“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1-3)
Jesus Christ gives Eternal Life. This is a fundamental truth of the Christian’s Faith. In fact, many non-Christians are familiar enough with Christianity to know the basic Gospel message of John 3:16; that Christ’s substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection secure the believer’s everlasting life. Yet, among “believers” there is a great disparity (inconsistency) in their understanding of Eternal Life (which is the same as everlasting life). Today we examine this all-important topic and see a comfort in the Gift of God.
First let us examine our text, taken from the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here Christ is praying a blessing on His immediate disciples as well as “for them also which shall believe … through their word” (John 17:20). Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you so believed through the testimony of those chosen to be His witnesses (see Acts 10:40-42)? If so, the prayer of our Lord pertains to you personally; which means its promises and provisions apply to you.
The general theme of this prayer is stated in verse 1: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” The glory of God is the theme here; and it involves “the hour,” or the time of Christ’s betrayal and subsequent crucifixion, as we read the following chapters. It also involves the Father and Son being glorified together as One (verse 5) and the further application to the saints: “that they also may be one in us… that they may behold my glory” (verses 21, 24).
These verses are important to our understanding of Eternal Life as presented in our text. They speak of the Oneness of God and our Oneness with Him. Jesus Christ is God. Accordingly, He has all power everywhere to do whatever He wills to do. Herein He is glorified. As we are made One Spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17), His power and authority are also our power and authority for living a victorious Christian life, bearing witness to the Life of Christ in us; so that He is glorified by our identification with Him, as we behold His glory.
We see then that a key aspect of our possession of Eternal Life is that we have the Life of Christ Himself – He is the True God and Eternal Life (1 John 5:20). We have Eternal Life given to us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Eternal Life is Christ’s Life. Christ’s Life is endless (Hebrews 7:16), so the Life of Christ in you is something that you cannot lose, for He is your Life (Colossians 3:4).
Another aspect of our possession of Eternal Life then pertains to its duration. The very word “eternal” gives us a proper understanding of such. Eternal means without beginning or end; it is forever future, as well as forever past. You always will have Eternal Life if you are made a partaker of Christ, because He has no beginning or end. It is difficult for us to comprehend the nature of such a duration as Eternity – forever past and future; the experience of always having existed.
And so our Lord very lovingly associates the possession of Eternal Life to an intimate encounter with Himself: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Eternal Life is the experience of Christ – His Life in us – in a close fellowship and communion; knowing Him personally as He abides within us.
The Apostle John wrote, “…that ye may know that ye have eternal life…” (1 John 5:13). As we’ve seen from our text, it is possible to know we have Eternal Life, because we have Christ in us. The living Christ makes Himself known to us as He works to change our lives, transforming us into His image. Nothing is more convincing to the individual than that they recognize the Life of Christ at work within them. But this witness of our Oneness with Christ isn’t restricted to the individual:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;” (John 17:20)
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21)
“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:” (John 17:22)
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:23)
Eternal Life (the Life of Christ) is a present possession, given to the saints as a witness to our Oneness with Him. It involves an intimate fellowship with Christ as we live by Him (Galatians 2:20); having the experience of His Glory as we live a Life of Victory by His Power. But it is also given as a witness so the world will know of God’s Love for the saints; that the Life of Christ will be made manifest in the victorious lives of Christian men and women. Our duty then is to bear witness to the Life of Christ, as He has given Himself to us for His glory.