John 17:1-3 – This Is Eternal Life (Sermon Notes)


Text: John 17:1-3
Title: This is Eternal Life
Date: September 4th, 2022
Location: Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, Washington


John 17 is a mysterious and difficult chapter. Here and here only are we given an unbroken and extended prayer from the Son to the Father. John 17 is prayer from one person who is fully God and fully man, to another person who is equally and co-essentially God with him. So there are dangers in this text, there are heresies around every corner (if you are not careful), because this is one of those rare places in Scripture where the veil is pulled back, and we are given the tiniest glimpse into the inner life of the God who is Trinity.

Now one of the first questions that should arise when we come to a text like this is: Why is Jesus praying at all? Have you ever wondered that?

  • If Jesus is fully God what need does he have to pray to God? And who is He talking to? How does that work? Is this like sending an email to yourself so you’ll answer it later? No. Not exactly.
  • And whereas we are praying throughout the day to confess our sins, and ask for help to keep from sinning, Jesus has no sins to confess. So what’s up with Jesus withdrawing from his disciples to get alone time with the Father? Why does he leave the crowds and go to desolate places to pray to God? What need does Jesus have to pray? How would you answer that?
  • One answer that theologians have given to this question is that Jesus prays for our instruction. Jesus prays in order to teach us how to pray, to model for us what true prayer looks like.
    • And then this prayer is recorded in Scripture so that we will know what Jesus has asked the Father for, and be confident that whatever Jesus asks for, the Father will grant it (we saw last week in Ps. 2 that the Father tells the Son to ask Him for the nations).
  • So Jesus prays as an example and model for us, He prays to commune with His Father, but we also see within this prayer itself, that Jesus prays for another reason. He says in John 17:13, “And these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
  • Why does Jesus pray?
    • So that His joy would be fulfilled in us.
      • Do you have this joy within you?
    • Jesus has just told his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
    • He says in John 16:22, “Now you have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”
  • The divine logic of prayer is that God’s infinite and overflowing joy would be given to you a finite creature. We are a little shot glass, and God is an ocean of joy. And so despite the many troubles, sorrows, and deaths in this world, Jesus says, “no man can take that joy from you.”
    • This is why Jesus prays: so that the love and joy and unity that He has with the Father, would be given to us.
  • Summary: So that is the stated purpose of this prayer in John 17 (joy). And the broader context of this chapter is that this is Jesus’ farewell to his disciples, these are his parting words before the hour of his passion.
  • Now I want to focus in on just one verse from the passage I read, and that is John 17:3 (and this is a great verse to memorize):
    • “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
  • When someone asks you “What is eternal life?” You can tell them: “It is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.”
  • So what I want to do is ask and answer three questions that arise from this verse. Three questions from John 17:3, and they are:
    • Q1. What kind of knowledge leads to eternal life?
    • Q2. How do you get this knowledge?
    • Q3. What are the fruits (or results) of this knowledge?
  • The kind of knowledge, how you get it, and the fruits of this knowledge.

Q1. What kind of knowledge leads to eternal life?

There are many forms of knowledge in the world and in Scripture, but not all have the power to make you live forever.

  • For example: You can have a knowledge of farming. Or the knowledge of accounting, or the knowledge of how to sew or bake a cake, or make really good coffee, but on judgment day that knowledge is not going to gain you entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
    • That is all useful knowledge, good knowledge, even beautiful knowledge, but it is insufficient to make you live forever.
  • Now perhaps you say, “the kind of knowledge we need is the knowledge of God.” And that is true, but even here Scripture makes further distinctions.
    • The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1 that everyone has some knowledge of God, but they suppress that true knowledge in unrighteousness.
      • That is to say, there are not really any true atheists in the world, there are only people who know God, but deny that they do. They know God, but exchange the truth for a lie, and serve the creature (usually themselves) rather than the Creator who made them.
      • Paul says in Rom. 1:19-22, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
    • So those who have the power to perceive creation with their senses, have some true and real knowledge of God. And yet because of their ingratitude and self-centeredness, they turn away from this light, and their foolish heart becomes darkened. This is the state of the world, apart from Christ.
      • They know God and yet they don’t know him. They know Him like you might know the author of a story that you don’t want to read, but not as a real and living Savior who loves them, and dies for them.
      • This is knowledge of God that only condemns. It is knowledge like the demons have knowledge. James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
      • So you can really know God and go to hell, along with the devil. So not all knowledge of God saves.
  • So what kind of knowledge of God is Jesus talking about? And how can knowing something make you live forever? How can this be?
    • Consider: A man cannot give what he does not have (this is self-evident). I cannot give you a cute puppy because I do not have any cute puppies. I cannot give you fluffy kitten because I have not fluffy kittens to give.
      • And so if we are going to receive life eternal, it must be from someone or something that already possesses it. And they must have the power and ability to truly give it to us.
      • Even if I have a cute puppy, I must still want to give it you, and place it in your hands for you to possess it.
    • You see the analogy.
  • Now who has eternal life? God. God is life. He is the plentitude and fountain and fullness of being. There is no life apart from Him and nothing exists outside of Him, as it says in Acts 17:28, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
  • And so the knowledge of God that Jesus is talking about here, is knowledge that unites us to the life of God.
    • It is the difference between knowing about your spouse before the first date, and knowing them in the covenant of marriage and the intimacy of the marriage bed.
      • One is from afar, and one is face to face.
    • This saving knowledge of God is the latter. It is knowledge that indwells us.
      • John 1:4-5 says, “In him [the Son] was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
    • So what kind of knowledge gives eternal life?
      • The kind of knowledge that is a Living Person: The person of the Son who is life and proceeds from the Father.
      • If that Eternal, Immaterial Word could become Flesh, die and rise again, then that same Eternal Word cangive us death and resurrection as well.
      • This is eternal life, to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and have them dwelling within you.

Q2. How do you get this knowledge?

  • Unlike the knowledge of God that comes by looking at creation (or by natural revelation). This saving knowledge of God requires two things:
    • 1. The Word
    • 2. Faith
      • The Word of God must be spoken and heard and received into the heart.
      • And the heart must grab hold of that Word by faith.
      • This is what it means to believe the gospel.
    • Paul says in Romans 10:17, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
    • He says a few verses earlier, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
  • And so eternal life comes from believing that Jesus is alive, that God raised Him from the dead, and that He is LORD.
  • This is what we preach to a world in darkness. We preach as it says in 2 Cor. 4:6, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
    • Do you have this light within you?
    • Do you possess this saving knowledge?
    • Have you beheld His glory and loved Him?
    • Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “I count all things as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ.”
  • The only way to know Christ is by His Word, and still it is not enough just to read the Word or hear the Word, we must believe the Word and do it. We must love the one who is the Word.
  • Paul warns in Hebrews 4:12, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”
    • In other words, you can read your Bible, you can listen to good preaching, you can go to a reformed church, you can give your kids a Christian education, but if those things are not mixed with faith, real living faith that is a gift from God, it will be of no profit to you.
  • So if we would have the knowledge of God, and if we would desire to have eternal life with Him, we must receive the Word of God by faith. We must believe all that the apostles and prophets wrote, for they testified and spoke of Christ.

Q3. Finally: What are the fruits (or results) of this knowledge? Or we might ask, what are the signs that we possess (even now) life eternal?

Well Scripture gives us multiple images or metaphors for spiritual life. I’ll draw your attention to two of the more common ones.

  • One would be the image of living water. What separates living water from dead water?
    • Living water flows. It has movement. It is pure and clean and brings life to wherever it goes.
      • Jesus says in John 7:38, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
      • In Revelation 22, we read that in the New Jerusalem, there is, “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
    • So this image of living water that flows out of us and gives live to others, stands in contrast to the image of polluted waters, or the Dead Sea.
      • The Dead Sea is where the Jordan river terminates and so it receives water but does not equally pass it on (it’s selfish). This is the kind of person that Paul would say is, “always learning, and yet never arriving at the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).
        • Consuming content, books, podcasts, what have you, and yet their life is not marked by love and joy and peace.
        • Do not be deceived brethren, the knowledge of God unto eternal life should affect everything you do. Perhaps not all at once, but slowly and surely, we develop new habits of godliness.
    • And so one of the signs of eternal life within you, is this outflowing of living water (the person of the Holy Spirit) into the lives of others.
      • When people hangout with you, do they go away feeling purified and refreshed? Or polluted and weighed down?
      • Do you have the aroma of Christ about you? Or does your life smell like a junior high locker room?
      • If the Spirit of Christ dwells within you, then life should be springing up in those around you.
        • One of the reasons we confess our sins every Lord’s Day, and encourage you keep short accounts with God and one another, is because sin pollutes the stream of our heart. Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and so we must take care that our hearts remain pure before the LORD.
        • So what is the water like in your home, in your marriage, in your children?
        • Are there polluted streams that need to be cleansed? Are there secret and hidden sins that are tainting your life?
        • If so, Christ calls to confess them, and get them out of our life.
  • A second image that Scripture gives us to illustrate spiritual life is that of the fruitful tree or vine. It might be an olive tree, a fig tree, an almond blossom, or a grapevine, but all of these stand in contrast to the bramblebush or brier.
    • These are images that call us back to the Garden of Eden. To the place where we first possessed eternal life and then lost it.
    • And if you remember Genesis 3, what was the curse upon the land? That thorns and thistles would spring up and make life more toilsome.
    • Later in Scripture, these realities of fruitful trees or thorns and thistles become associated with different kinds of people.
      • Those who are indwelt by the Spirit of life, bear “the fruit of the Spirit.”
      • So does your knowledge of God result in greater: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, self-control?” (Gal. 5:22-23)
        • Are these qualities evident and increasing? Or would people describe you as “prickly,” and “difficult” to get along with.
        • In Ezekiel 2, God calls the “impudent and stiff hearted in Israel…briers and thorns.”
      • In Hebrews 6:7-8 it says, “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
        • Every one of us is headed for either eternal blessedness or eternal torment. And one of the ways you can know which direction you are headed in, is by looking out at your branches. Is there fruit there, or are there thorns?


Jesus says in John 15, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

  • If you know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and you have received His Word by Faith, then you are connected to the true vine, you have the seeds of eternal life growing in you now.
    • If that is you, then expect your Heavenly Father to make you fruitful, but also to prune you, to cut you, to lop off branches that you cherished, so that you might bring forth even more fruit. That is what eternal life feels like on this side of the resurrection (a lot of pruning, a lot of pain, but a lot of fruit as a result).
  • On the other hand if you are hearing this sermon and thinking, I don’t have this knowledge of God you speak of. I don’t see fruit in my life, I just see thorns and briers everywhere. Well then let me tell you what Jesus has done for you.
  • Right after this prayer in John 17, Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, spit upon, mocked, stripped naked, scourged, and a crown of thorns would be placed upon his head.
    • The very thorns that exist because of our sin. The very thorns that you and I brought into this world, Jesus wears before the world as he is nailed to a tree.
    • And as he hung there, dead and lifeless, it says in John 19:34, “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”
      • Leviticus says life is in the blood, and water is for cleansing. And out of the dead body of our Lord, a fountain of life is opened for the world.
    • You can live forever if you believe on His name. For this is eternal life, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
    • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Let us pray.