John 17:3

3 This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.

John 17:3 Meaning and Commentary

John 17:3

And this is life eternal
That is, the beginning and pledge of it, the way unto it, and means of it, and what will certainly issue in it:

that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom
thou hast sent.
The knowledge of God here spoken of, is not the knowledge of him by the light of nature, and works of creation; for a man may know God in this sense, and not know him in Christ, nor anything of Christ; yea, may know God and profess him in words, and in works deny him, as the Heathens did; nor is eternal life known hereby, nor connected with it: nor is it such a knowledge of God as is to be obtained by the law of Moses, in which God is represented as a righteous and incensed Being; nor is there in it any discovery of God, as a God of love, grace, and mercy in Christ; nor any revelation of a Mediator, Saviour and Redeemer; nor can it either show, or give to persons eternal life; and yet what is here said of the knowledge of God and Christ, the Jews say of the law F4,

``one man said to his friend, let us dash them against that wall and kill them, because they have left (abh Mlwe yyx) , "eternal life"; (the gloss upon it is, (hrwt) , "the law";) and employ themselves in a temporary life, the gloss says of this world, which is merchandise.''

More truly does Philo the Jew say F5, that

``fleeing to the Divine Being, "is eternal life"; and running front him is death.''

But this is to be understood of an evangelic knowledge of God, as the God and Father of Christ, as the God of all grace, pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin, and of Christ Mediator; not a general, notional, and speculative knowledge; but a practical and experimental one; a knowledge of approbation and appropriation; a fiducial one, whereby a soul believes in Christ, and trusts in his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice for salvation; and which, though imperfect, is progressive. The Arians and Unitarians urge this text, against the true and proper deity of our Lord Jesus, and his equality with the Father, but without success; since the Father is called the only true God, in opposition to the many false gods of the Heathens, but not to the exclusion of the Son or Spirit; for Christ is also styled the one Lord, and only Lord God, but not to the exclusion of the Father; yea the true God and eternal life; was he not, he would never, as here, join himself with the only true God; and besides, eternal life is made to depend as much upon the knowledge of him, as of the Father. The reason of this different mode of expression, is owing to the character of Christ as Mediator, who is said to be sent by the only true God, about the business of man's salvation. Nor is it of any moment what the Jew F6 objects, that Jesus here confesses, that the true God is only one God; nor does he call himself God, only the Messiah sent by God; and that the Apostle Paul also asserts the unity of God, ( 1 Timothy 1:17 ) ; and therefore Jesus cannot be God: for Christ and his Father, the only true God, are one; and that he is the one true God with his Father, he tacitly suggests here by joining himself with him; and what the Apostle Paul says of the one and only wise God, may as well be understood of Christ, the Son of God, as of the Father; since all the characters in the text agree with him, and of him he had been speaking in the context.


F4 T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 21. 1.
F5 De profugis, p. 461.
F6 R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 55. p. 445.

John 17:3 In-Context

1 After saying this, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the time is here. Give your Son glory so that your Son can give you glory.
2 After all, you've given him authority over all humanity so that he can give eternal life to all those you gave to him.
3 This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
4 On earth I have given you glory by finishing the work you gave me to do.
5 Now, Father, give me glory in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed.
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