Study 7 ETERNAL LIFE AND HOW TO GET IT
THE LETTERS OF JOHN
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 1 John 5:1-13)
The Lord Jesus Christ came from Heaven to bring the wonderful gift of eternal life. In this study we are to see what eternal life is, where it is to be found, how we may get it and what the alternative is if we do not get it. In this First Letter of John, three great truths about God are brought before us: (1) God is LIGHT (chapters 1 and 2); (2) God is LOVE (chapters 3 to 5:5); (3) God is LIFE (chapter 5:6-21). God’s Word is our only source of information about the subject of eternal life. What do we learn from 1 John 5:9-13 about this subject?
1. Eternal Life is quite different and distinct from natural, physical or human life.
This portion of scripture makes that quite clear; for example, in verse 12, some have eternal life and some do not. All have human, physical, natural life, but all do not possess eternal life. They are two quite different kinds of life. See what Jesus said in John 5:40; all those to whom He was speaking had physical, natural, human life, but they lacked spiritual, eternal life. What then is eternal life? It is God’s life, divine life, and therefore of a different kind and quality from human life. It is more than existence; it is more than eternal existence; it is to share in the unending life of God Himself – look up 2 Peter 1:4. The whole human race will exist eternally, but those who have eternal life will live eternally.
2. Eternal Life is a present possession.
In verse 11 we learn that God has already given eternal life and that all may receive it. Those who do, receive it at once! It is not something that begins when we die; it begins here and now. We must wait until we die for some things, but we do not have to wait until then to possess and enjoy this new life. Indeed, we must begin to enjoy it before we die (physically), because if we die without it we shall never have it; we shall just go on existing. Now look up John 3:36; 5:24, and notice the word ‘has’ in both these verses, denoting present possession.
3. Eternal Life is a free gift.
Notice the word ‘given’ in verse 11. When and how has God ‘given’ eternal life? He did it historically when He gave His Son, our Lord Jesus, at the incarnation; He does it experimentally when we as individuals reach out to receive it by faith as a free, unmerited gift. Eternal life cannot be paid for, worked for, earned or merited; it is a free gift – look up John 10:27-28; Romans 6:23. There are two things you can do with a gift – receive it or refuse it. John 3:16 states that God gave His Son Jesus Christ in order that we might have eternal life. How do we get it? By receiving God’s gift. Have you received the Lord Jesus? – look up Luke 19:5-6.
4. Eternal Life is in Jesus Christ alone.
This is what verse 11 tells us. Eternal life is not in religion, church-going or ordinances, nor is it in some great religious leader, some guru or some angel from Heaven. It is in one Person and only in that Person, and that is Christ – look up and compare John 1:4; 5:26; 10:10; 14:6; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 4:9; 5:20! The Lord Jesus alone is the repository of eternal life; so there is only one place where eternal life can be found – in Him! It therefore follows that:
5. To possess Eternal Life we must possess Christ.
This is clearly taught in verse 11 and in the first part of verse 12. If eternal life is in Christ, I must have Christ to have eternal life! The two words ‘has life’ literally read ‘has the life’, because He is the life – look up Acts 3:15, where Christ is described as the author of life. Christ is the source as well as the embodiment of eternal life. This being so, I can only have eternal life by having Him. The same truth is emphasised in different words in Acts 4:12. How can I have Him? What should I do with a gift if I want it? – look up John 1:12-13.
6. All who possess Christ have Eternal Life and may know it.
From verses 9-10, notice that we may know we have eternal life because of: (1) the outward witness of the Word – verse 9; and (2) the inward witness of the Holy Spirit – look up and compare Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6. For a good illustration of this read the account of the woman with the issue of blood who came to Jesus and received healing – in Mark 5:25-34. After she touched the Saviour, in simple faith, two things happened. First, “Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering” (verse 29). But something else happened. The second thing gave her absolute assurance that she had been healed, and that was the word of the Lord Himself – “He said to her, Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (verse 34). So she knew she was healed because Christ said so and because she had the witness within. Now look again at the first part of 1 John 5:12, and notice the word ‘has’! – and look at verse 13 and see that God wants us to know that because we have Christ we have eternal life. Do you have this assurance?
7. Not to have Eternal Life is to remain spiritually dead and to face the prospect of Eternal Death.
This is solemn, but see what the second part of verse 12 tells us. All who are without Christ, who do not possess Christ, are here and now spiritually dead and do not have eternal life. This is made clear from John 5:40; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 6:23; and ‘death’ here means separation from God. To die like this leads to what the Bible calls ‘the Second Death’, which is eternal separation from God – look up Revelation 2:11; 20:14; 21:8.
The choice has to be made: Eternal Life or Eternal death – which? Turn to John 3:14-15, and compare Numbers 21:5-9; and if you have not yet done so, look and live!