Lesson 1 – What is Life
ONLY THE LIFE OF GOD IS LIFE
When explaining what life is, we must first be clear about one thing—the kind of life in the whole universe which can be counted as life. First John 5:12 says: “He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.” John 3:36 also says: “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life.” These two scriptures tell us that unless man has the life of God, he does not have life. This shows us that in the eyes of God, only His life is life; besides that, no other life can be counted as life. Thus, when the life of God is mentioned in the Bible, it is treated as if it is the unique life (John 1:4; 10:10; 11:25; 14:6; etc.). Only the life of God is life, and other lives are not counted as life, because only the life of God is divine and eternal.
What does divine mean? Being divine means being of God, having the nature of God, or being transcendent and distinctive from all others. Only God is God, only God has the nature of God, and only God is transcendent and distinctive; therefore, only God is divine. The life of God is God Himself (later we shall consider this point), and since it is God Himself, it naturally has the nature of God. For example, a gold cup is gold, and since it is gold, it has the nature of gold; in fact, gold is its nature. Similarly the life of God is God Himself and has God’s nature; God is the nature of His life. Since the life of God is God and has the nature of God, the life of God is divine.
What does eternal mean? Eternal means uncreated, without beginning or ending, existing by itself and ever, unchangeably existing. Only God is uncreated; only He is “from eternity to eternity” (Psa. 90:2, original text), that is, without beginning or ending. He is “I am that I am” (Exo. 3:14), and always “the same” (Psa. 102:27). Since God Himself is such, so also is the life which is God Himself. The life of God, just as God Himself, is uncreated, without beginning or ending, self-existing and ever-existing, and never changing; therefore, the life of God is eternal. Hence the Scriptures speak of God’s life as eternal life.
LIFE IS THE FLOWING OUT OF GOD
Concerning what life is, we must first see that only the life of God is life. Then we must see that life is the flowing out of God. Revelation 22:1-2 speaks of a river of water of life flowing out of the throne of God, and in the river of water of life is the tree of life. Both the water of life and the tree of life signify life. Therefore, we are shown clearly here that life is that which flows out from God. Hence, we can say that life is the flowing out of God. According to the divine and eternal nature of God Himself, God is life. But if God does not flow out, although in respect to Himself He is life, yet to us He is not life. He must flow out; then He will be life to us. His flowing out passes through two steps. The first step is His becoming flesh. This enables Him to flow out from heaven into the midst of men and manifest Himself as life (John 1:1, 14, 4). Therefore, the Bible speaks of this on the one hand as His being “manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16), and on the other hand as the “life which was manifested” (1 John 1:2). Hence, when He was in the flesh, He said that He is life (John 14:6). Although in the first step of His flowing out He could manifest Himself as life to us, He could not be received by us as life; therefore, He must take the second step of flowing out. His second step of flowing out is His being nailed on the cross. Through death, the body of flesh which He took was broken, thus enabling Him to flow out from the flesh and become the living water of life to be received by us (John 19:34; 4:10, 14). The rock in the Old Testament typified Him; it was smitten, and from it came living water to be obtained by the people of Israel (Exo. 17:6; 1 Cor. 10:4). He became flesh in order that He may be a grain of wheat which contains life. He was crucified so that He could flow out from the husk of flesh into us—His many fruits— and become our life (John 12:24).
LIFE IS THE HOLY SPIRIT
After the Lord Jesus said He was life in John 14:6, He made known to His disciples not only that He and God are one (vv. 7-11), but also that the Holy Spirit and He are also one (vv. 16-20).* [In verses 16 and 17 the Lord referred to the Holy Spirit as “he,” but in verse 18, He changed the pronoun from “he” to “I.” By changing the “he” to “I” the Lord was saying that “he” is “I.” This reveals that the Holy Spirit He spoke of in verses 16 and 17 is He Himself.] From verses 7 to 11 He showed us that He is the embodiment of God—He is in God, and God is in Him. Hence, His being life means that God is life. From verses 16 to 20, He further revealed that the Holy Spirit is His embodiment, His other form; and when His physical presence leaves us, this Spirit of reality Who is Himself as another comforter comes into us and abides with us. This Spirit living in us and abiding with us is just He Himself living in us as our life that we may live. These two passages therefore show us that it is by God being in Him and Him being the Holy Spirit that He is life. God is in Him as life, and He is the Holy Spirit as life. Him being life is God being life, and is also the Holy Spirit being life. Thus, John 4:10, 14 tells us that the living water which He gives is the eternal life. John 7:38-39 further tells us that the living water which flows out from us is the Holy Spirit which we received. This discloses that the Holy Spirit is the eternal life. The Holy Spirit we receive is the eternal life we experience, or Christ being experienced by us as life. The eternal life, or Christ as life, is to be experienced by us as the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2).
The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of life” because God and Christ being life hinges on Him. He and life are united as one and cannot be separated. He is of life, and life is of Him. Life is His content, and He is the reality of life. Speaking more accurately, He is not only the reality of life, but also life itself.
We all know that God is a triune God—Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is in the Son; the Son is the Spirit. The Father in the Son is manifested among men; therefore, the Son is the manifestation of the Father. The Son as the Spirit enters into man; therefore, the Spirit is the entering in of the Son. The Father is the source of life, the very life itself. Since the Son is the manifestation of the Father (1 Tim. 3:16), He is the manifestation of life (1 John 1:2). And since the Spirit is the entering in of the Son, He is the entering in of life. Life originally is the Father; in the Son, it is manifested among man; and as the Spirit, it enters into man for man to experience. Thus, the Spirit becomes the Spirit of life. Since the Spirit is the Spirit of life, man can receive life through the Spirit, and when man sets his mind on the Spirit, it is life (Rom. 8:6). Since the Spirit is the Spirit of life, when man exercises his spirit to touch the Spirit, he touches life. When he contacts the Spirit, he contacts life, and when he obeys the Spirit, he experiences life.
Thus, in summary, life is the Triune God. But to us, life is not the Triune God in heaven, but the Triune God flowing out. This flowing out of the Triune God means that His content, which is Himself, first flowed out through Christ; then it flowed out as the Spirit to be received by us as life. Thus, when we touch God in Christ as the Spirit, we touch life, for life is God in Christ as the Spirit.