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This past week we began a study of John’s Gospel. Although I am no Greek scholar, with the helpful study tool now available on bible.org I confirmed that John uses two distinct Greek words for our English word, life.
The word referring to physical life is the word “Bios” from which we get our word biology. However, in such passages as John 1:4 (which reads “In Him was life”) the Greek word is “Zoe.” Throughout John, when speaking of the quality and type of life given to those who place their faith in Jesus, “Zoe” is the word used. As believers we enjoy two kinds of life, Zoe life and Bios life.
What does this Zoe do? What does it feel like? What are its characteristics? Zoe enables us to feel, think, act – and live as God does. This Zoe life changes our relationships with God, others, and with ourselves so that these relationships can be experienced by us as God Himself sees and lives them.
We all know people whom we might describe as “lifeless” and those who are “full of life.” And this has nothing to do with their physical condition. Some people have a pulse (Bios), but no life (Zoe), they are spiritually-dead.(Ephesians 2:1) Others are 80-90 years old with collapsing bodies, and yet remain full of life. They glow.
C. S. Lewis with his usual skill explains it this way:
“When we come to man, the highest of the animals, we get the completest resemblance to God which we know of. (There may be creatures in other worlds who are more like God than man is, but we do not know about them.) Man not only lives, but loves and reasons: biological life reaches its highest known level in him. But what man, in his natural condition, has not got is Spiritual life—the higher and different sort of life that exists in God.
We use the same word life for both: but if you thought that both must therefore be the same sort of thing, that would be like thinking that the ‘greatness’ of space and the ‘greatness’ of God were the same sort of greatness. In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names.
The Biological sort which comes to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to rundown and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc., is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe, is Zoe.
Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from haying Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man.
And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.” (C.S.Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Today you and I are not limited to only our “Bios” life, we have access to the very resurrection life of Jesus. We have a double life, let's choose Zoe to empower our Bios life today.