Questions and Answers
Shepherd His Sheep
Is "Eternal life" a free gift from God, or do we need to take it by effort?
 By Dr. Timothy Lin
Is "Eternal life" a free gift from God?
     Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

     John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

     Matthew 7:14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

     Matthew 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.

     From the positive aspect, He wants us to enter into eternal life through the small gate. Why did He say that? He also said, “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life eternal and few are those who find it.” (Matt. 7:14) In John 3:16, we are told that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”. However, Matt. 7:14 tells us that we have to enter into the small gate in order to be led to life eternal. So, are there conditions or works required for eternal life? Or are they all free for us to enjoy? Some may explain as such: “Certainly it is by God's grace but we must also pay a price.” On the surface, it appears very logical but it is actually a contradiction! If it is free, then there are no strings attached. If there are conditions, then there is a price and it is not free. The Scriptures tell us, “...the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Since ‘eternal life’ is a gift from God, then we ought to be able to enjoy it freely. 

     So, how do we resolve this difficult problem? On the one hand, the Scriptures tell us that eternal life is a free gift by believing in Jesus. On the other hand, we have to enter into the small gate and narrow way because only by doing so will we be led into eternal life. So, ‘eternal life’ appears to have a price. How should we explain and answer? According to the principle of hermeneutics, we know that 'eternal life’ has more than one meaning. Eternal life in Romans 6:23 refers to ‘everlasting life’. All life is temporal and only God's life is eternal. So, eternal life is the life of God. It is a gift. It is a gift inside Lord Jesus Christ. All we need to do is to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and we will have this gift. But the eternal life in Matthew 7:14 is not a gift but a destination. It requires the entering into the small gate and walking the narrow way. It is through the narrow way that leads us to life eternal. So, what is this all about is explained as follow: 

     In the New Testament, ‘eternal life’ has at least four different meanings. Here we will only examine only two of them. The first one is something we all know already know: ‘God’s gift’. It is God’s own life and He gave it to us as a gift. This eternal life is God’s own life in Jesus Christ. The second meaning is seen in Matthew 25:46: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Here, the eternal life is for people to ‘go …into.’ Certainly, it does not refer to the gift. What does it refer to? Thank God, it was explained in the earlier verses of this chapter. The ‘eternal punishment’ is referenced in verse 41: “... into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” The ‘Eternal life’ is referenced in verse 34: “... you, who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” So, the ‘eternal life’ here refers to the Kingdom and not God's life. In Matthew 7, it speaks of ‘leads to eternal life’ and here it speaks of ‘going into eternal life’. In both cases, there is the action of walking required. So, the small gate and narrow way are intended to lead people into the Kingdom. They are not talking about people receiving God's life. The purpose God has in creating us and the purpose Jesus has in saving us are identical: they both want us to be overcomers and inherit the Kingdom God prepared for us. So, the eternal life in Matthew 7 refers to entering the Kingdom and reigning with the Lord. So, dear brothers and sisters, in order to be an overcomer and to reign with Christ, one must enter through the small gate and by walking the narrow way. Unfortunately, few people find the way! May all those who have believed in Jesus know that there is a small gate to enter and a narrow way in front for them to enter. Then we can accomplish God's will for us set before the foundation of the world!

(Please visit this website: Kingdom Truth – A Recruitment call for overcomers)