When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3).
What is meant by the phrase “eternal life?” It is found not only in today’s text but also in one of the most familiar verses in the Scriptures: John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Defined, eternal life is from the Greek adjective αἰώνιος (aionios) meaning an unlimited duration of time and the Greek noun ζωή (zoe) meaning a living creature. In John 17:3, Jesus also defines eternal life as knowing the only, true God. One biblical scholar explains that eternal life “is a personal relationship of intimacy which is continuous and dynamic.”
To “know” (γινώσκω; ginosko) means to be acquainted with, to be familiar, to acknowledge and to understand. Within this context, this present active verb relates to the believer knowing God continuously. The person who knows God has an ongoing personal relationship with Him. This relationship is only possible through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-10).
To know God means you acknowledge that He is the only God (Isaiah 45:18-19; 46:9-11). Only (μόνος; monos) means the only one in a class. God alone is God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To know God also means you acknowledge that He is the only true God. True (ἀληθινός; alethinos) means real and genuine.
Jesus also taught that this acknowledgment of God included Himself: the Son of God who God the Father sent to the earth to provide redemption (Galatians 4:4). There is no other way God the Father is known except through God the Son and by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8).
John Calvin taught that, “He who separates Christ from the Divinity of the Father does not yet acknowledge Him who is the only true God, but rather invents for himself a strange god. This is the reason why we are enjoined to know God and Jesus whom He hath sent, by whom as it were, with outstretched hand, He invites us to Himself.”
Taken together, Jesus taught that possessing unlimited and eternal life was to continuously acknowledge the God of the Bible as the only, true God who exists. There are no other gods which are true or real. The God of the Bible, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is it.
John Calvin explains that, “We ought first to know that we are all in death, till we are enlightened by God, who alone is life. Where He has shone, we possess Him by faith and therefore we also enter into the possession of life. This is the reason why the knowledge of Him is truly and justly called saving or bringing salvation.”
I have asked this question many times: Do you know God as your personal Savior? Have you placed your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ for eternal life? May the Holy Spirit enable you to do so today.
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!