Life

It is plain to all who have eyes to see and hearts to understand that the world is in darkness, i.e., in ignorance of God. And the blame for this condition of things lies entirely at its own door, for "the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). And this is not said to be because men cannot perceive the light that shineth, but because they won't, for they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19); they are wilfully in the darkness; consequently they lie under condemnation. This condition can only be described as death — moral and spiritual death. It is alienation from the life of God, it is bondage to sin; it is active hatred of God; it is subjection to the wicked one, for "the whole world lieth in the one (or wickedness)" (1 John 5:19); it is but the prelude to "the second death," i.e., severance from God.

No writer in the New Testament describes the world in such terse and uncompromising language as John. He sees it in its native blackness; a sphere in which the Father has no place, as witness the casting out of His sent One; the stronghold of the devil in his fight against God; he sees it by the light of the Father's world in which he dwells, and as inspired by the Holy Ghost he writes what he sees, and well it is for us to consider his words, that we may understand out of what we have been delivered, and what grace has made us in contrast to it. It exists in darkness, in death, under condemnation, in active enmity against God; wilfully sinful, lying in the very lap of the devil, it is his nursling; it is the barracks and the battle field where he trains his army of men to resist and fight against every rightful claim of God over them.

But John describes, also, what we might well call another world, composed of those who are said to be "born of God," and as described by John there is not a feature in common between the two. Those who have entered this world by Divine generation have the light of life and do not walk in darkness; they are of God and not of that wicked one; they love God and one another; they shall never come into condemnation, and over them the second death shall have no power, they have passed into life out of death; their dwelling-place is a sphere of life and light and love. Death is characteristic of the world in which sinful men please themselves, life is characteristic of the world in which those who are born of God dwell.

The first mention of life in John's Gospel is in chapter 1:4. Speaking of the eternal Word by whom all things were made, he says, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" and the last mention of life in the Epistle is, "This is the true God and eternal life." He is the first and the last, we must begin with Him, nor can any know what life is or enjoy it except in Him.

We cannot define what life is, but when we see it in manifestation we are able to tell the nature of the creature, person or being, whose life it is, and the life of God has been manifested in the world so that we may know His very nature. The Word who was God and with God poured forth from Himself all created life. He was the originator of every system and character of life in the universe, His own all powerful word was sufficient to do this, for He spake and it stood fast, but when we read, "In Him was life" something more is meant. "All creation was made by Him but it does not exist in Him. But in Him was life, in this He was in relation with a special part of creation, a part which was the object of the thoughts and intentions of God. This life was the light of men, it revealed itself as a testimony to the divine nature, in immediate connection with men — for 'this life was the light of men' — as it did not with respect to any others at all" (J.N.D).

There is no light for men apart from the incarnate Word. Men have no light in themselves, though they may become light-bearers, and shine as lights in the world when the word of life has its place in their hearts, but naturally they have no light, "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?" (Job. 11:7). "The world by wisdom knew not God" (1 Cor. 1:21). "The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of men that believe not" (2 Cor. 4:4). But if God, for the great love that He has towards us, is pleased to reveal His own life to us, that surely shall be light to us, and we shall want no other; that surely shall dispel the moral darkness that enshrouds our fallen nature, unless indeed, our case be entirely and eternally hopeless. This revelation of Himself has come to pass, not in creation but in incarnation, not by works of power in the physical spheres, but in the lowly life of Jesus. And this manifestation of the life of God in the world has brought into being the new world of which we have spoken. The Creator was in the world, a man in the midst of it, but it did not know Him. He came to those to whom in former days He had committed His oracles, but they received Him not, and yet the manifestation of the life was not in vain, the light of it was effectual, for Jesus could say, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." (Matt. 11:28). And these babes "were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." These form the new world, the new circle, having a most blessed centre, and a well-defined circumference — in the world but not of it; enlightened and vitalised by Him in whom life is; God Himself from whom the life has flowed forth, being the object of the whole circle and every soul in it. "He is the Fountain and the Focus of life; it issues from Him as its source and returns to Him as its object" (Liddon).

To contemplate the One in whom this life is is the first business of all who belong to this new world, they cannot know what their life is unless they do. "We beheld His glory," said the apostle, and again, "the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2). It was not our privilege to be with Him, as were those wonderfully-honoured Galileans, and actually see Him, and hear Him, and handle Him, as He tabernacled amongst them, but what He was, and is, has come forth in words, as He Himself said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (John 6:33). And the disciples recognized this when they said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And because the life that was manifested abides in the words He spoke we do not walk in darkness.

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men" and this was the true Light which shines for all, but its blessed life-giving rays could not have reached us, quickening our souls into life, apart from the death of the Life-giver. It is well to be constantly reminded of this fact. He came from God, even the Father, to bring those who believe on Him into life, to share, in fact, in the life that He manifested, but it could not be apart from His death. Hence when first the term "eternal life" is used in John's writing, which seems to be the way this life is described when it is a question of its impartation to men, it is in connection with the death of Christ. So we read, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (chap. 3:14-15). This was because death lay upon us, sinful men, as the judgment of God; and sin could only be expiated and death removed by the death of the Son of Man, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet entirely holy and true. This has taken place, and while demonstrating the condition of sin and death in which men were it is also the great proof of God's love, in this His nature has been fully revealed.

"Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters, 'God is love.'"

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

God made Himself manifest in that great gift, and what light is this to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, who looked upon God as their foe, as some tyrannical being who only created them to crush them! Life, and light, and love are inseparable. The life is the light of men for in it is declared the love of God. "God is light," and "God is love."

We proceed no further with this side of the subject as it is ably dealt with in the following paper, but turn to that which is our purpose in this paper, namely the practical outflow of this life which has been given to us, and into which we have been called. The reception of this life is individual, as the Lord said, "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). And the maintenance of the life must be individual also, and this is by feeding upon Christ who gave His flesh for the life of the world. His death is efficacious; His love is infinite; the expiation He has made is total, absolute, perfect. To appropriate that by faith brings us clear of all that separated us from God, and it becomes the food upon which the new life that is ours lives. But having eaten His flesh and drunk His blood, and finding these to be meat and drink indeed we dwell in Him and He in us. In Him is this new life, and all who have it are in Him; He is the centre of this new circle of divine life and binds it altogether in one. So that we must consider others who are there. We are in relationship with Him and with the Father, but with all others also who are in this sphere of blessing.

It is wonderful to see how when the light had fully shone in the world and the darkness rejected it, and men began to plot His death, the oneness of His own is brought into prominence. The first intimation of this occurs in chapter 10, where He declares that He must give His life for the sheep that there might be one flock and one shepherd. Then in chapter 11 we learn that He must die that "He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." In chapter 13 when Judas had gone out and He could look upon them as one in the life into which He brought them, He gives them the new commandment which should keep them in practical oneness. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." His is the measure and manner of the love wherewith we who are in His life are to love each other, and so it will be as His life finds expression in us. We have been brought together into one flock, one family, one assembly — brethren of Christ, that this love might have occasion to develop and flow out one towards another. This could not be in isolation, and everything that divides the children of God one from another hinders the development and outflow of this love. Love binds us together, it is the flesh in its lust and pride, and the devil in his perpetual hatred of all who are of God that scatter and divide.

Coming to Paul's side of the truth we find that we are to "walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and given Himself for us," but that simply means that the life that is ours now in Him is finding its normal expression. And the necessity for this amongst the saints of God is clearly set forth in 1 Corinthians 13 while the beauty of it is also disclosed for us. Love is of God. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and this never fails.

In Colossians 3 we find this same life — for there is no other — showing itself in the saints as one body. "Christ is our life;" Hence we read:

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him."

This is the character of the life we are to live for "the little while" that Christ is hid in the heavens, and so take His place in the darkness, blameless and harmless the sons of God, without rebuke, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world: holding forth the word of life." For Christ now, and like Him morally, because living in His life; with Him soon in His Father's glory, when we shall be altogether like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Then the purpose that was His as far as we are concerned, that brought Him forth into this world will be fully and for ever realized.