By Charles Wages
We often emphasize that “eternal life” is the happy privilege of all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. How true and wonderful this is! This is the “fact” that through “faith” in the finished work of Christ on the cross, the vilest sinner can be saved! (Eph. 2:8-9) However, we often seem to neglect the “effects” that eternal life has on the believer.
What does it mean to have everlasting life? Are there changes in the attitudes and actions of one who through faith in Christ has received “eternal life?” Passing from death unto life is such a tremendous truth that it should have a resounding effect on our lives. We often try to visualize “life after death.” What happens right after we die? Well, to the believer, it is “absent from the body, and present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). However, we realize that before Christ came into our lives, we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). When we believed the truth of the gospel, God “quickened” (made alive) us and gave us eternal life. We read in Ephesians 2:5-6 that,
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
It is clearly taught in Scripture that before we were “saved by God’s grace,” we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” Physical death is what we usually think of when we refer to “dying.” It is true that “the wages of sin is death,” and “it is appointed unto men once to die.” However, death is referred to in several ways in the Scriptures. For example, the Scriptures speak of individuals being dead while they live (l Tim. 5:6). That is, they are “dead to Christ,” but not dead with Christ! Then, the wonderful truth becomes clear,
“Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that, we shall also live with Him:” (Rom. 6:8)
Further we are admonished,
“Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11)
It is this “newness of life,” from the deadness of sin that produces the “eternal life” that we possess the moment we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. Now, again, what is the meaning of this to the believer? The eternal life, a gift from God, is a fact, but what about the “act” of “fact”?
It is important to see that this eternal life that God gives us by His grace is a present possession. Notice the statement of our Lord:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)
This present position and possession of eternal life will be ultimately consummated as stated in Colossians 3:2-4,
“Set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
This “eternal life” is not only a present possession, but it is an eternal position. We are informed in Philippians 3:20-21:
“For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
Think of this! The saved sinner is a “heavenly citizen!” The instant a person truly receives Christ as Saviour, his or her citizenship is recorded in heaven! The apostle Paul is led to state this truth in these terms in Ephesians 2:5-7,
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
This is the “blessed assurance” of the believer!
Not only is the “eternal life” our present possession, our present position, but it is also our present protection. This life, this eternal life that He has so freely given to the believer, and the full realization or acceptance of it, guards the child of God from falling for every false doctrine that arises. Colossian 2:6-8 is not only a warning to the believer, but instruction in how to live for Him in this wonderful eternal life.
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught; abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
Finally, the eternal life we have as His children, should have a wonderful and lasting effect on our lives. We need to realize and accept the fact of present, eternal life, given to us by God through Christ. Eternal life should produce “sound minds” to know and appreciate the values that are eternal. This great truth of the present reality of eternal life produces in the believer “what sunshine does for stained glass windows.”
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed and an persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12)