Abundant Life

I am preaching the beginning of John 10 this week. In this portion of Scripture, Jesus claims to be the good Shepherd, over against thieves, robbers, and hirelings. At the end of vs. 10, Jesus says, I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. This quote from D.A. Carson’s commentary was especially thought-provoking in regard to the phrase above:

This is a proverbial way of insisting that there is only one means of receiving eternal life, only one source of knowledge of God, only one fount of spiritual nourishment, only one basis for spiritual security — Jesus alone. The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviors — its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots — and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under foot (they come ‘only…to kill’), and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only…to destroy’). Jesus is right. It is not the Christian doctrine of heaven that is the myth, but the humanist dream of utopia.

  1. #1 by Eric Wentz on June 18, 2010 - 9:56 am

    This is a great thought about Jesus standing against not only the empire of His day, but also against every empire that has ever been. The reality of an empire is that some people win by other people losing. The ideal Jesus sets forth is that everyone wins – that we *all* have ‘life to the full.’

    Do you think there is a political application to be found in this text for today?

    I feel like it’s pretty easy to label people as ‘social gospel’ and say they’ve strayed from the truth of scripture, but how would D.A. Carson handle the implications of his own comment that Jesus stands against tyranny. It’s obvious that we stand against Mao, Stalin, Hitler, & Pol Pot, but what about Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Than Shwe (Burma), Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Iran), Muammar al-Qaddafi (Libya), Hugo Chavez (Venezuela),Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), Hu Jintao (China), & King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (Saudi Arabia).

    As possessors(?) of life to the full, how are we to respond to those who systematically deny life right now in our world?

  2. #2 by clearly on June 18, 2010 - 10:34 am


    In regard to your thoughts on empire, I’d have to say that I do not agree. I do not see everyone as a “winner,” especially in light of the totality of John 10 where hirelings, thieves, and robbers naturally do not win, but naturally as well, all sheep are not of Christ’s fold. This is not to say that Christ does not welcome and invite all.

    In its context, Carson was speaking of the superiority of the good Shepherd to provide spiritually over against the yearning of the world that ends up being directed toward humanistic political saviors who cannot deliver on their promises, but rather afflict those seeking them in every regard. All the “shepherds” that came before Jesus (i.e Ezekiel 34, false Messiahs, false teachers, etc) ate the people instead of shepherded them. Jesus is the good Shepherd who shepherds his people with care, sacrifice, and ultimately a bloody death and powerful resurrection.

    As I read Ezekiel 34, I definitely see an already-not-yet as it relates to the fulfillment of Jesus as that Shepherd. He is already the Shepherd but the time of complete and total safety for the sheep is not yet (from my eschatological perspective it awaits the coming kingdom).

    So while I oppose the work of these world leaders in position, I do not believe that Jesus has anything, in the present, to offer these folks except the spiritual, which is naturally most important. He certainly does not offer them physical relief from political oppressors in the present moment. If anything, He promises the opposite (2 Tim 3:12; 1 John 3:7; Luke 21:17, etc). Any physical blessings that are attached to Jesus and his work await the future, in my opinion – be it land blessings, world peace, health, etc. These are Millennial Kingdom blessings that only be counterfeited in the present age.

    I hope that answers your question, from at least where I’m coming from. I think a return to a social gospel type model is the primary problem in the “evangelical” world right now.

    Your friend,

  3. #3 by Eric Wentz on June 18, 2010 - 6:34 pm

    Thanks for putting effort into analysis of my musings. If I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying that there is no political implication in John 10 even though D.A. Carson uses political figures in his explanation and you are saying that we are to respond to tyranny in our world by ‘opposing them in position.’

    I’m not familiar with the idea of ‘opposing them in position.’ Could you elaborate or point me to further explanation?

    Thanks for sharing with us your thoughts about our Lord and His Word. May the God of truth show us the way farther into the abundant life.

  4. #4 by clearly on June 19, 2010 - 7:30 am


    I am saying that the Church of Jesus Christ has no mandate, power, or ability to combat political tyranny in this age. I believe that tyranny will be obliterated in the coming age when Jesus, the Messiah returns not as a lamb but as a lion. When we try to produce the physical aspects of the Millennial Kingdom in the world today, we end up failing.

    Do you believe in a coming, future millennial kingdom or do you only see it as a present reality?


  5. #5 by Eric Wentz on June 20, 2010 - 11:21 am


    Yes, I believe in the coming millennial kingdom when life will be quite different. What questions should we then be wrestling with as we live in this age?

    Also, may I inquire as to your perspective on the work of William Wilberforce (slavery in the UK in the 1800s) or Zach Hunter (modern slavery)? I take it that you would not encourage me to be similarly involved in political issues.


  6. #6 by clearly on June 23, 2010 - 7:36 am


    When Paul had a chance to influence a believer and slave-owner, Philemon, to release Onesimus, he did. He asked to him receive the slave again as a brother, not a slave.

    However, in Titus, Paul tells the slaves to continue in their prsent state, obeying their masters, dealing with them in honesty. Knowing that their full freedom is coming in the next age, Paul can tell them to continue in their present state, because the “adorning of the doctrine” or making the gospel look beautiful is most important in this age.

    So, as I have opportunity, I would speak out against slavery and even work to seek its abolition at some level, but it’s not as important as the gospel. Our work for abolition is not kingdom work or gospel work from my perspective. Does this help?

  7. #7 by Eric Wentz on June 24, 2010 - 11:45 am

    That’s a good point, Dave. I’m reminded of Paul’s writing in 1 Cor 7:20&21 where he says to remain in the situation you’re in when God calls you.

    I think my struggle has been understanding the ‘as I have opportunity’ part as it relates to social issues. For instance, if I never go to the ghetto of Waukesha, then I won’t ever have opportunity to work through these issues there.

    Listening to your message on ‘True Blindness,’ you separated the time when the blind man was physically healed from the time he was saved. I wonder how Jesus’ ministry of healing overlaps with his gospel work…

  8. #8 by clearly on June 25, 2010 - 9:53 am


    This has been a helpful discussion, I trust. I hope you and Jessica and little Emily are well! 🙂

    Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

    Here’s a scenario: a man calls me and asks for help (not super often b/c we do not have a building). We feed him, at least once. We offer spiritual counsel, sharing Christ and his gospel. Our help may not go beyond that.

    Here’s another scenario: a man calls me and ask for help, and it just so happens he is in the fellowship of our church, places himself under our accountability, and is growing in Christ, as a member of the household of faith. I will do more than offer him a meal.

    Re: the John 9 message, I separated his healing from his salvation because the text does. Not every text like that does, and not every man who was healed was saved, but this particular text does seem to do that pretty clearly.

    Take care…

  9. #9 by Eric Wentz on June 30, 2010 - 9:47 am

    Hey Dave,
    Thanks for continuing this train of thought. I’m praying for you and Emiley this week as I know it’s going to be a busy one.

    I agree with your scenarios. It seems those are pretty well-established paradigms for offering help.

    My prayer for myself, I think, is to understand what opportunities God is leading me toward since I want to ‘do good as I have opportunity.’

    Have a great week!

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