TEXT: John 17:2-3
INTRO: We return again to John 17, which is the prayer of Jesus just before He is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a prayer for the Father to help the Son through what He is about to endure so that glory might come to both. It is also a prayer for His disciples, so they may be cared for after His departure. Tonight, we are going to examine an issue found early in the prayer concerning the reward Jesus has promised His followers. It is the matter of “eternal life.” Please allow me to PRAY with you and then we will move forward.
I. ETERNAL LIFE IS A GIFT FROM GOD THROUGH JESUS.
A. READ vss. 1-2. Jesus ‘ complete ministry has been to make known the will of God so the Father might gain glory. And if the Father gains glory, the Son will also gain glory for His obedience to the Father. To be involved with that glory we must be invited and accepted. It nothign we can do to earn it. It is available only as a gift of grace.
B. Of course, we know that Jesus is the Son of God, One with the Father. But, as we are told in Phil. 2:6-7, “[Jesus] was in the form of God, but did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” That means Jesus possessed eternal life, but He lay aside that claim so He might become like us, for our sake. And the Son had, at the time of this prayer, lived in perfect obedience to the Father. And Jesus says, “[the Father] gave Me authority over all mankind
that to all who You have given Him, He might give eternal life.” Jesus had come to accomplish what the Father wanted accomplished in the destiny of humanity. And bound up in that heavenly desire was “eternal life.” Jesus received back His eternal life at the resurrection. Jesus is using His authority to grant this gift to any person he chooses to grant it.
C. Now it is important to underscore that eternal life is not something that any human has as a natural result of his or her being. Rom. 3; 23 tells us , “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Every human being has disobeyed God and found himself or herself separated from Him, who is the Source of life. There are no exceptions. Paul goes on in Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.”
Our sin kills us in two (2) ways; 1.) First, it causes us to be unable to stay unified with a sinless God, who is the Source of life. We become like an appliance “unplugged” from the source of electric power. We exist, but we can do no good. 2.) And, like that appliance, in due time, we age and our body dies. So we still exist out side our bodies, but we live in terrible separation from God the Creator. Because we are imperfect, we cannot regain our connection to God and, thus, cannot have eternal life in His presence. Unless He provides it for us. That is what we refer to as “salvation,” and it means eternal life with God, is a gift born out of the mercy and the grace of God. And Jesus says here that the “authority to give that gift has been placed at His disposal.
II. ETERNAL LIFE IS MORE THAN MERE EXISTENCE.
A. READ vs. 3. This is the most direct and succinct definition of eternal life in the Scriptures. Let’s first examine the terms themselves. “Eternal” is the Greek term, “aioneo,”
which means, “a time, eternity, an age” and is in contrast to “something brief, or caught in time.” Eternity is both inside and outside of what we call time. It is unhindered by time constraints, and beyond the control of space. It involves the tenure of all existence, including the existence of God, which has no beginning nor end. In speaking of the patience and endurance of God, Peter, in 2 Pet. 3:8, tells us, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” Peter’s meaning is that God is not subject to time as we are. If we were to carry out Peter’s illustration a bit farther, we might include, “and God has endless days
B. The second term is “life.” Those who have heard me preach often, have no doubt heard me explain this term. There are three Greek terms usually translated as “life.”
1.) The first is “Bios,” which means the life of the physical body. It can refer to any physical body (lion, frog, human) and it is what most people think of when discussing “being alive.” From that term we get our” biology,” or the study of life. We can mostly understand this kind of life because we see it around us and we experience it at every level.
2.) The second Greek term is “psuche,” which refers to the individual personality or the mind, emotions, and will. It is who we are uniquely as ourselves. We may tell someone, even a friend who spends much time with you, “You don’t really know me, who I am inside.” We would be referring to our “inner life.” In the Bible we see this used in Matt. 16:25, “For whoever wishes to save his life (identity with all its desires and pride) shall lose it: but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” To try to hold on to one’s personal identity based in personal desires and actions, pits one against Jesus who is working to remake us. Our psuche may remain after death, but it can only do so in excellence through obedience to the Lord. Otherwise, its existence is confused and evil.
C. The third Greek term for life is “zoe.” Literally, this refers to the life of God. It means, “uncreated, eternal life of God, the Divine life.” John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and [lived, tabernacled] among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus knew and lived the kind of life the Father had. To understand this we must look at what Jesus did.Consider Gal. 5:19-21, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these . . . . those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Jesus did none of these things because they were fully outside the nature of God the Father. These represent “bios,” creaturely life, selfish and destructive.
Now look at Gal. 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . . if you live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” This was the life of Christ. And it was attained by letting the Spirit lead. This is the life of “zoe.”
III. ETERNAL LIFE IS TO KNOW GOD.
A. READ VS. 3. We need to first look at the Greek term for “know.” The term used here is “ginoskosin” (from gnosis). It means literally, “to come to know, to recognize, to perceive.” We tend to measure eternal life by quantity – it goes on and on and on. But, as we’ve pointed out, God is not concerned about quantity (it is assumed or built in). Rather He is interested in quality. It is not primarily about how long we live, but about how well we live. This passage demands we determine what that means in the concept of “knowing God.” This not talking about the Divine abilities of: omnipotence, omnipresence, and so on. We will understand them, but we will not inherit such things, at least not in their fullness. Instead we must focus in on the character of God: and we find two places to research. 1.) We can look at Jesus: to do that we can turn to almost any passage in the New Testament because He is at the heart of it all. But let me offer you a specific look. Jn. 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus is obedient, sacrificial, concerned with others, and diligent. Matt. 23:29: “learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. . . ” That’s pretty clear: gentleness and humility. Of course, we can go back to what we just examined a moment ago under our last point. We went to Gal. 5 and looked at the “fruit of the Spirit.” That means it is the character that the Holy Spirit is producing in us so that we become like Christ. We are even now learning those things, but we will eventually be complete in them. We will be like Christ. Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 13:13, “For now we see in a mirror dimly (we can see Jesus revealing himself in us, but our eyesight can only barely make it out), but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I have also been known.”
We are growing daily in our knowledge and understanding of Christ, but the world keeps hindering our sight. But, when the Lord takes us home, we will see Him clearly and understand Him completely. We will be like Him – free from the distortions of sin and lies, and open to the full truth. We will be like Him and able to maintain that relationship. And, to continue with our passage, we will also know God the Father. Of course, Col. 1:15 says, “And [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” and goes on in vs. 19, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness [the fulness of the Divine Character] to dwell in Him.” As He told Philip in Jn. 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” We will know the Father because we know Jesus. Furthermore, we will understand the concept of what we call the “Trinity.”
Jesus assures His followers that He has given to them “eternal life” and then He explains that eternal life is to know Father and Son. That knowledge is to have an intimate personal relationship with God, so much so that we become heirs to the kingdom. We are good citizens and leaders in the eternal realm of God. We will live forever and we will live with both the breath and the guidance of God within us. That is eternal life – and it begins today when we surrender to the Lord.