… that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Everything is relative. By which I mean that all things correspond to God. Even God corresponds to God and has His existence relative to God. That is the doctrine of the Trinity.
Therefore how much more ought the creature to properly relate to its Creator. So the vital question arises, how should we correspond to God?
Well that will depend entirely on the kind of God we’re talking about. But if we’re talking about the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son then the relationship is clear. God is Giver, we must be recipients. God is Sender of His Son, we must be welcomers of His Son. God is Lover, we must be beloved. This is what it means to be a creature of the Giving, Sending, Loving God.
If we fail to be a receiver of the Son then we cannot possibly be relating to this God. If we imagine that we properly correspond to God and yet we cast ourselves as His benefactors, we are clearly relating to some other god. If we consider ourselves primarily in the category of “giving our lives to God” then we can’t be thinking of the Biblical God. Only the empty-handed child knows the heavenly Father. Therefore to be a child of this God can only be a matter of faith. And faith alone.
Right from chapter 1, John describes faith in terms of receiving and welcoming the Son of God:
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:11-12)
To receive Jesus is to believe on His name, and this is how we become the sons (the children) of God. And this is how we are saved. Not through some arbitrary zapping from heaven. God does not capriciously bestow an abstract benefit called ‘eternal life’. Rather He sends His Son to a perishing world, not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). In this way God gives us His Son in Whom is life (John 1:4).
Therefore Jesus defines the three major terms of this part of the verse. Belief is receiving Jesus – accepting Him to be the Father’s gift to me. Perishing is to remain in Christlessness along with an unbelieving world. Eternal life is having and knowing the Son. It’s a life that begins now and stretches on into eternity (John 17:3).
How do you think of your Christian life? Do you speak of “giving your life to Jesus”? Are you constantly thinking of ways to “do more for God?” The Bible rarely, if ever, speaks in those terms. The Bible is about Christ’s life given for you. It’s about His almighty doing on your behalf. The Christian life begins by receiving Jesus. And it continues into eternity as a life of receiving. All that we are and all that God has for us is freely given in His Son.
“God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:11-12)