SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Eternal Life is God’s Gift to All Who Embrace Jesus as Lord
1 John 5:1-12
Key Verse: This is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. – 1 John 5:11
“Victory in Jesus” has become one of the most beloved hymns of many Christians. The melody lingers in your heart. The words reflect the central teaching of the New Testament about Jesus:
O victory in Jesus, my Savior forever!
He sought me and bought me
with his redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew him,
and all my love is due him;
He plunged me to victory
beneath the cleansing flood.
I believe the Apostle John would have loved this hymn. Even now as John hears us singing it, I can imagine him somewhere in heaven clapping his hands, patting his foot, and saying “Amen” to the song’s basic truth. There is victory in Jesus, and only in Jesus. That is exactly what John wrote about in his three epistles. Unless we embrace Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins, we cut ourselves off from God the Father and his gift of eternal life.
God is the author of life. He is life. He gives life. But eternal life he gives only to those who trust Jesus by believing that he is the Son of God. Only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. This life is in Jesus the Son. No one can come to the Father except through the Son. This is John’s testimony verified by the testimony of the Spirit. We are losers without Jesus. With him, in him, and through him, we become winners.
John speaks of the “victory that conquers the world, our faith.” We know that the flesh is at war with the spirit. We experience that every day of our lives. The lusts of the flesh have the power to defeat us – unless we can overcome them through victory in Jesus. So John asks, who can conquer the world? His emphatic answer is: The winner is “the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”!
For many years I believed that the best way to be “born again” was to come to an altar, at the end of a persuasive gospel sermon, and in tears accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Spirit enlarged my understanding. I began to see that much more than an emotional response to the gospel is necessary.
We can cry at an altar because we feel guilty about our sins. We are truly sorry that we have made a mess of our lives. But to be truly born again one must truly respond to God with the will and the mind. The emotional response of the heart is not enough. We must become willing for God to change us; to do this we must give up trying to change ourselves. God cannot change us as long we continue to believe we can become different through self-improvement.
John makes it crystal clear how to recognize those who are truly born of God: 1) they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; 2) they love God and one another; and 3) they obey the commands of God. These are the essential characteristics of the true believer.
Everything hinges on what we believe about Jesus and how we are related to him. Refuse to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, and you call God a liar. God has given us his own testimony: that He has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son Jesus. We receive eternal life only one way – by trusting Jesus as the Son, receiving Jesus into our hearts, and surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus in every aspect of our lives.
It all boils down to the question, “Who’s the Boss?” For true believers Jesus is the Boss. When Jesus becomes everything to us, he shares the power of God with us, the power to conquer the temptations of the world. We are able to grow in our capacity to love God and one another.
Our love for things diminishes and our love for God increases. Obeying the commands of God becomes a delight where once it was a duty. We find ourselves wanting to please God more and more, and relinquishing our need to be center stage. Simply put, we become more Christlike in our behavior and our motives.
The purpose of today’s lesson is to encourage gratitude for God’s gift of eternal life in Jesus the Son. Surely our hearts do swell with thanksgiving when we realize anew that God’s underserved gift of life in Jesus begins now and continues forever. Without that precious gift we are cut off forever from the life of God – and forever is a very long time!
Thank God for Jesus and for the free gift of life we receive when we surrender to his Lordship! That reality triggers an emotional response in me far greater than the one my sins triggered that night at an altar long ago! It confirms for me that victory in Jesus is more than I ever dreamed when I first confessed Jesus as Lord! So much more than I can only shout with gratitude: Thanks be to God! Glory!
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