“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
If you take the time to read the Gospel of John in one sitting, you cannot help but notice the word “life” is an important word to John. John writes about life often in connection with Jesus Christ and the life that He offers. In the twenty-one chapters of John, the word “life” appears more than thirty-five times. Add to that the related verb “to live” and there are over fifty references to Christ being the life of the world. What do all these references mean? What does it mean that Jesus is the source of life or that He is “life” to you and me?
The first answer to that question takes us all the way back to Genesis. It was the role of the second Person of the Trinity to give life to all living things in this world. It was the Word of God that created. John writes: “In Him was life.” In other words, John is declaring that, first, all of our physical life comes from God through Jesus Christ. This truth is hinted at already in Genesis 1:26 where God says: “Let us make man in our image.” A few verses later we read: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
When God formed man back in the beginning of creation, He did not use silver or gold. He did not watch us evolve through the centuries.
God used dust. Plain old, ordinary common, every day dust. Just like the dust you find under your bed; just like the dust you find on your car after driving down a gravel road. We are made out of the same thing that the serpent was given to eat when he received the curse from God. Dust.
Even so, whenever I visit the hospital to congratulate a new mother, I do not compare her newborn to a vacuum cleaner bag. No, there is more to our creation than that. In Genesis 2:7, we are told that we are dust with the breath of God in us. It is that breath of God that gives us life. It is that breath of God that keeps us alive.
And what is the breath of God? It is that which goes forth from His mouth: The Word, and that Word is Jesus Christ. Jesus, then, is life to us – physical life. We have been made through Him.
John writes about Christ’s role in creation as the beginner of physical life so that we might be able to understand Jesus as the completion of our spiritual life. Our being made out of dust is only the ground work [pardon the pun].
As John continues his gospel, hewrites more and more about our spiritual life, and about our need for Jesus Christ in our lives because He is our Mediator. He is the answer to Question 18 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Just as Jesus, in the beginning, is the source of our physical life, so also, Jesus, in the end, must be the source of your spiritual life. As unresponsive as a pile of dust is without the breath of God in it, so unresponsive are is the human life without Christ in it.
In Ephesians 2:1–3, Paul writes about what life is like without Jesus Christ. It is a most horrible life: dead in transgressions and sins; following the ways of the world; gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature; objects of wrath. What an awful, horrible life! It is a life filled with sin. That is the horrible condition we find ourselves in without a Savior and Mediator.
In our natural state there is nothing we can do to improve ourselves spiritually. We are spiritually dead! We are in desperate need for someone to give us life; someone to breath in us once again – not physically but spiritually! Thanks be to God that in the fullness of time He provided a Savior and Mediator for us in His own Son, Jesus Christ.
Following that awful life that Paul describes in Ephesians 2, Paul describes a new, spiritual life: “But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4, 5). What wonderful, good news those words are!
A Mediator was given unto us to give us life. Without this Mediator, no one has ever breathed one breath toward God. We can inhale and exhale the filthy air of this world all day long, but until we live and breath for Jesus Christ we remain spiritually dead. Christ came to give us spiritual life.
With that spiritual life comes the promise of eternal life. Already at the beginning of John’s gospel we see the great struggle between Jesus the life giver and the forces of death. We also see the outcome of that struggle. The darkness could not overcome Him who is the Light of the world. John writes about how those forces of darkness brought Jesus to trial; how they crucified Him; and how they laid Him in the tomb. He was dead.
But death could not hold Him. The great Creator of physical life and the giver of spiritual life could not be contained by death. He conquered sin, death, and hell. Death has been vanquished. Darkness has died. Hatred has been overcome. None of the forces that so often make our lives miserable are in charge. God is in charge. He is on the throne. His Son is victorious.
When your life is in Him, then you have the promise of this victorious life, too. Paul wrote in Romans 10:18 “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Mediator, we not only have physical life and spiritual life, but we are given a life of such quality that it can never be lost. It is eternal life.
Through Jesus Christ we have physical life, spiritual life, and eternal life. What more could a person possibly want? And yet, there is more! Jesus said, “I am come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Many Christians claim they have physical, spiritual, and eternal life and they seem to be satisfied with just that. They live miserable lives filled with complaining. The life that Jesus gives to us certainly is not supposed to be that kind of life. Such a life is reserved for those who remain dead in their trespasses and sins.
Our lives are meant to be a blessing to others as we reflect the joy that we have in Christ. Filled with the Spirit of God, an abundant life must flow from us. The Christian life is more than living in the first part of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is also knowing that the perfect sacrifice has been made for us at Calvary and that, through Christ, we are no longer dead but made alive.
I have no doubt that everyone who reads this article has physical life. I think I can assume that most readers of The Outlook also have spiritual life. I hope and pray that you have eternal life through Jesus Christ as your Savior. But do you have abundant life? Knowing that we can have peace with God given to us through His Son, how can we help but overflow with the joy that comes with the abundant life which Christ has earned for us?
Rev. Wybren Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and editor of The Outlook.