1.These words spake Jesus. After having preached to the disciples about bearing the cross, the Lord exhibited to them those consolations, by relying on which they would be enabled to persevere. Having promised the coming of the Spirit, he raised them to a better hope, and discoursed to them about the splendor and glory of his reign. Now he most properly betakes himself to prayer; for doctrine has no power, if efficacy be not imparted to it from above. He, therefore, holds out an example to teachers, not to employ themselves only in sowing the word, but, by mingling their prayers with it, to implore the assistance of God, that his blessing may render their labor fruitful. In short, this passage of the Lord Jesus (107) Christ might be said to be the seal of the preceding doctrine, both that it might be ratified in itself, and that it might obtain full credit with the disciples.
And lifted up his eyes to heaven. This circumstance related by John, that Christ prayed, lifting up his eyes to heaven, was an indication of uncommon ardor and vehemence; for by this attitude Christ testified that, in the affections of his mind, he was rather in heaven than in earth, so that, leaving men behind him, he converted familiarly with God. He looked towards heaven, not as if God’s presence were confined to heaven, for He filleth also the earth, (Jeremiah 23:24,) but because it is there chiefly that his majesty is displayed. Another reason was, that, by looking towards heaven, we are reminded that the majesty of God is far exalted above all creatures. It is with the same view that the hands are lifted up in prayer; for men, being by nature indolent and slow, and drawn downwards by their earthly disposition, need such excitements, or I should rather say, chariots, to raise them to heaven
Yet if we desire actually to imitate Christ, we must take care that outward gestures do not express more than is in our mind, but that the inward feeling shall direct the eyes, the hands, the tongue, and every thing about us. We are told, indeed, that the publican, with downcast eyes, prayed aright to God, (Luke 18:13,) but that is not inconsistent with what has now been stated; for, though he was confused and humbled on account of his sins, still this self-abasement did not prevent him from seeking pardon with full confidence. But it was proper that Christ should pray in a different manner, for he had nothing about him of which he ought to be ashamed; and it is certain that David himself prayed sometimes in one attitude, and sometimes in another, according to the circumstances in which he was placed.
Father, the hour is come. Christ asks that his kingdom may be glorified, in order that he also may advance the glory of the Father. He says that the hour is come, because though, by miracles and by every kind of supernatural events, he had been manifested to be the Son of God, yet his spiritual kingdom was still in obscurity, but soon afterwards shone with full brightness. If it be objected, that never was there any thing less glorious than the death of Christ, which was then at hand, I reply, that in that death we behold a magnificent triumph which is concealed from wicked men; for there we perceive that, atonement having been made for sins, the world has been reconciled to God, the curse has been blotted out, and Satan has been vanquished.
It is also the object of Christ’s prayer, that his death may produce, through the power of the Heavenly Spirit, such fruit as had been decreed by the eternal purpose of God; for he says thatthe hour is come, not an hour which is determined by the fancy of men, but an hour which God had appointed. And yet the prayer is not superfluous, because, while Christ depends on the good pleasure of God, he knows that he ought to desire what God promised would certainly take place. True, God will do whatever he has decreed, not only though the whole world were asleep, but though it were opposed to him; but it is our duty to ask from him whatever he has promised, because the end and use (108) of promises is to excite us to prayer.
That thy Son also may glorify thee. He means that there is a mutual connection between the advancement of his glory and of the glory of his Father; for why is Christ manifested, but that he may lead us to the Father? Hence it follows, that all the honor which is bestowed on Christ is so far from diminishing the honor of the Father, that it confirms it the more. We ought always to remember under what character Christ speaks in this passage; for we must not look only at his eternal Divinity, because he speaks as God manifested in the flesh, and according to the office of Mediator.
2.As thou hast given him. He again confirms the statement, that he asks nothing but what is agreeable to the will of the Father; as it is a constant rule o prayer not to ask more than God would freely bestow; for nothing is more contrary to reason, than to bring forward in the presence of God whatever we choose.
Power over all flesh means the authority which was given to Christ, when the Father appointed him to be King and Head; but we must observe the end, which is, to give eternal life to all his people. Christ receives authority, not so much for himself as for the sake of our salvation; and, therefore, we ought to submit to Christ, not only that we may obey God, but because nothing is more lovely than that subjection, since it brings to us eternal life.
To all whom thou hast given me. Christ does not say that he has been made Governor over the whole world, in order to bestow life on all without any distinction; but he limits this grace to those who have been given to him But how were they given to him ? For the Father has subjected to him the reprobate. I reply, it is only the elect who belong to his peculiar flock, which he has undertaken to guard as a Shepherd. So then, the kingdom of Christ extends, no doubt, to all men; but it brings salvation to none but the elect, who with voluntary obedience follow the voice of the Shepherd; for the others are compelled by violence to obey him, till at length he utterly bruise them with his iron scepter.
3.And this is eternal life He now describes the manner of bestowing life, namely, when he enlightens the elect in the true knowledge of God; for he does not now speak of the enjoyment oflife which we hope for, but only of the manner in which men obtain life And that this verse may be fully understood, we ought first to know that we are all in death, till we are enlightened by God, who alone is life Where he has shone, we possess him by faith, and, therefore, we also enter into the possession of life; and this is the reason why the knowledge of him is truly and justly called saving, or bringing salvation. (109) Almost every one of the words has its weight; for it is not every kind of knowledge that is here described, but that knowledge which forms us anew into the image of God from faith to faith, or rather, which is the same with faith, by which, having been engrafted into the body of Christ, we are made partakers of the Divine adoption, and heirs of heaven. (110)
To know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. The reason why he says this is, that there is no other way in which God is known but in the face of Jesus Christ, who is the bright and lively image of Him. As to his placing the Father first, this does not refer to the order of faith, as if our minds, after having known God, afterwards descend to Christ; but the meaning is, that it is by the intervention of a Mediator that God is known.
The only true God. Two epithets are added, true and only; because, in the first place, faith must distinguish God from the vain inventions of men, and embracing him with firm conviction, must never change or hesitate; and, secondly, believing that there is nothing defective or imperfect in God, faith must be satisfied with him alone. Some explain it, That they may know thee, who alone art God; but this is a poor interpretation. The meaning therefore is, That they may know thee alone to be the true God
But it may be thought that Christ disclaims for himself the right and title of Divinity. Were it replied, that the name of God is quite as applicable to Christ as to the Father, the same question might be raised about the Holy Spirit; for if only the Father and the Son are God, the Holy Spirit is excluded from that rank, which is as absurd as the former. The answer is easy, if we attend to that manner of speaking which Christ uniformly employs throughout the Gospel of John, of which I have already reminded my readers so frequently, that they must have become quite accustomed to it. Christ, appearing in the form of a man, describes, under the person of the Father, the power, essence, and majesty of God. So then the Father of Christ is the only true God; that is, he is the one God, who formerly promised a Redeemer to the world; but in Christ the oneness and truth of Godhead will be found, because Christ was humbled, in order that he might raise us on high. When we have arrived at this point, then his Divine majesty displays itself; then we perceive that he is wholly in the Father, and that the Father is wholly in him. In short, he who separates Christ from the Divinity of the Father, does not yet acknowledge Him who is the only true God, but rather invents for himself a strange god. This is the reason why we are enjoined to know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, by whom, as it were, with outstretched hand, he invites us to himself.
As to the opinion entertained by some, that it would be unjust, if men were to perish solely on account of their ignorance of God, it arises from their not considering that there is no fountain of life but in God alone, and that all who are alienated from him are deprived of life. Now, if there be no approach to God but by faith, we are forced to conclude, that unbelief keeps us in a state of death. If it be objected, that persons otherwise righteous and innocent are unjustly treated, if they are condemned, the answer is obvious, that nothing right or sincere is found in men, so long as they remain in their natural state. Now, Paul informs us that
we are renewed in the image of God by the knowledge of him,
It will be of importance for us now to bring into one view those three articles of faith; first, that the kingdom of Christ brings life, and salvation; secondly, that all do not receive life from him, and it is not the office of Christ to give life to all, but only to the elect whom the Father has committed to his protection; and, thirdly, that this life consists in faith, and Christ bestow, it on those whom he enlightens in the faith of the Gospel. Hence we infer that the gift of illumination and heavenly wisdom is not common to all, but peculiar to the elect. It is unquestionably true that the Gospel is offered to all, but Christ speaks here of that secret and efficacious manner of teaching by which the children of God only are drawn to faith.
4.I have glorified thee. His reason for saying this is, that God had been made known to the world both by the doctrine of Christ, and by his miracles; and the glory of God is, when we know what he is. When he adds, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, he means that he has completed the whole course of his calling; for the full time was come when he ought to be received into the heavenly glory Nor does he speak only of the office of teaching, but includes also the other parts of his ministry; for, though the chief part of it still remained to be accomplished, namely, the sacrifice of death, by which he was to take away the iniquities of us all, yet, as the hour of his death was already at hand, he speaks as if he had already endured it. The amount of his request, therefore, is that the Father would put him in possession of the kingdom; since, having completed his course, nothing more remained for him to do, than to display, by the power of the Spirit, the fruit and efficacy of all that he had done on earth by the command of his Father, according to the saying of Paul,
He humbled and annihilated himself, (111) by taking the form of a servant. Therefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name,
5.The glory which I had with thee. He desires to be glorified with the Father, not that the Father may glorify him secretly, without any witnesses, but that, having been received into heaven, he may give a magnificent display of his greatness and power, that every knee may bow to him, (Philippians 2:10.) Consequently, that phrase in the former clause, with the Father, is contrasted with earthly and fading glory, as Paul describes the blessed immortality of Christ, by saying that
he died to sin once, but now he liveth to God, (Romans 6:10.)
The glory which I had with thee before the world was. He now declares that he desires nothing that does not strictly belong to him, but only that he may appear in the flesh, such as he was before the creation of the world; or, to speak more plainly, that the Divine majesty, which he had always possessed, may now be illustriously displayed in the person of the Mediator, and in the human flesh with which he was clothed. This is a remarkable passage, which teaches us that Christ is not a God who has been newly contrived, or who has existed only for a time; for if his glory was eternal, himself also has always been. Besides, a manifest distinction between the person of Christ and the person of the rather is here expressed; from which we infer, that he is not only the eternal God, but also that he is the eternal Word of God, begotten by the rather before all ages.
6.I have manifested thy name. Here Christ begins to pray to the Father for his disciples, and, with the same warmth of love with which he was immediately to suffer death for them, he now pleads for their salvation. The first argument which he employs on their behalf is, that they have embraced the doctrine which makes men actually children of God. There was no want of faith or diligence on the part of Christ, to call all men to God, but among the elect only was his labor profitable and efficacious. His preaching, which manifested the name of God, was common to all, and he never ceased to maintain the glory of it even among the obstinate. Why then does he say that it was only to a small number of persons that he manifested the name of his Father, but because the elect alone profit by the grace of the Spirit, who teaches inwardly? (113) Let us therefore infer that not all to whom the doctrine is exhibited are truly and efficaciously taught, but only those whose minds are enlightened. Christ ascribes the cause to the election of God; for he assigns no other difference as the reason why he manifested the name of the Father to some, passing by others, but because they were given to him. Hence it follows their faith flows from the outward predestination of God, and that therefore it is not given indiscriminately to all, because all do not belong to Christ. (114)
Thine they were, and thou hast given them to me. By adding these words, he points out, first, the eternity of election; and, secondly, the manner in which we ought to consider it. Christ declares that the elect always belonged to God. God therefore distinguishes them from the reprobate, not by faith, or by any merit, but by pure grace; for, while they are alienated from him to the utmost, still he reckons them as his own in his secret purpose. The certainty of that election by free grace (115) lies in this, that he commits to the guardianship of his son all whom he has elected, that they may not perish; and this is the point to which we should turn our eyes, that we may be fully certain that we belong to the rank of the children of God; for the predestination of God is in itself hidden, but it is manifested to us in Christ alone.
And they have kept thy word. This is the third step; for the first is, the election by free grace, and the second is, that gift by which we enter into the guardianship of Christ. Having been received by Christ, we are gathered by faith into the fold. The word of God flows out to the reprobate, but it takes root in the elect, and hence they are said to keep it.
7.Now they have known. Here our Lord expresses what is the chief part in faith, which consists in our believing in Christ in such a manner, that faith does not rest satisfied with beholding the flesh, but perceives his Divine power. For when he says, They have known that all things which thou hast given me are from thee, he means, that believers feel that all that they possess is heavenly and divine. And, indeed, if we do not perceive God in Christ, we must remain continually in a state of hesitation.
8.And they have received them. He expresses the manner of this knowledge. It is, because they have received the doctrine which he taught them. But that no one may think that his doctrine is human or is earthly in its origin, he declares that God is the Author of it, when he says, The words which thou gavest me I have given to them. He speaks according to his ordinary custom, in the person of the Mediator or servant of God, when he says that he taught nothing but what he had received from the Father; for, since his own condition was still mean, while he was in the flesh, and since his Divine majesty was concealed under the form of a servant, under the person of the Father he simply means God. Yet we must hold by the statement which John made at the beginning of his Gospel, that, in so far as Christ was the Eternal Word of God, he was always one God with the Father. The meaning therefore is, that Christ was a faithful witness of God to the disciples, so that their faith was founded exclusively on the truth of God, since the Father himself spoke in the Son. The receiving, of which he speaks, arose from his having efficaciously manifested to them the name of his Father by the Holy Spirit.
And have known truly. He now repeats in other words what he had formerly mentioned; for that Christ came out from the Father, and was sent by him, has the same meaning with what went before, that all things which he has are from the Father. The meaning amounts to this, that faith ought to cast its eyes direct on Christ, yet so as to form no conception of him that is earthly or mean, but to be carried upwards to his Divine power, so as to believe firmly that he has perfectly in himself God, and all that belongs to God.
And have believed. Let it be observed, also, that in the former clause he employs the verb know and now he employs the verb believe; for thus he shows that nothing which relates to God can be known aright but by faith, but that in faith there is such certainty that it is justly called knowledge.
9.I pray for them. Hitherto Christ has brought forward what might procure for the disciples favor with the Father. He now forms the prayer itself, in which he shows that he asks nothing but what is agreeable to the will of the Father, because he pleads with the Father in behalf of those only whom the Father himself willingly loves. He openly declares that he does not pray for the world, because he has no solicitude but about his own flock, which he received from the hand of the Father. But this might be thought to be absurd; for no better rule of prayer can be found than to follow Christ as our Guide and Teacher. Now, we are commanded to pray for all, (Titus 2:8) and Christ himself afterwards prayed indiscriminately for all,
Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,
I reply, the prayers which we offer for all are still limited to the elect of God. We ought to pray that this man, and that man, and every man, may be saved, and thus include the whole human race, because we cannot yet distinguish the elect from the reprobate; and yet, while we desire the coming of the kingdom of God, we likewise pray that God may destroy his enemies.
There is only this difference between the two cases, that we pray for the salvation of all whom we know to have been created after the image of God, and who have the same nature with ourselves; and we leave to the judgment of God those whom he knows to be reprobate. But in the prayer which is here related there was some special reason, which ought not to be produced as an example; for Christ does not now pray from the mere impulse of faith and of love towards men, but, entering into the heavenly sanctuary, he places before his eyes the secret judgments of the Father, which are concealed from us, so long as we walk by faith.
Besides, we learn from these words, that God chooses out of the world those whom he thinks fit to choose to be heirs of life, and that this distinction is not made according to the merit of men, but depends on his mere good-pleasure. For those who think that the cause of election is in men must begin with faith. Now, Christ expressly declares that they who are given to him belong to the Father; and it is certain that they are given so as to believe, and that faith flows from this act of giving. If the origin of faith is this act of giving, and if election comes before it in order and time, what remains but that we acknowledge that those whom God wishes to be saved out of the world are elected by free grace? Now since Christ prays for the elect only, it is necessary for us to believe the doctrine of election, if we wish that he should plead with the Father for our salvation. A grievous injury, therefore, is inflicted on believers by those persons who endeavor to blot out the knowledgeof election from the hearts of believers, because they deprive them of the pleading and intercession of the Son of God. (116) These words serve also to expose the stupidity of those who, under the pretence of election, give themselves up to the indolence, whereas it ought rather to arouse us to earnestness in prayer, as Christ teaches us by his example.
10.And all things that are mine are thine. The object of the former clause is to show that the Father will assuredly listen to him. “I do not,” says he, “plead with thee for any but those whom thou acknowledgest to be thine, for I have nothing separated from thee, and therefore I shall not meet with a refusal.” In the second clause, and thine are mine, he shows that he has good reason for caring about the elect; for they are his in consequence of their being his Father’s. All these things are spoken for the confirmation of our faith. We must not seek salvation anywhere else than in Christ. But we shall not be satisfied with having Christ, if we do not know that we possess God in him. We must therefore believe that there is such a unity between the Father and the Son as makes it impossible that they shall have anything separate from each other.
And I am glorified in them. This is connected with the second clause of the verse, and thine are mine; for it follows that it is reasonable that he, for his part, should promote their salvation; and this is a most excellent testimony for confirming our faith, that Christ never will cease to care for our salvation, since he is glorified in us.
11.And I am no longer in the world. He assigns another reason why he prays so earnestly for the disciples, namely, because they will very soon be deprived of his bodily presence, under which they had reposed till now. So long as he dwelt with them, he cherished them,
as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
but now that he is about to depart, he asks that the Father will guard them by his protection. And he does so on their account; for he provides a remedy for their trembling, that they may rely on God himself, to whose hands, as it were, he now commits them. It yields no small consolation to us, when we learn that the Son of God becomes so much the more earnest about the salvation of his people, when he leaves them as to his bodily presence; for we ought to conclude from it, that, while we are labouring under difficulties in the world, he keeps his eye on us, to send down, from his heavenly glory, relief from our distresses.
Holy Father. The whole prayer is directed to this object, that the disciples may not lose courage, as if their condition were made worse on account of the bodily absence of their Master. For Christ, having been appointed by the Father to be their guardian for a time, and having now discharged the duties of that office gives them back again, as it were, into the hands of the Father, that henceforth they may enjoy his protection, and may be upheld by his power. It amounts therefore to this, that, when the disciples are deprived of Christ’s bodily presence they suffer no loss, because God receives them under his guardianship, the efficacy of which shall never cease.
That they may be one. This points out the way in which they shall be kept; for those whom the Heavenly Father has decreed to keep, he brings together in a holy unity of faith and of the Spirit. But as it is not enough that men be agreed in some manner, he adds, As we are. Then will our unity be truly happy, when it shall bear the image of God the Father and of Christ, as the wax takes the form of the seal which is impressed upon it. But in what manner the Father, and Jesus Christ (117) his Son, are one, I shall shortly afterwards explain.
12.While I was with them in the world. Christ says that he hath kept them in the name of his Father; for he represents himself to be only a servant, who did nothing but by the power, and under the protection, of God. He means, therefore, that it were most unreasonable to suppose that they would now perish, as if by his departure the power of God had been extinguished or dead. But it may be thought very absurd that Christ surrenders to God the office of keeping them, as if, after having finished the course of his life, he ceased to be the guardian of his people. The reply is obvious. He speaks here of visible guardianship only which ended at the death of Christ; for, while he dwelt on earth, he needed not to borrow power from another, in order to keep his disciples; but all this relates to the person of the Mediator, who appeared, for a time, under the form of a servant. But now he bids the disciples, as soon as they have begun to be deprived of the external aid, to raise their eyes direct towards heaven. Hence we infer that Christ keeps believers in the present day not less than he formerly did, but in a different manner, because Divine majesty is openly displayed in him.
Whom thou hast given me. He again employs the same argument, that it would be highly unbecoming that the Father should reject those whom his Son, by his command, has kept to the very close of his ministry; as if he had said, “What thou didst commit to me I have faithfully executed, and I took care that nothing was lost in my hands; and when thou now receivest what thou hadst intrusted to me, it belongs to thee to see that it continue to be safe and sound.”
But the son of perdition. Judas is excepted, and not without reason; for, though he was not one of the elect and of the true flock of God, yet the dignity of his office gave him the appearance of it; and, indeed, no one would have formed a different opinion of him, so long as he held that exalted rank. Tried by the rules of grammar, (118) the exception is incorrect; but if we examine the matter narrowly, it was necessary that Christ should speak thus, in accommodation to the ordinary opinion of men. But, that no one might think that the eternal election of God was overturned by the damnation of Judas, he immediately added, that he was the son of perdition By these words Christ means that his ruin, which took place suddenly before the eyes of men, had been known to God long before; for the son of perdition, according to the Hebrew idiom, denotes a man who is ruined, or devoted to destruction.
That the Scripture might be fulfilled. This relates to the former clause. Judas fell,that the Scripture might be fulfilled But it would be a most unfounded argument, if any one were to infer from this, that the revolt of Judas ought to be ascribed to God rather than to himself; because the prediction laid him under a nccesslty. For the course of events ought not to be ascribed to prophecies, because it was predicted in them; and, indeed, the prophets threaten nothing but what would have happened, though they had not spoken of it. It is not in the prophecies, therefore, that we must go to seek the cause of events. I acknowledge, indeed, that nothing happens but what has been appointed by God; but the only question now is, Do those things which it has foretold, or predicted, lay men under a necessity? which I have already demonstrated to be false.
Nor was it the design of Christ to transfer to Scripture the cause of the ruin of Judas, but he only intended to take away the occasion of stumbling, which might shake weak minds. (119) Now the method of removing it is, by showing that the Spirit of God had long ago testified that such an event would happen; for we commonly startle at what is new and sudden. This is a highly useful admonition, and admits of extensive application. For how comes it that in our own day, the greater part of men give way on account of offences, but because they do not remember the testimonies of Scripture, by which God has abundantly fortified his people, having foretold early all the evils and distresses which would come before their eyes?
13.And these things I speak in the world. Here Christ shows that the reason why he was so earnest in praying for his disciples was, not that he was anxious about their future condition, but rather to provide a remedy for their anxiety. We know how prone our minds are to seek external aids; and if these present themselves, we eagerly seize them, and do not easily suffer ourselves to be torn from them. Christ, therefore, prays to his Father in the presence of his disciples, not because he needed any words, but to remove from them all doubt. I speak in the world, says he; that is, within their hearing, or, in their presence, (120) that their minds may be calm; for their salvation already was in no danger, having been placed by Christ in the hands of God.
That they may have my joy fulfilled. He calls it HIS joy, because it was necessary that the disciples should obtain it from him; or, if you choose to express it more briefly, he calls it his, because he is the Author, Cause, and Pledge of it; for in us there is nothing but alarm and uneasiness, but in Christ alone there is peace and joy.
14.I have given them thy word. He employs a different argument in pleading with the Father on behalf of the disciples. It is, because they need his assistance on account of the hatred of the world. He likewise declares the cause of that hatred to be, that they have embraced the word of God, which the world cannot receive; as if he had said, “It belongs to thee to protect those who, on account of thy word, are hated by the world.” We must now keep in remembrance what we have lately heard, that the end of this prayer is, that Christ’s joy may be fulflled in us As often, therefore, as the rage of the world is kindled against us to such an extent that we think we are very near destruction, let us learn suddenly to ward it off by this shield, that God will never forsake those who labor in defense of the Gospel.
Because they are not of the world. He says that his disciples are not of the world, because all those whom he regenerates by his Spirit are separated from the world God will not suffer his sheep to wander among wolves, without showing himself to be their shepherd.
15.I ask not that thou shouldest take them out of the world. He shows in what the safety of believers (121) consists; not that they are free from every annoyance, and live in luxury and at their ease, but that, in the midst of dangers, they continue to be safe through the assistance of God. For he does not admonish the Father of what is proper to be done, but rather makes provision for their weakness, that, by the method which he prescribes, they may restrain their desires, which are apt to go beyond all bounds. In short, he promises to his disciples the grace of the Father; not to relieve them from all anxiety and toil, but to furnish them with invincible strength against their enemies, and not to suffer them to be overwhelmed by the heavy burden of contests which they will have to endure. If, therefore, we wish to be kept according to the rule which Christ has laid down, we must not desire exemption from evils, or pray to God to convey us immediately into a state of blessed rest, but must rest satisfied with the certain assurance of victory, and, in the meantime, resist courageously all the evils, from which Christ prayed to his Father that we might have a happy issue. In short, God does not take his people out of the world, because he does not wish them to be effeminate and slothful; but he delivers them from evil, that they may not be overwhelmed; for he wishes them to fight, but does not suffer them to be mortally wounded.
16.They are not of the world. That the heavenly Father may be more favourably disposed to assist them, he again says that the whole world hates them, and, at the same time, states that this hatred does not arise from any fault of theirs, but because the world hates God and Christ.
17.Sanctify them by thy truth. This sanctification includes the kingdom of God and his righteousness; that is, when God renews us by his Spirit, and confirms in us the grace of renewal, and continues it to the end. He asks, first, therefore, that the Father would sanctify the disciples, or, in other words, that he would consecrate them entirely to himself, and defend them as his sacred inheritance. Next, he points out the means of sanctification, and not without reason; for there are fanatics who indulge in much useless prattle about sanctification, but who neglect the truth of God, by which he consecrates us to himself. Again, as there are others who chatter quite as foolishly about the truth and yet disregard the word, Christ expressly says that the truth, by which God sanctifies his sons, is not to be found any where else than in the word.
Thy word is truth; for the word here denotes the doctrine of the Gospel, which the apostles had already heard from the mouth of their Master, and which they were afterwards to preach to others. In this sense Paul says that
the Church has been cleansed with the washing of water by the word of life,
True, it is God alone who sanctifies; but as
the Gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth,
whoever departs from the Gospel as the means must become more and more filthy and polluted.
The truth is here taken, by way of eminence, for the light of heavenly wisdom, in which God manifests himself to us, that he may conform us to his image. The outward preaching of the word, it is true, does not of itself accomplish this, For that preaching is wickedly profaned by the reprobate; but let us remember that Christ speaks of the elect whom the Holy Spirit efficaciously regenerates by the word. Now, as the apostles were not altogether destitute of this grace, we ought to infer from Christ’s words, that sanctification is not instantly completed in us on the first day, but that we make progress in it through the whole course of our life, till at length God, having taken away from us the garment of the flesh, fills us with his righteousness.
18.As thou hast sent me into the world. He confirms his prayer by another argument; namely, because the calling of Christ and of the apostles is the same calling, and is common to both. “I now,” he says, “appoint them to an office, which I have hitherto held by thy command; and, therefore, it is necessary that they should be furnished with the power of thy Spirit, that they may be able to sustain so weighty a charge.”
19.And for their sales I sanctify myself. By these words he explains more clearly from what source that sanctification flows, which is completed in us by the doctrine of the Gospel. It is, because he consecrated himself to the Father, that his holiness might come to us; for as the blessing on the first-fruits is spread over the whole harvest, so the Spirit of God cleanses us by the holiness of Christ and makes us partakers of it. Nor is this done by imputation only, for in that respect he is said to have been made to us righteousness; but he is likewise said to have been made to us sanctification, (1 Corinthians 1:30,) because he has, so to speak, presented us to his Father in his own person, that we may be renewed to true holiness by his Spirit. Besides, though this sanctification belongs to the whole life of Christ, yet the highest illustration of it was given in the sacrifice of his death; for then he showed himself to be the true High Priest, by consecrating the temple, the altar, all the vessels, and the people, by the power of his Spirit.
20.And I ask not for these only. He now gives a wider range to his prayer, which hitherto had included the apostles alone; for he extends it to all the disciples of the Gospel, so long as there shall be any of them to the end of the world. This is assuredly a remarkable ground of confidence; for if we believe in Christ through the doctrine of the Gospel, we ought to entertain no doubt that we are already gathered with the apostles into his faithful protection, so that not one of us shall perish. This prayer of Christ is a safe harbour, and whoever retreats into it is safe from all danger of shipwreck; for it is as if Christ had solemnly sworn that he will devote his care and diligence to our salvation.
He began with his apostles, that their salvation, which we know to be certain, might make us more certain of our own salvation; and, therefore, whenever Satan attacks us, let us learn to meet him with this shield, that it is not to no purpose that the Son of God united us with the apostles, so that the salvation of all was bound up, as it were, in the same bundle. There is nothing, therefore that ought more powerfully to excite us to embrace the Gospel; for as it is an inestimable blessing that we are presented to God by the hand of Chrisb to be preserved from destruction, so we ought justly to love it, and to care for it above all things else. In this respect the madness of the world is monstrous. All desire salvation; Christ instructs us in a way of obtaining it, from which if any one turn aside, there remains for him no good hope; and yet scarcely one person in a hundred deigns to receive what was so graciously offered.
For those who shall believe on me, We must attend to this form of expression. Christ prays for all who shall believe in him. By these words he reminds us of what we have sometimes said already, that our faith ought to be directed to him. The clause which immediately follows, through their word, expresses admirably the power and nature of faith, and at the same time is a familiar confirmation to us who know that our faith is founded on the Gospel taught by the apostles. Let the world then condemn us a thousand times, this alone ought to satisfy us, that Christ acknowledges us to be his heritage and pleads with the Father for us.
But woe to the Papists, whose faith is so far removed from this rule, that they are not ashamed to vomit out this horrid blasphemy, that there is nothing in Scripture but what is ambiguous, and may be turned in a variety of ways. The tradition of the Church is therefore their only authoritative guide to what they shall believe. But let us remember that the Son of God, who alone is competent to judge, does not approve of any other faith (123) than that which is drawn from the doctrine of the apostles, and sure information of that doctrine will be found no where else than in their writings.
We must also observe that form of expression, to believe through the word, which means that faith springs from hearing, because the outward preaching of men is the instrument by which God draws us to faith. It follows, that God is, strictly speaking, the Author of faith, and men are the ministers by whom we believe, as Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 3:5.)
21.That all may be one. He again lays down the end of our happiness as consisting in unity, and justly; for the ruin of the human race is, that, having been alienated from God, it is also broken and scattered in itself. The restoration of it, therefore, on the contrary, consists in its being properly united in one body, as Paul declares the perfection of the Church to consist in
believers being joined together in one spirit and says that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors, were given, that they might edify and restore the body of Christ, till it came to the unity of faith; and therefore he exhorts believers to grow into Christ, who is the Head, from whom the whole body joined together, and connected by every bond of supply, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of it to edifcation,
Wherefore, whenever Christ speaks about unity, let us remember how basely and shockingly, when separated from him, the world is scattered; and, next, let us learn that the commencement of a blessed life is, that we be all governed, and that we all live, by the Spirit of Christ alone.
Again, it ought to be understood, that, in every instance in which Christ declares, in this chapter, that he is one with the Father, he does not speak simply of his Divine essence, but that he is called one as regards his mediatorial office, and in so far as he is our Head. Many of the fathers, no doubt, interpreted these words as meaning, absolutely, that Christ is one with the Father, because he is the eternal God. But their dispute with the Arians led them to seize on detached passages, and to torture them out of their natural meaning, in order to employ them against their antagonists. (124) Now, Christ’s design was widely different from that of raising our minds to a mere speculation about his hidden Divinity; for he reasons from the end, by showing that we ought to be one, otherwise the unity which he has with the Father would be fruitless and unavailing. To comprehend aright what was intended by saying, that Christ and the Father are one, we must take care not to deprive Christ of his office as Mediator, but must rather view him as he is the Head of the Church, and unite him with his members. Thus will the chain of thought be preserved, that, in order to prevent the unity of the Son with the Father from being fruitless and unavailing, the power of that unity must be diffused through the whole body of believers. Hence, too, we infer that we are one with the Son of God; (125) not because he conveys his substance to us, but because, by the power of his Spirit, he imparts to us his life and all the blessings which he has received from the Father.
That the world may believe. Some explain the word world to mean the elect, who, at that time, were still dispersed; but since the word world, throughout the whole of this chapter, denotes the reprobate, I am more inclined to adopt a different opinion. It happens that, immediately afterwards, he draws a distinction between all his people and the same world which he now mentions.
The verb, to believe, has been inaccurately used by the Evangelist for the verb, to know; that is, when unbelievers, convinced by their own experienc, perceive the heavenly and Divine glory of Christ. The consequence is, that, believing, they do not believe, because this conviction does not penetrate into the inward feeling of the heart. And it is a just vengeance of God, that the splendor of Divine glory dazzles the eyes of the reprobate because they do not deserve to have a clear and pure view of it. He afterwards uses the verb, to know in the same sense.
22.And I have given to them the glory which thou gavest to me. Let it be observed here, that, while a pattern of perfect happiness was exhibited in Christ, he had nothing that belonged peculiarly to himself, but rather was rich, in order to enrich those who believed in him. Our happiness lies in having the image of God restored and formed anew in us, which was defaced by sin. Christ is not only the lively image of God, in so far as he is the eternal Word of God. but even on his human nature, which he has in common with us, the likeness of the glory of the Father has been engraved, so as to form his members to the resemblance of it. Paul also teaches us this, that
we all, with unveiled face, by beholding THE GLORY OF GOD, are changed into the same image,
(2 Corinthians 3:18.)
Hence it follows, that no one ought to be reckoned among the disciples of Christ, unless we perceive the glory of God impressed on him, as with a seal, by the likeness of Christ. To the same purpose are the words which immediately follow:
23.I in them, and thou in me; for he intends to teach that in him dwells all fullness of blessings, and that what was concealed in God is now manifested in him, that he may impart it to his people, as the water, flowing from the fountain by various channels, waters the fields on all sides.
And hast loved them, (126) He means that it is a very striking exhibition, and a very excellent pledge, of the love of God towards believers, which the world is compelled to feel, whether it will or not, when the Holy Spirit dwelling in them sends forth the rays of righteousness and holiness. There are innumerable other ways, indeed, in which God daily testifies his fatherly love towards us, but the mark of adoption is justly preferred to them all. He likewise adds,and hast loved them, As Thou Hast Loved Me. By these words he intended to point out the cause and origin of the love; for the particle as, means because, and the words, AS thou hast loved me, mean, Because thou hast loved me; for to Christ alone belongs the title of Well-beloved, (Matthew 3:17.) Besides, that love which the heavenly Father bears towards the Head is extended to all the members, so that he loves none but in Christ.
Yet this gives rise to some appearance of contradiction; for Christ, as we have seen elsewhere (127) declares that the unspeakable love of God towards the world was the reason why he gave his only-begotten Son, (John 3:16.) If the cause must go before the effect, we infer that God the Father loved men apart from Christ; that is, before he was appointed to be the Redeemer. I reply, in that, and similar passages, love denotes the mercy with which God was moved towards unworthy persons, and even towards his enemies, before he reconciled them to himselfi It is, indeed, a wonderful goodness of God, and inconceivable by the human mind, that, exercising benevolence towards men whom he could not but hate, he removed the cause of the hatred, that there might be no obstruction to his love. And, indeed, Paul informs us that there are two ways in which we are loved in Christ; first, because the Father
chose us in him before the creation of the world,
and, secondly, because in Christ God hath reconciled us to himself, and hath showed that he is gracious to us, (Romans 5:10.) Thus we are at the same time the enemies and the friends of God, until, atonement having been made for our sins, we are restored to favor with God. But when we are justified by faith, it is then, properly, that we begin to be loved by God, as children by a father. That love by which Christ was appointed to be the person, in whom we should be fiercly chosen before we were born, and while we were still ruined in Adam, is hidden in the breast of God, and far exceeds the capacity of the human mind. True, no man will ever feel that God is gracious to him, unless he perceives that God is pacified in Christ. But as all relish for the love of God vanishes when Christ is taken away, so we may safely conclude that, since by faith we are ingrafted into his body, there is no danger of our falling from the love of God; for this foundation cannot be overturned, that we are loved, because the Father hath loved his Son. (128)
24.Father, I will. To will is put for to desire; (129) for it expresses not a command but a prayer. But it may be understood in two ways; either that he wills that the disciples may enjoy his eternal presence, or, that God may, at length, receive them into the heavenly kingdom, to which he goes before them.
That they may behold my glory. Some explain beholding his glory to mean, partaking of the glory which Christ has. Others explain it to be, to know by the experience of faith what Christ is, and how great is his majesty. For my own part, after carefully weighing the whole matter, I think that Christ speaks of the perfect happiness of believers, as if he had said, that his desire will not be satisfied till they have been received into heaven. In the same manner I explain the Beholding of the glory. At that time they saw the glory of Christ, just as a man shut up in the dark obtains, through small chinks, a feeble and glimmering light. Christ now wishes that they shall make such progress as to enjoy the full brightness of heaven. In short, he asks that the Father will conduct them, by uninterrupted progress, to the full vision of his glory.
For thou lovedst me. This also agrees better with the person of the Mediator than with Christ’s Divinity alone. It would be harsh to say that the Father loved his Wisdom; and though we were to admit it, the connection of the passage leads us to a different view. Christ, unquestionably, spoke as the Head of the Church, when he formerly prayed that the apostles might be united with him, and might behold the glory of his reign. He now says that the love of the Father is the cause of it; and, therefore, it follows that he was beloved, in so far as he was appointed to be the Redeemer of the world. With such a love did the Father love himbefore the creation of the world, that he might be the person in whom the Father would love his elect.
25.Righteous Father. He compares his disciples to the world, so as to describe more fully the approbation and favour which they had received from the Father; for it is proper that they who alone know God, whom the whole world rejects, should be distinguished above others, and most properly does Christ plead with peculiar warmth for those whom the unbelief of the world did not prevent from acknowledging God. By calling him Righteous Father, Christ defies the world and its malice; as if he had said, “However proudly the world may despise or reject God, still it takes nothing from him, and cannot hinder the honor of his righteousness from remaining unimpaired.” By these words he declares that the faith of the godly ought to be founded on God, in such a manner that, though the whole world should oppose, it would never fail; just as, in the present day, we must charge the Pope with injustice, in order that we may vindicate for God the praise which is due to him.
But I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. Christ does not merely say that God was known by the disciples, but mentions two steps; first, that he has known the Father; and, secondly, that the disciples have known that he was sent by the Father But as he adds immediately afterwards, that he has declared to them the name of the Father, he praises them, as I have said, for the knowledge of God, which separates them from the rest of the world. Yet we must attend to the order of faith, as it is here described. The Son came out of the bosom of the Father, and, properly speaking, he alone knows the Father; and, therefore, all who desire to approach God must betake themselves to Christ meeting them, and nmst devote themselves to him; and, after having been known by the disciples, he will, at length, raise them to God the Father.
26.And I have declared to them thy name, and will declare it. Christ discharged the office of Teacher, but, in order to make known the Father, he employed the secret revelation of the Spirit, and not the sound of his voice alone. He means, therefore, that he taught the apostles efficaciously. Besides, their faith being at that time very weak, he promises greater progress for the future, and thus prepares them to expect more abundant grace of the Holy Spirit. Though he speaks of the apostles, we ought to draw from this a general exhortation, to study to make constant progress, and not to think that we have run so well that we have not still a long journey before us, so long as we are surrounded by the flesh.
That the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them; that is, that thou mayest love them in me, or, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be extended to them; for, strictly speaking, the love with which God loves us is no other than that with which he loved his Son from the beginning, so as to render us also acceptable to him, and capablc of being loved in Christ. And, indeed, as was said a little before, so far as relates to us, apart from Christ, we are hated by God, and he only begins to love us, when we are united to the body of his beloved Son. It is an invaluable privilege of faith, that we know that Christ was loved by the Father on our account, that we might be made partakers of the same love, and might enjoy it for ever.
And I in them. This clause deserves our attention, for it teaches us that the only way in which we are included in that love which he mentions is, that Christ dwells in us; for, as the Father cannot look upon his Son without having likewise before his eyes the whole body of Christ, so, if we wish to be beheld in him, we must be actually his members.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany