In the ongoing discussion of 3D Theology, our esteemed opponents have taken significant exception to the way we are using John 17:3. The various objections mostly have to do with how our reading of the verse conflicts with this theological formulation or that one, and are being dealt with in the venues where they were made. To my eye, one particular point of discussion has been notably absent: discussion of the immediate context. I’d like to remedy that lack today.
In a sense, this discussion needs to start in 1:1 — and some of the issues that will come up in the ensuing discussion can probably only be resolved that way — but for today, let’s just work through the beginning of this prayer.
- Jesus begins by saying that the hour has come, and then makes His request:
- He asks the Father to glorify Him.
- The purpose for the Father glorifying Him is so that He can, in turn, glorify the Father.
- He will glorify the Father because the Father has given Him power over everyone.
- The purpose for the Father giving Him power over everyone is in order that Jesus give eternal life to all those the Father has given him.
- And what is this eternal life? It is to know the Father, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ whom the Father sent.
- Jesus says He has, in fact, glorified the Father, and finished the work the Father gave Him to do.
- On that basis, He asks the Father to return to Him the glory He had before the world existed.
It all hangs together nicely, doesn’t it? (For those of you who want to talk Greek, some comments are already online here .)
This is to say that eternal life is not a thing. It is not a widget that Jesus puts in your pocket and then you walk away. It is not a ticket stashed at the Will Call window by the pearly gates.
Eternal life is knowing the Father, and Jesus Christ His Son. Jesus is the Life (14:6); the Father has life in Himself and has granted to the Son to have life in Himself (5:26). Eternal life is ongoing relationship with the One who is Life. Because He is infinitely faithful and He loves you, if you want a relationship with Him, you’ll have one. He guarantees it.
Over time, eternal life looks like this: first, you don’t have it at all; you’re dead in your trespasses and sins. Then you believe, and you do have it. Then, as you grow, you have more of it, until you have an abundant life (10:10), and the living water Jesus gave you becomes a fountain of life to those around you (4:14, 7:38). Stop believing, like Thomas did (20:27), and you’re still a part of the family (1:12-13). You’re born again; you can’t get un-born (10:28-29). Eternal life is, well, eternal. But like Thomas, you can lose a blessing (20:29), and of course you can fail to be a blessing to others.
Simple as that. God is a Person–know Him.