Editor's note:

As we celebrate the Resurrection and enjoy the springtime, our thoughts turn to new life. Our senses can scarcely take in the beauty of life: the sight of flowering trees in glorious array, the smell of freshly-mown grass, the sound of bees buzzing around fragrant blossoms and baby birds chirping for their dinners. In this article, Richard Foster explores the difference between physical, created life (bios) and spiritual, eternal life (zoë), and we exult in the knowledge of the “with-God life.

—Richella Parham

Scripture identifies two types of life: bios, the physical, created life; and zoë, the spiritual, eternal life. Likewise, there are two types of death: teleute, physical death; and thanatos, spiritual death. Thus, it is entirely possible for a person to be physically alive (bios) while spiritually dead (thanatos). But the salvation that is in Jesus Christ immerses us into the hidden reservoir of divine love and power, bringing into our lives God’s life (zoë) and forming us into communities of Jesus’ disciples who are enabled to express his life and love through our own life, individually and corporately.

Jesus declares, “I am come that they might have life (zoë), and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10 KJV). In his first Epistle John writes, “God gave us eternal life (zoë), and this life (zoë) is in his Son”(1 Jn 5:11). And Paul writes, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (zoë)” (Rom 5:10). Life. Life. Life. It is little wonder that Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines observes that, “the simple and wholly adequate word for salvation in the New Testament is ‘life.’”

“We are being saved by his life” declare the Apostles, and Jesus’ resurrection convinced them that this life, this zoë, was indestructible. The glorious words, “He is risen” proved to the disciples that the new life that had been ever-present to them in the person and teaching of Jesus could not be destroyed by killing the body. That life, that zoë, continues on. It cannot be destroyed: “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). And it is this unquenchable, indestructible zoë that Jesus offers to all who trust in him—“life” here and now, and on into eternity.

Jesus’ resurrection was for those disciples (and is for us) the great eschatological fact of all time. His life, his zoë, is available to everyone. All who trust in him can experience his life in them; “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, as Paul puts it (Col 2:27). Likewise, all who trust in him are “in Christ” (2 Cor 1:21 and many others). Christ “in us” and us “in Christ”—a new order of life “from above” (Jn 3:3). Colossians 3:4 states it ever so succinctly, “Christ who is your life (zoë)”—that is the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.

This life, this zoë, is only for participants, not consumers nor observers. The consumer approach says that it is my life and I will utilize this “with-God life” to suit my needs and my purposes. But, frankly, this life doesn’t work that way. To enter this zoë—this eternal, uncreated life that originates in God alone—I must surrender my life. In entering the “with-God life” it is not my life any more; it is Christ’s life and I am privileged to be a participant in that life.

And what a life it is! It is more virulent than [even our most contagious diseases]! But instead of infecting us with death it consumes us with the life to which we are suited. Because it is zoë life it has a principle of its own. We, for example, don’t have to give an instruction book to a baby to teach it to walk. No, the principle of life in the child will, when the time is right, cause that little one to walk. In much the same way the zoë life we receive from God will accomplish its work in us; sustaining us and moving us forward into Christlikeness. We don’t have to get re-started every Sunday and then sputter along for a day or two and die out again. No, this is life—powerful, self-sustaining life—a “with-God life.”

But we must seek this life out, pursue it, turn into it because there is also a principle of death within us which stems from the fall. Therefore, we must be constantly saying yes to life and no to death. We must always be discerning life-giving actions and attitudes from those that are death-giving. This is why the Bible is such a help to us; it is regularly fleshing these things out in the rough and tumble of real life situations. Scripture makes clear to us precisely how this “with-God life” works in all the circumstances of human existence, both for individuals and for groups, both in specific historical periods and throughout all times. Oh, may I urge you to turn into this zoë life that flows from God through the Scripture and into the thirsty wasteland of the human soul.

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