“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
IT IS FASCINATING TO CONTEMPLATE WHAT IT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE FOR ADAM AND EVE TO KNOW GOD. Prior to their tragic decision to rebel against His will, they would have had a perfect relationship with their Creator: knowing Him, revering Him, and loving Him. But once that relationship was broken, the knowledge of God would have become an increasingly distant memory.
In John’s record of Jesus’ prayer on the night of His betrayal, we hear the Son of God praying: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (John 17:1,2). And then we have this remarkable statement: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (v.3).
To “know” God means more than knowing about God. The devil has a good bit of information concerning God, but that doesn’t mean he knows God. And it means more than having feelings of closeness to God, for many people feel that way, even quite passionately, while still being outside of Christ and lost in their sins.
One thing is for sure: there is no knowing God apart from the knowledge of Him made possible by Jesus Christ. In Jesus alone is the truth about God made accessible to mankind (John 14:6). But God cannot be known apart from the Scriptures, even if we seek Him through Jesus Christ. The Scriptures contain the only objective information we have about Jesus’ revelation of the Father.
Obeying the gospel, then, we begin to partake more and more of God’s true nature, anticipating the time when we will meet Him face to face (Revelation 22:4). In Christ, we have what might be considered a foretaste of eternal life — or a down payment on it (Ephesians 1:14) — but the fullness of that life is something that will be ours only in eternity (Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:3,4). When it is finally ours, however, it won’t be eternal just in duration — it will be a quality of life no one has ever known before except Jesus, the Son of God, who will graciously share with us the life He has always had.
“[Christianity] is a revelation of the true way of living, the way to know God, the way to live life of eternal quality” (J. B. Phillips).