(This is the second part of a previous guest post by Joanna Hall called “Zoe Life”)
An example of zoe occurs in the verse John 10:10. The second part of it says, “I have come that they may have life and may have it abundantly.” The Lord promises to give His believers abundant life. Without noting the distinction between zoe from the psychological and physical aspects of life, one might interpret from this verse that God wants to bless man with abundant life by giving him health, wealth, or happiness. For example, one Christian writer interprets:
God’s way for humanity is life abundant. Human beings are meant to flourish in all dimensions of life: biological, social, cultural,mental, emotional, moral, spiritual, and existential. (Ralph Underwood, “God’s Life-giving Ways: Practical Principles for Healing Ministry,” Insights, Spring 1999, p. 4).
While Christians might emphasize this interpretation of ‘life abundant’ to mean psychological and physical matters, the usage of zoe in the Greek specifically identifies the life in John 10:10b as the life of God. If the word here for life were psuche or bios, this verse could easily translate to mean that God comes as life to satisfy humans psychologically or biologically. God’s heart for man is surely good, but this quote overdraws the meaning of zoe in this verse to encompass things that are other than the zoe life. The Lord says, I have come to give man abundant “zoe.”
Zoe is not the life that pertains to the life in our soul or the life in our body. Rather, it is the highest and most mysterious life with characteristics such as it being uncreated, divine, eternal and indestructible. If the Lord were referring to blessing man abundantly in the biological, social, cultural, mental, emotional, and moral aspects of life, as cited in the quote above, He would have said psuche or bios. However, the Lord says He wants to give us abundant zoe.
God desires to be life to us, a life we do not have in ourselves. The life of God is something outside of man that man needs to receive into him. Instead of rewarding us with things in the psychological or physical realm, He wants to fill us with His very Person. We are made with a heart that cares for God. As a cup is designed to contain water, we are designed as vessels to be filled with zoe.
As King Solomon found, despite possessing a wealth of land and power, he concluded that everything is “still vanity of vanities; all is vanity,” in Ecclesiastes 1:2. We are not just created to succeed physically or culturally. We have a longing in us that can never be satisfied with anything besides the zoe life of God.