“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” —John 17:3
In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father shortly before laying His life down for the sins of the world. His prayer is not only for His followers on that day but for all future believers as well. In the third verse (above), Jesus gives us a clear and concise definition of eternal life. Understanding this definition can help clear up any confusion we have about receiving eternal life and how we can be sure that we actually have it.
Many people say they believe in who Jesus is and what He has done, but they miss one very important point. The key lies with having an adequate understanding of the Greek word translated “know” in John 17:3. This Greek word is ginosko, which means to know through personal experience (as in a first-hand acquaintance). According to a recognized Greek authority on the New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates Th.D., “In the Gospel of John, ginosko denotes personal fellowship with God or Christ, and also between the Father and the Son.”
Just Knowing Him Isn’t Enough
In the Gospel of Luke, the author uses ginosko as a euphemism for sexual relations. “Then said Mary [a virgin] unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know [ginosko] not a man?” (KJV). Other versions say “I am a virgin” or “I’ve never slept with a man.” The implication is clear. By its usage in scripture, we can see there is an intimate nature to this word ginosko.
Jesus was telling us that just knowing about the Father and Himself is not enough. We must have a closer relationship. He even used a word that sometimes refers to the intimacy shared between a husband and wife. A casual relationship in which God is only given attention when it benefits the follower does not ensure eternal life. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that the road to eternal life is narrow and not all who call Him Lord will enter heaven but only those who do the will of God.
Jesus our Lord prayed that we would know Him and the Father. We can rest assured that God always answers Jesus’ prayers. Our response is to read the Word, pray, fellowship with other believers, and make sure that we have a true relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must know them, not just with our heads but also in our hearts. According to Jesus, this is the very definition of eternal life!