"As the Father has life in Himself, even so
gave He to the Son to have life in Himself." John 5:26.
"In Him was life." John 1:4.
"I live because of the Father; so he that eats Me... shall live because of Me." John 6:57.
"Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given Him, He should give eternal life." John 17:2.
"And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." 1 John 5:11.
"I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore." Rev. 1:17-18.
In the previous chapter we dealt with the first resource we have in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we saw that it is an open heaven. Now we come to the second resource: the possession of a heavenly Life.
In the first portion of Scripture we have read, the statement is made that the Father has given to the Son to have Life in Himself, "in Him was Life." The second passage in John 1:4 shows us the outworking of that Life. "In Him was Life; and the Life was the light of men." The third passage brings before us the relationship of that life to the Father. The Lord Jesus said: "I live because of the Father." This means that His life was based upon a special relationship He had with the Father. The last portion in John 17:2 shows us that He has authority to give Life. "Thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that to all whom thou hast given him, he should give eternal Life."
Now the giving forth of that Life, and the outworking of it in others is shown us in 1 John 5:11-12, where we read: "And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal Life, and this Life is in His Son. He that has the Son has the Life." Finally, Revelation 1 brings us to the place where that Life is challenged and tested as to its reality. The Lord Jesus said: "I am the first and the last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." In the Cross of the Lord Jesus that Life was challenged. Hell had risen to quench that Life. There was a terrific conflict with the forces of death. But the Life in Him overcame death, because it was an indestructible Life. Death had no power over that Life. Although He went down into the realm of death, He overcame death, for "it was impossible that he should be holden of it." He has the keys of death and of Hades. Keys are the symbol of authority. Now the Lord Jesus is in possession of them. That authority is based upon eternal Life which, through Him, has conquered death.
We will now look at the meaning of each of these verses, and consider them a little more closely.
Let us first note that the Life in our Lord Jesus Christ was a distinguishing factor. It made Christ unique among men. He was different from all the rest of God's creation. It was a life peculiar to Christ. In this sense it was possible to say of Him what could not be said of any other being of the creation: that "in Him was Life". The Lord knew that there was a great difference between Him and others. Men were conscious that there was something in Him which was altogether different to them, and which they could not explain. That difference had nothing to do with education or social position, because it did not belong to the natural realm. It was of the spiritual realm, and could only be attributed to the Life which was in Him. That divine Life energised His mind so that it was not only superior to others, but different in its kind, although He always was a match to others intellectually. The secret was spiritual vision. The greatest religious authorities in Jerusalem tried to catch Him to lead Him into a trap. But He always escaped them, because His mind was energised by the divine Life ministered to Him by the divine Spirit. How often His adversaries stood before Him dumbfounded! How often they wondered at His wisdom saying: "How knows this man letters, having never learned."
He was superior with regard to both mind and heart. He was energised by that divine Life in His sympathy and compassion which were greater than those of any man. His love was a different love. He suffered much at the hands of men, but He never lost His compassion. Even though He knew that Jerusalem was going to crucify Him, He wept over the city saying: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem...". His heart was moved with compassion and longsuffering towards His own. Did they themselves not testify of Him: "He loved His own that were in the world and He loved them unto the end". Did they deserve such love? One of them denied Him. Yet He never lost His compassion for them or for Peter. His heart and His sympathies were maintained on the high level of His Father's love.
As to His will, His actions were energised by this Life from above, and as to His confidence He held on through every trial. He never doubted His Father's faithfulness.
It would take hours to follow up the outworkings in the unique life and nature of our Lord Jesus. During forty days after His resurrection, He sought to establish His disciples in showing Himself alive by many infallible proofs, eating and drinking with them. But the fiftieth day was the greatest day going beyond facts, when He made Himself an inward reality to them. When the 50th day came, "when the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled", the risen Lord came in order to dwell in the hearts of His disciples to be their Life, their power; the new creation of God. Upon the basis of Christ in them they were constituted His witnesses.
Ministry in the Spirit is a testimony of Life. If our ministry is not a testimony, it is not a true ministry. The heart of ministry is Christ in us, an expression of His resurrection. We have to reveal Christ as the Life, for in Him was Life. When we thus minister Christ, He will become manifest through us as light and liberty. The Lord said: "Ye shall know the truth." That is light. "And the truth shall make you free". That is liberty. Ministry is not a matter of words, but through words an impartation of Christ. It is not information about Christ, or beautiful addresses. Ministry is a showing forth of the Lord Jesus, a manifestation of Christ through us, as the risen Lord.
That is the ministry of the church. The assembly of the Lord is called to minister Life, and livingly testify to that Life in them. When we gather together in the Name of the Lord it ought to mean Life for us. Where the assembling of the Lord's people is a coming together in His Life, it always means a fresh energising of His Life in them, a renewing of strength. Our mind is quickened, the clouds are lifted, even the body comes into the good of the fulness of that Life. Perhaps some of the Lord's people come together at the end of a day, physically tired, worn out or discouraged. If their coming together is in the Spirit of Life which is in Christ Jesus, even their bodies will be quickened. They will be renewed physically, mentally and spiritually, so that they can go away from the gathering refreshed and full of joy, because they have met together in Life. That is altogether different from just sitting in a meeting and listening to a message. So often the ministry of the Word is left to the preacher, and the people are waiting to get something from him, hoping it may be sufficiently interesting to keep them awake. No one is contributing anything. There is no laying hold of Christ's Life unitedly. It is just the same old business as ever, beginning with the hope of getting somewhere, and ever ending in disappointment.
Now, the Lord knew that the enemy would seek to hide the fact of His resurrection. He knew that the supreme attack would rage around the assurance of His being alive among His own. Therefore He tarried so long with them to establish in them the testimony of His resurrection to make them His witnesses. But the means and methods of the enemy are innumerable. One of his wiles is two-sided. Either he succeeds to surround you with an atmosphere of spiritual death, where everything seems to be utterly dead and faith is tried to become empty and unreal, or he brings in a false life. He uses Scripture and seeks to stir up the emotions in a highly strung atmosphere where a great psychical force is at work to produce miracles similar to those of the Spirit; however, they are but lies and signs of deception.
The only way of knowing whether a thing is of God or not, is to ask ourselves: does this minister Christ to us? What matters is not to stir up the emotions, but to see to it that there is an increase of Christ. It is not to hold on to an experience, but to have wrought into us an inward knowledge of Christ. The test of all is whether Christ is ministered to us or not. How near is spiritual death! There is a constant conflict going on around us against the risen Life of the Lord. It is spiritual death against spiritual life. Death is the most persistent, the last of all our enemies, "The last enemy that shall be abolished is death."
We have to maintain our faith in the fact that Jesus Christ is risen, that in Him we have Life, a new Life, the very Life of God, eternal Life.
Then there is the cooperation of faith. We have to make room for that Life in us. There is nothing more fatal than a passive attitude, a state of introspection. Life is active. Wherever we touch faith, there will and must be, active love. Faith is always active, for love cannot be merely passive. It may not always be outward activity. Sometimes that activity may just be an attitude of spirit, a waiting state, which is holding on tenaciously, believing that God's triumph is sure, that His faithfulness cannot fail.
Our life is not something merely abstract. It is the Life which is in Christ, a Life in fellowship with Him. And because we are in touch with the living person of Christ, the same resources of the invisible world are available for us upon which He was drawing, "In Him was Life." Therefore we are full of thanks and unspeakable joy that "God gave unto us eternal Life, and that this Life is in His Son".
May the Lord Himself teach us the meaning and value of His resurrection Life as the secret spring of an ever-flowing resource of our life.