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Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the
eternal life to which you were called and you made the good
confession in the presence of many witnesses" (I Timothy 6:12
We've been Born Again! We have New Life! But do we Christians really
grasp what we have? Our counseling experiences reveal that, too often,
many of us do not. For sure, some know they now have a ticket to heaven.
But they don't realize that this new life should thoroughly change their
lives in the here and now. And so they go on living much like they did
before they came to Christ, thus missing His fellowship and blessings.
Others find themselves in a continual fight with
unbelief as they try to grasp this new life. Although they have already
received the free gift, their unbelieving hearts persuade them that they
must earn it through their good deeds. Falling into periods of despair
and confusion, they are tormented by the evil one, who darkens their
understanding and robs them of their inheritance.
And most of us, from time to time, become inattentive
of the new life we've received in Christ. We neglect to meditate on it's
significance and true dimensions. We forget to remember what it cost the
Lord to impart it. Taking it for granted, we become dull of heart and
slow to give thanks. Thus our joy and confidence erode away.
Therefore it is worthwhile to review what this New
Life, this gift of God, is. In this article, we will look at what the
scriptures say concerning new life in Christ. We will outline where it
comes from, how it is given and received, and what difference it makes.
We invite you, as you read this study, to meditate on the Word of God
and to be encouraged and refreshed in His promises.
This New Life
First, let's turn to the lexicon. The Greek word for "life" is zoe.
This is the root of the English words "zoo" and "zoology." Zoe
is used of the state of existing and being animate which is common to
all mankind, whether saved or unsaved. For example, Paul says to the
idol worshipping Greeks at Athens, "The God who made the world and all
things in it...He Himself gives to all life (zoe) and breath and
all things...for in Him we live (zao--the verb form) and move and
have our being" (Acts 17:25-28 NASV). Zoe also refers to an individual
person's life while on earth (Luke 16:25, Philippians 1:20, James 4:14).
But in the Greek New Testament, zoe has a special meaning. It
speaks of the life that is given by God through Christ Jesus to those
who believe the gospel. In this usage, zoe is often modified by
the adjective aionios [English: eon] which means "eternal",
"everlasting", "of endless duration."
Scripture reveals that the source or fount of this
zoe life is God the Father. Indeed, Jesus calls Him "the living [zao]
Father" (John 6:57), indicating that zoe life is the very life
that God has in Himself. Having life in Himself, the Father imparted
this life to the Son: "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even
so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself" (John 5:26 NASV).
In turn, the Son manifested this life to the world.
Consider John's words: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of
men, and the light shines in the darkness..." (John 1:4-5 NASV). Again, John
says: "And the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness
and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was
manifested to us" (I John 1:2 NASV). Paul confirms John's testimony when he
says that God's purpose "now has been revealed by the appearing of our
Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and
immortality to light through the gospel" (II Timothy 1:9-10 NASV).
Jesus' foremost purpose in coming was to give zoe
life to men, that is, to cause men to enter into and partake of the very
life of God. "...I came that they might have life, and might have it
abundantly" (John 10:10 NASV). "For this is the will of My Father, that
everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life;
and I myself will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:40 NASV). Again,
"...Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou
hast given Him, He may give eternal life" (John 17:2 NASV).
Even before the ages of time began, God had promised
to give zoe life to men: "...In the hope of eternal life, which
God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago ["before the world began"--KJV],
but at the proper time manifested..." (Titus 1:2-3 NASV).
Life For Death
Life was certainly man's great need, for mankind was without life
because of sin. All had sinned and through sin, death had come. We all
were dead in our trespasses and sins and in the uncircumcision of our
flesh (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13). This death included alienation
from God. We were "excluded from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18
"without God in this world" (Ephesians 2:12 NASV).
Being dead in sin involved not only alienation from
God but also opposition to God. "We were enemies" (Romans 5:10
"hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds" (Colossians 1:21
we were "foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various
lusts and pleasures, spending our [earthly] life in malice and envy,
hateful, hating one another" (Titus 3:3 NASV). We walked in the futility of
our minds, darkened in our understanding, in ignorance, because of the
hardness of our hearts (Ephesians 4:17-18 NASV)
Clearly, because of man's sin and rebellion, his
portion was a justly deserved death, not life. Yet God purposed to bring
zoe life to the dead by causing death to fall on the only One who
truly lived. At the cross, the penalty for sin fell on Jesus. Through
His bodily death, the claim of God's judgement on sinners was satisfied.
On the basis of the shed blood of His Son, God could pardon sinners and
impart His very life to them.
A person receives zoe life as he responds to
the gospel with repentance and faith. The gospel, called "the word of
life" (Philippians 2:16), proclaims God's offer to exchange His zoe
life for man's death. The gospel brings repentance: "God has granted to
the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life" (Acts 11:18
the gospel brings faith: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My
word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come
into judgement, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24
Through repentance towards God and faith in Jesus
Christ, zoe life becomes man's portion. "He who believes in the
Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see
life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36 NASV). The scriptures
abound with similar statements connecting faith and life. For instance,
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John
3:16 NASV) Again, "...But these have been written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have
life in His name." (John 20:31 NASV; see also John 6:47, I Timothy 1:16, I
We pass from death to life at the moment we receive
the gift of zoe life. "We know that we have passed out of death
into life..." (I John 3:14 NASV). "But God, being rich in mercy, because of
His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our
transgressions, made us alive together with Christ..." (Ephesians 2:4-5
Life in Christ
The zoe life which we receive is not a package that Jesus gives
us. It is not something separate from Himself. Rather it is IN Jesus.
"...But the free gift of God is eternal life IN Christ Jesus our Lord"
(Romans 6:23 NASV, emphasis added). "And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal
life, and this life is IN His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he
who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (I John
5:11-12 NASV, emphasis added).
In fact, the zoe life we receive is Jesus
Himself, for Jesus IS life. "I am...the life; he who believes in Me
shall live even if he dies..." (John 14:25NASV). "I am...the life; no one
comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6 NASV).
Thus Jesus becomes and continues to be our life. "For
you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ,
who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in
glory" (Colossians 3:3-4 NASV). "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is
no longer I who live (zao), but Christ lives in me; and the life
I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me,
and delivered Himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20 NASV).
Now and Later
Being made alive in Christ transforms the course and
outcome of our lives both in this present age and also in the age to
come. Here and now, we still dwell in a mortal body. But His life is
manifested in and through our mortal flesh (II Corinthians 4:10-11). No
longer do we live limited and bound by sin and flesh. This fleshly
tabernacle is now indwelt by the power of an indestructible life
(Hebrews 7:16). As we abide with Him and His word abides in us, we bear
fruit: "He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for
apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5 NASV). Our hearts are changed:
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the
brethren: (I John 3:14 NASV). His righteousness and grace cause us "to reign
in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17 NASV). Thus our lives are
metamorphosed as God works in us "both to will and to work for His good
pleasure (Philippians 2:13 NASV).
Yet, "if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we
are of all men most to be pitied" (I Corinthians 15:19 NASV). But this in not
the case. For there will be a resurrection and in the resurrection,
eternal life will extend to the sphere of the body. "Do not marvel at
this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall
hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a
resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a
resurrection of judgment [KJV--damnation]" (John 5:28-29 NASV). Jesus knows
His own (John 10:14) and, on the last day, will raise those who have
eternal life (John 6:54). No one will snatch them out of His hand (John
10:28). On that day, He will "transform the body of our humble state
into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power
that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:21
And we will finally "be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be
swallowed up by life" (II Corinthians 5:4 NASV).
So let us live now to the fullest by His eternal life,
and be raised by it later. For we have been given "everything pertaining
to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us
by His own glory and excellence" (II Peter 1:3 NASV). Let us not take this
life for granted, be ignorant concerning it, trivialize it, forget it,
neglect it, or turn it into cliches. Let us not doubt or disbelieve it,
let it slip from our grasp, or surrender it to the enemy of our souls.
Instead, let us consider what we have received and reckon on the zoe
life of God who indwells us. Let us trust His promises, believe His
word, and live by faith. Let us sow to the Spirit and from the Spirit
reap eternal life (Galations 6:8). And as we abide in Him continually,
His zoe life will cause us to grow and mature, and give us
confidence in the day of judgement (I John 2:28, 4:17).
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