Q.

Please explain John 10.10, which says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

I’ve heard all sorts of things about the abundant life. Some say it has nothing to do with success or material prosperity; others say that the abundant life includes those things; and still others seem to think it refers mostly to these things.

A.
What an appropriate question. Our culture emphasizes material things. Today we even are exposed to a thinking known as the “prosperity gospel,” promoted by certain evangelists and groups.

In dealing with this matter in our minds, we must see it from God’s perspective, not ours, for the text says, I (God’s Son, Jesus, the Good Shepherd) have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly. To learn what the abundant life is, we must see what God says it is. We tend to think of abundance in our terms or desires. If people, including believers, were asked to close their eyes and tell what first came to their minds when they heard the word “abundance,” the majority would think of a beautiful home, a new shiny convertible or some other type of car, a huge bank account, and perfect health. Was that what Jesus Christ came to give us? Is that what He referred to in saying He came that we might have life, and life more abundantly? Let’s get our affluent American culture out of the way. We must do that in order to see what the abundant life really is.

We must also note that the words “and more abundantly” hinge on the word “life.” What kind of life did Jesus refer to here? We have the answer in the preceding verse, John 10:9: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall he saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” This fits in perfectly with the most familiar Bible passage, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, hut have everlasting life.” God gives eternal life. The moment we are saved, we enter into a new life that never ends. We have a new relationship—we are sons of God. And as His children we have no idea of the wonderful things in store for us in this never-ending relationship. The apostle Paul declared, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Heaven will be a wonderful place of mansions (John 14:2) and indescribable wealth and beauty (Rev. 21; 22), but the greatest attraction will be the Lord Jesus Himself and our being in His presence and the presence of fellow saints forever!

But in this life on earth we also have everything we need in Christ.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened [made alive] us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4—7).

Blessed he the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

Grace and peace he multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that bath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises:that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:2—4).

Yes, we have everything through Christ in us. We have Him, we have His riches, we have His promises. Someone has calculated that 4,000 promises in the Word of God apply to our lives! Surely we cannot help but praise the Lord that our God “shall supply all [our] need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

How we believers need to look beyond the paltry things the unbelieving world or the carnal Christian’s world sets its sights on and works for. That is not the abundant life. We have better things. Yes, the Lord has promised to supply even our temporal needs in this life. The emphasis is upon needs, not every whim we might have. Yet Psalm 37:4 tells us, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” This passage is not contradictory; for when we walk closely with the Lord, our desires become what He has desired for us, and thus all these things can be ours.

Notice the context of John 10. In contrast to the false shepherd of verses 8-10, the Good Shepherd provides everything that His sheep need. The True Shepherd saves (v. 9), but He also keeps and supplies every need (v. 10). The Shepherd knows perfectly what the sheep need; the sheep do not know. God provides abundance in our lives, but He knows what this abundance is. We come to know it more and more as we dwell with the Shepherd. But we must always view abundance from His vantage point. Abundance is seen in the Lord’s reference to abiding in Him (John 15) and its resultant bearing of fruit. The abundant life is a life of much spiritual fruit.

Another interesting passage is Psalm 66:12: “We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” The word “wealthy” here means abundance. Note its relationship to fire and water, which depict the trials, troubles, and afflictions of the saint of God. So often we hear the “prosperity gospel” advocate talking about all the good material things a Christian should have. But he says nothing about the things that form character—the sufferings, the battles, the perplexities that cause a person to cast himself upon the mercy, love, and grace of God. This verse says abundance goes hand in hand with trials and tribulations, things God allows in our lives to make us better. So those who promote “the abundant life,” characterized by a life of ease and no trouble, are unscriptural. They leave out the essential ingredient that makes for abundance. The Bible has plenty to say about trials in a believer’s life. They build us up, make us stronger, and teach us much. As a result of these, we have spiritual abundance.

The abundant life, then, is Christ—His all, His provisions, His promises. This is so inclusive and wonderful it is impossible to measure. The abundant life is available to all believers. Most Christians barely begin to exhaust it, for it is inexhaustible. Certainly we need a new awareness and emphasis on who we are in Christ as believers and what the abundant life truly is. Too many believers are impoverished rather than living abundantly. They are seeking after the wrong things. Living totally for Christ and others is the right goal.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (May 1991).
© 1991 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.