Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. - John 7:37-39
The theme of the FWCC conference we are hosting this month is “Let the Living Waters Flow: Friends Fulfilling God’s Purposes”. Its wording comes in part from the passage of John’s Gospel quoted above. Some meditation on this passage will be helpful to us in preparing for this conference and also, more importantly, to prepare us to better fulfill God’s purposes in the world. All four Gospels quote John the Baptist’s distinction between his ministry and that of the Coming One: while John baptizes people in water, there is One coming who shall baptize people in the Holy Spirit. (<strong>Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33</strong>) The gift of the Holy Spirit is really the essence of what Christ came into this world to provide for us sinners.
The Apostle Paul makes that very point in his letter to the Galatians: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ — in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (3:13-14) Here, Paul defines the “blessing” that God said Abraham’s “seed” would bring to all the nations of the earth: the promise of the Spirit. (Genesis 22:18; see also 12:3; 18:8; 26:4: 28:14) Jesus is that descendant of Abraham through whom the blessing of the Spirit would come to all mankind. This promise is being fulfilled!
The Gospel of John especially emphasizes what Jesus taught about this gift of the Spirit. In the account of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman by the well, we hear Jesus’ promise to her that if she would ask of Him, He would give her “living water”. What the living water is, He does not here say, but He does promise that it will be within her, “a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (4:13-14) Whatever it is, this living water gives those who partake of it, eternal life. And what is eternal life, in the Biblical sense? It is not merely eternal existence into the future. Eternal existence is a given for creatures created in God’s image. Jesus tells us that the body may be killed, but not the soul (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5; see also Luke 20:37-38). The rich man still had conscious existence after he died and found himself in hades. (Luke 16:22-23) Therefore, while eternal life presupposes eternal conscious existence, it is the word “life” that indicates what kind of existence that means. Now, “life” is what makes conscious existence as a human being worth having! Jesus often used the word “life” as short for “eternal life” For instance, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24; see also Matthew 7:14; 18:8-9) Likewise, “eternal life” and “life” are also synonymous with being “complete”, “the kingdom of heaven”, “the kingdom of God”, and being “saved” as we see from carefully reading through Matthew 17:16-26 and underscoring those words.
So what does it mean to have eternal life or, simply, life? It is the same as living in the kingdom of God. And what is the kingdom of God? It is where God’s will is done (Matthew 6:10) instead of the contrary will of sinful men and devils. Paul likewise gets to the essence of the meaning of the kingdom when he writes, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) That says it all! Of course, the righteousness he speaks of here is not outward conformity to the ceremonial requirements of the Old Testament Law. That has all been fulfilled by Christ and is no longer needed since the reality these symbols pointed to has come. But the righteousness Paul is speaking of here consists, essentially, in fulfilling the law of love (Romans 13:8-10) which is the “law of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2) that we love God with all our being and our neighbor as we do ourselves (Matthew 19:34-42), with all that that entails. Righteousness is not a feeling but a state of the will. It is an actual willingness to do God’s will and it is a ruling ultimate preference for the highest good of God and our fellow creatures. Since God’s will is the way to the highest good, these two definitions of righteousness are one and the same. This is the very foundation of the kingdom of God we should wish to enter and the very essence of the eternal life Christ came to provide us.
But what are the “peace” and “joy in the Holy Spirit” of which the kingdom of God also consists? These are states of the sensibility or what we call feelings. One might say without exaggeration, that people are constantly seeking these feelings from created things. They are willing to go to unbelievable lengths to obtain peace and joy, and yet they are ultimately disappointed. Why is that? It is because they seek it where it does not abide and they seek it without seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33) Though peace and joy can be found in created things because God has placed some of His goodness in them, they are soon used up and spent. They seek to quench their thirst from broken cisterns which can hold no water while forsaking God, the ever-flowing fountain of waters (Jeremiah 2:13). Moreover, they seek these feelings selfishly, that is, without equally seeking the same good things for their fellow creatures and for God, above all, through obedience to His will in all things. It is no accident that Paul lists righteousness first, ahead of peace and joy. As God says, “There is no peace for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22; 57:21) So we come back to the question of what “living water” is. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that brings us into the kingdom which consists in righteousness, peace and joy. As Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life.” (John 6:63) Do you want righteousness, peace and joy? They can be yours through faith in Jesus Christ who gives you His Spirit. That is the very reason He died on the cross, that you may be forgiven and receive His Spirit by faith. Isn’t that wonderful? So don’t hang back, come forward and receive what Christ has provided you through His sufferings, death and resurrection. Let the living waters flow!