Eternal Life: March 2009

Table of Contents

1. Eternal Life
2. Eternal Life
3. What the Scriptures Say About Eternal Life
4. Eternal Life - Different Aspects
5. The Source of Eternal Life
6. Eternal Life
7. The Only Pathway to Life
8. Resurrection Life
9. How We Get Eternal Life
10. Participation in the Divine Nature
11. The Giver of Eternal Life
12. Fellowship With the Father and With the Son

Eternal Life

Ah, who the worth of God’s dear Son can tell,
His greatness measure, or rehearse His ways?
Not angel hosts, though they in might excel,
And ever on His holy presence gaze;
How then can sinful man endure the blaze
Of His effulgence, and His worth record?
The Spirit only can show forth the praise
And boundless glories of the blessed Lord,
Jehovah’s fellow, Son, the Eternal Life, and Word.
Incarnate Word! With Him was grace and truth;
The path in which He trod was holy ground;
Unmingled grace He showed to age and youth;
And, oh! what blessings did He shed around,
Wherever want and wretchedness were found;
The sick He healed, the mourner’s tears He
And never on a broken spirit frowned;
Each troubled soul in Him might well confide,
For in His bosom flowed deep love’s
exhaustless tide.
The grave received, but Him could not retain;
The Holy One could no corruption see;
Himself the life, He quickly rose again;
Death’s conqueror, He set the captives free,
Of death and hades holding each the key;
To God’s right hand exalted on the throne;
To Him all creatures soon shall bow the knee,
The universe His power and greatness own,
And every tongue confess that He is Lord alone.
W. Trotter
The Apostle John

Eternal Life

If we have the Son, we have eternal life. If we do not have the Son, we do not have that life. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became man, His life was the light of men. He was not received, for man in the flesh is not just in the dark but is darkness itself and in a dead condition before God. God, through the Son, speaks to such dead men, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25).
Before time, we only existed in the purposes of God. Now we belong to eternity. We came into existence, being born of flesh, but now we have been born “anew” by the Spirit of God through the Word of God received in faith. Our new life is from heaven. Our new life is life in the Spirit, “in Christ Jesus,” and Christ Himself is our life. God has begotten us into His family, and as His children we participate in the divine nature. The life we have flows from that Man who was raised from the dead and glorified by the power of God — a life beyond the realm of death. As God’s children, we have it now, and by faith we are to lay hold of what it will be when we are with Him and like Him in our glorified bodies.
Theme of the Issue

What the Scriptures Say About Eternal Life

We know nothing about eternal life but what God has graciously revealed to us by His Spirit in the written Word. May we turn to it with reverence and godly fear and receive its teaching with worshipping hearts, while remembering that the Spirit searches “the deep things of God” and makes us “know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Scripture teaches us that “eternal life” was promised before the world began. We read also of “the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,” and that “the gift of God is eternal life through [rather, in] Jesus Christ our Lord” (Titus 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:1; Rom. 6:23). We learn also that “eternal life” was “with the Father” (1 John 1:2). As with the Father, eternal life was in the Person of the eternal Son before He became flesh. But eternal life has been “manifested.” Precious truth! “The Word of life” has been seen and heard, looked upon and handled. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). “That eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2). In His whole life, ways, words and being, eternal life was so manifested that it was seen, heard and declared. The life was manifested in the perfection of His Person, in perfect love, obedience and righteousness, in unbroken communion with the Father and care for others; yea, the very “words” of our incarnate Saviour were “spirit” and “life.” He was “the life” and “the truth” seen and heard. A great mystery indeed, which cannot be explained by human language. The deep sin of the human mind is attempting to unfold and explain that of which the Spirit says, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” and again, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father” (1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 11:27). Unfathomable mystery indeed!
Life and Love Manifested
When the believer calls to mind His lowly and lonesome path through this sinful world and discerns in “the man of sorrows” “the true God, and eternal life,” his heart becomes filled with joy and gladness. He adoringly worships and finds real delight in confessing and serving Him. In John’s Gospel we see eternal life manifested in the Son; the first epistle of John treats of the character of eternal life as communicated to believers. But though eternal life was promised, was with the Father, and in due time was manifested unto us, how could it lay hold on us who were such sinners? The answer is, Love was also manifested and reached its immeasurable climax in the death of Christ, God’s Son, upon the cross, for in this way God’s gift of eternal life could be communicated to us. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Thus we learn that by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ two marvelous blessings have been secured for us: first, the removal of our sins judicially and forever by the one offering of Himself, and, second, that we might live through Him. Here again our souls are touched with the love of God toward us, and we are filled with thanksgiving and praise. Divine grace worked so that we might “live through Him,” for our Lord said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Yes, men must be judicially cleared from their sins by the sacrifice of Christ in order to stand in true relationship to God. What unutterable love “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”
Resurrection Life
In resurrection — the resurrection of the Son from the dead, by which He was marked out Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness—we behold Him alive again, and that forevermore. By divine power and in divine righteousness, God has intervened and raised Him from among the dead and glorified Him as man at His own right hand. Now we read that “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” — not only “through” Him who bore the judgment for us, but “in” Him glorified. It is the gift of God, and in the Son. He said, “I am  .  .  .  the life.” It is then for us a new and eternal life, both through and in the Son, and the gift of God. What divine wisdom, love and power are thus brought into view! The gift of God, then, is eternal life — nothing less than eternal life. We, therefore, read of an inspired apostle writing to believers and saying, “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” (1 John 5:11,13). An entirely new life has been communicated to us, and we are to know that we have it. We are said to “have passed from death unto life.” The effects of having this life are love to the brethren, obedience, righteousness, communion and prayer, into all of which the Spirit surely leads; in short, to walk as He walked, for all these ways were perfect in Him who is our life.
Present Possession
Nothing can be more clearly set forth in Scripture than the present possession of eternal life. “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Though communicated to us, it is in the Son as its source and fountain, and enjoyed by us through feeding upon Him. We were dead, dead in sins, until by grace we heard the voice of the Son of God and lived: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25). Till we had faith in the atoning work of the Son of Man, we had no life in us; now we have eternal life, and Jesus added, “I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). What divine certainty these words give us of being in glory with the Saviour!
The Holy Spirit
But besides having eternal life, the Holy Spirit has been given to us as the seal, the earnest of our inheritance, and the anointing. Thus we have the power for communion with the Father and the Son and joyfully to serve and honor our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15; 15:13; Eph. 1:13-14). Having received life in the Son, we are to manifest it in our mortal body. Holding the flesh for dead, we are to be “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10). While in the world, with the flesh still in us, we are to reckon ourselves to have died with Christ, and as alive unto God, we are to manifest the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh. This is practical Christianity.
Eternal Results
We also find that Timothy was told to “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). Had he not received the gift of eternal life? Most assuredly he had. But to “lay hold on eternal life” is to grasp it by faith in all its glorious and eternal results when we shall “reign in life” (Rom. 5:17). We thus lay hold on all that eternal life involves, and so make it our own by faith and hope, that its blessedness may be enjoyed now. This glorious prospect being before us and the Spirit revealing Him to us, we shall be led on. Christ will be reproduced in our life and walk, and we will be detached from what is unsuited to Him.
It is clear that, when the Lord reigns, the saved of the tribes of Israel, and Gentiles also, will go into life eternal in an order, no doubt, suited to people blest on the earth (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:46).
Manifested With Him
But Christ is to be manifested again. When the incarnate One was on earth, as we have seen, eternal life was manifested. Then He was alone. But when He is manifested in glory, “the sons of God” will be manifested with Him. “When He shall appear [or be manifested], we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). And we also read that “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear [or be manifested], then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Being already alive spiritually, we look for the Saviour to change our body of humiliation and fashion it “like unto His glorious body.” We have eternal life already, but when the Saviour comes, the “hope of eternal life” will be realized “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Possession and Hope
of Eternal Life
While Christianity begins with the possession of eternal life, “the end” is also eternal life, but all “the gift of God.” We have eternal life while we are living in the “hope of eternal life.” We find redemption also presented to us in Scripture in the same way. Of the believer it is said, “In whom [Christ] we have redemption through His blood,” and yet we are waiting for “the redemption of our body” (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 8:23). The same may be noticed as to salvation—we are saved, and yet we look forward to salvation. The same inspired writer that says, “Who hath saved us,” also says, “We look for the Saviour  .  .  .   who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” This change and translation we are elsewhere told will take place when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. Then, having eternal life in all its glorious issues, we share with Christ the Father’s presence in the Father’s house, in all the unutterable blessedness of eternal glory.
A. H. Rule

Eternal Life - Different Aspects

Eternal life is mentioned many times in the Word of God, with the overwhelming number of these being found in the New Testament. Depending on the context and the truth being conveyed by the Holy Spirit in the particular passage, I would suggest that there are at least four different ways in which the subject of eternal life is presented in Scripture. It is important for us to understand this, for we are apt to be confused if we do not see clearly what God is saying to us.
The Son in His Incarnation
First of all, we have Jesus Christ, Son of God, in His incarnation presented to us as eternal life come down to earth. John’s Gospel presents this most clearly, and thus we read, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). In a general way we can say that John’s Gospel is eternal life come down to earth in the person of the Son, while John’s epistles (especially his first epistle) take up, rather, the communication of that life to believers and the blessed consequences of it. Thus John can say of the Lord Jesus, concerning His pathway here on earth, “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2).
Prior to our Lord’s coming into this world, God was not fully revealed, but now, as we read in Hebrews 1:12, “God  .  .  .  hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” God has been revealed as a Saviour God, but more than this, He has shown us eternal life which was in the Son and the Father from a past eternity, but now has been manifested in this world in man — His Son Jesus Christ. When men beheld the Lord Jesus here on earth, they saw eternal life.
Life Communicated to Believers
Second, as we have mentioned in connection with John’s first epistle, God delights to communicate this life to believers. This is something that was not known in the Old Testament. It is true that right from the beginning of man’s sinful history, new life was communicated by the Spirit of God’s using the Word of God (whether oral or written). “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This is a truth which applies universally, across all dispensations. But eternal life is life in Christ Jesus, and it was only with the coming of the Son into this world that eternal life was promised. Thus, the believer is promised, not merely that he will be “born again,” but rather “eternal life.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting [or eternal] life” (John 3:36). “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” (1 John 5:13). “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Eternal life is the present possession of the believer, for by faith he now has the same life as Christ Jesus has, although, of course, a derived and thus dependent, not an independent, life. It is not merely new life, but a life that now associates him intimately with the Source of it and brings him into relationship with God as his Father. It is a life to be enjoyed and lived out in the energy of the Spirit of God and with all the nearness of such a position.
Living the Life Now
Third, God expects that this life will not merely be quiescent and hidden, but rather that it will be enjoyed in the soul and lived out in this world as His children for His glory and the benefit of others. If Jesus Christ was eternal life come down to earth, “the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). The light shone in a world of darkness, even if man did not want it — “the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). Now that light is gone, for our Lord is now in heaven, but God calls for His children, as partakers of the divine nature, to exhibit that light.
More than this, there are enemies in this world, and there is conflict in the Christian pathway. So Paul could tell Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). We have that life as a present possession, but there is the practical laying hold of it and seeking, with the Lord’s help, to live in the present enjoyment of that life in which we shall be perfectly like Him when we see Him as He now is in glory. Paul tells the Galatians that “he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:8), showing us that even on earth, the enjoyment of that life is dependent on obedience.
Also, if eternal life has been communicated to us, our affections will go out to Christ, “that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). In laying hold on eternal life, we will come to know the Source of that life more and more and realize the place of blessing God has brought us into.
Life at the End of the Journey
Finally, we have eternal life presented as that which we get at the end of the journey, when the full display of it will be realized. This view of eternal life is most prominent in Paul’s ministry. In Romans 6:22, Paul says, “Now .   .   . ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting [eternal] life.” Likewise in Titus 1:2, Paul speaks of the “hope of eternal life.” While it is true that the believer has eternal life as a present possession in this world and that he is to live it out in fellowship with the Lord, yet how poorly we do it, with all that is against us! The flesh — the old, sinful self — continually asserts itself. The world, under Satan, its god and prince, is contrary to the believer in every way, for it cast out the One who was eternal life and asked for a murderer instead. In addition to this, we are part of a groaning creation, and our bodies are subject to disease and death. All these things combine to make the exhibition of eternal life dim and faint.
But in a coming day, we will be perfectly like Christ. Our bodies will be changed to bodies of glory, “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” No longer will we have the sinful nature, wanting to sin. We will be taken out of this world, with all its adverse influences, and transported to a sphere where sin can never come. It is there that eternal life will blossom as it never could down here, for then it will be in the place where it was intended to display itself.
All these considerations should at the same time encourage us and exercise us, first of all to realize and enjoy that life that has been given to us, but then to seek to live it out in a world that has rejected our Saviour.
W. J. Prost

The Source of Eternal Life

The Lord says more in John 3 than could have been made known in Old Testament times. He speaks of eternal life. He had come from heaven to make God known and to show what suits Him and His presence, and He was the manifestation of eternal life. Eternal life was Himself; He was it, a life heavenly in source and character, of which heaven is the proper and suited sphere, but which is the enjoyed portion now of all who believe in the Son. The Son has been uplifted that life might be bestowed upon all who trust His name.
W. W. Fereday

Eternal Life

Eternal life is said to be in the Son rather than in us, just as we should speak of the water being in the reservoir rather than in the pipes or cisterns which it supplies, and through which the water is conveyed to the houses where it is enjoyed. So we speak of life being in the plant or the tree, not in the branch or leaf, though they are alive by virtue of their connection with the tree. But life is spoken of as being in us (2 Cor. 4:10-12). Eternal life is looked at as the Word, the Son Himself. “In Him was life,” “that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” It has qualities and characteristics of its own: It was the light of men shining in the darkness and was not understood by them because they were darkness. It was seen, heard, gazed upon and handled, because manifested in flesh. All this is objective, for we are too prone to look at life subjectively as communicated to us and to examine it in its details in us, instead of fixing our eyes on it in its source or origin and display in the Son of God.
Two opposite dangers are before us: that of making eternal life, which all Christians possess, a matter of attainment on the one hand, and, on the other, ascribing to Old Testament saints, or to souls just quickened and under the conviction of sin or under the law, this eternal life, which is the proper portion of the Christian as such, the full revelation of the Father and the Son being known and believed.
A merely convicted soul, wrought on by the Spirit of God where there is a true sense of sin and desire after Christ, is really quickened, for pain is evidence of life, and these feelings are according to God and produced by the effect of the Word of God in the soul. This we see in Acts 2, where the reception of the Word preached made those who received it cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They believed the truth spoken about Christ and about themselves, but they did not know the value of His death for themselves or as applicable to the guilt which they felt. And this is what the Apostle Peter next presents to them. We see the same work of the Spirit in the Apostle himself, when he falls at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” There was attraction to Christ on the one hand, and the consciousness of his own unfitness and unworthiness on the other. So in many cases in the present day (and still more before the forgiveness of sins was as fully preached as it now is) we meet with souls who feel what sin is and look to Christ as a Mediator between God and themselves, but have no knowledge of His work as clearing them before God. They own Him as Son of Man, and even as a divine Saviour, but not as the Son revealing the Father, and they have still a dread of God, whom they regard at a distance and do not know as Father. They are as the Israelites in Egypt, before they had crossed the Red Sea and had seen all their enemies dead upon the seashore, being brought through as on dry land by the hand of God Himself. Souls may, like them, know something of the value of the blood and still look on God as a Judge, and death and Satan’s power are still feared. The effect of the resurrection of Christ is not known, nor is God known as Father, nor consequently eternal life, though there exists in the soul faith, repentance and life, according to the measure in which the truth has been apprehended.
But eternal life is placed in Scripture in the knowledge of the Father through the Son and of the work of Christ in its full, perfect character. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God [the Father] and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Christ is lifted up on the cross as Son of Man in order “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), and he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood has everlasting life, both passages showing that the proper knowledge or appreciation of the atoning efficacy of the work of Christ gives eternal life, and thus teaching that the possession of it is the normal state of every believer. So the babes in Christ are said to know the Father, and this can only be through the Son who reveals the Father, and “this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40). Again, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me [the Father], hath everlasting life” (John 5:24). In none of these verses can we make it a matter of attainment. It belongs to the babes, to all who have seen the Son or known the Father or have believed in the work of Christ, according to its proper value or efficacy before God. The little children also have an unction from the Holy One and know all things, and holding fast what they have heard from the beginning, they then continue in the Son and in the Father.
So in 1 John 4 the testimony is that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, and “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” This involves the possession of eternal life, though in the power of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit shows at the same time that all Christian privilege, according to the present dispensation, is included. When the eternal life is manifested and declared, it is also that fellowship with the Father and the Son may be known, which is enjoyed by the same life communicated to the soul by the Word, for this fellowship has all the blessed elements of this life both known and participated in and the full revelation of the Father and the Son. “We beheld His glory,” says the Apostle, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” and he adds, “Out of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” This was only the common property of all in the blessing of this dispensation.
Life in Resurrection, in Power,
in New Creation
By Christ, as the risen Corn of Wheat, this life is communicated after His resurrection when He breathed on His disciples. It could not be given before, and this shows markedly the difference between life incipient or in its first stage or as possessed by saints when our Lord was on earth, even though quickened by Him and the life more abundantly bestowed in resurrection power and in the new creation and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of this He says, “Because I live ye shall live also.” “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.” In the Gospel of John, save in these anticipative passages and in John 17, which also looks forward, we never have saints spoken of as “in Him,” whereas in the epistle of John it is constant. “We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Which thing is true in Him and in you.” “In the Son, and in the Father.” This life was given us in Christ Jesus and was promised before the world began (2 Tim. 1:1,8-10; Titus 1:2), but this shows its proper sphere and range to be heavenly, both as being before time and as brought to light in Him who abolished death, whereas those who enjoy divine life on earth have their names written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). Their kingdom also was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In the Old Testament this is spoken of as life forevermore (Psa. 133). We do not read of the revelation of the Father by the Son in the Old Testament, nor in the Book of Revelation, nor are millennial saints ever spoken of as “in Christ,” nor as wearing a crown of life, though we have generally the idea of sons and daughters of the living God as in Old Testament times with Israel (Deut. 32:19).
A. C. Ord

The Only Pathway to Life

The only pathway to life is through death. The only way to reach the kingdom of God is by a wholly new birth, a new life, a new nature in us, and in order to impart that, which involves the judgment of the flesh, He, who had life in Himself, must die. This is the end, under God’s judgment, of all that is of the flesh, and hence the introduction of heavenly things and eternal life.
W. T. P. Wolston

Resurrection Life

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:21-22).
There is a great difference between this scripture and Acts 2:14. It is clear from John 7:39 that the Holy Spirit had neither been given to believers nor came to dwell in them in the sense of Acts 2 until after that Jesus was glorified. It is also seen from the words of the Lord Himself that He did not regard the action in John 20 as in any way anticipating the special blessing of Pentecost. (See Luke 24:49; Acts 1:45.)
Understanding this will prepare us to consider the meaning of the Lord’s words in John 20, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” This is the fulfillment of John 10:10: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Before the cross, during His earthly sojourn, His disciples who really believed on Him had life, but it was only from Him in resurrection that they could receive it “more abundantly.” But the fact that they did so receive it involves the new place taken by the Lord as risen from among the dead. He was the Second Man in incarnation, but He did not take His place as such and was not in the condition of the Second Man until after the resurrection. It is this fact which imparts to the scene in John 20 its significance.
Jesus had already revealed to the disciples, through Mary, that His Father was now their Father and His God their God. He had thus associated them with Himself in His own relationships, and thenceforward He was the Head of a new race. When, therefore, He came into their midst, where they were assembled, after speaking peace unto them, He showed them His hands and His side and commanded them to go forth in the power of the peace He had bestowed. He communicated to them the more abundant life, enabling them to enter their new place and relationships. This life in its full extent will be conformity to His condition in glory.
We should also note that the very form in which He communicated the Holy Spirit, as the power of life, explains its meaning. “He breathed on them.” Turning back to Genesis, we read that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). The first man was quickened by a divine communication of breath — was then “made a living soul”; “the last Adam,” as a quickening Spirit, breathed upon His disciples His own life in resurrection, and they lived in its power through the Holy Spirit.
What the disciples received in John 20 was the Holy Spirit as the power of life, corresponding with what we find in Romans 8:1-11. On the day of Pentecost they received the indwelling of the Spirit as power, as the anointing, as well as the earnest, the seal and the Spirit of adoption. And thus it was not until Pentecost that they were brought into the full Christian position.
E. Dennett,
The Christian Friend, 15:49

How We Get Eternal Life

We may now see how it is obtained. It is the Spirit working by the Word. We are born of the Spirit, and “of His own will begat He us by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18). Hence John 5:24: “He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into [judgment], but is passed from death unto life.” The form or character of this is resurrection. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1,3-4). So Ephesians 2:4-5: “God  .  .  . when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.” This passage shows it is the same power which raised up Christ — not of works, but in resurrection. It has its groundwork as to faith (for, being by the Word, it is by faith) in the knowledge of the Father, and Jesus whom He has sent, for that was the revelation of God, as acting in grace, and to give life. So Christ gives eternal life to His sheep (John 10).
Life by Faith in the Son
This life-receiving faith in its present object is unfolded in John 6: “Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” First, He is received as incarnate, the bread come down from heaven. But this is particularized: He gives His flesh “for the life of the world,” and this in His death, so that if one does not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, he has no life in himself at all. Whoso does has eternal life. In order to do this, therefore, He, as standing for sinful man, must die and be in death the witness of the Father’s love who sent Him, for it was love to sinners. This is John 3:15-16. At the close of that chapter it is confirmed: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” The power of it is in the Spirit, Jesus’ divine gift. It “is a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4). The Spirit is life if Christ be in us (Rom. 8). He was to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him (John 17).
A Great General Principle
There is another aspect in which eternal life is viewed, namely, its full accomplishment in glory, according to the full purpose of God. The “hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). In this view we are, of course, not said to have it, but to follow after it. Thus Romans 6: “Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” So Paul to Timothy: “Lay hold on eternal life.” That is present energy, but it is the earnest faith of the saint, not simply the gift of God. So Romans 5: “Grace reign[s] through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” So they that lose their life “shall keep it unto life eternal.” This is put as a great general principle in Romans 2. “To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honor and incorruptibility, eternal life.” This does not throw any obscurity on this great truth; it is simply — what is universal in the New Testament — the energy of faith in the wilderness journey through grace which goes onwards to the full result for which God has redeemed us. We have to travel the road in order to arrive, but we have sure grace and the keeping of God to travel it.
J. N. Darby

Participation in the Divine Nature

The believer partakes in the blessed qualities of the divine nature. Both light and love are, in their very nature, divine qualities and characteristic of eternal life and are a display of it in the midst of evil and of the darkness, caused by sin. Was God ever so manifested as “love,” before sending His Son into the world that we might live through Him? And Christ was the expression of this love: “Hereby perceive we the love  .  .  .  because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). God is love, and love is given as evidence of the existence and the manifestation of eternal life in us (1 John 3:14). Again, “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” God is also light and was displayed as light by Christ Himself as “the life,” for “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Now we are not only said to be sons of light (1 Thess. 5:5) and in the light as God is in the light (1 John 1:7), but more than this, we are “light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:3). These are the very perfections of the divine nature, and thus we only have them fully unfolded in the writings of the Apostle John who expressly treats of that nature. The same may be said of “grace and truth,” which, in contrast with the law (given by Moses), are said to have come by Jesus Christ. This shows what God is Himself, for, as above the sin of man, He is actively healing, saving and blessing man who is ruined under the effects of sin in this world. Thus the glory, as of the only begotten with the Father, was full of grace and truth.
Receiving of His Fullness
It is thus that, though we are not infinite, yet we participate in what is divine and infinite in Him, for the Son Jesus Christ, as the Son and as man, has brought these divine qualities, which He had with the Father before the world was, into manhood. The Apostle John speaks of His glory, which he beheld, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” This glory was divine in its character, being that of the Son with the Father, and existing in Him in divine fullness and displayed here in its perfection, so that it could be beheld by the apostles and declared. But the Apostle adds, “And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” The words “all we” extend the participation or enjoyment of what is named beyond the apostles, and the words “of His fullness” extend the range of reception to every grace that is found in Him, for this glory is not here an external thing visible to the eye, but those qualities, divine in their nature, which never could have been seen or known otherwise, for “the Word was made flesh, and [tabernacled] among us.” This glory dwelt in His blessed Person, as with Israel of old in another way in the wilderness. This display of His glory entirely corresponds with what John saw: “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and [show unto you] that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” And it is in the contemplation of this that we have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, through participating in the divine nature, we receiving out of His fullness.
Adapted from A. C. Ord

The Giver of Eternal Life

What was the first Adam, when set in his little territory in the Garden of Eden, to the eye of God, compared with the second Adam — that One, the giver of eternal life, the smitten Rock, who in a moment could fill ten thousand souls with streams of living water? What a contrast! he whose days in the Garden of Eden were but a span, whose beginning, a little handful of dust, God breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, and that One, the eternal life in the bosom of the Father before all worlds — He who could speak the word and give life to corruption —He, the One in whom God could accept those taken out of the pit where they had fallen, having chosen them in Him before the foundation of the world, to fill them with all spiritual blessings in Him.
G. V. Wigram

Fellowship With the Father and With the Son

The subject of John’s first epistle is the communication of divine life. In the Gospels we have the exhibition of it in the person and character of Jesus Christ, but in the epistles we have the communication of it. The first four verses of 1 John 1 exhibit the beauty of eternal life outside of us — first as manifested in the Son Jesus Christ, and afterward as communicated through Him from God. From the fifth verse to the end, it is fellowship with God. We also have tests of divine life, for divine life in fellowship with God exhibits sin in us, and the question arises as to how we can have fellowship with God. These tests are given to assure us of the possession of life, as “hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
The Communication of New Life
Fellowship with God is necessary to our being happy in His presence. If we seek to walk with Christ without having fellowship with Him, we shall be miserable. But how can ones such as we have fellowship with the Father and with the Son? By the communication of an entirely new life —something we never had before. Christ became man, and as man He manifested the divine life here on earth in a way that it never could have been manifested, but for sin. It could not have been displayed in heaven in this way. The light shone in darkness. The natural man (the first Adam) saw no beauty in Him —nothing to admire. But blessed be God, the patience of grace was greater than sin.
Divine life was adapted to our needs by being in the Son Jesus Christ. In Him, the heart to which life has been communicated can see the perfection of divine life. It was for man as a sinner that divine life was manifested, and thus we see love adapting itself to us in the person of the Son Jesus Christ. John says, “We know Him and have seen Him.” They heard Him every day, and what was it they saw? Eternal life. You may ask many a Christian what eternal life is, and he cannot tell you, though he has it within him. Christ is eternal life. John says that the “life was manifested, and we have seen it”; they saw and heard Christ, and He was eternal life.
Eternal Life Perfectly Manifested, Then Communicated
Eternal life was first manifested, then communicated; as is said farther on, “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). If I do not have Christ, I have no life in me, but there is immense joy in the fact that the life I have is in Christ, not in myself. Divine life was perfectly manifested in Christ: We have the treasure in earthen vessels; therefore it is exhibited feebly in us.
The communication of life, by giving us a new nature, makes it natural to us to love what Christ loves and to do as Christ does. Obedience is necessary, for obedience to God is the essence of doing right, but more than this, Christ has set Himself apart as the perfect and glorified Man, to attract my heart’s affections to Himself. My desires must flow according to the new nature which He has imparted. If I receive His Word, I receive Christ, and He is eternal life. Henceforth I hate sin, and the Son of God is my life. If Christ is my life, that is fellowship. My walk should not be the result of obedience merely, but of the same feelings as Christ’s. So the Spirit by John says, “Walk in the light,” not according to the light, which would be obedience, but in the light, which is fellowship.
Divine life has been manifested; divine life has been communicated, “and these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” Is Jesus the Father’s delight? So is He mine; my affections may be feeble, but in measure they flow in the same direction as the thoughts of the Father. This is communion with the Father. And, then, is the Father the Son’s delight, and His confidence and joy? So is He mine, and this is fellowship with the Son. “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
Here, for the moment, sin is left out, because the new life has nothing to do, so to speak, with sin (though we have to deal with it). The new life is in the last Adam; this life and joy is the blessedness of heaven. But down here we are responsible. Eternal life has been manifested, and now the message to us is that God is light, and there is no darkness in Him, so that if we say we are in fellowship with Him while we are walking in darkness (the Apostle uses great plainness of speech) we lie. If I talk of having fellowship with God, I must be able to bear and to enjoy His presence. It is not that I am good, but that God has cleansed me. It does not depend on my filthiness, but on His power to cleanse. When I have washed something, I do not keep thinking whether it was very dirty or a little dirty, but that now it is clean. And so with saints, but “now ye are clean,” and God delights to look on me, because He has washed me. It does not depend on my great or little sins, but on the good washing, on the value of the blood. So I read, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). You have fellowship with God and with His Son Jesus Christ.
In verse 9 we read, “If we confess our sins,” not sin merely, but sins. We have an evil nature, but we have an evil conduct also when we do not keep down the evil nature.
There are the two distinct things, forgiveness of sins committed (evil conduct), and cleansing from sin in the abstract (the evil nature). I cannot come into God’s presence at all except through Christ, and coming through Him I come spotless, absolutely clean. Then there is my daily weakness. I am reconciled as a matter of fact, but I am weak. So the details of such a one’s course are now given. He who seeks to walk in the light often fails, but never excuses himself. He cannot say, “I could not help it,” because God has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee. .   .   . My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). I often fail, but that does not alter the ground of my righteousness before God. Christ is my righteousness; I have no other. His agony and death secured my righteousness. I change; I fail; He is unchangeable, infallible. Can He allow my guilt? No. He is my advocate as well as my propitiation; I apply to God, and He forgives.
J. N. Darby, selected