The Knowledge of God is Eternal Life
John 17:3
And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.


1. In answering this question, we need hardly remark that it implies a knowledge of God's existence. The remark is self-evident. The knowledge that He is the beginning of all knowledge of God. But whilst this is comprised in a knowledge of God, it does not constitute the knowledge. A man may know that there is a God; he may not only know it from the statements of others, but he may have actually examined it, and may be well conversant with the evidence of God's existence with which nature abounds, and be able to give to every man that asketh him a reason for his belief, and yet he may be destitute of that knowledge which is "eternal life." How exquisitely the Scripture speaks upon this point! "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble." You need to know something more — something that devils do not, and cannot, know — in order to the enjoyment of eternal life.

2. Again, it comprises a knowledge of God's attributes, such as His eternity. His omnipresence — that, as He existed throughout all time, so He fills all space and pervades all worlds. His omniscience — that, existing throughout all time, and pervading all space, He knows all things. Such are some of the attributes which are essential to Divinity; and I need not say that the knowledge of these is comprised in a knowledge of God. But, then, all that, along with the knowledge of God's existence, does not constitute the knowledge of which our text speaks. There is reason to believe that devils know God's nature as well as existence; and yet they tremble. Ah, my brother, this knowledge might well drive thee to despair: but it cannot give thee peace. It may convince thee of sin, and fill thee with alarm, but it cannot give thee peace. The knowledge of something more than this is necessary to eternal life.

3. In proceeding to show what it is which constitutes this knowledge, I beg you to notice that it is what is described in the text as the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. It is so described because it is through Christ that the knowledge is communicated.

(1) And, first of all, you have in Christ a manifestation of God's hatred of sin. In proof of this I might refer you to the distance at which He kept Himself from all that was sinful, though inhabiting a world in which sin was fashionable, and where temptations to sin were abounding, Not at a distance as regards locality, but distance as regards character. I might refer you, too, to the manner in which He denounced the wickedness of those over whose sin He mourned and wept. If God did not wink at sin in the person of His own Son, how, think you, will He wink at sin in you? If it could not be allowed to pass unpunished when it was beheld in Christ, though He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me," will it be allowed to pass unpunished if found in you? You think God is merciful, so He is; but He is just, and He is holy — a God of spotless purity. This truth, at first sight, may excite your fears; yet it is needful for you to know it, because it supplies a powerful motive which is necessary to keep you back from sin; to lead you to mortify sin, and thus to produce in you meetness for heaven — the truth that it is not enough to know that God hates sin. This will never give you a title to heaven, nor will it produce in you a meetness for the enjoyment of eternal life.

(2) You need to have something more than this, in order to your enjoying eternal life; and this leads me to observe, secondly, that in Christ you have a manifestation of the love of God. But even this is not enough. It is not enough to know that God loves us; that though He is just, He must punish sin. You need have something more in order to your enjoying life eternal. Oh, then, ponder the statements of God's Word in which that truth is found; and until it falls on your understanding, until it is impressed on your hearts, never to be erased — and, thank God, you need not wait long — for oh, it is plain and easy, and even now you may open your hearts to the perception of it, and even now you may enter into faith; even now you may look up to your God as your Father and your Friend; for both by word and by deed does God say, "I have accepted My Son's work for thee, O sinner; I was well pleased with what He has done for thee; His death is a perfect atonement for all thy sins; I am satisfied with it; be thou satisfied with it, be at peace, be thou reconciled to God." I do not mean to say that what I have set before you contains anything like full knowledge of God. No man can find out the Almighty to perfection. It does not amount to even an index of what might be known; it is only of the knowledge which is necessary to life.

II. And now let me proceed, in the second place, to show, as briefly as I can, HOW THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE, or in what sense it is.

1. And, first of all, it is so, if you consider eternal life as consisting in the enjoyment of God's favour. We read in this book, "And in His favour is life." Now, the knowledge of God is essential to the enjoyment of His favour. It is true that His favour rests on men, whether they know Him or not; for how else could they account for the varied blessings which they are daily receiving? But, then, though it rests on them, they do not enjoy it whilst they do not know Him. Their own feelings are just as unpleasant; their relation to God is as painful; they are as much alienated from God as if He were really their enemy.

2. And, then, again, the knowledge of God is eternal life, if you regard eternal life as signifying the privileges and enjoyments of the heavenly cities. The knowledge of God imparts that character, or produces in man that character, which increases the enjoyment of heaven. The character on which heaven is conferred is "conformed into God's image" — sympathy with his feelings and his desires; or, in other words, it is living in a oneness with God. Now, the knowledge of God necessarily and invariably produces this character in man. The Cross of Christ contains a motive power which the human heart, depraved as it is, cannot both contemplate and resist. No man can truly and intelligibly say that Christ died for me, and gave Himself for me; God's wrath was suspended over me, the Saviour stepped between me and that wrath, that it might fall on Him, and that I might be saved — no man can say that without loving God in return.

3. And then, again, the knowledge of God is eternal life, if you understand the knowledge of God as heavenly happiness. Whence, let me ask, do the redeemed in heaven derive their happiness? Is it from the splendour of the place which they occupy? from the beauty and sublimity of scenes upon which they gaze? is it from the music with which their ears are charmed, or from the delicious fruits with which they regale themselves, or from their exalted companionship? No. They know that God is love, and that is their happiness. God is set forth to their contemplation as a God of love, and they find their employment, and their enjoyment too, in meditating on the proofs of His love with which the universe abounds — every new discovery giving a new impulse to their zeal and a new zest to their praise. And, hence, you find John speaking as if this were the consummation of the saint's desire: "We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

(W. Landels.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

The Knowledge of God
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