“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
(John 17:3 ESV)
I realize that, technically, we’re done with our journey through the gospel of John. It ended Easter Sunday. However, I thought I’d share yet another passage that struck me as I read it. And, believe me, there are many more thoughts I could share.
The passage I’m referring to is the one you see above. And this is an interesting one. It defines for us something that everyone thinks they understand.
This verse is spoken in the context of Jesus’ prayer to God the Father. Jesus says that God has given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all that have been given him. He then defines for us eternal life.
Most people think they understand the concept of eternal life. And, if you ask them, most people in our society believe they’ll go to heaven when they die. They believe this because they think themselves to be a good person. They believe that, over all, they’ve done more good than bad. For this reason, they think it would be unjust of God to deny them a place in heaven.
Most in our society tend to believe the same thing about one another as well. They believe that most people are basically good and deserving of a place in heaven. And this is true regardless of their faith. They believe that good Jews, good Muslims, good Buddhists, and even good atheists deserve to possess eternal life in heaven.
However, we see in this passage that eternal life is defined by faith. It’s defined not by possessing faith in general, but by a specific faith. Jesus defines eternal life as knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ.
Eternal life doesn’t refer merely the fact that we’ll exist forever. In this sense of the term, everyone will have eternal life. Some will exist eternally in the presence of God while some will exist eternally in hell. True life, in the sense used in Scripture, is life with God. It’s life with the blessings he bestows upon us.
This tells us, as we see all throughout Scripture, that eternal life is not given based upon our goodness. In fact, Scripture assures us that we’re all rotten. The only thing we deserve is death and hell.
This also tells us that people of other faiths will not be saved. It’s not as though faith is a magical power by which we attain salvation. Salvation is a gift, given by God, that is received through faith in Jesus. If we don’t have faith in Jesus, if we don’t have faith in the salvation he’s provided and in his promise to us, we will not be saved.
May we, then, trust in Christ and in him alone for eternal life. Realizing that faith in him is eternal life, may we depend only upon him for this gift. And may we do so realizing that there is no other way.