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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Everlasting Life--The Believer of John 3:16

 Who has everlasting life?  Is it the man Jesus spoke of in John 3:16 when he said, "whoever believes in him (speaking of himself--DS) should not perish but have everlasting life" (NKJV) or is it the man he spoke of in John 5:24 when he said, "I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life" (NKJV)?  Jesus says in the former passage believe in him for everlasting life while later in the latter passage he says hear my words and believe in him who sent me (God the Father).

Many cling to John 3:16 with the idea being that all Jesus requires of man for salvation is a belief in Jesus without ever giving any real serious thought as to how Jesus would define a believer in himself, one whose faith is sufficient to save.  They merely assume they know so every man becomes a law unto himself, declares himself a believer, and is in his mind (and often in his family and friend's minds) saved without ever offering any real concern about God's commands or any serious obedience to them.  Many have made no real attempt in years to worship God or read his word let alone put him first in their life yet they are saved, they say, because they say they believe in Jesus.

Jesus never taught even once what such men have assumed.  John 5:24 offers a commentary on John 3:16, as do many other passages throughout the New Testament, concerning who the believer of John 3:16 is.  When Jesus says in John 5:24, "he who hears my word" (and, of course, believes in God the Father) will have everlasting life he is not adding to what is required of man for salvation for hearing the word of God has been required of man every since Adam and Eve.  But, who is the believer in Jesus who will be saved?  Who is that man?  It is the man who hears Jesus' word.  A man cannot hear Jesus' word, disregard it or consider it unimportant, even unnecessary, and at the same time in truthfulness say he believes in Jesus.

It goes without saying when Jesus spoke of hearing his word he was not speaking of hearing with the physical ear only but of heeding the words, of obeying those words.  The next verse, verse 25, makes this clear.  "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." (John 5:25 NKJV)  The dead spoken of here are not the physically dead but the spiritually dead and the meaning is not that just by hearing Jesus speak one would be saved but rather if you hear what he says and you believe it enough to act on it (obey it) you will live.  No man has truly heard Jesus who does not believe what he says enough to take him at his word and obey him.  Those who crucified Jesus heard him speak through the physical ear but never heard Jesus in the sense of which Jesus spoke of hearing for salvation.

Further proof is provided in John 5:38 (a verse in the same chapter) where Jesus speaking of himself tells those he was speaking to, "Him you do not believe."  (NKJV)  They heard him okay with the physical ear but they had not heard him in the sense Jesus spoke of in John 5:24.  They were not heeding the message he was delivering.

Jesus closes this conversation in verses 46 and 47 where he says, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:46-47 NKJV)  You see it is not enough to just believe in Jesus that he is the Son of God.  (See John 12:42-43 as an example of those who believed that but were nevertheless lost.)  You must, as Jesus put it, "believe my words" and that is where the rub comes in with so many people.  They are glad to believe in Jesus as being God's son, to believe in Jesus as being the Savior, but they are not glad to believe other words he spoke and indeed reject many of them.

Belief cannot be a smorgasbord of Jesus' sayings where we get to go down the line and say I will take this, and I will take that, but I will have none of that.  How can we do that sort of thing and say we believe in Jesus?  Do we really believe him if that is what we do?  If we don't "believe him" how can we say we "believe in him?"

Most people do not believe Jesus when he said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16 NKJV) but rather believe "He who believes and is baptized, or not (either way), will be saved" (Mark 16:16--man's version not God's).  In the Great Commission, as found in Matt. 28, Jesus commanded that disciples be baptized (Matt. 28:19) but man while he says he believes in Jesus says it does not matter whether a disciple is baptized on not.  He can be saved without it, says man.  Yet, this very man declares his faith in Christ, faith in the very being whose word he questions.  Believe in Jesus but just don't believe everything Jesus says seems to be the idea.  You will then be saved by faith in Jesus.  That is the claim even though none would dare put it so bluntly.

The world may believe this kind of perversion but I am not among their number.  It all comes down to the question of "what is belief in Jesus?"  Of what does that faith consist?  We are worlds apart on that.  To believe in Jesus is to believe what the Son of Man, the Son of God, said.  If you can't believe or won't believe what the Son of man--the Son of God--said you are not a believer in him.  If I can't believe a man's word out in the everyday world it is quite a stretch to say I believe in him.  It is no different in the Bible as one considers Jesus and his word.

When Jesus declares a man has everlasting life based on a certain condition then that condition becomes mandatory and is not a matter of personal preference as to whether it is required for salvation or not.  The same holds true if he phrases it some other way--for instance, uses the term "eternal life," or the phrase "is saved," or the words "will see the kingdom of heaven."  Whatever Jesus states as necessary to salvation under any and all such descriptive terms is required of man, man's thoughts to the contrary notwithstanding.  To fail to believe Jesus (fail to believe what he says) is to fail to believe in him.

A good example of what I am talking about is found in Matt. 7:21 where Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven." (Matt. 7:21 NKJV)  If you really believe in Jesus you must believe what he said here and thus understand that salvation is dependent on keeping the commands of God.  You will either believe that or else you will not believe Jesus and thus do not believe in him in any sense of having a faith that will save you.

If you say doing the will of God, keeping his commands is salvation by works, not by grace, I say in response it is salvation by believing in Jesus, believing what he says.

We must always remember that while we are saved by faith it is only a certain type of faith, a faith that is inclusive of trust and obedience.  James makes light of a non-obedient faith, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can faith save him?" (James 2:14 NKJV)  "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26 NKJV)

In closing, I ask who is the believer of John 3:16 who has everlasting life?  I answer by saying he is not the man most of the world thinks he is.  He is a man who has the faith of Abraham of whom the Bible says, "By faith Abraham obeyed." (Heb. 11:8 NKJV)  To what extent did Abraham obey?  To the extent he was in the very act of offering Isaac as a burnt offering to God because God had commanded it before God stopped him.  This is the Abraham whom the Bible says is "the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also." (Rom. 4:11 NKJV)

The believer who is blessed by God, the believer in Jesus of John 3:16, is the believer who does not question Jesus or declare some of his commands as unnecessary but obeys them all to the best of his ability because in believing in Jesus it necessarily follows that he believes Jesus.  He is the true believer of whom it can be said he has everlasting life.

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