a requisite, or requirement, in new birth.
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” —John 6:54
Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man in a spiritual sense is an absolute necessity to the reception of eternal life. In John 5, hearing the voice of the Son of God was indispensible, now eating and drinking is insisted on in John 6. One cannot be without the other, for faith in the deity of Christ means faith also in His true Manhood, suffering and death. This eating and drinking implies taking home to the soul the truth of the gospel: the necessary death of Christ for our sins. Our verse therefore shows that the death of the Lord Jesus was an absolute necessity in order that men and women may possess eternal life. It is life vitally connected with the sufferings and death of the Son of Man, which is the very food of eternal life. In anticipation of Calvary, God could and did give eternal life before that time.
“God … made us alive together with Christ.” —Ephesians 2:5
Making alive, or quickening, is said to be by the Son (Jn. 5:21) and “with Christ” (Eph. 2:5). If new birth emphasizes relationship with the Father, quickening emphasizes the power of God in bringing life out of death. New birth does not in itself suggest that man was dead. But in his Adam-nature, corrupted by sin, man could not inherit the kingdom of God; he required a new nature from God. Quickening supposes a state of death in which divine power must work to bring life. Here, too, the resurrection of Christ is introduced, and the believer is linked with Him in such a life. It is of course the same eternal life of which we have been speaking, but it is now seen in resurrection power.
“Jesus answered them, ‘ … I give them eternal life.’” —John 10:28
In this passage it is the Son who gives life, while Romans 6:23 tells us, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If new birth stresses relationship and making alive stresses power of God in bringing life out of death, these verses stress the grace of God in communicating eternal life. It is a wonderful act of divine favor apart from any merit on the part of the recipient – a gift freely given of God. It is totally God’s sovereign work: precious grace indeed!
“Partakers of the divine nature.” —2 Peter 1:4
In the same verse Peter tells us we have become partakers by His “great and precious promises.” New birth is accomplished by the Word of God, and this divine nature is identified with eternal life. It is “the life of God” (Eph. 4:18). But 2 Peter 1:4 emphasizes the blessed fact of God’s sharing with us the divine nature, that it might show itself in every godly virtue as a representation of Himself in an evil world.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” —2 Corinthians 5:17
Each individual believer is “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). This highlights the fact of “all things” becoming new. Because of the new creation, or by possessing eternal life, every believer is “in Christ.” Just as “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” so also “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” But the expression “new creation” points to an entirely new order of things that God brings into being by His creatorial power.
“ … The washing of regeneration.” —Titus 3:5
The Lord Jesus told Peter, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet” (Jn. 13:10). Hebrews 10:22 adds, “Our bodies washed with pure water.” Regeneration certainly involves new life, and, of course, that eternal life of which we are speaking. But the insistence here is upon the moral cleansing that takes place in saints of God, though sin is not eradicated. The washing of mere moral reform would not suffice. It must be the washing of regeneration: a new life must be present, or the cleansing is not cleansing at all. Thus, receiving eternal life is the “bath” that breaks the power of sin in the soul.
In Relation To Old Testament Saints
None of these things could have been known or so expressed by saints in the Old Testament in spite of the fact that they certainly possessed eternal life, for this was not a subject of revelation at that time. The Son of God had not yet come to tell clearly of eternal life. In His coming to Israel (the sheepfold) He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” – not a different life or different kind of life “more abundantly,” but “it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Their having life actually depended on His coming, though in some true sense His saints in that day already had life, which was to be made more abundant. In grace, that life was given to them in anticipation of His coming, for they could not possibly know the vital, precious character of eternal life in all its fullness until He who is Himself the “eternal life which was with the Father … was manifested to us” (1 Jn. 1:2).
In Relation To Our Day
We may add to this the great fact that is peculiar to our own dispensation: the blessed gift of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost. Israel did not have the abiding character of His presence as does the Church, the body of Christ. It is His presence that is “a fountain of water spring up into everlasting life” (Jn. 4:14) and becomes “rivers of living water” flowing forth (7:37-39).
What a lesson is this for our souls! Though we are blessed infinitely and marvelously with eternal life, “the life of God,” yet this is not enough. We need God Himself dwelling in the soul by the Spirit, who makes known to us the Father and the Son in blessed reality. It is this great fact that distinguishes Christianity from every previous dispensation, enables us to understand eternal things and places us in a position apart from the world and from time.
Its Full Expression
Eternal life itself is above and beyond all dispensations, for it is the very nature of our God and Father. It is perfectly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ in every detail of His life on earth – its purity untainted by anything through which He passed. This is the marvelous life that is communicated to every believer. At this time it exists in us side by side with the corrupted life we have received from Adam, so we cannot look within to see what that life is like. We must look simply at the Lord Jesus; there we see it in perfection!
We enter into eternal life now by faith; but in the presence of the Lord Jesus, in the eternal state, we shall enter into it in its fullest expression: every surrounding circumstance will be vibrant with that life, in contrast to today’s death and decay. In this sense, eternal life is a “promise” (1 Jn. 2:25); but it is the same life we have known in new birth. And just as natural life develops gradually, so in us the realization of eternal life gradually develops, by proper food, exercise, atmosphere and occupation. May we have grace to allow it its fullest and purest expressions through abiding in the love of Christ.