Bob's Sermon for Sunday, May 27, 2018

 

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“Is eternal life the same as everlasting life?”

 

  1 John 5:5-13 NIV

 

     “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

     (6) This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

     (7) For there are three that testify: (8) the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

     (9) We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.

     (10) Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

     (11) And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

     (12) Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

    (13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

     Months ago when I chose the title for today’s lesson, I had a mental lapse. I should not have drawn a distinction between everlasting life and eternal life. At times the Greek word “aionios”[1] is translated as everlasting as in John 3:16 and other times eternal as in 1 John 5:13: 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

     What I should have said is: “Immortality and eternal life are not the same.” This is not a silly game of word meanings. The word immortal means “does not die.” 1Timothy 6: 15, 16 plainly tells us that only God is immortal:God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”[2]

 

     1 Corinthians 15, verses 52b & 53 speak of the resurrection on the last day: “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (53) For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”[3] The Bible says that after we draw our last breath in this life, we are dead until the resurrection on the last day. If we are raised to life with Christ then, we never die again (we become immortal) but not till then. We do not become immortal until the resurrection; The idea of an “immortal soul” came from the Persians and Greeks, not the Bible. As God told Adam, we are dust and to dust we return[4] unless we join Christ in resurrection.

 

     On the other hand, today’ text reads: (13) I write . . . to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” “Have” is a present tense active verb. That means we have eternal life now, but not immortality.

 

     Was either Paul or John mistaken or am I playing some slight of mouth game? None of the above. Immortality indicates quantity—forever, never ending. But when John wrote about eternal life, he apparently had the quality of life in mind. Do you agree that living must have both quantity and quality? If we are miserable, why would we want to live forever?

 

     The forever life must have good quality. Many give up on life because they lack purpose or their suffering becomes unbearable. If we lose our sense of purpose, are continually disappointed, feel strong, unresolved guilt, and feel no love, we start questioning life. Further, unless in the forever life, we are not saying “goodbye” anymore, why would we want it?

 

     Eternal life means: though we are not yet immortal, we can right now share in heavenly joy, love, purpose, and freedom. How do we get to that point? It comes through total faith in God, experiencing Christ’s forgiving love, and feeling the presence of God’s Spirit. These ingredients change life’s quality. Before the 1880s, a frightening darkness ruled everywhere. We get samplings of fear-provoking dark during power outages. For 130-140 years, folks have benefitted from the inventions of Thomas Edison and those who pioneered in electricity. The uncertainty and scariness of total darkness is why heaven is said to have no night.[5]

 

     Following the dark, hateful, hypocritical incident when teachers of the Law and Pharisees brought a woman allegedly caught in the act of adultery, the Gospel of John continues with this narrative: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’"[6] 

       

     Jesus’ light helps us avoid many of life’s dark moments. We can have “the light of life,” much of eternal life’s quality right now, today. But we must do things Jesus’ way and follow him; we cannot follow our own impulses. As Jesus said, it is when a person “walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”[7] By loving as Jesus loved, forgiving as he forgave and acting as he acted, we begin participating in new life and light. When we fashion ourselves after Jesus, we take on winning, heavenly qualities.  

 

     If Jesus really is God’s son, he can bring us victory, make us winners, (nikos or nike is the Greek word for victory). We can overcome all life’s obstacles—even death. But why Jesus?  Why not someone else? Have you had your identity stolen?

 

     The ancients dealt with ID theft, too. They constantly dealt with fraudulent, pseudo persons. They questioned and wondered who was genuine and who was false. The New Testament Gospels were written because people wanted to know whether Jesus was the real deal. Could people trust Jesus of Nazareth? Was he the genuine, the one and only Son of God?

 

     The New Testament speaks of at least three men named John: John Mark,[8] who probably wrote the Gospel of Mark, John the Baptist, and John the Apostle. All three needed to verify Jesus’ credentials. That’s why our text uses the term “witness” or “testimony” eight times. Those who believe and properly act on the true testimony about Jesus receive eternal life now and immortality in the resurrection.

 

      Three kinds of witnesses testified that Jesus was genuine: the Spirit, the water and the blood and the three are in agreement.” In his gospel, John Mark wrote of water and Spirit: At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John (the Baptist) in the Jordan. (10) Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  (11) And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” [9]

 

     John the Baptist immersed Jesus in the Jordan River. If John did not “bury him in baptism” why does it read, he came “up out of the water”? John the Immerser baptized Jesus in water and as Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came on Jesus.

 

     John the Apostle noted John the Baptist’s testimony that the Spirit of God and the water of baptism were in agreement.[10] “Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. (33) And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. (34) I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.’”

 

     John the Apostle heard John the Baptist testify: “Jesus is the real deal.” Both the water and the Spirit witnessed.  At the crucifixion, the Apostle John saw how blood and water agreed and identified that Jesus was real.

      “Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

     (32) The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. (33) But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

      (34) Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  (35) The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. ”[11]

  

      At his crucifixion, blood and water agreed; Jesus is the son of God.  The Spirit, the water, and the blood testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

 

      The Apostle John and the other apostles witnessed concerning one other vital truth. Three days after angry, envious, spiteful religious leaders demanded his execution, Jesus Christ came back from the dead.

 

      As John wrote in his gospel, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.”[12] Anyone who accepts that Jesus died to pay for his/her sins, and who believes that God raised him from the dead and commits to him and follows him, receives eternal life.

 

     And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

     (12) Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

      (13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

      But we must believe in Christ, faithfully follow him and act as Christ acted.

 

     “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

     (2)Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

     (3) For you died (in baptism)[13], and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  (4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

     (5) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (8) But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

      (9) Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

 

     We noted last week how being in Christ resolves all the divisiveness and alienation. In Christ all are on equal footing; we are merely sinner servants needing God’s mercy in Christ. No human being one is more or less important than any other. (11) Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”[14]

 

     The word barbarian has some interesting connections. In ancient Greece and Rome a barbarian was a foreign, uncultured, rude, savage, heavily bearded, person. One connection: a barber (same word stem) is literally one who trims beards. Norma and I have known and know many beautiful, loving women named Barbara. As best I can determine, the name Barbara originally meant rude, foreign, or bearded.

 

     The negative side of Barbara is seen in the word barb—“He threw verbal barbs” and “barbed wire fence.”

 

     How did the term Barbara, with its crude history become a favorite girl’s name? In the 3rd or 4th century AD, a crude, fierce, pagan, barbarian woman heard testimony about Jesus and became a Christian.  

She began giving her testimony about Jesus—he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Her barbarian father killed her for becoming a Christian.  Catholic Church leaders later named that barbarian woman as a saint—thus Santa Barbara.

 

     When we submit to Jesus, he can take all of us rude, crude, proud, bitter, angry folks, turn us into new beings and give us eternal life. We “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (11) Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

 

     If you haven’t yet given your life to Christ, we pray that you will do that today.

 

 


[1]αἰώνιος

[2] NIV

[3] Ibid

[4] Genesis 3:19

[5] Revelation 21:22-26

[6] John 8:12 NIV

[7] John 11:10 NIV

[8] See Acts 10:12 Mark or Marcus was probably this John’s Latin name.

[9] Mark 1:9-11  NIV

[10] John 1:32-34 NIV

[11] John 19:31-37 NIV

[12] John 21:24 NIV

[13] See Colossians 2:12 “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” NIV

[14] Colossians 3:1-5, 8-11NIV

 

 

 

Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014

 

 

 

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