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Bible Commentaries
John 17

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary

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“A good sermon must have a good prayer” (Luther). This prayer, which forms the climax of our Lord’s last discourses to His disciples, has been termed the high-priestly prayer of Christ. And rightly so, in as far as we have here the most amply unfolded intercession of Jesus for His people. Intercession for the congregation was one of the most essential functions of the high priest, Leviticus 9:22, Numbers 6:22-27. But that Jesus, by this prayer, prepared Himself for the high-priestly act of atonement has no warrant in ver. 19; and the prayer itself stands in no demonstrable connection with the redeeming sacrifice of Christ.

According to the current exposition, Jesus first prays for Himself, vers. 1-5; then for His Apostles, vers. 6-19; and finally for those who should believe on Him through their word, the Church of all ages. But this distribution is not satisfactory; it takes too much account of the mere form of the prayer. In vers. 1-5 there is a petition for the glorification of His people concealed beneath the prayer for His own glorification; and on the principle of this distribution, vers. 24-26 present no slight difficulties. The Lord here returns back from believers generally to the Apostles; and the petition for the heavenly glorification of these Apostles, as it is contained in this conclusion, shows plainly that the previous petition was not general, but specifically referred to the Apostles, and those who should believe through their word. To the same conclusion we are led by the fact that in vers. 6-23 the word κόσμος occurs with unusual and plainly intentional frequency, while everything seems to point to the general position of Christians in the world.

A more correct distribution will be as follows. At the beginning, vers. 1-5, and at the end, vers. 24-26, the Lord prays that His people may have the great benefit and blessing of the kingdom of God, eternal life, the heavenly glorification, the foundation of which was His own glorification. In the middle, vers. 6-23, He prays to the Father on behalf of His people, that they might have help in the perilous position in which they would be found in the world, during the days of their pilgrimage on earth; His prayer being first for the Apostles, and then for all believers.

Ch. 14 offers a perfect analogy. There the Lord first directs the Apostles’ thoughts to the certainty that heaven was theirs; and then He speaks of the Divine assistance and grace which they should receive during the time of their pilgrimage. What the Lord there promises. He here prays for.

That the whole refers to the disciples, we gather from ver. 13, where the end of the prayer is represented to be their establishment in perfect joy.

It is of some importance for the understanding of this prayer, that we should not study it as an outpouring of the Son’s heart to the Father; we must rather regard it as having much to do with the edification of the disciples: comp. ch. John 11:42. If Jesus had had only to do with the Father, it would have been enough that “He lifted up His eyes to heaven;” the needs of the disciples would not have been unfolded before us in such detail; the supplications on- their behalf would not have been so minute, and so constantly referred to their grounds. Augustan says: “Not only the direct preaching of such a Teacher, but also His prayer to the Father for them, served for the edification of His disciples.” Lampe: “The confirmation and salvation of these disciples was the primary scope of these prayers.” Schmieder: “His words were not only an effusion of the heart to the Father, but also a pondered and careful exposition for the disciples.”

Between this high-priestly prayer and the conflict in Gethsemane, as recorded by the first three Evangelists, there might seem at the first glance to be an irreconcilable opposition. It has been said, that whosoever was able to pray as Jesus prays in John, and was so confident of his victory over the world and his own glorification, could not possibly have immediately afterwards fallen into such trembling and despondency, into such bitterness of death. Either of the two might be imaginable, but not both together. But this contradiction vanishes at once, so soon as we apprehend the true significance of the conflict in Gethsemane. If our Lord struggled and suffered for us and in our stead, if the chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him, then in Him also it was necessary that all the horror of death should be concentrated. He bore the sin of the world, and the wages of that was death. Death must therefore appear to Him in its most fearful form; and the rather as our Representative alone could look profoundly into the depths of sin. The physical suffering was nothing in comparison to this immeasurable suffering of the soul. And if the struggle was vicarious, and thus voluntarily assumed, the suddenness of the transition should not seem strange to us. It is not our task to trace and explain the connection between His different emotions. With equal freedom, the Redeemer was equal now to the one, and then to the other, aspect of His destiny. Then we likewise understand how it was, that, with such clear consciousness. He went forth to encounter this conflict; how, far from being surprised by it, or being overcome by its agony. He prepared all things beforehand, left behind the rest of the Apostles, while He took with Him the three most advanced, as witnesses for the Church of all ages; how fie went, as it were, ex professo to suffer and struggle, even as at the beginning of His manifestation He was not fortuitously encountered by Satan, but led by the Spirit into the wilderness that He might be tempted of Satan.

That St John has altogether omitted the conflict in Gethsemane, is at the first glance strange. He himself was, with Peter and James, a witness of this struggle; and that it was of the greatest moment to the Church, is evident from the very fact that the three were taken by our Lord to behold it. But the anomaly vanishes as soon as we rightly discern the relation of St John to the three first Evangelists, and the supplementary character of his Gospel. The more momentous the event was, the more obvious it was that the first Evangelists should record it with the utmost circumstantiality, thus leaving for the fourth no Paraleipomena. The transition to St John’s silence is seen in the comparative brevity with which Luke records the incident. He sums up briefly all that the two Evangelists had already communicated, inserting only three facts peculiar to his account: first, that the disciples slept through sorrow; then, that an angel from heaven appeared to the Redeemer, and strengthened Him; finally, that His sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood. While St Matthew draws from the unexhausted fulness, we see in St Luke the end of the historical material. St John could not, according to the design of his Gospel, repeat. Instead of that, he gives all the more perfectly the high-priestly prayer of our Lord, which his predecessors had not ventured to touch, it having been regarded from the beginning as reserved for St John.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said. Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee.”

The circumstantiality with which the prayer of our Lord is introduced bespeaks its high significance. That He lifted up His eyes to heaven is more than once recorded: ch. John 11:41; Mark 7:34; Matthew 14:19. On all these occasions, Jesus was in the open air; and in that position the upward glance would be more conspicuous. There is not, indeed, in the words themselves actual demonstration that our Lord pronounced His last discourses under the open heaven. The eyes may obviously be lifted up to heaven within a chamber; and so we find. Acts 7:55, that Stephen lifted up his eyes to heaven in the midst of the council. The expression, however, suggests it; and we have already, on other and strong grounds, proved that Jesus did speak in the open air.

The hour is in itself indefinite: the sequel alone will furnish its more precise specification. (Augustin: He shows that all time, and all that in time is permitted to be done or suffered, was appointed by Him who is above subjection to time.) Accordingly, it was not the hour of the passion, but of the glorification. In His spirit, the suffering was already past. The word is more fully uttered in ch. John 12:23: “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.”—“Glorify Thy Son:” glorify Me because I am Thy Son, from whose nature the perfection of glory is inseparable, and who only for a season could renounce that glory. The Divine glory attended the Son of God even in His state of humiliation (comp. ch. John 1:14, John 2:11), and manifested itself most variously in His deeds: comp. ch. John 11:4, John 13:31, John 12:28. But it was a deeply concealed glory; and the Son of God prays that now this concealment might cease, that His glory might beam forth again in its original brightness.

The Father was to glorify the Son, that the Son might glorify the Father: the glory of the Father, and the blessedness of believers given with it, was the final goal. The καί after ἵ?να is spurious: it weakens the idea, so important in the present connection, that the glorification of the Son here comes into consideration only as means to an end. The glory of the Father could not of itself know any addition: His being glorified, therefore, can only refer to men’s recognition of that glory. But men’s knowledge and acknowledgment of His glory required Christ’s glorification as its condition. It has its various gradations and degrees. But it is evident from what follows, that the Lord here contemplates the highest gradation of it—the perfected knowledge of the glory of God in eternal blessedness. But the idea, “that Thy Son also may glorify Thee,” could not remain in this generality. It points forward by its very mysteriousness, left to conjecture, to a closer definition of its meaning. Luther: “It is also to be observed in this text, how Christ ascribes it to Himself that He alone was the man through whom the Father must be glorified. That goes clean beyond all creaturely degrees.”

Verse 2

Ver. 2. “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.”

Jesus first justifies His request concerning His glorification. It was in perfect harmony with that glorification that God had given Him the power to impart eternal life to all His people. This power He could exercise only when He had Himself entered into His glory; His saints could be nowhere but where He was; their glory should consist in beholding His glory, ver. 24, ch. John 14:2-3. Καθώς here is used just as כאשר in Psalms 51, “When Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba;” Micah 3:4. Primarily it is only correspondence that is meant, but the causal connection lies in the background. For ἐ?ξουσία , compare the remarks on ch. John 10:18. The giving Him power is to be regarded as simultaneous with the sending of ver. 3. It was the recompense which should crown the work, and the prospect of which would inspirit to its performance. As the Father gave the Son His power, so He must place Him in that condition in which He could exercise it. The power given is over all flesh, inasmuch as no man absolutely and of necessity is excluded from the range of it. The limitation of that power is in every case the result of the fault of individuals, who reject the salvation provided for all: comp. “Ye would not,” Matthew 23:37. Πᾶ?σα σάρξ embraces the whole of mankind, corresponding to the κόσμος , ch. John 3:16; the ἐ?ν παντὶ? ἔ?θνει , Acts 10:35. In Matthew 24:22, Luke 3:6, Acts 2:17, 1 Corinthians 1:29, πᾶ?σα σάρξ is used to express the idea of the entire human race. Men are so denominated, in contradistinction to purely spiritual natures: comp. the πνεῦ?μα σάρκα καὶ? οὐ?κ ἔ?χει , Luke 24:39. Strictly, the words run, “That all which Thou hast given Him” (nominative absolute), “He may give them.” The summing up of all believers into one ideal unity makes still more emphatic the impartation of salvation to all of them, without exception. “As many as Thou hast given Him” corresponds with “whosoever believeth in Him; just as the κόσμος in ch. 3 corresponds with the πᾶ?σα σάρξ . All are given to Christ who do not wilfully seal their hearts against faith. The limitation cannot be in God, else would the bestowal of power over all flesh be illusory. But it is referred back to God, because He judicially excludes unbelievers from salvation, and judicially makes believers partakers of it.

The eternal life which is here spoken of can belong only to the sphere of the other world; for it is such an eternal life as was still future to the Apostles, whom the Lord had always pre-eminently in His eye. Further, it was only the eternal life of the other world which was absolutely dependent on the glorification of Christ. The conclusion in ver. 24, corresponding with the beginning, leads to the same result; as also does ch. John 14:2-3. But, apart from these clear and definite reasons, in the nature of things we must refer this eternal life to the other world. The expression itself suggests it; and there are only a few passages in the discourses “of our Lord in St John which bring eternal life into this present state. Generally they are in harmony with the words of our Lord in the other Evangelists, where the ζωὴ? αἰ?ώνιος is everywhere limited to the other state: comp. Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30, where the ζωὴ? αἰ?ώνιος is appropriated to the αἰ?ών ἐ?ρχόμενος . Recent exposition, instead of recognising in the few passages of this Gospel exceptions to the rule, has fallen into gross exaggeration, and not shrunk from the assertion, that the Gospel of John contradicts, on the one hand, the other Evangelists, and on the other the revelation of the Apocalypse: compare my commentary (Clark’s Transl.). In ch. John 6:40, John 11:25, the resurrection and life are inseparably united; and in ch. John 4:14, John 5:39, John 6:54, John 12:25, eternal life is strictly referred to the other world. Luther: “This power over all that liveth, such authority to give eternal life, belongs to no creature: the creature may receive it, but God’s power alone can give eternal life. For even the angels, though they live eternally, cannot impart eternal life.”

Verse 3

Ver. 3. “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

Jesus not only has to give a reason for the “glorify Thy Son,” but He must also show that His own glorification would be the condition of the Father’s. The latter He does now. If the Father places Him, in harmony with the authority given to Him, in a condition to give eternal life to His people, the goal of the Father’s glorification would be thereby attained. For the essence of eternal life is to know God as He is, and that is the only true glorifying of Christ: to give Him His honour, is simply to acknowledge the glory that He has.

The knowledge of God has, indeed, its beginnings in the present life; but in its full truth it belongs to the life to come: there we shall first see God as He is, 1 John 3:2; there first know Him as we are known, 1 Corinthians 13:12. If eternal life consists in the perfect knowledge of God, or the beholding of His glory, ver. 24, the foretaste of this knowledge must be the substance of spiritual life in this world, the only essential element in it, the highest goal to which we should in this world aspire. Those who neglect in this life to labour after this goal, rob themselves of eternal life. The nature of eternal life is at the same time the way to eternal life. “To know Thy power,” it is said, in Sir_15:3 , “is the root of immortality.”

The added clause, “the only true God,” is instead of a reason: because Thou art the only true God. To see Him as He is, must be the only absolute felicity. As the only true God, He is Jehovah, the pure, absolute Being, out of whom there is nothing but illusion and shadow; to know this essential God, and in that knowledge to be united to Him, is the only true life for His creatures.

The original passage for the designation of God as the Only One (comp. ch. John 5:44; Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Jude 1:25), is Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord your God is one God.” One God is not merely an antithesis to common polytheism, but declares that out of Him no true being exists, that He is the one and all; it annihilates all imagination of independent strength, Habakkuk 1:11, and the deification of riches. Job 31:24. As in the original passage, and in our Lord’s saying based upon it, Mark 12:29-30, the unity of God is the ground of the command to love Him above all (comp. Matthew 4:10, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve,” where the μονῷ? is inserted from ver. 4 of the original in Deuteronomy), so here it is the ground of the doctrine that to know Him is eternal life. If God is the Only Being, He alone must be loved. He alone must be served, in Him alone our honour is to be sought; He is alone the source of living water, Jeremiah 2:13; of life, Psalms 36:10; He is the life, Deuteronomy 30:20, and to know Him is eternal life. Besides Deuteronomy 6:4, we may compare Job 23:13, “He is one, and who can turn Him?” There, from the unity of God, His irresistibility, the absoluteness of His omnipotence, is argued. As there is none beside Him, whoever has this Being against him must fall.

The ἀ?ληθινός is parallel with the μόνος : the one serves for the elucidation of the other. Because He is the only, therefore He is the true, God; and because He is the true God, therefore He is the only one. That being which is simply true, is alone the Divine; all other being is infected with illusion and untruth: compare my commentary on the Apocalypse, ch. John 3:7, “These things saith the Holy One and the True.” As the truth of His being is here parallel with its oneness, so in that passage and Revelation 6:10 the truth is parallel with the holiness, that is, with the absoluteness, of that being. The truth of being is in antithesis to the lie, the deceitfulness, the delusion, the vanity, and the hollowness which cling to all created things.

When God is declared to be the only and the true God, His unity is declared only in regard to everything out of Himself: it does not exclude the Son, who shares His honour, but the world, and the false gods which it invents. This is plain, from the fact that it is not the abstract Godhead which is declared to be the only true God, but the Father of Christ. Anton: “It is inclusive, and only in opposition to Allotria.”

By the ἀ?ληθινὸ?ν Θεόν , the reason for which the “glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee,” was urged, is made complete. The appendage, “and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent,” was necessary, in order that the Apostles—whom the Lord, according to ver. 13, had always in view—might not misunderstand the words concerning the only true God. He Himself must be named, as being, not only in time, but also in eternity, the only medium of the knowledge of the one true and only God.

That Jesus is not placed, as it were, in juxtaposition with God, after the Mohammedan manner—“There is no God but God, and Mohammed is His prophet”—but as participator in the essence and in the honour of the one only God, is plain from the fact that the full knowledge of Christ is reserved for eternal life, which presupposes His superabounding glory. It is evident also from this, that the knowledge of Christ is, not less than the knowledge of the Father, made one with eternal life itself. This presumes that He is, not less than the Father, holy and true: comp. Revelation 6:10, where these predicates are given to the Father, with John 3:7, where they are given to Christ. In 1 John 5:20, Jesus Christ is taken up into the region of the Only True: the Father and the Son together form the opposite of idols. The predicate of Truth is first assigned to the Father; and then it is said of His Son, Jesus Christ, “This is the true God, and eternal life,” in order to show that in Him the Father is perfectly revealed, and that in Him all the Father’s fulness is. Luther says: “Since He bases eternal life upon the knowing Himself with the Father, and says, that without the knowledge of Him no man can attain unto eternal life, and thus that it is one and the same knowledge by which He and the Father are known, He must perforce be of the same essence and nature with the Father: that is. He must be the selfsame true God, yet a Person distinguished from the Father.”

“Whom Thou hast sent “points to the Old Testament Angel of the Lord, like unto God: comp. on John 3:17. That we are not to think of a mere mission, like that of the prophets, but of that sending which was from heaven to earth, is plain from ver. 18.

Our Lord does not say, “Me, whom Thou hast sent,” but, making Himself objective, “Jesus Christ.” This was the name which He bore upon earth in His state of humiliation, “the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:5. Its use suggested evidently, that He whom the disciples saw before them in the form of a servant, would in eternal life assume an altogether different position. For the same reason, it Was our Lord’s good pleasure, in those passages which treat of His future glory, to designate Himself the Son of man: comp. ch. John 12:23. And how wont He was to speak of Himself in the third person, is seen, for example, in Matthew 11:27. Luther: “This I have often said, and now say it again, that when I am dead it may be thought of, and men may learn to avoid all teachers, as sent and driven by the devil, who set up to talk and preach about God, simple and sundered from Christ. If thou wouldst go straight to God, and surely apprehend Him, so as to find in Him mercy and strength, never let thyself be persuaded to seek Him elsewhere than in the Lord Christ. In Christ begin thy art and study; in Him let it abide firm; and wherever else thy own reason and thinking, or any other man’s, would lead thee, shut thine eyes and say, I must not, and I will not, know of any other God than in my Lord Christ.”

Verses 4-5

Vers. 4, 5. “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

After Jesus had grounded His prayer for glorification. He repeats His request, now declaring that the condition on which that glorification was suspended was fulfilled, and that work finished, for the performance of which He relinquished the state of glory belonging to His nature, and assumed the form of a servant. Schmieder: “After our Lord had expressed the final design of the glorification, which He had asked on His own behalf,—to wit, the glorification of the Father in men, through the communication of eternal life to man,

He takes up once more the prayer for glorification, setting forth first the ground of His warrant to urge this prayer now, and declaring wherefore the hour of glorification had now actually come.” For “I have glorified Thee,” comp. ch. John 13:31-32; Matthew 9:8; Luke 7:16; Luke 13:13. While Christ revealed His own glory. He at the same time bore witness to the glory of the Father; He raised His people with a mighty hand out of their indifference towards Him, made them lift up their hearts to Him, and consecrate themselves to His service; even as to the present day the way to the glorification of God is only through Christ. Luther: “The Lord Christ, when He was upon earth, so glorified the Father, that He made His praise, honour, and dignity great. And it is the whole life and being of a Christian man, as it was of Christ Himself, to exalt the honour and glory of God alone, to know and to magnify His grace and goodness.”

To the ἐ?πὶ? τῆ?ς γῆ?ς corresponds the παρὰ? σεαυτῷ? , that is, “in heaven.”

When the Lord says, “I have finished the work,” He anticipates what still remained of it, which was to be accomplished in the next approaching hours. It was not really fulfilled until the Lord could say, “It is finished.”—Σύ , Thou, forms the antithesis to ἐ?γώ , I. Righteousness required that the Father should glorify the Son, who had glorified Him. On account of the antithesis to ἐ?γώ σε , we must point με σύ , πάτερ , not με , σύ πάτερ , as in ver. 21; also, there must be a comma between σύ and πάτερ . The address, “O Father,” recurs four times; besides “Holy Father” in ver. 11, and “Righteous Father” in ver. 25. From the glory, the restoration of which Jesus here prayed for, we must distinguish that glory which was inseparable from His nature, which indwelt in Him, even during His humiliation (comp. ch. John 2:11, John 13:31), and which ever and anon beamed forth in His words and in His deeds. Even in the case of believers, there exists this difference between a glory inseparable from their nature (comp. vers. 10, 22), and that added glory, which will be theirs only in the future life. His transfiguration was a prelude and earnest of Christ’s heavenly glory. With the παρὰ? σεαυτῷ? , compare the ἐ?ν σεαυτῷ? , in ch. John 13:32. This shows that Christ would be taken up into the fellowship of the Divine glory itself. The παρὰ? σεαυτῷ? is explained by the antithesis to ἐ?πὶ? τῆ?ς γῆ?ς . It served to introduce the universal designation of the place of the glorification. “Before the world was” (compare “before the foundation of the world,” ver. 24), involves Christ’s participation in disunity; for, before the world was, was only God? To be before the world, is, in Psalms 90:2, the Divine prerogative: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting. Thou art God:” comp. on ch. John 1:1. The angels belong to the κόσμος ; their creation is included in Genesis 1:1, even if it does not fall under the work of the six days. With “which I had with Thee before the world was,” we may comp. what Proverbs 8:22, etc., says concerning Wisdom having been with God in the beginning of His way, before His works, before the earth was, before the mountains were established, when He prepared the heavens. In harmony with our present passage, Jesus, in ch. John 8:25, also claimed for Himself a Divine glory before the world was. Luther: “Here is once more a stern and clear text for the divinity of Christ against the Arians, although they have thought to make a hole through it. He says plainly, that He had possessed His glory, and had been one with the glorious nature of the Father, before the world was made. What that was, believers will estimate. For before the world was, nothing could be but God alone; since between God and the world there is no middle thing, all must be either the Creator Himself or a creature.”

After Jesus had prayed to the Father that He would, by the glorification of His Son, open the way to heavenly glory for His disciples. He turns to the petitions which refer to the procedure of the Apostles in the world. In vers. 6-11 He lays the foundation for these petitions, by mentioning the peculiarly near relation in which they stood to God, vers. 6-10, and that they needed His help in their perilous situation in the world, ver. 11. Then, in the latter part of ver. 11, He utters the petition.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. “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.”—“I have declared Thy name” immediately suggests Psalms 22:23, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren.” The name of God is usually His historically manifested glory. Here, where the name is present before the manifestation, the nature of God Himself is described as His name, inasmuch as it contains in itself the germ of the actual manifestation: comp. on ver. 11. “God is known in Judah, His name is great in Israel,” we read in Psalms 76:2. God had ever, in the Old Testament, made Himself, through His acts, a glorious name, Isaiah 63:14. But these revelations of the name were, in comparison of that effected through Christ, of so little account, that the name of God had hitherto, as it were, not been made known. The men form the antithesis to the Father and the Son in the previous verse. “Whom Thou hast given Me” refers not to eternal predestination, but to election in time. They were given at the moment when they attained to faith.

The design of the words, “Thine they were,” etc., was formally to pave the way for the petition in ver. 12, and in effect to turn the disciples’ hearts to God. God could not forsake them, even because of the love which He bears to all His creatures; how much more, then, would He defend them as believers, as those who had maintained their state of faith! “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me.” Both these were true, even of Judas: comp. ver. 12, where he also is numbered among those whom the Father had given to the Son. But because the third thing was in him wanting—the keeping God’s word—the first and the second lost their force, yea, were changed in his case into a condemnation and a curse.

“Thine they were:” that is, as men, as belonging to the κόσμος , as Thy creatures. If we do not interpret this by referring to τοῖ?ς ἀ?νθρώποις and to ἐ?κ τοῦ? κόσμου , we are left to mere conjecture. We may compare Genesis 1 and Genesis 2:7, and “In Him we live, and move, and have our being,” Acts 17:28, and “We are His offspring,” ver. 29. The universal providence of God rests upon the creative relation; and that universal providence is the foundation of the special care which He has of believers. The Psalmists constantly refer to their relation to the Creator for the strengthening of their faith in the saving and helping mercy of God. In Psalms 22:10-11, the singer dwells upon the fact, that God had been the sufferer’s God, even from his earliest infancy, and exults that He will not leave him or forsake him. “Thou preservest man and beast,” it is said in Psalms 36:6: how much more His saints! In Psalms 104 the greatness of God, in His care for all creatures living on earth, is exhibited, in order to invigorate the Church’s confidence in the final victory of God’s people over the world. In Psalms 145:9 we read, “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works:” over all, therefore how much more over His people! Our Lord Himself took pleasure in reminding’ His disciples of God’s goodness in caring for all His creatures: comp. Matthew 6:26; Matthew 10:29-31. In these passages we have His own comment upon “Thine they were.” But it cannot mean that they were once the Father’s, but not the Son’s. That would be at variance with ver. 10, according to which the Father can have nothing that the Son has not; and with vers. 5 and 24, according to which the Son, before the foundation of the world, shared the glory of God; and with ch. John 1:3, which shows that all things were made by the Word. Augustin rightly remarks: “Were they ever the Father’s, and not the only-begotten Son’s; and had the Father ever anything which the Son had not? Far be it. Assuredly God the Son had once that which He had not as man the Son.” But it was not here the question to exalt the prerogative of the Son. Jesus would lay all His own in the arms of the Father.

“And Thou gavest them Me:” hence they have become Thine in an altogether different sense from that in which they were Thine as men. They were Thine as men: how much more are they Thine as Christians! In the third clause we find the word of the Father mentioned, and not the word of Christ; and this points to the fact, that the relation to Christ is here referred as involving in itself the deepened inwardness of the relation to the Father. Luther: “In their being My disciples, and hearing My word, they hear and keep not My word, but Thine.” To the keeping of God’s word, in this passage, corresponds, in ch. 15, the abiding in Christ. Where this third is wanting, the first two foundations for trust in the grace of God are robbed of all their strength.

Verses 7-8

Vers. 7, 8. “Now they have known that all things, whatsoever Thou hast given Me, are of Thee: 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.”

We have here the further development of “Thou gavest them Me,” and “they have kept Thy word.” They have become, in the fullest sense, God’s own; and therefore He cannot withdraw from them His help.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.”

He does not say, “I pray not not for the world,” nor “I pray not in the same sense;” but generally, “I pray not for the world.” This shows that the world, as such, is simply shut out from the grace of God; that to pray for it would not be according to the will of God; that 1 John 5:16 holds good of the world, “There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” The world may be viewed under two aspects. First, there is the susceptibility of grace, which, despite the depth of the sinful depravation of Adam’s race, still remains in it. Of the world in this sense, Jesus says, “I came not into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world:” comp. ch. John 1:29, John 3:17, John 4:42. Viewed under this aspect, the world is the object of Christ’s intercession. The disciples themselves were won from the world. But the world may also be viewed as ruled by predominantly ungodly principles. Of the world in this sense, we read in ch. John 14:17, that it could not receive the Spirit of truth. To pray for the world, thus viewed, would be as vain as to pray for the “prince of this world.” It is an object not to be prayed for, but to be prayed against. To it apply all those objurgations in the so-called cursing psalms, which our Lord so emphatically and so repeatedly quoted and acknowledged as the word of God. Of that world Psalms 79:10 says: “Let Him be known among the heathen in our sight, by the revenging of the blood of Thy servants which is shed.” To it applies the word of Revelation 6:10: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Luther gives us what is in all essentials the right view: “But how can the two be reconciled. His not praying for the world here, and His commanding us, in Matthew 5, to pray for our enemies? The answer is ready: to pray for the world, and not to pray for the world, must both be right and good. As the world now stands, and as it rages against the Gospel, He will in no way have it prayed for, that God should wink at and suffer its evil nature and ways; but we must pray against it, that God would hinder its projects, and bring them to nought. So Moses did, Numbers 16:15, against Korah and his company: he was very wroth, and said unto the Lord, Respect not Thou their offering. Thus Christ shows us here the two companies: the first and small one, which keeps and must preach the word of God; and the greater one, which aims to thwart that little flock in everything.” Similarly Quesnel: “The world, that corporation of the wicked, which stands fast and ever will stand fast, though individuals of its members may be snatched from it, remains under the curse, and is treated as under the ban, as having no part in the sacrifice of Christ, and therefore none in His intercession. What an idea this must give us of the world!”

Verse 10

Ver. 10. “And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them.”

Only “all Mine are Thine” belongs to the present matter. “All Thine are Mine” is, added only to place in full light the inwardness of the fellowship on which “all Mine are Thine” rests: it is equivalent to “even as all Thine is Mine.” So also, in Matthew 11:27, the clause, “No man knoweth the Son but the Father,” does not immediately belong to the matter in hand, but serves only as a basis of support for “No man knoweth the Father but the Son.” Luther remarks: “It were not so much to say. All Mine is Thine; for every man may declare, that whatever he has is God’s. But it is much greater when He inverts it, and says. All Thine is Mine; for no creature of God can say that.” We have an elucidation of “All Thine is Mine” in Revelation 5:12. There the ten thousands of angels cry, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” The seven ascriptions correspond with the sevenfold praise of God in ch. John 7:12.

Christ was glorified in His people, inasmuch as they perceived and acknowledged, beneath the veil of His servant-form, the true Son of God; and even on that account they became the object of more gracious care to the Father, who beholds His own honour in the honour of His Son: comp. ch. John 11:4. Luther: “By the world I am obscured, dishonoured, and condemned; but they, My disciples, because they hear the word that I am sent of Thee, and that I have all that is Thine, glorify Me. Thereby I am revealed and plainly set before them, so that they regard Me altogether differently from the world, even as Thy Son, the eternal and true God. No possessions and no honours in the world are to be compared with this, that He will be glorified in the infirmity of our poor flesh and blood, and that God the Father is so highly honoured and well pleased when we magnify and honour the Christ.”

Verse 11

Ver. 11. “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 are.”

From the reference to the worthiness of the disciples the Lord turns, in the words “I am no more in the world, but come to Thee,” to the necessities of their condition. That which is here simply hinted is in ver. 12 seq., after the petition uttered, more largely developed. Thence we see that the world is here regarded as a tempting power, and that the words “I am no more in the world” were intended to suggest that the defence which they had hitherto enjoyed would be withdrawn through the departure of Christ, near at hand, and therefore anticipated as already come.

It is not a contradiction that Jesus here says, “I am no more in the world;” while elsewhere He says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” and, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” This latter presence with His disciples belongs to a higher order of things. He is now no longer with them in the world; He visits them from above. This belongs to the domain of the πάτερ ἅ?γιε .

The holiness of God is His absolute supremacy over all things created and temporal (comp. my comm. on Psalms 22:3; Revelation 4:8; Clark’s Trans.). An erroneous notion has been entertained, that by the holiness of God is meant His condescension and mercy; and for this the designation in Isaiah, “The Holy One of Israel,” has been appealed to. But the idea of love is there imported simply and alone by the relation of status constructionis. The Holy One of Israel is the Sovereign God, separate from all that is creature, and independent of all that is creaturely, the absolute and unending One, who belongs to Israel, and from whom an endless fulness of power, in opposition to the world, flows to Israel His people. The passage in Hosea 11:9 is no stronger as an argument: “I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city”

I will not be like men who go in and out of the city. The idea of mercy lies no more in that of the Holy One, as such, than in that of God; although freedom from human outbreaks of wrath is certainly included in the notion of separation from everything creaturely. But here the holiness of God, as the connection shows, comes into consideration only as excluding every idea of want of power. Calvin: “That out of His heavenly glory He may help our weaknesses. The whole prayer tends to this, to prevent the disciples’ minds from sinking, as if their condition would be worse on account of the bodily absence of their Master.” As the Holy One, God has absolutely in His hands the means of granting what was prayed for. The allusion to the Holy Father intimated to the disciples, that the departure of Jesus, their Protector in the past, need not fill their souls with anxiety. They were given over to a mightier One, who could do and who possessed all things. We may compare “My Father is greater than I,” in ch. John 14:28. What Jesus in His state of humiliation petitioned of the Father, the disciples might all the more confidently expect, inasmuch as He Himself entered into the fellowship of the Father’s glory: comp. ch. John 1:5.

The ᾧ? δέδωκάς μοι , “through Thy own name, which Thou hast given Me,” is now pretty generally acknowledged to be the right one: that of οὓ?ς , which Luther [and the English translation] follows, sprang from a misapprehension of the meaning. The ᾧ? , by attraction for ὃ? , which many authorities substitute, points to Exodus 23:21. There Jehovah says concerning His Angel, “My name is in Him” (comp. Christ. vol. i.). The Angel, in whom was the name of God, was the Angel on whom it was incumbent to make a name for God—whose nature is repugnant to being nameless—by manifesting through His glorious acts the nature of God dwelling in Him. The name was, as it were, proleptically used for that aspect of the Divine nature in which the name of God culminates, which impels Him, as it were, out of Himself, and moves Him to manifestation and impartation of Himself: comp. on ver. 6. The addition only makes more expressly prominent that which already lay in ἐ?ν τῷ? ὀ?νόματί σου . The name of God is His character as forming history. His nature as issuing into manifestation; and the unfolding of this name is to be sought only in Christ (comp. ver. 6): only in Him has God a name. The disciples stood in no direct relation to the Father; they belonged to the Father only through the Son; they were kept in the name of the Father, only in so far as the name of the Father was at the same time the name of the Son. Around the name of God in Christ the disciples had gathered. This name alone builds up the Church. In this centre the Holy Father would keep His people. If they should fall out of that name, the Church would cease to exist. According to the connection with what precedes, the world was the power which would make every effort to rend the disciples from the name of the Father and of the Son, thus destroying their unity. Against their persecutions and seductions the Saviour appeals to the power of the Father: asking of Him what He Himself in the fellowship of the Father would do.

That the name of the Father is to be conceived as actually indwelling in Christ,—that we must not interpret it, “which Thou hast given Me to declare”—is evident from the original text, Exodus 23:21. There “My name is in Him” indicates equal Divine glory. For the words were used to enforce a warning against dishonour done to Him: “Beware of Him, and obey His voice, provoke Him not; for He will not pardon your transgressions: for My name is in Him.” The proclamation of the name of the Lord was not incumbent on that Angel; it was His rather to make for God a glorious name by His acts.—“That they may be one, as we are.” The unity of the disciples among themselves was only secondary; it was not to be independently laboured for, but it was to approve itself as real when God fulfilled the petition here uttered. That unity would be precious only if it was not enforced, but should grow out of their abiding in the name of God and Christ, just as spontaneously as the union between the Father and the Son. The type of all those attempts at unity which should be substitutes for this natural union, we have in the Babel of primitive times. That tended only to increase division. He who looks more deeply will not be deluded by it. Luther: “But it is no other than that which Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12, and many other passages, says, to wit that we are one body in Christ; not merely of one opinion or one thought, but of one nature.

But this we can attain in no other way than by this, that God keep us in His name: that is, that we abide in the word which we have received concerning Christ. For the word holds us together, so that we all abide in one Head, and depend on Him alone.

The devil tries hard to break this bond, and by his cunning devices to rend us away from the word.”

Verse 12

Ver. 12. “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.”

To the being given by God corresponds the election by Christ in ch. John 6:70, John 13:18. Faith is the subjective condition of both; and as Judas is numbered among those whom God had given to Christ, at the time of his call he must have possessed faith.

The Lord has Judas in His mind—without however mentioning him, because that would have been out of harmony with the solemn dignity of the prayer—in order to anticipate and obviate the conclusion which might be drawn to the prejudice of His shepherd fidelity, or, generally, of His shepherd ability, from the ruin of Judas. In his case it was necessary that the watchful care of Jesus should be wasted; for he was taken into the number of the Apostles to be dropped from it again. “It had not been the task of the Redeemer to save him, but to bear with him, and, despite his foreknown insalvabihty, to neglect nothing in his case which the relation between Master and disciple, appointed by the Father, demanded” (Schmieder).

Perdition is here used, as in Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, of ruin simply, of the perdition of hell, in contradistinction to ἡ? ζωή , eternal life, in Matthew 7:13. To the son of perdition here, corresponds the child of hell in Matthew 23:15.

The son of perdition is he who belongs to perdition; and Luther’s translation, das verlorne Kind—the lost son—does not exactly hit the point. We may compare the “children of the kingdom,” Matthew 13:38;” children of the bride-chamber,” Mark 2:19; “sons of thunder,” Mark 3:17; “children of this generation,” Luke 16:8; Luke 20:34; “children of light,” John 12:36. This mode of designation, which all the Evangelists show to have been current with Christ, frequently occurs in the Old Testament: compare, for example, the “children of death,” those who were appointed to die and belong to death as personified, that is, the dying themselves, Psalms 79:11; the “children of the needy,” Psalms 72:4. The designation of Judas as the son of perdition involves the reason why ho must be lost; and thus his perdition could furnish no argument to the disparagement of Christ. He was one whose destiny was to be lost. The designation here corresponds to the words which derive his ruin from the necessity that Scripture should be fulfilled. Accordingly the subject, or child of ruin, means one who was devoted or given over to ruin.

Judas was lost, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. Christ knew, when He chose him, that notwithstanding his transitory gleam of faith, he would apostatize and betray Him. If, therefore. He received him notwithstanding into the number of the Apostles, it must have been that he might work out his own ruin, and thus that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which includes such a man among the necessary surroundings of the Redeemer. That he came to ruin was his own fault; but since, in spite of his foreseen fall, he was taken into the number of the Apostles, and would not have been thus ruined if he had not been taken into their number, it may be said that he was lost that the Scripture might be fulfilled. As he would fall, he should and did fall. It was his doom that he was admitted into the near fellowship of Christ, and thus had this peculiar occasion of falling. His election, and the concurrent ruin, were to serve for the fulfilment of Scripture. In harmony with the present text, our Lord says, in ch. John 13:18, that He had chosen Judas that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

The citation of Scripture would be matter of great uncertainty if any other scripture could be meant than that expressly quoted in ch. John 13:18; the only one which our Lord generally applied to the case of Judas. In that passage the perdition of Judas is not directly spoken of, but his traitorous act,—a traitorous act, however, which had perdition as its immediate consequence.

Verses 12-15

Vers. 12-15 serve for the further justification of the prayer mattered in ver. 11. The watchword “keep” recurs in ver. 15, and marks the conclusion.

Vers. 12, 13 dilate upon the element of need, which was briefly hinted at in ver. 11. Vers. 14, 15 return to the element of dignity, which was dwelt upon in vers. 7-10. The disciples are committed to the care of the Father, for Jesus leaves them, vers. 12, 13; they are the bearers of the word of God, and as such worthy of His protection, vers. 14, 15.

Verse 13

Ver. 13. “And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”

After “But now come I to Thee,” we must supply in thought, “and Thou must. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name;” and then follows the statement of the reason why Jesus commits them so emphatically to His Holy Father. Ταῦ?τα , these things, refer to the “Holy Father,” etc. “In the world,” yet being in the world, before My departure. Before He leaves the world, He says this for the consolation of the disciples whom He leaves behind Him. Luther: “Therefore He would by these words show them another secure place, where He would be much better able to keep them and save them; that is, with the Father, to whom He is now going, in order that He may receive all things into His own hands, and be able always to be with them, although outwardly and in the body He might be absent.” “My joy:” that is, the joy which I prepare for them, by means of the prayer which I offer in their hearing and for them to the Holy Father; just as “My peace,” in ch. John 14:27, meant the peace which I give unto them. Joy is here, as in ch. John 14:28 (ch. John 15:11 is not to be compared), the opposite of the sorrow which the disciples felt at the impending departure of Christ. The joy which Jesus provided for them, by committing them to the keeping of the Father, who was greater than He, would be perfect. That resulted from the fact that He to whom they were committed was the Holy One.

Verses 14-15

Vers. 14, 15. “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. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”

That Christ had given them the word of God, was the reason, on the one hand, of the world’s hatred, as between Christ’s people and the world a wall of separation had been set up by that word; and, on the other hand, of that committal of them to the protecting power of God which is pleaded for in ver. 15. The fact that the world hated them would serve to recommend them to God; it was the confirmation of their sincere relation to God. If they had not the word of God in themselves, the world would love them.

They might not be taken from the world; partly because they themselves must, while yet in the world, be prepared and matured for eternal life (ver. 17, and the γνωρίσω , ver. 26); and partly because they must first fulfil the mission entrusted to them for the world, ver. 18 (comp. Php_1:24 , and “Ye are the salt of the earth”). Elijah cried in deep despondency ( 1 Kings 19:4), “It is enough: O Lord, take my life.” That Jesus did not pray the Father that He would take His disciples out of the world, was to warn them beforehand not to pray as Elijah did, when the hatred of the world should pierce them bitterly. Τηρεῖ?ν with ἐ?κ is found only here and Revelation 3:10: the construction is explained by noting that the idea of delivering from is included in the preserving. The ἐ?κ of itself shows that πονηροῦ? is not the designation of a person, but of a domain of evil; that we must therefore not think of the great enemy, but only of evil generally: Luke 6:45; Romans 12:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:3, where τὸ? πονηρόν corresponds to the wicked men of ver. 2; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:19. It is decisive against taking πονηροῦ? as masculine, that here, as well as in the Lord’s Prayer, there is an undeniable allusion to Genesis 48:16, where Jacob says, “The Angel who redeemed me from all evil,” ὁ? ἄ?γγελος ὁ? ῥ?υόμενός με ἐ?κ πάντων τῶ?ν κακῶ?ν , a passage to which we may trace a reference in 2 Corinthians 1:19; 2 Timothy 4:17-18; 2 Thessalonians 3:2-3. It is all the more difficult to establish that Satan was here meant, inasmuch as throughout the prayer the Lord has to do with the world, and never, with Satan. As τοῦ? πονηροῦ? is capable of two meanings, it is obvious that we should adopt that one for which the context decides; and the context here introduces, not the one spirit of evil, but the evil spirit of the world. The evil comes into consideration here, more especially as assuming the character of an inward temptation; to this we are led by the correspondence between “from the evil” and “in Thy name.” Schmieder: “The petition. Keep them from the evil, and the petition, Keep in Thine own name, stand in the strictest connection. Keeping them in the name of God, is keeping them in that which sanctifies; preserving them from the evil, is preserving them from that which would desecrate or rob them of sanctification.” But the pressure of persecution on account of the word. Matthew 13:21, is not to be excluded. The world lieth in wickedness, 1 John 5:19: this evil besets the disciples of Christ in two ways, by two temptations which go hand in hand. That which they have to suffer from the evil in the world, may easily mislead them into making an end of their difficulties, by admitting the evil into themselves.

Verses 16-17

In vers. 16-19, Jesus prays the Father that He would sanctify the disciples, and gives the reason of this prayer.

Vers. 16, 17. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.”

Ver. 16 repeats what had been already said in ver. 14. We may suppose, therefore, that these words are not inserted for their independent meaning, but serve as a foundation for the prayer ensuing in ver. 17. The disciples belong not to the world, because they are sundered from the world by the word of God given to them, ver. 14, by Christ. The Father, therefore, is prayed to make this separation from the world perfect and real by the continual operation of that word.

To sanctify is to separate from the world, and translate into the region of God—to consecrate. The σου after τῇ? ἀ?ληθείᾳ? (Thy truth) is, according to preponderating testimonies, spurious. Bengel has made the remark that we often hear of the truth in John, but never of the truth of God. Ἐ?ν τῇ? ἀ?ληθείᾳ? is explained by the subsequent ἐ?ν ἀ?ληθείᾳ? , from which it must by no means be severed: comp. ἀ?ληθῶ?ς , ver. 8. Now, since ἐ?ν ἀ?ληθείᾳ? is always used adverbially (in 3 John 1:3-4, “walking in truth” is “truly, truthfully walking”), the article “in the truth” must be taken generically; the truth forms the antithesis of semblance and defectiveness: comp. on ch. John 3:21. We find ‘‘the truth” for “truth” also in 1 John 1:6. The addition “Thy” in the present text (σου ) sprang from a misconception of the adverbial character of “in truth.” The Codex Vaticanus omitted the article from a right apprehension of this. And Luther also retained this right apprehension, although he followed the incorrect reading σου : “And that in Thy truth, so that it may be a sound and right sanctification,—as also St Paul speaks in Ephesians 4:24, in justitia et sanctitate veritatis, that is, in a right, pure, and true holiness.” We might, indeed, be disposed to interpret “in truth” as hinting a contrast with Old Testament sanctifyings, which only accomplished an external holiness, “sanctifying to the purification of the flesh,” Hebrews 9:13. But such a reference in this connection would be far-fetched. We are obliged to refer it to the imperfect sanctification of which the Apostles were already the subjects. “They are not of this world,” in ver. 16, means, expressed positively, “They are now already holy;” and “in truth” intimates that this already existing holiness yet lacked its perfect reality: comp. ὁ? ἅ?γιος ἁ?γιασθήτω ἔ?τι , Revelation 22:11.—“Thy word is truth,” and therefore the ground of true sanctification. The word, by means of which the first separation from the world was effected (comp. ch. John 15:3), is also the means by which this separation must be brought more and more to its true and perfect consummation.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

We have here a new motive to the fulfilment of this petition. The disciples were, in ver. 6, viewed as Christians; now they are viewed as Apostles. They were all the more in need of true sanctification, since they were destined for a mission to the world. If they themselves should be infected with the spirit of the world, they would not be able successfully to accomplish their mission. The καθὼ?ς—κόσμον is not a superfluous parallel. He who sent His Son into the world must take care that, by the true sanctification of His messengers, the end of His Son’s mission into the world should be attained. So also, in ver. 16, “Even as I am not of the world” is more than a mere parallel. Christ’s effectual separation from the world was the ground of the sanctification of His disciples.

The Apostles had already received their mission: the Lord had Himself called them Apostles, Luke 6:13, and given them the full authority pertaining to their office, Matthew 10:1.

Verse 19

Ver. 19. “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”

The Father must assure to the disciples the means of true sanctification; because otherwise the Son would have vainly assumed His great undertaking. The thought of the preceding verse returns here in another form. To the sending Christ into the world, corresponds in this verse Christ’s sanctification of Himself. The present is used, because the self-consecration which was to reach its climax in the Redeemer’s atoning death still continues. (Calvin: This sanctification, although it pertained to the whole life of Christ, yet was most eminent in the sacrifice of His death.) The exclusive reference of the words to the impending sacrificial death (Bengel: Sanctifico me, mortem crucis tolerans), disturbs the connection with “As Thou hast sent Me into the world,” which furnishes a comment on “I sanctify Myself,” otherwise indefinite of itself; and it disturbs also the connection with ch. John 10:36. As there, so here also, sanctification is separation to the service of God in His kingdom. The only difference is, that in ch. 10. He who separates is God, while here it is Christ who separates Himself; and in that passage it may be observed that the sanctifying is simultaneous or coincides with the entrance into the world. “For them:” Christ sanctified Himself for the whole world, and His vocation He entered on as a Redeemer of all men; but the Apostles here come prominently into view, because the Lord is now praying for them, and their relations were central: comp. ver. 20. In ch. John 15:13 also, the atoning death of Christ is exhibited as undergone specifically for the Apostles.

After His prayer for the Apostles as to their position in the world, the Lord, in vers. 20-23, turns to the petition for believers in the same relation: comp. the ὁ? κόσμος in vers. 21, 23. The transition to this part of the prayer we see in ver. 18, where the Lord had spoken of the sending of the Apostles into the world.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.”

As to the present participle πιστευόντων , comp. the remarks on ch. John 9:8. All faith in the Church is dependent on the word of the Apostles, the oral or the written; the written, after the death of the Apostles, having of course greatly preponderated in influence over the oral. Following the analogy of the Old Testament, which is everywhere based upon written documentary archives, the Lord must doubtless have had the writings of the Apostles in view. The corruption of so-called oral tradition at that time infected all departments. Our Lord strenuously resisted it, everywhere turning men’s thoughts from human ordinances to Holy Scripture: “it is written” was with Him the constant solution. This being the case, how can we suppose that He would have relied for the diffusion of truth in His Church upon a mere oral tradition? We have the earliest historical commentary upon the saying of this passage in Irenaeus iii. 1: “We have not received the knowledge of the plan of salvation from any others but those who delivered the Gospel; that Gospel which they had first preached, and afterwards, by God’s will, handed down to us in writings, to be the pillar and ground of our faith.”

Verse 21

Ver. 21. “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.”

The second ἕ?ν is opposed by the most important testimonies; and it is condemned by a comparison with ver. 11. There also the being one is made a result of being in God and Christ: the unity has no independent significance; but comes into consideration only as far as it is the necessary result of being in God and Christ. The second ἕ?ν was introduced into the text in consequence of a failure to recognise the truth, that being one and being in the Father and the Son are correlatives, and cover each other. The fact that their union absolutely rests upon their being in the Father and the Son, contains a striking warning against all enforced and self-made unions. Anton: “This wants more than a mere palliative, like the hundreds of union-writings which have been put forth by empirics in our days. All these are only Pelagian workmongering, that introduces worse confusion. The hurt must be healed by one only Physician, the true High Priest.” Real union consists in this, that we become “partakers of a divine nature” through fellowship with the Son, and in Him with the Father, 2 Peter 1:4. Where divisions appear, they must be rectified, not in themselves, but in their root—an interrupted relation to Christ. “All religion,” says Quesnel, “all the counsels of God, point to unity. Jesus Christ is Himself, through His incarnation, the centre and the bond of that union. The whole fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him essentially and perfectly through the word; and He dwells spiritually in true Christians through faith and love.”

The second ἵ?να , “that,” resumes the first. The third is not co-ordinated to these, but serves to indicate the ultimate design which the being of believers in Christ subserves; it furnishes the Church with a power that overcomes the world, and thus serves to realize the end of Christ’s mission into the world: comp. ch. John 3:16. If believers are in the Father and the Son, of one heart and one soul, if the life of Christ is continued in them, that must impress the world. The Church is mighty in its aggression upon the world, in proportion as “I dwell in the midst of her” holds good, in proportion as she approves herself to be the tabernacle of God among men: comp. on Revelation 21:3. The world judges the Teacher by His disciples, the Lord by His servants. When human impulses and passions rule in the Church, she cannot fail to go astray from Christ. But when His image is reflected from the Church, when she presents fruits which grow not in the rest of the world, the world may be induced to recognise in Him the Son of God, who has stamped His image on His people. In the faith that the Father hath sent Christ, the world renounces itself and its own character.

Verse 22

Ver. 22. “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.”

The honour of the Son is to be one with the Father, who shares His nature with Him. From the Son this honour, consisting in unity, passes over to believers, who become one in this, that Christ lives in them. Galatians 2:20, Php_1:21 ; that they eat His flesh and drink His blood, ch. 6. Their unity among themselves is their glory, only inasmuch as it rests upon their unity with Christ. Unity enforced by despotic power and the arts of policy confers no glory.—“Whom Thou hast given Me,” before the world was, ver. 5. For the honour of unity with the Father is the foundation of that collective heavenly condition spoken of there. Schmieder speaks otherwise: “The glory which the Father had given Jesus consists in this, that the Father had already appeared in the Son, and so appeared that the Son spoke words which the Father had given Him, and performed works which the Father wrought through Him, and which no other man could perform.” It will be best, following J. Gerhard, to unite the two: “That beatific communion between the Father and the Son, and also between the Divine and the human nature in Christ.” The second phase of giving honour, here has the first as its basis. That the first cannot be excluded, is evident from ἐ?ν τῷ? ὀ?νόματί σου ᾧ? δέδωκάς μοι in ver. 11, with its allusion to Exodus 23:21.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. “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.”

The words, “that they may be perfected into one,” resume the thought of ver. 22, in order to connect with it the statement of the end which this unity would subserve, the glorious result which would accrue from it: “And if they shall thus become one, the world will thereby know,” etc. It is added, that this unity, in order to the attainment of that end, must be a perfect one—“perfected into one,” that is, all merging into this unity. A blessed residuum of the unity which Christ prays for is even now present in the Church, notwithstanding all appearances. But Christ’s people are as yet far removed from perfect oneness, and on that account the influence of their unity is only imperfect and partial. No other way, however, leads to the consummation of this oneness, but a sinking deeper into Christ; and the conflict which seeks to remove the obstacles to this deeper sinking into Him, is often more helpful to unity than the attempts to establish an enforced unity.

From the prayer for their preservation in time, our Lord turns, in the conclusion, which corresponds with the beginning, to a prayer for their eternal salvation; first the prayer itself, ver. 24, then the ground on which it is urged, vers. 25, 26. Luther: “This is the last but the most comforting thing in the prayer, for all who hang upon Christ, that thus we become confident as to what we have to hope for in the end, as to where we are to find our final rest, we who are in this world, poor and despised, and without any continuing city.”

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “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: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.”—Οὓ?ς δέδωκάς με (Cod. Alex, and Vat. ὃ? δέδωκας , summing up the many into an ideal unity: comp. the πᾶ?ν in ver. 2), primarily the Apostles: comp. ver. 6, John 14:2-3. According to vers. 20-23, however, the prayer really extends to all believers generally, although to the Apostles there was assured a specially distinguished place in the Divine glory, Matthew 19:28. The strength of this “I will” lies not in itself (comp. Mark 6:25; Mark 6:35, the will spoken in prayer appears, by that fact, to be conscious of its limitation), but in this, that it is the Son of God who here speaks. That which He absolutely declares to be His will (differently in Matthew 26:39), must also be the will of the Father. To behold the glory of Christ, and of the Father in Him, is, according to ver. 3, the essence of eternal life; beholding it, we become partakers of it. It is not here “the eschatological union of Christ with His people when He comes back in the clouds of heaven” that is meant; rather the blessedness into which the believer is introduced at the moment of death: compare on ch. John 14:3, John 11:23. “Thou gavest,” according to the current interpretation, is used by anticipation: the Lord regards Himself as already installed in the glory for which He had prayed in ver. 5. But the words, “because Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world,” show that we must think of a giving before the world was, abstracted from the temporary interruption which it suffered through the incarnation. It is equivalent to “which Thou, in love, gavest Me before the foundation of the world.” “Thou gavest” corresponds to “I had” in ver. 5. This ἔ?δωκας referred to a glory given before the world was, and confirms what we said upon the δέδωκας , in ver. 22, against those who would refer it merely to the Son of man.

Verses 25-26

Vers. 25, 26. “O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. 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.”—“Righteous Father” stands in this elevated discourse for “Father, Thou art righteous,” Revelation 16:5; and what follows is, by a constructio ad sensum, continued in such a manner as if these words had preceded. The righteousness of God approves itself in this, that His procedure stands in harmony with His being and action: comp. 1 John 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7; Hebrews 6:10. The righteous one is not the “rightly disposed:” that is rather ישר , ὅ?σιος , comp. on Revelation 15:4. We have here the ground for the request in ver. 24. God must in His righteousness mark out His own before the world by the impartation of eternal glory. The reason given cannot go beyond the matter of the request. Thus we must not, after “the world hath not known Thee,” supplement “therefore must Thou exclude them from eternal life;” but that which is said of the world here serves only to set the disciples in brighter relief by its shadow. That the world cannot attain to eternal life, is indeed involved indirectly in the passage. This follows from the reasons which our Saviour gives for His prayer concerning the eternal life of His people. “I have known Thee:” Jesus places the world first in opposition to Himself, because the knowledge which the disciples had received” flowed from Him as the source.

In their knowing that God had sent Christ, they knew at the same time the Father, who in Christ revealed Himself, whose name dwelt in Him, ver. 11.—“And will manifest:” the work of Christ in His disciples will go on; they are to be raised to a higher stage; and, in consideration of that, the father will overlook their present imperfection. Schmieder: “In the disciples there was still a not-knowing, which must first be done away. But our Lord covers this by the promise that He will further reveal in them the Father’s name. This pledge redeemed them from the deficiency still marked in them.” The “I will manifest” was fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, and the instructions following that event; in the presence of the risen Lord ever with His people; and in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.

The clause with ἵ?να gives the design of the manifestation: if this design were attained, God would not deny them eternal life. That would be to deny His own love, and to dishonour Christ, who dwelt in them. “That the love wherewith Thou lovest Me might be in them:” that Thou mayest love them with the love with which Thou hast loved Isle. “In them:” according to the connection, common in Hebrew, between verbs or nouns of passion with the object of the passion, by means of ב : comp. on ch. John 15:11.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 17". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/john-17.html.
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