The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand
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The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:3

John 17: The Real Lord’s Prayer (3)

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (17:3)

Apart from anything else, what I find striking about this verse is that it is, I am sure, the only place where Jesus refers to himself in the third person as “Jesus Christ”.  He is here drawing attention to his commission as the promised Messiah.

Familiar as we are with that wonderful name, let’s just pause and reflect on it for a moment.

Jesus, the Saviour’s name is the English rendering of the Greek name Iēsous, which is a translation of the ancient Hebrew Yehoshua, which is translated in our English Old Testament as Joshua.   In the Greek it is actually used once in the New Testament to refer to Joshua, the successor to Moses (Hebrews 4:8).

The Yehoshua name comes from a Hebrew root meaning Jehovah is salvation  or God our Saviour.  Jesus Christ, is, of course, Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:22–23), who came to earth in order to die in our place and become our Saviour. This is why the angel said to Joseph, “…you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Although we use the term Christ as a name, it is actually not so much a name as a title.  In the Old Testament, for centuries, the Jewish people looked forward to the day when God would send the king he had promised to deliver his people and rule over the world. The Hebrew word for this promised king was Messiah, which means the anointed one.  The word Messiah was translated into the Greek as  Christos, from which we get the English word, Christ.   Strictly speaking, our Saviour is Jesus the Christ.

But let’s go back and take this part of Jesus’ prayer phrase by phrase.

“…this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God”

Eternal life is, as we have already seen, the gift given “to all whom you (God the Father) have given him (God the (Son)” (17:2).   In a general sense we noted that Scripture uses this term as an opposite to death which is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23).

However, here, Jesus himself beautifully defines eternal life as a relationship, and that is a staggering thought in and of itself; the very fact that it is possible for mere mortals, never mind naturally sinful mortals, to have a relationship with the living God, the only true God as Jesus expresses it.

Indeed, the very fact that God can be known at all is remarkable and worthy of reflection.  God, by nature, is invisible, unknowable and unapproachable in his holiness and all that we know of him, or can know of him, is what he has revealed of himself to us. 

“…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.”

1 Timothy 6:16

“…no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Matthew 11:27

The truth is that if God had not chosen to be known by men and women then, despite all their best efforts and their knowledge of themselves, they would never have come to know him.

“To dust-begotten creatures like ourselves, God is unknowable.  The only things we can ever know of him are the things he himself reveals to us.”  

John Hercus

“To know God without God is impossible; as he is the source of all knowledge, he must be the source of knowledge about himself.” 

John Blanchard

Of course, we must stress that knowing God is so much more than knowing about God or having a merely intellectual awareness of and agreement with the facts about God.  To know God involves a personal relationship, intimate fellowship, implicit trust, and absolute faith.

So, according to Jesus himself, eternal life consists of a personal relationship with the living God; it means coming to know the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the invisible God, through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. To know him and to be brought into relationship with him is to have eternal life.

“…and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”

We can, as we have said, only know God because he has made himself known, and only through the means of self-revelation that he has used, so this personal, saving knowledge of God cannot be separated from or even experienced without a personal and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, whom God has sent, is the ultimate access to a knowledge of God.

“…no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Matthew 11:27

“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” 

John 14:7, 9

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

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