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John 17:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

This is life eternal - The salvation purchased by Christ, and given to them who believe, is called life:

  1. Because the life of man was forfeited to Divine justice; and the sacrifice of Christ redeemed him from that death to which he was exposed.
  • Because the souls of men were dead in trespasses and sins; and Christ quickens them by his word and Spirit.
  • Because men who are not saved by the grace of Christ do not live, they only exist, no good purpose of life being answered by them. But when they receive this salvation they live - answer all the Divine purposes, are happy in themselves, useful to each other, and bring glory to God.
  • It is called eternal life to show that it reaches beyond the limits of time, and that it necessarily implies -
  • The immortality of the soul;
  • the resurrection of the body; and
  • that it is never to end, hence called αιωνιος ζωη, a life ever living; from αει, always, and ων, being or existence. And indeed no words can more forcibly convey the idea of eternity than these. It is called ἡ αιωνιος ζωη, That eternal life, by way of eminence. There may be an eternal existence without blessedness; but this is that eternal life with which infinite happiness is inseparably connected.
  • The only true God -

    The way to attain this eternal life is to acknowledge, worship, and obey, the one only true God, and to accept as teacher, sacrifice, and Savior, the Lord Jesus, the one and only true Messiah. Bishop Pearce's remark here is well worthy the reader's attention: -

    "What is said here of the only true God seems said in opposition to the gods whom the heathens worshipped; not in opposition to Jesus Christ himself, who is called the true God by John, in 1 John 5:20."

    The words in this verse have been variously translated:

    1. That they might acknowledge thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent, to be the only true God.
  • That they might acknowledge thee, the only true God, and Jesus, whom thou hast sent, to be the Christ or Messiah.
  • That they might acknowledge thee to be the only true God, and Jesus Christ to be him whom thou hast sent. And all these translations the original will bear.
  • From all this we learn that the only way in which eternal life is to be attained is by acknowledging the true God, and the Divine mission of Jesus Christ, he being sent of God to redeem men by his blood, being the author of eternal salvation to all them that thus believe, and conscientiously keep his commandments.

    A saying similar to this is found in the Institutes of Menu. Brigoo, the first emanated being who was produced from the mind of the supreme God, and who revealed the knowledge of his will to mankind, is represented as addressing the human race and saying: "Of all duties, the principal is to acquire from the Upanishads (their sacred writings) a true knowledge of one supreme God; that is the most exalted of sciences, because it ensures eternal life. For in the knowledge and adoration of one God all the rules of good conduct are fully comprised." See Institutes of Menu, chap. xii. Inst. 85, 87.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    This is life eternal - This is the source of eternal life; or it is in this manner that it is to be obtained. The knowledge of God and of his Son Jesus Christ is itself a source of unspeakable and eternal joy. Compare John 11:25; John 6:63; John 12:50.

    Might know thee - The word “know” here, as in other places, expresses more than a mere speculative acquaintance with the character and perfections of God. “It includes all the impressions on the mind and life which a just view of God and of the Saviour is fitted to produce.” It includes, of course, love, reverence, obedience, honor, gratitude, supreme affection. “To know God as he is” is to know and regard him as a lawgiver, a sovereign, a parent, a friend. It is to yield the whole soul to him, and strive to obey his law.

    The only true God - The only God, in opposition to all false gods. What is said here is in opposition to idols, not to Jesus himself, who, in 1 John 5:20, is called “the true God and eternal life.”

    And Jesus Christ - To know Jesus Christ is to have a practical impression of him as he is - that is, to suffer his character and work to make their due impression on the heart and life. Simply to have heard that there is a Saviour is not to know it. To have been taught in childhood and trained up in the belief of it is not to know it. To know him is to have a just, practical view of him in all his perfections as God and man; as a mediator; as a prophet, a priest, and a king. It is to feel our need of such a Saviour, to see that we are sinners, and to yield the whole soul to him, knowing that he is a Saviour suited to our needs, and that in his hands our souls are safe. Compare Ephesians 3:19; Titus 1:16; Philemon 3:10; 1 John 5:20. In this verse is contained the sum and essence of the Christian religion, as it is distinguished from all the schemes of idolatry and philosophy, and all the false plans on which men have sought to obtain eternal life. The Gentiles worshipped many gods; the Christian worships one - the living and the true God; the Jew, the Deist, the Muslim, the Socinian, profess to acknowledge one God, without any atoning sacrifice and Mediator; the true Christian approaches him through the great Mediator, equal with the Father, who for us became incarnate, and died that he might reconcile us to God.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Our Lord prayed as a man, and as the Mediator of his people; yet he spoke with majesty and authority, as one with and equal to the Father. Eternal life could not be given to believers, unless Christ, their Surety, both glorified the Father, and was glorified of him. This is the sinner's way to eternal life, and when this knowledge shall be made perfect, holiness and happiness will be fully enjoyed. The holiness and happiness of the redeemed, are especially that glory of Christ, and of his Father, which was the joy set before him, for which he endured the cross and despised the shame; this glory was the end of the sorrow of his soul, and in obtaining it he was fully satisfied. Thus we are taught that our glorifying God is needed as an evidence of our interest in Christ, through whom eternal life is God's free gift.
    Ellen G. White
    Messages to Young People, 189

    Young men and young women may obtain the highest earthly education, and yet may be ignorant of the first principles that would make them subjects of the kingdom of God. Human learning cannot qualify anyone for the heavenly kingdom. The subjects of Christ's kingdom are not made thus by forms and ceremonies, or by long study of books. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” ... MYP 189.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Medical Ministry, 102

    In the word of God are grand truths that are worthy of intense study. Shall we neglect these great fundamental truths in order that we may enter into speculation over what has not been clearly revealed? I am frequently asked, regarding some theoretical doctrine, questions that I feel no liberty to answer. I sometimes reply to those who ask me such questions, “You have the word. If the Lord desired you to know in regard to this matter, you would find your knowledge in the word of God, and would not need to ask me. If we reach heaven, we may then understand the matters that are not clear to us now.” Let us study the great truths of the Scriptures; they are sufficient to tax our minds to their utmost capacity. MM 102.1

    “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Oh, do we know God as we should? What comfort, what joy, we should have if we were to learn daily the lessons He desires us to learn! We must know Him by an experimental knowledge. It will be profitable for us to spend more time in secret prayer, in becoming personally acquainted with our heavenly Father. In our weakness we may come to Him and ask Him to impart to us an understanding of what He will do for us in separating from us everything that is unlike His own character.—The Review and Herald, August 15, 1907. MM 102.2

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    Ellen G. White
    SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW), 1052

    Satan is ever ready to fill the mind with theories and calculations that will divert men from the present truth, and disqualify them for the giving of the third angel's message to the world. It has ever been thus; for our Saviour often had to speak reprovingly to those who indulged in speculations and were ever inquiring into those things which the Lord had not revealed. Jesus had come to earth to impart important truth to men, and He wished to impress their minds with the necessity of receiving and obeying His precepts and instructions, of doing their present duty, and His communications were of an order that imparted knowledge for their immediate and daily use. 6BC 1052.1

    Jesus said: “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” All that was done and said had this one object in view—to rivet truth in their minds that they might attain unto everlasting life. Jesus did not come to astonish men with some great announcement of some special time when some great event would occur, but He came to instruct and save the lost. He did not come to arouse and gratify curiosity; for He knew that this would but increase the appetite for the curious and the marvelous. It was His aim to impart knowledge whereby men might increase in spiritual strength and advance in the way of obedience and true holiness. He gave only such instruction as could be appropriated to the needs of their daily life, only such truth as could be given to others for the same appropriation. He did not make new revelations to men, but opened to their understanding truths that had long been obscured or misplaced through the false teaching of the priests and teachers. Jesus replaced the gems of divine truth in their proper setting, in the order in which they had been given to patriarchs and prophets. And after giving them this precious instruction. He promised to give them the Holy Spirit whereby all things that He had said unto them should be brought to their remembrance. 6BC 1052.2

    We are in continual danger of getting above the simplicity of the gospel. There is an intense desire on the part of many to startle the world with something original, that shall lift the people into a state of spiritual ecstasy, and change the present order of experience. There is certainly great need of a change in the present order of experience; for the sacredness of present truth is not realized as it should be, but the change we need is a change of heart, and can only be obtained by seeking God individually for His blessing, by pleading with Him for His power, by fervently praying that His grace may come upon us, and that our characters may be transformed. This is the change we need today, and for the attainment of this experience we should exercise persevering energy and manifest heartfelt earnestness. We should ask with true sincerity, What shall I do to be saved? We should know just what steps we are taking heavenward. 6BC 1052.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 737

    *****

    Said the Saviour: “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” And God declared by the prophet: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” 5T 737.1

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