W.I.T.S. 301

Abundant Life - John 10:10

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 NKJV

This verse gets used as a text for many sermons, and is preached about regularly in the Western Church. Maybe also in the rest of the body, but I have no evidence to make any such assertion. It is the anchor text for those that preach a 'Prosperity Now' gospel. Over the next few paragraphs I will try to put down the salient points that debunk this 20th century missunderstanding.

One of the principles that we need to understand and use in our reading and study of the Bible is that we must use Scripture to interpret Scripture. While a dictionary is helpful, a concordance essential, we will inevitably get it wrong, if we do not use the rest of scripture to enlighten our minds about the point God is trying to make.

So the first step is, that we must consider the context that the verse finds itself in.

In this case it is John chapter 10 - and leading up to verse 10, Jesus is talking about the "True Shepherd" and contrasts this with thieves and robbers (verse 8). Most of the times I hear this talked about, the implicit, or more often than not, explicit definition of the thief is taken to be the devil. WRONG! As you read it you see Jesus is taking about a "shepherd", someone entrusted with a flock of sheep. We do not put the devil in charge of the church, we entrust the flock to a hopefully trustworthy shepherd. However, the shepherd He is talking about is not "TRUE" and in fact harms the flock - steals, kills and destroys: he is specifically talking about pastors, teachers and other leaders within the church (potentially this is US, me and you - sobering thought). Those assigned the task of shepherding but miss-using their position, abusing and harming the sheep. Jesus tells us that "... All who ever came before me are ...", we all carry within us the propensity to steal, kill and destroy the sheep. Jesus however is the true shepherd and he alone has come to give us life, abundant life.

This second half of the verse is the exciting bit, Jesus has come to not only give us life, but abundant life. We all want a piece of that, but what does this life look like?

We find that in the New Testament, there are predominantly three Greek words used, that our Engish translations have rendered into the single English word "life". These three words cover quite distinct and different spheres, realms or levels.

  • BIOS : is the first word translated as life, and not surprisingly relates to the biological and physical. It is those things of our lives that can be measured and quantified. Things of this earth. This would include how long our lives are, how wealthy or not we are, how many children we may have. It relates only to those things that we can see, measure and quantify - all these are "of the earth".
Looking at some verses where the word life is used in this way, we see:

44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12:44 - This verse commonly referred to as the "Widow's Mite" - all of her life savings, quantified by two copper coins.

12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. Luke 15:12 - Here we have the prodigal's request for His inheritance, the word used in relation to wealth and inheritance.

16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:16 - This verse shows clearly the use of life in the context of possessions and wealth, so often the things we take pride in having accomplished.

The final parable we will look at, is where Jesus uses this word for life in the parable of the sower - see Matthew 13, in particular when Jesus explains the parable to His disciples.

22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. Matt 13:22. - Once again we see the cares of this life and the use of the word "BIOS". Please note that this parable is talking exclusively about those that hear and receive the word or seed - today we call these Christians. Yet it ia also alarming to realise only one of the four types described get it right and bear fruit. Selah.

Thus we can clearly see that if John 10:10 was referring to wealth, long life, health or anything physical, the word BIOS would have been used - it was not - so what is this abundant life about?

  • PSYCHE : here we see the second root word for life - and from which we get words like psychology. This second sphere, realm or level is in the area of our psyche - also referred to as soul or heart. It deals with the person: mind, will and emotions of our being. It is apparent that this part of our life is eternal. What however is not so apparent or clear is that this personal life while being eternal, MAY or MAY NOT exist in eternity with God.

Looking at some uses of this word in the New Testament we get:

36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Mark 8:36 (NLT) - Losing our life or soul having gained the world, not a good exchange!

33 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it. Luke 17:33 (NLT)
25 Those who love their life (PSYCHE) in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life (PSYCHE) in this world will keep it for eternity. John 12:25 (NLT) - If you cling and hold onto your psyche, your plans, dreams, and aspirations, for this life you will lose them, but if we let these life desires go in service to our King and His Kingdom, we will preserve or save it for eternity. Thus it is shown that our psyche while eternal, can be lost.

31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. Acts 2:31 (NKJV) - Jesus' soul (psyche) was not left in Hades, while he had both BIOS and PSYCHE this was not left separated from God. Once again, implied is the fact that our PSYCHE can be lost.

Once again, this word for life is used clearly and explicitly in reference to our living, yet this is not what Jesus promises in John 10:10 as being given to us as life abundant.

  • ZOE : This is the final word translated as life and interestingly is always used in connection with God's presence and relationship. This may be thought of as the essence, or life force - To be, I AM - the ultimate expression of the eternal LIFE - eminating from our creator and within which we are called to live. ZOE is inseperable from God. It is quite distinct from the other two forms of life we have just looked at. This can only come from our intimate loving relationship with Jesus, who is " ... the way the truth and the life (ZOE)"

Some verses where this is used, so we gain the understanding we need:

29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:29 (NKJV) - Here we see that we will ALL come to a resurrection, either one of ZOE or one of condemnation, the one in eternity with God, the other not so.

46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matt. 25:46 (NKJV) - Here again, sheep and goats, sheep to eternal ZOE, the goats to everlasting punishment. By the context, both the sheep and the goats are talking about "believers" they both go "baaah", however there is obviously a distinction to be made.

3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:3 (NKJV) - Our promise is a ZOE hidden with Christ in God - it is impossible to get our minds fully around what this means. Some things to ponder: we have died already with our baptism, and now our new life (ZOE) is hidden in Jesus. This life is available here and now and is the key to Walking In The Spirit.

8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:8 (NKJV) - A promise is that ZOE can be participated in now, to the extent that we "Walk In The Spirit".

10 .... I have come that they may have life (ZOE), and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV) OR " .... My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life (ZOE)." - This is not about "BIOS" and not about "PSYCHE" at all, this is about ZOE, life by the power and Spirit of God, what an awesome promise.

The man who loves his own life (PSYCHE) will destroy it, and the man who hates his life (PSYCHE) in this world will preserve it for eternal life (ZOE). John 12:25 (JBP) - This is an amazing promise and really shows the need for abiding in Him, this ZOE comes only from Jesus, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Could this be why Jesus said to his disciples - “But what I’m about to tell you is true. It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Friend will not come....." John 16:7 (NIV)

So in summary, John 10:10 is not talking about any material or physical possession, wealth, long life, nor is it talking about power, influence or status. It is not talking about knowledge or intellect, or any prowess that relates to our lives on this earth. It is talking about an abundent life in and under the influence of the ZOE Spirit of God, walking in His ways, letting His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. It is from ZOE that we will raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out demons and do the greater things. Surely, that is worth letting your life (PSYCHE) go for and in exchange getting ZOE life!!