Text: John 5:26
I have on my shelves somewhere a catechism that was published many years ago in St. Louis, Missouri, and which contains among others this question and answer: “What is God?” – it asks, and the answer given is “God is a Spirit. He is triune. He is light, and love, and life.”
Naturally, along with this answer, certain proof texts are given. For the proposition that God is a Spirit John 4:24 is cited, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” For the truth that He is also triune, or eternally existing in three distinct persons, Matthew 28:19 is given, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”‘
That God is light is proven from First John 1:5, “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.’ The love of God is shown, of course, from First John 4, verses 8 and 16, both of which state that “God is love.” And for the proposition that He is life, too, John 5:26 is given – and it is the text that I would like to take up with you today “For as the Father hath life in Himself: so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” My theme, based on this verse from the Bible is, “GOD IS LIFE.”
I. Let us recall, first of all, that God is life in that He is the Living One, the Author of every other form of life. One of the long-continued investigations of science has been the patient, quiet search of biologists for what has been called the “secret of life.” It does not often reach the newspapers: but it has been and is going on nevertheless, and with some remarkable results. After all, what could be more fascinating than the ultimate solution to the problem of what this thing we call “life” really is? It is surely as bewitching to a modern biologist as the search for the “Fountain of Youth”‘ was to a previous generation of pioneers.
Russian scientists have been particularly active in this field having “created” for example, such biological monstrosities as two-headed dogs in their laboratories. No doubt, the official atheism of the Russian state has served to encourage research into a field that seems to some to have religious or irreligious connotations, but we should not assume that atheism, or anything else so reprehensible is the sole motive for these scientific investigations!
Will scientists ever be successful in discovering the secret of life, perhaps in producing living things artificially? They may be! But when and if they ever are, let us not jump to the conclusion that Science
therefore has created life and thus somehow or other replace God!
The only thing that will have happened if some biologist someday succeeds in making a living thing is that he will have copied life; he will have at a cost of millions of dollars imitated, reproduced, in a lab, the
masterpiece of the great Creator and since even the life which he copied was but a poor remnant of the life the Creator originally gave what a poor and pitiful thing this man-made life is bound to be! As a matter of fact, just making a thing “live” is only the beginning of the animation of some kind of body. I remember the story of a murderer who shot two policemen and was believed to have been the murderer of an entire family. Shot by those who finally captured him, he lay several months in the hospital, unconscious, comatose, before he finally died. He was a living man – yet who would say that he really lived? There is a big difference between being “alive” and living!
It is all very well, and, I suppose, perfectly proper for scientists to seek the answer of the “secret of life”‘, but if we would now or ever really find the answer, we must at last look beyond the laboratory and
above it! We must look beyond the psychologists’ study, too, and above it! We must look to the Author of every form of life, the One who alone really lives – GOD!
It is not without reason that God is called throughout the Bible, the “living God’. This is a great term, signifying many important things: for example, that God is infinitely exalted above the idol-gods which the
nations which surrounded Israel worship. He is not a thing of wood or stone or precious metals – but a living God. It also reminds us that He is not an idol of the mind, a principle or idea evolved in the brain of a philosopher, like the deities of some of the higher pagans. But above all, this term, the living God, means the God of life, the One who has life in Himself, and the Author of Life, Jehovah, He who is and will be what He is and what He will be!
II. In the second place, now, when we say that God is Life, we recall the fact that we really share in the life of God through our relationship to His Son to whom He has given all that is His.
The exact form of our participation in the life which is in God and comes ultimately only from Him is not so clear in the Old Testament as in the New. The Old Testament regards this matter from afar, and states only general principles, and not the details. It declares very clearly, however, that man derives his life from God. In Genesis 2:7, it says, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.’ And in the 104th Psalm which declares of God, “How manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all,” we read, “These all look to Thee, to give them their food in due season. When thou givest to them, they gather it up; when Thou openest Thy hand, they are filled with good things. When Thou hidest Thy face, they are dismayed; when Thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground!’
The New Testament examines the relationship between God and the life that we have from Him more closely – and finds here, too, the evidence of that wonderful, rich distinction of persons in the one, divine
Being. The Father, our text tells us, has life in Himself: but He has granted the Son, also, to have life in Himself and has given Him authority to execute judgment, that is, to give or to withhold life from all the children of men. We could also learn from the New Testament that the Spirit is particularly active in these matters, creating, sustaining, and perfecting the highest form of God’s life in His children here on earth.
Thus both the Old and New Testaments alike teach that we live only as we are related to God – and we really live in the specific relationship to Him which is ours through Jesus Christ to whom we come by the
gracious action of the Spirit in the hearts of believers.
Now, you must realize here, that I am using the word “live” in a more complex sense than is usual – I am speaking, for example, of living and “really” living – and this requires some explanation. Yet we all ordinarily make distinctions about the kinds of life men live.
I have already spoken of the difference between merely functioning as a physical body and living – and one of the hardest things to take, I think, is for a family to have a loved one “living” in some such sense and yet being without any relationship or communication with them as they lie like the dead on their beds of suffering! We sometimes speak of such as the “living dead!”
But even among the conventionally living, we make distinctions. We say of some people, for example, that they have never really lived! Usually – I am sorry to say – we mean by such descriptions that the person of whom we are speaking has not participated in various worldly, and often sinful adventures, etc. – but not necessarily: and the distinction is a real one and very much to the point in this discussion.
Just as we say that the comatose patient in the hospital is to all-purpose “dead” – and just as we classify those who live such cramped and limited lives as “half-dead” – so the Bible classes all living people who are not rightly related to God through Christ as “dead’. Adam and Eve, for example, when they fell from original righteousness, DIED – they continued to live, in one sense, but, as far as their relationship to God was concerned, they were DEAD, and that was the real measure of the life they had! Likewise, Paul speaks of us all, apart from Christ, as DEAD in trespasses and sins.
In a similar fashion John here speaks of the dead – not at first of those who are in the tombs – that comes at the end of the paragraph but at first he says, “The hour comes and now IS when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Who are they, these dead? They are the members of the human race who, though living, have no communication with heaven with God, and so are dead – and they will begin to live, really live when they hear the words of Christ, and being moved by His Spirit within, believe the gospel. This life, which comes from God through Christ to us, and is so much greater than the life we now enjoy as ordinary life is from a comatose state of existence, we call the NEW LIFE, or, as Jesus frequently says, ETERNAL LIFE.
It is very important to understand this word aright. Frequently we think of eternal life as that which will be ours as good Christians after we die. It is that, too, as we shall hear in a moment, but it is also most certainly and first of all something we can now have – REAL life, as distinguished from the mere imitation which we have by nature ETERNAL life, because it is of the sort which Eternal God gives without stint or measure to those who come to Him as penitents and believers through Jesus Christ His Son, who hear the voice of the Son and live.
III. Of course, the life which we share through our relationship to the Son of the living God is also Eternal life in that it does not end; it cannot be overcome. This is the third, and final consideration in our study of the theme, God is Life.
A doctor who was an atheist once claimed that he had thoroughly studied the human body, had often dissected it dead and operated upon it alive, and had found no evidence of the soul in all his researches. Since he had a wide reputation for excellence as a physician and thoroughness as a scholar, he thought that his conclusions in this matter should be accepted. A dissenter arose, however, who asked the doctor where in his own body they might find by operations or by dissection after he was dead his own genius as a doctor or his devotion to scholarship!
Of course, the human soul cannot be found any more than love or loyalty or intelligence can be found among the flesh and bones of a man – but what we are dealing with now, in this final point, is not some possible or impossible thing, but the promise of the living God who has life, all life ultimately, in Himself! Not only will He give life to those now among the living dead – as far as He is concerned – here on earth if only they will hear His Son and believe in Him: but the day will come when even those in the tomb will hear the voice of Christ calling to them – and live!
Life, which comes from God and exists in man in the measure in which man is in fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Lord, is not so easily destroyed as some men think. Above all, Death cannot snuff it out – that old toothless lion whom Jesus has restrained for time and for eternity!
And the day is coming when all men – the dead of all ages and the living as well – will hear and know that God is Life, that the Father has life in Himself and that He has granted to the Son to have life Himself: for they shall hear the voice of Christ as He returns to this earth with power and great glory, a King, a Conqueror, and a Hero and all who ever lived on earth will live again.
Then those who in this life “did evil”‘ – that is, those who refused to hear the voice of the Son of God, who preferred death to life – they will taste the true meaning of their choice, the resurrection of judgment and condemnation, the second death, which is death indeed!
But those who have “done good” that is, who have heard the voice of God’s Son, who have chosen life, real life, eternal life – they, too, will know the full blessing of their choice, the resurrection of life, the life in the regained Paradise where again, as of old, the Tree of Life shall stand, not now forbid, but the leaves of which are for the healing of all the nations.
St. John sums up our whole teaching for us in a word in his First Epistle chapter S, vv. 11, 12, “This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son has not life.” It is as simple as that.
God is Life, the Author of all life – real life, eternal life, and not the poor shadow or remnant of life we call life, and this He offers us through His Son. If we receive it, by listening to the Son, believing in Him, we have that eternal life, too. We have it now – and it shall be ours forever our glory and our delight throughout all ages.
Sermon written by: Rev. Charles W. Krahe, Seventh Reformed Church