What the Bible says about
Eternal Life, Desire for
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The Old Testament was written without punctuation of any kind, and in fact, punctuation was not added until about 1,200 years after Ezekiel wrote this. As God's answer to the question of verse 10, verse 11 would read better if a period followed the words "Lord GOD." He replies that we should live as He would live if He were a man - sinlessly. When Jesus came as a man, He did exactly that.
Jesus declares in John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." A key to understanding Jesus' intent is to grasp His use of the word "eternal." We normally think of it as an endless length of time. However, William Barclay's commentary on this verse contains a simple and meaningful difference of opinion with that concept. Barclay contends that Jesus is speaking of something very good, one to be much desired. Living forever is not necessarily good unless the quality of life is also good. Therefore, "eternal" describes the quality of life God lives endlessly. Knowing God and being able to follow His example are vital to our living as He does. Jesus implies that, if one truly knows God, he will also live that way as an effect of his intimate relationship with God.
Yet, truly coming to know God creates one of the more difficult and continuous problems for church members. In fact, one commentator called it the church's biggest problem, and Romans 11:33 seems to confirm this. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" Paul says plainly that the full depth of God's wisdom and knowledge are unsearchable and past finding out. We can indeed find out a great deal if we are devoted to seeking Him, an endeavor that requires thorough searching, evaluating, and adjusting of our conceptions. Certainly difficult, but not impossible!
Nevertheless, we must still seek Him, since this verse suggests that we can indeed learn much. It helps that God desires us to know Him, so He is willing to reveal Himself further.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem
Note something of considerable importance to church members: Both Isaiah and Amos addressed their counsel to people who had already made a covenant with God. Why? Because these Israelites were in serious spiritual trouble within the relationship that the covenant created. These are stern exhortations for them to get on the ball.
A second but not readily apparent reason why these warnings are important to us is that seeking after God truly does not begin until after He reveals Himself to us and we make the covenant with Him. Many do not realize that seeking God is the main occupation for a Christian during the sanctification process. Amos is clear regarding this.
God warns how devastating the coming perilous times will be, then He counsels us to seek the help of One far greater - our Creator and Ruler. Finally, He urges us to turn our everyday conduct to seeking to do good, showing care for God and His people.
Amos is not charging the Israelites to seek God in order to find Him because, at the very least, they were acquainted with Him, having already made the covenant with Him. However, that He charges them with seeking Him reveals that despite making the covenant, what they knew about Him had not been translated into everyday living or being like Him. This indicates that they were just drifting along with the times.
Four times in Amos 5, he urges them to seek God, and two of those times, he adds, "that you may live." This thought ties directly into John 17:3, which indicates that, more than being just endless existence, eternal life is a quality of life. As we proceed, we will see that they were being exhorted to seek God because, despite having made the covenant, they had stopped seeking Him, and the effect of stopping was their poor spiritual condition and subsequently, their imminent destruction at the hand of the Assyrians.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem
Our Savior is trying to explain the relative values of our physical lives and what we can humanly accomplish to what awaits us in what is commonly called the afterlife. In short, there is no comparison!
Notice the Bible's consistency on the value of human life apart from God:
» Ecclesiastes 1:2-4: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever.
» Job 14:1-2: Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.
» Psalm 90:10: The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
» Isaiah 40:6-8: All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
» James 4:14: For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
» I John 2:17: And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
The physical life we would live now is a bowl of lentils compared with eternal life. It is nothing more than a vapor, a breath, a shadow. The passing pleasures and cares of the world will only gratify and satisfy the immediate desires. If our only interest is the immediate gratification that the world has to offer, we are indeed saying, "What profit is the Kingdom of God to me now?" Like Esau, we will despise our inheritance and go our way apart from God.
Our inheritance is the Kingdom of God. By seeking it and His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), we are telling God that we place high value on it, that we want it, that we want to be like Him and think like Him, and that we can be trusted to take care of His estate and to live and reign with Christ.
What Is Your Lentil Soup?
What does He mean by "life . . . more abundantly"? A problem arises when discussing this concept due to the apparent subjectivity of the term "abundant." What is abundant living for one person may be absolutely unsatisfying for another. A hard-charging, A-type businessman - into exotic vacations, sports cars, and rock climbing - would not consider a rocking chair on the porch, a vegetable garden out back, and a weekly round of golf at the local course to be fulfilling, yet they would probably suit a retired senior citizen just fine. One person's bowl of cherries is another's bowl of cherry pits.
The Greek word Jesus uses in John 10:10 to describe the kind of life He came to teach His disciples is perissón, meaning "superabundant," "superfluous," "overflowing," "over and above a certain quantity," "a quantity so abundant as to be considerably more than what one would expect or anticipate." In short, He promises us a life far better than we could ever envision, reminiscent of I Corinthians 2:9, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (see Isaiah 64:4). Paul informs us that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).
However, before we begin to have visions of palatial homes, classic automobiles, around-the-world trips, and wads of pocket money, we need to step back and consider what God says comprises "life." Once we determine His view of living, we will have a better grasp of what kind of blessings we can expect as Christ's disciples. All we need to do is glance around at our and our brethren's situations to know that wealth, prestige, position, and power in this world are not high-priority items on God's list of blessings (I Corinthians 1:26-29). In terms of economic, academic, and social strata, most of us come from the lower and middle classes, and we tend to remain in a situation similar to the one in which we were called (compare I Corinthians 7:20-24).
Perhaps the most telling biblical definition of life - particularly eternal life - is uttered by Jesus Himself in John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Note that this definition makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, occupation - in fact, the only thing it does mention is knowing God!
What can we take from this?
» God is not overly concerned with the physical circumstances of our lives. It is enough that He assures us that we need not worry about what we will eat or wear (Matthew 6:25-32; Philippians 4:19).
» Eternal life, the kind of life in which a Christian is truly interested, is not determined by duration but by a relationship with God. This is why, once we are converted and impregnated with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are said to have eternal life already (I John 5:11-13), though not, of course, in its fullness.
» Eternal life - the life God offers us through Jesus Christ and His teaching - is thus about quality, not quantity. Put another way, the abundant life is life as God lives it (Ezekiel 33:10-11; I Peter 2:21; I John 2:6), for once we truly come to know God, we will desire to emulate Him.
» Physical blessings, then, may or may not be byproducts of God's way of life; neither our wealth nor our poverty is a sure indication of our standing with God. Certainly, God desires that we "prosper in all things and be in health" (III John 2), but the bottom line is "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (verse 4), not that we live like royalty.
» Finally, a Christian's life revolves around, as Peter puts it, "grow[ing] in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). This suggests that the abundant life is a process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming because, in our present state, "we see in a mirror, dimly" (I Corinthians 13:12).
As humans, we are naturally oriented toward material things, but as Christians, our perspective must change. Paul admonishes, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died [in baptism], and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3). To us, life - and our perception of abundant life - is a whole new ballgame!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are You Living the Abundant Life?
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