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Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of John’

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

One of the awesome things one gets from attempting to learn the Greek is a greater sensitivity to the nuances in the original language.  In this passage, the verb ‘metabaino’ (to pass over, pass through, enter) is not vague or at all ambiguous.  It is in the perfect tense, which indicates “that the action is completed with a resulting state” (S.M. Baugh).

So all of us who have heard Christ’s word and believed him have “passed over” from death into life. Think completed action with a resultant state! In other words, it’s a done deal! There is a very real and profound sense in which we have already entered through the portal of the eschaton! Of course, at present this remains a spiritual reality. Our bodies wait and grown until it becomes a physical reality as well. Calvin comments on this passage quite helpfully.

We ought always to consider what it is that the Gospel offers to us; for we need not wonder that he who receives Christ with all his merits is reconciled to God, and acquitted of the condemnation of death; and that he who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit is clothed with a heavenly righteousness, that he may walk in newness of life….

And shall not come into condemnation. There is here an implied contrast between the guilt to which we are all naturally liable, and the unconditional acquittal which we obtain through Christ; for if all were not liable to condemnation, what purpose would it serve to free from it those who believe in Christ? The meaning therefore is, that we are beyond the danger of death, because we are acquitted through the grace of Christ; and, therefore, though Christ sanctifies and regenerates us, by his Spirit, to newness of life, yet here he specially mentions the unconditional forgiveness of sins, in which alone the happiness of men consists. For then does a man begin to live when he has God reconciled to him; and how would God love us, if he did not pardon our sins?

But hath passed. Some Latin copies have this verb in the future tense, WILL PASS from death to life; but this has arisen from the ignorance and rashness of some person who, not understanding the meaning of the Evangelist, has taken more liberty than he ought to have taken; for the Greek word metabe÷bhke (hath passed) has no ambiguity whatever. There is no impropriety in saying that we have already passed from death to life; for the incorruptible seed of life (1 Peter 1:23) resides in the children of God, and they already sit in the heavenly glory with Christ by hope, (Colossians 3:3,) and they have the kingdom of God already established within them, (Luke 17:21.) For though their life be hidden, they do not on that account cease to possess it by faith; and though they are besieged on every side by faith, they do not cease to be calm on this account, that they know that they are in perfect safety through the protection of Christ. Yet let us remember that believers are now in life in such a manner that they always carry about with them the cause of death; but the Spirit, who dwells in us, is life, which will at length destroy the remains of death; for it is a true saying of Paul, that “death is the last enemy that shall be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26.).

And, indeed, this passage contains nothing that relates to the complete destruction of death, or the entire manifestation of life. But though life be only begun in us, Christ declares that believers are so certain of obtaining it, that they ought not to fear death; and we need not wonder at this, since they are united to him who is the inexhaustible fountain of life.

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In John 10:28 we have the very comforting words of Christ regarding his sheep: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Calvin comments:

It is an inestimable fruit of faith, that Christ bids us be convinced of our security when we are brought by faith into his fold. But we must also observe on what foundation this certainty rests. It is because he will be a faithful guardian of our salvation, for he testifies that our salvation is in his hand And if this were not enough, he says that they will be safely guarded by the power of his Father. This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that the salvation of all the elect is not less certain than the power of God is invincible.

Besides, Christ did not intend to throw this word foolishly into the air, but to give a promise which should remain deeply axed in their minds; and, therefore, we infer that the statement of Christ is intended to show that the elect are absolutely certain of their salvation. We are surrounded, indeed, by powerful adversaries, and so great is our weakness, that we are every moment in imminent danger of death; but as He who keeps what we have committed to him (2 Timothy 1:12) is greater or more powerful than all, we have no reason to tremble as if our life were in danger.

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