While I’m persuaded that all who believe in Jesus receive eternal life, my pastor’s heart isn’t at all satisfied when someone believes in Jesus.
While it’s true that they are going to heaven when they die, I know that there’s so much more life for them to experience with the Lord Jesus this side of heaven.
This is why I make sure someone I’m discipling understands the difference between belief and abiding.
The epistle of 1 John makes it clear that eternal life comes through believing in Christ (1 John 5:13), but intimacy with Him and effectiveness for him (1 John 1:3) come through abiding in Him (1 John 1:4).
Moving from Belief to Abiding
Assurance of eternal life comes by believing in Christ (John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:9-13). The Greek word pisteuo, “believe” means to trust, to have confidence in, and it occurs over 100 times in the writings of John.
Assurance of continuing fellowship (intimacy, effectiveness) comes by abiding. Though the believer’s ongoing trust and obedience have nothing to do with earning salvation from God, they have everything to do with enjoying fellowship with God (1 John 1:6). The Greek word meno, “abide” means endure without yielding, to bear patiently, to remain stable. In relationships it means to be comfortable in the relationship and it occurs 54 times in the writings of John—34 times in his Gospel (11 in John 15) and 20 times in 1 John.
Over the years Judy and I have had thousands of acquaintances and hundreds of friends. But there are a few of these friendships we would classify as our “abiding friendships.” We’re totally open with these friends. There are no secrets. We share our fears, our doubts, our heartaches, our dreams and our joys. I believe this is the depth of relationship Jesus is offering those who will trust him enough to abide in his love.
When we abide in fellowship with Christ, we bear much fruit, we have confidence in our conversations with the Father, and experience a special joy (John 15:1-11).
John’s first concern for those he had discipled and pastored was that they abide in Christ (1 John 1:5-10) so that they would not sin (1 John 2:1).
Eternal life is a lot better than most Christians realize. It’s not simply quantitative (lasting forever), it’s also qualitative (sharing the life of God in community).
Question: Why do you feel the popular church so under-defines eternal life as only getting us to heaven when we die?