We have considered the enticements of worldliness—the snare that tripped up our first parents. Those enticements are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. When we are drawn to such things, and they make us unrighteous, and we also want to cling to our deep need to still be in the right, this results in us lying to ourselves. This self-deception is a radical problem. So our dilemma is the death grip of lust and lying about it. The alternative, the only possible alternative, is life from the dead.
“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and 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).
Summary of the Text:
The Christian gospel, the Christian life, the Christian worldview, and the Christian everything, are all encompassed by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything revolves around who He is, and what He did. Who is this Jesus? And what did He accomplish through His life, death, and resurrection? Who is this? And what did He do?
Now what do we as Christians know? We know, in the first instance, that the Son of God is come (v. 20). We were in darkness, but He came in order to give us light. We were in ignorance, but He came to give us an understanding. And what is that understanding? He came to give us an understanding of the one who came—e.g. that we may “know him that is true” (v. 20). He came so that we might understand why He had to come. If we know this, then we know that we are in Him that is true, that is to say, in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 20). This, John says, is the true God, and this, John says, is eternal life (v. 20). And he could have added to this, if he had wanted to, “but I repeat myself.” This is the true God. This is eternal life. They are not side by side—they are the same thing. The true and living God is our life.
Life Came Down
When the living God came down to us, life came down to us. Not only so, but this life has been mediated to us in a particular way.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)”
1 John 1L1-2 (KJV)
So the Word of life came down, and the apostles touched Him, and handled Him. This life was manifested to them, and they saw it. Having seen it, they bore witness to the life, and the result of this witness, this testimony, is that eternal life is shown to us. The life comes down from Heaven and is manifested. That is step one. This eternal life is seen and testified to. That is step two. This life that came down from Heaven also comes down through the centuries. The power of the Incarnation was the Holy Spirit of God. The power of apostolic witness and testimony is also the Holy Spirit of God.
“And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life”
1 John 2:25 (KJV)
We are recipients of promises, and so it is that we are trafficking in certainties (1 John 5:13). Please note that God wants us to have an assurance of our salvation. He wrote this so that we might know. But this is knowledge of life, and life is something that is pervasive. You don’t find assurance of salvation in some little locked cupboard in your heart. No, you find it because life goes everywhere, and gets into everything.
Now for some, this seems like it is all “long ago and far away.” So somebody appeared to some ancient guys way back then, made an impression on them, and those guys then made some outlandish claims about it? How convenient that it all happened two thousand years ago. And so the question presses in on us—how can we be sure about this so-called “life”?
But I would suggest that we start somewhere else. Let’s start with something we have a lot more experience with, and which is empirically demonstrable. Let us start with the raw fact of death. As Chesterton points out somewhere, original sin is the one doctrine of the Christian faith that can be empirically shown. Open a news site on your browser. Can’t you read?
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”
1 John 3:14-16 (KJV)
Before we discuss the eternal life that was manifested in the Incarnation and is manifested in the proclamation of the gospel, we need to make we understand the backdrop. That backdrop is the indisputable fact that we surrounded by death on every hand. We were born into it, and the death of selfishness is the air we breathe. The human race is bent and crooked timber, and we cannot build a straight house with it. So we are not arbitrarily saying that our little mystery religion is “special,” a claim made by all the other mystery cults. Sure. Claim and counterclaim, and everybody does that. But we are not simply claiming to have the secret cheat codes of the cosmos (doctrine x as opposed to doctrine y). Rather, we are claiming something else entirely, something which, if true, cannot really be denied by anybody. We are claiming to be alive. We have been born again. God has granted us the glorious miracle of the new birth. And when asked about it, the questioner discovers that we are alive because Jesus is alive.
The New Birth as Real Certainty
This is what it actually means to be evangelical. It means to be quickened. It means life. Remember the lust for worldliness that used to have you trapped. Remember the lies you would tell yourself in order to justify staying trapped in that sweet prison. Now in contrast to all that, the gospel means life.
“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”
1 John 5:11-13 (KJV)
This life is not impersonal. This is not some kind of spiritual joy juice. Remember our text. This is the true God, this is eternal life. And in the verse just cited it says that this life is in his Son.