The Privileges of Believers, and
the Destitution of the Wicked
by William Nicholson, 1862
"He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:12
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John 3:36
Human life is but as a vapor that continues for a short time, and then passes away. While the body is daily giving symptoms of decay and approaching dissolution — how important that the soul should possess spiritual life, which is the preparation for, and the very pledge of, eternal life beyond the grave. He who has this life is happy indeed. He can say like the Psalmist, "Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you!" Psalm 63:3.
Spiritual life is better than temporal life . . .
with all its luxurious abundance,
with all its immense property,
with all its honors and dignities,
with all its scepters, crowns, palaces, and regal pomp.
I. The Privilege of the Christian:"He who has the Son has life."
The word "life" means a state of active existence, the very opposite of death. When it is applied to a Christian, it indicates a previous state the very reverse of his present one, and that he became the subject of a mighty renovation by the Spirit of God.
1. Consider his previous state. He had no life. He was dead, and this is the character of all the unregenerate.
(1.) He was spiritually dead; that is, all the powers of the soul were dead to God and his service, Ephesians 2:1, etc.; 1 Timothy 5:6; Ephesians 5:14.
(2.) He was legally dead; that is, in a state of condemnation, having no prospect, but the blackness of darkness forever. Romans 5:15, 18, 21; 6:23.
(3.) He had not the Son; that is, he had no proper knowledge of Christ as the Savior; he saw not the necessity of such a Savior; he believed he could save himself; he had no relish for Christ.
2. Consider his present state. "He who has the Son," Having the Son in possession, implies,
(1.) That Christ is the gift of God, that he might be the portion of those who believe, John 3:16. Christ came from Heaven, became man, lived and died, rose and ascended — not for himself, but for his people. As the head does not exist for itself, but for the body, and the stock for the branches — so Christ did nothing, suffered nothing, for himself, but for us.
(2.) That Christ is the fountain of life, and the medium of its communication to believers. He is the fountain of natural, spiritual, and eternal life, John 1:4; 11:25; Psalm 36:9. He is called life, 1 John 1:2; he is the "bread of life." John 6:48-51. He is the Author of eternal life, Hebrews 5:9; Colossians 3:3,4. He is our life, our Heaven, our all, Psalm 16:11. Christ is the medium of life and salvation to sinners. It is by his sacrificial death, that life is obtained and bestowed. Voluntarily becoming our substitute, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich!" 2 Corinthians 8:9
He obeyed the law, and magnified it, by becoming its victim. He turned the weapon of Divine justice upon himself. He opened a way by which the sinner may receive a title, and a fitness for eternal life. It is further implied,
(3.) That Christ has been received by faith. For that which is here taught is true only of those who believe, and they only have the hope of eternal life. This faith supposes that the sinner has been awakened from spiritual death by the quickening influence of the Spirit, by which he has seen his danger, and trembled like the Jailor; and that Christ has been revealed to his soul as the Almighty Savior upon whom he has cast his imperishable spirit for life and salvation.
He who values and chooses the world as his portion, can have no part in Christ, for it is impossible to serve two masters, etc. Faith in Christ includes a renunciation of all things for his sake, and we shall not otherwise be accounted worthy of him.
(4.) Having the Son is indispensable. It must precede having life here, and life eternal, John 17:3. As Christ, the gift of God, takes precedence of all other blessings, both in point of magnitude, and in the order of time — so the reception of Christ must take the lead of all the rest. The branch must be united to the vine, before it can derive life and nourishment from it; and union with Christ must in the order of things precede every other blessing.
(5.) "Having the Son," leads to the possession of life. "He who has the Son has life." Then God delights to bestow every spiritual blessing in reward of Christ's obedience. Those who received Christ, are treated as being his brethren. God has made a covenant of life with them, through Christ, and given them all things for his sake. 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.
The privilege of "having life," is a very glorious and comprehensive one. It implies that believers have become the subjects of a spiritual life. They have been raised from the dead, Colossians 3:1; Ephesians 2:1; Romans 6:4,5. The powers of the soul are now awake, and directed to spiritual matters. The world has become vanity and vexation of spirit — and they are no longer conformed to it, but transformed, etc.
The understanding is enlightened,
the judgment is informed,
the will is submissive, and
the affections center in Christ and Heaven.
It is a life of holy liberty, being freely justified by Christ, Romans 5:1; 8:1, etc. It is a life of holiness — of peace — of joy — of glorious hope, etc.
But this life is prospective. It is eternal life. The commencement of this life is on earth, when a man is accepted in the Beloved. Hence the beautiful statement of Christ, "But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14.
Spiritual life here is the sensible pledge of eternal life in Heaven, 2 Corinthians 1:22; Romans 8:23. These passages intimate the assurance given by the Spirit of adoption to believers of their inheritance in Heaven. For as the first fruits were pledges to the Jews of the ensuing crop; and as he who receives the pledge is sure to have the full sum paid him, or the full bargain made good, when the person who gives it is honest and faithful — so the graces wrought in the soul by the Spirit of God, or the believer's spiritual life on earth, are pledges of that abundance and fullness of joy and felicity realized by perfected spirits in glory.
But this spiritual life here, with all its enjoyments and foretastes, is but a handful compared with the full harvest — but a drop from the ocean, etc.
Eternal life in Heaven will consist in emancipation from the world with all its conflicts and sorrows — in deliverance from all sin, and all its effects. It will be a life of residence where God dwells, and angels, and perfected spirits, and eternal companionship with them all a life of inconceivable enjoyment, arising from the communication of Divine light to the mind — the explanation of Divine mysteries in creation, providence, and grace, etc.
II. The Destitution of the Wicked:"He who does not have the Son of God does not have life." Observe:
1. He has not the Son of God for his portion; and this is the source of his destitution here, and his misery hereafter. To have the Son, is to have all that is essential to our spiritual and eternal happiness; to have him not, is to be "without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world." To have him not, is to be destitute of the title to, the fitness for, and the pledge of Heaven.
(1.) Some people are wholly indifferent to having the Son, and speak of it as a matter of no importance. They shut their eyes against the light. So did the Jews, Acts 28:27. So also do modern deists, and many others who are called Christians. They renounce the leading doctrines of the Gospel, because they do not suit their pride and self-sufficiency.
(2.) Some are full of self-righteous pride, and will not have the Son except in conjunction with their self-righteousness. Romans 10:3.
(3.) Some are so entranced by sensual and worldly pleasure, that they have no mind for Christ. Having not discovered their sinfulness and wretchedness, and the power of Christ to save — it is no wonder that they should follow the course of this world.
(4.) Some deny Scripture altogether, and therefore have not the Son. And what is the consequence of all such conduct?
2. They have not life. They have not that spiritual life before mentioned. They have not the hope of eternal life. This is very evident —
(1.) From the statements of Scripture, and the constitution of the Gospel. No one can go to Heaven without Christ the way. John 14:6; 10:1; 1 Corinthians 3:11.
(2.) Because they have not the necessary fitness and relish for Heaven. "Without holiness, no one will see the Lord!" Revelation 21:27, and also verse 8. They are unjustified, unsanctified.
(3.) Consequently they have no hope of eternal life, "But only a fearful expectation of judgment, and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God!" Hebrews 10:27. Romans 2:5, 6; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8.
1. How great the happiness of the Christian! He "has the Son," and "has life," and this is an ample portion. Everything is Christ's, for he is heir of all things — and if we have him, all things become ours!
Hence David could say, "Your loving kindness is better than life!" And he knew life in its widest extremes, and had reached its loftiest pinnacle. Though his palace was magnificent, his throne glorious, his scepter mighty, his dominions vast, his subjects numerous, his treasures full — yet he deliberately declares, "Your loving kindness is better than life!" "Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you!" Psalm 63:3
2. Let the sinner seriously reflect upon his state of destitution. "He who does not have the Son of God does not have life!" No matter what else you have, whether it be wealth, or honor, or even the greatest stock of good works — all will avail nothing; there will be no real or substantial good in this world, and none in the world to come, without Christ.
3. Before your natural life is over, receive Christ by faith. Are you sensible of your destitute state — pray for the Spirit's influence to lead you to spiritual life here, and to possess you with the hope of eternal life.