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Fellowship with the Father

What does it mean to have eternal life?

“that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3, NKJV)

Ponce de Leon was purported to have traveled from Spain to Florida to discover the fountain of youth. The prospect of eternal life is tantalizing to us and so when we hear the offer of the gospel of life eternal through faith in Jesus Christ, it captures our attention and our imagination. Unlike the fountain of youth, however, it is no myth. 

But what does it mean to have eternal life? I know as I experience my body aging and wearing out, the idea of living eternally in a state of decline and decay is a nightmare. The gospel, however, offers a comprehensive remedy for sin, actually reaching to a whole new created order free from sin’s effects. We will be given resurrection bodies, no longer susceptible to infirmity. That makes the prospect of eternal life more appealing. 

Yet even that falls short of what God has for us. Our Lord Jesus explained eternal life this way: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is not simply a state of being or some sort of privileged perk of salvation. It involves a reconciled, restored, redemptive relationship with the God we were created to glorify and enjoy. That relationship was broken at the fall and restored in Christ. 

It is this fullness of fellowship that John holds out to us, a message in which he takes great delight (v. 4). The impetus for what he is tells us about Jesus as the Christ is “that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). That fellowship was the crowning point of Christ’s redeeming work cited in His high priestly prayer. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20–23). 

When we think of the blessings of our salvation, our minds turn to forgiveness of sin, citizenship in heaven, resurrection of the body, and every other benefit of faith in Christ. But rising above them all is eternal, unbroken, unmitigated communion with our triune God. 

How does eternal life have to do more with a state of belonging than a state of being?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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