Life in the Son

I John 5:11-12, “God gave us lasting life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life.”

Having life is having the Son, but what is the condition of having the Son? It’s a fact that all who have life and the Son are those who “believe in the testimony that God has made concerning His Son”’. It’s a fact that part of this testimony (in places like John 6 and 10) is that the Son has been given an elect people and that the Son has come to give His life for them alone and not for those God has not chosen.

But is believing in the Son, and believing in election, the condition of having life? No. How can a dead person believe to get life? How can a dead person do anything to get life? Before a person can believe the gospel, that person has to be born again and before that person can be born again, that person has to have life and the Son.

“Whosoever” in I John 5 (and in John 3:16) is not indefinite. The idea is not that potentially the number could be bigger, if only more people would believe. Rather, “as many as”, no more and no less, believe are the only ones who will not perish and who have life. Those who have the Son are being identified. God has an exact number who will believe God’s testimony, and we know them as those who have life.

But notice that the text does not teach that their faith causes them to have life. Nor does the text teach that their having life causes them to believe. The point is about an identity between having the Son and having life. Even though we can make a distinction between “lasting life” (forgiveness and justification forever) and the life we need in order to believe the testimony of God about the Son, both are part of “salvation”. Life to believe the gospel is also a gift from God, and certainly not our gift to God.

The Arminian conditions having life on the sinner believing. The assumption is that if we need to have life before we can believe, then we can have life without believing, and believing becomes unnecessary. As if a newborn baby did not need to breathe, since that baby has to have life to breathe!

My friend David Adkins reminds us to ask: necessary for what reason? Yes, believing the gospel is evidence of having life. Faith does not have to be a condition of anything in order to be necessary. All those who have been saved from God’s wrath need to believe God’s gospel, including God’s testimony about election. And they will believe! They believe in the Son not in order to get the Son but because they have the Son.

So I John identifies having the Son and having life, but which comes first? The justified elect have the Son and life at the same time, but logically which is first? If we get the Son by first getting resurrected to life and being born again and believing, that would mean we get resurrection and new birth first before and without the Son.

Nobody gets any blessing apart from being elect in Christ. Those who are elect don’t become elect by believing. We don’t become elect by having Christ. Election itself is in Christ and by Christ. God loves nobody apart from Christ. God did not first put a sinner into a future judicial relationship with Christ and then elect that sinner because of that future relationship with Christ. God’s decision for the elect is also at the same time a decision about Christ.

God chose the elect for Christ’s sake. Hebrews 2:11, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.” Isaiah 8:18, “Behold, I and the children who the Lord has given me.”

All who get life have been elected in Christ, and this election in Christ before the beginning of the ages is the reason these sinners are eventually imputed with Christ’s death and then born again. The same Christ who gets life for the elect gives life to the elect. People either already are or are not elect in Christ. Everybody needs Christ to get life, but not everybody is elect in Christ.

But being elect in Christ is not the same as having Christ according to I John 5. Whosoever has Christ has life, but the elect in Christ do not have life before God’s imputation of Christ’s death to them.. God has promised the elect in Christ to have Christ, and that promise is sure, but the elect in Christ do not have Christ until they are justified by God in Christ.

Life, both in the sense of new birth and also in the legal sense of lasting life, is a result of the elect being baptized by God into Christ’s death and being raised with him, and thus no longer under sin. (Romans 6:10).

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