The Bible presents a life-or-death situation that faces all of us—and leads us to a great question we each must answer.
One of society’s most volatile arguments today centers on what is called the “right to life” issue. While that can broadly include concerns such as euthanasia, assisted suicide, capital punishment and infanticide, people most often associate this term with the anti-abortion, pro-life movement.
The unborn have an inalienable right to live, pro-life advocates maintain, because life begins at conception. Pitted against them are those who contend that life begins only when a fetus is “viable” (able to live outside the womb); thus they believe a woman’s right to control her own body gives her the right to choose to abort.
It is, literally, a life-and-death matter. It is, for both sides, regarded as a moral war.
And it is impossible—considering the complex broil of religious, ethical, philosophical, legal and political arguments involved—to envision both sides ever coming to an agreement.
It probably comes as no surprise to Discern readers that we strongly support the sanctity of human life and stand against abortion.
But we also have another cause for which we passionately advocate—an even more important “right to life” issue!
What can possibly be even more important than a human life?
How about … God’s life! And the amazing opportunity He extends to us humans to have eternal life with Him in His family!
Our right to die
In fact, it is at this time of the year in particular that God tells us to turn our minds to the matter of God’s life and our eternal life. Why this time of the year? We will examine that momentarily, but first, let’s consider another right—our right to die.
This was the crux of the very first sermon ever given in the New Testament Church. In Acts 2 we read how the apostle Peter at first captivated the assembled crowd with his explanation about Jesus’ life and resurrection. But they were largely unprepared for the way Peter was going to connect Jesus’ life to theirs. It suddenly became deeply personal to them when Peter exclaimed, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
If anyone ever deserved not to die, it was Jesus Christ! Yet the Son of God (the Word) had emptied Himself of His divine power and become the man Jesus Christ (John 1:14), lived a sinless life and willingly gave up His right to life.
He is described in Philippians 2:7-8 as having “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Why? What does that mean for you?
Whose life did you take?
Have you ever been blamed for the death of an innocent fellow human being? Probably not. But if you were, how would you react?
Interestingly, there is no record of anyone in the crowd listening to Peter objecting. No one shouted, “Wait a minute! Don’t try to pin that blame on me. I wasn’t even there. It was the Romans!” No, it’s as though a sense of responsibility for Jesus’ death had been building, and now it clearly fell on everyone. Notice their reaction.
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’”
To this day, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified” remains an issue every person must confront. It’s one thing to acknowledge that Christ gave His life, but it’s a crushing feeling when you see and admit, “My sins made it necessary for Christ to die!”
Only if you never sinned could you claim no guilt in this matter. But the truth is, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Through sin, we have all earned the right to die.
But when Paul wrote that “the wages of sin is death,” he also added, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Can that gift be earned? No, it is given. But here’s the catch: God only gives it to those in whom He perceives a willingness and commitment to walk in His way of life.
Have you been cut to the heart?
People love to quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” But how many connect it with Acts 2:36? How many are cut to the heart upon perceiving that it was precisely because of their sins that He had to give up His life?
Have you had that cut-to-the-heart experience? Have you, deeply moved by acknowledging “I crucified Christ,” asked as they did that day, “What shall I do?”
Peter’s answer still applies today!
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38).
His assurance was that despite our guilt, through the process of repentance, forgiveness, baptism and receiving of the Holy Spirit, God will give us the right to life!
“Right to life” scriptures
This leads to the two “right to life” statements we find in the Bible, the first being in John’s Gospel.
Near the beginning of his book, John introduces the Word (Jesus Christ) by explaining the purpose of His coming: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
Couple that with this statement near the end of the book: “But these [other signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
The life spoken of here is eternal life, as John explains multiple times in this Gospel. “Life” and “belief” are inseparably tied concepts that John repeatedly emphasized. John’s Gospel alone (not to mention his three letters and Revelation, where the theme continues) mentions “life” more times than the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke combined. And John speaks of “believe” (or “believes” or “believing”) nearly three times as often as the authors of the other three Gospels.
Why is belief so important as it pertains to your eternal life? A few relevant questions should make the point:
- Even though you were not alive to see Him, do you believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and came in the flesh and lived a sinless life?
- Do you believe that Christ’s death is sufficient sacrifice to pay for all of your sins?
- Do you believe that He can forgive your sins and is faithful to help you to overcome them?
Certain core beliefs form the bedrock of our faith in God’s promise of eternal life! These are some of the most essential.
Commitment to the right life
The second “right to life” scripture leads us to a critical understanding: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).
If our breaking the commandments is what took the life of Christ in the first place, then how can we continue in that?This scripture makes a strong statement: with the right to eternal life comes the responsibility to keep God’s commandments!
If our breaking the commandments is what took the life of Christ in the first place, then how can we continue in that?
Or, to put it another way, the right to life requires a commitment to live the right life!
Repenting and being baptized represents putting to death and burying our sinful past, and God then grants us His Holy Spirit so we can walk in newness of life—committed to following Him and keeping His commandments!
The season of focus
Paul wrote that we should always have in mind “the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10). So why is it that during this time of the year we focus particularly on His death and our lives?
It’s because this is the first season of the annual holy day cycle that Jesus, His disciples and the early Church observed, and in it we are reminded of the most important “right to life” movement ever—God’s plan of salvation for humanity! If you are only vaguely familiar with these festivals, please download our booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You and discover the rich spiritual meaning revealed in them.
Knowledge of God’s plan begins with the Passover, our annual remembrance that through our sins we took the life of His Son, and in doing so we gave up any right to life. Yet God our Father and Jesus Christ our Brother, in Their incredible love and mercy, gave it back!
With that in mind, we immediately enter a festival that reminds us of the “what shall we do?” question—how should we respond to God’s mercy? The Days of Unleavened Bread impress upon us the need to live righteously and put sin out of our lives. There is so much more you can learn about the meaning of these wonderful festivals of God, and we have many articles explaining them that you can explore on our website, LifeHopeandTruth.com.
The great question
But ultimately, the greatest question facing each of us can be put no more simply than this: Since God is willing to give you the right to eternal life, will you commit to living the right life?