Speaking the Truth in Love

The Book of Life

Most churches maintain a membership list. It makes church-goers feel good to know that they belong to a group whose professed goal is heaven. However, a piece of paper in a church office filing cabinet is no indication of God’s favor.

The only membership list that matters is in the hand of God. Thinking of Euodia and Syntyche, Paul asks a Philippian brother to “help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3). Apparently, God adds a name to his book every time someone obeys the Gospel. Of the Jerusalem congregation Luke writes that “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). But Paul’s commendation of Clement, Euodia, and Syntyche implies the biblical insistence on faithfulness. These saints were not absentees or bench warmers but fellow workers in the Gospel.

On the last day God will open his special book. In a vision John “saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done” (Rev. 20:12). Here John foresees the fate of the lost. Anyone whose name is missing from “the book of life” must answer for all his sins recorded in “the books” of human deeds and be “thrown into the lake of fire” (vs. 12, 15).

It’s a great honor to find one’s name on a list of rich people, exceptional athletes, talented musicians, famous intellectuals, or Emmy award winners. But such lists are ultimately meaningless. What matters is to know that my name is on God’s list of people destined for eternal life!

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