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John 17:1-5 Study Guide: Knowing God

Community Group Study Guide — Knowing God
John 17:1-5

Study Information:
In our series on human limits we discussed how God is infinite and incomprehensible. This does not mean that we are unable to know God, instead God being incomprehensible means that there will always be more to learn about God. If you’re a follower of Jesus you’ve probably experienced growing in your knowledge about God alongside your relationship with God as you’ve been a Christian. Paul captures this tension in his prayer for the Ephesian church when he prayed they’d understand God’s love and at the same time says that the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:14-19). We can know God and have a relationship with him, and at the same time recognize that we will never “fully” know everything there is about him. The joy filled implication of this means that we will get to spend eternity learning more about our infinite God! 

Jesus spent his last hours before his arrest praying for his disciples, and for future followers of his, in what has been called the “High Priestly Prayer” (John 17). Jesus started his prayer with praise that God had glorified himself in Jesus by giving eternal life to his followers. In this prayer he defined eternal life for us as “knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). When you think of eternal life does your mind first go to the place or the person? Do you think about the benefits of being in heaven as a place with no more sin, sorrow or suffering or do you think about how you get to dwell with God and know God? Both things are true, but in this prayer of Jesus the focus is on growing in knowing and enjoying God. And what’s great about this definition of eternal life is that we get to enjoy it in part now as we grow in knowing and enjoying God here and now because of the work of Jesus. 

The Hour Has Come
John 17:1-2, 4-5
Over the last few chapters in John, Jesus has mentioned that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be exalted, lifted up or glorified. Jesus used those terms to refer to his crucifixion, which is a reference back to Isaiah 52:13 “behold my servant shall act wisely, he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” To be glorified, in the gospel of John, was a reference to being “exalted” and we learned in Isaiah 52 and 53 that this divine servant would be “exalted” through his suffering and bearing the sins of the people of God. What this means is the cross gives us a unique window into who God. To be glorified is to have your character revealed. Often in the Hebrew Bible when glory is referenced it comes with images of light or fame, something that draws our focus to the person of God. On the cross, as Jesus was glorified, we see the beauty of God’s love and justice, as well as his wisdom and power. Jesus died on the cross to break down the dividing wall of sin and hostility towards God that has separated us from him. For Jesus to be “glorified” means that on the cross we got a unique display of God’s love and his justice in that he did not ignore our sin. The beauty of the cross is that God loved us by nailing our sin to the cross (Colossians 2:14). 

In many ways Jesus was a mystery to his own disciples. They had spent three years with him but still failed to grasp that he had to suffer and die and rise again. The disciples viewed him as the king, but the startling truth of the gospel was that the king must die. In just a matter of hours the disciples saw their king crucified and on that cross God glorified himself and glorified Jesus by revealing deep truth about who he was and God’s plan for redemption. 

We also learn that since “the hour has come” that Jesus has all authority over flesh and has authority to give eternal life to all whom God has given it to. Eternal life is being saved from our sin and separation from God and saved to reconciliation and relationship with God; and Jesus characterized it as “knowing God.” 

Knowing God
John 17:3
God gives eternal life to his people and changes them from a relationship of hostility to a relationship with him marked by love. Paul wrote in Colossians that we were part of the kingdom of darkness before Christ but now are part of the kingdom of God’s beloved son (Colossians 1:13-14).

Knowing God involves at least three areas. First, knowing things about God. We are all theologians, the only question is what do we believe about God and is it in line with what scripture teaches? As we follow Christ we will have opportunity to know more about God including who he is and what he has done in the story of redemption. Second, knowing God involves intimacy. We are meant to move beyond just knowing about God to actually enjoying him and having a relationship with him. Jesus not only revealed things about the Father, but he also died on the cross to reconcile us to God so we could have a relationship and enjoy him. Finally, growing to be more like God. We are often shaped by who we spend time with and one benefit of knowing God is that we are able to become more like him as our thoughts, character and actions are changed. 

To experience eternal life is to have more than just knowledge about God, it is to actually know him relationally. In Christ, your sins can be forgiven and you can receive a new relationship with God marked by reconciliation and friendship. The goal of all of our learning is to go beyond just knowing facts, theology and verse and to know God relationally where we are changed and filled with joy. The Westminster Catechism tells us that the chief end of man is to know God and to enjoy him! That is what we get with eternal life and that is a gift! 

When you think about knowing God and these three categories? Which area do you think you tend to excel in and which area can you grow? Since eternal life is characterized by knowing the one true God and Jesus Christ who he has sent, you have a lot to look forward to in heaven! You’ll get to spend an infinite amount of time growing in your knowledge and relationship with God and be filled with infinite joy because of it. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

How would you define eternal life to someone who was not a Christian but wanted to know what you believed about it?

How does the cross give us a unique window into God’s character and attributes?

When it comes to the three different ways we know God (knowing about God, growing in relationship with God or becoming more like him in godliness), which do you think is most needed in your life right now and what steps can you take to pursue that area of growth?