Purpose of Life in John 17

My favorite chapter in the Book of John is chapter 17. In this chapter Christ offers an intercessory prayer for his disciples. In this prayer Christ subtly explains the big picture, he summarizes the entire purpose for our existence. I wish now to elaborate on a few of the verses that most catch my attention.

 1These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

 3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

 4I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

 5And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

Christ explains something very interesting in these passages, and that is that the Father recieves glory through the Son. How does this happen? Well Christ specifically mentions that he “finished the work” which was given to him, the work of bringing eternal life to man. By introducing the knowledge of the true God, Christ has simultaneously brought eternal joy and blessings to man, and has brought even more glory to the Father. In verses 1 & 5 Christ reveals the covenant that was made with the Father, that Christ would bring glory to God by being obedient to his commandments, and God would in turn give some of that glory to Christ.

20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

 22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Continuing with the same theme, Christ now explains the covenant made between man and God, with Christ acting as the mediator. Those who believe in Christ, who follow his lead, are allowed to share in the glory that is given to Christ by God the Father. Just as Christ recieved glory for completing his part of the covenant, man too recieves glory for keeping his part of a different but related covenant. Christ travels through eternal hell (D&C 19:4-12) and atones for man’s sins and brings the gospel message to the earth, and God gives Christ glory. Man exercises faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and strives to obey the commandments until the end of his life, and God gives man glory.

God declares in the Pearl of Great Price that his work and his glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” This is an even more succinct summary then the one that Christ gives in John 17. God is glorified by bringing eternal life to man. Man is glorified by recieving eternal life. It is an eternal circle of events that benefits all. This is the purpose of our existence.

A fascinating aspect of John 17 is that while it’s purpose is to explain the meaning of life, it also teaches very clearly the nature of the ontological relationships between Christ and the Father and man. Many Evangelicals today use verses like John 14:11 to support the Trinity, but here in John 17 Christ clearly demonstrates that just as the Father is in Christ and vice versa, man is in Christ and vice versa. Certainly man and Christ are two entirely distinct beings, and that relationship is a copy of the one shared by Christ and the Father. It is a relationship of one being sharing his glory with another being through a mixture of justice and mercy.

I would like to make one small footnote in conclusion. It is in regards to verses 14-17:

 14I have given them thy WORD; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

 15I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy WORD is truth.

I emphasized the word “word” both times. Mainstream Christianity seems to have an obsession with the “Word of God”, and they simply delight in John’s description in John 1 of Christ as the Logos, or Word, of God. I only wish to point out that while it is appropriate to designate Christ as the Logos, Christ obviously feels it is appropriate to also designate the Holy Spirit as the Logos as well. Verse seventeen teaches that sanctification comes through the “word” or logos of God, and we know that the role of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify (2 Thes 2:13).

 James

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