L.R. Shelton, Sr.
Our subject today in our fourth study of John 3:16 is, “ETERNAL LIFE.” Let’s read our text to have it fresh in our minds,
In our first study on this text we set forth “God’s Sovereign Love.” Our second study was, “The Bondage of the Sinner’s Will, “ and our third study was, “The Lost Sinner” as set forth in the third chapter of John.
ETERNAL LIFE is the life that God gives to every child of His; He says they “HAVE EVERLASTING (eternal) LIFE.” Nearly every unsaved individual you meet today has a different, erroneous concept of what salvation is. It is because the Gospel is hid from those who are lost, blinded by the god of this world (11 Cor.4:3,4). Neither the unsaved religionist nor the man of the world can think straight; neither knows what salvation in Christ means. I met a man the other day who said, “Brother Shelton, I agree with you on nearly everything you preach except the eternal security of the believer.” He says this because he does not know what salvation is.
Our text, John 3:16 says, Whosoever believeth in him (Christ) should not perish (be lost) but have everlasting (eternal) life.”
Now the questions arise, “WHAT IS ETERNAL LIFE? What does the Bible mean when it says that the believer in Christ has, or possesses, eternal life? “ To answer these questions we must know what salvation is. Let’s turn to Matt. l:21,
“She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for HE shall save his people from their sins.”
Then Jonah 2:9 says, “Salvation is of the LORD.”
From these Scriptures and many more we could quote, we can draw only one conclusion — that the SALVATION of every sinner IS CHRIST, that our salvation is wrapped up in a Person, and in a Person alone; that Person is the crucified, buried, risen, exalted Lord Jesus Christ.
That being so, church membership has nothing to do with salvation. Baptism has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is not obeying a set of rules or believing a system of doctrine. Salvation is not doing the best you can, or living the best you can. Salvation is Christ, and Him alone. I Cor. 1:9 says,
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
So salvation is God calling the sinner into fellow ship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Then we find this same truth expressed in Gal. 1:15,
“It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
TO REVEAL HIS SON IN ME.”
Salvation is God the Father by the Holy Spirit revealing His Son in and to the heart of the believing sinner. So Christ is a revelation to the human heart. This same truth is stated in Col 1:27,
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory.”
Here He says that salvation is CHRIST IN YOU, which is a living, inseparable union of Christ and the believer. That truth is brought out in these words in Rom.8:1,
“There is therefore NOW no condemnation to them which are IN CHRIST JESUS.”
We also find this great truth in Col 3:4, “When Christ, WHO IS OUR LIFE, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”
Then Christ is the life of the believer, and there is life in none other. Listen to Acts 4:12,
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is NONE OTHER NAME under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Isn’t that clear? Only an individual who is blinded to spiritual things would dare say that there is life in church membership or life in baptism, or life in keeping the sabbath or believing a set of doctrines. My life is in Christ, and the life of every believer is in Christ and Him alone — Christ crucified, Christ buried, Christ risen, and Christ exalted at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
So the Gospel is Christ. “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Cor.15:34).
This truth is so clear in I John 5:11-12,
“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.”
Can language make a truth any clearer than set forth here in these verses of Scripture that ETERNAL LIFE IS CHRIST, AND CHRIST ALONE? If you will take your concordance and look up the words, “eternal” and “everlasting,” you will be surprised to find how many times those words are used in connection with the believer’s salvation in Christ. So the one conclusion we are forced to come to is that Christ, the Son of God, is the believer’s life and salvation, and the reason it is called eternal salvation is because Christ is eternal. Heb. 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” In Deut.33:27 God is called, the eternal God.”
“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Then again He is spoken of as being “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps.90:2).
“From everlasting to everlasting thou art God”, that is, “From eternity to eternity Thou art God.” So we see the Bible sets forth God as the eternal Eternal One. Then as God’s Word says in Col. 3:3,
“Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
This being true, then the believer is eternal in Christ, and his salvation is eternal. This great truth is brought out in John 17:3,
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
SO ETERNAL LIFE IS KNOWING THE ETERNAL GOD — GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT. So salvation is not an intellectual concept of Christ, or a decision for Christ, but an experimental knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The Apostle Paul said, “I know WHOM I have believed.”
Then we face this fact — when and where does the believer’s life in Christ begin? Did you ever stop to think of that? The average individual thinks of salvation as a time limit, that is, his salvation begins in time; but in reality the Bible knows and teaches no such salvation. The Bible proclaims and sets forth definitely that salvation in Christ is eternal — that is, from eternity to eternity. This truth is set forth in Jer.31:3,
“The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting (eternal) love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
If God loved His children with an eternal love, then the love for them is eternal as God’s love is eternal. GOD’S LOVE FOR HIS CHILDREN HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN HIS HEART FROM ETERNITY, AND WILL LAST TO ETERNITY. To me that is one of the greatest truths, and one of the most comforting, set forth in God’s Word — God has loved me from eternity. I have always been an object of God’s love, and that is true of every one of His children. This same truth is brought out in lsa. 45:17,
“But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting (eternal) salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.”
So we see here that SALVATION IS ETERNAL IN JEHOVAH GOD. In other words, in the mind of God there never has been a time that His children were not saved in the Lord. Now you may not understand that, but that’s so. Now I know our salvation, as far as we are personally concerned, is in time, but in the mind and the purpose of God it has been from eternity.
The above statements of fact lead us to look a little farther and deeper into these mighty truths regarding eternal salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. First, GOD PURPOSED AND ORDAINED TO GIVE ETERNAL LIFE TO HIS PEOPLE. In Eph.3:11 that great truth is set forth,
“According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Now, what was that eternal purpose that God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord? We find this purpose set forth in Eph.1:4, “ According as he hath chosen us in him (in Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” or, “having predestinated us in love.” God having foreknown us from eternity (as Rom.8:29 says; “For whom he did foreknow”), chose or elected us in Christ because He loved us, that we might be conformed to the image of His Son. So the purpose of God in Christ from eternity was to give His people eternal life in Christ. God knowing and foreseeing that no sinner, left to himself, would choose Christ, made the choice for us. PRAISE THE LORD! MY HEART NEVER CEASES TO REJOICE IN CHRIST THAT GOD MADE THE CHOICE FOR ME. Day by day I rejoice that He chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world, and He elected me to eternal life according to His purpose in Christ Jesus our Lord according to His will.
This great truth is expressed in Acts 13:48, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as WERE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE believed.” Every effort in the world has been used by you free-willers to explain away that verse of Scripture, but in spite of all your comment, or evasion, or trying to explain away, it still stands as a Rock of Gilbraltar — unmoveable.
“And as many as were ORDAINED to eternal life believed.”
Ordained to eternal life comes before believing. In other words, back in the eternities God made a choice, and that choice was based upon His foreknowledge (I Pet.1:2). Therefore, those whom He elected He predestinated in love unto “the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph.1:5).
God foreknew us; God elected us; God predestinated us and all of this in love, according to His purpose, for He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa.46:10). In other words, God consulted no one but Himself in making the choice of those who were to become members of His family and be conformed to the image of His Son. Therefore, we see that our salvation dates back to the purpose of God before the foundation of the world, and can rightly be called, “eternal life in Christ,” Brother, if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be eternal!
Not only did God purpose and ordain to give us eternal life in Christ, but HE PROMISED TO GIVE US ETERNAL LIFE, according to Titus 1:2,
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”
In other words, the salvation of every one of God’s children is based, not only upon the purpose of God, but upon the promise of God from eternity. This truth is also brought out in I John 2:25, “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” This great promise is based upon the will of a sovereign eternal God who cannot lie,
“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew Unto the heirs of promise the immutability (unchangeableness) of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable (or unchangeable) things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation (encouragement), who have f led for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus; made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 6 :17-20).
You see, all of God’s purposes, decrees and promises are based upon this eternal fact: that God is unchangeable, and He cannot lie regarding His covenant with His people and the promises which support the covenant. GOD PURPOSED and GOD PROMISED to give eternal life to His people in Christ Jesus.
Then, in the third place, GOD GIVES ETERNAL LIFE TO HIS CHILDREN. Christ speaking in John 10-27,28 says,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Then in that great prayer in the 17th chapter of John, in the second verse, Christ utters these immortal words,
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he SHOULD GIVE eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
In Rom.6:23 we find these words,
“But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
So we see that God purposed, God ordained, God promised, and God gives eternal life to all His children in Christ. Let’s not forget this one thing, that CHRIST IS THE BELIEVER’S SALVATION, and He is the gift of God unto His children. Christ brought this great truth out in John 4:10 as He talked to the woman at Jacob’s well,
“if thou knewest the gift of God,, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.”
That Living Water is Christ Himself. It is Christ who lives within the heart of the believer that is the Hope of glory and the Well of Water springing up into eternal life.
Then we come to face this fact, that what God purposed, ordained, promised, and gives — that is, eternal life — THE BELIEVER HAS. God sets forth this truth in I John 5:11,
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
He clinches it with this great truth found in John 3:36), “He that believeth on the Son HATH (hath right now!) EVERLASTING (eternal) LIFE,” and He makes it sure in our text, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting (eternal) life.”
The believer has eternal life now — not when he dies, but NOW! The life that God purposed and promised and gives, the believer has in Christ, and it is experimental to him. The believer lives with the consciousness that he knows whom he has believed, and he knows that he has in Christ eternal life, and shall never perish, nor ever be lost world without end.
You may want to raise this question in the face of the fact that I keep referring to God’s children, “WHO ARE GOD’S CHILDREN?” Christ plainly tells us who they are in the 17th chapter of John in that great priestly prayer. In the 6th verse He states it thus,
“I have manifested thy name unto the MEN WHICH THOU GAVEST ME out of the world.”
Then in the 8th verse He says,
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.”
Again in the 9th verse He puts it in these words,
“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for THEM WHICH THOU HAST GIVEN ME; for they are thine.”
In the 11th verse He again states who God’s children are, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name THOSE WHOM THOU HAST GIVEN ME, that they may be one, as we are.”
Also in the 24th verse we find that same truth,
“WHOM THOU HAST GIVEN ME.
In other words, God’s children are those whom the Father gave to Christ back in the eternities. Those are the ones for whom Christ died; those are the ones whom the Holy Spirit will call, because God has chosen them, and did not leave the choice to the sinner.
The only manifestation we have that they are God’s children, the ones whom He gave to Christ, is that they will believe the Word of God, and the Word of God will come home to their hearts in power and much assurance, and they will answer the call of God to come to Christ, They will bow in obedience to the Word, believing the Word, and then bow in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Now you want to know if you are elected, here is the evidence: — that THE WORD OF GOD COMES HOME TO YOUR HEART IN POWER, breaks your will, and brings you in obedience to that Word and to the living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, that is the evidence of election. As long as you stand up and argue with God’s Word, and argue about the Lordship of Christ, you are not saved, and never will be! You will go to hell for your trouble. That’s right! But the outstanding evidence of one of God’s elect is that the individual will bow in obedience to the Word, the Bible, the Word of God, and in obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I do not know who God’s children are until I hear them begin to cry, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” because ALL GOD’S CHILDREN ARE CRIERS. When I see a poor lost sinner, whether he is in the pulpit, the pew, or the world, bowing in obedience unto the Word, crying out unto the Lord Jesus Christ, “I’m lost! I’m lost! God be merciful to me the sinner,” then I know he is one of God’s children. Somewhere down the line that sinner will throw up his hands in absolute surrender to the power of the engrafted Word in obedience to Christ, the living Word, and will cry, “Lord, save me or I perish! Lord, do with me as Thou seest best. Do with me as Thou wilt.” To that individual God gives eternal life, because back in eternity He purposed and ordained and promised, and now gives, and the believer now has, eternal life. I want to tell you, my friend, THERE IS NO OTHER WAY OF SALVATION SET FORTH IN GOD’S WORD, and no other way of obtaining eternal life in Christ, except as a gift from a sovereign God. Christ is the gift of God to His children, and God’s chosen or elect are God’s gift to Christ.
THE OLD PURITAN PRESS
These messages were delivered over the VOICE OF TRUTH broadcast
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