A Study of John 17:3
John chapter 17 is usually called the High Priestly Prayer of the Lord Jesus, but actually it could also be called “The Lord’s Prayer”, and what is usually called the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 is actually “The Sinner’s Prayer.”
Let us read John 17:1-10 to learn the context,
That They Might Know Thee (John 17:1-10, Matthew 6:9-13, John 3:19, 1 John 5:20)
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
Let us look again at verse 3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
What does this mean?
Let us first look at the sentence structure: “And this is life eternal, that…”
A parallel form of speech is found in John 3:19, where we read, “And this is the condemnation, that…”
In the words that follow in John 3:19 it is clear that the way of condemnation is stated: “light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil”; this is the way to it.
Therefore the first level of meaning of John 17:3 is this: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”; this is the way to it. The way to eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ whom God has sent.
In 1 John 5:20 God speaks of the Lord Jesus as “the Son of God”, and as “His Son Jesus Christ”, and as “the true God”, and as the source of eternal life. God says here that the Lord Jesus is both the Son of God and He is also “the true God.”
How can we understand this?
When we speak of Christ existing from eternity past, we speak of God the Son, the second Person of the Triune Godhead; there was no human flesh in eternity past. But when God the Son took on a human body in the womb of the Virgin Mary, we speak of the incarnation, which occurred about 2000 years ago, and the Person generated at that time was the Lord Jesus Christ, one Person consisting of God the Son and the man Christ Jesus, who was made in the likeness of sinful flesh; only in the likeness, for He was not born with sinful flesh like we all are, for He must remain the spotless Lamb of God. Therefore, look now at who the Author of eternal life is, in 1 John 5:20,
1 John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
Let us look at these words again: “That we may know Him that is true,” and “This is the true God, and eternal life.” In other words Christ, having life in Himself, and being the source and fountain of life to the soul, He is life and the source of eternal life. He is the Author of eternal life, and knowing Him is our source of eternal life.
In John 17:3 the Lord Jesus is amplifying the plea of the previous verse, John 17:2, “Unless I am glorified, I cannot bestow eternal life on anyone. And without My ascension the Holy Spirit will not come. And without Him there can be no knowledge of the Father and the Son, and so by consequence no eternal life, for “knowing God” and “eternal life” are inseparable.” Therefore, the words of John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” indicates that this is the way to eternal life; this is the means of eternal life, namely by the knowledge of God as communicated through Jesus Christ. And thus the two Persons whom we must get to know are the Father, and Jesus Christ.
Knowing the Father (John 17:3, Psalm 9:10, Romans 3:11, John 10:30, John 10:38, John 16:27, Colossians 2:9)
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
What is meant by “That they might know thee the only true God?”
What sort of knowledge is this?
This cannot be just intellectual knowledge of God, for that does not change anything in our soul.
But when we speak of eternal life do we not speak of being “born again”?
And thus, the knowledge that John 17:3 speaks of is not just intellectual but spiritual, not theoretical but experimental, not inactive but saving to the uttermost. It is a saving knowledge which is in view here in John 17:3, for it speaks of a double object: God and Christ.
When the Bible speaks of knowing God or knowing Christ it does not refer to just knowledge, but it refers to the wisdom of knowing God, which is the wisdom unto salvation. When we know God in Christ, we know God as Christ’s Father before and after the cross, and so we rest on Him and in Him.
We read in Psalm 9:10, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
Let us consider these words carefully.
Who is this Psalm referring to when it says, “And they that know Thy name”?
It refers to those to whom Almighty God has revealed Himself, which are only those whom He declares to be His elect children. Just like the children of Israel in Egypt were a picture of all the elect, and they were the only ones who knew Him as their God and Father, so “these that know Thy name” are the only ones who will put their trust in Him.
Does not everyone know the name of the Lord?
No! The Egyptians did not know the name of the Lord. Look now at the second half of Psalm 9:10, “for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
How did it come to pass that these people were seeking the only true God?
Do we not read in Romans 3:11, “There is NONE that seeketh after God”?
Why then were these people seeking after God?
The only explanation is that God must have given them the desire to seek for Him, or else no one would seek after God. And thus, we see clearly the principle of election already in the Old Testament. Please turn again to the Gospel According to John, John 10:30. The Lord Jesus said here in Joh 10:30, “I and my Father are one.”
We all know this verse, but what did the Lord Jesus declare here?
He declared not only that He was the Son of God, but also that He was God, meaning that God the Son who was one Person with Him was fully God, as He also declared in Colossians 2:9, “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
And since the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, the Lord Jesus Christ is one with the Father. But now we should not come to the conclusion that after the incarnation 2000 years ago there are now four Persons in One God. No, the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Son are one Person, and thus there are still three Persons in the triune Godhead.
In John 10:37-38 the Lord Jesus spoke here of His works, and how they proved that the Father was in Him.
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
What would bring more glory to the Father than that He should be known, and trusted, and loved, and served by those to whom the Son gave eternal life?
And now we understand that knowing the Father is inseparable from knowing Christ. If we want a practical saving knowledge of the Father, we must go through the practical saving knowledge of the Son. And so, we should turn our attention to knowing the Father through knowing Christ.
Knowing Christ (John 17:3, John 14:28, John 16:13,30, Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 3:1, 1 John 2:25, 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:5)
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Eternal life contains the essence of all blessing. Spiritual life or eternal life consists in knowing, living on, having communion with, and enjoying endless satisfaction in the Triune God through the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. In the economy of salvation the Father is always represented as supreme. He is the One in whom the sovereign majesty of Deity dwells.
The Son occupies the office of Mediator, and in this character He could rightly say, “My Father is greater than I” in John 14:28.
In like manner the Holy Spirit is the Servant of the Godhead, for the Lord Jesus said of Him in John 16:13, “For he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.”
In the order of salvation the Father is the principal party representing the whole Godhead because He is the originator and the fountain of it. Then we read in the second half of John 17:3, “and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” The connecting word “and” gives us plain warning that the Father, “the only true God”, cannot be known apart from Jesus Christ. Just as “the only true God” is opposed to the vanities of the Gentiles, so is “Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” opposed to the blindness of the Jews. Now look at the last word in John 17:3, the word “sent.” This word “sent” is pointing to three attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1) It points to His Deity, for we read in John 16:30, “We believe that Thou camest forth from God.” God the Son was sent to unite Himself with the fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary.
2) It points to His incarnation, for we read in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” Our Kinsman Redeemer was a man, the man Christ Jesus.
3) It points to His office of Mediator and Great High Priest, for we read in Hebrews 3:1, “consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus,” where the name “apostle” means “the one who is sent.” Jesus Christ is the great Ambassador who blesses us from God. And Jesus Christ is always our great High Priest, for He makes continually intercession for us.
In Jeremiah 9 God calls the nation to mourn for the deceit and lies that are widespread throughout the nation. They have forsaken the laws of God; instead of loving their neighbors they are deceiving them just for material gain. In the midst of all these sinful activities God states the truth of salvation by knowing Him and by knowing the lovingkindness of the Lord, just like we have read in John 17:3. God says in Jeremiah 9:23-24,
Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
What do we read here?
We read here about knowing our loving Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Knowing Our Loving Mediator (Jeremiah 9:23-24, Romans 9:11-13, Romans 4:25)
God calls us to understand and know Him, who He really is, for He exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth. Let us look at these three things, lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness.
First, where do we see His lovingkindness?
Does God love all mankind?
Well, if He does love all mankind, then we must certainly doubt the truth of the Bible, for nowhere in the Bible do we read that God loves all mankind. Instead God says in Romans 9:11-13, that before the children were born, in fact before the foundation of the world, before they could have done any good or evil, God said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” and God said this in order that the purpose of God according to election may be made clear. Further-more God says in Psalm 5:5, and in Psalm 7:11, and in Psalm 11:5 that He loves the righteous (all the Jacobs – meaning the elect of God) and He hates all the wicked (all the Esau’s – the reprobate). And so, when we read the Bible carefully we find that God only loves His elect people, but He hates all those who shall die unsaved. Indeed the Gospel is the Good News, but it is only good news for those who are God’s elect. It is not good news for the rest of mankind.
And what does this Good News consist of?
The Good news is that we, who have inherited the grace of God, meaning the unmerited favour of God, even though we have insulted God and have contributed to the death of His Son Jesus Christ, we have found mercy in the eyes of God, so that He has poured upon us all the blessings, and forgiveness, and lovingkindness that flow out of Christ crucified.
And how are we made aware of this great mercy of God?
He gave us faith to believe all this, so that we are made aware of our elect status before God, and thank Him for it with abundant gratitude in all our life.
Second, where do we see His judgment?
What was the greatest judgment of God in all of history?
No, it was not the flood of Noah’s days, but it was the judgment of God on the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the horrible payment that the Lord Jesus committed himself to, which was the payment on behalf of the sins of His people; it was a payment that had to be equivalent to the penalty of the sins of all His elect, which was the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. God’s righteousness demanded a payment that was equivalent to our payment, and we do not know exactly how God would deal with calculations involved in working with infinity. The fact is that the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ were excruciating in His body and in His human soul, and the peek of suffering was when He cried with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” All our sins were judged there one by one on the cross. All our sins that we commit tomorrow were also before His eyes. Think about that; all our sins that we are going to commit this coming week, and all our sins that we are going to commit for the rest of our life. What an incredible love and mercy.
And can we blame Christ that He did not pay for the sins of my neighbor who is a Mormon?
Can we blame Christ that He did not pay for the sins of all those people who definitely are ending up in Hell?
How does He know which people are going to end up in Hell?
Does He not know the end from the beginning for every person who ever lived?
O Yes He does, for He is also God. The Bible declares it.
Would we want to increase His suffering at the cross a hundredfold by paying also for all those people who end up in Hell?
Would we want Hell to be filled up with people for whom Christ died?
Would we want Christ to be a frustrated unsuccessful Savior who was a failure 99% of the time?
Would we want Christ to suffer for the sins of those who are possessed by the Devil?
And certainly all the atheists in the world are under the power of the Devil. You know the answer to all these questions. They are all No, No, No! The Lord Jesus Christ did not pay for the sins of all the people who ever lived. That is an error made in the translation of 1 John 2:2. But when we turn to the untranslated Greek text we see that it was a mistake. Christ paid only for the sins of His elect people. That was already a great love that He displayed toward us, so that we will never be judged any more for our sins, past present and future.
Third, where do we see His righteousness?
What is the meaning of righteousness?
It means to be right, or just in the eyes of God. Christ is righteous. Righteousness is a property of God, and God can impute righteousness to the account of His saints. Imputation is an accounting term. When Christ atoned for our sins God imputed our sins to Christ’s account, and when the atonement was complete God imputed Christ’s righteousness to our account. We read in Romans 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” We were then declared just, or righteous, in the eyes of God. Now we stand before God as if we have never sinned.
Is that not a fabulous gift from God?
Is that not something for which we would want to love Him and embrace Him for all eternity?
Yes we want to love Him, for He loved us first and paid for our sins the full payment, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell.
Now we know our loving Mediator, and now we want to love Him.
How do we do that?
Our First Love (Revelation 2:4-5, Revelation 3:15-17, Hebrews 10:24-25, Revelation 20:7-9, 1 Corinthians 16:22, Matthew 22:37-39)
In Revelation 2:4 the Lord Jesus is speaking to the church at Ephesus. I visited the ruins of Ephesus. Materially it was a rich city, full of marble buildings, a marble library, marble streets, marble marketplace, marble public toilets for men without doors, marble everything. It was a church that was nourished in a special caring way by the apostle Paul for three years, and by the apostle John also for three years. And thus this church was very well trained in the doctrines of the Christian faith. They knew that salvation was by grace alone; not by works, or by ceremonies. But listen what the Lord Jesus said to these people in the church at Ephesus. We read in Revelation 2:4-5,
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
What a horrible thing has come upon this church?
They have left their first love.
What was their first love?
It was their love for Christ. It was an overwhelming love for the One who died for their sins. It was an overwhelming response of gratitude for this great gift of God and for more gifts to come when we will enter into the New Heaven and New Earth. It was an understanding of what Christ had done for His saints, and now they wanted to do something in return. No effort was too great, no sacrifice too great. They truly loved Christ above anyone else in their sight. They met together and talked about this with one another, and they worked overtime to seek what they could do to please their Savior, for they certainly wanted to do those things that were pleasing in His sight. They searched their Bible and they searched through the messages of the apostles Paul and John how they could please the Lord.
But now, they have left their first love. The mundane tasks of the day were now more in the forefront of their mind. Their unsaved spouses lured them away from doing too much work for the church. They still met for worship, and they still preached the doctrines that the apostles taught them, but after the services the church was dead. This is what the Lord meant when He said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
O yes, the first thing is that we need to be aware that there is something wrong with us. The Lord did them a great favor by pointing out their error.
How are they to correct it?
The Lord also showed them how to correct it. He said in Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” There are essentially three things here:
1) Remember how you were on fire for the Lord.
2) And repent from your present lukewarm attitude.
3) And do the first works like you have done it in the beginning.
Presently there are many, many churches for which this admonition applies. Most churches I have been in are at best maintenance ministries, which are characterized by a lukewarm attitude. They would not last in a fifty minute sermon; fifteen minutes is the maximum they can bear.
Taking notes during the sermon?
They have never heard of such a thing.
And would they attend an afternoon Bible study?
No way! The children have to sleep at home during that time.
And have lunch with the saints after the sermon?
No way! They rather have lunch with the Canaanites who try to make them attend a ball game.
If we look in the church world today we are struck seeing this lukewarm attitude almost everywhere.
What is God’s opinion of the church world today?
God hates a lukewarm attitude. God says in Revelation 3:15-17,
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
You see, if we are lukewarm our children will no longer attend church, for God promised “I will vomit thee out of My mouth,” and that is a promise.
Did God not say in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”?
Let us now consider all these lukewarm attitudes in the churches these days, and I have only scratched the surface, and let us ask ourselves what we can do about this condition.
What does God say about this?
He says in Revelation 2:5,
1) Remember how you were on fire for the Lord.
2) And repent from your present lukewarm attitude.
3) And do the first works like you have done it in the beginning. God speaks about works here. It means we have to get in on the action. We have to get busy. The change does not come by sitting down at home in front of the TV, or laying down in bed.
But you know, this admonition of the Lord would also be applicable to individuals. Even in very conservative churches there are many individuals who think that they are saved, but by displaying their lukewarm attitude they are probably deceiving themselves.
Revelation 20:7 is a summary of the last stage of the Final Tribulation Period. We presently are living in the end time where Satan will appear to be very successful. As you know, Satan does not do battle openly, but he comes as an angel of light. We read in Revelation 20:7-9,
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
This is the last stage. Satan will try to eradicate the last vestiges of the kingdom of God on this earth. This is a warning for us. Satan is attacking our church; that I know for sure. Satan probably hated it that I bought a treadmill for myself. He would rather that I bought a cane. And so, Satan is attacking every one of you, one by one. O, he does not do it openly, but as a snake he creates troubles at home, agonizing troubles, and you will believe that you alone are suffering such great and overwhelming agonies, and they will make you sad and depressed, and as a result you will skip church on Sundays, and those skips will be more and more frequent, and the church will die. You will feel like a hypocrite. You do not know that every one has experienced these kinds of problems, and so you stay away from socializing with the saints, but actually you stay away from those who can help you, and the church dies.
What can you do for a defense against Satan?
First and foremost: “Do not debate with the Devil; you will lose.”
Remember the woman in the Garden of Eden?
She debated with the Devil and she lost, for the Devil is far more intelligent and far stronger than you are. If your spouse wants you to go in a direction that is against the Word of God remember that we are in the stage of Revelation 20:7-9, for God puts you to the test whether you will be obedient to Him or to your spouse.
Remember, “No man can serve two masters.” No one can be saved without loving Christ above all and above anyone around us, even our most dearest member of our family.
Remember what the Lord Jesus said in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha”, meaning “Let him be accursed until the Lord comes.”
I know that with this message I will step on many toes, but this has to be said, for the church is in battle against Satan. We are the church militant. And the battle has never been greater than now. We began this section with “Knowing Our Loving Mediator”, and then our response of loving Him and not forgetting “Our First Love”.
The Lord Jesus is gently warning us that we will lose the battle if we forget our first love.
Christ commands us to love Him first and above all, and that is our best defense.
Did not the Lord Jesus say in Matthew 22:37-39, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
But that love is second!
By Alfred J. Chompff