Knowing God: What is Eternal Life?

“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 eternal life? Jesus answered this question at the beginning of what is referred to as His High Priestly Prayer in John 17. Jesus had just concluded a lengthy Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16) with His disciples immediately prior to His arrest, trial, sentencing, scourging and subsequent death, burial and resurrection (John 18-20). Perhaps just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, or while journeying there, He speaks this prayer to God the Father.

Jesus began His prayer by acknowledging that the hour of His substitutionary death for sinners had indeed arrived. He knew that in a few short hours the wrath of God against sin would be upon Him. It would be a cup of which Jesus would willingly submit (Luke 22:29-46).

Jesus then prayed that the Father would glorify and honor Him by His death, burial and resurrection in order that the He (Jesus) would glorify the Father in bringing many sinners to salvation. This eternal life, found only in Jesus, would be to all who the Father chose to give Him (John 6:35-66; Ephesians 1:3-5).

Jesus then acknowledged exactly what is meant by the phrase “eternal life.” Eternal life is knowing God. The word “know” is from the Greek verb γινώσκω (ginosko). More than just acknowledging the existence of God, though this is a good beginning, to know God means to understand and comprehend who He is and what He does. It is to know God through a direct, personal and intimate experience of conversion by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. To know God is not about just knowing about Him but rather possessing an inter-personal relationship with Him. This relationship is to be a present, ongoing and active pursuit of knowing God.

Lest there be any confusion that this pursuit of knowing God may be applied to other so-called gods, Jesus makes it clear that God the Father, and by implication God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, is the Only, True God. There is no room for Allah or any other pseudo god conjured up by sinful mankind.

Dr. J.I. Packer writes, “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the “eternal life” that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”

This ongoing pursuit of knowing God involves spending time with Him. This is accomplished in a daily, disciplined diet of reading, meditating and memorizing God’s Word. Knowing God is accomplished by a daily, if not a constant, attitude and discipline of prayer. Knowing God is accomplished by a personal and corporate, daily and weekly time of worship and praise: alone and with fellow believers in Christ. Knowing God involves an observance of the ordinances of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

How are you on your journey of knowing God more intimately that ever before? Renew your quest for knowing God and continue to your quest until the Lord calls you home to heaven.

Soli deo Gloria!