And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. ~ John 17:3
John 17 chronicles the most beautiful prayer ever uttered. It is fitting that such a prayer would be spoken by the God-Man, Jesus Christ the Lord.
John 17, commonly referred to as "The High Priestly Prayer," can be rightly divided into three major parts. In verses 1-5, Jesus prays for Himself. In verses 6-19, Jesus prays for His closest earthly friends--the apostles. And in verses 20-26, Jesus prays for every person who would ever know Him as Lord and Savior. In this remarkable prayer, the Creator allows the pinnacle of His creation (mankind) to have a brief and poignant glimpse of direct communication within the Godhead, as the Son speaks to the Father.
Jesus begins by decisively affirming His deity. God shares His glory with no one. Yet God the Son can pray to God the Father, beseeching the Father to glorify the Son so that the Son may, in turn, glorify the Father (v. 1). Jesus could command such glory be given to Himself because He is God in the flesh.
Jesus further asserts His deity, as well as His sovereignty, when He declares that He has authority over all creation (v. 2). Jesus is the giver of eternal life and He will give eternal life to all the Father, from eternity past, has determined will receive it.
With the words, "and this is eternal life," Jesus is making it very clear that the next words that come out of His mouth will define eternal life and the way to receive it. Jesus said, "that they know you the only true God..." "Knowing," as it's expressed here, is not simple intellectual assent. It is not the mere scholastic gathering of facts. To know God is to know Him intimately, relationally, lovingly. To know God is to be known by God.
For the Christian, to know God is to have known the former reality of the bondage of sin and death. It is to have known not only what it means, but also how it felt to be alienated from God. It is to have known the growing weight of sin's consequences and the overwhelming sense of guilt, shame, and unworthiness in light of God's moral law. It is to have known the deserved justice of God.
Thanks be to God that for the Christian there is so much more to knowing God. It is to know God as Abba, Father--as Daddy. He is no mere acquaintance. He is not some distant relative with whom there is nothing more than a biological connection. The Christian knows the Father as any son or daughter knows their dad, with the joy and gratitude that many adopted children feel toward their adoptive parents--parents who literally saved them from squalor and even death.
Eternal life is to know God--"the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." Jesus, speaking in the third person, reaffirms what He told the Jews earlier. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).
One cannot know God without knowing Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is God. God the Father sent God the Son to serve as the perfect God-Man, to make the perfect substituionary, atoning sacrifice for sinners. And it is this same God-Man who prayed to the Father after His last sermon to His disciples, who now intercedes at the right hand of the Father, for His Bride, the Church, the born-again follower of Christ.
Dear evangelist, this is Him who you know, who knows you, and whom you serve as you proclaim the gospel to the lost. And this is the one you will make known to those whom God will save, who will use your evangelism efforts to draw sinners to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The One who defined eternal life; the One who is eternal life; the One who has saved you and now intercedes for you; is the same One who emboldens you, strengthens you, encourages you, and keeps you as you fulfill the Great Commission, for His glory.