Aug 27

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John 3:36 + I John 2:25 = The Truth

Upon one occasion, I received a letter challenging my belief concerning the possibility that a Christian can fall from grace. He was asking how it could be that I could read John 3:36a and still claim that a Christian does not presently and actually possess eternal life while living on earth. The following is my response. I hope it may be of help in your discussions.

Dear ___________,
John 3:36a reads, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life.” That is what it says. Now, the crucial question is: Does this mean that the Christian has actual, literal possession of eternal life right now while on earth–or –does it mean that the Christian has the promise to be given eternal life at the second coming of Christ?
These are the only two alternatives that can possibly be the meaning of this verse. Only one can be correct. Both cannot be true. If the first is correct, then a Christian cannot fall from grace. If the second is correct, then a Christian can fall from grace and lose his promise of eternal life, and thus, lose eternal life.
The Bible is its own best commentary. What does it say elsewhere about eternal life? Does one have it as an actual present possession, or does one have it as a promise?
I John 2:25 states, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” First, notice that He is talking to Christians (I John 2:12). Thus, it was a promise made to Christians. Second, notice that he is talking about eternal life. Last, notice he tells us that it is a promise.
A promise is something that we do not actually and presently possess, but we are assured to get it at a future date.
An example of this found in the Bible is in Exodus 12:25. Here, as in I John 2:25, it is God making a promise (to give the land of Canaan) to His people. Did they have actual possession of the land right then and there? Were they actually in Canaan the moment He made the promise? No. Another 40 years passed until the promise was realized. In like manner, God made a promise to us (eternal life) which will not be obtained until some future date.
Another thing to notice is that while all those in Exodus 12:25 received the promise, not all received the fulfillment of the promise. Why? The answer is found in Numbers 14:20-25. It was because they had not followed His commands. Likewise, if Christians (who have received the promise of eternal life) do not obey God, they too will not receive actual possession of eternal life. “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: On them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, If thou continue in His goodness: Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Rom. 11:22).
In John 3:36, we find that we have eternal life; in I John 2:25, we find that we have the promise of eternal life; when these two verses are harmonized (for they cannot contradict), we find that we have eternal life in promise–a promise which the fulfillment of is dependent upon our obedience to God’s Word.
I hope that this has been of help

Sincerely, Gary Henson

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