If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit that around a quarter of the verses in the entire Bible have been, at one time or another, completely twisted in meaning for the justifying of some completely unbiblical idea. Mormons quote scripture, JW’s quote scripture, Buddhists quote scripture, etc. and they all quote it horribly. What’s the worst is when Christians quote the scripture in an effort to substantiate some idea that’s utterly bizarre/nonsense/heretical (i.e. how people attempt to cite 1 John 4:8 in an effort to suggest that upstanding Christians can be sexually active and thoroughly promiscuous homosexuals).
Then, there’s a batch of other texts that are commonly misunderstood because they’re simply more difficult texts. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is one text that, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard quoted with a proper application. Jeremiah 29:11 is another, as are many others. Today, I got a question from my wife about John 10:10 and the whole idea of “abundant life”. She was reading an article and ran across the verse being used as a proof text for the idea that “Jesus wants you to have everything you’ve always dreamed of” and sent me a question about it. Here’s the passage in context:
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:9-10
Now, this passage is often used to back up the idea that Jesus wants you to have “abundant life”, and “abundant life” is often understood as “a life of fulfilled dreams”, “a life of satisfaction”, “a life of adventure”, “a life beyond ‘normal’ life” or some sort of “your best life now” kind of concept. NO Christian wants to have a regular old life of mundane and routine existence, and this passage is used to suggest that Jesus promises believers a better quality of life that is anything but mundane and routine.
Sadly, this whole idea of the “abundant life” is utter hogwash and is as foreign to scripture as clog dancing.
Okay. Big claims Unger. Big claims.
Can you back it up?
Well, here’s some facts for you:
1. The passage (10:9-10) has a simple juxtaposition between the thief and Jesus. The thief comes for the purpose of thieving, killing and destruction. In opposition to this purpose, Jesus comes for the purpose of giving his sheep life that is abundant.
Note the contrast; it’s not one of mediocrity and awesomeness, it’s one of death and life. The thief isn’t coming to give the sheep a mediocre life; he’s coming to take the sheep’s life away by means of murder. Jesus is coming to give the sheep life, and give it exceedingly generously.
2. The word “abundant” simply means “more, over and above, exceedingly”. The word appears in Matt. 5:37, 5;47; Mark 6:51, 14;31; John 10:10; Rom. 3:1; 2 Cor. 9:1; Eph. 3:20; 1 Thess. 3:10, 5:13. It doesn’t refer to quality but quantity.
3. The word “life” refers to “eternal life” or “spiritual life” in every preceding occurrence in the gospel of John (John 1:4, 3:15, 3:16, 3:36, 4:14, 4:36, 5:24, 5:26, 5:29, 5:39, 5:40, 6:27, 6:33, 6:35, 6:40, 6:47, 6:48, 6:51, 6:53, 6:54, 6:63, 6:68, 8:12). Almost all of these occurrences refer specifically to eternal life. Elsewhere, I’ve written a fairly in-depth treatment on eternal life.
So, when Jesus says he has come to give life abundantly, he’s almost certainly talking about how he has come to bring eternal life to his sheep, in contradistinction to the theft of life that Satan/sin/false religion commits against his sheep. Jesus isn’t just going to give his sheep another life beyond this one; he’s going to give them life upon life upon life upon life upon life upon life upon life (etc.).
Not quite the promise of having all your dreams fulfilled that many claim it is. Jesus might not give you a yacht, loads of self-esteem, or even a life exciting enough to blog about…well, at least John 10:10 doesn’t give you reason to expect that.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “I’ve got that LIFE!” Unger