By T. Kem Oberholtzer
Five years ago if you asked someone “How are you today?” the response would have been “Fine!” Today, if you ask someone the same question, the response is “Busy.” In our hi-tech world, with every imaginable piece of equipment for simplifying our lives, we are busier and more stressed than ever. Though we move in many directions, we tend to lack a long-range, specific goal. We are earning a living, but missing life!
Believers Are Possessors of Life
Anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ for eternal life has become a possessor of life in its truest meaning, and need not simply exist day by day. The essence of the Gospel is that through faith in Christ we move from death to life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, emphasis mine).
He also stated that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). The essence or goal of life is to possess a deep, abiding, living relationship with the living Savior.
Believers Possess Two Kinds of Life
There are two primary words in the NT for life. The first of these is bios (from which the word “biology” is derived), which relates to material possessions or the events that occur in daily, “biological” living.
Contemporary society at large has convinced many of us that living consists of possessing a certain “standard of living”-power, prestige, and financial security. “Having it all” has become a catch-phrase for obtaining material possessions and financial freedom. The influence of general society around us is strong, and believers are often caught up in the spirit-of-the-age thinking that “life” consists merely in possessions or power-in a word, materialism.
Most of us must earn a living, and believers should serve with competence in the marketplace, whatever their vocations. There should be satisfaction in performing our jobs with expertise, as it is appropriate for representatives of Christ to do. Our excellence as employees becomes an important platform for sharing the Gospel. However, earning a living is not a substitute for a certain higher kind of life.
The NT term zōē, above all, is a rich and multifaceted term that unfolds an infinitely beautiful dimension of life, in addition to the kind of life previously described. Christ is the Giver of this higher, divine kind of life: “In Him was life” (John 1:4). Zōē is thus a NT term that often speaks of eternal life, the life that God gives, as well as of our physical existence.
The concept of eternal life is used in at least three ways in the NT. First, eternal life is a gift bestowed at the moment of belief in Christ (John 5:24). The immediate focus is on the forgiveness of all past sin, as a judicial act of God, based on the blood sacrifice of Christ on behalf of those who trust in Him. The NT refers to this divine act as justification, by which we are freed from the penalty of sin for all time and eternity.
A second aspect of eternal life is growing and maturing in Christ (John 12:25). This aspect of eternal life is called sanctification, that is, being made free from the daily power of sin. Sanctification is a lifelong process of growth and maturity, with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, as we walk with Jesus in a living relationship (John 17:3).
The third aspect of eternal life is called glorification, or freedom from the world of sin. This is a future reality to be experienced in the heavenly presence of God. As we draw on our living relationship with Christ in the present, we are storing up eternal rewards in the future. Eternal life enhances our present living, but also enriches our future entrance into the eternal kingdom (2 Pet 1:3-11).
Being Deeply Rooted in God’s Life
We are spiritually nourished and matured by internalizing the Scriptures, and thus growing in understanding the mind of God. As Christians we enjoy the privilege of living in the power of the Holy Spirit and thus experiencing the unfathomable depths of our rich relationship as God’s own adopted people. As we remain in fellowship with Christ through prayer, the busyness of the day takes on new significance. We now live purposefully, seeking ways in which Christ may use our lives to serve those around us in the world: “to be spiritually minded is life [zōē] and peace” (Rom 8:6).
Drawing upon the reality of Christ in us, we experience purpose, worship, praise, and spiritual perception. We are motivated toward holy living and godly service, in which we find the true goal of life. We then are able to be joyful in times of peace, and to stand firm during times of storm, because our roots reach deeply into the very life of God.
Dr. T. Kem Oberholtzer is Associate Professor of Bible at Phoenix Seminary. He received his Th.D. in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary. Kem and his wife Jan live in Scottsdale, AZ with their son Luke.