Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 23
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 17
We live and move at differing levels of knowledge. A little reflection will bear this out. Follow my reasoning for just a moment. There is knowledge that is useful. It tells us what to do, when to do it, how to do it. It is knowledge that is not concerned with theory or motive, but is practical, pragmatic. There are times however when we move in the sphere of ulterior knowledge. Here we are aware of the "why" for what we are doing. Here we delve into theory and discover motives to the satisfying of our sense of intellect. Nothing is wrong with either of these two levels. They both have their place and serve us well in everyday life.
There is still one realm however that can be entered. It is the realm of ultimate knowledge. It is the "but why?" that lies behind every explanation to "why?". It is a small child listening to your very learned discourse in response to one of his multitude of questions, and then asking "but why?". It is both frustrating and humiliating; frustrating because we don’t always have the answer; humiliating because we know that there must be one.
In John 17:3 we are afforded a glimpse at ultimate knowledge. In this verse the Lord Jesus defines eternal life : "This is life eternal that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent."
"This is eternal life that they might know Thee..."
You will quickly notice that the Lord Jesus is stressing the character of that life, not its duration. It needs little explanation that something which is eternal is never ending. But our Bible makes clear that all men will experience endless existence Matt. 25:46, Rev. 20:10, John 3:36. What Christ here is stressing is that endless existence is not synonymous with eternal life.
Eternal life brings us into ultimate knowledge. It is the highest spiritual experience we can have. It is the goal to which all is leading. It will be the eternal occupation of all the redeemed. Eternal life then is an eternal relationship with God the Father, made possible through God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a knowledge that begins here on earth at the moment of conversion when in the words of the Apostle Paul, "God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Cor. 4:6. The cross of God’s Son is the great flood light that pours light into our darkened souls. The lesson of
The cross of God's Son is the great flood light that pours light into our darkened souls.
my sin is first learned at Calvary. My sin caused Christ to suffer and die, 1 Peter 3:18. The lesson of Divine love is taught unmistakably at the cross when I see God not sparing His own Son to redeem me, John 3:16. The lesson of life through the death of another is graphically displayed. I begin to "know" only at Calvary. All other knowledge whether of ritual or religion, dogma or doctrine, theory or tradition is as nothing if I have not first been to Calvary. Ultimate knowledge begins here and continues. It broadens and deepens as a mighty ocean until we who are saved will be eternally immersed in it in heaven for eternity.
Perhaps this affords us an insight into why the Bible equates the end of those who reject Christ with darkness (Matt. 8:12; 22:13). The physical darkness they will experience will be an outward sign of their inward moral, spiritual darkness. Men are described as loving darkness rather than light (John 3.19) because they have chosen their sin over God. Hell will thus solemnly be God ratifying the choices that men have made upon earth. Men who chose to close their eyes to the Word of God, choosing their own way, whether religious or immoral will perish forever with their own light which in reality was a self-chosen darkness. Men shut up in the prisons they have made will languish forever beneath God’s wrath with no light ever to break into their darkness.
It is this that impels the gospel preacher, the evangelist to herald forth the message of God’s great provision for men through the substitutionary sufferings of Christ upon Calvary. It is this which lends great urgency to the call for men to come to Christ for salvation. It is this which makes your choice so solemn. God through His Word warns men of coming judgment, but welcomes them as well to come and receive forgiveness of sins because of the work of Christ (Acts 10:43). What choice and destiny will you choose?