“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV)
Yesterday we learned from this verse that whosoever believes in the Son “has eternal life” precisely because one obeys the Son. One who “does not obey the Son” is under God’s wrath instead of life. There is one more thing worth our consideration here. Many who believe one is saved “by faith alone” also believe in the impossibility of apostasy (“once saved, always saved”). However, if it is true that once the believer has eternal life he will always have life and never lose it – even if he becomes disobedient – then it necessarily follows the disobedient unbeliever can never escape the wrath of God that “remains on him.” To believe “once saved, always saved,” one must (according to this view of John 3:36) also believe “once lost, always lost.” (We are aware Calvinistic theology accepts these conclusions.) However, the gospel does not. It is for all (Mk. 16:15). God desires the salvation of every sinner (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Freewill enables us to choose to hear, believe, and obey the gospel to be saved (Acts 2:21-22, 37-41; 17:30). It also allows us to choose to sin and fall from grace (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). Security in Christ is sure when we obey in faith: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36, NKJV)
It is unfortunate the King James translators in 1611 used “believeth not” in the second part of this sentence. The New King James version followed suit, using the more modern, “does not believe.” But, the word in the Greek manuscript is apeitheō, which means “disobey” (BDAG), as in Romans 2:8 where the KJV and NKJV translate it, “do not obey” the truth. When the word is properly translated, John 3:36 takes on a whole new meaning: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV, see also, NASB). Obedience is necessary to have everlasting life. Since the one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who does not obey the Son “shall not see life,” we properly conclude that believing in the Son takes more than faith alone. Surely this why Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) Believers obey Jesus. Those who reject Him are “disobedient (apeitheō) to the word” (1 Pet. 2:7, 8). Demons believe, but faith alone will not give them eternal life (Jas. 2:19-20). Those who believe in the Son have everlasting life precisely because they trust and obey Him. The disobedient shall not have life, but punishment (Matt. 25:46). Have the faith to obey Jesus, and you will see everlasting life.
51 “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” 52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:51–53, NKJV)
Jesus confidently taught that anyone who keeps His word will not die (“never see death”). Later, Jesus comforted Martha with this same truth following the death of her brother Lazarus: “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26). Jesus was talking about escaping spiritual death, but His accusers could only think in physical terms. So, they charged Him with being possessed and controlled by a demon. It is false and futile to separate obeying Jesus from having eternal life, since Jesus linked obedience with victory over death. (Even His enemies understood Him to say people who obey Him would not die.) Why do so many teach that people “shall never see death” with faith only? This doctrine convinces millions that obeying Jesus is not necessary for salvation. Yet, Jesus said it is. We know who Jesus is, even though His enemies rejected Him and His teaching. He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:49, 54-55). Therefore, we believe what He said, and endeavor to keep His word to escape eternal death (Rom. 6:23).
“then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
We all need rescuing from the powerful surge of sin that sweeps souls away from God into eternal punishment. God delivers sinners from sin’s bondage and death through the gospel of His Son (Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18; 6:23). God also knows how to deliver godly ones from the trials and temptations they face from “the unjust.” God both delivers the godly while reserving the ungodly for punishment. God “did not spare the angels who sinned,” but cast them into the abyss awaiting judgment (2 Pet. 2:4). God punished the ancient world with a flood while saving Noah and his family (2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). God turned Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes because they “gave themselves over to sexual immorality” and had “gone after strange flesh” (2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). In that moment of judgment God delivered righteous Lot from being “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7-8). These examples serve to boost and secure our faith in moments of doubt and spiritual struggle. God does not abandon the righteous, nor does He forget the wicked (2 Thess. 1:4-10). The Lord’s day of judgment is coming when the unjust will reap their just punishment. The gospel call from God is to repent while you have the time and the ability to do so. Do not harden your heart. God does not want you to perish, He wants you to repent and obey Him to be delivered from sin’s terrible penalty of eternal death (2 Pet. 3:9).
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20–21, NKJV)
Citizenship identifies a person as a legal member of a nation. It qualifies that person to participate in the rights and privileges of that nation. In contrast to “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (“whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their minds on earthly things,” Phil. 3:18-19), Christians are qualified “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). By faith, we eagerly wait for the Savior’s return, living in hope of the glorious resurrection in anticipation of our heavenly estate (Heb. 11:14-16). Christ will subdue (subjugate, defeat) death in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Kingdom citizens will be delivered up to God the Father to dwell forever in the eternal city of God (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Rev. 21:22-27). These great assurances compel the wise and faithful of heart to answer the gospel call to be saved, to become citizens of heaven (Acts 2:37-41; Col. 1:13). Christians set their minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). Let us live for the glory of heaven daily, not for things that end in destruction.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV)
Paul felt a moral obligation to always thank God for his brethren. His reasons for giving thanks for them gives us guidance for being thankful for one another. Paul was thankful for them because they were loved by the Lord. Let us be thankful for our brethren because they share in God’s love. Paul was thankful because his brethren were the recipients of God’s eternal purpose of salvation. God chose to save sinners in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1:4). His plan of “sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” is fulfilled in each person who believes and obeys the gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:34-35). Because Christians share in salvation it fills our hearts with thankful prayers as we meditate on the rich blessings of God’s eternal love.
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:25–28, NKJV)
Jesus Christ is reigning at the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21). He is King today, and will continue to reign until death – the “last enemy” – is destroyed at the resurrection of the dead. Only God the Father, who gave all authority to the Son, and to whom the kingdom will be delivered, is exempt from being under the Son’s powerful authority (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23). Christ’s return will be the grand summation of God’s plan of human redemption. The delivery of the kingdom to God the Father will usher in the everlasting kingdom in which righteousness dwells and over which God will reign forever and ever (2 Peter 1:11; 3:13; Revelation 21:22-22:5). The gospel calls us to submit to the authority of Christ with full, obedient faith. By doing so we are preparing to live with Him forever when He returns (John 14:1-6).