1 John 5:11
And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
Before opening up the passage there are two preliminary questions that press for answer. In the first place, what is meant by the Scriptural phrase, "eternal life"? The term, eternal life, is hardly at all one of quantity, but of quality. Just as there is wheat life in the wheat plant, bird life in the winged creatures, lion life in the lion, so there is Christ life in the Christian. It is a condition of existence in which the very life of God pulsates through every faculty of the life of man, bringing him into affinity of love and purpose and aspiration with the Eternal Himself. Eternal life is, therefore, the imparting of Christ's own life to those who accept Him as Saviour and Master. A second preliminary question presses for answer. When and where is this eternal life attained? It seems clear from the Word of God that it is attained in this world and not in the world to come. Men do not go to heaven to get it, but they go to heaven because they have it. If these things are true it surely becomes a pressing interest to every thoughtful man as to how this priceless gift may become his own personal possession, as to how he may grow in eternal life and eternal life grow in him, and as to how he may have the joy, the power, and the prospect of it. These questions are all clearly answered in the text.
I. ETERNAL LIFE IS PROVIDED IN CHRIST. "This life is in His Son." It is of the very last importance to note well the fountain of this eternal life. It is not in man as natural, for as natural he is fallen, and the fall implied the loss of this life of God in the soul of man, the passing away of all conscious affinity with God, and the coming in of a spirit of alienation and hostility. And as it is not in man naturally, neither does man find it in what is called his environment. We think that the power of environment over human life is greatly exaggerated in our day, and is essentially the reversal of a central principle in God's dealings with the world. It is never the new environment that makes the new man, but it is the new man that creates the new environment. Let us, therefore, face the fact that eternal life is provided only in Jesus Christ our Lord. Those in quest of it have, therefore, not to wander over a wilderness of abstract thought, and not to whip the energies of mind and heart to attain this great end; but, as a person deeply convinced that this gift is not now theirs, to come humbly and trustfully to the feet of the living personality of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has this gift to give, and who is longing to bestow it.
II. ETERNAL LIFE IS PUBLISHED IN CHRIST. "This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life," and this life is in His Son essentially. The whole Word of God is an apocalypse or unveiling of Christ. The testimony of God Himself, of the Holy Spirit, of inspired historian, poet, prophet, and evangelist, all converges on the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. ETERNAL LIFE IS POSSESSED IN CHRIST. God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; "he that hath the Son hath life." The gift has not only been provided and published, but it has in a very real sense actually been given. God has given to us eternal life. We stand firm on the ground that Christ's part, both in provision and offer, has already been finished; but salvation by gift implies the part of the receiver as well as the part of the giver, and while the gift has been offered there is no salvation, and there can be no salvation till the gift is accepted. This view of the possession of eternal life delivers man from all perplexity as to the ground of his acceptance with God, and as to his humble assurance of the certainty of his salvation. It causes feelings, for example, to fall into due perspective in spiritual experiences. When a man comes to see that he possesses Christ, and on that possession can call eternal life his own, there will come, and must come, those feelings of peace and rest and certainty and enjoyment, and until he is quite sure that he possesses Christ, and with Him all things, the feelings will be fitful and the whole life will be clouded.
IV. ETERNAL LIFE IS PERPETUATED IN CHRIST. "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." The entrance of eternal life into the soul of man is the entrance of Christ Himself to dwell and reign and unfold the nature that He inhabits and permeates. The whole Christ, and only Christ, is needed to save, and the whole Christ in perpetual indwelling is needed to sanctify. There is no possible life for the Christian apart from his abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in him. Out of this flows all the sweetness of sanctity, all the dignity of lowliness, all the enlarging of love, all the practical power of obedience, and all the finished graces of a complete character.
Parallel VersesKJV: And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.