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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
    Christ's Object Lessons, 114

    No one can search the Scriptures in the spirit of Christ without being rewarded. When man is willing to be instructed as a little child, when he submits wholly to God, he will find the truth in His word. If men would be obedient, they would understand the plan of God's government. The heavenly world would open its chambers of grace and glory for exploration. Human beings would be altogether different from what they now are, for by exploring the mines of truth men would be ennobled. The mystery of redemption, the incarnation of Christ, His atoning sacrifice, would not be as they are now, vague in our minds. They would be not only better understood, but altogether more highly appreciated. COL 114.1

    In His prayer to the Father, Christ gave to the world a lesson which should be graven on mind and soul. “This is life eternal,” He said, “that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” John 17:3. This is true education. It imparts power. The experimental knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent, transforms man into the image of God. It gives to man the mastery of himself, bringing every impulse and passion of the lower nature under the control of the higher powers of the mind. It makes its possessor a son of God and an heir of heaven. It brings him into communion with the mind of the Infinite, and opens to him the rich treasures of the universe. COL 114.2

    This is the knowledge which is obtained by searching the word of God. And this treasure may be found by every soul who will give all to obtain it. COL 114.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Fundamentals of Christian Education, 376

    He who chooses a course of disobedience to God's law is deciding his future destiny; he is sowing to the flesh, earning the wages of sin, even eternal destruction, the opposite of life eternal. Submission to God and obedience to His holy law bring the sure result. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” This is a knowledge of such value that no language can describe it; it is of highest worth in this world, and is far-reaching as eternity. “Thus saith the Lord, 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.” FE 376.1

    When we aim at a low standard, we shall reach only a low standard. We commend to every student the Book of books as the grandest study for the human intelligence, as the education essential for this life, and for eternal life. But I did not contemplate a letting down of the educational standard in the study of the sciences. The light that has been given on these subjects is clear, and should in no case be disregarded. But if the word of God which giveth light, and giveth understanding to the simple, had been welcomed into the mind and the soul-temple, as a counselor, as a guide and instructor, the human agent living by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, there would have been no need of reproof because of the backslidings of the students after the blessing of God had come to them in rich rays of divine light, to glow in heaven's holy fire upon the altar of their hearts. Many allowed amusements to have the supremacy. This was not the course that Daniel pursued in obtaining the education which revealed through him the supremacy of heavenly wisdom above all the wisdom and knowledge of the highest schools in the courts of proud Babylon. God opens the understanding of men in a marked manner if His words are brought into the practical life of the student, and the Bible is recognized as the precious, wonderful book that it is. Nothing is to come between this book and the student as more essential; for it is that wisdom which, brought into the practical life, makes men wise through time and through eternity. God is revealed in nature; God is revealed in His word. The Bible is the most wonderful of all histories, for it is the production of God, not of the finite mind. It carries us back through the centuries to the beginning of all things, presenting the history of times and scenes which would otherwise never have been known. It reveals the glory of God in the working of His providence to save a fallen world. It presents in the simplest language the mighty power of the gospel, which, received, would cut the chains that bind men to Satan's chariot. FE 376.2

    The light shines from the sacred pages, in clear, glorious beams, showing us God, the living God, as represented in the laws of His government, in the creation of the world, in the heavens which He hath garnished. His power is to be recognized as the only means of redeeming a world from degrading superstitions which are so dishonoring to God and man. Every student of the Bible who not only becomes familiar with revealed truth through the education of the intellect, but also through its transforming power upon heart and character, will represent the character of God to our world in a well-ordered life and a godly conversation. The entrance of the word giveth light. The mind is expanded, elevated, purified. But many have pursued a course of action inconsistent with the knowledge of truth and the wonderful light through the descent of the Holy Spirit of God in so marked a manner upon hearts in Battle Creek. Great sin and loss resulted from the neglect to walk in the light from heaven. In plunging into amusements, match games, pugilistic performances, they declared to the world that Christ was not their leader in any of these things. All this called forth the warning from God. Now that which burdens me is the danger of going into extremes on the other side; there is no necessity for this; if the Bible is made the guide, the counselor, it is calculated to have an influence on the mind and heart of the unconverted. Its study, more than any other, will leave a divine impress. It will enlarge the mind of the candid student, it will endow it with new impulses and fresh vigor. It will give greater efficiency to the faculties by bringing them in contact with grand and far-reaching truths. It is ever working, drawing; it is an effective instrument in the converting of the soul. If the human mind becomes dwarfed and feeble and inefficient, it is because it is left to deal with commonplace subjects only. FE 377.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Fundamentals of Christian Education, 403-4

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the covenant was made that all who were obedient, all who should through the abundant grace provided, become holy in character, and without blame before God, by appropriating that grace, should be children of God. This covenant, made from eternity, was given to Abraham hundreds of years before Christ came. With what interest and what intensity did Christ in humanity study the human race to see if they would avail themselves of the provision offered. FE 403.1

    “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” These words are an eye opener to all who will see. The knowledge of God is a knowledge which will not need to be left behind when our probation closes, a knowledge which is of the most lasting benefit to the world and to us individually. Why, then, should we put the word of God in the background when it is wisdom unto salvation. “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.” We are neglecting our salvation if we give authors who have but a confused idea of what religion means, the most conspicuous place and devoted respect, and make the Bible secondary. Those who have been enlightened in reference to the truth for these last days will not find instruction in the books generally studied today, in regard to the things which are coming upon our world; but the Bible is full of the knowledge of God, and is competent to educate the student for usefulness in this life and for the eternal life. FE 403.2

    Study carefully the first chapter of Hebrews. Become interested in the Scriptures. Read and study them diligently. “In them ye think ye have eternal life,” Christ said, “and they are they which testify of Me.” It means everything to us to have an experimental and individual knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, “whom He hath sent.” “For this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”—Special Testimonies On Education, March 23, 1896. FE 404.1

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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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