Background (Relatively Obvious)
We have talked about John’s Gospel and John 3:16 in particular in some kind of depth on this blog We discovered that a primary theme, from beginning to end, in John’s Gospel is the divinity of Jesus. John’s Gospel begins with, “In the beginning was the Word.” This “Word” is none other than Jesus and His divinity is demonstrated in the signs and wonders that are a crucial part of His ministry while on earth. In terms of literature, the divine Jesus theme reaches its climax with Thomas’ words, “My Lord and my God!” (20: 28, emphasis added) It doesn’t get any plainer than that. We must, according to John, understand who Jesus is in order to have a chance of understanding the meaning of the passion of Christ. The author of the universe and everything in it died for you and me. I know that I am incapable of totally wrapping my mind around that essential, marvelous fact, so I reserve my personal experience in this cosmic event to end all other cosmic events heretofore, with the possible exception of Creation itself, to mere thankfulness.
In this context of Jesus’ divine nature, we are given John Chapter 3. It, after all, does Jesus a disservice if we solely examine verse 16 without looking at its context. The overarching theme as we have already accepted being Jesus’ divinity. We must subsequently pay attention to Jesus’ immediate audience. He is speaking with a pharisee named Nicodemus who has stealthily come to converse with our savior under the cover of night fall. The gist of this midnight dialogue between two recognized religious leaders is that Jesus tells Nicodemus that a prerequisite to understanding who Jesus is and the content of His kingdom, one must be “born again” (v.3). Verse 16 and following is, therefore, an explanation of this seemingly impossible statement. As Nicodemus rightly asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?” (v. 4, emphasis added)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)
This is how a person may be “born again”; by believing that Jesus is God and that he can and will do this. Jesus undoubtedly is referring Ezekiel 36: 25-27 as he speaks of this, “ I will sprinkle clean water on you, you shall be clean. . . .And I will give you a new heart. . . .And I will place my Spirit within you.” His meaning is clear; a new believer is made clean, given a new start, and the Lord reaches within the believer to hand deliver him or her His very own Spirit in a an operation of divine, life altering magnitude.
The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus somehow, makes this supercharged new beginning possible. The keys are to know that Jesus is God and placing ones faith/trust/belief in him, which includes not only who He is but what He did and even continues t do to this day. Reality informs us that such a believer will never die. If Jesus’ Spirits dwells within a person, can that person ever truly die? No. Believers live forever because of Him to whom they have been conjoined.
Eternal Life (Not So Obvious)
Disclaimer: The author claims no mastery in shape or form of the concepts that follow.
That’s all well and good, one might ask, “But what is in it for me now?” Such a quandary is, in fact, quite appropriate. Christians don’t seem to be betteroff or less sinful than anyone else, many are pious hypocrites while others have glommed onto popular heresies du jur in order to exemplify the effectiveness of their faith for no reason imaginable save for fear and greed. Furthermore, one can imagine that when observed from the outside looking in, belief in Jesus serves primarily to benefit preachers. While the efficacy of another’s faith I leave to the determination of higher authorities than I would presume to approach, I insist that belief in a Gospel other than Christ Jesus’ is not effective faith in this context the current benefits made apparent by worldly standards notwithstanding.
Be that as it may, I want to reintroduce a concept involving “eternal”, all the while remembering that we are speaking of the Spirit God. Before I do so, or as an introduction, please ask yourself the following two questions:
- Is God constrained by linear time?
- If the Spirit of God is dwelling inside of you, is that still God? If so, go to #1.
The Spirit of God is placed within believers at the “time” of their convergence and it is this gift of the Spirit that grants new life. Indeed, God’s Spirit propels believers from death into true life. it can be thought of as mending the rift created in that long ago garden. The trespass was perpetrated by individuals and is healed on an individual bases as it were.
This is where things get philosophical. As was said in previous posts, when one unpacks linear time one comes to the realization that the past no longer exists. That is why it is called the past; it’s over and done with. Likewise, the future does not exist. It’s a figment of one’s individual imagination. Just as the past no longer exists because it is over and done with, the future does not exist because it has not yet occurred. If this is confusing, take a metaphorical step back and don’t think about it so hard. In essence, it’s as simple as has just stated and this drives home an amazing point in all this.
The only “time” that exists is the present. The here and now. That is where one comes face to face with the divine. The universe was created in one “now”, sin entered the world in another split “now”, Jesus died to repair that sin in another “present”, and believers receive true life in still another “now.” If one accepts that God is not affected by time; that He exists outside of time, then God must exist in the eternal present. Being God, He is present in every single “now” that ever has existed, does exist, and ever will exist. One could continue ad infinidum and someone could write a book (and probably has) about this metaphysical concept but the praxis of all this, the point at which the eternal present hits our faith, is as amazing as it is incomprehensible.
Simply put, the life of a believer can change in an instant. Think about it. The eternally present God grants believers eternally present life. What ever they did in the past no longer exists nor do their futures exist. Anything can happen. Why? Because the Spirit of God that lives inside of them is the same Spirit that created the universe and every single thing within it from the tiniest fragment of and atom to the most enormous galaxies. Since God can and did do that, imagine what He is able to perform in our relatively minuscule human lives at any given point of “time”.
This isn’t even limited to believers either! God’s Spirit within them is capable of affecting the world around believers. The mere shadow of the apostles would heal people as they walked past them. Jesus tells us that believers are capable of performing all of the signs and wonders that He performed and more. The possibilities are endless and timeless. Isn’t this what the Church must strive for as we approach the return of our Savior?
Feel free to add your thoughts below.