Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Astounding Implications of John 17:3

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3 (NIV)
The first time I encountered this Bible verse was when I was taking the Youth Evangelism Explosion course in 1998. We used this verse to define what eternal life is with the goal of sharing with others how to obtain that eternal life. I remember not really understanding the verse, even in its context in John 17. I was working under the impression that “life” is a noun (which it is), and it should be defined by adjectives and by other nouns. So I found it strange that the verse defines this noun “life” by an action word, “know.”

This afternoon, as I was reading the late D. James Kennedy’s book, Lord of All, this verse suddenly became clear and I finally understood what it means. And it had very little to do with what I was reading. It just came to me, like an epiphany, if you will. Now I’m sure my realization this afternoon is not new to a lot of you. I do not endeavor to disclose any new truths about Scripture and doctrine. I simply want to elucidate newly found connections in my mind. If you haven’t made the connections yet, I guarantee you, the implications of this verse are astounding.

I have always thought of eternal life as being used to refer to life, if you are a Christ-follower, in heaven after we pass on from this earth. I had egocentric notions about the term. It was my life with God in heaven, my salvation. So all these years, I thought that its definition should contain something with those ideas. But I had the wrong notions after all.

Knowing God is not confined to head knowledge or an intellectual understanding of who God is. The word “know” in this verse implies an intimate relationship that involves actually knowing God as a person. But it’s not as simple as it sounds.

Such is the awesome and majestic qualities of God that in this lifetime, He is wholly unknowable and incomprehensible, except through what He has revealed to us in nature and in His Word. The whole point and definition of eternal life, then, is to know and comprehend God. He is such a great, mighty, and awesome God that it will take all of eternity to examine every facet of His being, every feature and contour of His holiness. We cannot know Him except by spending eternity trying to understand His complexity and His wonder. Do you even have a concept of how long eternity is? It will literally take us forever to comprehend the very nature and being of this Supreme Spirit who calls Himself YHWH, I Am.

As incredible as that may be, that is not what is astounding to me at all. It is the fact that this same God -- the God of the Universe, the Creator of all matter and of Life, the Supreme Force that holds the vast firmament in its place -- this powerful God took it upon Himself to love us first, mere creatures, small-minded, finite, sinful. And in His infinite wisdom, He devised a brilliantly simple plan to save us from the sin that He had nothing to do with in the first place. That is astounding. And incomprehensible. And beautiful.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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