And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
The Holy Scriptures often use the phrase, "knowledge of God," or "the knowledge of the Lord," as a character of true religion. This phrase is particularly applied to that premised period in which the power of religion shall universally prevail. "They shall all know Me, from the least unto the greatest." "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth," &c. In the ancient Scriptures the knowledge of God was usually propounded simply; here it is propounded in a manner corresponding to the clearer light of the Christian dispensation in its inseparable connection with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And note that our Saviour connects the knowledge of God with the universal prevalence of Divine truth (ver. 2).
I. THE NATURE AND PROPERTY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. It comprehends —
1. A just conception of His existence, attributes, and administration — i.e., of Him as "the only true God." Consider —
(1) His matchless Deity.
(2) His inimitable truth. "The true God," says our Lord —
(a) In opposition to all the false deities.
(b) In His enactments, promises, threatenings; so that He will in no sense deny Himself.
(c) As the sole and inexhaustible source of truth.
(3) His exclusive claim — "the only true God."
2. Experimental acquaintance with Him as our God and Father and our portion. This is knowledge of the heart. By the other the eyes of the understanding are enlightened; by this the desires and affections of our hearts are filled and sanctified. It is this knowledge of God which is of the utmost importance. It is not speculation which may teach you to inquire, but faith, which constrains you to trust, which gives you the right knowledge of God.
3. A practical acknowledgment of His authority and government. This last particular shows that the true knowledge of God embraces all religion, as it elevates the mind, sanctifies the heart, and regulates the conduct. "The children of Eli knew not the Lord"; that is, they gave practical evidence that they were utterly estranged from an obedient acknowledgment of Him. "And thou Solomon, my son," says David, "know thou the God of thy father." He amplifies and explains that direction in what follows: — "And serve him with a perfect heart," &c.
II. THE APPOINTED METHOD IN WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE IS ATTAINABLE BY US. By approaching Him through the believing knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent as our Saviour.
1. Man, until visited by the "Day Spring from on high," is destitute of the knowledge of God. Is not his mind covered with darkness? Is not his heart alienated by guilt and depravity? Is not his life one continued scene of rebellion against the Most High?
2. This knowledge of God cannot be obtained by man alone. Man has had opportunities to try to do so on the largest scale. Go, then, through all the resources of human wisdom, the splendid scenes with which His universal temple is hung around; listen to all the voices which are incessantly sounding in our ears and proclaiming our Creator and Preserver; traverse the spacious Temple, mark its stately proportions, and gaze on its sublime beauty; and when you have done all, inquire, "What must I do to be saved?" There is nothing in all this that teaches me, a guilty and fallen creature, the way to God.
3. This is the way — the way which is opened by Jesus Christ. You cannot come to God as your Father, especially to God as your reconciled and gracious Father, but by Jesus Christ.
III. THE INESTIMABLE BLESSING WITH WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE IS IDENTIFIED. "This is life eternal." Consider the knowledge of God in Christ —
1. In its commencement. Go to that simple and happy Christian believer who has just found this knowledge. He will give you, perhaps, not a doctrinal statement, but a living pattern, which in many respects is better. While he speaks of the knowledge of God in Christ, he associates it with inward experience. He will testify that he who believeth in the Son of God hath everlasting life; that he has the life of pardon and peace. He was "dead in trespasses and sins," but he is "quickened together with Christ."
2. In its more mature progress. Go to the experienced Christian. He may be an unlettered man, perhaps, and be perplexed if you asked him a definition, or to expound a difficult passage of the Holy Scripture; but, under the assistance of the Spirit of God, he has embraced the system of truth itself. In all his course, the knowledge of God in Christ has been inseparable from advancement in the Divine life.
3. In its consummation. Then we shall "see as we are seen, and know also as we are known."Conclusion:
1. Have we acquired this knowledge? If we have not, may I not say, "Some of you have not the knowledge of Christ; I speak this to your shame." Have you spent twenty, thirty, forty, or more years, yet dark, dead, rebels against God?
2. Let me earnestly exhort you who are in quest of this knowledge of your God, that you seek it in the right way. "Yea, doubtless," says the Apostle, "and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." To know Him is to know the way that leads to the Father.
3. Let me exhort you to do all you possibly can to promote this knowledge of God in Christ. We ought to do that on a large scale; we ought to unite in those truly sublime societies which are aiming to extend the knowledge of God in Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth. But if it be valuable for the ends of the earth, it is valuable for your own homes. If pagan families and vicinities ought to have it, yours ought to have it.
(J. Hannah, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
WEB: This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.