This week's Bible Study - September 13, 2015
God's Promise of Eternal Life
1 John 5:6-13
Quotes of the Week:
As a Christian, Christ died so that we will have eternal life in Him in Heaven. What it looks like doesn't matter, what it smells like doesn't matter, as long as Christ is there it will be Heaven to me.
T. D. Jakes
This series of lessons continues on some of God's promises. In this lesson, we will briefly study God's promise of Eternal Life. There are all sorts of religions in our world today. Some of them are downright wacky and others are so rigid that there is no room for anyone to step out of line. Most religions have some sort of moral code or standard associated with them, and at least some of them require strict adherence to that code (or else). There are things you have to do and things that you cannot do. Or else.
Prior to the New Testament and the life and death of Jesus Christ, much was the same for the Israelites. There was the Law, which led to a series of 'man made' laws that tended to grow and grow. They encompassed things that you had to do or else. In a study on Exodus that Berkley and I are leading elsewhere, when God related to Moses the specifications of the tabernacle and the furniture and the high priests garments and what you could or couldn't do, it became apparent that there were many statements that read like "do it like this or die". The whole sum of the Old Testament is that we are unable to do any of this on our own. We can try and be good, but we falter. Our thoughts, our words, our attitudes and our actions often are in direct contradiction to what we know we should be doing. We like to point the finger at others who have done this or that, but if we took a step back, we're all guilty. If it was dependent upon us, none of us would ever have a hope of eternal life (and most of us would have been smitten from the face of the earth long ago!).
As believers, we know of forgiveness and we know of the Promise of Eternal Life. However, it can be very difficult (and in fact, impossible) for us to convince others of this promise on our own. True salvation is less of an intellectual issue and more of an internal heart acceptance. Certainly, in all religions, there are those who are the salespeople, who try and convince others that they are right. Some people are gifted in the area of debate and others are gifted in the area of sales and marketing. Some are experts in the minute details. A problem that exists in many churches is a true lack of knowledge as to what people really believe or should believe, even among Christians. When faced with opposing views, some believers find themselves conflicted because someone else may sound very convincing (and they aren't really sure what the Bible says). Continuing education, as well as discipleship, for believers should be of utmost importance, so that we not only believe, but we learn what we believe and why.
Human testimonies can be very persuasive. When you want to find out what happened in a situation, a testimony of a first-hand witness carries much weight. Thankfully, we can read the many testimonies of Jesus' own disciples in the Scriptures. They spent time with Jesus during His ministry and were completely changed following His death and resurrection. We can learn much about what happened through their words, but God's testimony regarding His Son is much greater.
The passage speaks of Jesus Christ as being the one who came by water and blood and Spirit. This passage can be very difficult for many to understand, especially without diving into more detail of what that means. In fact, there are some differences of opinion among different commentaries of what is actually meant, but even in those, the intent of the testimony remains the same.
Jesus came by water. This could be as a human birth, so that He can identify with humans. Others believe that it involved water baptism, at which a voice from the heavens said "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", indicating God's approval of Jesus. All humans associate with Jesus on the human birth level, and believers see the importance of the ordinance of baptism.
Jesus came by blood. Beginning early in the Old Testament, the need for blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins was very apparent. Jesus bled on the cross, and in John 19:34, we can read that when one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spar, a sudden flow of blood and water came. Hebrews 9:22 says that "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins". We understand that we have sinned and that there needs to be some payment for our sins. The blood of Jesus covers our sins and offers us forgiveness.
Jesus came by Spirit. The Spirit isn't something that you see, but is indeed inside all believers. This is where the gift of eternal life is not merely mental assent to the facts, but a change from within. As believers, we know of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the impact that He has on our lives.
It is important that we understand God's testimony of His Son, Jesus Christ. In believing this testimony, we need to have the correct view of Jesus. Although the question "Who do you say Jesus is" is interesting, it is only important as to the extent to which your answer relates to the real Jesus. Many people throw the name of Jesus around, but in truth, many of them are talking about a different Jesus. Some believe Jesus to be merely an historical person. Others say that he was a good person, a great teacher and perhaps a great prophet. In each of those cases, Jesus would be one of many (people, teachers, prophets). Obviously, these views of Jesus are incomplete and in error. It isn't enough for someone to say that they believe in Jesus and expect that to provide them eternal life. Neither can we simply say we are a Christian and reject true Christian teaching. Our spiritual life is not to fed from some sort of spiritual buffet, where we pick and choose what we want to believe or how we allow it to impact our lives.
We need to realize that what we believe as Christians is not based on what men have said, but it is based on the words of God. We are not followers of many great people who have written great things about Christ, but we are followers of Christ Himself. Some who scoff at the notion of Jesus Christ will point to the Bible as being written by men and therefore the mere creation of man. While it was written by men, I believe we all need to take a step back and think about that. Were their words merely their own words, or were they inspired by God?
I have worked at McDonnell Douglas and then Boeing for the past nearly 30 years. Boeing and many other similar companies create very technical products. We have intelligent (mostly) engineers, designers, manufacturers, testers and other experts that could tell you everything you might want to know (and much more) about a product. They could say how it is should be used and what problems you might have if you use it differently. We also have technical writers who are very skilled in putting together documentation in regards to our products. We have the opportunity to use all sorts of computer related tools for consistency checks and so forth. When a document is put together in regards to a specific product, there are multiple levels of reviews along the way with those most personally aware of all intricacies. With the help from all of these people, tools and reviews, the documentation gets created. In my career, I have never seen a single document that did not need to be revised because of errors (after it was released), even with all of the tools used and very intelligent people who all wrote about the same thing and checked each other's work. There ended up being inconsistencies, as well as other statements that were wrong. Why do I bother bringing this up?
The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by 40 or more different men over a period of 2,000 years. However, it is clearly one Book, with perfect unity and consistency throughout. The individual writers, at the time of writing, had no idea that their message was eventually to be incorporated into such a Book, but each book nevertheless fits perfectly into place and serves its own unique purpose as a component of the whole. Anyone who diligently studies the Bible will continually find remarkable structural and mathematical patterns woven throughout its fabric, with an intricacy and symmetry incapable of explanation by chance or collusion. The one consistent theme of the Bible, developing in grandeur from Genesis to Revelation, is God's great work in the creation and redemption of all things, through His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It has never had to go through major revisions, and though you may find different translations, the message of the Bible is the same. If you tried to put together a document in the same manner today, you would find that it would be replete with inconsistencies. How is it that the Bible is consistent throughout and has not had to go through major revisions? How can the Bible, written as it was, weave together the redemption of the world in a way that the smartest people in a single room could never have invented in a lifetime? How could this not be the testimony of God? I suppose you can choose to not believe what it says or form other arguments, but nobody can say that the Bible was merely a creation of men, because that could never have happened.
The testimony boils down to this. God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son, the Jesus. If you have the Son, you have the life. Note that this is not simply life, but 'the' life. The world will point you to life, but it is life further and further from where God intended. Eternal life is implicitly tied to the Son. If you have the Son, you have the life and there is no other way. Sometimes, we get caught up in the day to day existence which can be wearying and painful. We may start to wonder where God is and why He has not stepped into the midst of it all. One day, we will see that He is making us more able to be full of eternal life, as opposed to life as we know it.
You may be a believer and know all of this, but the need to hear the simple gospel of salvation doesn't end once you have accepted it. We can find assurance as we hear it and embrace it over and over again. Quite frankly, there will come times where you don't feel as if you have this life. However, eternal life is less about how we feel, but what we have. Those of us who have accepted this eternal life and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ have experienced a truly life changing event. It does not make us perfect, but it is something that changes our lives - the people that we are and the way that we think.
We can know that we have eternal life, because we know that it comes from God. In this lesson, we briefly discussed the importance of Scripture and how it is God breathed. I can't imagine having a faith that is based solely on what some person wrote. We have seen religions that have been started by men and their own scriptures, but over time, there have been major revisions to their scriptures, showing that they are not from God. Are you sticking with what God has laid out or are you following men?
It is important that we follow God and not men. There have been great Christian leaders that have come and gone. Many of them preached sermons that can now be found online and are great resources to those who are studying Scripture - in fact, I often refer to those sermons and other commentaries as I prepare my own lesson. But, the basis of what we believe and the basis of truth can come only from God and not from these men. Ensure that you are following God and not someone who preaches or teaches God's word. Ensure that you are not so tied to a pastor or minister that your faith is destroyed when you find out that those people are as sinful as you and I.
Eternal life is a promise from God, but it is only promised as He had ordained. Put you hope in Jesus Christ. He is the One who God has given to grant us eternal life.