From “Studies in the Lord’s Prayer,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
Are you familiar with the “Make a Wish Foundation?” It started in 1980 with a little 7-year-old boy named Chris, who always wanted to be a policeman. Chris had leukemia and would never reach his eighth birthday, but his family had some friends who were with the Sheriff’s Department in Phoenix, Arizona. One day a police helicopter flew into Chris’ yard, and he was air-lifted to Sheriff’s headquarters. From there he rode in a patrol car and spent the day with some of the officers. His parents had earlier gotten him a battery powered motorcycle which he often used instead of his wheelchair. On the uniform of one of his new police friends, he saw the wings of a motorcycle cop, and the boy asked what the officer had done to get them. He was told that he had to pass a rigorous test. A few days later Chris was taking a cycle test on his battery powered motorcycle, dressed in his new authentic-looking police uniform. Chris was given his motorcycle police wings and was the happiest kid on the planet. He died a few days later.
Since 1980, “The Make a Wish Foundation” has established 80 chapters in the US and another 22 internationally. They have fulfilled the wishes of over 83,000 critically ill children. Most of those wishes come in the form of: “I would like to have . . . I would like to be . . . I would like to do . . . and I would like to meet . . .” Many of these wishes have been easy to fulfill, and others – a little more difficult.
Now, think about it for just a moment. If you only had a short time to live, and you had one wish, like those children, what would it be?
The Lord Jesus had one primary “wish” – “Father, glorify thy son, that thy son may glorify thee.” We saw this in verse one of this very special prayer. The Lord then plead his commission and His power to carry out His commission. “Father, you’ve given me authority and power over all humanity that I may give eternal life to everyone whom You’ve chosen and given to Me.”
In verse three Jesus deals with the definition of and qualification for this eternal life.
“And this is life eternal. . .”
One of the major subjects of scientific study in these last days is in the matter of life itself. Is it – or is it not – “matter”? As far as I know, none of us here tonight would call himself a “scientist.” And in the matter of “life,” none of us can fully explain what it is. But we all know some of the characteristics of life and of living things. And among those characteristics there is one that is not so pleasant – life always comes to an end. One of the characteristics of life is death. But the life to which Jesus refers is given an adjective that takes it beyond what we know as life: The Lord Jesus was commissioned and authorized to give the Lord’s people eternal life. In fact, in the Greek there is the definite article “ho” before eternal life. It is “the” eternal life.
I was doing some thinking about the word “aionios” – “eternal.” Strong’s Concordance gives it three very similar definitions. “Without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be. Without beginning. And without end, never to cease, everlasting. ”
We usually think of eternal life, as life without end. Perhaps we should remember that it is actually life without beginning as well. In other words, it is something that cannot be disassociated from the eternal God.
We may be brought into it, and we may enjoy the end of it, or rather the never end of it, but before we ever tasted it, it never had a beginning either. This may be the greatest thing and most important thing that can touch a human being – eternal life! But what comprises this eternal life?
“That they might know thee . . .”
The more that we think about eternal life, the more different it is from life as we know it. Perhaps when we get to heaven in our glorified bodies and sanctified minds, the Lord will give us a better word – an heavenly synonym – to use in place of “eternal life,” but right now we don’t have any good synonyms that we can use and understand.
Eternal life is not unending existence. It’s not like life as we know it – minus the death part. This special eternal life is actually a very special relationship with the eternal God. The Lord calls it “the knowledge of God.” But that knowledge is unlike any other kind of knowledge. The angels which left their first estate and followed Satan into rebellion and sin, know God, but they do not possess eternal life. And I’d venture to say that even the righteous angels, who know God even better, don’t possess genuine eternal life. They may have eternal existence, but not eternal life in the sense that the redeemed have it. There is a knowledge of God that is gained by studying nature, and by learning the law of Moses, but that kind of knowledge is not eternal life.
Have you ever learned something that changed your life? Maybe it was a skill. The knowledge to which Jesus refers makes such an impression on a person that it produces a love, reverence, obedience, honour, gratitude and affection for the Lord, and these things added to what the Lord actually bestows upon us make us utterly different. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus, old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. This knowledge doesn’t come through the eyes, the mind, or the sensations of our finger-tips. We know the Lord through faith and that by way of the Word of God. And its not a one way knowledge either. It is also a knowledge of us by the Lord, but without the limitations that we human beings have.
What does Matthew 7:21-23 say? “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Who must we know to possess eternal life?
“The only true God . . .”
In contrast to the myriads of false gods, there is the one true and living God. This knowledge is not of some-thing, but rather Some-One.
“And Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent . . .”
The people who call themselves, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” (but who are actually Jehovah’s enemies) love this verse. As far as they are concerned it says that there is one true and living God, and then there is Christ. There are actually two kinds of people who will conclude that this is what verse three says: The first is the man who desperately wants this verse to say that. He has pre-determined in his mind that Jesus Christ is not God. He is desperately grasping for straws that can prop up his theology. The second is the man who doesn’t pay any attention to what the verse says.
These three verses say that the only true God and Jesus Christ work in perfect unison and cooperation to give eternal life to those that the Father gave to the Son before the foundation of world. The problem is that no mere man has ever worked in perfect equality and union with God – it is impossible by nature. And no angel has ever been anything more than an obedient servant to Jehovah. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the co-regent of God, the Father. He possesses authority and power equal to God, the Father. Together, as equals, they give eternal life.
This verse isn’t saying that God is distinct from Christ. It is saying that the one true and living God is distinct from all the false God’s in the world. The words “only true” are not driving a wedge between the Father and the Son.
John the Apostle was one of the men who was overhearing this prayer of the Lord Jesus. He not only possessed eternal life as knowing the only true God, but he also knew the man Jesus Christ as well as any man on earth ever has. In John’s first epistle, he repeated what the Lord was saying right here: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (I John 5:10-11, 20). If Christ is not equal to the Father and therefore deity, then God has diminished His deity, by making some creature His equal. And this second proposition is untenable.
Something else very interesting occurs in this verse This is the only time that Jesus ever called himself “Jesus Christ.” And this pair of words come together only one other time – in John 1:17: “John (the Baptist) bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” A couple of the commentators try to make something special out of this, but I’m not sure that this is really justified, except that perhaps it relates to this last clause of verse three:
“Whom thou hast sent.”
Perhaps this couplet “Jesus Christ” refers to the extraordinary commission of the Son of God as the Saviour / Messiah. Whatever is meant in that, salvation and eternal life, are not THINGS so much as a union with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.