“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
When dealing with the Emergent crowd, it will be a very short period of time before John 17:3 is brought in to the argument. I have found it to be their favorite proof text and it is put forth as the only element of eternal life. They wish to avoid mentioning eternal judgment as the opposite of having eternal life. For them eternal life does not include deliverance from God’s judgment. Thus, they quickly point to John 17:3 and say, “See eternal life means to have an interactive relationship with God.” Now of course this verse does emphasize eternal life as being relational. No doubt about that. But is that all? What of the person that does not possess this eternal life? Does the lord mention anything else about eternal life and those who do not receive it? Yes he does. Back in John 3 he contrasts eternal life with suffering God’s judgment and he does so again in John 5.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn 3:16–18).
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn 5:21–24).
So the concept of eternal life means that one has passed from a condemned enemy of God, to a pardoned and loved child of God. We go from having enmity with God our judge, to having a loving, relational, intimate fellowship with God our Savior. They want to teach the latter without teaching the former, if not outright denying it. They camp out in john 17:3 and a handful of other verses but cannot account for the whole counsel of God. And if they venture to the passages that speak of perishing they re-define it to mean “to come to ruin” (whatever that means?); all this to fit their own unbiblical theological construct.
Having dealt with that issue, the high-priestly prayer of our Lord is for the glory of God in the person’s of the Father and Son in the perfect life and substitutionary death of Christ, for His those that the Father has given Him. Stated differently- the glory of God, in the union of Christ, with the elect. Obviously, God’s glory is the ultimate theme V. 1, 4, 5, 10, 22, and 24.
How is God glorified? In Himself (v. 5). God, by nature, is glorious. But how does he glorify Himself in a world that has rebelled against Him? Chiefly through the perfect obedience and sacrificial death of His Son, which is the foundation or basis for the union of believers with Him (v. 4-5, 10-11).
The Lord’s prayer for us also includes: keeping us (v.8-12), our complete fulfillment of our joy (v.13), protection fromm the evil one (v.15), for our sanctification in the truth of God’s Word (v.17-19), for the love of God to be demonstrated for His people, to the rest of the world, in the Christ Jesus. Oh, how He loves us!
The Lord’s prayer in John 17:3 is for believers. It is not for unbelievers something Christ says explicitly in v.9: “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” So it is not fair for them to use this as the primary emphasis of their “evangelism.” Although eternal life is taught in this prayer it does not explicitly talk about how one receives this eternal life. It is implicit (v8) but we must go elsewhere to see the call to repentance and faith in Christ, to receive the gift of eternal life.
John 17:3 has a context. But the Emergent people love to ignore context and isolate certain passages in order to maintain their humanism. I do not see them dealing and explaining, from the surrounding verses in John 17, the idea that God elects some to have a relationship with Him and rejects others (V.2, 6-10) nor do I see them teach that Christians will he hated by the world, not loved or liked, for Christ’s sake (v. 14). It is fairly clear that they have one agenda in mind- to promote their own cause at whatever cost.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Ti 2:15). Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,