Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
I. A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. "He that hath the Son." What are we to understand by these words? What is involved in them?
1. Realizing faith in him.
(1) In his existence. Saving faith in Christ is faith, not in his historic reality only, but in his present existence - that he is. "He ever liveth."
(2) In his perfection. It will profit me nothing to believe in Jesus as an ordinary Man, having the imperfections, weaknesses, and sins of our human nature. Faith in such a being would not result in any accession of strength. Faith must be exercised m him as "holy, harmless, undefiled," etc. Thus believing in him we are, as it seems to us, necessarily led on to faith in his proper Divinity - "that Jesus is the Son of God" (verse 5).
(3) In his interest in us. Faith in his existence and perfection and Divinity will not benefit us unless we believe in his regard for us - that he cares for us, desires to bless and save us. Now, we need what I have called a realizing faith in him. The faith of which St. John and St. Paul wrote, and which our Lord required in himself, is a far greater and deeper thing than intellectual assent. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." "When the soul in very truth responds to the message of God," says Canon Liddon, "the complete responsive act of faith is threefold. This act proceeds simultaneously from the intelligence, from the heart, and from the will of the believer. His intelligence recognizes the unseen object as a fact. His heart embraces the object thus present to the understanding; his heart opens instinctively and unhesitatingly to receive a ray of heavenly light. And his will, too, resigns itself to the truth before it; it places the soul at the disposal of the object which thus rivets its eye and conquers its affections." With a faith like this, the Christian apprehends Jesus Christ as a grand, living, spiritual, Divine Person; enshrines him in the heart's innermost and holiest temple; and offers to him humblest and deepest reverence. Thus the Christian "hath the Son."
2. Acceptance of his teaching. The Christian is intellectually and practically loyal to the teaching of Jesus Christ. In a very true and important sense Plato may be said to have had Socrates. He had so studied his utterances, so mastered his method, so thoroughly acquainted himself with his views and theories and principles; moreover, he held him in such high esteem, regarded him with such reverence, that we may, without exaggeration, say that he possessed Socrates. "We have the mind of Christ." By means of his teaching we have intellectual communion with him. His precious utterances, his glorious revelations, we believe; they are ours. All that he spake we receive as true; so his mind becomes ours; and in this sense we have him.
3. Supreme sympathy with him. He gave himself for us, and in return we give ourselves to him. "We love him, because he first loved us." By reciprocal affection we have him. This is the trust, completest, highest way in which one person can have another. He by whom I am truly loved, and whom I truly love, is mine indeed. Thus we have the Son. He dwells in us by his Spirit. His teaching, his presence, his love, his life, his Spirit, are ours; himself is ours, inalienably and for ever. St. John frequently represents this relationship to Christ as conditioned simply by faith in him (verse 13; John 3:14-16, 34). In his vocabulary "faith "is a comprehensive word. It "is not merely a perception of the understanding; it is a kindling of the heart, and a resolve of the will; it is, in short, an act of the whole soul, which, by one simultaneous complex movement, sees, feels, and obeys the truth presented to it." He who thus believes on the Lord Jesus Christ "hath the Son."
II. THEY WHO HOLD THIS RELATIONSHIP ARE POSSESSORS OF THE HIGHEST LIFE. "He that hath the Son hath the life." What are we to understand by "the life" τὴν ζωήν?
1. Not mere existence. The most wicked among men have this. Fallen angels have existed through thousands of years (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). To argue for either the perpetuity or the non-perpetuity of existence from the teaching of the apostle concerning "the life" is a gross perversion of his teaching.
2. Not mere intellectual life. Voltaire, Byron, et al., possessed this in a high degree; but who would affirm that they had "the Son" and "the life"?
3. Not mere emotional life. There are many whose sympathies are abundant and active, who sincerely pity the wretched, who have often been moved to tears as they have contemplated the woes of the Man of sorrows, who yet have neither" the Son" nor "the life." The life of which St. John writes is "the new life of God in humanity." This new life may be viewed as a new reigning affection. By faith in Christ man is regenerated, his ruling love is changed. His deepest and strongest affection is no longer earthly, selfish, or sinful, but heavenly, self-abnegating, holy; he loves God supremely. He is thus brought into vital and blessed relationship with God. Holy love is life. "The mind of the Spirit is life" (Romans 8:6). He who has the Son has this life. He has it now, not in its most glorious development, but really and increasingly (Galatians 2:20). Under the influence of this supreme love to God all the faculties of the spiritual nature advance towards perfection in blessed harmony with his holy will.
III. THIS LIFE IS ATTAINABLE ONLY THROUGH CHRIST. "He that hath not the Son of God hath not the life." What is essential to this life? That man's strongest and deepest love shall be fixed on God. And we have no revelation of God adequate to inspire this affection save that which is given unto us in Jesus Christ. On viewing the life as consisting of the union of the soul of man with God, we affirm that it is only through the mediation of Jesus Christ that this union can be effected. Man is estranged from God by sin, "alienated from the life of God," and under condemnation because of sin. "The Son of man has power to forgive sins." "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." By the manifestation of the love of God in his life, and especially in his death, he destroys the enmity of the sinful heart, and reconciles man unto God. "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." Christ reveals God as a Being possessing in infinite degree those attributes which are necessary to command the soul's supreme love. He manifests the perfect righteousness of God. The cross of Jesus Christ is the grand declaration of God's unappeasable hatred of sin, and his zeal for the maintenance of rectitude. It is the perfect revelation of religious truth for man's intellect and heart. He is "the Truth." In him truth was incarnate. In him the love of God is most perfectly expressed. Divine love toiling, sorrowing, suffering, dying, to save the unlovely, the unworthy, the ill deserving, is manifest in him. He shows us the ineffable mystery of God in self-sacrifice for us. He reveals, as fully as is possible to our dim vision, the transcendent beauty of the Divine character, for our admiration and reverence. In a word, taking holiness as expressing the summation of the Divine perfections, he reveals the infinite holiness of God. Hero in him we have such a revelation of the Supreme Being as is perfectly fitted to command the homage of conscience, to quicken and strengthen the intellect, to expel all enmity, and beget in the soul the purest, deepest, intensest love, and to call forth the reverent devotion of our being. Such a revelation believed in and brought home to our spirit by the Holy Spirit, is life-giving; and such a revelation we have in Christ alone. Only through him can we attain the highest life (cf. John 3:36; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
1. This relationship may be attained by every one. (John 3:16.)
2. God seeks to bring all men into this relationship. He invites, exhorts, entreats, etc.
3. If any have not this life, it is because they refuse to comply with the condition of its bestowment. "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." - W.J.
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life
I. CHRIST IS LIFE IN HIS INSTRUCTIONS. He is so, because His instructions are truth, and truth brings life. In another, and yet a kindred sense, is Christ life by His word. He teaches us how to live, and for what ends. Honour, happiness, respect, love, usefulness, those things without which life is only animal, or worse, are most easily and completely to be secured by adopting the principles and obeying the precepts of the gospel. It is life, by eminence, to live temperately, soberly, justly, kindly, peacefully, doing good actions, exercising good affections, gaining good opinions. It is the only proper life of a moral, intellectual, accountable creature of God. He then lives as his Maker would have him live; lives most acceptably in the sight of heaven, and most profitably to himself and to the world. He lives, answering the best purposes of life; contributing to the means of human advancement; making his actions to be counted in the sum of human felicity. In a moral sense he protracts his life, because he employs it fully and well.
II. HE WHO HAS OR RECEIVES CHRIST AS AN EXAMPLE HAS LIFE. The life-giving word is not only taught, but embodied and made incarnate in the teacher; it is not only didactic, but possesses the merit and charm of historical interest. The Son not only points the way to the Father, but He precedes the disciple, and guides him in it and through it. Whoever walks as Christ walked, lives; and in proportion to the exactness of his imitation is the vigour and health of his life. To know that we are, in any degree, sharing the life and spirit of our Master, is enough to give us an increase of vital warmth, to cause the pulse of our spirit to beat firmer and more true, because it beats in happy and honoured union with the heart of Jesus. If His life was true and eternal, then that which is borrowed from His is so too. The seeds of corruption are not in it. The process of dissolution cannot commence in it. It is a sound and pure and heavenly life, for it is the very life of the Son of God.
III. HE WHO HATH THE SON BY FAITH, HE WHO RECEIVES HIM AS THE CHRIST OF GOD AND THE SAVIOUR OF MEN, by this faith also, as well as by obedience and imitation, HATH LIFE. And why? Because the hope and assurance of eternal life is contained and perfected in such faith.
(F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)I. CONCERNING THE LIVING. "He that hath the Son hath life."
1. I shall remark, in the first place, that having the Son is good evidence of eternal life, from the fact that faith by which a man receives Christ is in itself a living act. Furthermore, faith in Jesus is good evidence of life, because of the things which accompany it. No soul asks for pardon or obtains it till he has felt that sin is an evil for which pardon is necessary; that is to say, repentance always conies with faith. Where there is faith, again, there is always prayer. So might I say that the consequences of receiving Christ are also good evidences of heavenly life; for when a man receives the Son of God he obtains a measure of peace and joy; and peace with God and joy in the Holy Ghost are not to be found in the sepulchres of dead souls.
2. The possession of the Lord Jesus Christ is the evidence of faith in many ways. It is God's mark upon a living soul. Whatever else we cannot see, if a simple trust in Jesus is discernible in a convert, we need feel no suspicions, but receive him at once as a brother beloved. Moreover, the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a clear evidence of life, because, indeed, it is in some sense the source, fountain, and nourishment of life. While the branch is vitally in the stem it will have life; if it is not always bearing fruit, yet it always has life; and thus the fact of having the Son becomes an evidence of life, because it is the source of life. In another aspect of it, having the Son is not only the source of life, but the result of life. Now, when a man receives Jesus into his soul as life from the dead, his faith is the sure indicator of a spiritual and mysterious life within him, in the power of which he is able to receive the Lord. Jesus is freely preached to you, His grace is free as the air, but the dead do not breathe that air — those who breathe it are, beyond all doubt, alive.
3. Let me further remark that the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith is sufficient evidence of eternal life. "I do not know," says one, "when I was converted." Have you the Son of God? Do you trust in Jesus Christ? That is quite enough.
4. It is a great mercy that having the Son is abiding evidence. "He that hath the Son hath life." I know what it is to see every other evidence I ever gloried in go drifting down the stream far out of sight.
5. I may close this first head by saying that having the Son is infallible evidence of life. "He that hath the Son hath life." It is not said that he may perhaps have it, or that some who have the Son have life, but there is no exception to the rule.
II. CONCERNING THE DEAD. "He that hath not the Son of God hath not life" — that is, he hath not spiritual life, sentence of death is recorded against him in the book of God. His natural life is spared him in this world, but he is condemned already. Now observe that the not having the Son of God is clear evidence of the absence of spiritual life; for the man who has not trusted in Jesus has made God a liar. Shall pure spiritual life make God a liar? Shall he receive life from God who persists in denying God's testimony? Let me tell you that for a hearer of the gospel not to believe on the Son of God must be, in the judgment of angels, a very astounding, crime. Recollect, if you have never received Christ, that this is overwhelming evidence that you are dead in sin. I tell thee, moralist, what thou art: thou art a corpse well washed and decently laid out, daintily robed in fair white linen, sprinkled plenteously with sweet perfumes, and wrapped in myrrh and cassia and aloes, with flowers wreathed about thy brow and thy bosom bedecked by the hand of affection with sweetly blushing roses; but thou hast no life, and therefore thy destiny is the grave, corruption is thy heritage.
III. CONCERNING THE LIVING AS THEY DWELL AMONG THE DEAD. As the living are constrained to live among the dead, as the children of God are mixed up by Providence with the heirs of wrath, what manner of persons ought they to be?
1. In the first place, let us take care that we do not become contaminated by the corruption of the dead. You who have the Son of God, mind that you are not injured by those who have not the Son.
2. If we must in this life, in a measure, mingle with the dead, let us take care that we never suffer the supremacy of the dead to be acknowledged over the living. It would be a strange thing if the dead were to rule the living. Yet sometimes I have seen the dead have the dominion of this world; that is to say, they have set the fashion and living Christians have followed.
3. What I think we should do towards dead souls is this — we should pity them. "The most of these I meet with are dead in sin." Ought not this to make us pray for them: "Eternal Spirit, quicken them! They cannot have life unless they have the Son of God. Oh, bring them to receive the Son of God"!
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homilist.Deep in the soul of man is a desire to appropriate something outside of itself — the instinct for getting, what phrenologists call the "acquisitive faculty." But what is the good it really wants, the chief good, that without which it will never be satisfied?
I. THE HIGHEST POSSESSION OF MAN IS THE POSSESSION OF CHRIST.
1. It is something more than to possess an intellectual knowledge of Him.
2. It is something more than to admire His character and to sympathise with His enterprise.
3. It is to possess His ruling disposition, or, in other words, the moral inspiration of His soul. It is to have His spirit.
II. The possession of Christ INVOLVES THE HIGHEST LIFE. Eternal life does not mean eternal existence, but eternal goodness; and eternal goodness is the highest paradise of the soul.
1. The life of supremacy. He will be in the highest sense a king.
2. The life of self-oblivious devotion. "Not my will, but Thine be done."
3. The life of the highest knowledge.
(Prof. H. Drummond.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. WHAT IS IT TO "HAVE THE SON"? We say, then, in the first place, every human being on God's earth "hath the Son." There is not a pulse in your body but proclaims Calvary; there is not a drop in your veins but preaches Christ. You are not to imagine creation proceeding by one principle, providence administered by another, and grace acting by a third; the same God who acts in creation and rules in providence bestows in grace. And therefore I charge it upon every unconverted man, with this truth bound upon his heart, "Verily Christ is in me, and I knew it not." But more particularly, to take the words spiritually: a man may be said to "have the Son" when He is the sovereign of his intellect. He will ascertain upon clear grounds and through an honest logic whether this book be or be not Divine; but the moment the man has come to the conclusion, "Verily God is in this thing, verily God is in these syllables," then all that he has to do is to submit his intellect to Christ, then he "has the Son." Secondly, a man may be said to "have the Son" when he hath Him as the ruler of his desires. If we "have the Son" our desires are submitted to Christ even as our intellect. Thirdly, Jesus Christ may be said to be ours, or we "have the Son," when He is the pacifier of our conscience. Lastly, a man may be said to "have the Son" when Jesus Christ is the centre of his affections. The worldling's centre is the world; the sensualist's centre is the enjoyment of the passions; the rationalist's is the cultivation of the intellect; the politician's the progress of his party. But the Christian hath one centre and one circumference — Jesus Christ in the beginning and the middle and without end. His supreme attractor is Christ.
II. THE POSSESSION OF CHRIST IS TANTAMOUNT TO THE POSSESSION OF LIFE. In the first place, then, this connection contains (though not here stated) three marvellous views. First, it is the unfathomable mystery of heaven; secondly, it is the infinite mercy of earth; and, thirdly, it is the unrivalled miracle of all eternity. Lastly, we go on to show you the right connection between "having Christ" and "having life." It is to be drawn from the contrast to the fall. The fall of man was the death of man through the first Adam; the rise of man is the life of man in the second Adam.
(R. Montgomery, M. A.)
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