The following is an Analysis of the first section of John 17:
1. The Son praying, verse 1.
2. His desire for the Father's glory, verse 1.
3. His own glory subsidiary, verse 1.
4. The consequences of His glorification, verse 2.
5. The way to and means of eternal life, verse 3.
6. The Son rendering an account of His stewardship, verse 4.
7. His reward, verse 5.
The seventeenth of John contains the longest recorded prayer which our Lord offered during His public ministry on earth, and has been justly designated His High Priestly Prayer. It was offered in the presence of His apostles, after the institution and celebration of the Lord's Supper, and immediately following the Paschal discourse recorded in 14to 16. It has been appropriately said, "The most remarkable prayer followed the most full and consoling discourse ever uttered on earth" (Matthew Henry). It differs from the prayer which Christ "taught his disciples," for in that there are petitions which the Savior could not offer for Himself, while in this there are petitions which none else but Christ could present. In this wonderful prayer there is a solemnity and elevation of thought, a condensed power of expression, and a comprehensiveness of meaning, which have affected the minds and drawn out the hearts of the most devoted of God's children to a degree that few portions of Scripture have done.
In John 17 the veil is drawn aside, and we are admitted with our great High Priest into "the holiest of all." Here we approach the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High, therefore it behoves us to put off our shoes from off our feet, listening with humble, reverent and prepared hearts, for the place whereon we now stand is indeed holy ground. We give below a few brief impressions of other writers.
"This is truly, beyond measure, a warm and hearty prayer. He opens the depths of His heart, both in reference to us and to His Father, and He pours them all out. It sounds so honest, so simple; it is so deep, so rich, so wide, no one can fathom it" (Martin Luther).
Melanchthon, another of the Reformers, when giving his last lecture before his death, said on John 17: "There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son to God Himself."
The eminent Scottish Reformer, John Knox, had this chapter read to him every day during his last illness, and in the closing scene, the verses that were read from it consoled and animated him in the final conflict.
"The seventeenth chapter of the Gospel by John,, Isaiah, without doubt, the most remarkable portion of the most remarkable book in the world. The Scripture of truth, given by inspiration of God, contains many wonderful passages, but none more wonderful than this—none so wonderful. It is the utterance of the mind and heart of the Godman, in the very crisis of His great undertaking, in the immediate prospect of completing, by the sacrifice of Himself, the work which had been given Him to do, and for the accomplishment of which He had become incarnate. It is the utterance of these to the Father who had sent Him. What a concentration of thought and affection is there in these few sentences! How ‘full of grace,' how ‘full of truth.' How condensed, and yet how clear the thoughts,—how deep, yet how calm, the feelings which are here, so far as the capabilities of human language permit, worthily expressed! All is natural and simple in thought and expression—nothing intricate or elaborate, but there is a width in the conceptions which the human understanding cannot measure—a depth which it cannot fathom. There is no bringing out of these plain words all that is seen and felt to be in them" (Mr. John Brown).
"The chapter we have now begun is the most remarkable in the Bible. It stands alone, and there is nothing like it" (Bishop Ryle).
Even Mr. W. Kelly with his caution and conservatism writes, "Next follows a chapter which one may perhaps characterise truly as unequalled for depth and scope in all the Scriptures."
This prayer of our Lord is wonderful as a specimen of the communications which constantly passed between the Son and His Father while He was here on earth. Vocal prayer seems to have been habitual with our Savior. While being baptised He was engaged in prayer ( Luke 3:21). Immediately on the commencement of His public ministry we find that, after a short repose, following a day of unremitting labor, "He rose up a great while before day, and went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed" ( Mark 1:35). On the eve of selecting the twelve apostles He "went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God" ( Luke 6:12). It was while engaged in the act of prayer that He was transfigured ( Luke 9:29). And it was while praying that He ceased to breathe ( Luke 23:46). Only the briefest mention is made as to the substance of these prayers—in most instances none at all. But here in John 17, the Holy Spirit has been pleased to record at length His prayer in the upper room. How thankful we should be for this!
Perhaps the most interesting way to view this prayer is as a model of His high priestly intercession for us, which He continually makes in the immediate presence of God, on the ground of His completed and accepted sacrifice. The first intimation of this is found in the fact that the Lord Jesus here prayed audibly in the presence of His disciples. He prayed that their interests might be secured, but He prayed audibly that they should be aware of this, that they might know what a wondrous place they had in His affections, that they might be assured that all His influence with the Father would be employed for their advantage. More plainly still is this intimated in John 17:13: "And now come I to thee and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves"—q.d. "These are intercessions which in heaven I will never cease to make before God; but I make them now in the world, in your hearing that you may more distinctly understand how I am there to be employed in promoting your welfare, so that you may be made in large measure, partakers of My happiness." "The petitions for Himself are much briefer than those which He presents for His people—the former being only two, or, rather, but one, variously expressed; while the latter are quite a number, earnestly urged with a variety of pleas. This arrangement and division of the matter of the prayer justifies the view which has not unfrequently been taken of it: that it was throughout intercessory and the substance and model of that intercession which He constantly makes in heaven as our great High Priest" (Mr. T. Houston).
It is in His mediatorial character that the Savior here prays: as the eternal Song of Solomon, now in the form of a Servant. The office of a mediator or day's-man is "to lay his hand upon both" ( Job 9:33); to treat with each party, in the previous chapters we have beheld Christ dealing with believers in the name of the Father, opening His counsels to them; now we find Him dealing with the Father on behalf of believers, presenting their cause to Him, just as Moses, the typical mediator, spoke to God ( Exodus 19:19) and from God ( Exodus 20:19), so did our blessed Savior speak from God and to God. And He is still performing the same office and work: speaking to us in the Word, speaking for us in His intercession on High.
The prayer that we are now about to meditate upon is a standing monument of Christ's affection for the Church. In it we are permitted to hear the desires of His heart as He spreads them before the Father, seeking the temporal, spiritual and eternal welfare of those who are His own. This prayer did not pass away as soon as its words were uttered, or when Christ ascended to heaven, but retains a perpetual efficacy. "Just as the words of creation hath retained their vigor these six thousand years: ‘Increase and multiply: Let the earth bring forth after its kind,' so this prayer of Christ's retains its force, as if but newly spoken" (Mr. T. Manton). Let us remember our Lord's words, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always" ( John 11:41, 42) as we ponder this prayer together.
"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven" ( John 17:1). The first four words look backwards and their meaning is fixed by the opening clause in John 16:33. They refer to the whole consolatory discourse recorded in the three preceding chapters. Having completed His address to the disciples, He now lifted up His eyes and heart to the Father. The connection is emphasized by the Spirit: "These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said." What an example for all of His servants! He had said everything to the apostles which a wise kindness could dictate in order to sustain them in the supremely trying circumstances in which they were about to be placed, and as the hour was at hand when they were to be separated from Him, He employs the few moments now remaining in commending them to the care of the Father—His Father and their Father. From preaching He passed to prayer! Thereby He teaches us that after we have done all we can to promote the holiness and comfort of those with whom we are connected, we should in prayer and supplication beseech Him, who is the author of all good, to bless the objects of our care and the means which we have employed for their welfare. "Doctrine has no power, unless efficacy is imparted to it from above. Christ holds out an example to teach them, not to employ themselves only in sowing the Word, but by mingling prayers with it, to implore the assistance of God, that His blessing may render their labors fruitful" (John Calvin).
"And lifted up his eyes to heaven." While delivering the discourse recorded in the previous chapters His eyes, no doubt, had been fixed with tender solicitude' upon His disciples. But now as a token that He was about to engage in prayer, He lifts up His eyes toward heaven. "This shows that bodily gestures in prayer and worship of God are not altogether to be overlooked as unmeaning" (Bishop Ryle). The gesture naturally expresses withdrawal of the thoughts and the affections from earthly things, deep veneration, and holy confidence. It denoted the elevation of His heart to God. Said David, "Unto thee O Lord, do I lift up my soul" ( Psalm 25:1). In true prayer the affections go out to God. Our Lord's action also teaches us the spiritual reverence which is due God: the heaven of heavens is His dwelling-place, and the turning of the eyes toward His Throne expresses a recognition of God's majesty and excellence. "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens" ( Psalm 123:1). Again, such a posture signifies confidence in God. There can be no real prayer until there is a turning away from all creature dependencies: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth" ( Psalm 121:1, 2) The believer looks around, and finds no ground for help; his relief must come from God above.
"And said, Father." The Mediator here addresses God as Father. He was His "Father" in a threefold sense. First, by virtue of His human nature, miraculously produced. His body was "prepared" for Him by God ( Hebrews 10:5). Just as in the human realm the begetter of the child is its father, so the One who made the body of Christ, became the Father of His human nature: "And the angel answered and said unto her [Mary], the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" ( Luke 1:35). The man Christ Jesus is thus in a peculiar sense, the Son of God. In like manner, Adam, who was created by God in His own image and likeness, is called "the son of God" ( Luke 3:38). Second, God stands in the relation of "Father" to our Lord as the Head and Representative of the holy family redeemed from among men. He is thus "The first born among many brethren" ( Romans 8:29). To this the apostle seems to refer when he applies to the Lord Jesus that Old Testament word "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son" ( Hebrews 1:5). Third, the appellation "Father" given to the first person of the Trinity by our Savior, primarily, and usually refers to that essential relation which subsisted between the first and second persons of the God head from all eternity. Identity of nature is the chief idea suggested by the term. In Romans 8:32, Christ is spoken of as God's "own Song of Solomon," intimating that He is a Son in a sense absolutely peculiar to Himself.
"And said, Father." Two things were expressed. First, relationship: the relationship of sonship. This was His claim to be heard. It was as though He had said, "O thou with whom I have existed in unity of essence, perfection, and enjoyment from the unbegun eternity, and by whose will and operation I have been clothed miraculously with human nature and constituted the Head of all appointed unto salvation—I now come to thy throne of grace." Second, it indicated affection. It expressed love, veneration, confidence, submission. In whom should a son trust if not in his father? It was as though He had said, "I trust Thy power, Thy Wisdom of Solomon, Thy benignity, Thy faithfulness. Into Thy hands I commend Myself. I know that Thou wilt hear My prayer for Thou art My Father!" Previously Christ had commanded prayer: here, by His own blessed example He commends to us this holy exercise.
"The hour is come." This is the seventh and last time that the Lord Jesus refers to this most momentous "hour"—see our remarks on John 2:4. This was the greatest "hour" of all—because most critical and pregnant with eternal issues—since hours began to be numbered. It was the hour when the Son of God was to terminate the labors of His important life by a death still more important and illustrious. It was the hour when the Lord of glory was to be made sin for His people, and bear the holy wrath of a sin-hating God. It was the hour for fulfilling and accomplishing many prophecies, types and symbols which for hundreds and thousands of years had pointed forward to it. It was the hour when events took place which the history of the entire universe can supply no parallel: when the Serpent was Permitted to bruise the heel of the woman's Seed; when the sword of Divine justice smote Jehovah's Fellow; when the sun refused to shine; when the earth rocked on its axis; but when the elect company were redeemed, when Heaven was gladdened, and which brought, and shall bring to all eternity, "glory to God in the highest."
But why did the Savior begin His prayer by referring to this "hour"? As a plea to support the petitions that He was about to present. "In our Lord's prayer for Himself there is pleading as well as petition. Prayer is the expression of desire for benefit by one who needs it, to one who, in his estimation, is able and disposed to confer it. Request or petition is therefore its leading element; but in the expression of desire by one intelligent being to another, it is natural that the reasons why the desire is cherished, and the request presented, should be stated, and the grounds unfolded, on which the hope is founded, that the desire should be granted. Petitions and pleading are thus connected in prayer from man to man; and they are Song of Solomon, likewise, in prayer from men to God. Whoever reads carefully the prayers uttered by holy men, influenced and guided by the Spirit of God, recorded in Scripture, will be struck with the union of petition and pleading, by which they are distinguished. When they are brought ‘near to God'—when they, as Job says, ‘find him and come even to his seat,' how do ‘they order their cause before him, and fill their mouths with arguments' ( Job 23:3-4)2They ‘plead' with Him, as Jeremiah expresses it" ( John 12:1). (Mr. John Brown).
Christ's first plea was the intimate and endearing relation in which He stood to the object of worship: "Father... glorify thy Son." There is a powerful plea in each of these words. His second plea was "the hour is come"—the time appointed for granting this petition had arrived. Like so many of His words in these closing chapters, "the hour" here seems to have a double significance: referring not only to His sufferings, but also looking forward to the resurrection—side of the Cross—compare our remarks on John 13:31. "This is the appointed period for the remarkable glorification of the Son by the Father in His sufferings, by His sufferings, for His sufferings under them, after them. ‘The time, yea, the set time, is come,' and if the time be come shall not the event take place? It is a matter of Divine purpose, and when was a Divine purpose falsified! It is a matter of Divine promise, and when was a Divine promise frustrated!" (Mr. John Brown).
"Glorify thy Song of Solomon, that thy Son also may glorify thee" ( John 17:1). This is so closely connected with what follows in the next two verses that it is difficult to treat of it separately. In John 17:2,3Christ describes the particular mode of glorifying the Father on which His heart was set, and the aspect of the glorification of Himself which He here prays for, namely, to have power over all flesh and to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. There was a double object of desire, a double subject of prayer; the glorification of the Father in the bestowal of eternal life upon the elect, and the glorification of the Son as subsidiary to this as the necessary and effectual means of accomplishing it. Thus we see the perfect disinterestedness of Christ. He prayed to be "glorified" not for His own sake, but that the Father might be glorified in our salvation! Here again we see Him loving us "unto the end!"
"Glorify thy Son." This was the Savior requesting the Father to support Him on the Cross, afterwards to bring Him out of the grave and set Him at His own right hand, so as to bring to a triumphant completion the work given Him to do; and this in order that the glorious attributes of the Father—His justice, holiness, mercy and faithfulness—might be exhibited and magnified, for God is most "glorified" when the excellencies of His character are manifested to and acknowledged by His creatures. The glorification of the Song of Solomon, in accord with the double meaning of the "hour" here, would mean Glorify Me in My sufferings, and glorify Me after My sufferings. In both of these aspects was His prayer answered. The angel sent to strengthen Him in the Garden, the testimony of Pilate—"I find no fault in him,"—the drawing of the dying thief to the Savior while He hung upon the Cross, the rending of the temple veil, the confession of the centurion, "Truly, this was the Son of God," were all so many responses of the Father to this petition. His resurrection and exaltation to the highest seat in Heaven, was His glorification following His sufferings.
There is much for us to learn here. First, mark the connection: "the hour is come, glorify thy Son." "The true remedy of tribulation is to look to the succeeding glory, and to counterbalance future dangers with present hopes. This was comfort against that sad hour. So it must be our course: not to look at things which are seen, but to things which are not seen ( 2 Corinthians 4:17); to defeat sense by faith. When the mind is in heaven it is fortified against the pains which the body feeleth on earth" (Mr. Thos. Manton-Puritan). Second, observe what Christ sought: to be "glorified" by the Father—not to be enriched by men, not to be honored by the world. This should be our desire too. Christ rebuked those who received honor one from another instead of seeking the honor that cometh from God ( John 5:44), and because they loved the praise of men, more than the praise of God ( John 12:43). We should not only seek for grace, but glory. Third, note that Christ asked for what He knew would be given Him. The Father had said "I have both glorified, and will glorify again" ( John 12:28). Neither promises nor providence render prayer meaningless or useless. Fourth, Christ prayed for this glory in order that He might glorify the Father. Here too, He has left us an example. Whatsoever we do is to be done to the glory of God, and nothing should be asked from Him save for His glory.
"As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" ( John 17:2). "The Father is first of all to be glorified in the humanity of the God- Prayer of Manasseh, who presents Himself to that end; then, through Him in His disciples, so that in this first word concerning the mutual glorification, that is already involved and included which follows in John 17:10. In John 17:2 we have a more specific development and explanation of the sense in which this glorification of the Father to and in fallen humanity is meant" (Stier). We regard the connecting "as" or "according as" as having a double force, supplying a reason for and describing the manner of the Father's glorification of Christ. Let us examine the verse in this order of thought.
Verse 2contains the third plea which the Savior presented to the Father: to glorify the Son was in accord with the place which the Father had destined Him to fill, and the work which He had appointed Him to perform: the glorification of the Son was necessary to His filling that place and executing that work. The place which God had destined Him to occupy was that of rightful authority over the whole human race, with complete control of all events in connection with them (see John 5:22; Ephesians 1:19-21, etc.). The work appointed Him was to give eternal life to all the elect. But in order to the accomplishment of this purpose the Son must be glorified in and by and for His sufferings. He must be glorified by expiating sin upon the Cross, by being raised from the dead, and by being set at God's right hand so as to be put into actual possession of this authority and power. How cogent then was His plea! Unless the Father glorified Him, He could not accomplish the ends of His mediatorial office.
The Father, in His eternal counsels, had appointed the Son to save a portion of the human race; to conduct to glory many sons, who, like their brethren in the flesh, were going to destruction. These had been given Christ to save. By nature they were "dead in trespasses and sins": guilty, depraved, destitute of spiritual life, incapable of thinking, feeling, choosing, acting, or enjoying; communion with the all-holy, ever-blessed One. If ever they were to be saved they must have eternal life bestowed upon them by the Savior, and for Him to impart this inestimable boon, He must be exalted to the place of supreme dominion. This, then, was the Savior's "argument" or plea here: the Father's glory being the end in view.
Verse 2also describes the manner of the Father's glorification in and by the Son: let Thy Son glorify Thee by saving souls "according as" Thou hast appointed Him so to do. "As thou hast given" obviously means promised to give—see such scriptures as Psalm 89:27; Daniel 7:14, etc. The fact that this "power" or authority over all flesh is given to Christ, at once shows the character in which He here appears, namely, as Mediator. That Christ receives this "gift" shows us that free grace is no dis-honorable tenure. Why should haughty sinners disdain Divine charity, when the God-man was willing to accept a gift from the Father! "Power over all flesh" means, first, dominion over the whole human race. But it also means, most probably, authority over all creatures, for Christ "is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" ( 1 Peter 3:22). "All power in heaven and earth" has been given to Him ( Matthew 28:18). Not only is He the "head of every man" ( 1 Corinthians 11:3), but the "head of all principality and power" ( Colossians 2:10).
"As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." We must distinguish between Christ's universal authority and His narrower charge. Authority has been given Him over all; but out of this "all" is an elect company, committed to Him as a charge. This was typified by Joseph of old; authority over all Egypt was conveyed to him by the king, but his brethren had a special claim upon his affections. "The keys of heaven are in the hands of Christ; the salvation of every human soul is at His disposal" (Bishop Ryle). How blessed to rest upon this double truth—the universal dominion of Christ, His affection for His own. All has been put into the hands of our Savior, therefore the Devil himself cannot move except so far as Christ allows. This universal dominion has been bestowed upon Christ "that" (in order that) He may give eternal life to God's elect. The elect were given to Christ by way of reward ( Isaiah 53:10-12), and by way of charge ( John 6:37; 18:9).
"And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" ( John 17:3). There has been considerable difference of opinion as to what is meant by "this is eternal life." We shall not canvass the various interpretations that have been given, rather shall we seek to indicate what we believe was our Lord's meaning here. "This is life eternal," more literally, "this is the eternal life—that," etc. A parallel form of speech is found in John 3:19: "And this is the condemnation—that," etc. In the words that follow in John 3:19 the ground and way of condemnation are stated—"light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." This helps us to arrive at the first meaning here: "This is the eternal life—that they might know thee," etc.—this is the way to it. Again, in John 12:50 we read, "His commandment is—life everlasting" that Isaiah, the outward means of it. Once more, in 1John 5:20, we read, "This is the true God and eternal life"—Christ is the Author of it. Taken by themselves the words of this verse might be understood as speaking of the characteristics and manifestations of "eternal life," but the context would forbid this. Christ is here amplifying the plea of the previous verse. Thus: unless I am glorified, I cannot bestow eternal life; without My ascension the Holy Spirit will not come, and without Him there can be no knowledge of the Father and His Song of Solomon, and so by consequence, no eternal life, for "knowing God" and "eternal life" are inseparable. Therefore "this is eternal life—that they might know thee" etc, obviously signifies, This is the way to, the means of eternal life, namely, by the knowledge of God imparted by Jesus Christ.
"This is the eternal life, that they know thee" (literal rendering). The knowledge spoken of here is not speculative but practical, not theoretical but experimental, not intellectual but spiritual, not inactive but saving. That it is a saving knowledge, which is here in view is clear from the double object—God and Christ. He that knoweth God in Christ knoweth Him as His reconciled Father, and so resteth on and in Him. "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee" ( Psalm 9:10). The knowledge here spoken of presupposes a walk in harmony with it, produced by it: "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" ( 1 John 2:3). How this strengthened the plea of the Savior here scarcely needs pointing out. What would bring more "glory" to the Father than that He should be known (trusted, loved, served) by those to whom the Son gave eternal life! "Eternal life" contains the essence of all blessing: "This is the promise that he hath promised us—eternal life" ( 1 John 2:25). Spiritual or eternal life consists in knowing, living on, having communion with, and enjoying endless satisfaction in the Triune God through the one Mediator.
"Know thee, the only true God." Appeal is made to this by Unitarians in their horrible efforts to disprove the Godhead of the second and third persons of the Trinity. That Christ cannot be here denying the Deity of Himself and of the Spirit we well know from many other passages, but what did He mean by affirming that the Father is "the only true God"? We believe the answer is twofold:—
First, Christ was here excluding the idols of the Gentiles—false gods, el, 1 Thessalonians 1:9:—to denote that that Godhead is only true that is in the Father. The Son and the Spirit are not excluded because they are of the same essence with the Father. The Son and the Spirit are "true God," not without, but in the Father. "I and the Father are one" ( John 10:30); "the Father is in me, and I in him" ( John 10:38): not divided in essence, but distinguished in personality. In 1John 5:20 the Son Himself is called "the only true God!" Which no more excludes the Father than John 17:3 excludes the Son. Many such exclusive statements are to be found in Scripture, that must be expounded by the analogy of faith. For example: "No one knoweth the Father, but the Song of Solomon, and none knoweth the Song of Solomon, but the Father" ( Matthew 11:27); but this excludes not the Spirit, for He "searcheth the depths of God" ( 1 Corinthians 2:10). One person of the Trinity does not exclude the others. When Scripture insists there is no God but one, it simply denies that all others who are "called gods" are such.
Second, Christ was here speaking in view of the order and economy of salvation, for He had just mentioned the giving of "eternal life." In the economy of salvation the Father is ever represented as Supreme, the One in whom the sovereign majesty of Deity resideth. The Son sustains the office of Mediator, and in this character He could rightly say, "My Father is greater than I" ( John 14:28) In like manner, during the present dispensation, the Holy Spirit is the Servant of the Godhead (see Luke 4:17-23and cf. John 16:13 and our remarks thereon). In the order of redemption the Father is the principal party representing the whole Godhead, because He is the Originator and Fountain of it.
"And Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." The connecting "and" gives plain warning that the Father, "the only true God" cannot be "known" apart from "Jesus Christ"! Just as the "only true God" is opposed to the vanities of the Gentiles, so is "Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" to the blindness of the Jews! "Sent" has a threefold intimation and signification. It points to His Deity: "We believe that thou camest forth from God" ( John 16:30). It refers to His incarnation: "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman" ( Galatians 4:4). It also signified His office of Mediator and Redeemer. For this reason He is called "The apostle and high priest of our profession" ( Hebrews 3:1), and apostle means the sent one. Jesus Christ is the great Ambassador to treat with us from God.
It is worthy of note that this is the only place in the New Testament where our Lord called Himself "Jesus Christ." In so doing He affirmed that Hebrews, Jesus the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, and Son of God was the only true Christ (Messiah): thereby He repudiated every false notion of the Messiah, as in the previous clause He had excluded every false god. It is very striking to observe how that in 1John we are told, Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God," while in 1John 5:5 we read, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Do you, dear reader, know the Father and the Son—the Father as revealed in and by Jesus Christ! If you do not, you have not eternal life.
"I have glorified thee on the earth" ( John 17:4). Here is the next plea of the Savior: I have glorified Thee, do Thou now glorify Me. God has been glorified in creation ( Psalm 19:1) and by His providences ( Exodus 15:6-7, etc.); but to a superlative degree, in an altogether unique way, He had been glorified by the Son. Christ has glorified the Father in His person ( Hebrews 1:3). He glorified Him by His miracles ( Matthew 9:8, etc.). He glorified Him by His words, constantly ascribing all praise to Him ( Matthew 11:25, etc.). But above all He had glorified Him by His holy life. The Savior was sent into the world as the Representative of His people, to render obedience to that law which they had violated ( Galatians 4:4); and perfectly bad He in thought and word and deed discharged this duty. In Him—full of grace and truth—the disciples had beheld a moral glory possessed by none save Him who abode in the bosom of the Father. "I have glorified thee on the earth"—in the place where He had been so grievously dishonored.
In view of having glorified the Father on earth, the Son said "glorify thou me." "The more we examine the Gospel of John, the more we shall see One who speaks and acts as a Divine Person—one with the Father—alone could do, but yet always as One who has taken the place of a servant, and takes nothing to Himself but receives all from His Father. ‘I have glorified thee: now glorify me.' What language of equality of nature and love! But He does not say, ‘And now I will glorify myself.' He has taken the place of man to receive all, though it be a glory He had with the Father before the world was. This is of exquisite beauty. I add, it was out of this the enemy sought to seduce Him, in vain, in the wilderness" (Mr. Darby).
"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" ( John 17:4). Here is the final plea of the Savior for His glorification. When He entered this world, He affirmed, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God" ( Hebrews 10:7). At the age of twelve, He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" ( Luke 2:49). In John 4:34 He declared, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Now He says, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." He anticipated by a few hours His cry from the Cross, "It is finished" ( John 19:30). The Savior referred to His work on earth as though He had been already exalted to heaven. How evident it is all through His prayer that His heavenly mediation is in view—"Now I am no more in the world" ( John 17:11)!
"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." As the eternal Son He had, in the character of the faithful Servant, done what none other could do. He had performed the Father's will: He had delivered His message: He had not only taught but perfectly exemplified the truth. He had "finished transgression and brought in everlasting righteousness " ( Daniel 9:24). He had put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He had "restored that which He took not away" ( Psalm 69:4). Thus had He glorified the Father upon earth and finished the work given Him to do. There was every reason then why He should be "glorified." Every moral attribute of Deity required it. Having endured the Cross, He was fully entitled to enter "the joy set before Him." Having poured out His soul unto death, it was but meet that the Father should "divide him a portion with the great" ( Isaiah 53:12). Having glorified Him on earth, it was fitting that the Savior should be glorified in heaven.
"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" ( John 17:5). Having presented the various pleas suited to His glorification, the Son now returns to His petition. The verse before us conducts us to a height which we have no means of scaling. All that we can do is to humbly ponder its words in the light of the context and parallel scriptures. When the Savior says, "glorify thou me" He speaks as the Mediator, as "Jesus Christ" ( John 17:3). As Jesus Christ He had been humiliated; now, as Jesus Christ, He was to be glorified. The Father's answer to this is seen in Acts 2: "This Jesus hath God raised up... let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (verses 32, 36)—compare also Philippians 2:9-11. But the glorification here must not be confined to His humanity, as the remainder of the verse shows. As the eternal Son He has humbled Himself ( Philippians 2:6), and as the Son He has been exalted and magnified see Psalm 21:1-6; 110:1; Ephesians 1:17-23; Revelation 5:11-14.
That Christ asked to be "glorified," demonstrated His perfections: not even as risen did He glorify Himself. In addition to the fact that His glorification had been promised and earned by Him, three reasons may be given why He asked for it. First, for the comfort of His apostles who were troubled over His humiliation. Second, for our instruction: to teach us that suffering for God is the highway to glory. Third, for the benefit of His Church: Christ must be glorified before it could prosper. The example of the Savior here teaches that we should pray that the Father may be pleased to honor us by fitting and using us to lead men to a knowledge of the only true God through Jesus Christ, and to enable us, in our creature measure, to glorify Him on earth and to finish the work which He has given us to do.
The following questions are to help the student on the next section: —
1. How many pleas does Christ here present on behalf of His own, verses 6,12?
2. Of whom is Christ speaking in verse 6?
3. In what senses were the elect "given" to Christ, verse 6?
4. What important truth is pointed in the "ands" of verse 8?
5. How harmonize verse 9 with Luke 23:34?
6. Why "Holy" Father, verse 11?
7. What is the unity of verse 12?
Christ Interceding (Continued)
The following is an Analysis of the second section of John 17: —
1. What Christ had done for God's elect, verse 6.
2. The response of the elect, verses 6, 7.
3. The consequent assurance of the elect, verse 8.
4. The elect alone prayed for by the Mediator, verse 9.
5. Reasons why Christ prayed for the elect, verses 9-11.
6. Christ praying for their preservation and unity verse 11.
7. Christ's accompanying plea, verse 12.
John 17 is the sequel to chapter 13. In each the actions of our great High Priest are in view. But the services are different, both together giving us a full representation of our Advocate on high. In the 13th chapter He had, as it were, laid one hand on the defiled feet of His saints; here He lays the other hand on the throne of the Father, forming thus a chain of marvellous workmanship reaching from God to sinners. In the 13th chapter His body was girt, and He was stooping down towards our feet; here, His eyes are lifted up ( John 17:1), and He is looking in the face of the Father. What that is asked for us, by One who fills up the whole distance between the bright throne of God and our defiled feet, can be denied? All must be granted—such an One is heard always. Thus we get the sufficiency and acceptability of the Advocate" (Mr. J. G. Bellett).
That order in which the Savior here presents His petitions, and the pleas by which He urges them, are deserving of the closest notice. The prayer has three main divisions: in John 17:1 to 5 He prays for Himself; in John 17:6 to 19 He prays for the disciples then alive: in John 17:20 to 26 He prays for those who should believe. In praying for Himself, His own glorification, the great end in view is the Father's glory. In John 17:1 He says: "glorify thy Song of Solomon, that thy Son also may glorify thee," and in John 17:5 He adds: "glorify thou me with thine own self." This, be it noted, is before He asks a single thing for His people. Just as in The disciples' prayer, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" was the opening petition, so here in "The Lord's Prayer" the Father's interests come first. Inseparably connected are the two things: the Father's glory and the Son's glory. In praying for Himself before His people He shows us that in all things He has the pre-eminence ( Colossians 1:18).
In studying the different pleas for His own glorification, we find that they were seven in number, and this supplies us with the first of a most striking series of sevens which runs through this prayer. The various pleas were as follows: First, because of His filial relationship with God—"Father," John 17:1. Second, because the appointed time for it had arrived—"The hour is come," John 17:1. Third, because authority over all flesh had been given Him by Divine appointment and promise, John 17:2. Fourth, because His bestowal of eternal life on God's elect had also been promised Him, John 17:2. Fifth, because in bestowing eternal life on the elect He would be bringing them to a knowledge of the Father, John 17:3. Sixth, because He had glorified the Father on the earth, John 17:4. Seventh, because He had finished the work which had been given Him to do, John 17:4. For these reasons He asks that His request be granted.
Ere passing from the first section of this prayer, attention should be called to the lovely manner in which the Son there kept before Him the glory of the Father. First, He had said: "Father... glorify thy Son" (), not "the Son": He desired no glory for Himself apart from the Father! Second, "that thy Son also may glorify thee" ( John 17:1): not separately, but in perfect union. Third, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh" ( John 17:2): blessed is it to see the place which He gives the Father. Fourth, "that he should give eternal life to as many as"—He redeems with His blood? No; but—"to as many as thou hast given him" ( John 17:3)! Thus, again, does He refer all to the Father. Fifth, "And this is life eternal that they might know me"? No; but-"that they might know thee, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" ( John 17:3). Sixth, "I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do" ( John 17:4): nothing was done for self. He ascribes honor to the Father for originating and appointing that work! Finally, when He prays to be glorified, it is touching to see how He puts it: "glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had before the world was", No, no; but instead "with the glory which I had with thee before the world was": not for a moment would He dissociate His own glory from His Father! Truly is this altogether Lovely One "fairer than the children of men."
We have now completed the first main section of John 17, verses 1-5, where Christ is seen praying for Himself. In the second section, verses 6-19, He prays for the living disciples. This second section is also subdivided into two parts, though it is not easy to classify them. In verses 6 to 12the fundamental reason is brought out as to why the Savior prays for His disciples and not for the world-because of their relation to Himself. Out of this grows the petition for their preservation—the essence of all intercession. In verses 13to 19 the Lord prays for His disciples as left here in the world, presenting their several needs as growing out of this. We shall confine ourselves now to the first subdivision.
While this prayer resolves itself into three divisions there is a most striking apparent unity about it. The substance of Christ's prayer for Himself is: Place Me in circumstances in which I may glorify Thee in the salvation of men. The substance of His prayer for the disciples is: Fit them for glorifying Thee in promoting the salvation of men, through prosecuting the work to which I have called them as My instrumental agents. The substance of His prayer for the whole company of the redeemed ( John 17:20-26) is: Bring them to entire conformity to Thyself in mind, will and enjoyment, that Thou mayest be glorified to the uttermost by their being saved to the uttermost. Thus the glory of the Father is the paramount consideration from the beginning to the end. A close study of the details will fully bear this out. But though everything is subordinated by Christ to the Divine glory, yet the blessings asked for the apostles and the whole company of the redeemed are viewed not only in reference to the glory of the Father directly, but to the glory of the Song of Solomon, in whom and by whom the Father was to be glorified. The plea for blessing them is that "I am glorified in them" ( John 17:10), and the ultimate design is "that they may behold my glory" ( John 17:24).
"The prayer of our Lord for His apostles, like the prayer for Himself, comprehends both petition and pleading. He asks blessings for them, and He states the grounds on which He asks these blessings for them. The transition at the beginning of the sixth verse is similar to that at the twentieth verse, though not so distinctly defined. There He says, ‘I pray not for them alone,' i.e, the apostles (rather the entire company of disciples at that time, A.W.P.), ‘but for them also which shall believe in me through their word.' Here He in effect says, ‘I pray not for myself alone, but for the men to whom I have manifested thy name.'
"The great blessing which our Lord asks for the apostles is that they may be one, as the Father and the Son are; that Isaiah, that they may be united with Them as to mind and will, and aim and operation in the great work of glorifying God in the salvation of men. That is the ultimate object of His desire in reference to them; the other petitions are for what is necessary in order to this. The blessings necessary to the obtaining of this blessing are two: First, Conservation—‘Keep them through, or in, or in reference to, thine own name'; ‘Keep them from the evil one or the evil thing that is in the world, that they may be one, as we are.' Then, second, Consecration—‘Sanctify them through, or in reference to, thine own name'; all the rest is occupied with pleadings—most powerful and appropriate pleadings'' (Mr. John Brown).
While it is true that in John 17:6 to 19 the Lord is praying directly and immediately for His apostles, it is clear to us that they are here viewed, as in the preceding chapters, in a representative character. Were this not the case, there would be no place at all in this prayer for all the others of His believing disciples at that time, for John 17:20 speaks only of those who were to believe at a later date. The careful student will note that Christ was most particular to describe the ones He here intercedes for in terms which are common to all believers. It is with this understanding that we shall now proceed with our exposition.
"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word" ( John 17:6). Four things are to be carefully noted in this and the following verses: the persons for whom Christ intercedes; the characters in which they are presented; the petitions offered on their behalf; and the particular pleas by which each separate petition is urged. It is to be noted that the Lord did not begin by asking for the blessing of His disciples; rather did He first describe the ones he was about to pray for: in John 17:6 to 10 it is presentation, in John 17:11,12it is supplication. It is beautiful to see that as the Savior here comes before the Father as intercessor, He presents "His own" along with Himself. It reminds us of His word, spoken long before by the spirit of prophecy, "Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me" ( Isaiah 8:18, quoted in Hebrews 2:13). It was the fulfillment of what had been so strikingly foreshadowed by the high priest of Israel: "And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually" ( Exodus 28:29). So here, when our great High Priest entered the presence of the Father, He bore our names on His heart before Him! That which made this possible was His own glorification, consequent upon His "finished work" ( John 17:4, 5).
"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world." Here is the first proof that the Lord had more than the eleven apostles in view. He designedly employed language that was strictly applicable to all His believing people at that time. During His earthly life He had made known the Father's name to far more than the Eleven 1Corinthians speaks of the risen Savior being seen by "over five hundred brethren at once." Song of Solomon, too, far more than the apostles had been given to Christ out of the world; and again, a larger company than the apostles had "kept his word." Three things were here mentioned by Christ to recommend to the Father these objects of His petition: they were acquainted with the Father's name; they were the subjects of His distinguishing grace; they were obedient to His will. Thus the Lord Jesus spoke of what He had done, what the Father had done, and what the disciples had done.
"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world." Herein Christ fulfilled that prophecy, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee" ( Psalm 22:22). To make known the Father's name was to reveal Him, manifest His character, display His perfections. As we are told at the beginning of this Gospel, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Song of Solomon, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." The Son alone was competent for this. Christ had manifested the Father's perfections in His perfect life, wondrous miracles and sublime teaching. But only those who had been given Him by the Father were able to receive this manifestation. Christ has made known the Father to all the elect: "I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father" ( 1 John 2:13). So perfectly did Christ discharge this office that He could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" ( John 12:9).
"Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." All creatures belong to the Father by creation ( Hebrews 12:9), but this is not what is here in view. Christ is speaking of a special company which had been given to Him. The reference, then, is to the sovereign election of God, whereby He chose a definite number to be His "peculiar people" —His in a peculiar or special way. These were eternally His: "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world" ( Ephesians 1:4); and by the immutability of His purpose of grace from John 11:29, they are always His. This plea was made by Christ to the Father not only for the urging of the petition which followed, but for the comfort of the disciples. Despised by Israel they might be, hated by men in general, the special objects of Satan's enmity; yet were they the peculiar favourites of God. Again, this plea of Christ's affords us instruction in prayer. The more we discern the Father's interests in us, the greater our confidence when we come to Him a prayer. What assurance would be ours if, when we approached the throne of grace, we realized that the Father's heart had been set upon us from the beginning of all things!
"And thou gavest them me." Thine by foreordination; Mine by special donation. "The acts of the three persons of the Trinity are commensurate; of the same sphere and latitude; those whom the Father chooseth, the Son redeemeth and the Spirit quickeneth. The Father loveth none but those which are given to Christ, and Christ taketh charge of none but those that are loved by the Father. Your election will be known by your interest in Christ, and your interest in Christ by the regeneration of the Spirit. All God's flock are put into Christ's hands, and He leaveth them in the care of the Spirit: ‘Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ' ( 1 Peter 1:2). There is a chain of salvation; the beginning is from the Father, the dispensation through the Song of Solomon, the application by the Spirit; all cometh from the Father, and is conveyed to us through Christ by the Spirit" (Mr. Thos. Manton).
"Thou gavest them me." The elect are given to Christ, first by way of reward: "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed... He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong" ( Isaiah 53:10-12.) "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen tot thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" ( Psalm 2:8). The elect were given to Christ, secondly, by the way of charge. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out [reject]... And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" ( John 6:37, 39). The elect were intrusted to Christ to take care of. Thus the faithfulness of Christ to the Father is engaged on our behalf. If a single one of God's elect were to perish, the glory of the perfect Servant would be tarnished for all eternity. How absolute, then, is our security!
"And they have kept thy word." The last reference, no doubt, is to God's call, which went forth through Christ. When these disciples heard that word of command, they rose up, left all, and followed Him. Moreover, they had continued with Him. When many "went back and walked no more with him," the Savior said unto the Twelve, "Will ye also go away?" Their answer, through Peter, was prompt and unwavering: To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal lite" ( John 6:66-68); contrast verse 38. The Lord spoke here absolutely from the standpoint of their faith, no notice being taken of their failures to apprehend that Word. How beautiful, how blessed, to see our great High Priest, notwithstanding the feebleness of their faith and their frequent unbelief, presenting the disciples before the Father according to the perfections of His own love—that love which "imputetn no evil" ( 1 Corinthians 13:5). They had kept the Father's word, but O how imperfectly. But love notices not their detects, dwelling only upon their troth, submission and obedience! Satan is an accuser, and even speaks evil of believers; but Christ, our Advocate, takes our part, and ever speaks well of us. Thus is the highest commendation Christ coma give His people: "They have kept thy word."
"Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee" ( John 17:7). The Lord continues to speak in commendatory terms of His disciples. "These are wonderful words when we consider the character of the eleven men to whom they were applied. How weak was their faith! How slender their knowledge! How shallow their spiritual attainments! How faint their hearts in the hour of danger! Yet a very little while after Jesus spoke these words they all forsook Him and fled, and one of them denied Him with an oath. No one, in short, can read the four Gospels with attention and fail to see that never had a great Master such weak servants as Jesus had in the eleven apostles. Yet these very servants were the men of whom the gracious Head of the church speaks here in high and honorable terms. The lesson before us is full of comfort and instruction. It is evident that the Lord sees far more in His believing people than they see in themselves, or than others see in them. The least degree of faith is very precious in His sight. Though it be no larger than a grain of mustard seed, it is a plant of heavenly growth, and makes a boundless difference between the possessors of it and the men of the world. The eleven apostles were weak and unstable as water; but they believed and loved their Master when millions refused to own Him. And the language of Him who declared that a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple should not lose its reward, shows plainly that their constancy was not forgotten" (Bishop Ryle).
It is blessed to note the characters in which Christ here presents the disciples to His Father. "It is most comforting to find that all these glorious desires for the saints our Lord grounds simply on this: that they have received the Son's testimony about the Father, and had believed surely in the Father's love. How full of blessing it is to see that we are presented before God simply as believing that love! How surely does it tell us that the pleasure of our God is this: that we should know Him in love, know Him as the Father, know Him according to the words of Him who has come out from His bosom. This is joy and liberty. And it is indeed only as having seen God in love, seen the Father and heard the Father in Jesus, that makes us the family. It is not the graces that adorn us, or the services that we render, but simply that we know the Father. It is this which distinguishes the saint from the world, and gives him his standing, as here, in the presence of the Father" (Mr. J. G. Bellett).
"For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me" ( John 17:8). The "for" which here introduces what follows explains the all things in the previous verse. The disciples had entered, by grace, into that of which the world was completely ignorant, namely, that the Father was the source of all that was given to the Son. Some "wondered" at His words and works; others, in their enmity, blasphemously attributed them to Satan. Not only had the disciples learnt that He came out from the Father, but they had perceived that the means (the "words") of bringing them into such blessing were also of the Father. The Savior had treated them as "friends," committing to them those intimate communications of grace which the Father gave to Him, and this that they might know the Divine relationship into which His wondrous love had brought them. Nor had this been in vain. Slow of heart they truly were (as, alas! are we), yet they received the truth, and receiving it they knew that He was the Son of the Father's love. Thus does the Savior explain how souls are brought into such nearness to the Father.
It is instructive to note the order here: "For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me." How this makes manifest the fact that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" ( Romans 10:17). How plain is the lesson here taught us! If our faith is to be strengthened, deepened and increased, it can only be by our diligent attention to, prayerful meditation upon, and personal appropriation of the words of God! Song of Solomon, too, knowledge, spiritual knowledge—discernment and understanding—is the fruit of "receiving" God's words. It is to be noted that the initial "receiving" has preceded it. The "believing" comes last here, though the Lord Jesus admits no other faith than that which is based upon an intelligent acquaintance with His person—cf. Romans 10:13.
"I pray for them: I pray not for the world; but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine" ( John 17:9). The world here is a general name for mankind in their fallen state. There is a "fashion of this world" ( 1 Corinthians 7:31), a common mould, according to which the characters of men are formed. There "is a course of this world" ( Ephesians 2:2), in which all walk, except those who are on the narrow way" which leadeth unto life. All who have not been "transformed by the renewing of their minds" ( Romans 12:2) are, as a matter of course, "conformed to this world." For the unbelieving, Christ prayed not: "For whom He is the Propitiation, He is an Advocate; and for whom He died, He makes intercession, and for no others in a spiritual saving way." (Mr. John Gill).
"I pray not for the world." But how is this to be harmonized with the fact that while He was on the Cross the Savior did pray for His enemies —"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"? It is important that we should distinguish between the prayers of Christ as the perfect Man and the prayers of Christ as Mediator. There are several of the Psalm which plainly intimate that the Lord Jesus prayed for His foes, but this was to show us that as a perfect Prayer of Manasseh, subject to that holy law which required each one to love his neighbor as himself, He harboured no revenge. He prayed for the ungodly in answer to His human duty, but not officially as the Mediator. So He taught His disciples, "Love your enemies, bless them which curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" ( Matthew 5:44). But here in John 17 Christ is seen as the great High Priest, therefore He prays only for "His own."
"But for them which thou hast given me." How this should bow our hearts in adoring worship! What thanksgivings it calls for! Oh what an inestimable privilege to be one of the objects of Christ's intercession. Millions passed by unprayed for by Him; but those who belong to the "little flock" ( Luke 12:32) are held up by Him before the throne of grace. One of the disciples asked Him, "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" ( John 14:22). So may we ask, "How is it that Thou wilt pray for us, and not for the world?" Others more accomplished, with more pleasing dispositions, who daily put us to shame in many ways, left out, and we taken in! The finite mind, yea the renewed mind, can discover no answer. All that we can say Isaiah, it was the sovereign grace of the sovereign God who singled us out to be the objects of His distinguishing favors. Let the world call it selfishness in us if they will, but let us express in praise to God our profoundest gratitude, and seek to live as becometh His elect ones. Let us also follow the example of Christ here and manifest our greatest love for those who have been chosen out of the world. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" ( Galatians 6:10). But do Christ's words in John 17:9 forbid us to pray for the wicked? No, indeed. Christ's mediatorial acts as our great High Priest are not our standard of conduct; but in His walk as the perfect Man He has left us "an example." On the Cross He prayed for His enemies. So we are commanded to pray for our enemies; and it is our duty to pray for all men. See Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1.
"For they are thine." In the previous verses the Savior had described the characters of those for whom He was about to intercede, now He presents the reasons why He prayed for them. The first Isaiah, "for they are thine." Though given to the Mediator by grant—both as a reward and as a charge—they are still the Father's; that Isaiah, He has not relinquished His right and property over them. As a father who giveth his daughter in marriage to another does not lose his fatherly propriety, so those given to Christ are still the Father's "for they (in sharp contrast from ‘the world') are thine" fixes the meaning of "thine they were" in John 17:6—"thine" not by creation, but by election. "The world" also belongs to the Father by creation! What a powerful plea was this; the ones for whom Christ was about to pray were the Father's, therefore, for His own glory and because of His affection for that which belonged to Him, He would keep them.
"And all mine are thine, and thine are mine" ( John 17:10). Here is the second motive for His request: the interests of the Father and the Son could not be separated; what belonged to the one belonged to the other. Indubitable proof of His absolute Deity; it is because the Savior is one with the Father that They have rights and interests no less boundless than common. The Holy Spirit is not here mentioned, though He is certainly not to be excluded. As Mr. Manton well said, "They are the Father's children, Christ's members, and the Spirit's temples."
"And I am glorified in them" ( John 17:10). This was His third plea. Since the Son was the supreme Object of the Father's affections, then this was another reason for Him preserving those in whom the Savior was glorified. What a place for us! To be the subjects of this mutual affection of the Father and the Son! The world knew Him not, Israel received Him not; but these disciples by their faith, love, and obedience, glorified Him; therefore did He make special intercession for them. And how imensly practical is this for us! The more we glorify Christ, the more confidence shall we have of His intercession for us—"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" ( Matthew 10:32).
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we" ( John 17:11). What a touching plea is this! The Savior reminds the Father that the disciples would be deprived of His personal care as present with them, and this would expose them the more to the world. He had been their Guide, their Guardian, their ever-present and all-sufficient Friend. And how He had borne with their infirmities, upheld them in weakness, protected them from evil! But now He was leaving them, going to the Father, and into His hands He now commits His own charge.
"But these are in the world." God could take each saint to Heaven the very day he believed (as He did the dying thief) did He so please; but for reasons of His own He leaves them here for a shorter or longer season. He does so for His own wise purposes: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" ( John 17:15). He gets more glory by leaving us here. As a quaint old writer said, "It is more wonderful to maintain a candle in a bucket of water than in a lantern." God's power is made perfect in our weakness ( 2 Corinthians 12:9). God sent Jacob and his family into Egypt that He might there exhibit before his descendants His mighty power on Pharaoh. We are left here that we might be tried: "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" ( Hebrews 6:12). There is a measure of sufferings appointed ( 1 Thessalonians 3:3), and each of us must receive his share. Another reason why we are left in the world is to make us appreciate the more the coming glory. The roughness of our pilgrim path makes us yearn for rest; our present strangership deepens our desire to be at Home.
"Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me." The term "holy" is here descriptive of character. The root meaning of the word is separation, and as applied to God it signifies that He is far removed from evil. But this is simply negative. God is not only elevated high above all impurity, but He is absolutely, essentially pure in Himself. That God is holy signifies that He is lifted high above all finite creatures. "Who shall not fear thee O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy" ( Revelation 15:4).
The titles of God in Scripture are suited to the requests made of Him: "Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace" ( 2 Thessalonians 3:16); "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another" ( Romans 15:5), where the apostle prays for brotherly forbearance among the saints. The connection in which the Savior here addresses "the holy Father" is striking. He was asking for the preservation and unification of His disciples, and He requests the Father to do this for them in strict accord with His holy nature. The Lord would have us know with whom we have to do; He would have us pray for an ever-deepening abhorrence of sin—"Ye that love the Lord, hate evil" ( Psalm 97:10).
"Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me." How this brings out the value Christ sets upon us and the deep interest He has in us! About to return to the Father on high, He asks the Father that He will preserve those so dear to His heart, those for whom He bled and died. He hands them over to the care of the very One who had first given them to Him. It was as though He said: I know the Father's heart! He will take good care of them! And why was it, why is it, that we are so highly esteemed by Christ? Clearly not for any excellency which there Isaiah, intrinsically, in us. The answer must be, Because we are the Father's love gift to the Son. It is striking to observe that just seven times in this chapter Christ speaks of those whom the Father had "given" Him—see verses 2, 6 (twice) 9, 11, 12, 24. In John 3:16 we learn of the Father's love to us; here in John 17 we behold the Father's love to Christ. God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son; and He so loved His Son as to give Him a people who, conformed to His image, shall through all eternity, show forth His praises. Marvellous fact! We are the Fathers love gift to His Son. Who then can estimate the value which Christ puts upon us! The worth of a gift depends upon the one who made it; its intrinsic value may be paltry, but when made by a loved one it is highly prized for his sake. So we, utterly unworthy in ourselves, are ever regarded by Christ in all the inestimable worth of that love of the Father which gave us to Him! Thus does the eye of our great High Priest ever look upon us with affection and delight. How this ought to endear Him to our hearts!
Little wonder then, in view of what has just been before us, that the first thing the Savior asked for on behalf of those given to Him by the Father was their preservation. He was leaving them in a hostile world: "He asks that they may be kept from evil, from being overcome by temptation, from being crushed by persecution, from every device and assault of the Devil" (Bishop Ryle). But some find a difficulty here, why should Christ pray for their continuance in grace? Was not such a request meaningless, useless? Had He not affirmed that no sheep of His should ever perish! Ah, how futile for the finite mind to reason about spiritual and Divine things! But does Scripture throw any light on this apparently needless petition of Christ? Yes; it shows us, throughout, that God's decrees do not render void the use of means; yea, many of God's decrees are accomplished through the employment of instrumental agencies; and one of these chief means is prayer! It is the old nature, still in the Christian, which makes needful the intercession of Christ!
"That they may be one, as we." This refers not to a manifestation of ecclesiastical oneness; rather is it a oneness of personal knowledge of and fellowship with the Father and the Song of Solomon, and therefore oneness in spirit, affection, and aim. It is a oneness which is the outcome not of human agreement or effort, but of Divine power, through making each and all "partakers of the divine nature." Has this request of the Savior been granted? It has. In Acts 4:32 we read, "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." And is it not still true that among the real people of God, despite all their minor differences, there is still a real, a fundamental, and a blessed, underlying unity—they all believe God's Word is inspired, inerrant, of final authority; they all believe in the glorious person and rest upon the all-sufficient sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ; they all aim at the glory of God; they all pant for the time when they shall be forever with the Lord. "One as we" shows that the union here prayed for is a Divine, spiritual, intimate, invisible, unbreakable one!
"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name; those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled" ( John 17:12). "The Lord, then, in committing His own to the Father, whom in that name He was keeping whilst here, speaks of having kept them safe, save that one who was doomed to destruction. Awful lesson! that even the constant presence of Jesus fails to win where the Spirit brings not the truth home to the conscience. Does this enfeeble Scripture? On the contrary, the Scripture was thereby fulfilled. Chapter 13referred to Judas that none should be stumbled by such an end of his ministry. Here it is rather that none should therefore doubt the Lord's care. He was not one of those given to Christ by the Father, though called to be an apostle; of those so given He had lost none. Judas was an apparent, not a real, exception, as he was not a child of God but the son of perdition. To see the awful end of so heartless a course would only give more force to His works of grace who, if He left the world for the Father, was bringing them into His own associations before the Father" (Bible Treasury).
"While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name; those that thou gavest me I have kept." None but a Divine person could "keep" them. He had preserved them from the machinations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. None had apostatized; all had "continued" with Him in the day of His humiliation ( Luke 22:28).
"And none of them is lost, but the son of perdition." Note carefully, He did not say, "except the son of perdition," rather, "but the son of perdition." He belonged not to "them," that Isaiah, to those who had been given Him by the Father. The disjunctive participle is used here, as frequently in Scripture, to contrast those belonging to two different classes. Compare Matthew 12:4; Acts 27:22; Revelation 21:27. Not one of them given to Christ can or will be lost. "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am."
"That the scripture might be fulfilled." The reference is to Psalm 41,109. The presence of the traitor among the apostles was one of the many proofs that the Lord Jesus was the promised Messiah. Four reasons may be suggested for Christ referring to Judas here. To show there was no failure in discharging the trust which the Father had committed to Him; to assure the disciples of this, so that their faith might not be staggered; to demonstrate that Christ had not been deceived by Judas; to declare God's hand and counsel in it—"that the scripture might be fulfilled."
The following questions are to prepare the student for our next lesson: —
1. What is meant by "my joy fulfilled in themselves," verse 13?
2. What is meant by "they are not of the world," verse 14?
3. Why are believers left here in the world, verse 15?
4. Why the repetition of verse 14in verse 16?
5. What is the "sanctification" of verse 17?
6. What is the meaning of verse 18?
7. How did Christ "sanctify himself," verse 19?
CHRIST INTERCEDING (CONTINUED)
The following is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Christ's desire for His disciples' joy, verse 13.
2. The disciples hated by the world, verse 14.
3. Christ's prayer for their preservation, verse 15.
4. The disciples identified with Christ in separation from the world, verse 16.
5. Christ's prayer for their sanctification, verse 17.
6. The disciples sent into the world as Christ was, verse 18.
7. Christ's provision for their sanctification, verse 19.
One chief reason why the Lord Jesus uttered audibly the wonderful prayer recorded in John 17 in the hearing of His apostles was that they might be instructed and comforted thereby, and not the apostles only, but all His people since then. This is clear from verse 13: "And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world that (in order that) they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." "He addresses His Father as taking His own place in departing, and giving His disciples theirs (that Isaiah, His own), with regard to the Father and to the world, after He had gone away to be glorified with the Father. The whole chapter is essentially putting the disciples in His own place, after laying the ground for it in His own glorifying and work. It Isaiah, save the last verses, His place on earth. As He was divinely in heaven, and showed a divine, heavenly character on earth, so (He being glorified as man in heaven) they, united with Him, were in turn to display the same. Hence we have first the place He personally takes, and the Work which entitled them to it" (Mr. J. N. Darby).
The above quotation (rather clumsily worded) will repay careful thought. It is to be noted that the final ground on which the Savior asked to be glorified was not His own personal perfections, not His essential oneness with the Father, but, instead, that Work which He completed here below. In this He presented a valid and sure title for us to join Him in the same heavenly blessedness, and also laid the foundation for us taking His place here below. Mark how this is emphasized all through: First, "I have given them the words which thou gavest me" ( John 17:8). Second, "that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves" ( John 17:13). Third, "they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" ( John 17:16). Fourth, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world" ( John 17:18). Fifth, "I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified" ( John 17:19). Sixth, "the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them" ( John 17:22). Seventh, "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them" ( John 17:26). What a place! What a privilege! What an honor! Amazing the grace and the love which bestowed it.
Wondrous is the position we occupy, the place which is ours—the same place of blessing which Christ enjoyed when He was here. It is true that we are blest through Christ, but that is not all the truth, nor by any means the most striking part of it: we are also blest with Him. The love wherewith the Father had loved the Song of Solomon, should be in the disciples. They should enter into the consciousness of it, and thus would His joy be fulfilled in them. It is this that we are called to, the enjoyment in this world of the love which Christ knew here below: His Father's love. What was His delight? Was it from the world? Surely not. He was in the world, but never of it; His joy was from and in the Father. And He has communicated to us the means which ministers to this joy: "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me" ( John 17:8).
The above aspect of truth is further developed in John 17 in the sevenfold way in which the Lord Jesus has identified us with Himself. First there is identity in fellowship: "As thou hast given him power over all flesh that he should give eternal life (Himself, see 1John ) to as many as thou hast given him" ( John 17:2). Second, identity of spirit and aim: "that they may be one as we" ( John 17:11). Third, identity in separation: "they are not of the world even as I am not of the world" ( John 17:14). Fourth, identity of mission, "as thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world" ( John 17:18). Fifth, identity in fellowship: "As thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" ( John 17:21). Sixth, identity of imparted glory: "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them" ( John 17:22). Seventh, identity in love: "that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" ( John 17:23).
Another thing which it is blessed to behold is that, in this Prayer the Lord Jesus renders an account of His work to the Father, and this in seven particulars: First, He had glorified the Father on earth ( John 17:4). Second, He had finished the work which had been given Him to do ( John 17:4). Third, He had manifested the Father's name unto His own ( John 17:6). Fourth, He had given them the Father's words ( John 17:8, 14). Fifth, He had kept them as a shepherd keeps his sheep ( John 17:12). Sixth, He had sent them forth into the world ( John 17:18). Seventh, He had given them the glory which the Father had bestowed upon Him ( John 17:22)—mark the "I have" in each verse. How striking it is to note that in His work among the saints everything was in connection with the Father: it was the Father He had glorified; it was the Father's name He had manifested, etc.
The portion which is now to engage our attention is the second division of the second section of this Prayer. In the first section, John 17:1-5, the Savior prays for Himself. In the second section, John 17:6-19, He prays for His disciples. From John 17:6 to verse 12, He is principally engaged in presenting to the Father the persons of those for whom He was about to intercede, interspersing two petitions for their preservation and unification. In John 17:13-19, He continues His supplications on their behalf, verse 13being the transitional point between the two sub-divisions.
"And now I come to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves" ( John 17:13). Though it be by no means easy to trace the connection between this verse and those which precede and follow, yet the meaning of its contents is clear and blessed. The Savior would not only have His people safe in eternity, but He desires them to be happy here and now: He would have them enter into His joy. It was for this reason He had uttered this Prayer while He was here upon earth. How this reveals the affections of our great High Priest! He might have offered this Prayer in silence to the Father, so that we had known nothing of its gracious and comforting details. But that would not have satisfied the heart of the Lord Jesus. He spoke audibly so that the apostles might hear Him, and He has caused it to be written down too, so that we also might know of His deep interest in us. How it behoves us, then, to prayerfully read and Revelation -read and meditate frequently upon what is here recorded for our peace, our edification, our happiness!
"And now come I to Thee." The commentators are divided as to whether these words signify, And now I address Thee in prayer, or, And now I am leaving the earth and returning to Thee. Probably both senses are to be combined. The whole of this Prayer was in view of His almost immediate departure from the world and His ascension on high. But it is more than this. As pointed out in the introductory remarks of our first chapter on John 17, what we have here is also a pattern, a sample we might almost say, of the intercession which the Mediator is now making at God's right hand. This Prayer was first uttered on earth, therefore the "now come I to thee" would signify, 1supplicate before Thy throne of grace. This Prayer is now being repeated in Heaven (whether audibly or not we cannot say), and for that, Christ had to return to the Father, hence "now come I to thee" would have this additional force.
In the verse before us there is both declaration and supplication. The Savior is pressing His suit on behalf of those whom the Father had given Him. In view of His own departure, and their condition in the world, He justifies His earnestness in prayer for them. I am leaving them, therefore I must make provision for them. I approach Thee on their behalf; I am speaking aloud for their benefit; I have let them know that I am to be restored to that glory which I had with Thee before the world was; I have given them the assurance that they are the objects of Thy distinguished favor, and that they are Thy love gift to Me; I have let them see how deeply concerned I am about their preservation and unification—and all of this that "they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves."
"These things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." In the immediate application to the apostles, we understand our Lord's reference to be: In view of their deep dejection, I have sought to turn their sorrow into joy, by permitting them to hear Me commending them and their cause, with such cheerful confidence, to My Father and their Father. But this by no means exhausts the scope of His words here. There was a more specific reference in His mind, something which was designed for the instruction and consolation of all His people.
"That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." What joy? The joy that He had at that very time, the joy which had been the portion of His heart all through those thirty-three years while He tabernacled among men. It was the joy of fellowship with the Father. It was this which He had before Him when, speaking by the Spirit of prophecy long before, He said: "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth" ( Psalm 16:5-9). Though a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, yet "the joy of the Lord" was His "strength" ( Nehemiah 8:10). It was to this He referred when He said to the disciples "I have meat to eat (a satisfying portion) that ye know not of" ( John 4:32).
"That they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." This was what the heart of the Savior craved for His people, and for this He had made full provision. In this Prayer, Christ makes it known that we have been brought into the same position before the Father that He had held, and just in proportion as we consciously enter into it, His joy is fulfilled in us. As the result of His finished work every barrier has been removed, the veil has been rent, a "new and living way" has been opened for us, and therefore have we access into "the holiest of all," and are invited to "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" ( Hebrews 10:19-22). His Father is our Father; His relation to God—that of Son—is now ours; for "because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" ( Galatians 4:6). Therefore does the Holy Spirit tell us, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, THAT your joy may be full" ( 1 John 1:3-4).
It is blessed to mark how solicitous the Savior was over the happiness of His people. When He departed He sent the Holy Spirit to be their Comforter. In His Paschal Discourse He said, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and your joy might be full" ( John 15:11). In His instructions He bade them: "Ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full"
( John 16:24). A miserable Christian is therefore a self-contradiction. A joyless Christian is one who is out of communion with the Father: other objects have engaged his heart, and in consequence he walks not in the light of His countenance. What is the remedy? To confess our sins to God; to put away everything which hinders our communion with Him; to make regular use of the means which He has graciously provided for the maintenance of our joy—the Word, prayer, meditation, the daily occupation of the heart with Christ, dwelling constantly on the glorious future that awaits us, proclaiming to others the unsearchable riches of Christ.
"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them" ( John 17:14). The connection of this with the previous verse is easy to perceive. In John 17:8, the Lord had said, "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me": this means more than that He had expounded to them the Old Testament Scriptures. The reference, we believe, is to what we read of in Isaiah 50:4. "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning. He wakeneth mine ear to hear, as the learned." Each morning had the perfect Servant waited upon the Father for His message or messages for each day, and those messages had been faithfully delivered. But here He says: "I have given them thy word." It was the testimony of what the Father was—that was the source of His joy, and now would be of theirs. "And the world hath hated them": "In proportion as they had their joy in God, would it be realized how tar the world was away from Him, and it would hate them as not of it. The light would bring its shadows, and they would be identified with Him in sorrow and joy alike" (Numerical Bible).
"And the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world" ( John 17:14). The inhabitants of this world are fully under the dominion of its "prince," and led by him are wholly taken up with the things of time and sense, namely, all that is "not of the Father" ( 1 John 2:16). Therefore do the men of the world bear an implacable hatred to Christ and His people, because "they are not of the world." Once Christians were "of the world," they followed its "course," and were fully "conformed" to its policy, its principles, its aims, But grace has delivered them from this "present evil world" ( Galatians 1:4), so that they now have new affections, new interests, a new Master. They have been separated from the world, and in proportion as they follow Christ their lives condemn the world ( Hebrews 11:7). Therefore does the world hate them: it secretly plots against them, it inwardly curses them, it says all manner of evil against them, it opposes them, it rejoices when any evil befalls them.
"Even as I am not of the world." "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven" ( 1 Corinthians 15:47). Christ never was of the world. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" ( Hebrews 7:26). So He declared to the Jews: "Ye are from beneath; I am from above; ye are of this world; I am not of this world" ( John 8:23). But how is it also true of His people that they are "not of the world?" Because, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creation" ( 2 Corinthians 5:17). In consequence of this, he is a "partaker of the heavenly calling" ( Hebrews 3:1), his "citizenship is in heaven" ( Philippians 3:20), he has been begotten unto an heavenly inheritance ( 1 Peter 1:3-5). In view of this, he is but a "stranger and pilgrim" here, journeying to his Home on High.
"I 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." This is another argument or plea—their danger—by which the Savior urges His petition for their preservation. They were being left by Him in the midst of an hostile world, therefore were they in sore need of protection. They no longer had anything in common. They could have no fellowship with the world: they could not take part in its worship: they could not further its plans. Therefore would they be despised, boycotted, persecuted. "They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that is good" ( Psalm 38:20). "For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy" ( Mark 6:20). "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" ( 1 John 3:13). The Savior knowing that the world would not change, therefore besought the Father on behalf of those whom He left here.
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" ( John 17:15). "This also He speaks, most assuredly, for the instruction of the hearers of His prayer. He thus admits that it might be reasonable to ask this: on the one hand, it must appear to the disciples a good and desirable thing, while on the other hand, by Deuteronomy -dining such a prayer intimates that it would be the reverse... Song of Solomon, also, contrary to the deep desire which all future disciples would feel: a desire which is not to be compared, however, with that of Elijah, oppressed by despondency ( 1 Kings 19:4), nor to be regarded as the desire of lethargy, but such as the apostle expressed in Philippians 1:23. In their first conversion and joy almost all more or less feel a desire to be at once with Him above. And often we think concerning others, Well for them now to die, for they would be safe in Heaven! But the Lord knows better, and we should learn a better lesson from His words on this occasion. He asked not for this, then ask it not thyself, either for thyself or for others! Reply to thine own desires to depart, nevertheless, it is better, for it is more needful, to remain in the flesh and in the world. Content thyself with praying for thy preservation, until thou hast fulfilled all thy work" (Stier). Bishop Ryle has pointed out that, "Three of the only prayers not granted to saints, recorded in Scripture, are the prayers, of Moses, Elijah, Jonah to be ‘taken out of the world.'" How very striking!
"I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." In John 17:11 Christ had said, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me," here He amplifies for the benefit of His disciples—"keep them from the evil." The Greek word for "evil" may be translated either "evil one" or "evil thing": probably both are included. "Keep them from the author of evil, and from evil itself; from sin, from the power and snares of the Devil, from destruction, until their course is run. Satan is the author; the world is the bait; sin is the hook. Keep them from the Devil that they may not come under his power; from the world, that they may not be deceived by its allurements" (Mr. Manton). A spiritual victory over it is therefore better than a total exemption from it. Thus the Lord again teaches us here how to pray: not to be delivered from the world, but from its evil. That Christ asked the Father to "keep us" shows that it is not within our power to keep ourselves: "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" ( 1 Peter 1:5).
God has many ways of keeping us, but they may be reduced to two: by His Spirit or His providence. The one is inward, the other is outward. By the power of the Holy Spirit the evil within us is restrained: "I also withheld thee from sinning against me" ( Genesis 20:6). By the Spirit grace is imparted to us: "I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me" ( Jeremiah 32:40). By His providences He removes occasions to and objects of sin: "For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity" ( Psalm 125:3). "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" ( 1 Corinthians 10:13).
The fact that we are unable to keep ourselves should work in us the spirit of dependency. Our daily confession should be, "O our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee" ( 2 Chronicles 20:12); our daily prayer should be, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." The fact that Cod is able and willing to keep us should inspire confidence, deepen assurance, and fill us with praise: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." Just as the diver, encased in his watertight suit is surrounded by water, but preserved from it, so the believer, living in this evil world is kept by the mighty power of God, His arm encircling us.
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" ( John 17:16). The same words are found in John 17:14, but in a different connection: there He was stating the chief reason why the world hated them; here He is advancing a reason why He asked the Father to keep them from evil—because "they are not of the world." The truth of this verse applies in a sevenfold way: First, Christians have a different standing from those who belong to the world: their standing is in Adam, ours in Christ; they are under condemnation, we "accepted in the beloved." Second, we possess a different nature: theirs is born of the flesh, ours "of the Spirit"; theirs is evil and corrupt, ours holy and Divine. Third, we serve a different Master: they are of their father the Devil, and the desires of their father they do; we serve the Lord Christ. Fourth, we have a different aim: theirs is to please self, ours to glorify God. Fifth, we have a different citizenship: theirs is on earth; ours in heaven. Sixth, we live a different life: far below the standard set before us it is true: nevertheless, no Christian (in the general tenor of his conduct) goes to the same excess of sin as does the worldling. Seventh, we have a different destiny: theirs is the Lake of Fire, ours is the Father's House on High. The "world" is a system built up away from God, and from it we have been taken, delivered, separated. The Lord grant needed grace to us all that we may manifest this in our daily walk.
"They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." "It is a fact and not an obligation, though the firmest ground of obligation. They are not of the world, not merely they ought not to be; whilst if they are not, it is grievous inconsistency to seem to be of the world. It is false to our relationship for we are the Father's and given to the rejected Son who has done with the world; and if it be said that this is to bring in everlasting and heavenly relationships now be it so: this is exactly what Christianity means in principle and practice. It is faith possessing Christ who gives the believer His own place of relationship and acceptance on high, as well as of testimony apart from His rejection by the world below; which He has to make good in words and ways, in spirit and conversation, whilst waiting for the Lord... That the world improves for Christ or His own is as false as that the flesh can ameliorate. It is the light become darkness! It is the natural man knowing enough to forego what is shameless, and invested with a religious veil; it is the world essentially occupying itself with the things of God in profession, but in reality of the world where common sense suffices for its services and its worship, and the mind of Christ would be altogether inapplicable. What a triumph to the enemy! It is just what we see in Christendom; and nothing irritates so much as the refusal so to walk, worship or serve.
"It does not matter how loudly you denounce or protest: if you join the world, they will not mind your words, and you are faithless to Christ. Nor does it matter how much grace and patience you show: if you keep apart as not of the world, you incur enmity and hatred, and contempt. A disciple is not above his Master, but every one that is perfected shall be as his Master. To act as not of the world is felt to be its strongest condemnation! And no meekness or love can make it palatable. Nor does God intend that it should, for He means it as part of the testimony to His Son. And as the world neither receives nor understands the Father's Word, so it hates those who have and act on that Word" (Bible Treasury).
"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" ( John 17:17). On no detail in this Prayer, perhaps, has there been wider difference of opinion than on this verse. Those who regard John 17:6-19 as containing our Lord's intercession for the apostles only (among whom is Mr. John Brown as well as several other eminent expositors), understand this to mean: Consecrate them (as were Israel's priests of old) to the important mission that lies before them, i.e, by anointing them with the Holy Spirit. But against this view there are, in our judgment, insuperable objections. Not only is it, we think, abundantly clear, that the Savior was here praying for all His people, but the preposition used in this verse precludes such a thought: it is "Sanctify them through [by] thy truth." Had it been a matter of setting apart unto ministerial duties it would have been "Sanctify them for (unto) thy truth."
The subject of sanctification is a deeply important one; one on which much ignorance prevails, and we are tempted to turn aside and discuss it at some length; but this would be beside the scope of our present work; suffice it now if we offer a bare outline. First of all, the word "sanctify" (so "holy") has one uniform meaning throughout Scripture, namely, to set apart; usually but not always, some one or some thing set apart unto God for His use. The word never has reference to inward cleansing, still less to the eradication of the carnal nature. Take its usage in John 17:19: "For their sake I sanctify myself." This can only mean, For their sakes I set Myself apart.
In Jude 1, we read of those who are "sanctified by God the Father." The reference there is to His eternal predestination of the elect when He set them apart in Christ from our doomed race. In Hebrews 10:10 (cf. Hebrews 13:12), we read of being sanctified "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all." The reference there is to our being set apart by ransom from those who are the captives of Satan. In 2Thessalonians 2:13,1Peter 1:2, we read of "sanctification of the Spirit." The reference there is to the new birth, when He sets us apart from those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Here in John 17:17 sanctification is "by the truth," that Isaiah, by the written Word of God. The sanctification of the Father, of Jesus Christ, and of the Spirit, each have to do with that which is positional and absolute, admitting of no degrees, concerned not with a gradual process, but with what is complete and final. But "sanctification by the truth" is practical and progressive. Just so far as I walk according to God's Word shall I be separated from evil. Thus we discover a most intimate connection between these two petitions of Christ for His own: "keep them from the evil" ( John 17:15), "Sanctify them by thy truth" ( John 17:17): the former is secured by the latter. So also we may perceive the close relation of John 17:17 to verse 16: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"—now "sanctify them by thy truth": because they are not of the world, cause them to walk in separation from it.
‘‘Thy word is truth." The written Word is (not "contains") unadulterated truth, because its Author cannot lie. In it there is no error. Because the Word is God's truth it is of final authority. By it every thing is to be tested. By it our thoughts are to be formed and our conduct is to be regulated. Just because God's Word is truth it sanctifies those who obey it: "according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness" ( Titus 1:1). If then the Word is truth what a high value we should put upon it. If it is by the truth we are sanctified, how dearly we should prize it. How solemn too is the converse: if truth separates from evil, error conducts into evil. It was so at the beginning: it was believing the Devil's lie which plunged our race into sin and death! Then beware of error: as poison is to the body, so is error to the soul. Shun those who deny any part of God's truth as you would a deadly plague: "Take heed what ye hear" ( Mark 4:24).
"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" ( John 17:18). Wonderful statement is this, anticipatory of what He says in John 20:21: "as my Father hath sent me, so send I you." How evident that Christ has given us His place—His place of acceptance on high, His place of witness here below! But those who witness here below have a special character: it is as those belonging to Heaven that we are called upon to bear testimony in the world. Christ did not belong to the world, He was the Heavenly One come down to earth; so we, as identified with Him, as partakers of the heavenly calling, are now commissioned to represent Him here below. What a proof that we are not "of the world?' It is only as first "chosen out of the world," that we can be "sent into the world!'' That this is not limited to the apostles is clear from 1John 4:17, which is speaking of all believers—"as he Isaiah, so are we in this world."
"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world." Christ was sent here to reveal the Father, to show forth His glory, so we are sent into the world to show forth Christ's glory, which is to the glory of the Father. Christ was sent here on an errand of mercy, to seek and to save that which was lost; so we are here as His agents, His instruments, to preach His gospel, to tell a world dead in sin of One who is mighty to save. Christ was here "full of grace and truth"; so we are to commend our Master by gracious and faithful lives. Christ was here as the Holy One in the midst of a scene of corruption; so we are to be the "salt of the earth." Christ was here as the Light; so we are to shine as lights in this dark place. Christ was furnished with the Spirit, who anointed, filled, and led Him; so we have received the Spirit, to anoint, fill and guide us. Christ was ever about His Father's business,' pleasing not Himself, but ever making the most of His brief sojourn here below; so we are to redeem the time, to be instant in season and out of season, always abounding in the work of the Lord. It is thus that Christ is "glorified" in us ( John 17:10). What a dignity this gives to our calling!
"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." The connection of this verse with the previous one is most significant. There the Savior had prayed the Father to sanctify by the truth those that He was leaving behind; here He adds, I have sent them into the world. This is a plea to support His petition. It was as though He had said: "Father, Those for whom I am interceding are to be My representatives here below, as I have been Thy Representative; therefore separate them from the pollutions of this evil world, fill them with the spirit of devotedness, that they may be examples of holy living." It is to be noted that when Christ first sent forth the Twelve, He instructed them: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ( Matthew 10:5-6). But now He sends them into the "world," to preach the Gospel to every creature. The chosen nation does not occupy the place of distinctive blessing during this dispensation; Christianity bears a witness to Jew and Gentile alike.
"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth" ( John 17:19). "This is the second plea advanced by Christ in support of His petition in John 17:17' He had urged their commission, now His own merit. Justice might interpose and say, ‘They are unworthy'; but Christ saith, ‘I sanctify myself for them.' He dealeth with the Father not only by way of entreaty, but merit; and applieth Himself not only to the goodwill of the Father, as His beloved One, but to His justice, as One that was ready to lay down His life as a satisfaction'' (Mr. Manton).
"And for their sakes I sanctify myself." Just as there is a double meaning to the "hour" ( John 17:1), and "I come to thee" ( John 17:13) etc, so is there to "I sanctify myself." Its first and most obvious reference is to the Cross. I, the great High Priest, set apart Myself for My people—I devote Myself as the Lamb of God to be slain for them, see Hebrews 10:14. In saying He did this that they might be "sanctified by the truth," He affirmed that His own official sanctification was the meritorious cause of their being sanctified practically. In declaring that He sanctified Himself, the Lord Jesus called attention to how freely and voluntarily He entered upon His sacrificial service. There was no necessity or compulsion: He laid down His life of Himself ( John 10:18). This He did for "their sakes," namely, the whole company of God's elect—another sure proof that all His people are in view throughout this Prayer! "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it" ( Ephesians 5:25, 26)! "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate" ( Hebrews 13:12)!
"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." The deeper and ultimate reference of Christ in these words was to His being set apart on High as the glorified Prayer of Manasseh, the object of His people's affections, contemplation, and worship. "He set Himself apart as a heavenly man above the heavens, a glorified man in the glory, in order that all truth might shine forth in Him, in His Person, raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father—all that the Father Isaiah, being thus displayed in Him; the testimony of divine righteousness, of divine love, of divine power; the perfect model of that which man was according to the counsels of God, and as the expression of His power morally and in glory—the image of the invisible God, the Song of Solomon, and in glory. Jesus set Himself apart, in this place, in order that the disciples might be sanctified by the communication to them of what He was; for this communication was the truth, and created them in the image of that which it revealed. So that it was the Father's glory revealed by Him on earth, and the glory into which He had ascended as man; for this is the complete result—the illustration in glory of the way in which He had set Himself apart for God, but on behalf of His own. Thus there is not only the forming and governing of the thoughts by the Word, setting us apart morally to God, but the blessed affections flowing from our having this truth in the Person of Christ, our hearts connected with Him in grace" (Mr. J. N. Darby).
The following questions are to prepare the reader for our dosing study on John 17: —
1. How many series of sevens can you find in John 17?
2. What is the unity prayed for in verse 21?
3. What is the "glory" of verse 22?
4. What is the unity of verse 23?
5. What is the connection of verse 24?
6. Why "righteous" Father, verse 25?
7. What is the meaning of verse 26?
Christ Interceding (Concluded)
The following is an Analysis of the dosing section of John 17:—
1. Christ's heart embracing all the redeemed, verse 20.
2. Christ's prayer for their unity, verse 21.
3. Christ's imparting to them His glory, verse 22.
4. Christ and His saints manifested in glory, verse 23.
5. Christ yearning for us to be with Himself, verse 24.
6. Christ contrasting the world from His own, verse 25.
7. Christ assuring us of the Father's love, verse 26.
We have now arrived at the dosing section of this wonderful Prayer, a section which supplies a glorious climax to all that has gone before. In it our Lord gives the gracious assurance that He was here praying not for the apostles only, nor simply for the entire company of those who had followed Him while He was here on earth, but for all His people: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word" ( John 17:20). It is not that the Savior now begins to present separate petitions for another company than those prayed for in the preceding verses, but that those who were to believe, all through the generations that should follow, are here linked with the first Christians.
Seven things Christ asked the Father for the whole company of His redeemed. First, He prayed for their preservation: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me" ( John 17:11). Second, for their jubilation: "that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves" ( John 17:13). Third, for their emancipation from evil: "that thou shouldst keep them from the evil" ( John 17:15). Fourth, for their sanctification: "sanctify them by thy truth" ( John 17:17). Fifth, for their unification: "that they all may be one" ( John 17:21). Sixth, for their association with Himself: "that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am" ( John 17:24). Seventh, for their gratification: "that they may behold my glory" ( John 17:24).
A careful analysis of this Prayer reveals the fact that just as the Lord urged the one petition which He made for Himself by seven pleas, so He supported the seven petitions for His people by seven pleas, First, He asked the Father to preserve, sanctify and glorify His people, because they were the Father's love-gift to the Son; see John 17:9: this was an appeal to the Father's love for Him. Second, because of the Father's personal interest in them, see John 17:9, 10. What a mighty plea was this: "they are thine"—Thine elect, Thy children; therefore undertake for them! Third, because His own glory was connected with them, John 17:10: Mine honor and glory are infinitely dear to Thee, and what glory have I in the world save what comes from My redeemed! These are they who show forth My praises here below! were they to perish, were they to apostatize, where would My honor be? Note how the Savior presses this again at the end of John 17:21 and in verse 23. Fourth, because He was leaving them: He pleads their desolation, and asks the Father to make it up to them in another way. Fifth, because He was leaving them "in the world," see John 17:11, 15: consider, O Father, where I am leaving them: it is a wicked, polluting place—then protect them for My sake. Sixth, the world hated them, see John 17:14: they are surrounded by bitter enemies, and urgently need Thy protection. Seventh, because He set Himself apart (died) for their sakes, see verse 19: therefore, let not My costly sacrifice be in vain!
It is also to be observed that in this Prayer believers are contemplated in a sevenfold relation to the world. First, they are given to Christ out of the world, John 17:6. Second, they are left in the world, John 17:11. Third, they are not of the world, John 17:14. Fourth, they are hated by the world, John 17:14. Fifth, they are kept from the evil in the world, John 17:15. Sixth, they are sent into the world, John 17:18. Seventh, they will yet be manifested in glorified unity before the world, John 17:23.
There are seven "gifts" referred to in this chapter: four of which are bestowed upon the Mediator, and three upon His people. First, Christ has been given universal "power" or dominion ( John 17:2). Second, He was given a "work" to do ( John 17:4). Third, He was given a "people" to save ( John 17:6). Fourth, He has been given a richly-merited "glory" ( John 17:22). Fifth, we have been given "eternal life" ( John 17:2). Sixth, we have been given the Father's "word" ( John 17:8). Seventh, we have been given the "glory" which the Father gave to the Son ( John 17:22).
Though verses 20-26 form a clearly-defined separate section of John 17, yet are they so closely connected with the previous sections that the perfect unity of the whole is apparent. That which is distinctive about these closing verses is the glorification of Christ's people. The Lord looks forward to the blessed consummation, while tracing the several steps or stages which lead up to it. Just as it was with the Head Himself, so is it with His members: in His own case, His impending sufferings merged into His glorification ( John 17:1, 4), so after speaking of the afflictions which His people would suffer while in the world ( John 17:14-19), He turns now to their glorification ( John 17:22, 24). Thus did He fill out His "I am glorified in them" ( John 17:10)—nothing more being said of them entering the kingdom of God through much tribulation.
The position which John 17:20-26 occupy in this Prayer is the key to their interpretation. They are found at the end of it. This of itself is sufficient to indicate the scope of its contents. In the previous sections the Lord Jesus had prayed for His people according to their needs while they were here in the world. But now He looks forward to the time when they shall no more be in the world; when, instead, they shall be where He now is. Therefore does He pray that they may be unified, glorified, and satisfied. This will come before us in detail in the course of our exposition.
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" ( John 17:20). Up to this point the Lord had referred specifically only to the body of disciples alive at that time, but now He lets us know that He was here praying for all Christians. The "neither pray I for these alone" takes in all the petitions and pleas contained in John 17:6 to 19; "but for them also" intimates that not only does He hereby appropriate to all future disciples what He had just said of and asked for the living disciples of that day, but also that they, as well as we, were included in all that follows. What honor did the Lord here put upon individual believers: their names are in Christ's will or testament; they are bound up in the same bundle of life with the apostles. Just as David, when about to die, prayed not only for Solomon his successor, but also for all the people, so Christ not only prayed for the apostles, to whom was committed the government of the church after His departure, but for all believers unto the end of the age.
"Neither pray I for these alone." How this reveals Christ's love for us! He thought of us before we had our being: He provided for us before we were born! As parents provide for their children's children yet unborn, so did the Lord Jesus remember future believers, as well as those of the first generation. Christ foresaw that the Gospel would prevail, notwithstanding the world's hatred, and that numbers would yield themselves to the obedience of faith; therefore, to show that they had a place in His heart, He names them in this His testament. It was Esau's complaint, "Hast thou but one blessing, O my father?" when he came too late, and Jacob had already carried away the blessing. But we were not born too late to receive the blessing of Christ's prayers. He had regard to us even then; therefore, each born-again-soul can say, "He prayed for me"! "Who can reckon up the numbers which have been saved? Who can say how many more will be brought to swell the dimensions of the one flock, ere Christian testimony shall have attained its predestined consummation? Till then the full tale of those for whom the Lord prayed will not be disclosed" (Mr. C. E. Stuart). As this wondrous Prayer stretches forward into eternity, only in eternity will it be fully understood.
"But for them also which shall believe on me through their word." Note three things: the persons prayed for; the mark by which they are identified—faith in Christ; the ground and warrant of their faith—the Word. Once again (cf. John 17:9) the Lord makes it known that believers, and believers only, have an interest in His mediatorial intercessions. Christ still confines Himself to the elect! He does not pray for all men, whether they believe or no. "His prayers on earth do but explain the virtue and extent of His sacrifice. He sueth out what He purchased, and His intercession in heaven is but a representation of His merit; both are acts of the same office. Partly because it is not for the honor of Christ that His prayers should fall to the ground: ‘I know that thou hearest me always' ( John 11:42). Shall the Son of God's love plead in vain; and urge His merit and not succeed? Then farewell the sureness and firmness of our comfort. Christ's prayers would fall to the ground if He should pray for them that shall never believe" (Mr. Manton).
The description here given of those who do have an interest in Christ's intercession is their faith in Him. This is the fundamental mark of their identification. He mentions not their love, their obedience, their steadfastness (though these are necessary in their place), but their faith. Wherever our participation of the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection are spoken of, the one thing named is faith. Why? Because this is a grace which compels us to look outside of ourselves to Him! Faith is the great essential, for faith is the mother of obedience and the other graces. But. mark it is no vague and undefined faith: "which shall believe on me." To believe in Christ is to have confidence in and to rely upon Him; it is to trust Him, to rest upon Him.
The ground and warrant of our faith is "their word," that Isaiah, the word of the apostles. "Before the apostles fell asleep, they, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, embodied in the books of the New Testament their doctrine and its evidence, gave an account of what they had taught, and of the miraculous works which had proved that they were taught of God. In these writings they still continue to testify the Son. The apostles alone are ‘God's ambassadors' in the strict sense of that word. They alone stand ‘in Christ's stead' ( 2 Corinthians 5:20). They had ‘the mind o£ Christ' in a sense peculiar to themselves; and that mind is in their writings. ‘Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.' Romans 10:18." (Mr. J. Brown). It is only through the Word that we believe in Christ ( Romans 10:14, 17).
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe in me through their word." This is the more blessed if we bear in mind the circumstances under which these words were uttered. The public ministry of Christ was now over, and those who believed on Him, in comparison with those who believed not, were few indeed. And now He was to be put to a criminal's death, and the faith of His disciples, already severely tried, would be made to tremble in the balance. How blessed then to listen to these words of His; He was not discouraged; He knew that the corn of wheat, which was to fall into the ground and die, would bring forth much fruit; like Abraham of old, He "staggered not at the promise of God (that He should have a ‘Seed' that would satisfy him) through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God." He looked to the future, from things seen to things unseen, and beheld them who were yet to swell the numbers of His "little flock." "This was the ‘joy set before him' ( Hebrews 12:2), and ‘these things he spake in the world,' in the presence of His apostles, ‘that they might have his joy fulfilled in themselves' ( John 17:13). How well fitted was His cheerful confidence to Revelation -assure their failing spirits—to revive their all-but-expiring: hopes! And how must the recollection of this Prayer have delighted them amid their painful yet joyous labors, when He successfully employed them to ‘gather to Him His saints, those with whom He had made covenant by sacrifice,' Psalm 50:51" (Mr. J. Brown).
"That 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" ( John 17:21). Upon this verse we write with some reserve, not being at all sure of the nature of the unity here prayed for by Christ. In 17: 11He had asked for the oneness of all His people who were on earth at that time, here He adds to them those who were afterwards to believe—"that they all may be one." In John 17:11 His request was that His people "may be one as we," here that "they all may be one as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." It seems that a mystical union is in view here. But who is competent to define the manner in which the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father! No doubt one reason why the Savior mentioned the unity of His people so frequently in this Prayer ( John 17:11, 21, 22, 23) was to intimate that the middle wall of partition which had for so long divided Jews from the Gentiles was on the point of being broken down, and that now He would "make in himself of twain one new man" ( Ephesians 2:15).
"That the world may believe that thou hast sent me." This is what presents a real difficulty to the writer. The previous part of the verse seems to speak of the mystical union which binds believers together; but the last clause shows that it is one that shall powerfully affect the world. It is clear then the unity here prayed for by the Lord is yet to be manifested upon the earth. But it is equally clear that this manifestation is still future, for Christ is here speaking of those which were to believe on Him ( John 17:20), and now asks, "that they all may be one."
"That the world may believe that thou hast sent me." It is to be carefully noted Christ did not here pray that the result of the manifested unity of His people should be that "the world may believe in me," but "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." These two things are widely different. By the "world" is here meant, the world of the ungodly. But unregenerate men are never brought to believe in Christ by any external displays of Divine power and goodness—the benevolent miracles wrought by Him clearly prove this. Nothing but the Word applied by the Spirit ever quickened sinners into newness of life.
"And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them" ( John 17:22). Christ here speaks of a "glory" which the Father had given to Him. Clearly, this is not His essential glory, which He possessed as the eternal Song of Solomon, as co-equal with the Father; which glory He never relinquished. Nor is it the visible and external glory which He laid aside when He took the Servant form ( Philippians 2:6, 7), when He "who was rich," for our sakes became "poor," which glory He had asked to be restored to Him again ( John 17:5). Rather is it that "glory" which He acquired as the incarnate One, as the reward for His perfect work here on earth. It is to this that Isaiah referred when he said, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death" ( Isaiah 53:12). An inheritance has been given Him ( Hebrews 1:2), and this He will share with His own, for, by wondrous grace, we are "joint-heirs" with Christ ( Romans 8:17).
But what is meant by "the glory which thou gavest me I have given them"? The Lord is speaking from the standpoint of the Divine decrees, and thus "calleth those things which be not as though they were" ( Romans 4:17). It is parallel with Romans 8:30: "Whom he justified, them he also glorified"—not "will glorify." So absolutely certain is our future glorification that it is spoken of as a thing already accomplished. But though the actual bestowment of the glory be yet future, it is presented for faith to lay hold of and enjoy even now, for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" ( Hebrews 11:1).
"That they may be one, even as we are one" (verse 22). Verse 22opens with the word "And," and what follows explains what the Lord had said in the previous verse. The union referred to is the consequence of "glory given" to us—"the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that (in order that) they may be one, even as we are one"! Our spiritual union is begun now, but it only attains its full fruition in the life to come. That this oneness results from Christ's bestowal on us of His acquired glory proves that it is no Prayer of Manasseh -made unity about which we hear so much talk and see so little evidence these days!
"I 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" ( John 17:23). Here is further evidence that the unity for which our Lord prayed in John 17:21 is one that is to be manifested in the future, for John 17:22,23follow without any break. The being "made perfect in one" is to have its realization at the return of Christ for His saints: "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect Prayer of Manasseh, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" ( Ephesians 4:13). "God having provided some better thing for us (New Testament saints), that they (Old Testament saints) without us should not be made perfect" ( Hebrews 11:40). It is then that Christ will "present it to himself a glorious church... holy and without blemish" (Eph. verse 27). Then will there be perfect oneness in faith, knowledge, love, holiness, glory.
"That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." When God's elect have all been gathered together in one ( John 11:52), when the glory which Christ received from the Father has been imparted to them, when they shall have been made perfect in one, then shall the world have such a clear demonstration of God's power, grace and love toward His people, they shall know that the One who died to make this glorious union possible was the sent One of the Father, and that they had been loved by the Father as had the Song of Solomon, for "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" ( Colossians 3:4); then "he shall come to be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe... in that day" ( 2 Thessalonians 1:10).
"And hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." As one has rightly said, "This expression is stupendous—God loveth the saints as He loveth Christ." Mr. Manton points out that "The ‘as' is a note of casuality as well as similitude. He loveth us because He loved Christ, therefore it is said, ‘He hath made us accepted in the Beloved'. ( Ephesians 1:6). The ground of all that love God beareth to us is for Christ's sake. We are chosen in Him as the Head of the elect ( Ephesians 1:4), pardoned, sanctified, glorified, in and through Him. All these benefits and fruits of God's love are procured by Christ's merit. Three chief ends are accomplished thereby. First, it makes the more for them the freeness of His grace that the reason why He loveth us is to be found outside of ourselves. Second, it makes for His own glory: God could not love us with honor to Himself if His wisdom had not found out this way of loving us in Christ: there was a double prejudice against us—our corrupt nature was loathed by His holiness, our transgressions provoked a quarrel with His justice. Third, it makes for our comfort, for if God should love us for our own sakes it would be a very imperfect love, our graces being so weak, and our services so stained."
The particle "as" also signifies a similitude and likeness. First, there is likeness in the grounds of it. The Father loveth Christ as His Song of Solomon, so He loveth us as His sons ( 1 John 3:1). Again; the Father loveth Christ as His Image, He being "the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person" ( Hebrews 1:3); so He loveth the saints, who are by grace renewed after His image ( Colossians 3:10). Second, there is a likeness in the properties of it. He loves Christ tenderly; so us—"as dear children" ( Ephesians 5:1): He loves Christ eternally: so us—"I have loved thee with an everlasting love" ( Jeremiah 31:3). He loves Christ unchangeably: so us—see Malachi 3:6. Third, there is a likeness in the fruits of it. In the intimacies of communion: John 5:30, cf 15:15. In the bestowal of spiritual gifts: John 3:35, cf 1Corinthians 3:22, 23. In reward: Psalm 2:7, 8, cf. Revelation 2:26. What a stay for our poor hearts is this! What comfort when hated by the world, to know that the Father loved us as the Son! What a glorious theme for our daily meditation! What cause for adoring worship!
"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me" ( John 17:24). As we have meditated upon the different verses of this profound chapter the words of the Psalmist have occurred to us again and again: "Such knowledge too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it" ( Psalm 139:6). How pertinently do they apply to the lofty point which we have now reached! This 24th verse may well be regarded is the climax of this wonderful Prayer. Once more, the Redeemer says, "Father," for He is suing for a child's portion for each of His people; it is not simply wages, such as a servant receives from his master, but an inheritance such as children receive from their parents—the inheritance being the Father's House, where the Savior now is. Here for the first time in this prayer Christ says "I will." It was a word of authority, becoming Him who was God as well as man. He speaks of this as His right, on account of His purchase and of the covenant transactions between the Father and the Son concerning those given to Him. "I will" comported with the authority ( John 17:2) which the Father has given Him over all flesh and the glory into which He has entered ( John 17:5, 22). Or again, this "I will," uttered just before His death, may be regarded as His "testament"—this was the legacy which He bequeathed to us: Heaven is ours, an inheritance left us by Christ!
"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am." What comfort is here! What sweeter words for meditation than these of Christ? What assurance they breathe: not one of the elect shall fail to enter Heaven! What joy is here: "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" ( Psalm 16:11). The queen of Sheba said, "Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom" ( 1 Kings 10:8). They that shall stand before the Lord and see His glory are much more happy. How this reveals to us the heart of the Savior: He will not be satisfied till He has all His blood-bought ones in His presence—"for ever with the Lord." For this He is coming personally to take us to be with Himself: "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I Amos, there ye may he also" ( John 14:3).
"That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me." "It is not on the one hand that which is personal from everlasting to everlasting, beyond creature ken, that in the Son which I presume none really knows nor can, save the Father who is not said to reveal Him. Neither is it on the other hand the glory given to the blessed Lord which is to be manifested even to the world in that day, in which glory we are to be manifested along with Him. Here it is proper to Himself on high, yet given Him by the Father, as we are in His perfect favor to behold it: a far higher thing than any glory shared along with us, and which the Lord, reckoning on unselfish affections Divinely formed in us, looks for our valuing accordingly as more blessed in beholding Him thus than in aught conferred in ourselves. It is a joy for us alone, wholly outside and above the world, and given because the Father loved Him before its foundation. None but the Eternal could be thus glorified, but it is the secret glory which none but His own are permitted to contemplate—‘blest answer to reproach and shame'—not the public glory in which every eye shall see Him. Nothing less than that meets His desire for us. How truly even now our hearts can say that He is worthy? (Bible Treasury).
"For thou lovest me before the foundation of the world" ( John 17:24). This is mentioned as the reason why the Father had given Him this glory. And how it supplies us with a standard for measurement—the glory which has been conferred upon our blessed Savior is commensurate with the everlasting love which the Father had for Him! What a glory must it be! And O the privilege, the honor, the bliss of beholding it. How this should make us yearn for the time when we shall gaze upon His resplendent glory!
"O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee" ( John 17:25). It is not easy to determine the precise relation which the last two verses of John 17 bear to the preceding ones. If their words be attentively considered, they will be seen to express no desire and to ask for no blessing, nor do they contain any plea to enforce the previous petitions. With Mr. Manton we are inclined to say, "It is a part of Christ's supplication; He had made His will and testament, and now allegeth the equity of it." Thus we understand the "O righteous Father" here to have a double force. First, God is not only merciful, but just, in glorifying the elect; His grace reigns through righteousness ( Romans 5:21). It expressed the Savior's confidence in the justice of the Father that He would do all things well. "He was asking for what He was entitled to according to the stipulation of the eternal covenant. Justice required that His requests should be granted." (Mr. John Brown).
The words "O righteous Father" are also to be connected with what follows—"the world hath not known thee." This is very solemn. Christ not only left the world without His intercession, but He turned it over to the justice of the Father. Not only did Divine righteousness bestow heavenly glory on the elect, but Divine righteousness refuses to bestow it on the unbelieving world. "The world hath not known thee." therein lies their guilt—"Because that which may be known of God is manifest to them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" ( Romans 1:19, 20).
"O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I nave known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." "The Lord draws the line definitely between the world and His own, and makes it turn not on rejecting Himself but on ignoring His Father. Here, therefore, it is a question of judgment in result, however grace may tarry and entreat; and therefore He says, ‘Righteous Father,' not ‘Holy Father,' as in John 17:11 where He asks Him to keep those in His name, as He had done whilst with them. Now He sets forth not the lawlessness of the world, not its murderous hatred of Himself or of His disciples, nor yet of the grace and truth revealed in the Gospel, nor of the corruptions of Christianity and the church, which we are sure lay naked and open before His all-seeing eyes, but that on the one side the world knew not the Father, and on the other that the Son did, as the disciples that the Father sent the Son: words simply and briefly said, but how solemn in Lord here linking us with Himself—"I have known... these character and issues!" (Bible Treasury). How blessed to see the have known?
"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" ( John 17:26). Here the Lord briefly sums up what He had done and would still do for His disciples—make known the Father unto them. He returns at the end to what He had said at the first, see verse 6. The I "will declare it" is not to be limited; true, Christ is now, by the Spirit, revealing the Father, but He will continue so to do throughout eternity. Then He states why He is the Declarer of the Father's name "that [in order that] the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." "Where Christ is known as the Father's sent One, the deepest blessing and the highest privileges are even now given, and not merely what awaits the saints at Christ's coming. If ever there was one capable of estimating another, it was the Son in respect of the Father; and His name, the expression of what He was, with equal competency He made known to us. He had done it on earth to the disciples; He would do so from heaven whither He was going; and this that He might give them and us, the consciousness of the same love of the Father which rested ever on Himself here below. As if to cut off the not unnatural hesitation of the disciples He added the blessed guarantee of His own being in them, their life. For they could understand that, if they lived of His life, and could be somehow as He before the Father, the Father might love them as Him. This is just what He does give and secure by identification with them, or rather as He puts it, ‘and I in them.' Christ is all and in all." (Bible Treasury).
"And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may he in them, and I in them." How striking to note that love, not eternal life, or faith, or even glory, is the last word here: "And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love" ( 1 Corinthians 13:13). But let it be particularly observed that the love of the Father dwelleth in us only through the mediation of the Song of Solomon, hence the final words, "and I in them," cf. John 17:23. Again, how blessed the conjunction here: Christ in us, the love of the Father in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" ( Romans 5:5)! Suitable close was this. The section began with, "having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" ( John 13:1), and it closes with "that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them!" In the genial warmth and glorious radiance of that love shall we bask throughout eternity.
The following questions are to prepare the student for our next lesson:—
1. What type was fulfilled in verse 1?
2. What is suggested by the "garden," verse 1?
3. Why is there no reference here to His agony?
4. What made them fall to the ground, verse 6?
5. Why did Christ repeat His question, verse 7?
6. In what character did Christ speak at the end of verse 8?
7. What important practical truth is exemplified in verse 11?
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 17". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany