“This is the true God, and eternal life.” - 1 John v. 20.
That this testimony is given by the inspired apostle concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, we presume but few if any will dispute, since there is no other character or being found in heaven or earth to whom we can apply these titles without involving the sin of blasphemy. The whole theme of John in this epistle, as well as in all his writings, was to bear record or testimony of him, and to show by the most indisputable testimony that he is as here declared, the true God, and eternal life. It is highly important that the children of God should be instructed in regard to his being, his attributes, his fullness, and of the relationship subsisting between him and them; and to meet this necessity the Holy Ghost inspired John to write unto the scattered family of God that they may have fellowship with each other, and that their joy may be full. (1 John i. 1-4.)
As the doctrine declared in our text involves the fellowship of the saints one with another, and their fellowship also with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, how very important it is that we in striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace, should search diligently these Scriptures which testify of him.
Two important points are established by the declarations of our text. First, that Jesus Christ is the ·true God, and secondly, that he is the eternal life. On these two points we will offer a few remarks for the prayerful consideration of our readers.
First. He is the true God. It is not said that he is a true God, as though there were a plurality of true Gods: for the Scriptures proclaim but One living and true God: and he himself has said, “I am God, and beside me there is no other.” Hence the definite article is used to signify that Jesus Christ is the same God of whom Moses testified unto Israel saying, The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms. He is the same God who said, by Isaiah, unto the seed of Israel, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else. Yea, he is that very God who has said he will have no other god before him. He is therefore called, The only wise God, our Savior. And in our text he is also distinguished from all false gods, or imaginary deities, the true God. This descriptive characteristic, implies that there are those that are called gods, and worshiped as such, that are not true. Jesus himself testified, all that ever came before him, were thieves and robbers: and he admonished his disciples that many false christs would come, and commanded them to beware of them.
He is the true God; all others who claim that honor, or who are revered as such, are false, delusive idols, whether they be of gold or silver, or any material substance, or existing only in the vain imagination of their worshipers. But when we claim that Jesus Christ is the only true and living God, we hold that all the fullness of the eternal Godhead dwells in him. The eternal Father is in him, and he is in the Father, and he and his Father are one. The Holy Spirit of the Lord God, in all his infinity is given to him without measure or limitation; it dwells in him, and is one with him. All that constitutes the Godhead, with all the attributes and perfections belong to him, and are essential to his nature, so that in the absence of any of them, if it were possible that any of them could be absent from him, he would be disqualified to be a Savior, or to be worshiped. God has declared that he is God and beside him there is no Savior, and he has forbidden his creatures to worship any but himself, therefore in worshiping Christ, we worship none other than the true God. The Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, notwithstanding these personal distinctions by which they are severally set forth in the record of truth, are but the one only living and true God, for these three are one. In his eternal Godhead we hold therefore, in distinction from the views advanced by those who lately assailed our faith on this subject, that Christ, in his Godhead, is self-existent, independent and eternal. That his Godhead in unbegotten and underived, it is the Godhead of the Father, and of the Holy Ghost, and we would as soon think of applying derivation to the Father or Spirit, as to that fullness of the Godhead which is embodied in our Lord Christ.
Although he is the true God, equally and identically with the Father and the Holy Ghost, he also sustains and most gloriously fills a mediatorial identity, in which he is as fully identified as one with his church, as in his Godhead he is one with his Father. Hence our apostle not only declares him to be the true God, but also proclaims him as the eternal life. He himself declares, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” The scriptural record of this Eternal Life, as given by the apostle John, and by all inspired writers, finds its origin in the eternal Father; and hence its eternity. “That which was from the beginning, 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 shew 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; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” - 1 John i. 1-8. The manifestation of this eternal life which was with the Father, is represented as a begetting, a bringing forth, a setting up, and a Sonship, while its incarnation extended the manifestation to the saints on earth, so that they could see with their eyes, and handle the Word of life. Let us not forget that this Life is eternal, the manifestation is not the origination of it; for before it was manifested, it was with the Father. The begetting, or birth, is not the origination of that life which is made manifest by a birth. This eternal Life, is the Life which our Lord Jesus Christ is unto his body the church, which is the fullness of him that filleth all in all. “For me to live is Christ.” “When he who is our life shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory.” When this eternal life was manifested, of course it appeared, and in it all the saints were and are manifested in glory, even in that glory which the divine Mediator had with the Father before the world was. This is what we understand to be the eternal vitality, or immortality of the church of God. It was with the eternal Father, hid with Christ in God, and it was given unto the saints together with all that pertains to life and godliness, in the unspeakable gift of God’s dear Son, whom God has given to be the Head, Life and Immortality of the church, which is his body; all the members of which the onmiscient eye of the Father did see, yet being unperfect, and in his book all its members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there were none of them.
These views, if correct, involve what is called the doctrine of Eternal Vital Union.
That in the life of all the saints of God is one life, it is Christ, and Christ is eternal, as the Immortality of his body. The manifestation of this eternal life involves a spiritual generation, proceeding from God the Father, in manifestation of the eternal Life which was with him, and all this eternal life with all spiritual blessings, was given us in Christ Jesus, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. Hence, in the Sonship of Christ is found all our vital relationship to God. This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and the life is in his Son, so completely identified with the Sonship of Christ that he that hath the Son of God hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life. For he only hath immortality dwelling in the light. The children of God having spiritual, eternal life given them in Christ before the world began, are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; they are a seed that shall serve him, and be counted to the Lord for a generation.
This is the doctrine of the Bible on the subject of the true God, and Eternal Life, and a prominent and fundamental doctrine of the apostolic Baptists in all ages, and in all parts of the world. It sets forth Eternal, Unconditional Election, and life given to the chosen or elected people of God, before the world began. Yet there are those now, as probably there have been in past ages, who would confuse the minds of the saints, in order to rob them of the comfort which an understanding of this subject inspires. John says, These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. Satan and his legions oppose the doctrine, traduce, misrepresent and persecute those who hold, and proclaim this doctrine. Not because Satan has any hope of being able with all his allies on earth, in or out of the christian profession, to overturn or destroy it, but the joy of the saints cannot be full without the consolation of this doctrine, the object of the powers of darkness is to prevent the fullness of joy which the subject inspires.
May the Lord lead our minds by his Spirit into this and all truth, and deliver us from all error and delusions, for Jesus’ sake, and then we can well afford to bear all the reproach which may be heaped on us for the truth’s sake.
“Then let the loudest storm arise,
Let tempests mingle earth and skies,
No fatal shipwreck shall we fear,
For Christ, our life, is always near.”
January 15, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 186 - 190