Eternal Life is a Person
By the time the Apostle John wrote this letter he was an old man. He had been imprisoned on a convict island: most, if not all, of his fellow apostles had died violently. Persecution threatened the church. And yet the church grew. Then false teachers undermined the gospel with heresy. Yet John was not shaken! He knew that Jesus really was God who had come as a human to atone for the sins of the world. So he writes this letter to scattered groups of Christians to help them stay close to Jesus, reject false teaching and tell others about Him.
This letter is focussed on Jesus, who John describes as the Person who was there in the beginning (echoing the start of his gospel in John 1:1-3). This affirms the divinity of Jesus, because only God was present at the beginning (Genesis 1:1-2). Yet, the Creator God became part of His own creation and John, along with the other apostles, lived with Him. They heard what He said and saw what He did. He was no illusion or hallucinatory experience for the apostles; they had physically embraced Him and looked into His eyes. They were also witnesses for the resurrection. They knew that Jesus was all that He claimed to be ... and that was why John would not give up trusting or telling others about Him.
Only Jesus can bring life. He did that at creation; during His ministry He raised the dead three times; He rose from the dead Himself, and promised to raise up all those who trust in Him (John 6:40). He is the only Life-giver (John 14:6). He is also the Word of God (John 1:1), the most clearly defined expression of the heart of God (Hebrews 1:3), and those who believe His words are given eternal life (1 John 5:12). That was John's job: to tell people about Jesus so that they might receive His new life (John 20:31). Persecutors might scare believers away from Jesus and false teachers might divert them from Him, but only Jesus can give eternal life (John 3:16) – so the message is, "hold fast to Jesus".
Everybody who has trusted in Jesus has the same twin responsibilities: to stay true to Jesus and to tell other people how they can also receive forgiveness and eternal life. And yet the church often forgets until persecution strikes. Then the camp-followers desert Jesus (John 6:66) but those who know they have eternal life cannot leave Him (John 6:68). They must keep on standing up for Jesus, and telling the good news that He will give eternal life to all who turn to Him in repentance and faith. If you have the life of God through Jesus, live it well and speak it clearly ... today.
© Dr Paul Adams