The Meaning of John 12:25 Explained

John 12:25

KJV: He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

YLT: he who is loving his life shall lose it, and he who is hating his life in this world -- to life age-during shall keep it;

Darby: He that loves his life shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.

ASV: He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

What does John 12:25 Mean?

Study Notes

kosmos = world-system.
John 14:17 ; John 14:19 ; John 14:22 ; John 14:27 ; John 14:30 ; John 7:7 .
Kosmos, Summary: In the sense of the present world-system, the ethically bad sense of the word, refers to the "order," "arrangement," under which Satan has organized the world of unbelieving mankind upon his cosmic principle of force, greed, selfishness, ambition, and pleasure. Matthew 4:8 ; Matthew 4:9 ; John 12:31 ; John 14:30 ; John 18:36 ; Ephesians 2:2 ; Ephesians 6:12 ; 1 John 2:15-17 . This world- system is imposing and powerful with armies and fleets; is often outwardly religious, scientific, cultured, and elegant; but, seething with national and commercial rivalries and ambitions, is upheld in any real crisis only by armed force, and is dominated by Satanic principles.

Verse Meaning

Jesus now applied the principle in the illustration for His followers. This was a principle that He had taught them on at least three separate occasions previously (cf. Matthew 10:39; Mark 8:36; Luke 14:26). Obviously it was very important.
Anyone who selfishly lives for himself or herself loses his or her life in the sense that he or she wastes it. Nothing really good comes from it. Conversely anyone who hates his or her life in the sense of disregarding one"s own desires to pursue the welfare of another will gain something for that sacrifice. He or she will gain true life for self and blessing for the other person. Jesus contrasted the worthlessness of what one sacrifices now with the value of what one gains by describing the sacrifice as something temporal and the gain as something eternal.
"People whose priorities are right have such an attitude of love for the things of God that all interest in the affairs of this life appear by comparison as hatred." [1]
Obviously Jesus did not mean that we gain justification by living sacrificial lives. The Bible describes eternal life in some places as a gift (e.g, John 3:16; John 5:24; John 6:40) and in other places as a reward (e.g, Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Romans 2:7; Romans 6:22; Galatians 6:8). It is the life of God, but we can experience that life to a greater or lesser degree depending on our obedience to God (cf. John 10:10; John 17:3). [2]
On one level Jesus was talking about how eternal life comes to people: through the sacrifice of the Son of Man ( John 12:24). On another level He was speaking of how to gain the most from life now: by living sacrificially rather than selfishly ( John 12:25). The general principle is a paradox. Death leads to life.
Over the centuries the church has observed that the blood of Christian martyrs has indeed been the seed of the church. Their literal deaths have led to the salvation of many other people. Even more disciples have discovered that any sacrifice for Jesus yields blessings for others and for them that far exceed the sacrifice.

Context Summary

John 12:20-29 - Sacrifice A Law Of Life
These were genuine Greeks. The East came to the manger-bed; the West to the Cross. These men came to Philip probably because of his Greek name. The inarticulate cry of the human heart, whether East or West, is for Christ.
The application of these representatives of Western civilization reminded our Lord of His glorious enthronement as the Savior and Lord of mankind; but He realized that the dreams of the prophets could be fulfilled, and the demand of the world met, only through His death and resurrection. There was no other way to the glory than Calvary and the grave. If His love for men was to bear much fruit, He must fall into the ground and die. Death is the only way to Saviorship. Death is the only cure of loneliness, and the necessary price of fruitfulness.
All through life we must be prepared to erect altars on which to sacrifice all that hinders our highest service to our fellows. The soul that dares to live in this way finds streams flowing from every smitten rock, and honey in the carcass of every slain lion. Day out of night, spring out of winter, flowers out of frost, joy out of sorrow, fruitfulness out of pruning, Olivet out of Gethsemane, life out of death. But through it all, our aim must be that the Father may be glorified. [source]

Chapter Summary: John 12

1  Jesus excuses Mary anointing his feet
9  The people flock to see Lazarus
10  The chief priests consult to kill him
12  Jesus rides into Jerusalem
20  Greeks desire to see Jesus
23  He foretells his death
37  The people are generally blinded;
42  yet many chief rulers believe, but do not confess him;
44  therefore Jesus calls earnestly for confession of faith

Greek Commentary for John 12:25

Loseth it [απολλυει αυτην]
The second paradox. Present active indicative of απολλυω — apolluō This great saying was spoken at various times as in Mark 8:35 (Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24) and Mark 10:39 (Luke 17:33). See those passages for discussion of πσυχη — psuchē (life or soul). For “he that hateth his life” (ο μισων την πσυχην αυτου — ho misōn tēn psuchēn autou) see the sharp contrasts in Luke 14:26-35 where μισεω — miseō is used of father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, as well as one‘s own life. Clearly μισεω — miseō means “hate” when the issue is between Christ and the dearest things of life as happens when the choice is between martyrdom and apostasy. In that case one keeps his soul for eternal life by losing his life (πσυχη — psuchē each time) here. That is the way to “guard” (πυλαχει — phulaxei) life by being true to Christ. This is the second paradox to show Christ‘s philosophy of life. [source]
Life [ψυχὴν]
See on Mark 12:30; see on Luke 1:46. [source]
Shall lose [ἄπολέσει]
The best texts read ἀπολλύει , loseth. See on Luke 9:25. [source]
In this world []
This earthly economy, regarded as alien and hostile to God. The words are added in order to explain the strong phrase, hateth his life or soul. [source]
Shall keep [φυλάξει]
See on 1 Peter 1:4. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for John 12:25

Matthew 10:39 Shall lose it [απολεσει αυτην]
This paradox appears in four forms according to Allen (1) Matthew 10:39 (2) Mark 8:35; Matthew 16:25; Luke 9:24 (3) Luke 17:33 (4) John 12:25. The Wisdom of Sirach (Hebrew text) in 51:26 has: “He that giveth his life findeth her (wisdom).” It is one of the profound sayings of Christ that he repeated many times. Plato (Gorgias 512) has language somewhat similar though not so sharply put. The article and aorist participles here (ο ευρων ο απολεσας — ho heurōn ο δεχομενος — ho apolesas) are timeless in themselves just like ho dechomenos in Matthew 10:40 and Matthew 10:41. [source]
John 12:27 My soul []
See reff. on John 12:25. The soul, ψυχή , is the seat of the human affections; the spirit ( πνεῦμα ) of the religious affections. [source]
John 1:4 In Him was life [ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν]
He was the fountain of life - physical, moral, and eternal - its principle and source. Two words for life are employed in the New Testament: βίος and ζωὴ . The primary distinction is that ζωὴ means existence as contrasted with death, and βίος , the period, means, or manner of existence. Hence βίος is originally the higher word, being used of men, while ζωὴ is used of animals ( ζῶα ). We speak therefore of the discussion of the life and habits of animals as zoo logy; and of accounts of men's lives as bio graphy. Animals have the vital principle in common with men, but men lead lives controlled by intellect and will, and directed to moral and intellectual ends. In the New Testament, βίος means either living, i.e., means of subsistence (Mark 12:44; Luke 8:43), or course of life, life regarded as an economy (Luke 8:14; 1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:4). Ζωὴ occurs in the lower sense of life, considered principally or wholly as existence (1 Peter 3:10; Acts 8:33; Acts 17:25; Hebrews 7:3). There seems to be a significance in the use of the word in Luke 16:25: “Thou in thy lifetime ( ἐν τῇ ζωῇ σου ) receivedst thy good things;” the intimation being that the rich man's life had been little better than mere existence, and not life at all in the true sense. But throughout the New Testament ζωὴ is the nobler word, seeming to have changed places with βίος . It expresses the sum of mortal and eternal blessedness (Matthew 25:46; Luke 18:30; John 11:25; Acts 2:28; Romans 5:17; Romans 6:4), and that not only in respect of men, but also of God and Christ. So here. Compare John 5:26; John 14:6; 1 John 1:2. This change is due to the gospel revelation of the essential connection of sin with death, and consequently, of life with holiness. “Whatever truly lives, does so because sin has never found place in it, or, having found place for a time, has since been overcome and expelled” (Trench). Ζωὴ is a favorite word with John. See John 11:25; John 14:6; John 8:12; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 5:20; John 6:35, John 6:48; John 6:63; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1, Revelation 22:17; Revelation 7:17; John 4:14; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2, Revelation 22:14, Revelation 22:19; John 12:50; John 17:3; John 20:31; John 5:26; John 6:53, John 6:54; John 5:40; John 3:15, John 3:16, John 3:36; John 10:10; John 5:24; John 12:25; John 6:27; John 4:36; 1 John 5:12, 1 John 5:16; John 6:51.Was the Light of men ( ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων )Passing from the thought of creation in general to that of mankind, who, in the whole range of created things, had a special capacity for receiving the divine. The Light - the peculiar mode of the divine operation upon men, conformably to their rational and moral nature which alone was fitted to receive the light of divine truth. It is not said that the Word was light, but that the life was the light. The Word becomes light through the medium of life, of spiritual life, just as sight is a function of physical life. Compare John 14:6, where Christ becomes the life through being the truth; and Matthew 5:8, where the pure heart is the medium through which God is beheld. In whatever mode of manifestation the Word is in the world, He is the light of the world; in His works, in the dawn of creation; in the happy conditions of Eden; in the Patriarchs, in the Law and the Prophets, in His incarnation, and in the subsequent history of the Church. Compare John 9:5. Of men, as a class, and not of individuals only. [source]
Romans 9:13 But Esau I hated [τον δε Εσαυ εμισησα]
This language sounds a bit harsh to us. It is possible that the word μισεω — miseō did not always carry the full force of what we mean by “hate.” See Matthew 6:24 where these very verbs (μισεω — miseō and αγαπαω — agapaō) are contrasted. So also in Luke 14:26 about “hating” (μισεω — miseō) one‘s father and mother if coming between one and Christ. So in John 12:25 about “hating” one‘s life. There is no doubt about God‘s preference for Jacob and rejection of Esau, but in spite of Sanday and Headlam one hesitates to read into these words here the intense hatred that has always existed between the descendants of Jacob and of Esau. [source]
1 John 2:9 Hateth [μισῶν]
The sharp issue is maintained here as in Christ's words, “He that is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23). Men fall into two classes, those who are in fellowship with God, and therefore walk in light and love, and those who are not in fellowship with God, and therefore walk in darkness and hatred. “A direct opposition,” says Bengel; where love is not, there is hatred. “The heart is not empty.” See John 3:20; John 7:7; John 15:18sqq.; John 17:14. The word hate is opposed both to the love of natural affection ( φιλεῖν ), and to the more discriminating sentiment - love founded on a just estimate ( ἀγαπᾶν ). For the former see John 12:25; John 15:18, John 15:19; compare Luke 14:26. For the latter, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:15; 1 John 4:20, Matthew 5:43; Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:29. “In the former case, hatred, which may become a moral duty, involves the subjection of an instinct. In the latter case it expresses a general determination of character” (Westcott). [source]

What do the individual words in John 12:25 mean?

The [one] loving the life of him loses it and hating in the world this to life eternal will keep
φιλῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολλύει αὐτήν καὶ μισῶν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον φυλάξει

  The  [one] 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
φιλῶν  loving 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: φιλέω  
Sense: to love.
ψυχὴν  life 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ψυχή  
Sense: breath.
αὐτοῦ  of  him 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive Masculine 3rd Person Singular
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
ἀπολλύει  loses 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἀπόλλυμι  
Sense: to destroy.
μισῶν  hating 
Parse: Verb, Present Participle Active, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: μισέω  
Sense: to hate, pursue with hatred, detest.
κόσμῳ  world 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: κόσμος  
Sense: an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government.
τούτῳ  this 
Parse: Demonstrative Pronoun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: οὗτος  
Sense: this.
ζωὴν  life 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ζωή  
Sense: life.
αἰώνιον  eternal 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: αἰώνιος  
Sense: without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be.
φυλάξει  will  keep 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: φυλάσσω  
Sense: to guard.