JOHN’S DESCRIPTION OF LIFE
Both John and Paul taught that Christ is a Person for us to live. John’s presentation, however, is stronger than Paul’s. Yes, Paul did say, “Christ our life” (Col. 3:4); “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20); and “to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).
Notice John’s language in 1 John 1:1-3a about life: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us.”
What was it that the apostles declared? John here does not use the word gospel. Rather, what they declared was life. He describes life as “that which was from the beginning,” which they have heard, seen, and touched of the Word of life. This life, John says, was manifested and was seen by them; now they are declaring it to others.
LIFE BEING A PERSON
What life is this? Was John presenting a doctrine? Was it the gospel? This life is a wonderful Person, indescribable in human language. John could say only “that which” when he referred to Him! This Person was with the Father from eternity. He was manifested and handled by the apostles, who then declared Him as life.
Surely it is a strange message which says that a person is life. In our natural thinking we do not consider life as a person. Life is one thing; a person is another. A person has life, but we do not say that he is life. John boldly declared—he does not say preached or taught—this life, who is a Person.
John clearly says that this One who is life is ours. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:11-13). If we have the Son, where does He dwell?
A PERSON TO BE EXPERIENCED
Our opposers claim that Christ is in the heavens. Subjective experience many of them will not acknowledge. Not too long ago, someone asked them, “What does the Bible mean when it says that we should abide in Christ, and that He should abide in us?” Here is the way they answered: “This does not mean that we really dwell in Christ, nor that Christ actually dwells in us. It is a figurative way of indicating a close relationship.” Why do they feel the need to come up with an explanation like this? It is because their Christ is only in the heavens. They reject what they regard as our teaching that Christ is in us; such a teaching to them is too experiential. Such a position leaves them with some Bible verses to be reconciled. Thus they must come up with this weak interpretation that abiding in Christ simply means being close to Him. If Christ is in the heavens and we are on earth, how could they call that a close relationship?
John boldly tells us that this life which we have received is Christ Himself and that He is in us.
Doctrinal debate does not interest me. I want to know about your practical experience. Since you have received this One as your life, by whom do you live? You may doctrinally answer that you live by Christ, but in your daily living how many hours is this really your experience? It must be a rare person who lives by the Lord more than one or two hours out of the twenty-four. Every day I find I must ask the Lord’s forgiveness that I did not live Him as I should have. I did not do anything outwardly sinful. I did not do anything others would consider wrong. Nonetheless, I did not live Him sufficiently.
When the Apostle John wrote this Epistle, the believers were being confronted with arguments about who Christ was. His last writing, the book of Revelation, was not even officially accepted as a book of the Bible until A.D. 397 at the Third Council of Carthage. Thus you can see that John’s mending ministry, because it was somewhat mysterious, was not quickly and properly recognized. Even today some Christian teachers avoid Revelation, and many so-called fundamentalists use John’s Gospel and Epistles superficially.
The very Christ in whom we have believed is Himself our life. We must live Him, not ourselves. Even though I myself have been practicing this for many years, I still have to confess my shortcomings to the Lord day after day. Rather than living Him, I all too often live according to my background, my culture, my characteristics, my habits, and even my spiritual attainments. While we condemn those who deny the subjective experience of Christ, we ourselves, who have received so much light concerning Christ as our life, do not live Him adequately.
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:14-15).
The life that we have received should have an expression. In the third chapter the life is expressed in love for the brothers.
In the fourth chapter we are told that “God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (v. 9). The word live here includes the thought both of “live” and “have life.”
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (5:4). “Whatsoever is born of God” refers not to a person, but to the part within us which is born of God. It is this part born of God which overcomes the world.
“If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death” (5:16a). If we see a brother sin, we need to pray for him; then he will receive life.
From these verses we can see that the life John is referring to is something substantial, not vague or up in the air. This substantial matter is the Lord Jesus Himself, the embodiment of the Triune God. We have the Triune God within us as our life. Life is not nebulous; it is the Triune God as our person. We must live by this life. Then we can express it in love and minister it to others who need it.
Life should not be a term we lightly use. We must realize that this life is in actuality the Triune God Himself. We must not be deceived by the blinding teaching that God is merely objective. God is both objective and subjective. He is so subjective that He has become our life.
If my subjective being is removed from me, then my life is gone. Without my subjective existence, I am dead. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit have become life to us because of the process They have gone through. This divine Person in a subjective way has become life to us. He is our life! We must live by Him. We must live Him. In the coming messages we shall speak further on how we can do this.
(The Mending Ministry of John, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)