For months (with a short break for the Prosper series), we have dug deep into the GREAT names of God, tilling the fertile ground of our hearts with His Truth to cultivate seeds of intimacy with Him. Our goal, like His, is always about relationship: “that [we]…may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3).”
We cannot know Him only as God the Father or only as God the Son; we must know Him as God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, the holy Trinity of three Persons that He has always been and forever will be—together, “the only true God.” And there is only one way we can know Him: through the Son.
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
So this week, we turn our focus to the Son, the One who is Himself God, the eternal Son of God, and the Son of Man.
Let’s start by digging deeper into the blog’s anchor verse for this series.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
So often, we read the Word without understanding the context in which it is written, and we fail to grasp its full or proper meaning.
John 17 is one of the most sacred chapters in Scripture, often referred to as “The High Priestly Prayer.” It is Jesus’ most lengthy recorded prayer, sandwiched between His final instructions to His disciples and His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. We can only imagine the depth of passion with which these words were spoken. Pause and take a moment to read it.
According to the Levitical Law given by God, the High Priest was the only one that could come into the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle and later the Temple, where the presence of God Himself dwelt, and only once a year (called the Day of Atonement) to offer a sacrifice that would cover the sins of the Hebrew people—but only temporarily. It was a ritual that was required year after year, over and over again, to cover the sins of the people.
But Jesus (don’t you love those two words: but Jesus) became the once and for all sacrifice, living the perfect life, dying on the cross—not just for the sins people had committed, but for every sin of every person that would ever live who would believe, accept His free gift of salvation, and enter into covenant relationship with Him, the terms of which He had already satisfied on their behalf.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
There are some that point to John 17:3 as evidence that Jesus is not God since He distinguishes “the only true God” from “Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” They are missing the mark, taking the words out of the historical context in which they were spoken and the literary context of the very chapter in which it is shared with us.
This is a prayer offered by Jesus while still on the earth to His Father in heaven, as He prepared to imminently fulfill the purpose for which He came: to do the will of the Father—to glorify the Father through His death by redeeming and giving eternal life to those who believe in Him. He came to die for us. It was a plan made before the foundation of the world.
I Peter 1:18-20
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Of course, Jesus would refer to Himself separately from His Father when praying to His Father. They are distinct Persons, yet one God. Just a couple of verses later, Jesus said…
“And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
And before that in John 10:30
“I and the Father are one.”
Jesus was God—it’s a fundamental Truth we must understand. For only God can save us.
Heather Riggleman explains it well:
Although God is all-merciful, all-powerful, and all-forgiving, God is also holy, righteous, and just. Holiness is incompatible with sin. Our sin completely separates us from God and His holiness demands that sin and rebellion be paid for by punishment. The only penalty or payment for sin is eternal death. If Jesus hadn’t died on the cross to take our place, we would be forever separated from God. We are covered by His blood through His sacrificial death, our sins are paid for, and we no longer have to die an eternal death. We receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Only God can save us. And only God can grant us eternal life. One can give only what he has. Only One who is eternal, who has eternal life in Himself, has the power to grant eternal life to others.
For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
The Contemporary English Version says it like this: The Father has the power to give life, and he has given that same power to the Son.
That which the Son has, and all He has, He willingly gave to us…including His Sonship.
This is the second fundamental Truth we must fully understand: Jesus is the eternal Son of the eternal Father.
Jesus didn’t come into being, nor did He become the Son at the virgin birth or even the immaculate conception. He has always existed—eternally as God in the Person of the Son. John Piper calls it the “Biblical version of Einstein’s theory of relativity”:
“Jesus was there not only before matter; he was there before time. He did not come into being; he just was.”
It is so powerful that God has eternally been both Father and Son as well as Spirit. God is at His core relational. It is who He is. If God was not a Trinity of Persons and not relational, He could not be love because love requires an object, someone (or something) to love.
From eternity, the Son has been the object of the Father’s love. Jesus said in John 17:24
…you loved me before the creation of the world. The first time God the Father spoke in the New Testament—at Jesus’ baptism, He said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
And while Jesus is the eternal Son and the love between Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit was complete and perfect, God the Father purposed and planned, He chose you, wanted you, even pursued you, and then took you to be His own, adopting you as His child. If you missed last week’s study on the Father, please go back and read it.
Few Christians would argue that among humans, the two most impactful relationships in our lives (“for better or for worse”) are those between a parent and child and a husband and wife.
How amazing is it then that God planned from the beginning that He would be our perfect Father and we (the church) would be Jesus’ perfected bride? Could there be any greater love?
In the created world, God reveals His heart for relationship, His heart for us. If you take away only one thing from the GREAT series, know this: as God has eternally existed in relationship with Himself—the three Persons of the Trinity, He yearns, He wills, and He gave everything to be in relationship with us.
Relationship requires intimacy. We must come to know one another in a deeply personal way. We must spend time together. But a holy God cannot dwell in the presence of an unholy people. It was the reason for the veil that separated the Holy of Holies in the temple.
So holy God became man. This is the third fundamental Truth: Jesus was not only the Son of God but also the Son of Man.
John 1:14 — The New King James Version
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus—fully God, the Son of God, became the Son of Man to reveal God to us and to give us eternal life. Eternal life is life with life knowing the eternal God.
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Paul tells us in Colossians 1:15 that “The Son is the image of the invisible God,” and in Colossians 2:9 that “…in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
Jesus told Phillip and the other disciples, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” (John 14:9).
In the life and the works of Jesus, we see the purposes and plans of the Father Himself.
Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
In the death, the sacrifice of Jesus, we see the heart of the Father Himself; we see His love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
In addition to revealing the Father to us, Jesus also became the Son of Man to fulfill the Law, which required not only that He die for us, He first had to live for us—a life of perfect obedience to the Father.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
In week 4 of the Suffering series, we saw that it was only in demonstrating perfect obedience that was fully tested and tried that Jesus could be perfected. This doesn’t mean that he was imperfect before; instead, it means mature or complete in his experience as a human, meeting the qualifications to serve as our High Priest.
To save us, Jesus had to become one of us. He first lived the perfect life we could never live, and then He was qualified to become the substitute sacrifice in our place.
Hebrews 2:14-15, 17
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
It was only in His death—the death of the One who is Himself God, the Son of God, and the Son of Man—that we can have life and life eternal.
I Corinthians 15:21-22
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
And what is eternal life? Life with the Father, in His presence.
It was after Jesus had cried out, “It is finished!” and given up His Spirit that the veil separating the Holy of Holies—estimated to be some 60 feet tall and 4 inches thick—was torn in two from top to bottom (Mathew 27:51), opening the way into the presence of God for all time and for all people who would believe and receive.
Eternal life is not only life after mortal death. Eternal life is life with God—in His presence now.
Now, we are a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17 — English Standard Version
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come…”
Now, we have a clean heart and a new spirit.
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
Now, we are partakers in His divine nature.
II Peter 1:3-4
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Now, we can come boldly into His throne room of grace.
Hebrews 4:16 — English Revised Version
Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.
Although we are not yet in heaven with Christ—the One who is God, the Son of God, and the Son of Man—He is here with us. His Spirit is alive in us. And next week we will see how that makes all the difference.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
What is one thing that you’ve come to know about the heart of the Father by studying the life of the Son?
Would you describe your relationship with God as “intimate?” Do you struggle more to know Him or let Him fully know you…the secret thoughts and desires of your heart, the wants, and woundings, the hurts and disappointments? He knows them already and wants to be your everything…so much more than everything you thought you wanted. Say or write a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to draw you close to the Father’s heart, knowing Him more intimately through the Son.
When we think about Jesus’ sacrifice, most of us think about His death on the cross. Let’s think for a moment about His life and all He gave up to come to earth to live a perfectly obedient life. He who created the heavens came to dwell on the earth. He who created the animals was born in a stable where they were kept and laid in the manger where they were fed. He who created man became one. He who men bow to worship stooped to wash His disciple’s feet. He who created the sun to shine died in darkness so that we could dwell in His light (adapted from Dr. Daniel Merritt). What does it mean that the Son of God became the Son of Man, humbled Himself, and gave up heaven for you?
Are you living the eternal life Christ gave you right now? Say or write a prayer right now, asking the Holy Spirit to confirm in your heart once again that you are a new creation, by His grace, you have a clean heart and a new spirit, and you are a partaker in His divine nature with everything you need for life and godliness. Then come boldly into His throne room of grace —see yourself bursting through the doors and into His arms—to ask and receive what you need from His heart to yours.