John 17:3 MEANING

John 17:3
(3) And this is life eternal.--For these words, which are more frequent in St. John than in any other of the New Testament writers, comp. John 3:15-16; John 3:36; John 5:24; John 5:39; John 6:27; John 6:40; John 6:47; John 6:54; John 6:68; John 10:28; John 12:25; John 12:50; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 2:15; 1 John 3:15; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:13; 1 John 5:20. The thought of the previous verse is that the Messianic work of Christ is to give eternal life to those whom God has given Him. The thought of the following verse is that He has accomplished this work. In this verse He shows in what its accomplishment consists--viz., in revealing to men the only true God through Jesus Christ.

That they might know thee the only true God.--Better, That they might recognise Thee as the only true God. (Comp. Notes on John 1:9; John 14:7.)

And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.--Better, And Him, whom Thou didst send, Jesus, as Messiah. Eternal life consists in the knowledge of the Father as the only Being answering to the ideal thought of God; and in this knowledge manifested in Him, whom God anointed and sent into the world-to declare His attributes and character. Only in the Word made flesh can we hear the voice of mercy, forgiveness, love, fatherhood; which comes to men as the breath of life, so that they become living souls.

Verse 3. - The life eternal, of which Jesus has just spoken, is this (cf. for construction, John 15:12; 1 John 3:11, 23; 1 John 5:3), that they might know - should come to know - thee, the only veritable God. All ideas of God which deviate from or fall short of "the Father" revealed to us by Christ, are not the veritable God, and the knowledge of them is not life eternal. The Father is here set forth as the fens Deitatis. This does not exclude "the Son," but is inconceivable without him. The Fatherhood expresses an eternal relation. The one element involves the ether as integral to itself: "I am in the Father, and the Father in me." There is a knowledge of the Father possible even now. "Henceforth, he has said, ye have seen him, and known him;" yet not till the veil is lifted, and we see face to face, shall we know as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2), shall we see him as he is. And him whom thou didst send, Jesus the Christ (not Jesus to be, or as Christ, but rather "Jesus the Christ," as the expansion and explanation of the more indefinite term, "him whom thou didst scud"). Why does our Lord add to this expression one that at first sight seems so incompatible with the idea of this prayer? It has led so careful and reverential a commentator as Westcott to remove the difficulty by supposing that the whole verse is a gloss of the evangelist, expressing the sense of what our Lord may have uttered at greater length. We are loath to admit this method of exegesis, especially as the sole reasons for it are the supposed strangeness of our Lord's here using a phrase so unaccustomed, and thus giving himself not only his Personal Name, but his own official title. It is unusual. The phrase does undoubtedly belong to a later period for its current and constant use. Yet it must not be forgotten

(1) that this is a unique moment in his career, and unique expressions may be anticipated;

(2) that it was calculated to strengthen his disciples, to allow them to hear once from his own lips the solemn claim to Messiahship (see Godet);

(3) that John himself at once adopted it as his own (Acts 3:6, 20; 1 John 1:3; 1 John 2:1, 22; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 4:2, 3; 1 John 5:1-20; Revelation 1:1, 2, 5); moreover,

(4) in 1 John 5:20 Jesus Christ is, himself lifted up into the region of the ἀληθίνος, and the apostle adds, "This is the true God, and eternal life" (Hengstenberg). It is from these very words that some critics imagine that the evangelist, rather than the Lord himself, framed the clause;

(5) yet it is quite as rational to suppose that the words uttered by Jesus dwelt like a strain of sacred music in the memory of the apostle. Moreover,

(6) the knowledge of the only true God is really conditioned by the knowledge of him who was indeed the great Revelation, Organ, and Effluence of the Father's glory. The fullness of this knowledge is the end of all Christian striving. Paul said, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus... and that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10). How much is there yet to know!

(7) Finally, as our Lord is rising more and more into the glory of an utter self-abandonment, and into the glory which he had with the Father from eternity, the human nature which he still inhabits becomes almost an appendage of his Divine Personality, and he might with awful significance, when referring to the object of human faith and knowledge, say, "Him whom thou hast sent - Jesus the Christ." Moreover, on any hypothesis of the composition or framing of an intercessory prayer for the Logos Christos to utter, there is an equal difficulty in the insertion into such prayer by St. John of this reference to himself as the Christ. The knowledge of the Father as the only true God, in opposition to the heathen traditions and philosophical speculations of the world, coupled with a corresponding knowledge of the only adequate expression of the Father's heart and nature, sent forth from him, as One promised, consecrated, and empowered to represent him, is life - ere half life.

17:1-5 Our Lord prayed as a man, and as the Mediator of his people; yet he spoke with majesty and authority, as one with and equal to the Father. Eternal life could not be given to believers, unless Christ, their Surety, both glorified the Father, and was glorified of him. This is the sinner's way to eternal life, and when this knowledge shall be made perfect, holiness and happiness will be fully enjoyed. The holiness and happiness of the redeemed, are especially that glory of Christ, and of his Father, which was the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross and despised the shame; this glory was the end of the sorrow of his soul, and in obtaining it he was fully satisfied. Thus we are taught that our glorifying God is needed as an evidence of our interest in Christ, through whom eternal life is God's free gift.And this is life eternal,.... That is, the beginning and pledge of it, the way unto it, and means of it, and what will certainly issue in it:

that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. The knowledge of God here spoken of, is not the knowledge of him by the light of nature, and works of creation; for a man may know God in this sense, and not know him in Christ, nor anything of Christ; yea, may know God and profess him in words, and in works deny him, as the Heathens did; nor is eternal life known hereby, nor connected with it: nor is it such a knowledge of God as is to be obtained by the law of Moses, in which God is represented as a righteous and incensed Being; nor is there in it any discovery of God, as a God of love, grace, and mercy in Christ; nor any revelation of a Mediator, Saviour and Redeemer; nor can it either show, or give to persons eternal life; and yet what is here said of the knowledge of God and Christ, the Jews say of the law (d),

"one man said to his friend, let us dash them against that wall and kill them, because they have left , "eternal life"; (the gloss upon it is, "the law";) and employ themselves in a temporary life, the gloss says of this world, which is merchandise.''

More truly does Philo the Jew say (e), that

"fleeing to the Divine Being, "is eternal life"; and running front him is death.''

But this is to be understood of an evangelic knowledge of God, as the God and Father of Christ, as the God of all grace, pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin, and of Christ Mediator; not a general, notional, and speculative knowledge; but a practical and experimental one; a knowledge of approbation and appropriation; a fiducial one, whereby a soul believes in Christ, and trusts in his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice for salvation; and which, though imperfect, is progressive. The Arians and Unitarians urge this text, against the true and proper deity of our Lord Jesus, and his equality with the Father, but without success; since the Father is called the only true God, in opposition to the many false gods of the Heathens, but not to the exclusion of the Son or Spirit; for Christ is also styled the one Lord, and only Lord God, but not to the exclusion of the Father; yea the true God and eternal life; was he not, he would never, as here, join himself with the only true God; and besides, eternal life is made to depend as much upon the knowledge of him, as of the Father. The reason of this different mode of expression, is owing to the character of Christ as Mediator, who is said to be sent by the only true God, about the business of man's salvation. Nor is it of any moment what the Jew (f) objects, that Jesus here confesses, that the true God is only one God; nor does he call himself God, only the Messiah sent by God; and that the Apostle Paul also asserts the unity of God, 1 Timothy 1:17; and therefore Jesus cannot be God: for Christ and his Father, the only true God, are one; and that he is the one true God with his Father, he tacitly suggests here by joining himself with him; and what the Apostle Paul says of the one and only wise God, may as well be understood of Christ, the Son of God, as of the Father; since all the characters in the text agree with him, and of him he had been speaking in the context.

(d) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 21. 1.((e) De profugis, p. 461. (f) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 55. p. 445.

Courtesy of Open Bible