Of the 350 million people in this country, there are probably 200 million sports fans. But under that large category there are thousands of subdivisions, and then there are degrees within those subdivisions. Some fans are rabid and radical, while others have a fleeting and passing interest. One person prefers baseball, at least today, while others can’t wait for football season. And then there are the fans of the peripheral sports. Did you know there is a World Axe Throwing League? You can sometimes find Corn Hole competitions on ESPN, and there is a world champion dart thrower.
Billions of people who might never pay attention to any specific sports, will take time to follow the various competitions of the Olympic Games. The Olympics bring together people from around the world to compete in more than a hundred events. If you have ever spent time watching, you will have heard the words “Olympic” and “World Record.” The fastest runner in the world may hold the “World Record” for the hundred meter sprint. But he may not have competed in the last Olympics and someone else holds the “Olympic record.” The average swimmer, runner, or decathlete wants to have both the “World” and the “Olympic records.” But each one knows, that he will hold that record for only a short time, because someone faster or stronger will come along some day to beat his record.
So every athlete knows and expects the World and Olympic records to fall. But there is one record which can never fail or fall. We have reference to it here in this scripture. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
“Record” is an interesting Greek noun which is often examined from an angle different from this one. The word is “marturia” (mar-too-ree’-ah); it is related to the transliterated word “martyr.” Fifteen times it is rendered “witness;” fourteen times “testimony” and only eight “record” or “report.” What if we made one of those substitutions in this verse? “This is the (witness, or this is the testimony) that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” The substitution doesn’t change anything, but it does point to the author of the record. It is the eternal God who testifies that we have been given eternal life. It is Jehovah who speaks as a witness of our salvation. “This is a part of the eternal record, that God hath given us life, and this life is in his Son.” And for you were paying attention, this same word is found twice in the previous verse. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”
I think you’ll find that this is a simple, elementary lesson this morning.
Our subject is the THEME of that record – ETERNAL LIFE.
It is not just life; it is eternal life, and this is very important. The so-called “Modern Olympics” have been going on for more than a hundred years. All of the first Olympic record-holders have died, and with them so have their records. And along with those first Olympians there have been billions of other regular people who have died. “What is your life (anyone’s life)? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Eternal life is important because while we are all eternal souls, we remain in this world for only a short time. Christ spoke of a certain man who died, leaving this world, but instantly he lifted up his eyes in torment. And nearby was another who also died of apparent disease and awoke with the blessing of the Lord. Eternal life is important based on the emphasis we see given to it in the Word of God. It is a major Biblical subject and doctrine. Eternal life is important because it cost the Son of God His life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is important that every one of us be assured that we possess this record – “that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”
In a word association test, what would you say is the opposite of light? There is light and there is ……… What is the opposite of day? We have the sun and the ………. What is the opposite of black? Isn’t it white? It’s not grey; it’s not silver; it’s white. And what is the opposite of life? It is death. It is not sickness; it is not losing the Super Bowl. Going one step farther, the opposite of eternal life is eternal death. Just as the Bible speaks of life and eternal life, it speaks of death and the second, or eternal, death.
Now, there are a number of ways to define, describe and to explain death. The first dictionary definition I found was very simple – “death is the end of life.” Another more complicated was: “the permanent ending of the vital processes in a cell, tissue or body.” Those may be fine, but the definition which I prefer uses the word “separation.” Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. And the Bible speaks of a second death which ultimately is the separation of the soul from the blessing and presence of God. Toward the close of the Bible we read, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” And the words just prior to that – “This is the second death.” The opposite of eternal life, is eternal death or the second death at which time the Lord shall say to millions, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” On the other hand Eternal Life is the full and free everlasting enjoyment of the Lord our Saviour. Christ Jesus defined it in John 17:3 – “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
No matter what our earthly life might be like, it cannot hold a candle to what is contained in eternal life. Some peoples’ earthly lives are difficult and sometimes even miserable. But as Paul says, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” What if our lives are more simply “satisfactory?” To us Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Both those statements are referring to “eternal life.”
Our scripture tells us that eternal life is a GIFT FROM GOD.
Friday, I took my car to the Hyundai dealer to get several things done. I told the service manager, what I wanted and then handed him the key. The simple act of putting my keys in his hand didn’t lead him to think that my car was now his. If I declared you to be a “citizen of Canada,” that would not get you across the border. If eternal life is the full and free eternal enjoyment of Jehovah, only He can give us that privilege. I cannot give you something which is not mine to give. And I certainly cannot give you something which I am incapable of giving.
“This is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this (eternal) life is in his Son.” At this point we must draw a fine line – a very thin but important line. Every child of Adam is an everlasting soul, and he will never cease to exist. But there is a difference between mere existence and enjoying life. Physical death is not the cessation of our existence; it is the separation of our soul from our body. That soul will continue to continue – to exist – but it will not necessarily enjoy eternal life.
When Paul wrote to his pupil, Timothy, praising and describing God, he set the Lord apart from all of us with the words, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” None of us are included in anything Paul says in that verse – I Timothy 1:17. We are not eternal or immortal in the sense in which Jehovah is. “What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” The only way in which we might have eternal life is as a gift from the eternal God. “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” He alone is “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lorcs; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.” Paul stood before the elite intellectuals of Greece and declared, “the Lord of Heaven… he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.”
No one but God can give eternal life; not even those who have already received and possess eternal life. No man can forgive sins; that was one of the problems which the Jews had with Christ – He forgave sins. No church, no preacher or priest; not you mother or your Father – no one can give you eternal life but the eternal God. “This it the promise (of God) even eternal life.” We must have eternal life or face the jaws of eternal death, but only God can give it. This means we need the Lord.
Here we are today. We enjoyed a bit of fellowship earlier; we have sung a few hymns. And now we are sitting, listening to the preacher. “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them” along with the physical life to enjoy them. What did you do to receive your physical life? Did you buy it? Did you earn it? You have physical life because God in his merciful grace gave it to you though your parents. And similarly, eternal life, which is infinitely more valuable, is God’s gift. No one can earn it with his hard work; we can’t buy it; no one is worthy of it.
Look at it this way, some things are so valuable that if they weren’t gifts, we’d never have them. Wouldn’t it be nice to own a small jet plane? Just think how a jet plane could be used in the work of the Lord? I could fly to our mission in Southern Idaho and be back for our evening service here. Bro. Fulton could bring the Colorado members or our Montana members to our church and get them home quick enough they’d hardly miss an hour of work. We wouldn’t need to use Spokane’s airport or Denver’s; we could fly in and out of Longmont, Miles City and Coeur d’Alene – almost at our back door. But a jet plane is very expensive. The only way this church could ever own one is if some wealthy person gave it to us.
Eternal life is infinitely more valuable than an airplane. In fact, all the wealth of the world is not equal to the eternal life of a single soul. There is only one way that any one of us might enjoy that life is through the gift of the infinite God.
And how does someone receive a gift? When it is offered, we reach out and take it. Can anything be more simple? When we believe an offer is genuine; as we exert our faith, accepting the gift, then it becomes ours. Paul testified to his total unworthiness of eternal life when he said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” But then he went on, “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter BELIEVE on him to life everlasting.” As John gave us our scripture for today, “This is the record, that God hath given to (me) eternal life, and this (eternal) life is in his Son.” That was just after he wrote, ” He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”
This eternal life is found in and only in the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is clearly stated in the text, and differently in many other scriptures. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “Labour not for the meat which perisheth but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Christ said, “Only he who puts his faith on me hath everlasting life.” Hebrews 5:9 says that Christ only “is the author of eternal life.” He came to earth, becoming incarnate for the purpose of giving eternal life. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord.” Throughout human history, “sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Christ Jesus is the giver of eternal life – the keeper of the official records. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to keill, and to destroy; (but Christ) has come that (we) might have life, and that (we) might have it more abundantly.” He said, “I give unto them eternal ilfe; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” I John 5:12 – “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
And all of this is fully documented – recorded.
“This is the record, that God hath given to (me) eternal life, and this (eternal) life is in his Son.” This is recorded in the Psalms, in Leviticus, Isaiah, in the Gospels, in Romans. In the Word we see our sinfulness and death, but also the sacrifice of Christ. It is recorded plainly and fully. There is no need for guess work about salvation and eternal life. John says, “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.” If it wasn’t spelled out so clearly, we might have cause to worry, but the Word is plain and the witness is sure.
For those who are yet in their unbelief denying the Saviour and eternal life their excuses are stripped away. “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Is your faith in Christ Jesus based on His death on the cross? Is there a record which says, “You have eternal life?” By faith, won’t you come to the Saviour?