These words spake Jesus
Christ’s prayer for Himself
1. The place--probably the west bank of the Kidron; but to a devout soul any spot serves as an oratory (John 4:21; 1 Timothy 2:8).
2. The time--the last night of His life. Not surprising that sinful men should pray then: and comforting to know that the Sinless One then found solace in prayer.
3. The audience--not in solitude as oftentimes before (John 6:15; Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:28), or in the company of strangers John 11:41; Matthew 11:25), but in the hearing of His disciples. Note the distinction between private and public prayer--the former for individual profit, the latter the advantage of others as well.
II. THE SPIRIT.
1. Reverential--lifted up His eyes. It becomes those who approach the throne of grace to remember whose throne it is (Psalms 11:4; Psa_45:6), to cherish exalted views of His majesty (Psalms 31:8; Psa_89:7), and to show them by corresponding outward postures (Exodus 3:5; Hebrews 12:28).
2. Filial--“Father.” In the Spirit of a Son He maintained communion with the Father, which is also the true Spirit for us (Romans 8:15).
3. Believing. Shown by the appeal Christ makes to the arrival of His hour as a reason why His prayer should be heard. The hour being prearranged by the Father, He intercedes for the fulfilment of the promise which was bound up with it. True prayer ever springs from faith in the Father’s promise (Psalms 119:49; Hebrews 11:6).
4. Urgent. Revealed by the action above described, and by the twofold recurrence of the main petition (verses 1-5). Fervent importunity a characteristic of right prayer.
III. THE PETITION. “Father, glorify,” &c.
1. What it implied.
2. What it desired.
IV. THE PLEAS.
1. The honour of the Father. He saw that the cause the Father had at heart could be more successfully carried forward by the Son on the throne of the universe.
2. The salvation of the Church. The work of bestowing eternal life on dead souls would proceed more efficaciously were He in heaven.
3. The recompense of Himself (verse 4). Yet Christ employs this argument only in the third place.
1. The Fatherhood of God is the best refuge for dying men.
2. The chief end of man is to glorify God.
3. Eternal life is impossible apart from the grace of God and the revelation of Christ.
4. The best preparation for heaven is the faithful execution of
God’s will on earth. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The prayer of Christ
Between this and the one offered in Gethsemane there is a difference we cannot help observing. Both were offered on the same night, yet in the one Christ is filled with calmness and triumph, and in the other with agony and dejection. This has been seized by sceptics as proof of the untrustworthiness of Scripture. But note
1. That whilst Christ was Divine He was also human. In proportion as human nature is refined and sensitive it is liable to varying moods arising out of the different influences which play upon it. Christ’s humanity was peculiarly so.
2. That Christ was wont, at times, to dwell upon separate aspects of His destiny. Some were bright, others dark. What more natural in pondering the former as He does here, He should rise into ecstasy.
3. That whatever the Saviour’s mood, He was always true to His redeeming purpose. Proceeding to the prayer, note
I. THAT JESUS SPEAKS TO GOD ON THE GROUND OF GOD’S FATHERLY RELATION. He does not go as servant or subject, but as child, and says “Father” six times in the prayer. Mark
1. How unrestrictedly the name is used. Not “My” Father. He had already taught His disciples to say “Our Father;” so now He makes no selfish appropriation of the name: teaching us Christ’s perfect oneness with ourselves, and our privilege to trust in the love of God.
2. How reverently the name is spoken! The tone we cannot hear; but the gesture suggests it, and the epithets of verses 11 and 25. When you go to the Father never lose sight of the Sovereign, lest you dishonour Him and disgrace yourselves.
II. THAT JESUS CONFESSES TO GOD HIS CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE NEAR FULFILMENT OF HIS MISSION, “The hour is come.” No hour of His life was unimportant, but one hour overshadowed all others--the hour of His sacrificial death. Take that away and what is there left? To Him it was the hour of agony, but of triumph also. To us it is the hour of life and joy, shaded by the thought that to be such to us it was necessary that it should be terrible to Him.
III. THAT JESUS PRESENTS TO GOD A PETITION RESPECTING THE ISSUE OF THE CRISIS TO WHICH HE HAD COME. Although perfect He had to fortify Himself for the trial by prayer.
1. “Father, glorify Thy Son.”
2. “That Thy Son also may glorify Thee”--beautiful unselfishness!
A petition urged by a threefold argument
I. THE PETITION. A vindication of Christ’s character. “Glorify Thy Son.” Answered by
1. The signs at His death.
2. His resurrection.
3. His ascension.
II. THE ARGUMENT is
1. Christ’s relation to the Father. Influence increases in proportion to the nearness of relationship (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15).
2. Christ’s relation to time and to a special period. There is a special hour in every conflict which determines the value of all that has gone before, and gives defeat to one side and victory to the other So this hour in Christ’s conflict with the powers of evil.
3. Christ’s relation to the glory of the Father. That which would bring honour to Christ would bring honour to God, inasmuch as He claimed to be the revealer of the Father.
Lessons from this answered prayer:
1. It is not only for our comfort, but God’s glory that prayer in accordance with His will should be answered.
2. It is right to ask for a vindication of our character when under a cloud, not only for our own sake but for that of others. (W. Harris.)
God has no son without prayer
“What strange condescension, that He who hath the key of David should knock at the Father’s gate, and receive His own heaven by gift and entreaty!” These are Manton’s words of surprise at the first sentences of our Lord’s prayer in John 17:1-26.: “Father, glorify Thy Son.” Even to Jesus it is said, “Ask of Me.” God had one Son without sin, but never a son who did not pray. The cry of “Abba, Father!” is the mark of sonship. True prayer is the sign of a true-born child of God: “Behold, he prayeth” is the token by which each heir of glory is known. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Supreme things in man’s spiritual history
I. The supreme PURPOSE OF EXISTENCE--to glorify the Father. What is this? Not laudation however enthusiastic; not contributing to His blessedness and grandeur, this is impossible--but the revelation of Him in our character and life. Whatever creature works out the nature that God has given him in harmony with His will glorifies Him. It is here indicated that we can only glorify God as He glorifies us. There is more of God seen in a Divinely-inspired and righteously-regulated soul than in all the splendour of the heavens.
II. The supreme MISSION OF CHRIST. In John 17:2 it is suggested
1. That Christ is Master of the race. “Power over all flesh.” His authority is absolute and independent, yet never interfering with the freedom of any of His subjects, and estimating their services not by their amount but their motive.
2. That Christ is Master by Divine appointment. The Divine rights of kings is an impious fiction, but Christ reigns by right divine, and therefore we should obey Him and rejoice in His government.
3. That Christ is thus Divinely appointed in order to make us happy. Eternal life or goodness is the supreme necessity of man. Goodness is eternal because God is eternal. Sin is death.
III. The supreme SCIENCE OF MAN (John 17:3). Physical science is promoted and extolled amongst us. But compared with this knowledge all else is a meteor flash. I only really know the man with whose character I have an intense sympathy. Only so can I know God, and thus knowing God I have eternal life (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The hour is come
The supreme hour
When regarded aright, no hour of any human life can be considered unimportant. It is a portion, and a necessary portion, of one great whole. It may seem to be trivial. We may treat it as though it were of little worth, casting it from us as something we can afford to waste; but that is to act with ignorance, if not with criminality. Examine any building from the foundation to the top-stone, and the architect, who sees the meaning of every stone and the reason of its position, will tell you that all the stones are needed for strength, for symmetry, or for beauty. Remove one, misplace one, and its importance will be evident, for to that degree the structure is imperfect. It is so with our life--the hours of which it is composed are of untold value in their relation to each other and the great whole of which they are parts, so that we dare not be indifferent concerning any one. This is further manifest if we remember that any hour may be to us the most momentous hour of all. Yesterday is the parent of to-day, and by an inexorable law, to-day’s history makes the facts of tomorrow. So that it may be said that in the present hour, as the germ in the seed, lies our coming destiny. How, then, can we call any period unimportant, if it leads on to the most important of all? It becomes great by what it helps to bring. And to every life some great and solemn period comes--a period that may be called the greatest--a period that is decisive--a period that seems to condense in itself all others--for which all others have prepared--just as it is said the hundred years of patient culture have prepared the aloe-tree for the single year in which it blossoms into flower--a period when we are tested--when it is seen what our real characters are--a period which we each may describe as “My hour.” Then we may win everything or lose everything that is worth having. These hours may come in youth or middle age. They do come to us in our temporal affairs and in our spiritual history. Now, the two facts of which I have been speaking are in an infinitely higher degree true of Jesus Christ. There was no season or event in His career that was in any sense unimportant. Knowing who He was--the Divine Man, the world’s Saviour--it is impossible to think of even His simplest action as without significance. Yet we notice that even in His life, in which every moment was supremely great, there was a period which stood forth to His own mind, and which appears in the history as overshadowing all other periods, and, indeed, giving new importance to them all. We have here a remarkable illustration of
I. A DESTINY FORESEEN. It has been maintained by some that there is a certain fixed plan or destiny for every life. The mere statement of such a theory is sufficient to suggest immediately the immense difficulties with which it is surrounded. For you begin to think upon the multitude of gross, wicked, worthless, and suffering lives that are passed in the world, and to wonder whether they are all according to the appointment and will of God. Yet it is impossible not to be convinced that if there be a God, wise, powerful, good, He must have some plan and purpose for all human lives. This, in few words, is our conception of Divine Providence--it is care for the whole, and care for each part. God is the God of order, and if He had not a purpose and a plan, and consequently what we may term a destiny, for each human soul, He would be working without order, and chance and accident would be the governors of the world, and not God. This we can never believe. That it is possible to get out of this order, and to follow our own blind and foolish wills, choosing our own path rather than God’s, seems to me also undeniable. Just as a father, looking upon his son, shall say, “I will educate and prepare my boy for such a business or profession; he shall go to this school for so many years, and then at such an age he shall be placed yonder, and I shall have great comfort when I am an old man in seeing him fulfil all those purposes which I have cherished as the best ambition of my life.” All fathers, I suppose, have some such ideas as these. But how few are realised? The son begins to exercise his own freedom of choice, and sometimes bounds off in a directly opposite road--and all the plans seem confused and broken and worthless. Is not the whole Bible a record of the fact that men constantly choose a way that is not His way, and seem to frustrate the destiny for which they were appointed? All sin is a disturbing element in God’s plans. Yet with this in view we are compelled to believe in the existence of a sovereignty that is able to see all possible contingencies, to estimate and provide for every catastrophe, to compel all things to work out His designs. If I did not hold fast to that, the world would appear to me a chaotic confusion, a terrible place of disorder--no lordship, no mastery--and, therefore, an unaccountable mistake.We come into life for a purpose What that is seems hidden from us. We learn by experience; all is concealed, and it is only afterwards we see God’s purposes, just as Joseph, when in Egypt, saw them. He could not understand his destiny when taunted and sold by envious brothers. It was all mystery when, through a false charge, he was thrust into prison. Some men, however, have seemed to be inspired by an almost supernatural belief that they were sent into the world to accomplish an object very clear to their own minds. The great moral and spiritual reformers of every age have expressed themselves as Divinely inspired and delegated to fulfil the great mission to which they have given their energies--until it was accomplished their hour had not come. Now when we speak of Jesus Christ in such a connection as this we do not forget what and who He was, and that His mission was one of grander importance than that of any other being who has entered our world. He acts and speaks as though He knew and could see that His life and His death are all the result of a prearranged plan. There was to be nothing accidental--nothing that could be attributed to the wild uncertainties of chance. He came not so much to live as to die. That was the supreme hour of His life. For then He became the Lamb of God bearing the Sins of the world. Then He accomplished the purpose of Divine mercy; revealed as it was never before revealed the infinite love of God’s heart to a race that regarded Him with fear and suspicion and hatred. That was Christ’s hour--an hour of untold sorrow, but an hour of wondrous triumph and glory. Do you not see that distinct plan--luminous, certain, inevitable in our Lord’s life? Is it not the thing in His life? Take that away, and what is left? The meaning has gone. The beauty is marred. Like music without the leading part, the air, there may be harmony, but the chief significance is altogether wanting--you can make nothing of it.
II. A FORESEEN DESTINY TRIUMPHING OVER ALL OBSTACLES. We have said that this object lay before Christ all through His life, that all pointed to that supreme hour. But have you ever thought what wonderful preservations there were which prevented any failure? To most of us the thought of Christ’s failure is overwhelmingly terrible, for it means to us the quenching of all hope, a night of bitter despair. A world such as this without a Saviour is the most frightful of all conceptions. What more fearful spectacle can we imagine than that of a company of wretched shipwrecked men fixing all their hopes upon a lifeboat that has started to save them, and yet doomed to see it and their would-be saviours overwhelmed and drowned by the angry sea? But, thank God! that was impossible. Yet He was tried. The devil tried Him in those fierce wilderness-temptations. He would have had Him show His power then, and so gain triumph. When He was in the midst of a multitude teaching them the great truths of the kingdom, His very relatives came and attempted to seize Him, declaring that He was mad. The Pharisees and scribes, with some of His own friends, urged Him to work miracles, and by some grand display of power win a victory over all hearts. Nor, on the other hand, could evil pervert or hinder Him. Persecution ever dogged His steps seeking occasion to destroy Him, but it could not prevail against Him. But His hour was not yet come, and He calmly passed through the midst of them and went His way. Twice the same reason is assigned for His preservation. What was it made them so helpless, then, in comparison with the time shortly after, when they could take and maltreat and crucify Him according to their own wicked will? What was it? Surely the might of God. These facts are rich with comfort to all the faithful servants of Christ in times of anxiety and trouble about their own lives and their work. If we have yielded our hearts to Divine guidance, and are striving in all we do to subordinate our wills to God’s will, to work out His plans in our life, then we have a right to believe that He is ever presiding over our course, arranging and controlling events and circumstances by a wise, unerring, merciful Providence, and that in all He is working out His gracious purposes. So that no room is left for fear. So, on the other side, if any should fear lest the final hour will come and cut them off from achieving the work on which their heart is set--illness, sudden feebleness, even early death-let such be comforted. There is a grand truth in the familiar phrase, “Man is immortal till his work is done.” (W. Braden.)
The momentous hour
1. In every man’s history there are hours of peculiar importance. When a young man leaves home for the first time, and when he becomes his own master; when the man of enterprise wins his first battle and establishes his claim to the public confidence; when the scientific or literary man publishes his first or his greatest work; when the mother gives birth to her first child; when we die.
2. Note the deep interest our Lord attaches to this hour. It was always present to His imagination: In the brighest hours of His life, as at Cana and the Transfiguration and when the Greeks came to Him, and at the darkest, in Gethsemane.
I. JUSTIFY THE INTEREST WHICH ALL DEVOUT MINDS ATTACH TO THIS HOUR, not only in earth, but in heaven (Revelation 5:11-12).
1. The estimate which God forms of it. As there are some seasons on which man fixes with peculiar interest, so with God--the day of creation, the day of the deluge, the day of the Lord, but beyond all is the day of the Son of Man--his birth hour and death hour.
2. The long train of dispensations which preceded it and pointed it out. This is the key of them all. When God at sundry times and in divers manners spake to the fathers, it was but to point to the hour when He should more fully speak unto us by His Son. If He manifests Himself to patriarchs, it is to point out to them His day; if He chooses a peculiar people it is to make them depositaries of the promises of His coming; if He appoints sacrifices and ceremonies, it is but to typify His death.
3. The great work that was accomplished in that hour.
II. WITH WHAT FEELING SHOULD WE REVERT TO THE TRANSACTIONS OF THIS HOUR?
1. With the deepest humiliation that such a sacrifice was needed on our part.
2. With a humble determination to apply its benefits. (Homiletic Magazine.)
The supreme hour
“Father, the hour is come.” The hour; the hour of all hours the most important. What hour like that in interest, what hour so big with momentous issues on all the past, and on all the future! That was the central hour of all time’s hours. The confluence of the two eternities was at that time-point. That hour was the keystone of time’s huge arch, that arch which rests on the one side, and the other on eternity. Many hours in the world’s history are marked and memorable. The hour of the birth or death, the crisis-hour of one of the world’s great ones, a thinker, worker, statesman, or warrior; the hour which gave birth to and introduced some mighty revolution, which proved to be the birth or death hour of a nation, altering the destiny of millions of our race for weal or for woe, is important and to be marked; but what hour like this! an hour which had its bearing on the whole universe, and whose transactions were to effect eternally God and man, angels and devils. It was for this hour that the great clock of Time was set in motion at first. It was for this hour that the world was created and upheld; for this hour Heaven’s justice waited; in it sin was made an end of, and transgression was finished; in it the law of God was magnified, and made honourable; holiness was vindicated; the devil and his work virtually destroyed; death slain, and God’s chosen people saved with an everlasting salvation. The hour is come. The time was numbered to an hour. The betrayer had gone forth on his fell errand; the machinery of death was prepared, and the Victim was ready to bleed and die on the altar. And He it is who reminds the Father that the hour is come. It is Isaac that tells Abraham that it is time he should be laid on the wood and the knife be upraised. The Lamb of God says, It is time He should die, to take away the sin of the world. The hour is come: how solemn and how applicable are the words! This hour was long in coming, but it has come at last. The eye of many a priest and prophet, king and peasant, of the olden time, had been strained in looking earnestly across the intervening ages towards that hour; but, one by one, the eye of these men grew dim with age and closed in death, and still it came not. (T. Alexander, M. A.)
The final hour of the Son of God
This hour was marked by the union of wide extremes, by strange contrasts, and wondrous results. This will appear if we consider it
I. AS THE HOUR OF THE DEEPEST HUMILIATION AND YET OF TRANSCENDENT GLORY.
1. The Son of God was humbled by taking our nature upon Him, and by the poverty and reproaches which He endured; but all these were nothing compared with the humiliations of this hour.
2. Yet it was the hour of His glory. Sense saw nothing but the darkest clouds of shame; faith beholds those clouds gilded with heavenly splendour.
II. AS MARKED BY THE GREATEST OF HUMAN CRIMES AND THE MOST AFFECTING DISPLAYS OF THE DIVINE MERCY.
1. Jesus made His appearance in a wicked age; among other reasons for this, to show that the worst may find mercy. In this hour every evil appears under its greatest aggravations. Hatred of goodness, resistance to the authority of heaven, opposition to the evidence of truth, ingratitude.
2. The hour was not less distinguished by the mercy of God. The murderers were spared to be the subjects of grace. The Sufferer whom they hurried to Calvary was then bearing the punishment of their sins. He whom they stretched upon the cross was the atoning Lamb then laid upon that rude altar. The blood which they drew was then flowing to wash away the guilt even of their sins, and to sprinkle the mercy-seat to give their prayers acceptance.
III. AS EXHIBITING WICKED MEN AND THE EVER-BLESSED GOD ACCOMPLISHING OPPOSITE AND CONTRARY PURPOSES. The intention of the Jews was obvious.
1. It was to destroy Christ and His religion together, and they seemed fully to have accomplished their purpose. Ah, the blindness of man! Christ was put to death by wicked men; but in this they only accomplished “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” Their success was their failure. They conceived that they had disproved His claims to the Messiahship by killing Him; but of the truth of these claims His death was one of the strongest evidences. It accomplished the prophecies and fulfilled the types.
2. They expected, too, to maintain the honour of their law against Him who, as they conceived, proposed to destroy it; but by the very means of His death that law was abrogated. When Christ said, “It is finished,” the shadowy dispensation passed away.
IV. AS BEING THE HOUR OF THE TRIUMPH AND OVERTHROW OF HELL.
1. The tyrant Death triumphed over Him who declared Himself to be “the Resurrection and the Life.” Satan triumphed over the Church. The disciples were dispersed, and hope was gone.
2. But this very hour of triumph was hell’s overthrow. Approaching it Christ rejoiced in spirit, and said, “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” The arm extended on the cross was extended that it might shake down the kingdom of Satan. The head was bowed that it might wear crowns won from the destroyer. He suffered the stroke of death only to rob the monster of his sting; and He sunk into the grave only to seize the key of its power, to open the gloomy realms, and call forth the prisoners to everlasting life. And the triumph over the Church was but temporary. The disciples were scattered only to be gathered again; discouraged only to be emboldened.
V. AS DISTINGUISHED FROM EVERY OTHER as a point of time standing between the eternity of the past and the future, and related to each in a manner which marks no other.
1. From eternity it was regarded by God. His plans of creation, providence, and grace were all arranged with respect to it. The law was given and types were set up all with reference to it. To it the patriarchs looked with intense feeling. The prophets inquired diligently into the import of their own predictions.
2. Through time and the eternity which follows there will be a constant looking back upon this hour. The Saviour looks back upon His sorrows. He remembers what it cost Him to redeem; and He will not therefore hastily destroy. Penitents look back to that hour, and hope for pardon, holiness, and eternal life. Saints look back upon it; and it fires their love and kindles their joys. The glorified spirits of believers will for ever look back upon it, and exclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb,” &c. Conclusion: This eventful hour suggests
1. The infinite evil of sin.
2. Motives of
Glorify Thy Son
The Divine glorification
I. THE FACT. “Father, the hour is come.” He does not say “Our Father” as He had taught His disciples to say, for that would have seemed to place Him on a level with them; nor “My Father,” as this might seem to suggest separation; but He says simply “Father!” that great name which He alone had fully unfolded as summing up all the grace of His nature and all the mystery of redemption. The “hour” was the hour of
1. Mysterious suffering.
2. Mortal conflict (John 14:30). Satan’s hosts were to be overthrown and the world emancipated from their grasp.
3. Glorious exploit. It was the crisis of the world’s history and hope.
II. THE PETITION. Jesus here speaks in the third person--“Thy Son,” not “Glorify Me”; as if to indicate still more impressively the relationship between Him and the Father. But this was not all that was meant. The voice from the celestial presence had again and again declared, “This is My beloved Son,” &c. The Saviour here, as it were, reminds the Father of this. The words “glory” and “glorify” vary in signification according to circumstances. Glory to a man engaged in earnest conflict would be victory; to a man struggling with poverty affluence; to a man in sickness, health. So Christ has in view the hour of agony, and the completion of His work and His glorification has, therefore, a special relation to that. The petition comprehended
1. Divine recognition. “Own Me as Thy Son.” And this glorification was given Him. Nature sympathized with the mysterious Sufferer, and the Roman centurion was constrained to say, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Especially by the Resurrection was He “declared to be the Son of God with power.”
2. All-sufficient support, that He might bear up under all and go through all as became Him who had undertaken the work of human salvation.
3. Perfect success. He had come to do a glorious work, and its accomplishment was essential to His glory.
III. THE OBJECT. “That Thy Son also may glorify Thee.” Do not these words bear decisive testimony to the Godhead of our Saviour? What mere creature could presume to ask this? The Divine glory would be secured by Christ’s suffering, for it was
1. The vindication of the Divine authority which had been defied. Sin could not pass unpunished in the universe of a holy God. Therefore the incarnate Son gave Himself to the cross as heaven’s protest against hellish falsehood and man’s iniquity, and to make an end of sin.
2. A new revelation of the Divine character. Evil had darkened the human mind so that the knowledge of God among men became lost. The Creator was looked upon with dislike and distrust. Jesus came to reveal the Father. Men would see in the Cross more gloriously than anywhere besides the perfections of the loving, righteous, and merciful God.
3. The triumph of the Divine grace. Jehovah’s highest honour amongst men is in the pardon of sin and the salvation of the lost, and in the bringing of many sons unto glory. (J. Spence, D. D.)
The mediatorial glory of Christ
The Lord Jesus is here praying in His mediatorial character. He is praying not as God alone, nor as man alone, but as God-man. And praying thus as God-man, He seeks that the Father may glorify Him. In the fifth verse we are told distinctly what the glory was which He sought. It was the very same glory which He had with the Father, when He dwelt in His bosom before the forthgoings of all time. As God He needed not to seek this glory. As God it was His of eternal and natural right. But as God-man, as the Covenant-head and Surety of His people, it was the promised reward of His work, sufferings and death. It was not all the reward, but it was part of it. He shall see His seed. He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. These were parts of it, but this glory was part of it also. As the one only Covenant head of His people--as the one Daysman between God and man--as uniting in his own person the Divine nature and the human, and in that person doing a work, He was to be exalted, and that above every name, thing and power. He was to be uplifted, as the representative of His Church, to the supreme seat of the universe, as God-man in glorified humanity, He was to be surrounded with the full blaze of the glory of eternity, to be made the centre of every holy eye, the joy of every holy heart, the love of every ransomed soul. He, the Sun of Righteousness, was to ray forth every beam of the Father’s love, power, excellence, and perfection. As the Head of His Church--the representative of His people--all honour and all glory were to be His, the full glory of the Godhead was to be His; the glory of the triune Jehovah, as it existed before the birth of time, in the remotest silence of the past and unpeopled eternity, was to be His, and for an inheritance for ever. As the Eternal Son, and so as God, He had a right of nature to the undivided glory of the triune Jehovah, but as God-man, and as the Substitute of His people, He stood on other ground. Ere He could possess this glory, as Mediator, He had a work to perform. He had the law to obey, its curse to endure, and God to glorify on the earth; and, in consideration of this work and as a reward for it, as God-man, this, the accumulated glory of eternity, was to be conferred upon Him by the Father. (T. Alexander, M. A.)
As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh
The royal prerogative
I. THE POSITION ASSIGNED TO CHRIST. It is of mediatorial supremacy. The word rendered “power” is “authority”--the right of dominion.
1. The source of this authority was God (John 5:22-26).
2. Its nature is power to legislate and rule.
3. Its extent is universal--not the race of mankind only. His dominion as the Christ extends to all life that has been damaged by the Fall and cursed by sin.
4. This supremacy is not a matter of mere doctrinal importance, it is of momentous interest and highest encouragement. He who rules over us is one of ourselves, with human feelings and human sympathies, and yet altogether free from human imperfections.
II. THE PREROGATIVE WHICH CHRIST IS SO EXERCISE
1. Its object is to give eternal life to man.
2. Its extent. “To as many,” &c. The interests and affections of the Father and the Son must be identical; still there is the truth that the Father’s gift to the Son measures the Son’s gift of life to men. But vast is the gift which the Father has given to the Son (Psalms 2:8; Hebrews 2:10; Revelation 7:9).
3. Christ exercises this prerogative personally and directly. Human governments influence their subjects indirectly; but life comes straight from Christ to every one of His disciples through the quickening grace of His Holy Spirit. He has entrusted to no Church, system, set of men, this power. Hence every one of His disciples may say as truly as St. Paul, “He loved me and gave Himself for me”; and exclaim with St. Thomas, in adoration and worship, “My Lord and my God.” (T. Alexander, M. A.)
1. As the text stands it is sometimes interpreted to mean that God gave Christ power over all flesh in order that He should impart eternal life to a certain number selected by the Father and given over to Him. In the stricter rendering, the meaning appears rather to be that God has given Christ authority over all flesh, that to all given to Him He might give eternal life; thus suggesting that it is God’s plan to give Him authority over all in order that He may give eternal life to all. Then if that be the ease, if any do not receive that life it is because they resist the authority. It is their own fault. In the contrary view not only does it appear unnecessary to have given Him a universal power for a partial work; but those who do not receive the life are not to be blamed, as they never had the opportunity of receiving it. If I were to gather fifty people and say, “I have received authority from a person whom you ought to obey to offer you a gift, which I hold in my hand for those who wish to have it”; supposing some turned away, the blame would be their own if they did not receive it. But if I brought the same persons together, and said, “I have authority to offer some of you, privately selected, a gift which I have here”; you could not find great fault if some sat still and said, “We do not see why you have summoned any except those chosen favourites, and we will wait to see if we are among them.” In the one we see what looks like a flaw in the perfect justice of God, which we do not see in the other.
2. But some people will say we have no right to sit, so to speak, in judgment on the perfect justice of God. Do you remember John Knox’s answer when Queen Mary asked him who was he that presumed to school the nobles and the sovereign of her realm? “A subject, madam,” said he, “born within the same.” Birth has its rights; and one of the birthrights of God’s children is to form their own judgment of their Father’s dealings with them. Does God’s character come fairly out of a transaction such as has been described? Why authorize Christ to say, “Come unto Me all ye that labour,” &c.; when the real meaning is--“You may all come, but there is rest for the souls of only a certain number.” Now, the meaning which we find in the most literal rendering of this text is most in agreement with the righteous character of God. Let us see what the statement teaches us.
I. GOD HAS GIVEN CHRIST AUTHORITY OVER ALL FLESH.
1. Authority is a higher thing than power, for it appeals to that which is within a man, while power appeals to the outward man. Though I had no rightful authority over a man, I might have such a power over him as to force him to do my will; but my power could not coerce his reason or conscience. It is to these authority appeals. It may rule these though it has no outward strength, and may be powerless and yet be none the less authority. Christ’s authority over all men was the same when He hung upon the cross as when He raised the dead. For it was not an official authority such as that of viceroy, which ceases when he is recalled; such as that of the priest who claims to absolve the sinner and direct the conscience, because he has been ordained by a bishop. It was not an authority which He had won for Himself by His displays of power, and which was lost when these were made no longer. It was the authority of the Divine character of the perfect Man swaying, because of His Divine perfectness, the hearts and minds of men.
2. We are helped to understand this when we compare with this chap. 5:27. Christ receives authority to judge men because Himself a Man, and yet the embodiment and example of the sinlessness of which they fall short. The authority which Christ has over us is the authority of love. And there is no authority like this, because you see Him to be the worthiest of your love and in whose love for you have full confidence.
II. OUR POSITION IN REGARD TO THIS AUTHORITY.
1. Had He an absolute power over us, then of course there would be no resisting. We should be forced to yield to Him. But this authority we can resist, or we can yield to it. What it expects from us is spiritual submission. In thus yielding to Him we are carrying out the desire and design of God. We are working together with Him, so are working out our own salvation; for the end for which God has planted this Divine authority in Christ is that we should have “eternal life.”
2. This is eternal life--to enter into the light and freedom and blessedness of a true knowledge of God as He is revealed in Christ. It is the life of the spirit, the life which is akin to God’s and can never taste of death. We enter on this through yielding to the authority of Christ. The essence of the eternal life is not endless existence. That might be a curse rather than a blessing.
Let us understand
1. That God has given His Son authority to win us by love, not to sway us by force.
2. That God does not work in order to bless any one section of mankind, but to bless the race at large. The authority of Christ is co-extensive with that dominion of God which is over all His works.
3. To trust this all-embracing love and goodwill, and do what we can to meet it, and to show in our own lives its sanctifying power.
4. To feel our responsibility. (R. H. Story.)
This is life eternal
The everlasting life
THE INESTIMABLE BLESSING OF WHICH OUR LORD SPEAKS. Life is a great boon. “My kingdom,” a dying monarch is reported to have said, “for an inch of time.” Yet after all what is this present life in itself (James 4:14)? And when it is most eagerly prized and most hilariously spent, its possessor may in the saddest sense be dead (Romans 8:6). Eternal life is the highest possible life for man. Two causes may end our life on earth. It may be terminated by external force or by inward disease. Eternal life
1. Has nothing to terminate it from without. Force from God alone can end life; and the Divine power is entirely on the side of this life.
2. Is without anything to end it from within. Disease destroys physical life. But eternal life is the progress and consummation of a life begun on earth by a new birth from God, and has in it no element of evil.
II. HOW CAN THIS LIFE BE REALIZED? It is not that this knowledge leads or points out the way to attain it. Life itself consists in this knowledge
1. God and Christ are its objects. The Father is called “the true God” in opposition to false deities. The juxtaposition of Christ with the Father, and the knowledge of both being defined to be eternal life, is the strongest inferential evidence of the Godhead of the Son. But why does Jesus, as Mediator, thus make the knowledge of Himself essential to life?
2. But we must not suppose that this is bare intellectual knowledge. It is the conscious possession of God. Certain truths about God may be seen in many ways and everywhere; but the spiritual perception of God Himself can only be reached in Christ.
3. This knowledge involves spiritual submission to God, or the personal reception of Him. Only to the soul that receives Him will He reveal His Revelation 3:20; John 14:23). To all who receive Him, He manifests Himself as He does not unto the world. With respect to our fellow-men, we frequently use such language as this: “I scarcely know him,” or “I knew him well,” and the phraseology varies according to our acquaintance with the man’s character or his moral and social qualities. We may believe from report in a man’s generosity; but how different is our estimate or appreciation of his character when we can say from experience that we know it. Abraham believed God and obeyed; but when the Divine promise was fulfilled, and the Divine faithfulness proved, the patriarch knew God in a way that he did not know Him before.
III. HOW COMES IT THAT THIS TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS LIFE? We know what connection there is between knowledge and the energy and enjoyment of our every-day life. “Knowledge is power.” It has the power of salvation, transformation, progress. It is knowledge which lifts up the life of the savage. The highest knowledge for man must be the highest life.
1. The true knowledge of our heavenly Father involves the communication of influence, and influence flowing forth from God is quickening. Real knowledge cannot be received without a healthful influence on the soul. A penitent child cannot know that his father has forgiven him without feeling emotions of tenderness and joy. What, then, must be the influence of the knowledge of the true God, our God and Father!
2. This knowledge promotes fellowship and communion with God, which is life. To man, as a social being, fellowship with others is life. The contact of thought with thought, and the communion of affection with affection, are elements of men’s true life on earth. What, then, must be the fellowship of the soul with God, but life of the highest order?
3. This knowledge promotes likeness to God; and this assimilation to God is the very highest life (1 Colossians 3:10). (J. Spence, D. D.)
The knowledge of God is eternal life
I. WHAT IS COMPRISED IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD?
1. In answering this question, we need hardly remark that it implies a knowledge of God’s existence. The remark is self-evident. The knowledge that He is the beginning of all knowledge of God. But whilst this is comprised in a knowledge of God, it does not constitute the knowledge. A man may know that there is a God; he may not only know it from the statements of others, but he may have actually examined it, and may be well conversant with the evidence of God’s existence with which nature abounds, and be able to give to every man that asketh him a reason for his belief, and yet he may be destitute of that knowledge which is “eternal life.” How exquisitely the Scripture speaks upon this point! “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble.” You need to know something more--something that devils do not, and cannot, know--in order to the enjoyment of eternal life.
2. Again, it comprises a knowledge of God’s attributes, such as His eternity. His omnipresence--that, as He existed throughout all time, so He fills all space and pervades all worlds. His omniscience--that, existing throughout all time, and pervading all space, He knows all things. Such are some of the attributes which are essential to Divinity; and I need not say that the knowledge of these is comprised in a knowledge of God. But, then, all that, along with the knowledge of God’s existence, does not constitute the knowledge of which our text speaks. There is reason to believe that devils know God’s nature as well as existence; and yet they tremble. Ah, my brother, this knowledge might well drive thee to despair: but it cannot give thee peace. It may convince thee of sin, and fill thee with alarm, but it cannot give thee peace. The knowledge of something more than this is necessary to eternal life.
3. In proceeding to show what it is which constitutes this knowledge, I beg you to notice that it is what is described in the text as the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. It is so described because it is through Christ that the knowledge is communicated.
(2) You need to have something more than this, in order to your enjoying eternal life; and this leads me to observe, secondly, that in Christ you have a manifestation of the love of God. But even this is not enough. It is not enough to know that God loves us; that though He is just, He must punish sin. You need have something more in order to your enjoying life eternal. Oh, then, ponder the statements of God’s Word in which that truth is found; and until it falls on your understanding, until it is impressed on your hearts, never to be erased--and, thank God, you need not wait long--for oh, it is plain and easy, and even now you may open your hearts to the perception of it, and even now you may enter into faith; even now you may look up to your God as your Father and your Friend; for both by word and by deed does God say, “I have accepted My Son’s work for thee, O sinner; I was well pleased with what He has done for thee; His death is a perfect atonement for all thy sins; I am satisfied with it; be thou satisfied with it, be at peace, be thou reconciled to God.” I do not mean to say that what I have set before you contains anything like full knowledge of God. No man can find out the Almighty to perfection. It does not amount to even an index of what might be known; it is only of the knowledge which is necessary to life.
II. And now let me proceed, in the second place, to show, as briefly as I can, HOW THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE, or in what sense it is.
1. And, first of all, it is so, if you consider eternal life as consisting in the enjoyment of God’s favour. We read in this book, “And in His favour is life.” Now, the knowledge of God is essential to the enjoyment of His favour. It is true that His favour rests on men, whether they know Him or not; for how else could they account for the varied blessings which they are daily receiving? But, then, though it rests on them, they do not enjoy it whilst they do not know Him. Their own feelings are just as unpleasant; their relation to God is as painful; they are as much alienated from God as if He were really their enemy.
2. And, then, again, the knowledge of God is eternal life, if you regard eternal life as signifying the privileges and enjoyments of the heavenly cities. The knowledge of God imparts that character, or produces in man that character, which increases the enjoyment of heaven. The character on which heaven is conferred is “conformed into God’s image”--sympathy with his feelings and his desires; or, in other words, it is living in a oneness with God. Now, the knowledge of God necessarily and invariably produces this character in man. The Cross of Christ contains a motive power which the human heart, depraved as it is, cannot both contemplate and resist. No man can truly and intelligibly say that Christ died for me, and gave Himself for me; God’s wrath was suspended over me, the Saviour stepped between me and that wrath, that it might fall on Him, and that I might be saved--no man can say that without loving God in return.
3. And then, again, the knowledge of God is eternal life, if you understand the knowledge of God as heavenly happiness. Whence, let me ask, do the redeemed in heaven derive their happiness? Is it from the splendour of the place which they occupy? from the beauty and sublimity of scenes upon which they gaze? is it from the music with which their ears are charmed, or from the delicious fruits with which they regale themselves, or from their exalted companionship? No. They know that God is love, and that is their happiness. God is set forth to their contemplation as a God of love, and they find their employment, and their enjoyment too, in meditating on the proofs of His love with which the universe abounds--every new discovery giving a new impulse to their zeal and a new zest to their praise. And, hence, you find John speaking as if this were the consummation of the saint’s desire: “We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (W. Landels.)
Eternal life in the knowledge of God and Christ
1. When Jesus said these words, the transitoriness of life was pressing upon Him and His disciples. When life seemed frailest and most unreliable, they heard Him praying, “This is life eternal.” The assertion of something in life, which lasted and did not go to pieces, must have come in very solidly and nobly. So often when we are most conscious of mortality, when disease is triumphing over that which disease can touch, the least reminder of that which is immortal restores us, puts courage into our frightened hearts.
2. What is it, then, whose eternity Jesus proclaims so confidently? When everything else decays, what is it that is imperishable? Jesus says it is the knowledge of God and of Himself. Now, remember that the knowledge of God and Christ must mean, and in the Bible always does mean, s personal relationship with God and Christ. It is not mere absolute knowledge. It is what He is to us, not what He is to Himself, that we may know of God. So that to know Christ and God is to have to do with Christ and God in the way of love and service. And Jesus says that the permanent part of our life is the part which has to do with God.
3. Here is a very clear and simple test of all our life. Our houses must decay. What is there in them that will last? That which had to do with God. Not their bricks and mortar, but the tempers and the hearts that were cultivated in them. Our institutions will perish--even our churches. But that which really knew God in them no tooth of time can touch. Our friendships and relationships have a promise of permanence only as they are real spiritual intimacies knit in with one common union to God.
4. When we fasten our thoughts on this, how it changes the whole aspect of the lives and deaths of men! Here is a poor, holy man dying. How little difference death makes to him! He is to keep all that has to do with God, and to lose all the rest. What is there for him to lose? How much there is that he will keep! But another man, so much richer, lies dying. What an enormous change death is to him! All his life has been worldly. What is there that he can keep? How almost everything he must lose!
5. Thus the eternal part of us is not that which God shall choose at some future day to endow with everlasting life. Eternity is a true quality in the thing itself. This really brings me to what I wanted to preach about--the regulative and shaping power of a Christian faith in this life. What are the great deficiencies of daily moral life?
I. THE DIFFICULT BALANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY. Men know what duty is, but the even, steady pressure of duty upon the whole surface of a man’s life is something which thoughtful men are always missing. On one day the sense of responsibility is overwhelming. The next day it is all gone. The consequence is doubly bad. Some tasks are wholly neglected, and others are done under a burden and a strain which exhaust us. Our life grows all spasmodic. Oh, for some power which, with broad, even weight, should press every duty into its place, coming down from such a height that it should be independent of their whims and moods, and weigh upon tomorrow and to-day alike, calm, serene, eternal. Now hear our text. There is the answer to our longing! To love God out of gratitude, and to want to serve Him out of love--there is the rescue! The doing of all duty, not only for itself, but for His sake who wants it done--this is what puts force and pliability at once into duty, making it strong enough for the largest, and supple enough for the smallest tasks, giving it that power which the great steam engine has, with equal fidelity to strike down a mountain and to pick up a pebble, adapting its movements to such different work. Is not that the redemption of responsibility?
II. THE DIFFICULT SENSE OF BROTHERHOOD. The decay of the power of feeling this is one of the sad things of all advancing life. It is not so hard for children. The young man has not settled yet into the fixed tastes and occupations which decide for him with whom he should have to do. And so he easily strikes hands with everybody, and has a certain superficial brotherhood with every one he meets. But as the man grows older his life draws in. He cannot reach out and take in a larger circle. Even patriotism is harder than it used to be. And to let his affection go sweeping out to the ends of the earth and down into the gutter where the outcasts lie--this seems preposterous. How can one keep and grow humane? “This is life eternal,” &c. If I have lost sight of my brethren, I must go back to my Father to find them. It is the Father’s house that we must meet. I am not merely a merchant among the merchants, a lawyer among the lawyers, a minister among the minister. I am a son of God, doing His will out of love; a son of God among the sons of God.
III. THE BEARING OF TROUBLE. Trouble comes to everybody, and what men ordinarily call bearing it, is apt to be one of the dreariest and forlornest things conceivable. How you hate and dread to go into that house of suffering. What you do find is apt to be either a man all crushed and broken into fragments, or else a man proud, cold, stern, hard, whom you pity all the more for the wretchedness of his proud, hard misery. But now neither of these men is really bearing his sorrow. Neither of them has really taken his trouble on his shoulders, to carry it whither he pleases. Each of them, in different ways, is borne by his sorrow. And now, what is the matter with both these men? Simply that they laid out a plan of life which was not broad enough or deep enough to have any place for trouble. When they designed their lives, they left sorrow out. So many lives are like ships sailing for Europe in the brilliant morning of a summer’s day, and, by and by, when they are out in mid-ocean, and the night comes, and the sky and water both grow black, finding that they have brought no lights of any kind. And then, if I turn aside and find a man who really does bear his sorrow, what is it that is different in him? It must be this: that he has some notion of life which is large enough to take in trouble. The Christian enters into the profoundness of consolation because he loves his Governor and his Educator. “This is life eternal,” &c.
IV. THE LACK OF NOBLENESS. There come occasional moments in every man’s long life when he feels that he is living nobly. Something makes him forget himself, with ardent enthusiasm fire up for a principle, with easy scorn push back temptation, with deep delight glory in some friend’s greatness, greater than his own. The man is pitiable who has known no such moments. But one or two such in a man’s life only show out by contrast the general low level at which our lives are lived. There is a littleness that wearies us. There is a drag to everything, that makes us ask: “Is it worth while?” Now all those qualities which make up nobleness must become permanent and constant in any man who really knows and loves God and Jesus Christ? Be a Christian constantly, and you must be noble constantly. Know Christ’s redemption, and, seeing all things redeemed in Him, their possibilities, their ideas must shine out to you. Unite your life to God’s, and it must glow with the enthusiasm of His certain hopes. Give yourself up to your Redeemer, and you must be rescued from selfishness. Love God, and you must hate His enemies, treading sin under foot with all His contempt and indignation. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
On knowing God
I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.
1. The existence of God lies at the foundation of all religion: and, therefore, the knowledge of God is the touch-stone of its principles. Error and falsehood are not going to yield to any science but that of Deity.
2. It is the lack of this knowledge which sustains impiety. The stupidity of sinners would be gone if they saw clearly what God is. That one thing they shun. They do not like to retain God in their knowledge.
3. If Christians knew God better, their piety would be increased. Those ancient saints, whose happy attainments held them superior to the world, always nurtured their piety by much study and fellowship with God.
4. This subject of knowledge can never be exhausted. A finite mind, perhaps, may reach some point in eternity when it shall have compassed all other subjects, and be able to look down upon and over all other fields of knowledge without darkness and without a doubt. But God still lies above it--beyond it!
5. By a true knowledge of God, we shall have a clear and experimental discernment of the beauty and grandeur of His character. Hence, we shall feel the desirableness of being like Him.
6. Our relations to God are such that we ought greatly to desire to know Him well. He is our Maker; He wilt be our Judge.
II. SOME ARGUMENTS FOR THIS STUDY. This knowledge of God tends
1. To humble us. When we know Him best we know ourselves best. It is this that dissipates our delusions. “Woe is me! I am undone.” Why? “Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
2. To crucify us to the world. To have a spiritual understanding of the exceeding excellencies of God makes the world seem but a very little thing. It shows us its emptiness. The heart uses that new arithmetic, to count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
3. To purify the heart. No sight is so transforming as that of God. When we can have our minds and hearts brought so as to see with open face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory.
4. To confirm and establish the believer’s heart. Speculation cannot do this. Self-examination, submission to creeds and forms, and all study of doctrines, cannot do it. To have full views of God; to know Him by direct fellowship; to live in His presence, and lie down and feel that the everlasting arms are around him, shows to the believer the fulness and the faithfulness of God, and confirms his heart in something like the full assurance of hope. Now he can call God his Father.
5. Hence such a knowledge of God is most satisfying and safe. (I. S. Spencer, D. D.)
The knowledge of God
The Holy Scriptures often use the phrase, “knowledge of God,” or “the knowledge of the Lord,” as a character of true religion. This phrase is particularly applied to that premised period in which the power of religion shall universally prevail. “They shall all know Me, from the least unto the greatest.” “The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth,” &c. In the ancient Scriptures the knowledge of God was usually propounded simply; here it is propounded in a manner corresponding to the clearer light of the Christian dispensation in its inseparable connection with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And note that our Saviour connects the knowledge of God with the universal prevalence of Divine truth (John 17:2).
I. THE NATURE AND PROPERTY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. It comprehends
1. A just conception of His existence, attributes, and administration--i.e., of Him as “the only true God.” Consider
(a) In opposition to all the false deities.
(b) In His enactments, promises, threatenings; so that He will in no sense deny Himself.
(c) As the sole and inexhaustible source of truth.
2. Experimental acquaintance with Him as our God and Father and our portion. This is knowledge of the heart. By the other the eyes of the understanding are enlightened; by this the desires and affections of our hearts are filled and sanctified. It is this knowledge of God which is of the utmost importance. It is not speculation which may teach you to inquire, but faith, which constrains you to trust, which gives you the right knowledge of God.
3. A practical acknowledgment of His authority and government. This last particular shows that the true knowledge of God embraces all religion, as it elevates the mind, sanctifies the heart, and regulates the conduct. “The children of Eli knew not the Lord”; that is, they gave practical evidence that they were utterly estranged from an obedient acknowledgment of Him. “And thou Solomon, my son,” says David, “know thou the God of thy father.” He amplifies and explains that direction in what follows:--“And serve him with a perfect heart,” &c.
II. THE APPOINTED METHOD IN WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE IS ATTAINABLE BY US. By approaching Him through the believing knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent as our Saviour.
1. Man, until visited by the “Day Spring from on high,” is destitute of the knowledge of God. Is not his mind covered with darkness? Is not his heart alienated by guilt and depravity? Is not his life one continued scene of rebellion against the Most High?
2. This knowledge of God cannot be obtained by man alone. Man has had opportunities to try to do so on the largest scale. Go, then, through all the resources of human wisdom, the splendid scenes with which His universal temple is hung around; listen to all the voices which are incessantly sounding in our ears and proclaiming our Creator and Preserver; traverse the spacious Temple, mark its stately proportions, and gaze on its sublime beauty; and when you have done all, inquire, “What must I do to be saved?” There is nothing in all this that teaches me, a guilty and fallen creature, the way to God.
3. This is the way--the way which is opened by Jesus Christ. You cannot come to God as your Father, especially to God as your reconciled and gracious Father, but by Jesus Christ.
III. THE INESTIMABLE BLESSING WITH WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE IS IDENTIFIED. “This is life eternal.” Consider the knowledge of God in Christ
1. In its commencement. Go to that simple and happy Christian believer who has just found this knowledge. He will give you, perhaps, not a doctrinal statement, but a living pattern, which in many respects is better. While he speaks of the knowledge of God in Christ, he associates it with inward experience. He will testify that he who believeth in the Son of God hath everlasting life; that he has the life of pardon and peace. He was “dead in trespasses and sins,” but he is “quickened together with Christ.”
2. In its more mature progress. Go to the experienced Christian. He may be an unlettered man, perhaps, and be perplexed if you asked him a definition, or to expound a difficult passage of the Holy Scripture; but, under the assistance of the Spirit of God, he has embraced the system of truth itself. In all his course, the knowledge of God in Christ has been inseparable from advancement in the Divine life.
3. In its consummation. Then we shall “see as we are seen, and know also as we are known.”
1. Have we acquired this knowledge? If we have not, may I not say, “Some of you have not the knowledge of Christ; I speak this to your shame.” Have you spent twenty, thirty, forty, or more years, yet dark, dead, rebels against God?
2. Let me earnestly exhort you who are in quest of this knowledge of your God, that you seek it in the right way. “Yea, doubtless,” says the Apostle, “and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” To know Him is to know the way that leads to the Father.
3. Let me exhort you to do all you possibly can to promote this knowledge of God in Christ. We ought to do that on a large scale; we ought to unite in those truly sublime societies which are aiming to extend the knowledge of God in Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth. But if it be valuable for the ends of the earth, it is valuable for your own homes. If pagan families and vicinities ought to have it, yours ought to have it. (J. Hannah, D. D.)
Knowledge--power in religion
(Text, and Hosea 4:1-19; Hos_5:1-15; Hos_6:1-11):--The adage. “knowledge is power, is of universal application. That many act contrary to the truth in their possession is no proof that this is not so. That the wicked remain wicked, the drunkards remain drunkards, the selfish selfish, only proves there is another power within them which decides their course rather than the dictates of knowledge.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE RECOGNIZED IN THE SCRIPTURES,
1. Moses commanded the Israelites to teach their children Deuteronomy 6:9).
2. The prophets were teachers.
3. The Levitical tribe was not only a tribe of priests, but also of teachers.
4. Christ Himself is a Prophet.
5. The apostles were instruments of salvation by proclaiming its principles.
6. The work of the Church in all ages is to bear witness to the truth--to make it known.
II. HOW IS KNOWLEDGE POWER IN RELIGION?
1. Necessary to begin a new life.
2. Knowledge necessary to the growth of the new life. Life must be fed--vegetable, animal, intellectual, and spiritual life.
3. Knowledge necessary to be useful. I do not underrate silent influence of the faithful. But still the Church needs
III. HOW IS KNOWLEDGE TO BE SECURED?
1. In the early Church it was chiefly oral instruction by preaching and catechizing.
2. In palmy days of European Protestantism it was
3. With us the Sabbath School largely takes the place of these.
4. What are we to do?
I. SALVATION CONSISTS IN THE POSSESSION OF LIFE. It is clear from the previous verse that the two are synonymous, and it is easy to see from the frequent connection of the two by Christ and the apostles how accurate it is to call salvation eternal life. Men as sinners are spiritually dead Ephesians 2:1). The power of evil has so worked upon their souls as to make them deaf to the voice, insensible to the goodness, and indifferent to the claims of God. So far, then, as the life of love, trust, and obedience, and joy are concerned, sinners are dead. What they need, then, is a salvation which shall put them in possession of life, which shall consist in the quickening of their dormant powers, in the righting of their perverted affections, in the bringing back of their souls into likeness to, and fellowship with, the living God. This was just the salvation Christ was sent to impart, and for which He had power over all flesh. Consequently, this is “life eternal,” not as being a life that belongs to eternity, but a life that is distinct from and opposed to temporal, earthly and carnal--eternal in its quality. From the moment that we accept Christ as our Saviour it is ours John 10:27-28; 1 John 5:13).
II. THE LIFE IN WHICH SALVATION CONSISTS HAS ITS ROOT AND GROUND IN KNOWLEDGE. The words must be taken as they stand. This knowledge is not the means of, but is eternal life--a representation to which attention needs to be called now-a-days. Many attach to knowledge a subsidiary importance in relation to the spiritual life. There is no statement more common in certain quarters than that religion is not a creed, but a life. This divorces religion from the intellect and makes it a purely emotional thing. Christ here declares that eternal life is founded on knowledge, thus teaching that before Christianity can be a life it must be a creed. Learn here
1. The sacredness of knowledge.
2. Its importance.
3. Its perpetuity.
III. THIS KNOWLEDGE IS THAT OF GOD AND CHRIST.
1. Of God.
(a) Is not simply the knowledge that we can glean from God’s works. Here we can know God’s power, skill, thought, care; but not Himself: just as from a book we may get occasional glimpses of the working of the author’s mind and the features of his character, but fail in any real measure to know the man.
(b) Is not merely the knowledge we can gain from His Word. We may be familiar with the contents of Scripture and yet know no more of God Himself than we do of a man from what others have written about him.
(c) Is the knowledge which comes also from fellowship between our souls and God. This is the true ground of our knowledge of others. Souls must reveal themselves to souls through friendship.
1. We must study God’s works and read His Word, but besides this we must get into cordial fellowship. In this we must ask for the help of His Spirit, and lay ourselves open to what His Spirit shall teach.
2. Of Christ also. The line of thought just pursued must be followed here. The persons are two, but the knowledge is the same. And for this reason the mission of Christ was the manifestation of the Father. Exactly in the degree in which we know Christ the Revealer shall we know God the Revealed. This knowledge must come
When in these ways the mind has come to accept Christ, and in the acceptance of Christ has accepted God in Him, eternal life is ours. (B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)
Death of Fisher
When Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, came out of the Tower of London and saw the scaffold on which he was to be beheaded, he took out of his pocket a Greek Testament, and, looking up to heaven, he exclaimed, “Now, oh Lord, direct to some passage which may support me through this awful scene.” He opened the book and his eye glanced at this text. He instantly closed it and said, “Praised be the Lord! this is sufficient for me and for eternity.” (W. Baxendale.)
I have glorified Thee on the earth
The glorification of God
The words may be considered
IN A MEDIATORY SENSE so they are proper to Christ;
1. “I have glorified Thee.” Christ glorified God
God was much glorified in the Creation (Psalms 19:1), in His providences; but mostly in Christ, redemption being the most noble work with which He was ever acquainted. In creation, the wisdom, goodness, and power of God appeared; in providence, the justice, mercy, and truth of God; but these in Christ in a more raised degree.
2. “I have finished the work,” &c., implies
II. IN A MORAL SENSE in which they apply to us.
1. What it is to glorify God upon earth, &c.
(a) To acknowledge His excellency upon all occasions (Psalms 50:23; Psa_145:10).
(b) To resign our wills to His. Verbal praises merely are but an empty prattle (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). God is most glorified in the creatures’ obedience. First, to His laws, when we study to please Him in all things (Colossians 1:10). Second, to His providence. It is an honour to Him when we are contented to be what God will have us to be, and can prefer His glory before our own ease, His honour before our plenty Philippians 1:20).
(c) To entertain the impressions of His glory upon us, i.e., when we grow most like Him, and show forth His virtues (1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 1:12). A Christian’s life is a hymn to God; his circumspect walking proclaims God’s wisdom; His awfulness and watchfulness against sin, His Majesty; His cheerful and ready obedience, His goodness; His purity, God’s holiness.
(d) To do those things which tend to the honour of God’s name, and to bring Him into request in the world (1 Peter 2:12; Matthew 5:16; chap. 15:8).
(e) To promote His interests in the world. This is the method of the Lord’s prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name;” and then, “Thy kingdom come.”
(f) To do the work which He hath given us to do. First, the duty of our particular relations. If poor, I glorify God by my diligence, patience, innocence, contentedness; if rich, I glorify God by a humble mind; if well, I glorify God by my health; if sick, by meekness under His hand; if a magistrate, by my zeal (Nehemiah 1:11); if a minister, by my watchfulness; if a tradesman, by my righteousness. From the king to the scullion, all are to work for God. Second, the duty of our vocation and calling. Every Christian hath his way and place, some work which God gave him.
(g) To make God the great scope and end of our lives and actions. In our ordinary actions (1 Corinthians 10:31). So in acts of grace.
(a) Where so few mind God’s glory, but seek their own things Philippians 3:20).
(b) Which is the place of our trial? Many expect to glorify God in heaven, but take no care to glorify God on earth. But here where the danger is there is the duty and trial (Matthew 10:32).
(a) It is work that glorifieth God; not empty praises, but a holy conversation (Matthew 5:16; Psalms 50:23; John 15:8).
(b) Every man has his work. Life was given to us for somewhat; not merely that we might fill up the number of things in the world, as stones and rubbish: not to grow in stature, like the plants; nor merely to taste pleasures, like the beasts. God gave man faculties of reason and conscience to manage some work and business for the glory of God and his own eternal happiness. The world was never made to be a hive for drones and idle ones.
(c) This work is given us by God. By His word. There is no course of service good but what is agreeable to the word of God (Psalms 119:105; Titus 2:12). By His providence, which ruleth in everything that falleth out. But how should a man glorify God in his place and station wherein God hath set him? Be content with it; God is the Master of the scenes, and appoints which part to act. With patience digest the inconveniences of your calling.
(d) This work must be finished and perfected (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:7-8).
2. Why this should be our great care?
The heavenly glorification
1. Our Lord presents as a plea that He might be glorified--the fidelity and completeness with which He had discharged His trust. This petition rises beyond that in the first. In the first He prayed for glorification on earth, that He might be borne triumphantly, as the Divine testimony to His success. Here He prays for glorification in heaven, that He might be raised to that position of honour which by Divine right belonged to Him from eternity.
2. It is wonderful and encouraging that the Son of God should not only pray, but should use arguments for His requests. Thus, as in all things, He was made like unto His brethren. Notice
I. CHRIST’S DECLARATION CONCERNING HIS COURSE ON EARTH--“I have glorified Thee,” &c.
1. His mission was a work; not a course of influence, or teaching only, but of glorious action, viz., the redemption of mankind from the power and consequences of sin.
2. This work was the result of Divine arrangement. Long before His advent He had declared, “Lo, I come,” &c. (Psalms 40:7-8; cf. Hebrews 10:7). So that Father, Son, and Spirit, were alike interested in the accomplishment of redemption. Yet the work was specially personal to Christ. Great undertakings require great qualifications. Hence this work was laid on the “strong Son of God,” who alone could accomplish it.
3. This world was the scene or sphere of the Saviour’s work. In heaven God is ever glorified. How fitting, then, and necessary, that God should be glorified where He had been dishonoured. And mark what emphasis is laid on the personal element. Adam fell from his original innocence, and thus failed in glorifying God, and all his posterity have followed in his downward course. Jesus, the second Adam alone, could say, “I have finished the work of God, I have glorified the Father.”
4. It is not difficult to see that the bearing of the Saviour’s course on earth was for the glorification of the Father, although at the same time it had its relation and design in regard to man. His course was a constant acknowledgment of God. The thought of the Father was always first. He connected all that He said and all that He did with the Father. Men’s minds were always directed by Him up to God. For the first time in history the Divine law, in all its extent and spirituality, found complete illustration and fulfilment. In Him we behold the personal revelation of God. In Him the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person. Men beheld the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
5. Christ, however, speaks of the completion of His course before it was actually closed--“I have finished.” But it was virtually ended. Having asked to be glorified, He had no doubt of the issue. His active life of ceaseless beneficence and spotless innocence had run its course, and His work was accomplished. His words combine the profoundest humility with the loftiest dignity.
II. THE SAVIOUR’S REQUEST FOR HIS MEDIATORIAL CROWN IN HEAVEN (John 17:5). These words assume that Christ had an existence before His appearance on earth; and that in His pre-existence He had Divine glory; and that His true and eternal glory, when He became incarnate, was necessarily veiled. Now He prays that, having accomplished His enterprise, He may resume His majesty, and rise again to His glory in heaven. This glorification involved
1. The enthronement of His person, with the new element of humanity added to His Divine nature. As relating to our nature, this was a marvellous request, and what a stimulus it is for us! With what a dignity does it invest our nature! Christ’s love to humanity was so strong that He would not return to heaven without our nature.
2. The exhibition of His perfection. It was necessary that all the principalities and powers of heaven subject unto Him should see that His assumption of humanity brought no flaw to His infinite perfection; that His personal glory suffered no abatement from its new association. Hence, in the visions of the Apocalypse, we find angels and saints uniting in the new song of adoration to the Redeemer (Revelation 5:13).
3. The establishment and triumph of His kingdom. If the end for which He took our nature were not realized, how could He be glorified? The complete success of His mission was essential to His glory with the Father. Hence, as this kingdom advances, and this principle triumphs, He is glorified on His throne. (J. Spence, D.D.)
Christ’s retrospect of life
Jesus brought honour to God
I. BECAUSE HE SO LIVED AS TO MAKE OTHER MEN THINK MORE ABOUT GOD. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the old adage; and because God is always invisible, therefore He is often forgotten. Whatever makes men think about God with reverence and gratitude thereby promotes His glory. In this sense, “the heavens declare His glory.” They suggest to men’s minds thoughts of His wisdom, power, and greatness. For service of this kind was there ever anything in the world like the words and deeds of Jesus? Jesus might not have mentioned the name of God, but do you think that you could have been in His presence one hour and not have bad your thoughts elevated Godward? Men saw Him heal the sick, raise the dead, &c.; was it possible for them to see and hear these things, and not recognize the power and love of God? The morality of Jesus’ teaching must have been a great power to startle men who had buried themselves in unmindfulness of the Most High. There was something in Jesus Himself that made men think of God. It is not possible for us to imitate the miracles of Christ; but it is possible for a man to manifest such a temper, that wherever he goes he will suggest thoughts of God.
II. BY HELPING MEN TO THINK OF GOD MORE CORRECTLY. We ofttimes make mistakes about each others’ character, and sometimes to their advantage. We give men credit for what they are not and have not. Bat no thought of ours ever goes beyond the truth about God. His character is nobler and greater than my best conception can be; therefore whatever helps me to see Him more perfectly, and corrects my mistakes about Him, promotes His glory. Was there ever anything in the world that had such power to clear the darkness that hid the glory of God, as the life and labour, the words and works of Jesus? Could men see and hear these things and help thinking better of God? Could they go on and not think of Him whose care is over all creation?
III. BY A CONSTANT RECOGNITION OF HIS AUTHORITY AND HELP. How careful He was to make men understand that He was not in the world to pursue His own plans, or to follow His own purpose! He called His miracles the works of the Father. The habit of thanking God for all things became a conspicuous feature in His character, as we learn from this fact--that by means of it two of His disciples recognized Him after He camefrom the dead. When men see in us this constant recognition of Divine authority, help, and mercy, then in our way we can say with Jesus, “I have glorified Thee on the earth.” Then, again, by His obedience to the Divine laws, His cheerful contentment with God’s dispensations, His unfaltering trust in God, Jesus glorified God. Conclusion:
1. It is easy to think of glorifying God in heaven, where every heart is pure; but Jesus said, “I have glorified Thee on the earth”--in life’s difficulties, trials, temptations--where sin abounds.
2. It is a simple contradiction for a man to call himself a Christian and not to have an increasing anxiety to regard God’s authority, submit to His will, give Him thanks for His kindness, and live to His praise and glory. (C. Vince.)
Christ’s a great work on earth
The Son glorified the Father on the earth by finishing the work which He had given Him to do. It was a great work. None but the Eternal Son could have finished it. The dignity of the eternal law, which man had broken, had to be vindicated and upheld; the full weight of an infinite curse had to be endured. Each of the sins of all His people, which cleaved to them as a leprosy, had to be borne and carried away. The prince of this world had to be met and conquered on his own ground, the battle-field of this world. All this work had to be done in the face of the full strength and opposition of hell and all the powers thereof; in face, and in spite of the apathy and indifference, the ignorance and folly of His own, and the rage and antagonism of the powers of this world. The work had to be done, moreover, in man’s nature. The nature that sinned behoved also to be the nature that suffered. (T. Alexander, M. A.)
The Messianic purpose
I. IT WAS CHRIST’S END IN EXECUTING HIS MEDIATORY OFFICE TO GLORIFY GOD.
1. What is it to glorify God? (Psalms 86:11; Revelation 4:11).
2. This was Christ’s end (John 7:18).
(a) God does all things for His own glory (Psalms 46:10; Proverbs 16:14).
(b) All creatures are bound to glorify Him (Leviticus 10:3; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11).
(c) His glory is the best end (Romans 11:36).
3. How did Christ glorify His Father? (John 14:13)
(a) In your thoughts (Proverbs 12:5; Isaiah 55:7).
(b) In your affections (Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:2-3).
(c) In your words (James 3:6-9).
(d) In your actions (1 Peter 2:12).
II. CHRIST HAS FINISHED THE WORK WHICH GOD GAVE HIM TO DO John 4:34).
1. What was this work? The recovery of fallen man (1 Timothy 2:6).
(a) An entire obedience to His laws (Hebrews 7:26).
(b) To undergo suffering for sin (Isaiah 53:6; 2Co Hebrews 2:9).
2. How did Christ finish it?
3. What benefits accrue to us hereby?
(a) From the wrath of God (Romans 5:9).
(b) From the power of Satan (John 16:11; 1 John 3:8).
(c) From the prevalency of sin (Acts 3:26).
(d) From the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).
(e) From eternal torments (Romans 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
(a) In the love of God (Romans 5:1).
(b) In a justified estate (Romans 3:24).
(c) In the power of holiness (1 Peter 1:18).
(d) In a title to eternal happiness (John 14:2).
III. WE, IN IMITATION OF CHRIST, OUGHT TO FINISH THE WORK WHICH GOD HAS GIVEN US TO DO (1 Peter 2:21; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
1. To glorify God.
2. Why should we finish this work? This is the end
3. How may we finish this work? We must celebrate
1. He made you.
2. What you have He gave you.
3. He gave it for His glory.
4. The angels glorify Him.
5. He is highly offended in those who will not give Him glory Malachi 2:2; Acts 12:23).
6. Glorify Him, and He will glorify you (1 Samuel 2:30).
I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. Work
1. It is work that glorifies God.
2. Each one has his proper work assigned Him of God.
3. This work must be finished on earth.
4. To have finished this work is the most consolatory death-bed reflection. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Christ’s finished work
I. A WORK GIVEN TO CHRIST, AND UNDERTAKEN BY HIM-salvation work. It was a prescribed work, a definite work, a complete work. We have a summary of it in Daniel 9:24.
1. He was “to finish the transgression.” He did that by fulfilling the law, which demanded two things--obedience, and, failing obedience, satisfaction. Christ met the law in both ways.
2. He was “to make an end of sin.” To seal it up (Revelation 20:3).
3. He was “to make reconciliation for iniquity;” by giving up Himself, “the just for the unjust.”
4. He was “to bring in an everlasting righteousness” Himself, the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
5. He was to “seal up the vision and prophecy;” that is, “to consummate, ratify, and fulfil them;” to secure all their precious promises, and to preserve them for His people--because a seal protects and preserves.
II. THIS WORK CHRIST FINISHED. Redemption is finished, the types and the shadows finished, forgiveness sealed and finished, the separation which sin had made between the sinner and God, and between the members in the body of Christ, finished, the distance annihilated, those who were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
III. THIS WAS NO LIGHT WORK. All the angels in heaven could not have accomplished it (Isaiah 59:16).
1. It was no insufficient work; the Lord Jesus left nothing for any to do.
2. It was no disappointing work; it did not disappoint the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, and it will not disappoint you (Romans 10:11).
3. It was no uncertain work; some people seem to think as if its completion depended upon whether they consented or not.
4. It is no unsatisfying work; try it!
5. It was no unnecessary work; without it no sinner could be saved; you cannot get to heaven by any other way, you cannot approach God in any other name; do not talk about your works, prayers, intentions, charity: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” &c. (M. Rainsford.)
Life’s work should be completed
If any of you should die to-day, could you say to God, “Lord, here is my life work. Thou didst send me into life with a handful of seeds, and here is my heart, like a garden, full of flowers”? (H. W. Beecher.)
Christ’s reward His finished work
I. CHRIST’S FINISHED WORK.
1. It is true of all men in a sense that they must finish the work given them to do. It may be well done or ill done, but we must each of us weave into the web of human story that bit of the pattern, be it dark or bright, which has been allotted to us. But though we have to finish our task, it may be anything but a finished piece of work for all that. The true soul looking back on its past cannot think but its life has been a poor thing after all. It is a thing of patches and broken ends, of wasted powers, opportunities lost, and the result is a lame and blemished offering that I am ashamed of, as I well might be.
2. But consider how entirely different the attitude of Christ is here. Though like us, having the same burden, and the same life of faith by which to direct His steps, and coming so near to us, yet what a gulf lies between Him and us in virtue of this one fact, that He was wholly without sin. Hence, when He comes to the brink of life, He can look back without one regret, and say, “I have finished the work,” &c., so finished it that it needs no supplement, that it will tolerate no amendment. It had been given Him to reveal the Father, and He had discovered to us the brightness of His glory, &c. It had been given to Him to show us the path of life, and through the world’s thorns and briers. He had walked on straight and undefiled in the way everlasting. It had been given to Him to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, and with every human sympathy He had reached out and laid hold on all the ills of men, and made them all His own. It had been given Him to make His soul an offering for sin, and He was waiting, ready to be offered up. There was nothing which He undertook which He had not fulfilled, no opportunity given Him which He had failed to use. It looks, indeed, a broken life, when we think how brief it was, yet it was the only whole life ever lived on earth.
3. What encouragement lies for us in this, and how it helps to assure our heart before God. The glory which He claimed as His due is to be paid to Him in His people; it was for them that He finished His work, it is for them that He asks His reward. And as He had no misgivings about His right, no more should we when we are pleading in His name.
II. THE PRAYER (John 17:5). It must have been a strange thing, even to those who had accompanied Him so long, to listen to those words. No saying of Christ contains a suggestion of stronger and grander importance than this.
1. Jesus in the solemn simplicity of prayer takes it on Him to speak to the Eternal Father about a time when as yet there was neither heaven nor earth, and as it were reminds His Father that even then He was not companionless, neither did Divine love shrivel into mere self-love. And the strange thing is to think of Him who called Himself the Son of Man calmly recalling these mysterious communings as part of His personal experience.
2. And now, as to the nature of that glory whose restoration He prays for.
3. That is the one side of the medal, and the other presents exactly the same picture. The heavens have now received Him, but heaven is partly opened to show us what He now is; “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” is exalted still as a slain Lamb. There is change of place and circumstances, but no change of spirit. There are songs of praise sung to Him, there are crowns put upon His head, there are crowns east at His feet, but He is still the slain Lamb to whom honours and dignities are nothing except as giving Him power to work out the purpose of His life. His new power is only the means of new services, and His glory is to give us repentance and remission of our sins. It is as if the Cross were planted between the two eternities, whether we look backward or forward, it is the same glorious vision we behold.
III. WHATEVER GLORY CHRIST ASKS IS FOR HIS PEOPLE’S SAKE (John 17:10). He desires to realize it in them. The holy angels, and all the saints who have washed their robes, &c., cannot help singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,” &c. But He turns from them all to His Church, and the thought of His heart is, “Father, let Me be glorified in them.” The reward He sought and still seeks is that we should obtain His spirit; that we should be able to finish our work as He finished His, that He may be able to say of us one day, “Well done good and faithful servant.” In a measure, it depends upon us whether the longing of Christ’s soul is to be satisfied or not; He would be glorified in us, but if we are full of envy and malice and hatred, He is not glorified, He is dishonoured in us; He would be glorified in us, but if we are carnally-minded and selfish, caring only for the treasures that corrupt and perish, we do not glorify, we bring reproach upon Jesus. He would be glorified in us, but if we are slack in His work, counting His service a burden, He is not glorified in us, and He may well be ashamed to call Himself our God. But we are His glory, and crown, and rejoicing when in meekness, love, patience, righteousness, &c., we are doing in this world as He did; dead to it and laying up for ourselves the treasures which are unseen and eternal. See to it that you are going to be a crown of rejoicing to Him, and not a fresh crown of thorns. (W. C. Smith, D. D.)
The complete work
These are words which no other man who has ever left this world has dared to say, or could say. Even the best men say, when they realise their approaching death, “I would that I might have lived to complete this work.” Or, more often, “I feel as if my whole work were just beginning!” Or, oftener yet, “I have done nothing!” The only perfect work is Christ’s. Has anything in nature fulfilled all its purpose? Is any rose without a blemish? Is any pleasure--is any affection--all it could be? Does He not “charge His angels with folly?” and are not “the heavens unclean in His sight?” The ancient artists, in a true sense of the incompleteness of all which a human hand could ever do, were wont to inscribe on their highest works not “he painted it;” or “he sculptured it;” but “he was painting it.” To Christ only, of all that ever trod this earth, it belongs to say, “I have finished.” What then was this “work?”
I. TO BE A MODEL MAN. Therefore, as His great type and forerunner, David, went through almost all the vicissitudes of human life that he might write the Psalms, that keystone to every heart--so Christ passed through so many chapters of life, and filled so many relations, that He might be a Pattern to every one.
II. TO BE A TEACHER. Therefore He is called “The Word,” for as a word conveys mind to mind, so Christ conveys the mind of God to the mind of man. With this end in view, He was always changing the letter of law into its spirit; making the obedience at once far more strict, and infinitely more free.
III. TO BE A SACRIFICE FOR SIN. This vast “work” Christ “finished” on the cross, so “finished” that it does not require or admit one iota of addition on your part. The worst thing you can do in the world is to treat that as unfinished! The unbelief in the finished work--giving God the lie, disparaging the work of Christ, and “limiting the Holy One of Israel”--is a greater sin than all the guilt for which you may be now wishing and doubting whether you are forgiven.
IV. TO BE THE MYSTICAL HEAD OF A MYSTICAL BODY. As such He died, rose, ascended. And every believer is a member in that mystical body. Therefore, believer, your death is past, and your resurrection and ascension are sure.
V. TO GLORIFY GOD. The two in His mind stand as one. And nothing has ever reached its resting-place till it rests there. This only is final--and the final is the test of everything--“Does it glorify God.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Life’s work well done
1. We naturally link with these words Christ’s last words (John 19:30). When men come to die, the mind naturally reviews the past and forecasts the future. As Paul lay awaiting death, he looked over the past and his mind rested with satisfaction on the fact that he had fought a good fight, &c. Then he looked forward, and the outlook was bright. “There is laid up for me a crown.” As Jesus was brought face to face with death He looked back to see what He had done, and forward to see the final outcome of His life-work, He cried, “It is finished.”
2. Those granite columns in our cemeteries are parables of human life. Over some graves the pillar rises furl and high, signifying a completed life. Over other graves the column is broken off abruptly, half way or near the top. Many a man’s career in this world is like those broken columns. Men are naturally anxious to bring their undertakings to a successful, completion before they die. But how many fail! The field is left halt ploughed The author is called away when his book is only partially written. The mother dies before the children are grown. Die when man may, he generally leaves something unfinished. But it was not so with our Lord. He had been sent of God to do a certain work, and He early apprehended it. “I must be about My Father’s business.” In this work He never faltered.
I. EVERY MAN HAS A WORK TO DO FOR GOD IN THIS WORLD, and should find it out and do it. “The latest gospel,” says Carlyle, “is, know thy work and do it.” Fill the place God has ordained you to fill. Alas! many never consider the meaning and purpose of their life. Suppose you should see an angel flying through space and you should haft him, “Whither bound?” and he should answer back, “Nowhere.” Suppose you should signal a ship on the sea and say, “Whither bound?” and the answer came back, “Nowhere.” How many in life are like that.
II. THE SECRET OF EVERY GREAT AND TRUE LIFE LIES IN GRASPING THIS TRUTH--e.g., Moses and Paul. William, Prince of Orange, laboured in the conviction that God had called him to his special work, and that he must finish it before be died. Oliver Cromwell realized the same truth. To those who were convened to judge the king he said, “If any one had voluntarily proposed to me to judge and punish the king I should have looked upon him as a prodigy of treason, but since Providence and necessity have imposed this upon me, I pray heaven to bless your deliberations.” On his death-bed he prayed, saying, “Lord, Thou art my witness, that if I still desire to live, it is to glorify Thy name and to complete Thy work.” Columbus was inspired to heroic endurance by the same conviction. “Man,” he said, “is an instrument that must work until it breaks in the hand of Providence, who uses it for His own purposes.” General Gordon’s magnificent life was inspired by the same conviction. Nothing was created in vain. Every created object in the wide universe, from the mote that floats in the sunbeam to the archangel that serves next the throne, has a place and a work in the plan of the Creator. It is man’s highest privilege and first duty to discover what God’s plan or purpose of life for him is. To find that out and do it is to live to some purpose. “He always wins who sides with God.” Some say, “This is all true of the great ones of the earth, but my life is so insignificant that I cannot believe that God has any special work for me to do.” No life is insignificant or worthless. The smallest cog in the smallest wheel of the great manufactory has its place to fill and work to do.
III. DO NOT UNDER-ESTIMATE YOUR LIFE’S WORTH AND WORK. “Your life is worth something to God. Multitudes of men and women fail in duty because they under-estimate their worth. What is one star among the myriads above? What is one leaf or blade of grass to the million forms of vegetable life that mantle the earth with beauty? But let us not be oppressed with the thought of our littleness. A human soul is the highest of all created things. Man has a mind that, in some measure, can comprehend the vastness of creation. To man God has given dominion over all works. So that there is nothing great in the world but man, and nothing great in man but mind or soul. Do not think little of your place and work in God’s vast universe. It makes little difference what work is assigned us of God so long as we do that work faithfully and well.
IV. A MAN’S BEST WORK IS OFTEN THAT WHICH GROWS OUT OF WHAT HE BEGAN. Look at the engine that George Stephenson used in 1825. What a poor affair it is alongside of those magnificent engines of modern make. And yet that old crippled engine was the mother of them all. What you do may be insignificant in itself, but out of that may grow a work that will bless a world. The seed you plant may grow a mighty tree, whose wide branches may shelter the weary and whose rich fruit may feed the hungry long after you have passed away. Here is a merchant prince. He is forward in every good work. You inquire into his life, and this is the story: “In early days I was brought up among the poor and profane of a great city. I was induced to enter a mission school. My teacher was a gentle Christian woman. What she was and did and said touched my heart and waked up my better nature. I would give thousands to-day to know where she is, that I might thank her.” The mission teacher went home many a night with a sore discouraged heart. What surprise of joy there will be in heaven when the faithful workers meet there, for the first time, the results of their work on earth.
V. THERE IS A DIVISION OF LABOUR. This is of God’s ordaining. To one man God has given the talent of invention, to another he has given the skill of the artizan, to others musical faculties, eloquence, aptness for commercial life, or medicine. Each should cultivate and develop his special faculty, feeling that his work is God-given. If God should send His angels to this world and commission the one to rule a kingdom and the other to plough a field or sweep a room, and if each did the work assigned them, they would each be equally rewarded and commended by Him who sent them. Robert Browning teaches this truth in that little poem, “The Boy and the Angel.” This view dignifies labour of every kind. Here is a blacksmith welding together links of a great chain. He does his work faithfully and well. His work is a part of his religion. Years go by. The old blacksmith is dead and forgotten. A ship is on the sea and a wild storm is raging. The anchor is dropped. The safety of the whole ships crew and passengers depend on the chain that holds the anchor. All through the dark night and the wild storm the ship is held fast and sure. At last, when the storm is ended all gather on deck and with glad and reverent heart join in hymns of thanksgiving to God for deliverance. Yes, praise God for safety and praise God because that old God-fearing blacksmith put his conscience in the chain he made for the cable. Heaven will disclose heroes and heroines whom this world never dreamed of. Multitudes of them will come from humble homes and obscure corners.
VI. LET US SEE TO IT THAT WE FULFIL THE PURPOSE OF OUR EXISTENCE. They tell us that it is a serious thing to die; it is a more serious thing to live. Sad beyond expression will it be, to pass from this earth, so crammed with opportunity of usefulness, to the judgment-seat of Christ with our God-given work unfinished, and at last compelled to face the terrible fact that life is done and life’s great work undone. It were better never to have had an existence than having it, fail in fulfilling the Divine purpose of our being. (J. B.Silcox.)
I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest Me.
Christ’s work upon earth
I. ITS NATURE. The manifestation of the name of God. (John 17:6). In Himself invisible and incomprehensible (John 1:18; Joh_6:46; Job 11:7; Job_37:23; 1 Timothy 6:16), who and what He was must have remained a secret. Genesis 32:29; 13:18), had not God been pleased to make some disclosure thereof. This He did in creation (Psalms 8:1; Psa_19:1-3; Romans 1:20), and still does in Providence (Daniel 4:34-35; Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:11). A further revelation He furnished to the Jews; but never till Christ came, who was the Image of the invisible Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:2); and who could say, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9), was God completely manifested. Besides publishing to men the fact of the Divine existence, Christ unfolded
1. The nearness of God to man, and conversely man’s nearness to God, a thought so little understood that even the Jews with Psalms 139:1-24, to guide them had no proper conception of God as a heavenly Friend.
2. The holiness of God--which, though dimly apprehended and vaguely believed in before the Advent, was never adequately comprehended until embodied in Christ (Hebrews 7:26).
3. The graciousness of God, which though referred to (Psalms 103:13; Malachi 2:10) was imperfectly realized until Christ taught men to say “Our Father.”
4. The helpfulness of God. No one who looked on Christ healing the sick, pardoning the guilty, &c., could doubt that, if He was God’s image, God could also relieve the needy.
5. The blessedness of God or, more correctly, the eternal life which is in 1 John 1:1).
II. ITS SUBJECTS.
1. The world. Although throughout this prayer a distinction is drawn between the world and the Church (John 17:6), and the Saviour’s intercession is for the latter rather than for the former (John 17:9), yet Christ’s manifestation of the Father’s name has an outlook to the race no less than to believers. Of this perhaps a hint is furnished by the word “men” (John 17:6).
2. The Church. Christ describes those in whom His work took effect as persons who had been
3. Given to Christ--“Thou gavest them Me,” (Ephesians 1:4-5; John 6:45).
III. ITS RESULTS.
1. The reception of Christ’s words (John 17:8). This world had rejected Christ’s words (John 12:48): the disciples had believed them (John 16:27). A gracious soul desirous of learning the Father’s name does not begin by criticising Christ’s teaching, but with docility receives it into his understanding and heart (1 Samuel 3:9; Psalms 85:8; 1 Peter 2:2; James 1:22).
2. The recognition of Christ’s words as the Father’s (John 17:7; cf John 7:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
3. The preservation of the Father’s words (John 17:6). To keep God’s word means more than to remember it--viz., to enshrine it in the spirit, to give it a chief place in the affections, to subject to it the entire being, intellect, heart, conscience, will.
1. Who would know God must study Him as revealed in Christ.
2. Who would be wise unto salvation must learn at Christ’s feet.
3. Who would reach eternal glory must keep the Father’s words. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The Divine instruction
We now come to the second part of this prayer, the intercessory portion of it. But before offering any special petition Christ states several preliminary pleas. These pleas are contained in the text. We have here
I. THE SCHOLARS. The Lord’s words regarding them express a threefold relationship.
1. To the world. “The men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world.” Originally these disciples, as they came into the world, belonged to it, with tastes, desires, and modes of thinking, &c, like the men around them. But they had been given “out of the world” to Christ, so that their position in it and their relationship to it were alike changed. So it is with all the people of God; they are given to Christ “out of the world,” to be taught and trained for service here and glory hereafter. But, alas I what a commentary does the conduct of myriads supply on these words, when the world seems to bound their ambition and contain their all.
2. To God “Thine they were.” They were His by the law of their original creation, by the ties of providential preservation and blessing, and by all the bonds of moral obligation.
3. To Christ. “Thou gavest them Me.” By giving them to the Son, the Father did not part with His property or His pleasure in them, for they were given to Christ in pursuance of a gracious purpose, and by the arrangements of an all-wise providence. This was the first small instalment of the promise that Jesus as mediatorial King should have the heathen given Him as His inheritance, &c.
II. THE INSTRUCTION GIVEN. This, generally, was the manifestation of the Divine name. The name of God is often put for God Himself (Pr Exodus 34:5; Exo_34:7). How often in aspects of attraction and grace is the name of God put before men in His Word. There he presents Himself as Jehovah-jireh, ever ready to provide for the wants of His people; as Jehovah-nissi, ever willing to defend them and lead them to victory; as Jehovah-tsidkenu, working out and bringing near to them an all-sufficient righteousness for their salvation; as Jehovah-shammah, blessing with His presence every spot to which His providence may bring them. But it was Jesus who manifested the Divine name in all its fulness of glory How did He do it?
1. By what He was. He came to be the representative amongst men of the infinite God. He was “the brightness of His glory,” &c. Every element of the Divine glory had its perfect and practical embodiment in Him, so that in His personal history we have a living map of the boundless expanse of the Divine perfections reduced to the scale which our humanity can contemplate and study.
2. By what He said. (John 17:8). Every considerable human teacher has some theme or some aspect of a subject with which he is more especially familiar to which his own taste inclines him, and on which he loves chiefly to dilate Christ Jesus was master of all truth, but especially did He dwell on the glory and excellence of the Father’s character.
3. By that which He did. He went about doing good. As His words were not His own, but His Father’s, so also were His works (John 10:37; Joh_5:17).
III. THE ATTAINMENTS MADE BY THEM.
1. They accepted Christ’s words. “They have received them.” If His words commanded the attention and admiration of His foes, much more might be expected of His disciples; they devoutly received His words. Attention was not enough, nor admiration, nor mere assent: the words of Jesus dropped into the souls of these disciples as Divine seeds of thought, germs of higher life and hope.
2. They had some apprehension of the Divine glory of Christ--“They have known,” &c. They recognised
3. They clung to Christ; they maintained adherence to His truth. “They have kept Thy Word.” Continuance was essential as it is still. To keep God’s word was to obey it, walk in it, and abide by it. They were neither stony-ground hearers nor wayside hearers. Christ will not acknowledge any as His disciples who do not keep His word and endure unto the end. Hebrews 3:14) (J. Spence, D. D.)
The Lord Jesus manifested the Father’s name
1. By what He was. He was the representative of God upon the earth.
2. The Lord Jesus manifested the Father’s “name” by what He spake. In His teaching He set forth the Father in His nature and character.
3. By what He did, the Lord Jesus manifested His Father’s “name.” As His words were not His own but His Father’s, so His works were the Father’s also. (T. Alexander, M. A.)
The apostolic community
Christ here states two facts concerning the school He had established for the diffusion of His doctrines and Spirit--one infinitely superior to those established by any philosopher of ancient or modern times.
I. THEY ARE GIVEN TO HIM BY THE FATHER. What does this mean?
2. Positively. This means that Christ, as the Model of Piety, ascribes everything He has to His Father. The power of Pilate to condemn He regarded as the gift of God. The cup of suffering in Gethsemane was also the Father’s gift. So with all things--“All power is given unto Me.” So pastors are God’s gift to a Church, &c.
II. THEY ARE BELIEVERS IN THE FATHER THROUGH HIM. They believed the Father so as
1. To obey His will. “They have kept Thy word.”
2. To accept Christ as His Messenger. They were led to regard Christ as
Disciples, God’s gift to Christ
Thou gavest them Me
1. As sheep to the shepherd to be kept.
2. As patients to the physician to be cured.
3. As children to a tutor to be educated. (M. Henry.)
The Father’s gift to the Son
I. ALL BELIEVERS ARE GIVEN TO CHRIST. As
1. His purchase and His charge.
2. His subjects.
3. The members of His body.
II. NONE ARE GIVEN TO CHRIST BUT THOSE WHO WERE FIRST THE FATHER’S.
III. ALL THOSE WHO ARE GIVEN TO CHRIST KEEP HIS WORD. (W. Burkitt.)
Believers, the Father’s gift to Christ
The Son loved them as the Father’s choice, He loved them as the Father’s gift to Him. These are some of the bonds of the everlasting covenant which binds His people around the heart of His Son. They were beloved of His Father with an everlasting love. His Father chose them and set His heart upon them. He gave them to the Son as a gift of His love. Therefore the Son loved them. There are other, and strong, cords that bind Christ and His people together, but these are good and strong. How we love, how highly we prize a Father’s gift! (T. Alexander, M. A.)
Christian privilege and duty
I. THAT CHRISTIANS BELONG TO GOD. “Thine they were.”
1. By creative right--as a man has a right to the products of his skill and industry.
2. By sovereign right--as a monarch has a right to the loyalty of his subjects.
3. By Fatherly right--as a parent has a right to the affection and obedience of his children If, then, we belong to God
II. THAT THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY GOD TO CHRIST.
1. In answer to prayer. “Ask of Me and I shall give thee,” &c., and as we are given to, so are we kept by Christ in response to prayer (John 17:11).
2. As the purchase of redemption. “We were not redeemed with corruptible things,” &c.
3. As the reward of conflict. Slaves of Satan are rescued and transformed into sons of God and joint heirs with Christ by the Saviour’s conquering might. Learn, then
III. THAT CHRIST HAS MANIFESTED TO THEM GOD’S NAME.
1. Literally. The “Father’s” name was little more than a sublime guess and a devout hope before Christ came. But He taught His disciples to say “Our Father.”
2. Exemplarily. “My name is in Him.” “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” All the perfections of the Divine character were embodied in Christ. The Father’s wisdom in His teaching; the Father’s power in His miracles; the Father’s love and justice in His death.
3. Experimentally. “To as many as received Him,” &c. (Romans 8:15 - Gal_4:4-31. This being so
(1) Study the revelation of the Father in Christ’s word and life.
IV. THAT THEY KEEP GOD’S WORD. This is their distinguishing characteristic and their imperative duty. It covers everything in Christian practice. He keeps this word
1. In their minds by understanding and remembering it.
2. In their hearts by loving it.
3. In their lives by practising it. (J. W. Burn.)
I have given them the words which Thou gavest Me
The fountain of Christian theology
On the truth of this saying stands the whole fabric of creeds and doctrines. It is the ground of authority to the preacher, of assurance to the believer, of existence to the Church. It is the source from which the perpetual stream of Christian teaching flows. All our testimonies, instructions, exhortations derive their first origin and continuous power from the fact that the Father has given to the Son, the Son has given to His servants, the words of truth and life. (Canon T. D. Bernard.)
I pray for them
The keeping of the saints
THE PERSONS. “Those whom Thou hast given Me.” The disciples in contrast
1. With the world (John 17:9). Christ meant, not that men, as men, were excluded from His intercessions, but that they were not then the object of His pleadings; He was then acting as the Church’s High Priest, preparing to sanctify Himself as a sacrifice for His believing people. Hence the unbelieving world had no direct interest in the blessings He was asking.
2. With the son of perdition. Judas had by this time been excluded from the apostolic circle (John 13:30).
II. THE BLESSING--preservation in
1. Unity (John 17:11), such as expresses itself in one faith, one love, one body, one life (Ephesians 4:3-6). This is not only the subject of Christ’s intercession with the Father, but the object of the Father’s keeping of the saints. He keeps them, not by forcible compulsion, but by spiritual persuasion, helping them to understand the oneness of love, life, power subsisting between the Father and the Son, in such fashion that they earnestly desire and labour after such oneness among themselves; in this showing that they follow God as dear children.
2. In safety (John 17:15). One can imagine reasons why Christ should have prayed that the disciples should be taken from the world with Himself, e.g., He would rather be accompanied by those who had loved Him; and that it would be better for them than to be left exposed to the world Philippians 1:23). But He discerns grounds why it was better that they should be left
They were to remain as salt to preserve it, as light to illuminate it, as leaven to work in it. Hence Christ prayed that they might be shielded from evil, from hurtful things (Mark 16:18; Luke 10:19; Acts 18:10); from wicked men (2 Thessalonians 3:2); from the evil one (1 John 5:8).
3. In felicity (verse 13).
III. THE ARGUMENTS.
1. They belonged to Him, the Father (verse 9). Believers are God’s
2. Christ’s glory was involved in their preservation (verse 10). In them the world would behold His glorification, and the character of His religion. By them His glorification would be proclaimed, and the glory of His kingdom advanced (Acts 2:33; Act_3:13).
3. They were about to be deprived of His presence (verse 11). Up to then Christ had shielded them; accordingly, like a dying parent, He commends them to His Heavenly Father’s care. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The Divine Suppliant
The truths in this part of the prayer are
I. THAT THE SUPREME GOOD OF MAN IS SPIRITUAL AND NOT TEMPORAL. Christ prays that they may be “kept from the evil,” “sanctified,” and “be one” with themselves, Him, and the Father. He does not pray that they may be healthy in body, prosperous in circumstances, or long-lived. He does not undervalue these things, but temporal prosperity to Him was insignificant compared with spiritual. There are good reasons for this. Temporal prosperity is
1. Insufficient to satisfy the cravings of the human soul. “A man’s life [happiness] consisteth not in the abundance of things,” &c. “What shall it profit a man,” &c.
2. Often leads to spiritual adversity and ruin. How often it happens that the higher a man rises in worldly things, the lower he sinks in moral destitution. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”
II. THAT THERE IS A COMPLETE UNITY OF INTEREST BETWEEN CHRIST AND THE FATHER. “All Mine are Thine,” &c. This is
1. True absolutely. God is the universal Proprietor. We are only trustees, not owners.
2. True subjectively. “Thine are Mine.”
III. THAT SINCE THE DEPARTURE OF CHRIST THE PRESERVATION OF A GOOD MAN IN HIS GOODNESS DEPENDS ON THE AGENCY OF THE GREAT FATHER (verse 11). THE MEANING IS, “I have taken care of them until now; now I commend them to Thee.” Note
1. The way of keeping them. “Through Thine own Name,” i.e., His moral character. This is enough to convert them to, and to keep them in goodness.
2. The reason for keeping them, “that they may be one as we are,” i.e., in supreme purpose, inspiring spirit, moral character. What attraction is in the material world, love is in the moral.
IV. THAT AMONGST THOSE WHO ARE GIVEN BY GOD TO THE SCHOOL OF CHRIST THERE ARE BAD MEN AS WELL AS GOOD (John 17:12). There has ever been a Judas in Christian communities: tares as well as wheat; goats as well as sheep. Bad men as well as good are
1. The property of God. He can give them.
2. Under the direction of God. Judas did not go into Christ’s school by accident, but that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
3. Employed in the service of God. Judas did a useful work.
4. Must meet with a terrible end. The “son of perdition” went to his own place. It is better for a man to fall from the level sands than from a lofty cliff; to fall into ruin from a corrupt world than from the height of Christian privilege.
V. THAT THE GRAND DESIRE OF CHRIST IS THAT ALL HIS DISCIPLES SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN HIS JOY (John 17:13).
1. Although in one sense “a Man of Sorrows,” no man had so much joy as Christ. The joy of
2. Now His desire is that His disciples should participate in this joy, and
3. At last “enter into the joy of the Lord.”
VI. THAT THE FAITHFUL CARRYING OUT OF CHRIST’S DESIRE WILL EXCITE THE WORLD’S HATRED (John 17:14). The world is ever in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ. The man, therefore, who will act out the one and live the other will ever come in antagonism with the world’s passions and prejudices. The conduct of the godly acts on the sensibilities of the corrupt as the sun on diseased eyes, and music on diseased auricular nerves.
VII. THAT IT IS POSSIBLE SO TO LIVE IN THE WORLD AS NOT TO BELONG TO IT (John 17:16). (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Why Christ prayed for the disciples
Before proceeding to the more special petitions Jesus reproduces the two principal claims of the disciples to the Divine interest.
I. THOU HAST GIVEN THEM TO ME--watch over Thine own gift; and the more since, in becoming Mine, they have not ceased to belong to Thee, but have even become more than ever Thine. For what I receive from Thee; I receive only to restore to Thee, and to ensure to Thee its possession. The present “are Thine” is purposely substituted for the imperfect “we’re Thine” (John 17:6), to express the idea that the gift of them to the Son has only confirmed their being God’s.
II. THEY HAVE BECOME DEPOSITARIES OF THE SON’S GLORY. Notwithstanding His form as a Servant, Jesus had appeared to their hearts in all His beauty as the Son of God. Even before restoration to His glory, He had regained it in them by the fact that they had recognized Him for what He truly was (John 17:7-8). (F. Godet, D. D.)
Why Christ did not pray for the world
Jesus has not the same reasons to bring forward in favour of the world, not the same request to make for it. Luther justly says, “What must be asked for the world is that it may be converted, not that it may be sanctified or kept.” Assuredly the statement of Jesus is no absolute one. He said on the cross, “Father, forgive them.” Was not this to pray for the world? Only He did not then, as He does now, bring forward as a reason “they have known” (John 17:8), but, on the contrary, “they know not what they do”; and instead of appealing, as here, to the care of God for beings precious and belonging to Himself, He invokes His compassion for beings guilty and perishing. The saying in John 17:21, “that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me,” contains an implicit prayer for the world (cf. John 2:16)
. The statement of Jesus, that He prays not for the world, only becomes absolute in proportion as its moral characteristic of opposition to God is fixed, and as it becomes the association of those who are not only enemies of God, but who desire to remain such. (F. Godet, D. D.)
The mediatorial plea
I. A GRACIOUS ANNOUNCEMENT “I pray for them.”
1. The words which follow seem at first startling. Does He mean that the world had no place in His desires and formed no object of His supplications? No, for He had said, “God so loved the world,” &c., and was so soon to pray on the cross for His murderers. It is simply as if He had said, “I am not now at this moment praying for the world at large,” or else, “I pray not in this way for the world.” For the world He does pray (John 17:20-21), but He prays in another manner, viz., that it may cease to be what it is, attain to knowledge which it does not possess, and realize a life which it does not know, while in praying for His disciples He asks that they may be perfected in what they have received, confirmed in their faith and so prederved from forgetting or losing that which they know.
2. “I pray for them.” The word pray here is a word which Christ Jesus alone uses in relation to His prayers. The Saviour never uses the word ordinarily used to express prayers by man, but one which has the sense of authority in it, and which therefore it is not proper for us to use. How much, then, is involved in this announcement! Frequently in the course of social intercourse we say to a friend in difficulty or affliction, when we feel that our poor thoughts, counsels, or help can be of little or no avail, “I will pray for you.” Does that not include the highest thought, and the most effective aid that we can reach? What magnitude and depth of meaning, then, must there be in our Saviour’s words, “I pray for you”! The Lord who prayed for these disciples intercedes for His people now. There is not a single day of our life, how full soever of duty, difficulty, or darkness, in which we may not derive encouragement and comfort from this gracious word of Christ.
II. AN EXPLANATION. The disciples
1. Belong to God “They are Thine,”
V. 19). No language could more impressively show the Godhead and glory of Jesus than this claim of kindred interests.
2. Christ, as Mediator and Saviour, had an interest in these disciples peculiar to Himself: “I am glorified in them.”
All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine
THE SAME NAMES AND TITLES: Jehovah (Hebrews 1:10); God Romans 9:11; 1 Timothy 3:16).
II. THE SAME NATURE AND ESSENCE: “I and My Father are one.”
III. THE SAME PROPERTIES: Eternity (John 1:1); omnipotence, as seen in Christ’s miracles; omniscience: “He knew what was in man”; omnipresence: “Lo, I am with you alway.”
IV. THE SAME WORKS (John 5:17; Joh_5:19).
V. THE SAME WILL AND PURPOSE (Matthew 26:39).
VI. THE SAME PROPRIETY IN ALL THE GODLY (John 8:16; Joh_20:17).
VII. THE SAME POWER FOR THE PRESERVATION OF CHRISTIANS (John 10:28-30). (D. Burgess.)
I am glorified in them.--
Christ glorified in His disciples
I. BY THEIR DELIVERANCE FROM CONDEMNATION AND THEIR ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD THROUGH HIS MERIT.
II. BY THE CHANGE WHICH HE HAS EFFECTED IN THEIR CHARACTER.
III. BY THEIR CONFIDENCE WHICH HE HAS GAINED.
IV. BY THEIR CONTENTMENT AND RESIGNATION TO HIS WILL.
V. BY THEIR OBEDIENCE TO HIS LAWS AND THEIR GRADUAL IMPROVEMENT IN PRACTICAL PIETY.
VI. BY THEIR PUBLIC PROFESSION OF HIS GOSPEL AND THEIR ZEAL IN DIFFUSING IT. (Congregational Remembrancer.)
Christ glorified in His people
I. BY THE DERIVATION OF ALL THEIR EXCELLENCIES FROM HIM.
II. IN THEIR HOLY WALK.
III. BY THE CHEERFULNESS OF THEIR LIVES.
IV. BY THEIR READINESS TO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE.
V. IN THEIR PROFESSION OF HIS NAME.
VI. BY THEIR EXERTIONS TO PROMOTE HIS CAUSE. (W. Jay.)
Christ glorified in His saints
I. AS THE PURCHASE OF HIS BLOOD. As the fruit of His soul-travail they indicate the success of His redeeming work.
II. AS THE TROPHIES OF HIS POWER. Having been rescued from the thraldom of sin and brought into His kingdom, they attest the all-conquering might of His love.
III. AS THE CREATIONS OF HIS GRACE. Being renewed in the spirit of their minds and recreated after His image, they reveal in their moral likeness to Him the beauty of holiness that is in Him.
IV. AS THE SUBJECTS OF HIS EMPIRE. In their willing subjection to His throne they proclaim the gentle character of His rule.
V. AS THE PREACHERS OF HIS GOSPEL. In the testimonies they afford by their lips and lives that Christ is exalted they show forth His glory before men. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Christ glorified in His disciples
I. We glorify Christ BY FAITH. Now, faith hath a double office, which
1. Accepts Christ. When men slight the offers of Christ which God makes to them, they dishonour Him exceedingly (Acts 4:11; Mt 1 Peter 2:7).
2. Presents Christ. In all our endeavours to God we must build our acceptance on the merits of Christ (John 14:1).
II. BY HOLINESS. Every Christian should walk so as remembering that Christ’s honour lieth at stake.
1. For the manner; your practice should be elevated according to the height of your privileges in Christ. A Christian should do more than a man (1 Corinthians 3:3). We expect that he should go faster that rides on horseback than he that goes on foot. There should be a singularity of holy life.
2. For the principle; Christ must be honoured. You must make Him the principle of your obedience to God (Philippians 4:13; Galatians 2:20.)
3. For the end; you must make His interest the great end of your lives Philippians 1:21; Romans 14:7-8).
4. For the motive; gratitude to Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14).
III. IN OUR ENJOYMENTS. When we think of our title to anything, think, This I have by gift, be it justification, sanctification, glorification, comfort of the creatures. Whatever privilege we look upon as ours, we must see Christ in it (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
IV. BY DOING AND SUFFERING FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF HIS INTEREST AND KINGDOM (2 Corinthians 5:13). Let glory to Christ be written, though it be with our blood; only with these cautions:
1. We must think ourselves to be honoured by this service, how grievous, disgraceful, and troublesome soever it be (2 Corinthians 5:9).
2. There must be a sense of your unworthiness (Luke 17:10).
3. You must ascribe all to Christ’s glory; as Joab, when he had conquered Rabbah, sent for David to take the honour: so must we do for Christ (1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Chronicles 29:1.4):
V. BY BEING ZEALOUS FOR HIS INSTITUTIONS then you honour Christ, by giving the wisdom and power of a lawgiver to Him (Matthew 15:6).
VI. BY TAKING SOME SOLEMN TIME TO MEDITATE ON AND ADMIRE THE EXCELLENCY OF HIS PERSON AND THE FULNESS OF HIS REDEMPTION. In heaven this will be our great work (Revelation 4:10-11). (T. Manton, D. D.)
Christ glorified in the disciples
It is not difficult to see how the Son was glorified in them. They had been His faithful and devoted followers in all His wanderings; they had forsaken all that they might be His disciples; they had seen His miracles, heard and received His words, and believed that He came forth from the Father. They had suffered the loss of all earthly things for His name’s sake; they were the depositaries of His truth; they had stood forth alone with Him against nearly all the world; after His ascension they were to manifest forth His glory to all the world, and under Him to go forth to subjugate that world which He, in His death, had actually conquered. And what they did and how they glorified Him after His departure we know well from the inspired record of their labours. (T. Alexander, M. A.)
The apologetic Christ
1. “He was glorified in them”; made known by them, by their words and lives, as Jesus the Saviour, as the anointed King, and in the beauty of His character and in the grandeur of His Person.
2. Wonderful praise coming from such a source. Yet it was not uncommon for Christ to speak words of commendation. He praised the centurion, the woman of Canaan, the woman who anointed Him in Bethany. And here He praises all His apostles.
3. But who were the men of whom Christ said this? Men of influence, of wealth, of learning? If not these, surely they were great saints. On the contrary, Christ rebuked them again and again for their little faith, for their ambition, for their mistakes and wrong purposes. Wonderful words of praise to say of men who in a few hours would forsake Christ, and deny Him.
4. Yet the Christ who praised these men was Truth itself, and could not flatter nor be deceived. It is manifest, therefore
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world
Christ and His disciples
CHRIST IS NO MORE IN THE WORLD. All the purposes for which He came are accomplished. There is no further employment, therefore, for Him here.
1. His humiliation is past and His glory begun.
2. His work is finished, and now His reward is received.
3. His warfare is accomplished and now He enjoys the spoils of victory.
4. His sacrifice is offered and He departs to plead its merits before the throne.
II. CHRISTIANS ARE IS THE WORLD. Like their Lord’s, their’s is
1. A state of humiliation.
2. A life of work.
3. A course of conflict.
III. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO. The glorified Christ
1. Waits to receive them into His glory.
2. Imparts to them the benefits of His atonement and intercession.
3. Is their Master and co-worker.
4. Is their Leader to victory.
Christians in the world
1. Full of imperfections and infirmities.
2. Surrounded by temptations and snares.
3. Burdened with cares and afflictions.
4. Witnesses of Christ’s glory.
5. Labourers for its moral regeneration. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)
Holy Father, keep through Thine own name
The character of the Father
What formula could more thoroughly express the intensity and purity of Divine love. There is more spiritual philosophy and force in the two words, “Holy Father,” than in the cream of all literature. Jesus alone knew how holy that love is that comes down to save man. In this name there is
I. A GLIMPSE OF A GREAT CHARACTER. We ask, “What’s in a name?” The man on ’Change answers, “Five per cent.;” the expectant might say there is a passport in it; another that there is in it a prophecy of failure, of doom. A name is something, but in what name is there so much that is transcendently glorious as in “Holy Father.” The disturbed condition of humanity has made us so familiar with unholy paternity, that it is an immense elevation of spirit to have the idea of an absolutely Holy Father. Parentage in man ought thus to be a holy thing.
II. FULNESS OF HELPING POWER. We know what it is for sons to be respected and befriended for their father’s sake. The social position open to many a young man, the manner in which he is treated on the public platform, the safe, yet prosperous circles to which he is admitted is owing to his father’s name. But all this is increased in an infinite degree when we think of the name of the Holy Father. His name is good for any amount of helping power our souls require.
III. A GROUND OF GREATEST CONFIDENCE--that the affairs of the vast family, the interests of the vast home, will have that management which will secure the highest interests of every child. How often are families divided by paternal partialities, fortunes squandered by paternal weaknesses and sins; and children beggared through lack of that in the father that could bind the home in one. But the strong band that binds the childlike hearts together is this father-name.
IV. A GREAT ARGUMENT FOR CHILDLIKE CONDUCT. Blessed is the child who, when he looks at a human father, feels that he knows no more upright man than he. Such a father has a right to expect that his child should be good. Well, the “Holy Father,” who is conscious of doing everything before His children that is fitted to command their love, has a right to expect that like Himself they shall be holy. We know what it is for the young man going to business, college, public life, to resolve on good behaviour and success if it were only for his father’s sake. Such is the aspiration which the Holy Father expects of His children. (R. Mitchell.)
The Holy Father
The appellation “Holy Father” is in relation with the petition presented. With man holiness is the consecration of his whole being to the task assigned him by the Divine will. In God holiness is the free, deliberate, calm, and immutable affirmation of Himself, who is goodness, or of goodness, which is Himself. The holiness of God, then, so soon as we are associated therewith, draws a deep line of demarcation between us and those who live under the dominion of their natural instincts, and whom Scripture calls the world. The term “Holy Father” here characterizes God as Him who has traced this line of separation between the disciples and the world. “Keep them” has in view the maintenance of this separation. “In Thy name” makes the revelation of the Divine character the enclosing wall in which the disciples are to be kept. (F. Godet, D. D.)
The preciousness of the Divine name
I. THE CONTEMPLATED CONDITION OF THE DISCIPLES, the peculiar ground of their need. “I am no more in the world,” &c. The fact of His going to the Father could not but be to Him a satisfaction and joy. But He could not forget His friends. His thoughts went forth to their condition without His bodily presence, on which they had been so much accustomed to lean. His words suggest the thought of
1. Their bereavement (Matthew 9:15). It is impossible for us to form an adequate conception of their loss.
2. Their exposure: “These are in the ungodly, careless, unbelieving world.” Jesus knew well what it was to be in the world; hence His concern John 16:33). Christ Jesus, in His bodily and visible presence, is absent from the world still, but His disciples are in it. It is well to know that His prayer and intercession for them are better than His human presence.
II. THE BLESSING REQUESTED FOR THEM--“Keep through Thine own name,” &c. Here, for the only time recorded, Jesus addresses God as Holy Father. He appealed to the holiness of God; and surely no appeal could be more appropriate and beautiful, when preservation from the world and from evil was asked for. Holiness is the halo of unutterable splendour which surrounds the nature and character of the Almighty. This very designation suggests at once the power and the disposition of the Father to keep these disciples. It was the pledge of the preservation, and the guarantee of the safe keeping of all God’s children now (Psalms 30:4; Psa_97:12). Two remarks are here necessary. The Authorised Version says “through,” but the preposition in the original is “in.” According to the most ancient manuscripts, the petition reads, “Keep them in Thy name, that name which Thou hast given Me.” Jesus alone had fully manifested the name of God. And the point is that His disciples might be kept in the name of God, not in a vague indefinite sense, but in that name as personally embodied in Christ. The Saviour prays for His disciples, that they might be kept
1. In the knowledge of this name. Many temptations would assail them from Jewish prejudice and Gentile philosophy, from various forms of worldly wisdom and human speculation. They could only be kept right in their views of God, as they were kept by Him. It is human to err; and on no theme have men, when left to themselves, wandered more widely and disastrously than in their views of God.
2. In the experience of that name. This knowledge was not a barren truth, but mighty, formative, and fertilizing (John 1:12). As Jews, they had a knowledge of God as the God of Israel before; but the Divine name never had such power over them as when they came to realize its glory in Christ. It arrested, subdued, melted, purified them; it was in them a power for spiritual renewal and moral transformation. These disciples left in the world would be exposed to manifold malign influences; and only so long as they were kept in the consciousness of the power of God’s name, could they continue true to their mission.
3. In the consolation of that name. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe”--safe from the accusations of conscience and the thunder of law, the perils of life and the fears of death. Just as a child in darkness, trembling for fear, is cheered by the sound of his mother’s voice or the certainty of his father’s presence, even though unseen, so does the name of God, as revealed in Christ, sustain and encourage the souls of His people in the dreary and often trying pilgrimage to heaven.
III. THE OBJECT DESIRED. “That they may be one, as we are.” How much depended on their union, strength, safety, and success. Discord and disunion could not fail to bring disaster and failure at the very beginning of the Christian history.
1. The model of this union: “as we are one.” Jesus does not ask that He may be one with the Father, but asserts this oneness as a fact. There was a oneness with the Father existing from eternity. But He here prays as the “Man Christ Jesus,” whose purposes and plans, desires and hopes, were the same as the Father’s.
2. What then would be the manifestation of this oneness? Unity of mind, will, and affection in relation to their Master and His work, a unity resulting from participation in His life and devotion to His glory? Only suppose that these disciples were to go forth with differing views and discordant purposes in their commission. Or, suppose that they were to go forth with clashing opinions about the claims of Christ Himself; one holding His supreme Godhead, another viewing Him as the highest of created beings, and a third regarding Him merely as a man, and so on; the issue in such a case could only be spiritual disaster and failure. There might be, and there were, differences between them in many things, but touching the character and claims of the Christ of God they were as one. And this oneness of view and feeling binding them to the Saviour, and pervading all their work for Him, was to be maintained by their being kept in the Father’s name as revealed in Jesus. (J. Spence, D. D.)
Saints Divinely kept
Our text is all about keeping. Three or four times over we have some tense of the word “keep.” Greatly do we need keeping. You have been redeemed and regenerated; you are pure in heart and hands; you have aspirations after the holiest things; you are near the gates of glory; hut you must be kept. Here is
I. A CHOICE PROTECTORATE. “I kept them.” This care
1. Was continuous. He made this the chief employment of His life. In this chapter you have “the ruling passion strong in death.” He has kept them in life, and now He says, “I am no more in the world,” &c.; and the one thought of His heart is, “What is to become of them?” He closes His life by commending them to the keeping of His heavenly Father.
2. Is ever needed. Sheep never outgrow this necessity. If the disciples always required keeping, you and I do.
3. Was ever personal. The Good Shepherd kept the sheep, not by proxy, but by His own hands. What must have been the effect of the personality of Christ upon those eleven? There are some men whose influence upon others has, for want of a better word, been called “magical.” History tells us of warriors who have inspired their soldiers with boundless loyalty, grappling them to themselves with hooks of steel. The influence of the Christ upon those who actually lived with Him must have been superlative.
4. Was most successful. Of the eleven not one was lost. They were very fickle at first, extremely ignorant, and strongly tempted. Influences which made some go back would naturally have had the same power over them if Jesus had not kept them: yet of those whom the Father gave Him not one of them was lost.
5. Was attended with an awful sorrow. “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition.” He knew that often people would say, “Can this Christianity be true which has such false-hearted traitors in its midst?” He allowed that objection to come up at the very first. But the Watcher over the sons of men could not lose even Judas without deep regrets.
II. A TEMPORARY PRIVILEGE. The eleven were not to have Christ with them always. They were to fall back on another mode of living common to all saints.
1. Now, why was Christ with them at all? It was because they were very weak. They wanted fostering and nurturing. You had great joys in your early days. You have not had them lately, it may be; for you have travelled to heaven at a steadier pace. Certain spiritual joys are the privilege and the necessity of our religions babyhood, and we outgrow them. The Lord went away that the disciples might grow to spiritual manhood.
2. Choice as the privilege was of having Jesus Himself to be their Pastor, apart from the grace of God, this special boon had no power in it. The Lord Jesus Christ might preach, but He could not touch the heart of the son of perdition. No ministry of itself can turn a heart of stone into flesh. “You must be born from above.” Let this be a warning to such as are not profited under the Word when faithfully preached. Beware lest ye perish under the gospel.
III. A BLESSED PRAYER. “Holy Father, keep,” &c.
1. “Father.” It is the Father who keeps us! The Lord Jesus was tender to us when He selected that title, and did not say “Jehovah” or “Elohim.”
2. “Holy Father.” The keeping means keep us holy; and who can make us and keep us holy but He who is Himself holy?
3. “Keep them.” We need keeping
4. Through God’s own name. It requires the very name of God to keep a Christian. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Kept of God
I. WE REQUIRE KEEPING.
1. You have seen a beautiful garden planted and filled with rarest flowers, and all in such beautiful order. The explanation is to be found in the keeper, who moves among the flowers, pulling up a stray weed here, clipping off a branch there, training up a fallen vine, tying up a drooping plant, digging about the roots of that rosebush that seems a little weak, and bestowing a little extra care upon it with such tenderness as though he loved it. And from admiring the flowers, you turn to admire and love the faithful keeper, and ascribe the praise to him.
2. On the other hand, you have seen other gardens just as large, filled with the same precious variety of flowers. But how sad to look at the paths that are filled with grass! The vines have fallen down, and many beautiful plants have succumbed to the rude crowding of the rank weeds and are both dying and dead. How is this sad condition of things to be accounted for? The gardener was called in to plant it, but the owner of the garden dismissed him, thinking he could do it himself. For a while he did very well; but the pressure of business, &c., &c., and a general ignorance of flower culture, all interfered, and so the garden was allowed to run to waste. Occasionally he would rally and go vigorously to work, and things would look better for a while; but, alas I all too soon the same neglect would fall upon it.
3. These two gardens are two lives, one of which is kept and the other unkept. And I am sure there are more than a few Christians who see in the latter garden a picture of their own spiritual life. What is the matter? You need a keeper and to place in his hands your life.
II. WHO IS TO KEEP US? Our Holy Father.
1. The holiness of God, instead of being opposed to the salvation of the sinful, is the very ground of that salvation, and is put forth as the reason above all others why sinners should hope in God.
2. We find this holiness of God active against sin, hating and consuming it, and often afflicting His people for it. But that side of His holiness is only another side of His love (Psalms 99:8). He hates sin because it is the destroyer of the people whom He loves.
III. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN BEING KEPT?
1. He will keep us unto the end--unto the salvation ready to be revealed at the last day. Many are deterred from confessing Christ lest they should not hold out. But against all these fears God has left exceeding great and precious promises (1 Peter 1:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2Ti Jude 1:24).
2. With others it is not so much the fear of being finally lost as the dread of being left alone on the way, of “falling into sin and trouble,” &c. Listen to the promises (Genesis 28:15; Isaiah 43:2).
3. It is not that I am afraid of being deserted in affliction, but that in the ordinary course of life I shall wander from the right way. God said to those of old, “Behold I send an angel before thee,” &c. (Exodus 23:20). “When He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will lead,” &c. So in this God makes ample promise.
4. So God is pledged to provide for all our wants, and keep us in the world. “The Lord God is a sword and a shield,” &c. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” “My God shall supply all your need.”
5. But the temporal keeping is not what I want so much as to have my own life kept--to be delivered and kept from doubt, and fears, and anxiety, and vexation, and care (read Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3).
6. But will He keep from sin? I know He will pardon sin, but will He keep me from it? Yes.
IV. THIS KEEPING INVOLVES MANY TRIALS, AND, IT MAY BE, MUCH SUFFERING. To be freed from sin is a painful process. It is crucifixion, it is purging, it is refining. It is having your wills subdued, but it means holiness and godliness, with peace as our portion for ever.
V. HOW ARE WE KEPT? In the holy name of God.
1. As in a tower (Proverbs 18:20; Psalms 18:2).
2. As in a bank (2 Timothy 1:12).
3. As in a sheep fold (Psalms 23:1; Psa_80:1).
4. As behind a shield (Psalms 84:11).
VI. TO BE KEPT WE MUST PUT OURSELVES IN GOD’S HANDS, nor must we draw back. He is a Tower, we must keep ourselves in it. A Shepherd, we must be near Him. A Bank, we must commit ourselves to it as a treasure deposited therein. A Shield, we must keep ourselves behind it. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)
That they may be one, as we are
The pathway to unity
The final state of the Church of God is to be a state of perfect unity; and that being so, their present state should be one of growing unity. Alas! how lamentably far from this are we, who profess the name of Christ at this time and in this country! In the text you have four points respecting it.
I. THE AUTHOR AND MAINTAINER OF UNITY. “Holy Father, keep.”
1. Unity, wherever it exists, flows from God. If you have union in your families, with your relatives and friends, this is from Him. How much more, then, must the unity of His Church derive itself from Him, as its only head and centre (1 Corinthians 11:3). God the Father is the source whence the sacred oil of unity, shed in copious showers on the head of our Aaron, diffuses itself in fragrant streams over His whole body mystical--the
Church--and goes down to the skirts of His garments (Psalms 133:2-3).
2. He is also the exclusive maintainer of unity. He not only giveth His people the blessing of peace, but also keeps their hearts and minds in peace through Christ Jesus (Psalms 29:11; Philippians 4:7). Did He for one instant abandon His children, or cease to fold them to His bosom, every soul of them would become an Ishmael; strife and contention would split the holy camp into a thousand factions, and deliver them an easy prey into the hand of the powers of darkness. And it is to His guardianship of the world that we owe the shadows of Divine unity which we find in it. Peace and unity in families, among nations, between contending parties, whether in the State or in the Church.
II. THE METHOD BY WHICH GOD MAINTAINS THIS UNITY.
1. What is meant by the name of God? In olden times the names of persons were very different from what they are now. Most of our modern names have no meaning at all; but, anciently, the name of a person almost always expressed some property or character attaching to the person who bore it. Thus the name of Jacob signifies “supplanter,” and has reference to his having supplanted his brother. Israel means “Prince of God,” because as a prince he had power with God in wrestling, and prevailed. So then “Name of God” stands for the nature, property, and character of the Most High.
2. What is this name and character? From Exodus 33:19-20, cf Exodus 34:58, we gather that the moral attributes of God are of two kinds--mercy and justice. Let us illustrate. Light (as seen in a rainbow, resolved into two different classes of colours, four of a bright and three of a grave tint) affords some faint idea of these two classes of perfections. Mercy, love, goodness, forbearance, and so forth, on the one hand--holiness, justice, truth, on the other. The latter are as essential as the former to the surpassing beauty and loveliness of the Divine character. God would be no God if He were not perfectly just and holy, as well as perfectly loving--even as the sunlight would not be that beautiful and delicate thing it is if it were not chastened and subdued by its three graver tints, On the one hand, sin will be visited by Him; on the other, He yearns over all His creatures with the tenderest mercy. And He will be known to each individual soul, and acknowledged by each individual heart, in both these characters. For He has signally glorified both His justice and His love in Jesus Christ, so as to keep the believer wakefully alive to both of them. For what shall keep him more wakefully alive both to the love and justice of God than the reflection that His justice could not consent to our acquittal before it had fastened upon a Divine victim, and that this boundless sacrifice which justice demanded, love was not slow to make? In the Cross of Jesus, behold the name of Jehovah--the goodness and severity of God--portrayed at once. And it is this unfeigned acknowledgment of Divine love on one hand, and Divine justice on the other, in which our Saviour here prays that God would keep His chosen. The effect is obvious. The little bickerings and animosities and party feelings--unclean creatures that hovered about in the darkness--will vanish as we sun ourselves in the light. Truly acknowledging the true God, we shall truly acknowledge our brethren also.
III. THE PERSONS BETWEEN WHOM THIS UNITY MAY BE EXPECTED TO SUBSIST. It is not represented as subsisting in the visible Church, but in the invisible, among God’s elect--“those whom Thou hast given Me.” How can unity, being a spirit and not a form, subsist in the visible Church, within whose pale there are (and must be) many hypocrites? If, indeed, it were a form, it might then be imposed from without upon a visible body. But it is a living spirit, which might indeed develop itself in a certain similarity of outward worship, if all the persons animated by it were gathered together, as one day they shall be, and not separated from one another by time and space, as now they are. Let us not look for it, then, or expect it where it is not and where it cannot be. Union, real vital union, cannot exist among or with those who are ignorant of God. It is idle for men who walk on still in darkness to talk of, to meddle with, unity. Their ceaseless petition must be, “Lord, that I may receive my sight!” For those who do thus know Him, they, by growing in that knowledge, will grow in unity. They will have fellowship with one another in exact proportion as they walk more strictly in His fear, more lovingly and enjoyably in His comfort.
IV. HOW CLOSE WILL BE THE BOND OF THAT FELLOWSHIP! “That they may be one, as we are.” The whole body will be fitly joined together and compacted in an unity, like that subsisting between the Father and the Son. And what mortal shall comprehend the exceeding closeness of that unity--perfect unity of counsels, of will, of ends, of nature. And even such a bond shall clasp the elect together, nay, is now clasping them, and being gradually drawn more closely around them. To this state they will verge continually while they walk more and more in the light, as God is in the light. (Dean Goulburn.)
Kept for Jesus Christ
I. WHO? The saints; those given by the Father to Christ.
II. WHAT? Keep them. As it were, Christ, having obtained them from the Father for safe keeping for Him, replaces them in the Father’s hands for safe keeping for Himself.
III. HOW? In Thy name, i.e., by graciously revealing in them Thy name, which I have outwardly manifested to them.
IV. WHY? Because Christ was returning to the Father (1 Peter 1:5).
V. WHEREFORE? That they might be one. Unless the Father keeps the saints they never will be one. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The preservation of Christians
There is an aged Christian in Dublin with whom I have often spoken who passed through the following eventful experience:--“Some years since,” he said, “I was travelling on horseback in one of the country districts, when the sudden report of a pistol-shot reached me. I was satisfied that I had been aimed at, but nevertheless thankfully conscious that I had escaped. Hastening onwards, I reached my home in safety, and went into the house. It had been my custom for years to carry a small Bible in the breast pocket of my coat. Taking it out on this occasion, judge my surprise at finding a leaden bullet imbedded in the leaves. It had penetrated as far as the Gospel of John. Removing the bullet, and opening the book at the spot where it rested, my eye fell upon the words, ‘Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me.’” (Henry Varley.)
I wish all names among the saints of God were swallowed up in that one of Christian. I long for professors to leave off placing religion in saying, “I am a Churchman,” “I am a Dissenter.” My language to such is, “Are you of Christ? If so, I love you with all my heart.” (G. Whitefield.)
Union and Christian life
Christians are like the several flowers in a garden, that have upon each of them the dew of heaven, while, being shaken with the wind, they let fall their dews at each other’s roots, whereby they are jointly nourished and become nourishers of each other. (John Bunyan.)
Christian union attainable only in Christ
The union of Christians to Christ their common head, and, by means of the influence which they derive from Him, one to another, may be illustrated by the loadstone: it not only attracts the particles of iron to itself by the magnetic virtue, but, by this virtue, it unites them one among another. (R. Cecil, M. A.)
Work aids Christian unity
When I was in the army before Port Hudson I remember that night after night, when our campfires were built, we boys used to sit around them and discuss various matters; and sometimes our discussions became very heated, and sometimes we lost our tempers, and sometimes we said angry words. But one night, right in the midst of a discussion, there broke upon us that awful, startling sound which, once heard, is never forgotten. Away off, on the right of the line, it began; but it rolled in a thundering, awful echo, until it chilled our hearts. It was the long roll, and every man was on his feet, and every man shook hands with his comrade and said, “Forgive me. When we were idle we could afford to discuss; but now there is work to do, it finds us brothers.” (G. Hepworth.)
Union in the face of foes
On the day before the battle of Trafalgar, Nelson took Collingwood and Rotherham, who were at variance, to a spot where they could see the fleet opposed to them. “Yonder,” said the Admiral, “are your enemies; shake hands and be good friends, like good Englishmen.”
Influence of union
Separate the atoms which make the hammer, and each would fall on the stone as a snowflake; but welded into one, and wielded by the firm arm of the quarryman, it will break the massive rocks asunder. Divide the waters of Niagara into distinct and individual drops, and they would be no more than the falling rain; but, in their united body, they would quench the fires of Vesuvius and have some to spare for other volcanoes. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Power of union
Union is power. The most attenuated thread, when sufficiently multiplied, will form the strongest cable. A single drop of water is a weak and powerless thing; but an infinite number of drops united by the force of attraction will form a stream, and many streams combined will form a river; till rivers pour their water into the mighty oceans, whose proud waves, defying the power of man, none can stay but He who formed them. And thus forces, which, acting singly, are utterly impotent, are, when acting in combination, resistless in their energies, mighty in power. (H. G.Salter.)
Union is strength
When it was once demanded of Agesilaus why Lacedaemon had no walls, he replied, “The concord of the citizens is its strength.” (J. Harris.)
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Thy name
Christ’s care for His disciples
Our Saviour had just passed through the agony when Judas came upon Him “with a band of men and officers” John 18:1-9). Whatever might be the reason for mustering so large an array, in order to seize one who seemed so little likely to offer resistance, our Lord quickly showed how unavailing would have been the assault, had He not chosen to surrender Himself to the will of His enemies. By merely acknowledging Himself to be the party of whom they were in quest, Christ prostrated the whole host. But, as our Lord had no intention of delivering Himself from His adversaries, why did He give this signal evidence of having them completely in His power? For the sake of His disciples. “Let these go their way.” The Evangelist still further limits the design of the miracle, that the very saying of the text might be fulfilled. These words must have had respect to more than a mere temporal deliverance. Christ had been praying, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name,” &c., and “the son of perdition,” was not lost in any mere temporal respect. But what was the amount of the keeping which our Lord secured for His disciples on the occasion? Simply that they should not be made prisoners with Himself, and perhaps be condemned with Himself to an ignominious death. Here then is a promise which would contemplate nothing short of everlasting salvation, declared to be fulfilled by a deliverance from present danger and calamity. Had His followers been required at that moment to suffer with Him, we can hardly doubt, knowing what their conduct was on a far less amount of trial, that they would have apostatized in such a way as to have jeopardized their final salvation. Sooner or later these disciples were to die. Christ would not, then, have lost them by their dying at that moment, “except” St. Augustine says, “because they had not then the faith in Himself which was needful to secure them from everlasting death.” So that we may believe that our Lord interfered miraculously on behalf of His disciples, because He foresaw that if He now required them to bear the Cross with Him, the trial would be too great for their strength. Let us see what special truths are suggested by this fact.
I. WHAT A COMFORTING THING IT IS TO KNOW THAT CHRIST WOULD SOONER WORK A MIRACLE TO RESTRAIN THE ENEMIES OF HIS SERVANTS, THAN LEAVE THOSE SERVANTS TO AN ENCOUNTER TOO GREAT FOR THEIR
STRENGTH There is often a fear, on the part of the disciple, that such or such a trial would be more than he could bear. And the fear may be altogether just, so far as it arises from comparing the strength then possessed with the danger then supposed. But the fear is altogether unjust, so far as it assumes the possibility of God’s exposing His people to a trial, for which He does not communicate adequate grace. We might not be able always to die for Christ; but we are not always called to die for Christ. If we were called to die for Him, then we may be confident that we should be strengthened to die, even as martyrs died, with a smile upon the cheek, with a song upon the lip. We may not always feel as if we could in a moment resign without a murmur this or that object of devoted affection; but wait till we are actually called upon to resign it, and then, if we be truly of those who acknowledge God in all their ways, we shall find ourselves enabled to exclaim, “The Lord gave,” &c. Trials are not accidents; they may be often unexpected by us, they are never unprovided for by God. God holds the balances in His hand. In one scale He puts the trials, in the other the strength; but the trial does not come to our share till outweighed by the strength which He sees fit to communicate. And, if anything can, this should encourage us to “patient continuance in well doing.” So then, whilst there is everything to encourage the meek, there is nothing to warrant the presumptuous. God keeps His people by enabling them to keep themselves. When you read in Jeremiah, “I will not turn away from them, to do them good,” it might seem to you as though good were secured, be your conduct what it may; but when you-read on, “I will put My fear in their hearts, that they should not depart from Me,” you should learn that God’s not turning from us is through the withholding us from turning from Him, and that, therefore, he who strives not against sin has no promise of salvation. And when we have thus warned you against expecting to be kept, though you are not diligent to keep yourselves--for whilst it is most true “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain,” think ye not that it is also true, that the Lord will not keep the city where the watchman sleeps?--having done this, we may yet by the miracle wrought on behalf of the disciples, encourage you to the building confidently on that most blessed truth, “God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.”
II. BUT in place of procuring for His followers an opportunity for escape, MIGHT NOT CHRIST HAVE IMPARTED AN ABILITY TO ENDURE? The saying would thus have been only the more evidently fulfilled. Of course, He might had it accorded with His dealings and purposes. But He could not consistently with the laws which prescribe His dealings with accountable creatures. It would have taken more grace than could be bestowed without destroying all freedom of will. Remember that grace is that in which you are bidden to grow; and in spiritual stature no more than in bodily is the infant made the giant with no stage between. You must pass from point to point, improving what you have as the condition of your receiving more. Ye are to present yourselves “a living sacrifice,” otherwise it will be a compulsory, and not a “reasonable service.” Thus also with apostles. They have not yet grown into fitness for the honours of martyrdom; they might have been presented in sacrifice--they would not, in the true sense, have presented themselves. They had yet a long discipline to pass through, of “taking up the cross daily.” So that, though there are some dangers which at one time God turns away from His people, because too great for such a measure of grace as would consist with present spiritual stature, He would have them faced at another time, because the spiritual stature is such as accords with the requisite strength. And the great practical truth to be derived from this is, that you are not to expect to become Christians by any sudden leap, but step by step. The spiritual temple rises stone by stone, as beneath the hands of a builder; it does not soar at once--wall, dome, pinnacle, complete--as beneath the wand of an enchanter.
III. IN COVENANTING TO KEEP US TO ETERNAL LIFE, CHRIST HATH ALSO COVENANTED THAT WE MAY BE KEPT FROM ALL THE POWER OF THE ENEMY. And it is delightful to think of the one covenant as including the other; so that we have the same reason for believing that nothing really hurtful shall be suffered to happen to us of a temporal kind, as that nothing shall finally separate the believer from the “love of God which is in Christ Jesus.”
IV. The saving of the disciples from bodily danger might be taken as AN ASSURANCE THAT CHRIST WOULD NOT FAIL TO CONDUCT THEM SAFELY TO HEAVEN and therefore was it a sort of primary accomplishment of the gracious purpose that none of them should be lost. And what a brightness would it shed over present deliverances, what a sweetness would it give to present mercies, were all in the habit of regarding them as so many earnests of a rich inheritance above! Then might every day of life be to us a sort of herald of eternity. We should not receive blessings as merely to he enjoyed and then forgotten; for they would serve to us for even more than the Ebenezer of old, a stone on which to inscribe, “Hitherto the Lord bath helped us,” but on which also to engrave afresh the most comforting declaration, “Those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost.” Truly a most comforting declaration, forasmuch as it shows that our safety is in better keeping than our own. The Christian will be disquieted and harassed, a prey to frequent doubts and fears, till he come to regard the Redeemer as having taken upon Himself the work of his salvation, and bound up His own glory with the carrying him through. “I know whom I have believed,” &c. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The nature of the Divine keeping
“Have guarded,” not the same word as that rendered “kept” in the first clause. This is an intensified expression of His vigilant care. “Kept as with a military guard.” The first “kept” points to their preservation in the truth revealed to them; the second to the watchfulness by means of which the result was obtained. The former may be compared to the feeding of a flock, the latter to the care which protects from the wild beasts around. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The Divine guardianship
I. THE SAVOUR’S GRACIOUS CARE FOR HIS DISCIPLES. While He was with them, He had done all that was needful to keep them in the name of God. The second word, translated “kept,” is not the same as the first, and expresses more fully the idea of guardianship, the result of which was successful preservation. Thus we have suggested to us that the disciples were in danger even while their Master was with them, from their weakness, Jewish prejudices, and spiritual pride.
1. He kept them by
(l) His teaching. The whole bearing of His instructions was that they might discern the perfection of the Father’s character, and apprehend the saving power of His love.
2. But was there not a painful, an awful exception to the success of His guardianship? We must regard the giving here as applicable to Judas as well as to the others. They were all given to Jesus as disciples, and He taught and guarded them all; but Judas did not respond to His teaching and care. But Jesus did not lose him; he lost or rather destroyed himself, and in his perdition the Scripture was fulfilled. The quotation cannot imply that he perished for the sake of fulfilling the word of God, but to show that all things are foreknown to the omniscient God.
3. Does Christ not with equal zeal and care preserve His followers now? Are not His instruction, example, and influence available for us? True, we do not hear His voice, nor see His face, but His advocacy, with the promised presence of the Comforter, is mightier and better for our preservation than if we could actually gaze upon Him.
II. A PROOF OF THE SAVIOUR’S LOVING THOUGHTFULNESS FOR HIS DISCIPLES (John 17:13).
1. The object which He sought was that “His joy might be fulfilled in themselves;” not that His joy in them, as His disciples, might be fulfilled; but that they might realize something of His own personal and perfect joy. How great and blessed and pure must have been His joy, as the incarnate Son of God! It was the joy
This joy, then, Christ wishes His disciples to realize in themselves, that it might be their strength and protection. The world gives sorrow, anxiety, disappointment, bitterness, and trouble; but to share in Christ’s own joy must ever be sunshine in the soul: for the human heart it is a joy unspeakable and full of glory. Participation in this joy, then, comes down to us, and we must rejoice in the Lord, not only as a privilege, but as a duty.
2. The means adopted to produce this joy. “These things I speak in the world.” Jesus might have presented His petitions for them silently. How was this audible prayer calculated to minister to their joy? We feel how important it is in daily life to have feeling made known. Sometimes you may have gone in doubt, in heaviness of spirit and sadness of heart, when a word spoken in love would have relieved your gloom, lifted your load, and cheered your path. The Saviour was more lovingly thoughtful for His disciples. It would have made no real difference to their safety if His prayer had been unheard by them; but it would have made a great difference to the cheerfulness of their hearts. Christian thoughtfulness therefore should ever prompt us to let those whom we love hear or know of our interest in them and our affection for them. This audible prayer would minister to their joy
The Divine keeping
Concerning all saints it is implied
I. THAT THEY ARE WEAK AND CANNOT KEEP THEMSELVES.
II. THAT THEY ARE IN GOD’S SIGHT VALUABLE AND WORTH KEEPING.
III. THAT THEIR SALVATION IS DESIGNED, for it is that to which they are 1 Peter 1:5).
IV. THAT THEY ARE IN THE CHARGE OF THE LORD JESUS.
V. THAT THEY ARE KEPT IN HARMONY WITH THEM MORAL FREEDOM, “kept by the power of God through faith.” (M. Henry.)
None of them is lost but the son of perdition.
A son of perdition implies the quality expressed by perdition--“None of them perished but him whose nature it was to perish.” The term is a well-known Hebrew idiom by which the lack of qualitative adjectives is supplied by abstract substantives which express that quality. Thus a disobedient child is “a son of disobedience,” and so “children of light” and “of darkness.” Judas lost himself. Even after the betrayal he might have been saved had he fled to the cross. There is no “keeping in God’s name” independently of “keeping God’s word.” This Judas did not do. (W. H. Fan Doren, D. D.)
These things I speak in the world, that they might have My Joy fulfilled in themselves
Christ’s prayer for His disciples’ joy
CHRIST IS THE AUTHOR AND ORIGINAL OF THE JOY OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. As He is their Prophet to instruct them. The state of ignorance is a state of darkness. And that is an uncomfortable state, full of fear, and sorrow. But when Christ comes with light He gives joy (Psalms 97:11).
2. As He is their King to rule them (Psalms 149:2).
3. As He is their Priest.
4. Uses. Is Christ the Author and the Fountain of the joy of His people
II. CHRIST WOULD HAVE HIS PEOPLE TO BE FULL OF HOLY JOY.
1. This He has made sufficiently to appear
2. But wherefore will He have it to be so?
3. Use. Is it so that Jesus Christ would have His people full of holy joy?
(a). Be studious in the Word of Christ (Psalms 19:8; Romans 15:4).
(b) Employ your serious thoughts upon that delicious place where there is fulness of all joy and pleasures for evermore (Romans 4:4).
III. THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF HIS INTERCESSION FOR THEM IS ONE ESPECIAL MEANS TO FILL THEM FULL OF THIS JOY. It is a means to comfort them exceedingly. In reference
1. To all the oppositions of their enemies, whether without them or within them.
2. To all the accusations that are laid against us at the bar of God’s justice 1 John 2:2).
3. To the many weaknesses and imperfections of our own prayers.
4. To the defects of all our graces.
5. It assures us of His dear love to us, and His tender care of us. (G. Newton.)
Christ’s desire for His disciples’ joy
I. WHAT THIS JOY IS THAT CHRIST WOULD ESTABLISH.
1. For the kind of it--“My joy;” not a worldly joy, but heavenly; not corporal, but spiritual. It ill beseemeth Christians to set their hearts on earthly things, or suffer the world to intercept their joy (Philippians 4:4).
2. In what manner He would have it received--“fulfilled in them.” The joy is full because the object is infinite; we can desire nothing beyond Him Acts 13:52).
3. It is inward for the quality of it; it is wrought in the midst of afflictions; like the wood that was thrown in at Marah, it maketh bitter water sweet Exodus 15:25; 1 Peter 1:6).
II. REASONS WHY CHRIST WAS SO SOLICITOUS ABOUT THIS MATTER.
1. Because of the great use of it in the spiritual life, to make us to do and to suffer (Nehemiah 8:10). This is as ell to the wheels. Sorrow maketh us serious, joy active. This is sweet, when a man, out of the refreshings of the Spirit, can go about the business which God hath given him to do with delight (Acts 20:24; Act_8:39). Not like slow asses that go by compulsion, but like generous horses, that delight in their strength and swiftness.
2. To mar the taste of carnal pleasures. The soul cannot remain without some oblectation; it delighteth either in earthly or in heavenly things. Now God will give us a taste of pleasantness in wisdom’s paths, that we might disdain carnal pleasures. It is not a wonder for a clown, that hath not been acquainted with dainties, to love garlic and onions; but for a prince, that hath been acquainted with better diet, to leave the dainties of his father’s table for those things, that were strange.
3. It is for His honour. Nothing bringeth reproach upon the ways of God so much as the sadness of those that profess them. You darken the ways of God by your melancholy conversation. Religion should be cheerful, though not wanton and dissolute. We are to invite others (Psalms 34:2). Otherwise thou art as one of the spies that discouraged the children of Israel, by bringing up an evil report upon the land of Canaan.
4. Because He delighteth to see us cheerful (chap. 15:11).
III. SOME OBSERVATIONS CONCERNING JOY.
1. God’s providence to all the creatures doth aim at their joy and welfare.
2. Spiritual joy ariseth more from hope than possession (Romans 12:12; Hebrews 3:6; Romans 5:2). Some birds sing in winter. Though we have not an actual possession of glory, yet there is a certainty of possession.
3. This joy is more felt in adversity than prosperity (1 Peter 1:6; Romans 5:3).
4. Those have the highest feeling of joy that have tasted the bitterness of sorrow (Isaiah 57:18; Jeremiah 31:18; Jer_31:20). Unutterable groans make way for ineffable joys.
5. The feelings of this joy are up and down, yet when the joy is gone, the right remaineth, and this joy will be fulfilled (chap. 16:22).
1. To show us the goodness of God, who hath made our wages a great part of our work, and our reward our service.
2. To take off the slander brought on the ways of God, as if they were dark and uncomfortable, as if we should abandon and renounce all delight. Oh! that wicked men would but make experience!
3. Let us despise the dreggy delights of the world. We are empty by nature, and worldly joy filleth not but with wind.
4. Reproof of two sorts
5. To raise your minds to the exercise of this joy, I shall show
(a) The remembrance of his past estate (1 Peter 2:9). No man looketh on the sea with more comfort than he that hath escaped the dangers of a shipwreck.
(b) His present interest, sense, and feeling (Romans 8:37).
(c) His future hopes (Hebrews 3:6). We are heirs-apparent to the crown of heaven.
(a) Graces; faith, hope, and obedience.
(b) Ordinances: The Word, prayer, sacraments, meditation. (T. Manton, D. D.)
The joy of Christ
I. THE STRANGE THING NAMED “MY JOY.” It is about the most unlikely thing in connection with the career and testimony of the Saviour. It would excite no one’s surprise to hear Him say, “If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross;” “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” But when He speaks of His joy, is it not strange? What, then, is His joy?
1. It is the ripening harvest of suffering--suffering grown into joy, fully realized by Him in the completeness of His work. How true the prophetic description of Him A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief!” Wherever He turned His face men saw the sign. One ceaseless grief He bad--loneliness of soul. Spotless purity in the midst of foul pollution,transparent truth in the midst of elaborate falsehood, earnest spirituality in the midst of consummate hypocrisy, self-sacrificing goodness in the midst of grasping selfishness. Go into His own family: they are hostile and scornful. Mix with His disciples: they are dull, grovelling, strifeful-By the grave of a friend He groans and weeps. But the soul of the Redeemer’s sufferings was the sufferings of His soul. In Gethsemane--what is this? On Calvary--oh, what is this? His heart breaks, and on this account, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” “He shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.” The harvest of ripened suffering--suffering turned into joy. Only He knew that in all its fulness.
2. It sprang from ministering to the sad and comfortless. He spent His life with the sufferers. His loving care lavished all its resources upon them. He was the Christ, anointed to comfort all that mourn. And such gathered to Him without hesitation. “He bare their griefs and carried their sorrows.” He alone could; the rest would sink under the burden. He alone would; all the rest would have gone away in despair. But He did, and in a weeping world He had a word of mighty power. That word was “Weep not.” So He speaks to the widow, to Jairus, and to the woman that was a sinner. And so He found solace in making the unhappy happy--a grand position, divinely high.
3. It consisted in sympathy with the heavenly Father’s will, and sprang from doing that will.
4. It was the joy of doing the highest possible good--saving men’s souls.
II. OUR LORD’S DESIRE IS RELATION TO THIS.
1. That His joy in His disciples might be perfect in kind; that is, that it should spring from the same sources and have the same attributes in the seme proportion, as in His life and heart.
2. That it might be abundant in degree. I invite you all who have faith in Jesus, and a good hope in Him through grace, to cherish the fulness of the Saviour’s joy.
Christ’s own joy our joy
I. THE NATURE OF CHRIST’S JOY. The joy of Jesus was not that then that every eye could see. It certainly was not the mirthfulness that plays over the countenance. To have looked into His face would not have been to see joy mirrored. It was more marred than that of the sons of men, and deep were the furrows care had ploughed. If it was a joy not strongly expressed in the countenance, it was also a joy not easily detected by His conversation. In His recorded discourses we have no sparkling coruscations of mirthfulness, investing them with brilliancy, but rather a spirit of calm sadness. Observe also that the joy of Jesus was not one extracted from surrounding circumstances. With too many of us our joy is distilled from our circumstances, and consequently if those circumstances be adverse we are destitute of happiness. Our joy, like honey, is gathered “from every opening flower.” Many of you know what poverty means--can you coin joy out of it? You may know what reproach is--do you find it a fount of sweetness or bitterness? You have been betrayed--do you like it? With us death is in a great measure an unknown thing, and the time of it is uncertain, but remember that with Jesus every pain was foreknown, and all the agony and shame forefelt, and yet He had so deep a joy that He prayed that His joy might fill His disciples. Assuredly then, it was not the joy gleaned from surroundings. What was it? It was a joy that had its fount deep within the soul. It was not a joy that flowed into the soul through the channel of the senses. The tide flowed the other way. It flowed out from the soul. Here is one of the great differences between the joy of the Christian and the joy of the worldling. The latter drinks in nearly all his joy through the senses. The child, lovely and beloved, sends joy into the heart through the channel of the sight. Music comes stealing through the corridors of the ear--joy comes with it. The scent of the rose awakens pleasure, and taste and touch alike become the instruments of happiness. The Christian, like his Master, has all these, but the joy of his heart is the joy that rises there independently of all outside things; the joy which like himself is born from above. This joy is not confined to any one place. Being an inward joy it may be had under any and every circumstance, yea, it is a joy that will thrive where any other joy would perish. It is the chamois of the Alps, that leaps like the hind of the morning where others cannot walk, and finds its food where most would starve. The only difficulty would be to say where it cannot and where it has not grown. It has sprung up between the stone slabs of the dungeon floor, and made the prison a conservatory. It has flourished in poverty until the inhabitant of the palace has envied. It has lived in the flames of martyrdom, and made the tongue sing when almost all beside was charred and blackened. It is a joy that lives in the fountains of the great deep of the soul. So much for the joy of Christ being an inward one. Let us now go more into particulars, and see what was the nature of this inward joy, or the different channels in which it flowed.
1. I observe that it was the joy of communion. Our Saviour ever had an abiding sense of His Father’s nearness, and deep beyond all description, must have been the fellowship between them.
2. Christ’s joy was also the joy of realized and returned love, Communion is more a positive act, this an experience. Christ felt His Father’s love. This
He declares--“The Father loveth the Son.” Christ loved the Father. This also He declared--“I love the Father.” Now a realized and returned love can only result in joy. I was standing on a tongue of land, or rather rocks, with a river on either side of me. Both rivers could be traced for some way back. They came from almost opposite directions. Both of them came leaping and roaring along channels filled with great boulder stones. Both of them were beautiful to a degree. For many a mile they had each run their lovely course, gradually nearing, until at last their streams met at the foot of the rock on which I stood. The place was called “the meeting of the waters,” and marvellous was the “water’s music.” The two streams embraced, and seemed for a moment or two to dance for very glee, and then blending, ran off no longer separate but one. So I thought I have in this division of my subject the meeting of the waters. The one stream is called “the Father loveth He.” The other stream is called “I love the Father.” Both are exquisitely lovely. Both are born from above. One flows from the mountain of the Father’s house on high; the other from the Rock of Ages. They meet in our subject, and the music of the meeting of the waters is joy. A heart beloved and a heart loving must be a heart of joy. This joy was Christ’s This joy may be, should be, must be ours. The same stream of love that flowed from the Father to the Son, flows from the Father to us.
3. It was also the joy of complete surrender. What would have been a source of sorrow to most, casts a bright gleam of sunshine into the heart of the Man of Sorrows. How is it so? By what process does He extract matter for joy from seeming want of success--a bitter cup to the lips of most? The answer you have in His own words, “Even so Father.” Yes, this was enough for the soul perfectly surrendered. It was the Father’s will that so it should be, and therefore it being so, was the Son’s joy. Would to God we knew more of this joy of perfect and complete surrender. It is our will clashing with our Father’s will that gives disquiet. Were our will but one with His, it would be utterly impossible for us ever to be anything else than serene, calm, and happy.
4. It was the joy of one who could look back upon a life work finished. In the fourth verse of this chapter our Saviour says, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” Yet once more.
5. It was the joy of approaching glory. How clearly does this shine out in the first few words of our text, “and now come I to Thee.” “I to Thee!”
Ah, here is joy indeed. Christ’s own joy is indeed ours in this respect. His heaven is our heaven--His home our home.
II. THE MEASURE IN WHICH CHRIST DESIRES HIS SAINTS TO POSSESS THIS JOY. “Fulfilled.” What an expressive word have we here! Full to the overflow--filled to the utmost capacity. This is the measure of joy Christ wishes for His disciples. They already possessed it in some degree, but He wished them to have it in a far larger; like a sacred flood until it overflows all banks, and eddies into every nook and cranny of the soul. How are we to obtain this inward bliss? Our text tells us. “These things I speak that they might have My joy.” It is the word of Jesus that gives this joy. No looking into our own hearts or inspection of our own feelings will avail. That will but empty us. And oh how necessary it is that we should be filled. A very simple illustration will show the necessity. Take a bottle but half full of water, and placing your hand over its mouth, shake it. See how the water rushes from end to end as you move it. There is a turmoil within at the slightest motion. Why? Because it is only half full. Now fill it until you cannot add another drop. Shake it--all is still within. Turn it upside down--all is quiet. Why is this? Because it isquite full, and therefore no outside motion affects it. (A. G. Brown.)
I hath given them Thy Word, and the world hath hated them.
The believer’s position in the world
It was one distinguished by
I. SPIRITUAL PRIVILEGE. “I hath given them Thy Word.”
1. These terms are comprehensive of the revelation of Divine grace and truth as a whole, which Christ Jesus taught as they were able to bear it. Who at this time, in the whole world, knew the Word of God as did these Galilean fishermen?
2. To receive the Word of God
3. And since with every privilege responsibility is involved, these disciples were invested with a trust which required them to be kept with Divine power. All disciples now, in a sense, share in this privilege and responsibility.
II. MORAL SEPARATION.
1. They were not of the world
2. This separation exposed them to social persecution--“The world hath hated them,” &c. The only world of which they knew anything by experience as yet was their own country, and it hated them. And if this was their experience up to now how signally in a wider sphere did it come to be so afterwards (1 Corinthians 4:13). The Saviour’s spotless purity rebuked the looseness of the age, His benevolence its selfishness, His piety its worldliness. Therefore it hated Him, and the disciples shared in the hostility which was heaped upon the Master.
3. Christ was the model of this separation. “Even as I am not of the world.” Jesus had not come out of the world as His disciples had done, for He was never of it, as they were. He was not of the world, although He came to the world, lived in the world, mixed with the men of the world, and in the scenes of the world, He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, and His disciples accepted His principles, and gradually became assimilated to His character. To be like Christ, and to be “unspotted from the world “is the only true and abiding glory of human character. What does the world care for saints? It has not a good opinion of them, nor a good word for them; its spirit is entirely opposed to them, and it is not slow to call them fools. (J. Spence, D. D.)
Christians not of the world
I. EXPLAIN AND ESTABLISH THE TRUTH OF THE ASSERTION. Christians are not of the world
1. Because they are not attached to its party.
(a) The authority of God forbids it. “Come out from among them and ye separate,” &c.
(b) The peace of his fellow Christians. Such bold intimacies with the world would grieve the strong, and throw a stumbling-block in the way of the weak.
(c) The welfare of his own soul. “Can a man take fire in his bosom and not be burned?” My young friends, beware of wicked company! Cultivate no friendships that will end in everlasting ruin.
2. They are not actuated by the spirit of the world. Everything else is vain without this. Your forsaking the world in profession, your leaving it in appearance, by your apparel, your discourse, your manner of life, is nothing unless it be animated by internal principle. And when the heart is detached from the world, these two advantages flow from it:
(a) Then you will not be governed by the maxims and opinions of the world. You will not ask what are the sentiments of the multitude, but what says the Scripture?
(b) You will not be attached to its amusements and dissipations. The sun arising conceals the stars--not by spreading gloom, but by diffusing lustre. It is a poor thing to be dragged out of the dissipations of the world, against inclination, while we still look back with Lot’s wife. But it is a glorious thing to leave these diversions from the discovery and possession of superior entertainment and sublimer joys.
(c) You will not be led by the conversation of the world; for speech is governed by affection; “and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
3. They are not natives of the world. Our Lord said to the Jews, “Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world.” Now the believer may adopt the same language. He is here only as “a stranger, and a foreigner,” not a native; he derives his being from heaven. And as he is born from above, no wonder that he “seeks those things which are above.”
4. They do not choose their portion here. Hence the Christian learns in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content. This never can be the case with the man who makes the world his portion. A Christian feels worldly trials, but he is not miserable. He is thankful for temporal indulgencies, but he is not exalted above measure.
II. WHAT DOES THIS TRUTH TEACH US?
1. It enables us easily to account for the world’s persecution of real Christians. They are not willing indeed to acknowledge what our Lord alleges as the cause of their hatred. “It is not for your holiness we condemn you, but for your pride, your censoriousness, your hypocrisy.” But how is it that the most holy and zealous Christians have been the most obnoxious to the men of the world? And a much stronger case: how was it that the Lord was more abhorred than His followers? Was He proud, censorious, false? And what our Saviour said to the Jews will apply to many Christians--falsely so called now--“The world cannot hate you”--you are somuch like it--“but Me”--Me “it hateth because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil.” Bear the same decisive testimony by your words and actions, and be assured a portion of the same rancour will follow. The case is plain. Resemblance is a ground of affection; but unsuitableness, of dislike. “Hence,” say the Apostle, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” of one kind or another. It began early. Cain slew his brother Abel; “and wherefore slew he him”? It prevailed also in the family of Abraham; “and as it was then, so it is now; he that was born after the flesh persecuted Him that was born after the Spirit.” “Marvel not therefore,” says our Saviour, “if the world hate you.” Do not murmur; you suffer in the noblest company, and your enemies can neither hinder your present peace, nor destroy your future happiness.
2. If the distinguishing badge of a Christian is this--that he is “not of the world”--then are there few real Christians to be found. Judge yourselves by this test. Ask yourselves wherein you differ from the men of the world.
3. See how little we should be affected with the charge of preciseness and singularity. You would not be afraid of being peculiarly wise, or beautiful, or wealthy. Why then wish to escape the praise of being singular in religion? What wisdom, what beauty, what riches can be compared to this?
4. If Christians are not of the world, no wonder they are more than reconciled to a withdrawment from it. No wonder they love solitude and enter their closets. There they exchange the world for God. No wonder they prize the Sabbath--it is a day of retreat, it is an emblem of heavenly rest. No wonder if death be no longer formidable--it is leaving a vain, vexing, defiling world. (W. Jay.)
I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil
The parting prayer
THE MOTIVES WHICH PROMPTED THIS PRAYER.
1. To evince the tenderness of His heart toward His people. Usually, when any master-grief takes possession of the mind, we seldom have much disposition or power, to sympathise with the sorrows of others. Had our Lord been the subject of this infirmity, this was not the time for Him to have been concerned about the future trials of His people. Yet at this moment, when we might suppose His every thought and feeling to have been absorbed in the sword that was about to pierce His soul, we find Jesus turning to consider the comparatively little griefs of His dear disciples, His prayer seems to be--“Holy Father, think not of My coming sufferings, but think of these whom I am about to leave full of sorrows, and keep them.”
2. That He might instruct His disciples to the end of time in that mighty interest with which He is always engaged for their spiritual preservation. As you go through the successive clauses of this chapter, you will find in almost every verse something to show that God has a direct interest in the consummation of that scheme which Jesus came both to reveal and to accomplish; that “His own great name” was to be furthered thereby, and that it formed part of the covenant which He made with Jesus, that these His people should be saved through His blood.
II. THE TRUTHS THAT ARE TO BE LEARNED FROM THIS PRAYER. 1 That the world is full of dangers. The world is, and must ever be the Christian’s adversary. It is a sinful place. The prince of evil is its god; the fascinations of evil are its snares; the works of evil are its employments; and the triumphs of evil are its boast and its pride.
2. That there are ends to be accomplished by our remaining in the world which make it expedient that we should for a time be kept in it. And this expediency consisted in this: these His disciples had a work to do. They had His honour to promote and His gospel to spread. This is true of us. We have all our stated duties to fulfil; we have all a nook in His providence to fill up; we have all our own little wheel to turn in that vast machine, which governs and controls the universe. It is not therefore the language of true obedience to say “My soul is weary of life; would that God would take me to Himself!” It is nothing more than the suicide’s thought, clothed in Gospel language. It is impatience of the yoke Christ has laid on the shoulder. It is not the saint’s desire to “rest from his labour;” it is the worldling’s desire to rest without labour. It is the wish to use that part of our Lord’s prayer, “Father, glorify Thy Son,” without remembering that other part of it, “I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do.”
3. That the power of this evil of the world is so great, that we can only be delivered from it by the almighty power of God.
3. That the only lawful measure of solicitude we are to entertain about the things of this world is, that we may be “kept from the evil” which belongs to it. Life is full of disappointed projects and griefs. Then how important is it, that we should be able to ascertain what solicitude we are permitted to entertain. The passage tells us that our only solicitude is to be guided by this; not by the evils themselves, but their spiritual results. I am not to pray against poverty; but I am to pray against its evils. I am not to pray against riches; but I am to pray against their temptations. I am not to pray against the disappointments, and vexations, and crosses, and cares of life; but I am to pray, that however multiplied and grievous are the forms of trial that await me, I may never have a murmuring, unsubmissive, discontented spirit. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The saintly painter Fra Angelico flung out his thoughts upon the cells of San Marco, and those who visit Florence are arrested and subdued by the purity of his dreams. My friends, that other powerful artist who adorned the ceiling of the Sistine, has traced our figures copied more directly from the study of the human form, but warmed into life by the fire of Divine genius; and of such men we cannot but say that they penetrated the hidden chambers of another world before they could leave before the eyes of five astonished centuries such visions, more lovely or more appalling than the mysteries and marvels of our dreams. But I tell you that in the streets of London, in the streets of Manchester, it is possible for us in our ordinary life to see pictures more pure than the dreams of Angelico, more powerful than the masterpieces of Angelo. Here we are face to face with living men, seine in youth, in the early days of passion and struggle, some in age, when the fire is failing and the eye growing dim, who, in the midst of a world that forgets God, or defies Him, are enabled to do mighty things though hidden to sustain an inner life of loyalty to supernatural principle amidst the fretting care of daily toil. (Knox Little.)
Christ’s prayer for His disciples
I. WHAT OUR LORD ASKS FOR US. His petition has two sides--a negative and a positive. To be kept from evil in the world means
1. To be engaged in the world’s business, and have it rightly directed. Some have thought that we would be more Christian if we were to withdraw into solitude. But this is impossible for the mass of men, and it is in direct opposition to the example of Christ, and to the spirit of His gospel. Paul did not think his office suffered when he wrought as a tentmaker, and was not labour consecrated by the Son of God Himself? Whatever is open to men, that is just and right in business, is open to Christians, and whatever their hands find to do, they are to do it with their might. The gospel asks of its friends that all their business should be
2. To suffer under its trials, and to be preserved from impatience. If a man would escape trial, he must needs go out of the world, and when Christ prayed that His disciples should be kept in it, He knew that they were to suffer affliction. Moral distinctions are not observed in the providential allotment of calamity. This stumbles many. But if God were to exempt His friends from trial, He would take away from Christians one of the most effective means of their training, and one of the most striking ways in which they can prove their likeness to Christ. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour, but it is not seen in his being saved from suffering; it is in the way in which he meets it. Few things do more to raise the tone of our own Christian life, and to prove to men that there is a hidden property in religion which can turn the bitterest thing in this world into sweetness.
3. To be exposed to its temptations, and preserved from falling into sin. God has not seen fit to deprive sinful things of their attractiveness, nor to disarm the great enemy of his fiery darts, nor to quench at once and altogether the inflammable material in our heart. This would be fighting the battle and gaining the victory without us, and there could then be no perfected purity, no established character, no conqueror’s crown. This should mark a Christian in the world, that he should have a deeper view of what is to be aimed at in character--of what is meant by being kept from evil. It is not to be preserved from misfortune, or sickness, or reproach, or bereavement, but from sin.
II. WHY HE ASKS IT.
1. For the benefit of the world. If Christ were to remove men so soon as they become His followers, He would be taking away from the world its greatest blessings. True Christians are the salt of the earth and its light.
2. For the honour of His own name. There is glory that accrues to the name of Christ when a sinner drops the weapons of rebellion, and when His redeemed are brought home. But it is for His honour also that there should be an interval between--a pathway of struggle, where the power of His grace may be seen preserving His friends in every extremity. It was a glorious thing for the Head Himself to enter the lists of battle, and to depart a victor, triumphing through endurance to the death. But it multiplies His triumph, or brings out all that was hidden in it, when we see it repeated in the victory of the weakest of His followers. It is like the sun reflecting His image from every dewdrop, folding out His treasures in the green leaves and colours of all the flowers, and flashing His light along the beaded moisture of gossamer threads--for we believe that not a blessing or a comfort, not a grace or virtue rises out of the night of our sin and suffering--not the slightest filament of feeling sparkles into hope--but it will be found that it owes its source to the fountain of light and life which God has opened for His world in Jesus Christ.
3. For the good of Christians themselves. “Master, it is good for us to be here,” Peter said on the Holy Mount, “Let us build here three tabernacles. Why go down again into the dark world of opposition and trial, when we can enjoy at once the heavenly vision”? But “he wist not what he said,” and he was compelled to descend and travel many a weary footstep, before he reached that higher mount where he now stands with his Lord in glory. We, too, may sometimes feel that it would be better for us to be carried past these temptations and struggles, and to enter at once into rest. But He who undertakes for us knows what is best, and as it was expedient for us that He should depart, so must it also be that we should for a season remain behind, Not that this is indisipensable for our sanctification, for the Saviour who could carry the dying thief at once to paradise, could do the same for all of us. The reason seems rather to be that there are lessons which we have to learn on this earth which can be taught us in no other part of our history.
Conclusion: Let this petition point out
1. Our duty. What He asked for us we must aim at. Let us fear nothing so much as sin; and feel that our life can aim at a true and noble end, only when it breathes the air of this prayer of Christ.
2. Our security. The life of a Christian man is in no common keeping. It is suspended on the intercession of Christ (John 17:24). (J. Ker, D. D.)
Christ’s prayer for the disciples
I. THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST DID NOT PRAY. The reasons for this negative prayer are twofold.
1. Those which were personal to the disciples.
2. That which related to the world. It was for the world’s sake that our Lord would not have His disciples removed. They were to be its “light.”
II. THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST DID PRAY. The man who has turned to Christ is not freed from the possibility of falling. There is not given him such a measure of grace as to render his relapse impossible, nor does Satan give up hope of recovery. What an encouragement to endurance and effort that Christ prayed then and prays still! Learn
1. The necessity of constant watchfulness and endeavour. Christ prays for us, but we by our own acts must render the prayer effectual.
2. A lesson of confidence. By ourselves we must fall, but we are not by ourselves. (W. Rudder, D. D.)
The Christian in the world
Christ is “come into the world,” and therefore thou needest not “go out of the world” to meet Him. He doth not call thee from thy calling, but in thy calling. The dove went up and down from the ark and to the ark, and yet was not disappointed of her olive-leaf. Thou mayest come to the house of God at due times, and thou mayest do the business of the world in other places too; and still keep thy olive, thy peace of conscience (Genesis 24:27; 1 Corinthians 5:10). (J. Donne, D. D.)
The disciples in the world
I. THE WORLD. The world is a globe some eight thousand miles through and three times eight thousand miles round. It is one of the lesser members of a family of worlds. The whole universe, within the telescopic horizon, is composed of gigantic continents of suns, the dim lines of which shimmer in the ethereal depths. Yet our planet, relatively so small, is a vast world. What moral interests centre in it I It was not the first theatre of intelligence and responsibility. When the progenitors of our race received their being, there were mighty tides of good and evil, bliss and misery, sweeping from an unknown past into the unfathomable gulfs of the endless future. When but one pair of human beings was alone amidst the otherwise unpeopled solitude, they were caught and borne along by the evil current. Murder broke out in the first family; and sin has been in every household since. What a world is ours at the present moment! Call before you its heathenisms and its inadequate reception of the gospel in what are called Christian lands. Portray to your imagination its wars, vices, diseases, sufferings. Barbarism conceals none of its iniquities; civilization is often as guilty behind its decorous exterior. Poverty brings temptation, and riches are full of snares. Ignorance surrounds our path with danger; and learning is commonly only a variation of peril. Deformity makes life sordid; and beauty as frequently ministers to luxury. Idleness breeds mischief, and occupation tends to nurture ambition and greed. Disappointment chills and sours not a few; and success destroys many more. The seeming goodness of one droops in hours of ease; another falls in the time of conflict. And oh l of what delusions and perils the best men are conscious! The godly feel their evil and see their dangers as no others can.
II. OUR SAVIOUR’S DESIRE THAT HIS DISCIPLES MIGHT REMAIN IN THE WORLD.
1. How differently our Lord regarded human life from many whose history inspired men have handed down to us! Jesus never desired for Himself or His followers an unhonoured escape from the tests of this mortal career. When the patient Job was overwhelmed with affliction, he longed for the hour of death. So did the Psalmist (Psalms 55:5); Elijah (1 Kings 19:4); Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:2); and Jonah (Jonah 4:3). Oh! how transcendently unlike all this is the bearing of Jesus! “Thy will be done” is His lifelong prayer.
2. Jesus surpassed all others in His lofty estimate of the possibilities of a human life in this world of mystery, sin, and death.
III. OUR SAVIOUR’S PRAYER THAT HIS DISCIPLES MIGHT BE KEPT FROM THE EVIL OF THE WORLD.
1. Our Lord knew that the end of a life like ours cannot be attained except through a probation like ours. He did not cry, therefore, “Father, stay the direful ordeal, and rearrange the lot of man.” But He prayed, “Father, keep these from evil.”
2. He knew that the life of God in the soul was endowed with all the properties necessary to its triumph. The one thing that represses, hinders, and overthrows, is sin. Keep this deadly influence away, and there will be progress and victory. Hence Jesus stretched the bright shield of His intercession over the heads of His disciples, saying, “I pray,” &c.
1. A Christian has every reason to cultivate a temper contented, jubilant, as he surveys this mysterious scene. The adamant of a Saviour’s intercession is stretched over every soul that confides in His redeeming grace.
2. The great end of life is not ease and comfort. The great concern is, to be preserved from evil. The terrible tests of life are not to be lowered. We are to bear them (James 1:12).
3. How sad is the contrast of multitudes, to whom the gospel is preached, and who seek no deliverance and preservation from evil! (H. Batchelor.)
Better to stay than go
We have here
I. A NEGATIVE PRAYER.
II. THE MEANINGS OF THIS PRAYER.
1. That they should not, by retirement and solitude, be kept entirely separate from the world. Hermits and others have fancied that if we were to shut ourselves from the world we should then be more devoted to God and serve Him better. But monasticism has demonstrated its fallacy. It was found that some sinned more grossly than men who were in the world. There are not many who can depart from the customs of social life and maintain their spirit unsullied. Common sense tells us that living alone is not the way to serve God. It may be the way to serve self. If it be possible by this means to fulfil one part of the great law of God, we cannot possibly carry out the other portion--to love our neighbour as ourselves. I have heard of a man who thought he could live without sin if he were to dwell alone, so he took a pitcher of water and store of bread, and provided some wood, and locked himself up in a solitary cell, saving. “Now I shall live in peace” But in a moment or two he chanced to kick the pitcher over, and he thereupon used an angry expression. Then he said, “I see it is possible to lose one’s temper even when alone,” and at once returned to live among men.
2. That they should not be taken out of the world by death. That is a blessed mode of taking us out of the world, which will happen to us all by and by. How frequently does the wearied pilgrim put up the prayer,” Oh that I had wings like a dove!” &c. But Christ does not pray like that; He leaves it to His Father, until, like shocks of corn fully ripe, we shall be gathered into our Master’s garner.
III. THE REASONS.
1. It would not be for our own good. We conceive that the greatest blessing we shall ever receive of God is to die; but it is better for us to tarry, because
2. It is for the good of other people. Why may not saints die as soon as they are converted? Because God meant that they should be the means of the salvation of their brethren. You would not, surely, wish to go out of the world if there were a soul to be saved by you. Mayhap, poor widow, thou art spared in this world because there is a wayward son of thine not yet saved, and God hath designed to make thee the favoured instrument of bringing him to glory.
3. It is for God’s glory. A tried saint brings more glory to God than an untried one. Nothing reflects so much honour on a workman as a trial of his work and its endurance of it. So with God.
IV. THE DOCTRINAL INFERENCES.
1. Death is God taking His people out of the world; and when we die we are removed by God.
2. Dying is not of one-half so much importance as living to Christ. It may be an important question, How does a man die? but the most important one is, How does a man live? Do not put any confidence in death-beds as evidences of Christianity. The great evidence is not how a man dies, but how he lives.
V. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS.
1. That we never have any encouragement to ask God to let us die.
2. Do not be afraid to go out into the world to do good. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The world’s need of Christians
A young lawyer, going to the West to settle for life, made it his boast that he “would locate in some place where there were no churches, Sunday schools, or Bibles.” He found a place which substantially met his conditions. But before the year was out he wrote to a former classmate, a young minister, begging him to come out and bring plenty of Bibles, and begin preaching, and start a Sunday school; for, he said, he had “become convinced that a place without Christians, and Sabbaths, and churches, and Bibles was too much like hell for any living man to stay in.”
Unworldliness in the world
Though Sir Thomas More lived so much in the world and at Court, yet his heart was kept unworldly by the singular virtue of his private life. If he entertained his equals freely, he also frequently invited the poor to dine and sup with him; the more he was in the king’s palace, the more he resorted to the cottages of the poor; when he added to his house a library, he provided also a house near his own for the comfort of his aged neighbours; and when most involved in worldly business he built himself a chapel. He never entered on any fresh public employment without an act of devotion and a participation in the Lord’s Supper--trusting, as he said, more to the grace of God thus derived than to his own wit; and so long as his father lived he never sat on the judgment-seat--that seat was the Lord Chancellor’s--without asking his blessing on his knees. (F. Myers, M. A.)
Mutual necessity; or, why saints are left to sojourn in a sinful world
I. BECAUSE THE WORLD NEEDS THEM. It needs
1. Their example. They are the lights of the world. In their character, duties, and sufferings they show the blessed influence of religion. A good example has a wonderful attraction. Godly men are living epistles.
2. Their testimony. They are God’s witnesses. They go into the world and bring the truth in contact with men’s minds. The world needs them as it needed the glorious mission of their Lord and Master. Think of the results of their labours. Be faithful, and testify fearlessly for God and truth.
3. Their prayers. The prayers of the Church are like Moses’ rod. Israel needed Elijah’s prayers. Jerusalem sinners needed the prayers which preceded the pentecostal visitation. May the Lord increase the number of praying ministers, teachers, and parents!
4. Their sympathies. See the glorious institutions of our Lord, the ministrations to the sick and dying, &c., &c. What is the source of such benevolence? The life of religion in the souls of men.
II. BECAUSE THEY NEED THE WORLD.
1. For the trial of their faith (Hebrews 11:1-40.). The Christian’s trials are necessary as a heavenly discipline. They come forth as gold. Reliance on Jesus is faith’s first exercise; confidence in God as a Father is established as we pass through this world of care and temptation.
2. To prove the sincerity of their love. We are in a state of probation. Our profession of love must be tested. Thus it was with Peter: “Lovest thou Me?”--then go and give tangible proof thereof. Saints are sent into the gospel vineyard, and in the next world the Great Proprietor will say to the faithful, “Well done,” &c.
3. For their progressive sanctification. High situations are attained by degrees; health promoted by exercise. Strength and skill are obtained by conflict. Storms clear the atmosphere. Thus with the book of “truth” as our guide and help, we struggle onward and upward, gathering strength as we go, and rejoicing in anticipation of that world where sin has never found an abode. Let the saint and the sinner, respectively, inquire, Am I improving the period of my earthly existence? (Congregational Pulpit.)
Kept from the evil
I. FROM WHAT BELIEVERS SHALL BE KEPT.
1. Negatively; not
2. Positively. They shall be kept
II. WHAT ASSURANCE THERE IS THAT BELIEVERS SHALL THUS BE KEPT FROM THE EVIL, THOUGH NOT TAKEN OUT OF THE WORLD. Note the following considerations
1. That of the Person praying; the beloved, in whom the Father is always well pleased, and who He always hears.
2. That of what He asks for, and on what ground. His request is for the preservation of His people, in order to their eternal happiness, which is most agreeable to the will of God, and the end for which He was sent by Him into the world (John 6:39).
3. That of Him to whom His request is directed, viz., the God who “spared not His own Son,” &c.
4. That of the persons for whom He intercedes--His children and chosen, such as He has a special interest in and bears a peculiar love unto.
1. Hence learn the greatness and constancy of Christ’s love to His people, and of His desire of their eternal blessedness with Him.
2. What a powerful argument should it be with all to come to Him unfeignedly. Who would live a day in the world without an interest in this prayer of His, of being kept from the evil?
3. It may greatly strengthen the faith of true Christians in their daily prayers for deliverance from evil.
4. How much is the world mistaken as to Christ’s servants, as if they were the most miserable persons in it, when their Lord hath provided so fully for their safety and happiness.
5. How inexcusable must it be to forsake Christ and His service for fear of suffering. He that would save his life by running from the Lord of life takes the direct way to lose it.
6. Let this encourage us cheerfully to follow the Captain of our salvation whilst we live, and to commit our souls unto Him when we die. (D. Wilcox.)
The Christian in society
(Text in connection with Romans 12:2)
I. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD, WHICH REQUIRES ITS DISCIPLES TO ABJURE SOCIETY.
1. This might be inferred from the consideration of human nature. Man is a social being. He was never intended to spend his life in solitude. The heaviest punishment is that of prolonged solitary confinement. Our villages and cities all proclaim that man was intended for society.
2. Almost the first appearance of the Saviour in His public ministry was at a social entertainment, and oftener than once He accepted an invitation to a feast, and availed Himself of the opportunity which it afforded to illustrate and enforce the great things of His kingdom. The grand distinction between Him and the Baptist was that the latter sought the wilderness, but Jesus mingled with the people. Thereby He taught that His design was not to turn men into anchorites.
3. In perfect harmony with this view of the case is the petition in the prayer. It would not be good for the Christian to withdraw from social intercourse, for though solitude is occasionally beneficial, yet it would be extremely injurious to a man to have for a series of months no other companion than himself. The supreme happiness of life is in going out of self for the benefit of others. It is, therefore, quite a false idea, that there is more of holiness and happiness in seclusion than in society. I do not say that no true spiritually-minded ones have preserved their holiness in such a place: the story of Port Royal proves the opposite. But I do affirm that those are most truly walking in the footsteps of our Divine Master who are seeking in daily life to serve their God. There is a manliness and an energy about the piety of such men which we look for in vain even among the most saintly of secluded ones. The hothouse may be indispensable for tropical shrubs, but it would render delicate the Alpine tree. Even so the Christian religion was designed by its Founder to stand the winter of the world; and to nurse it within the artificial protection of the monastery will weaken its vitality.
4. But neither would it be good for the world if the Christian should abjure his intercourse with society, for how then would the prophecy of its conversion be fulfilled? Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world,” but how shall they dissipate its darkness unless they penetrate its atmosphere? He said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” but if the salt come not into contact with that which is to be preserved, how shall its antiseptic qualities begin to work upon it?
II. THOUGH MOVING AMONG OTHER MEN, THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE DIFFERENT FROM THEM. Here we come to the second text.
1. The root of the Christian’s nonconformity is his regeneration. The peculiarity about him is that he works from an inward principle that is different from that of other men. By the renewing of his mind he has come to see things in a new light, and so when he acts differently from other men, it is not because he is under the iron law of a superior, but because he chooses so to act, and finds his happiness in taking such a course.
2. What, then, is this inward principle? It is a regard to the will of God. Thus Peter and John said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God,” &c.; and Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” So every genuine child of God takes the will of his Father to be the rule of his life. Other men ask, “Will it pay?” Others consult their ease or custom; but the Christian regulates himself by the Word of God.
3. In what way will this inward principle develop itself in the outward conduct?
III. ON ALL PURELY INDIFFERENT MATTERS, AND WHERE HIS CONFORMITY WILL NOT BE MISUNDERSTOOD, BUT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE SPIRITUAL BENEFIT OF OTHER MEN, THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE AS THEY ARE: “I am made all things to all men,” &c. Paul did not become like other men in their sinful pursuits, but he cultivated that spirit by which he was enabled to suit himself to the people among whom he moved. He did not needlessly offend prejudice.
1. In order to benefit men, the believer should be courteous, gentlemanly, polite, in his intercourse with men. Some think that their Christianity gives them a right to set all social distinctions at defiance, and by way of asserting their equality to all they treat all with contempt. Under pretence of being faithful, and of asserting their brotherhood, they are only impertinent; while, again, there are those in the wealthier circles who cannot endure the poorer, and treat them with disdain. Now, all that conduct is utterly inconsistent with Christian principle.
2. But in taking thought of the courtesy, do not forget the great end which as Christians you ought to have in view. You are in society to benefit it. But even in seeking that, you must be upon your guard against repelling where you desire to attract. Do not drag religion into your talk so as to make it distasteful. Cultivate the art of incidental allusion, and if you make a transition in the conversation, make it naturally, so that your companions may not be jolted into silence. Find out what your friends are interested in, and, descending to their level, you will be able to lift them. A friend went one evening into the room where his son was taking lessons in singing, and found his tutor urging him to sound a certain note. Each time the lad made the attempt, however, he fell short, and the teacher kept on saying, “Higher! Higher!” But it was all to no purpose, until, descending to the tone which the boy was sounding, the musician accompanied him with his own voice, and led him gradually up to that which he wanted him to sing, and then he sounded it with ease. So let us do in conversation with those whom we meet in society, and we may become very skilful in winning souls to Christ. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Christians one with the world and yet distinct from it
Nature never builds fences. The mountain slopes down to meet the valley, the day fades and darkens into night, the shore shelves off into the sea, but the exact point at which the one merges in the other is undetermined. Is there, then, no distinction between them? Is the daytime as the night because no eye can fix the instant when the gates unclose to let the morning through? Is the separation between land and sea unreal because between them lies a narrow strip over which they alternately hold sway? The Christian life must slope downward to meet the world and mingle with it. In business partnerships, in political interests, in social matters, in hundreds of affairs, the Christian and unchristian man must meet on neutral ground. Is the distinction between them therefore lost; even for an instant? Because they have great interests in common, because in many things they act alike, is the one in all essentials like the other? No more than the day is as the night. Narrow is the border-land on which the two men meet. As regards all the great realities the one is in the shadowy valley and the other on the sunlit heights; both touch the twilight’s border-land, but one never passes over it into the day, nor the other beyond it into the night.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world
The unworldliness of Christ
This does not mean
That He cared nothing for the world. There are men so utterly selfish, and absorbed with their own concerns that in a sense they may be said to be “not of the world.” They care nothing for it. But Christ was intensely interested in the men about Him. “He went about doing good.”
2. That He did not appreciate the natural blessings of the world. There are austere souls who are “not of the world” in this sense: its innocent amusements they regard with a pietistic horror; they have a superstitious fear of eating and drinking lest they should give their body an advantage over their soul. But Christ came “eating and drinking.” What is the world? It is
I. PRACTICALLY ATHEISTIC. It is “without God.” Not theoretically, for the laws of the mind render Atheism as a conviction an impossibility. But practically men have been “without God” ever since the Fall, His presence is not acknowledged, nor His will consulted, practically, and were it assured to-day that no God existed, its life would remain unaltered. Christ was intensely theistic. The Father filled His own horizon, and was never out of His mind. The moment the soul feels God to be in the world, the world assumes a new form.
II. PRACTICALLY MATERIALISTIC. Men ever since the Fall “judge,” “walk,” “live” after the flesh. Christ was intensely spiritual. Men are carnally minded.
1. Their pleasures are material. “What shall we eat, what shall we drink?” Christ’s pleasures were spiritual,” I have meat to eat that ye know not of.”
2. Their honours are material. The highest honour is an earthly crown; the highest victories those of the sword. Christ’s kingdom was not of this world. He did not war after the flesh; His empire was Spirit; His weapons truth; His legions saints and angels.
III. PRACTICALLY SELFISH. Every man seeks His own. There are as many interests in the world as men; hence the collisions, domestic, social, ecclesiastical, natural. Christ was love, and pleased not Himself. Conclusion: The subject furnishes
1. A test of genuine Christianity. A true Christian is like Christ.
2. A guide to man’s grand interest--which is to get out of the moral spirit of the world, which is the Babylon of the soul. “Arise ye, and depart,” &c. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The unwordliness of a Christian life
This text teaches us
I. THAT CHRIST IS NOT OF THE WORLD.
1. Christ came down from a higher world into this. He was not the product of the age in which He lived. Some say that He was.
(a) Christ was full of fresh life, whilst the age was dead.
(b) Christ was spiritual, whilst the age was formal.
(c) In a time in which “the oracles were dumb,” Christ spoke forth that which men felt to be the word of God.
(d) In an age of artificiality, He was real.
If Christ had been the creation of His age, He would have perished with it. Christ was crucified by the Jews, because He did not answer their expectation of a political Messiah.
2. If all this is true, we might naturally expect that Christ would be unworldly. Anything which puts a man before his time tends to make him so, because it withdraws him from the influences which are at work around him into a higher sphere. I understand by a worldly man, one who does not seek to raise the standard of his generation, but who conforms to it. The worldly standard differs in different ages. In the last century it was favourable to duelling and drinking. In the present day, it is against all outward breaches of decorum, but it is strongly in favour of the worship of wealth and outward success. The worldly spirit is the utter antipodes of the spirit of Christ. All Christ’s teaching was unworldly. He praised the very virtues which worldly men do not praise. He did not look upon either things, or men, or women, or cities as the worldly man looks upon them. He did not regard the distinctions of society, but looked below them all.
II. THAT CHRIST’S DISCIPLES ARE NOT OF THE WORLD.
1. It has not been always expected that disciples should have the same disposition or lead the same life as their Teacher. It has been enough if they received His system. But no adherence to a system will make us disciples of Christ. “If we have not the spirit of Christ, we are none of His.” Not that a disciple is perfectly like Christ: he may be very imperfect, as were the first disciples. A disciple is a learner, and you do not expect a learner to be perfect. But in the very act of entering Christ’s school His disciples turn their backs upon the world and deny themselves its vanities. Hence Christ said, “If any man will be My disciple, let him take up his cross and follow Me.”
2. If you will be Christ’s disciples
3. The history of the struggle between the Christian life and the spirit of the world may be divided into two periods.
(a) The world corrupted the Church with heathenism. All the true Christian life in the Middle Ages had to struggle up towards the light shining through any loop-holes which there might be in that dense system of superstition.
(b) The world corrupted the Church with her vices. Superstition, in the long run, leads to vice. All the institutions of the Church gradually degenerated till indulgences became a regular source of income to the Pope. It was these indulgences which roused the spirit of Luther, and led to his crusade against the Papacy.
(c) The world has in our day corrupted the Church with her indifference. There never was an age in which there was more organization for doing good, but the life to animate it is wanting.
III. THAT THOUGH THE CHRISTIAN IS TO BE UNWORLDLY, HE IS NOT TO SEPARATE HIMSELF (verse 16). We are not to desire to be taken out of
1. The world of nature. It is a beautiful world. It is full of emblems of that which is spiritual and Divine. Talk about it being a “waste howling wilderness,” it is our souls which are wildernesses.
2. The world of humanity. Our Lord did not estrange Himself from this world. He ate and drank with publicans and sinners. Is He not our example? While saying this, I do not forget that there is such a virtue as Christian prudence. Some are spiritually strong, others weak. But the Church cannot influence humanity, if she estranges herself from it. We ought not to frown on any pure human joys. We need not pull long faces, or wear a peculiar garb. The true Christian, like his Lord, loves to see the fully developed man in his prime of manhood; the woman with her womanly beauty; the child with its fresh grace and innocent ways.
3. The little world in which we are cast in the order of God’s Providence. It is better for us not to desire to go out of that but rather to shape it after “the patterns in the heavens.”
IV. THAT WE ARE TO PRAY GOD TO KEEP US FROM THE EVIL IN THE WORLD (verses 16). I have been speaking about the bright side of things, but these words remind us that there is a dark side. There is a dark side both to nature and humanity. There are volcanoes, earthquakes, inundations. There has been perpetual struggle and competition. There are disease and death. Sin has been the great curse of the world--the curse of all our lives. But there is One who came down from a higher world, in order to redeem us from captivity to evil. Through His grace many millions have walked through this world’s miry ways, and have kept their souls unstained. There were great differences of race, age, temperament, belief among them; but there was one thing in which they were all alike--they all had unwordly, simple, childlike hearts. (R. Abercrombie, M. A.)
Worldliness is the spirit of childhood carried into manhood. The child lives in the present hour: to-day to him is everything. The holiday promised at a distant interval is no holiday at all: it must be either now or never. Natural in the child, and therefore pardonable, this spirit, when carried on into manhood, of course is worldliness. The most distinct illustration given us of this is the case of Esau. Esau came from the hunting-field worn and hungry: the only means of procuring the tempting mess of his brother’s pottage was the sacrifice of his father’s blessing, which, in those ages, carried with it a substantial advantage. But that birthright could be enjoyed only after years; the pottage was present, near and certain: therefore he sacrificed a future and higher blessing for a present and lower pleasure. For this reason, Esau is the Bible type of worldliness: he is called in Scripture a profane, that is, not distinctly a vicious, but a secular or worldly person--an overgrown child, impetuous, inconsistent; not without gleams of generosity and kindliness, but over-accustomed to immediate gratification. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Attractions of worldliness
Nearly all can recall that favourite fiction of their childhood, the voyage of Sindbad the sailor into the Indian Sea. They will remember that magnetic rock that rose from the surface of the placid waters. Silently Sindbad’s vessel was attracted towards it; silently the bolts were drawn out of the ship’s side, one by one, through the subtle attraction of that magnetic rock. And when the fated vessel drew so near that every bolt and clamp was unloosed, the whole structure of bulwark, mast, and spars tumbled into ruin on the sea, and the sleeping sailors awoke to their drowning agonies. So stands the magnetic rock of worldliness athwart the Christian’s path. Its attraction is subtle, silent, slow, but fearfully powerful on every soul that floats within its range. Under its enchanting spell bolt after bolt of good resolution, clamp after clamp of Christian obligation, are stealthily drawn out. What matters it how long or how fair has been the man’s profession of religion, or how flauntingly the flag of his orthodoxy floats from the masthead? Let sudden temptation smite the unbolted professor, and in an hour he is a wreck. He cannot hold together in a tempest of trial, he cannot go out on any cruise of Christian service, because he is no longer held together by a Divine principle within. It has been drawn out of him by that mighty loadstone of attraction, a sinful, godless, self-pampering, Christ-rejecting world. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
The danger of worldliness
In this verse Christ repeats the argument used in John 17:14. This repetition is not idle. The reason may be conceived either with respect to the disciples, for whom He prayed, and so it is to inculcate their duty; or with respect to God, the Person to whom He prayed, and so He urgeth their danger.
I. REPETITIONS OF THE SAME POINT ARE SOMETIMES NECESSARY Philippians 3:1).
1. They may be tedious to nature
2. But it is profitable to grace.
(a) Our knowledge is little. Narrow-mouthed vessels take in liquor by drops, so do we Divine truths, and therefore you have need to hear the same things often, that your understandings may grow familiar with them Isaiah 28:10).
(b) Our attention is small. We do consider it when we understand it. Study findeth out a truth, meditation improveth it.
(c) Our memories are weak. A man needeth no remembrancer to put him in mind of worldly gain, and to revenge injuries; but as to good things, our memories are as a bag with holes, or as a grate that retaineth the mud, and lets the running water go (Hebrews 2:1).
(d) Our wills are slow and averse (2 Peter 1:12-13; 1 John 2:21).
(a) Meditation. The mind works freely upon such objects to which it is accustomed; in things rare and seldom heard of there is more need of study than meditation, to search them out.
(b) Application. We hear to do and practise, not only to know. We do not hear to store the head with notions, but that the life and heart might be bettered.
II. THE REASONS OF THIS REPETITION.
1. As regards their constitution and temper of mind. Christ repeats it again; and so learn that we need to be cautioned often and often against the world.
(a) It is a part of original sin. It is hard for any to say they are not tempted to covetousness; it is their nature.
(b) We are daily conversant about the things of the world; our affections receive taint from the objects with which we usually converse.
(c) It is of a present enjoyment; we have the world in hand and heaven in hope, and think heaven a fancy and the world substance.
(d) It is a sin applauded by men (Psalms 10:3).
(e) It is a cloaked sin. It is hard to discover it and find it out, there are so many evasions of necessity and provision. It is a great part of religion to “keep ourselves unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
(a) Adultery (James 4:4).
(b) Idolatry (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).
(c) Enmity with God (James 4:4).
(a) To the new nature (1 John 5:4).
(b) To our hopes. God has provided heaven to draw us off from the world.
(c) To the aim of Christ (Hebrews 11:16).
(a) Consider our condition--“strangers and pilgrims.”
(b) We are called to better things (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). It is not for princes to embrace the dunghill.
(c) Take the Apostle’s argument (1 Timothy 6:7). A man’s wealth does not follow him, but his works do. In our birth we are contented with a little cradle, at death with a little grave.
(d) Consider how hard it is to have Christ and heaven and the world Matthew 16:26).
(e) Thou art as thy love is. If thou lovest this world thou art worldly; if thou lovest God thou art godly. Take a glass, put it to,yards heaven, there you shall see the figure of heaven; put it towards the earth, and you see the figure of the earth, trees, meadows, fruits: thou receivest a figure from the objects to which thou appliest thy heart, earthly things or heavenly.
(a) When thou wantest the world. Be not over-careful; use the means God hath ordained, trust God with the issue and event of all (Luke 12:22).
(b) When thou hast the world. A godly man may be a rich man; but do not trust in riches, &c., for they are vain; nor delight in them, for they are snares; nor be proud of them, they do not make us better; we do not value a horse by the trappings, but by his spirit and courage.
(c) Be not over-sorrowful when thou losest them.
2. As regards the outward condition of the disciples: “They are not of the world, i.e., not respected by it, left out of the world’s tale and count.
(a) Let them alone; look after better things (Psalms 17:14).
(b) Remember by whose providence it falleth out. Many times God raises bad men to high places, not because they deserve it, but because the age deserves no better.
(c) If you are favoured by God, why should you trouble yourselves about the world’s respects? Thou hast the testimony of God’s Spirit, and many now in hell have had much of the world’s respects. Their disrespect cannot hurt thee; It may profit thee.
(a) It is our duty. In His example we have a taste of His Spirit: “I am not of the world,” saith Christ; and we should “imitate Christ as dear children” Ephesians 5:1).
3. It will be your comfort. It is a sweet comfort in all conditions to remember the similitude of condition between Christ and us (Colossians 1:24).
4. It will be for our profit. First suffer, then enter into glory; winter is before the spring (Romans 8:17). (T. Manton, D. D.)
Danger of absorption in worldly things
I once saw a picture of an artist sitting on a rock in the ocean, which had been left bare by the retreating tide. There he sat, sketching on his canvas the beautiful scenery around him, sky and wave and sea, all unconscious that the tide had turned, had cut him off from the shore, and was rapidly covering the rock on which he sat. The tempest, the waves, the rising sea were forgotten, so absorbed was he in his picture; nor did he hear his friends calling to him from the shore. (W. Baxendale.)
Distinguishing character of Christians
I. NEGATIVELY. The text does not imply
1. That they have no connection with the men of the world. Grace does not dissolve the union between man and man.
2. That they are to be wholly disengaged from the things of the world. They have their farms and their merchandise as well as others, and it is not requisite that under a pretence of religion they should sequester themselves from all secular concerns. They may be as much in their duty while in their worldly callings as in the closet. An idle Christian is no good character: for if we do not find ourselves some employment, Satan will. “Not slothful in business” (1 Corinthians 7:24; Acts 20:34).
3. That even the best of men are entirely divested of a worldly spirit, though they are not of the world. Those whose affections are set on things above, and whose conversation is in heaven, have frequent occasion to say, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken Thou me accordingly to Thy word.” After the fullest conviction of the emptiness and vanity of creatures, we shall still find our hearts strongly attracted by them.
1. They are in a considerable degree mortified to the things of this life, so as not to have “the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.” They are in the world, but not of it: it is their residence, but not their portion. Real Christians are neither terrified by the frowns nor allured by the smiles of the world. The possession of the good things of this life does not excite immoderate joy, nor the want of them occasion inordinate grief. The world, notwithstanding all his endeavours to drive it out, may occupy some corner of the Christian’s heart, but the uppermost room and principal seat are reserved for his Lord and Master. His motto is, “In one Jesus I have all.”
2. They possess different tempers and dispositions from the men of the world. “Old things are passed away, and all things become new.” The bias of the soul receives another direction: it has a new taste, new appetites, and new enjoyments. Their treasure being in heaven, their hearts are there also. They “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The spirit of the world is hateful, sensual, discontented, overwhelming men with ignorance, guilt and misery; but the spirit which is of God is humble, teachable, contrite, benevolent and submissive, active in doing good, and patient in suffering.
3. They speak a different language from the rest of the world. It may be said to the Christian as it was said to Peter, “Thy speech betrayeth thee.” And so it may be said of the opposite character: “He that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth.” The world is placed in their heart, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. But God’s promise to His people is, that He will turn to them a pure language, so that they shall speak the truth without hypocrisy, address Him without formality, and talk of Divine things with holy freedom. Flattery will be as much avoided by them as detraction, and equivocation as a known lie. Their common discourse will be seasoned with salt, ministering grace unto the hearers; and they will be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. The talk of a carnal man will be about the world through which he is passing; that of a good man about the world to which he is going.
4. They are neither influenced by the maxims of the world, nor do they imitate its customs. The real Christian is the world’s nonconformist; not in an affected singularity of speech or dress, in the shape of his coat or form of his hat, but in the whole tenor of his life and conversation.
5. They do not take up their rest in this world. They are born from heaven, and are bound to heaven. Their language is, “Arise, let us depart hence: this is not our rest, because it is polluted.”
III. TO ILLUSTRATE THIS CHARACTER, CHRIST HAS GIVEN US HIS OWN 1 John 4:17). Conclusion: From this view of the subject we may learn
1. What judgment we are to form of those about us.
2. What is duty with respect to ourselves. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The character of Christ’s people
We shall take our text and look at it.
I. DOCTRINALLY. It is not so much that they are not of the world, as that they are “not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.” This is an important distinction, for there are people who are not of the world, and yet they are not Christians. Amongst these I would mention sentimentalists. Their spirits are so refined, that they cannot attend to ordinary business. They live in the air of romance; would like continually to live in a cottage near a wood, or to inhabit some quiet cave, where they could read “Zimmerman on Solitude” for ever. I heard of one young lady, who thought herself so spiritually-minded that she could not work. A wise minister said to her, “That is quite amusing! very well, you are so spiritually-minded that you shall not eat unless you do.” These people are “not of the world,” truly; but the world does not want them, and the world would not miss them much, if they were gone. There are others, too, so like monks, who are not of the world. They are so awfully good, that they cannot live with us sinful creatures; or if they condescend to do so, they must be distinguished from us in many ways. They could not be expected to wear worldly coats and waistcoats. They must wear nondescript dresses, that none may confound them with ordinary men. We have also in our Protestant Churches certain men who think themselves so eminently sanctified that it would be wrong to indulge in anything like sensible pronunciation. Such persons are, however, reminded, that it is not being “not of the world,” so much as being “not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.”
1. Christ was not of the world in nature.
2. In office
3. In character. Look at Jesus’ character; how different from every other man’s--pure, perfect, spotless, even such should be the life of the believer.
II. EXPERIMENTALLY. Every Christian will feel that he is not of the world.
1. When he gets into very deep trouble. You have had at times deep sorrows. Did you break under them? If you did, methinks you are no Christian; but if there was a rising up, it was a testing moment, and it proved that you were “not of the world,” because you could master affliction.
2. When he is prosperous. Some of God’s people have been more tried by prosperity than by adversity. Do you feel that these comforts are nothing but the leaves of the tree, and not the fruit, and that you can not live upon mere leaves? Or do you say, “Now, soul, take thine ease,” &c.
3. When he is in solitude and in company.
1. Thou who art of the world, whose maxims, habits, feelings, are worldly, listen to this. It is God’s solemn truth. Thou art none of His. With all your profession thou art “in the gall of bitterness.”
2. You who are children of God. Have we not often been too much like the world? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
In the 14 th verse this separation of the disciples from the world is assigned as the reason of the world’s hatred to them; and here it is made the reason for special intercession on their behalf. There can be no difficulty in understanding what is meant by “the world,” though the phrase is used with considerable latitude of signification in the Scriptures. But here the meaning is unquestionably moral and spiritual, and the expression marks off all other than godly people. Now, it is of considerable importance that we should know how we are to understand this statement what precisely is its significance.
1. Well-meaning, though certainly not over-wise, people there are, who seem to think their godliness calls for harsh views and depreciating language concerning the earth on which God has placed us. It is the proper thing with them, and evidences their other-worldliness, to regard this world as a place which by its wretchedness serves chiefly as a foil to the better land above. It is a sort of dark background, bringing the other world into relief. It is to them a “desert,” a “vale of tears,” a “waste, howling wilderness.” Such a state of mind, where it is not the result of ignorance, tells at once of unhealthiness and perversion. Such people appear to forget that it is God’s world of which they thus speak, made by Him to be the fitting abode of men.
2. Nor must we look for this unworldliness in a lack of interest in the world’s affairs--in its government, for instance. If politics have reproach attached to them, no little Of the blame lies at the door of those who could have done better, but have culpably stood aloof and allowed so vast a power and so solemn a trust to fall into unscrupulous hands. No man can deal thus with divlnely-entrusted responsibilities and be blameless. The proper government of our country, the just settlement of national and international questions, profoundly concerns us all, and each has a responsibility here of which he cannot divest himself.
3. Neither, again, must we look for this unworldliness along the line of abstention from all the social pleasures and amenities of life. For that means a strained and unnatural kind of piety, and there was nothing forced about the life of Jesus, who is our Exemplar here as elsewhere. He was no ascetic. We must seek elsewhere than in such particulars for the lines of demarcation. Where are those lines, then?
1. Christians form, and were by our Lord intended to form, a community distinct and separate from the world. All through the Scriptures this idea of separatedness runs. The Jews were in the most literal and extreme sense a people set apart. By geographical limits, by mode of government, by peculiarity of laws and customs, as well as by religion, they were marked off from all other nations. Christians are in the truest and highest sense a separated people. Jesus set up His Church in the world with the intention that all who avowed themselves His disciples should form part of an organized community. This is the body of which He is the Head; the household of which He is the Master.
2. But especially are we to look for this unworldliness of Christians in their spirit and in their principles of action. This is the great dividing line. The spirit of the world is distinctly and essentially irreligious; there is no right apprehension or estimate of spiritual things; godless maxims, and fashions, and laws rule--that is the nature of a worldly spirit. The Spirit of Christ is just the opposite. And it is along the line of spirituality of character and conduct that our unworldliness as disciples of Jesus is to be manifested. But now, lest the practical significance of this should be overlooked, note a few details in which this spirit will show itself.
(a) For their own safety;
(b) as a visible declaration of the side on which they are.
(2) Our recreations. There are amusements which, by association, by inevitable tendency, and by common consent, are worldly. They lie, by general admission, within territory forbidden to Christians; and in such cases, all the special pleading in the world about their being innocent in themselves can have no weight with those who would act worthily and wisely. Remember, we cannot afford, as disciples of Jesus, to see how near the line we can go without overstepping it.
3. Our Home and Business-Life. In the former, in such matters as
1. If such be our character, let us not be surprised if we are misunderstood by the world. It was so with Jesus.
2. Expect to be hindered by the world in your religious life. It has no sympathy with your views, and oft deems your piety fanaticism, and your religious scruples a nuisance.
3. Do not be afraid of a needful singularity. Avoid needless difference, but have the courage of your convictions.
4. Guard against the subtle encroachments of a worldly spirit. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
5. Walk prudently to them that are without. Take ears less by a worldly conduct you give the lie to an unworlldy profession.
6. Do not forget we have a mission to the world. “As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world.”
7. Keep your final home in view. Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour. (R. M. Spoor.)
Sanctify them through Thy truth.
The sanctification of the saint’s
I. AN OBJECT DEAR TO CHRIST.
1. He prayed for this on earth. Prayer is always the sign of earnest desire for another’s good: how earnest, then, must have been that desire which could bid back the onrush of sorrow from Gethsemane, &c.
2. He died for this upon the cross (John 17:19). Christ died for something more than the erasure of the penalty due to man from heaven’s statute book. Christ had His eye on men’s recovery to purity and truth, and their entire consecration to God (Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 2:14).
3. He pleads for it in heaven (Hebrews 7:25).
II. A GIFT SOUGHT FROM THE FATHER.
1. The reason of this
2. The comfort of this. If God be the Author and Giver of sanctification, then it must be
III. A WORK EFFECTED IN THE TRUTH.
1. The knowledge of it. Hence growth in grace keeps pace with growth in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), and that knowledge identified with eternal life (verse 2).
2. The belief of it. Sanctification and belief of the truth are at least coordinate if the former does not spring from the latter (2 Thessalonians 2:13), since the word of God effectually works in them who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
3. The love of it. Before truth can exercise its rightful sway over the life, it must be enshrined in the affections. Hence love of truth is essential to salvation (Psalms 119:47), and the absence of it the cause of judgment in them that perish (2 Thessalonians if. 10).
4. The obedience of it (1 Peter 1:22; Romans 6:17). The new life of grace ever moves in the sphere of truth.
IV. A QUALIFICATION REQUISITE FOR CHRISTIAN WORK (verses 18, 19). As Christ had a mission, so have His saints.
1. Resting on a similar authority, as the Father sent Christ, so Christ sent His apostles (John 20:21; Matthew 10:16), and His followers now Matthew 5:16; Mat_28:18; Philippians 2:15).
2. Possessing a similar object. As Christ’s mission aimed at the world’s salvation, so does theirs. As Christ revealed the Father’s name, so under Him they are to bear Christ’s name (and in that the Father’s) unto the Acts 9:15; 2 Corinthians 3:3).
3. Demanding a similar consecration. As Christ was sanctified by the Father and sent into the world (Psalms 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5-7), so can Christ’s servants only discharge their mission in proportion as they are consecrated to the will of their Leader.
1. Is sanctification a matter of interest to us?
2. Are we asking God to begin, carry on, and complete it?
3. Are we bringing our souls into close and frequent contact with the truth?
4. Are we remembering the mission for which we are sanctified? (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The sanctification of the disciples
I. THE FORCE OF THIS PRAYER. Sanctification in its simplest meaning is the setting apart of a person or a thing from a common to a holy use. In relation to men it is the weaning from self, sense, and sin, and the devotion of head, heart, and hands to the service and glory of God. The blessing asked for involved
1. Moral transformation. There were elements of evil in their nature to be rooted up, principles of pride to be overthrown, prejudices to be subdued, and selfishness to be destroyed. The economy in which they had been trained dealt with sanctification in an outward sense; but Christ turned their thoughts from such symbolic consecration to the sanctification of their thoughts, desires, and affections. This work was already begun in them--the expressions used by our Lord regarding them inform us of this fact--but they were not completely sanctified.
2. Official consecration. They were to be chosen vessels, meet for She Master’s use. The official consecration rests upon the moral, and this is secured through the truth of God. Mere ecclesiastical ordination is valueless, where it is not based on personal holiness, and where it is not preceded and accompanied by a spiritual consecration to the service of Christ in the gospel.
II. THE MEANS OF THIS BLESSING. “Through Thy truth.” We are not to understand that God’s dealings in providence have not a sanctifying influence (Hebrews 12:6). David, and many after him, could say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Yet it is only as the strokes of affliction make the truth more impressive, that they exercise a sanctifying power. Mere trouble has no natural tendency to purify. It simply puts men into a position suitable for thought and reflection, so that the living word of God is brought more fully to bear on the soul. The truth of God sanctifies
1. By the discoveries which it makes. Light is ever pure and purifying. Where there is ignorance of God and Divine things, there can be no true purity of heart. God’s Word. It reveals God’s grace (2 Corinthians 4:6), our fallen and ruined condition, and brings life and immortality to light. Converse with these truths must tend to weaken the power of sin, and withdraw the heart from the dominion of the world.
2. By the motives which it conveys. There is not a motive which can touch the human heart, whether of love, gratitude, or holy desire, that is not conveyed in the truth of God, and brought to bear on men through the doctrine of the Cross.
3. By the authority it exercises. To the Christian all duty may be summed up in the one grand duty of imitating Christ and walking in Him. The gospel comes to us with the tender gentleness and majestic persuasiveness of infinite love, and says, “Be ye followers of God as dear children.”
4. By the prospects it unfolds (1 John 3:3). (J. Spence, D. D.)
Our Lords prayer for His people’s sanctification
I. WHAT HE ASKED. “Sanctify them.” By this He means
1. Dedicate them to Thy service. Such must be the meaning of the word when we read, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.” In the Lord’s ease it cannot mean purification from sin, but consecration to the fulfilment of the Divine purpose. “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” Under Jewish law the tribe of Levi was ordained to the service of the Lord, instead of the firstborn Numbers 8:17). Out of the tribe of Levi one family, Aaron and his sons, were sanctified to the priesthood (Leviticus 8:30). A certain tent was sanctified to the service of God, and hence it became a sanctuary; and the vessels that were therein, the fire, bread, oil, animals, were all sanctified Numbers 7:1). None of these things could be used for any other purpose than the service of Jehovah. We are not the world’s, else might we be ambitious; we are not Satan’s, else might we be covetous; we are not our own, else might we be selfish. We are bought with a price, and hence we are His by whom the price is paid.
2. Those who belonged to God were separated from others. There was a special service for the setting-apart of priests, dedicated places and vessels. The Sabbath-day, which the Lord hath sanctified, is set apart from the rest of time. The Lord would have those who are dedicated to Him to be separated from the rest of mankind. For this purpose He brought Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and Israel out of Egypt. The Lord saith of His chosen, “This people have I formed for Myself.” Before long this secret purpose is followed by the open call, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” &c. The Church of Christ is to be a chaste virgin, wholly set apart for the Lord Christ: His own words concerning His people are these, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Those who are sanctified in this sense have ceased to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; they have ceased to run with the multitude to do evil; they are not conformed to this present evil world. There are some, in these apostate days, who think that the Church cannot do better than to come down to the world to acquire her “culture,” and conquer the world by conformity to it. This is contrary to Scripture. The more distinct the line between him that feareth God and him that feareth Him not, the better all round. It will be a black day when the sun itself is turned into darkness. When the salt has lost its savour the world will rot with a vengeance.
3. This word means also the making of the people of God holy. Holiness is more than purity. It is not sufficient to be negatively clean; we need to be adorned with all the virtues. If ye be merely moral, how does your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? We ought to reach unto a life and a kingdom of which the mass of mankind know nothing, and care less. This prayer of our Lord is most necessary, for “Without holiness”
II. FOR WHOM HE ASKS IT. Not for the world outside. This would not be a suitable prayer for those who are dead in sin. Our Lord referred to the company who were already saved.
1. These chosen ones were sanctified, but only to a degree. Justification is perfect the moment it is received; but sanctification is a matter of growth.
2. They were to be the preachers and teachers of their own and succeeding generations. How shall a holy God send out unholy messengers? An unsanctified minister is an unsent minister. Only in proportion as you are sanctified can you hope for the power of the Holy Spirit to work with you, so as to bring others to the Saviour’s feet. A whole host may be defeated because of one Achan in the camp; and this is our constant fear.
3. Furthermore, our Lord was about to pray “that they all might be one;” and for this holiness is needed. Why are we not one? Sin is the great dividing element.
4. Moreover, our Lord finished His prayer by a petition that we might all be with Him, that we may behold His glory. Full sanctification is essential to this. Shall the unsanctified dwell with Christ in heaven? Shall unholy eyes behold His glory?
III. OF WHOM HE ASKS IT.
1. Our Saviour calls God “Holy Father,” and it is the part of the holy God to create holiness; while a holy Father can only be the Father of holy children, for like begets like. This santification is a work of God from its earliest stage.
2. The truth alone will not sanctify a man. We may maintain an orthodox creed, and it is highly important that we should, but if it does not touch our heart and influence our character, what is the value of our orthodoxy?
3. Every work of the Spirit of God upon the new nature aims at our sanctification. Yea, all the events of Providence around us work towards that one end; for this our joys and our sorrows are sacred medicines by which we are cured of the disease of nature, and prepared for the enjoyment of perfect spiritual health. All that befalls us on our road to heaven is meant to fit us for our journey’s end.
IV. HOW SANCTIFICATION IS TO BE WROUGHT IN BELIEVERS. Observe how God has joined holiness and truth together. There has been a tendency of late to divide truth of doctrine from truth of precept. Men say that Christianity is a life and not a creed: this is only a part truth. Christianity is a life which grows out of truth. No holy life will be produced in us by the belief of falsehood. Good works are the fruit of true faith, and true faith is a sincere belief of the truth. But what is the truth? Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication--by voices, dreams, and impressions? No; God’s word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the truth that sanctifies men is in God’s Word. This being so, the truth which it is needful for us to receive is evidently fixed. You cannot change Holy Scripture. Learn, then
1. How earnestly you ought to search the Scriptures.
2. The one point of failure to be most deeply regretted would be a failure in the holiness of our Church members. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. ITS NATURE
1. The original meaning of the word is to set apart to God; and this is its ordinary meaning in the Old Testament. We mean by it to make holy, its frequent meaning in the New. So, then, sanctification may describe either the purpose or the process of the Christian life.
2. It is easy to see how the first meaning passes naturally and necessarily into the other. Perfect consecration would be absolute holiness.
3. It was to impress on His disciples the connection between consecration and sanctification that Christ spoke of sanctifying Himself.
II. ITS MEANS. The truth of God.
1. The perfect devotion of Christ to the truth is our warrant for expecting sanctification by it. It was His inspiration and joy, His safeguard against temptation, and His support in the agony of the Cross. What results may we not expect from that which called out such a passion and loyalty in the Saviour? If we could feel the truth as He felt it our lives would be like His. The sanctifying power of the truth explains His satisfaction that He has brought His disciples into some acquaintance with it.
2. It is far too narrow an interpretation to say that by “truth” He meant to contrast inward spiritual sanctification with the formal ceremonial sanctifications of the Jewish law. Ceremonialism is not the only unreality of which Christians are in danger. We need to be guarded against identifying sanctity with an exalted state of feeling, or supposing that its energy lies in our own resolves. There was no lack of elevated devotion and firm resolve in those who here were “ready to go with Him to prison and death,” and we know the result. But the truth which Christ had imparted to them abode, the seed of a higher life, and the power of their recovery. Not self-contemplation nor self-culture is the way to holiness, but the contemplation of the living word of the gospel.
3. Holiness is conformity to the will of God, and that will is sure to become supreme over the character of Him who accepts it. Think of the educating power of truth. The man who studies historic truth becomes a historian, his mind being moulded into the historic type. The student of science becomes quick to apprehend natural causes and to trace the operation of natural law; so he who surrenders himself to the gospel will become a Christian man, his life being stamped with a Christian character, and owning the inspiration of God. It is not we who hold the truth, but the truth that holds us.
4. Consider, too, the confirmation of faith which every true believer is continually receiving in the practical experience of life. The scientist verifies his theories by experiment; if his theory is right, the experiment turns out as he expected. So with the statesman. We, too, who make the great venture of faith, find that Christ’s promises are fulfilled. He tells us that by believing in Him we shall have remission; we believe and are saved. He says, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” &c. We believe, and the maxims of the world loose their hold upon us, its satisfactions lose their charm, and its fear dies away. The experience of the whole Church has endeared and confirmed the doctrine of Christian sanctification.
III. ITS SPHERE--the world (John 17:18).
1. As antagonistic (John 17:11-14).
2. As the object of a mission. We are not here by sad mischance or inevitable accident. “As Thou hast sent Me,” &c. The lessons of Christ’s consecration have to be repeated in ours. The Church is His body, the direct channel through which the saving power of the gospel is to flow in upon the world. This mission helps to explain the largeness of Christ’s promises and of the Church’s privileges. We can never apprehend the meaning of the Christian calling when we contemplate simply the perfection of individual believers; we must ponder also the Divine influence we are to diffuse as “salt,” “light,” “cities on a hill.”
3. As thus helpful in developing Christian character.
(Text and John 17:19)
I. THE SAVIOUR’S PURPOSE OF REDEMPTION. “For their sakes,” &c.
1. Here you have the motive of Calvary and of all that Christ does--the production of spiritual character. Other motives there are and other results. In the Cross Christ shares and so ends the curse; destroys estrangement, and brings us nigh; gives the consolation of life and death; reveals God. But the main thing is here. We are not delivered from sin till we are enfranchised from its power. Forgiveness sets us at liberty for salvation. It is not where we are in this world or the next, but what we are, that is the main thing.
2. The style of character that Christ aims at reaching--consecration. Now hardly any one thinks of it.
3. That they may be consecrate as He is consecrate. The word never had its full meaning till Christ used it here. It means all the stooping to Bethlehem; the spirit that accepted Calvary is what Christ calls consecration. There is no believer in man like Jesus. He expects us to have the same mind that was in Him. God’s life is self-sacrifice; and in the degree in which we are lifted up into that life, that character marks our lives, and Christ’s aim is fulfilled. But in the degree in which we are void of that, we are void of the essential element of the Christian life.
II. THE INSTRUMENT THROUGH WHICH CHRIST EXPECTS THIS CHARACTER TO BE DEVELOPED--the truth.
1. None of you find fault with the word being put here, but you would not have put it here. We would have put “grace” or “Holy Spirit,” some word indicating a dynamic energy changing the soul. But truth seems to so work through the mere intellect that it hardly occurs to us to look at it as the secret of consecration. The fact is we are indifferent to truth. Our more orthodox brethren think that we have got enough of it, and need not go on investigating; are rather afraid what the truth of science may bring out, and Biblical criticism constrain us to believe; shrink from its investigation lest something may turn out to be true that would not be helpful. And our broader brethren are equally satisfied with the mist on the face of things, not pursuing to definite conclusions the light with which God visits them.
2. Now Christ believes in truth very wonderfully. He utters the paradox that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, because He guides into all truth. None but Christ would have said that. We think the Comforter is He who gives sweet illusions and hides naked realities. Nay, naked reality is consolation of the deepest kind. Here Christ is on the same line. Truth is the great sanctifier. There is no ray of truth that ever came from the Father of lights that does not hallow the heart on which it falls. It is not make believe that will give you sanctity.
III. THE POWER THAT IMPARTS THE SANCTIFYING IS GOD. Has not this been lost sight of? What we want is God in us. It might have been thought that Christ should have said, “That they may consecrate themselves.” No, we can only get the hallowing truth from God. Who else can teach it? Not Biblical dictionaries or revival hymns. He who inspired the truth must Himself interpret it. (R. Glover.)
Sanctification through the truth
I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN SANCTIFICATION AND TRUTH.
1. In the Old Testament sanctification is usually, although not always, external; in the New it is pre-eminently internal. The supreme self-consecration of the will of Jesus on the cross fixes the idea of Christian sanctity. Of this sanctification the instrument is truth. By “truth” Christ means a body of facts having reference to God and the highest interests of men. The truth differs from opinion in that it does not admit of contradiction, and it also differs from large districts of knowledge in that it refers to a particular subject matter. In one sense all fact is God’s truth. Facts of physiology, history, mathematics, are parts of that body of facts which are in harmony with and issue from the Master of this universe; and the conquest of any one truth on any matter has a moral value. But no man is sanctified by the study of the differential calculus, or the spots on the surface of the sun as such; and unless he brings to those studies a disposition to study the Author of the universe through the works of His hands the result will be purely intellectual. But this disposition will make all research sanctifying.
2. It is important to insist on this connection between truth and high moral improvement in view of the idea that morality is independent of religious doctrine, and that, consequently, what a man believes is of little importance. But can morality be in the long run obeyed, unless some doctrine be revealed as to the origin and authority of the law? No doubt the truth of the moral teaching of the decalogue is attested by the necessities of social life; but this is because the author of revelation is the author of society. But if morality had to make its own way, would it hold its own by virtue of those necessities? Here and there you might, no doubt, have real excellence divorced, if not from any creed, at least from the true creed--as in a Seneca, an Antoninus, an Epictetus, but how would it fare with the people? Is it not, taking the average, the rule that a man’s morality tallies with his creed? For what is moral excellence but good living, the proper government of the conduct, affections, and will? What is at the bottom of this? The sense of obligation? But obligation to what and to whom? This question cannot be answered in the same way by a man who does, and by a man who does not, accept the faith of Christ. A man who believes in a philosophy which makes man his own centre will have a different idea of morality from the man whose centre is God. The two, e.g., will conceive quite differently of such a virtue as humility. In short, human beings are so constituted that their moral improvement is bound up with the convictions they entertain respecting God and their origin and destiny.
II. HOW THE TRUTH SANCTIFIES.
1. By putting before us an ideal of sanctity. The man of action, like the artist, needs an ideal. Outside of revelation there have been such ideals, but they have been vague and varying, and have failed to supply the demands of even the natural conscience. But in Christ we possess a perfect ideal of sanctity; and by giving the record of one life spotless and consecrated the truth affects thousands for good in degrees which fall short of sanctification; and it sanctifies those who, with their eyes fixed on this typical form of excellence, ask earnestly for the Holy Spirit, whose work it is to take of the things of Jesus, and to show or give them to His own.
2. By stimulating hope. It gives every man a future. Where there is no such hope sanctity is impossible. A certain amount of high moral culture is possible, from a perception of the importance of certain virtues. But sanctity implies concentration of purpose, and this is impossible without a distinct goal and a reasonable prospect of attaining it. It may be argued that it is a nobler thing to cultivate virtue for its own sake; but the reward of goodness is not something distinct from goodness. In obeying moral truth in the form of duty we are obeying moral truth; in the personal form we name God. “I will be thy exceeding great reward.” Spiritual work is its own pay, and the eternal reward is but the anticipation of the satisfaction which arises in doing it. But granting all this, He who made us knows that in our weaker moments we need that leverage of hope which His revelation supplies. The horizon of time is too narrow to supply any adequate object. “If in this life only we have Christ,” &c. But let a man be “begotten unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus,” and he has with him a motive power which will make him at least desire to be holy. “Every man that has this hope in him,” &c.
3. As being a revelation of the love of God. Love has a power of making men holy. Hence the power loving men and women have over the depraved. Now revelation is the unfolding of Divine love, and the measure of that love is the death of Christ. A revelation of justice may produce despair, but a revelation of love which respects justice takes the heart captive. “Sanctify” is the response which the heart makes to unmerited mercy.
1. This connection between the truth and sanctification is not a theory, but the experience of every Christian in some degree.
2. If we know anything of the sanctifying power of truth we should desire that others may know it too. (Canon Liddon.)
Sanctification through the truth
I. A COMMENDATION OF THE WORD OF GOD. If we could suppose a man saying, “It is not God’s word! It is not the truth!” we have an answer in the words of Christ: He declares it to be the truth of God; and we may safely suppose that “if it were not so, He would have told us.” But the Scriptures areal. Professedly the truth. We might here direct our attention to the whole of the Scriptures; and remark on the unity of design kept up by so many men writing in different ages, and without the possibility of concerting their plans. We might appeal to the predictions, and their fulfilment--to the promises, and their accomplishment--to the various miracles wrought, by which nature was called in to attest its truth. People may say that there are difficulties in the way of the Christian faith; but there are a thousand times more difficulties in the way of not believing. From all this we might say, without looking at its internal evidence, its moral effects, “Thy Word is truth.”
2. Perfectly the truth.
(1) Its doctrines are perfectly adapted to man, and to the whole of man--to all his circumstances, to all his obligations. They enlighten his understanding, form his judgment, and enrich his heart. Here is pardon for his guilt--righteousness for his unworthiness--purity for his depravity--strength for his weakness.
3. The most important truth. Other things are true; a person who reads of the heavenly bodies or studies natural philosophy and what is made known may be all true. But all these are truths of an inferior description. The Scriptures place us in immediate contact with God and all that relates to time and to eternity.
4. Independent, majestic, all commanding truth: that is, truth connected with a kingdom which is “not of this world,” which reduces men to a level with each other, with which man has no interference. It comes from God; it contains not the sentiments of Moses, of the prophets, &c.
it is the Word of God.
5. The only truth. Men may question its truth and excellency, but none have ever attempted to bring the Koran or the Shasters and place by its side! No; it is like Aaron’s rod, and will swallow up all their enchantments. No; they who would deprive us of this truth would leave us without any communication from God!
II. THE IMPLICATION WHICH THE TEXT CONTAINS. An agency is implied here--without which the means would be vain. This agency is spoken of in the preceding chapter as “the Spirit of truth.” He is so
1. On account of His inspiration of the truth. “Prophecy came not in old time,” &c.
2. As He carries on His general operations by revelation. We have been acquainted with man in all the various stages of civilization, but we have never seen anything like sanctification where there is no revelation. Some persons, when they speak of missions, are very apt to say, “Oh, when the Lord’s time to evangelize the nations is come, He can do it!” Yes; and He will do it by His own means--by His Word of truth.
3. On account of the Holy Scriptures being the standard by which He works. He does not lead into fancies and conjectures; but brings us to this standard, that we may judge whether what we have received is the truth or not. Many suppose that to depend on the Spirit’s influence leads to wild and enthusiastic imaginations; but it is to the truth that He leads.
III. THE END DESIGNED TO BE ACCOMPLISHED BY THE MINISTRY OF THIS DIVINE WORD. Three ideas are conveyed. 1: Separation. It calls a man from his former purposes and pursuits. Man, by nature, is a violator of God’s law; this is taught him with the greatest effect by the Word of God. “The Word of God is quick and powerful,” &c. It leads him to exclaim, “What shall I do? Where shall I flee?” And then the Word says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate.” He comes out, asks for a place of safety, seeks provision for his soul, and through the Word finds repentance and remission of his sins.
2. Purity. Infidels in general have bowed respectfully to the purity of the Bible. It would be easy to prove that every part of this book--its doctrines, its promises, its precepts, have “Holiness to the Lord” written upon them. But I would rather show how the Word of God sanctifies.
3. Designation. Christians are set apart
Sanctification through the truth
I. THE NECESSITY OF SANCTIFICATION--inasmuch as
1. It forms part of salvation which is not merely deliverance from sin and its punishment, but deliverance from its power and dominion, to a resemblance of the Divine nature.
2. It is corresponding to the Divine character. There is no view of God more evident than that He is a God of holiness; that sin is that abominable thing which He bates.
3. God commands it. This is to be found in every part of the Divine record.
4. It evidences our faith and union to Christ. Faith without purity is vain.
5. It is for the advancement of God’s glory and the interests of Christ’s kingdom. It is not to be expected that anything but a holy Christian can be beneficial.
6. It is necessary for the peace of our minds. Without purity there can be no peace.
7. It qualifies us for the heavenly kingdom, We must be like God if we would enjoy a hereafter.
II. SANCTIFICATION TO BE REAL MUST BE
1. Universal. It must extend to the whole man, to the thoughts, words, and actions, to the affections and desires of the heart, and to the outward conduct. It is not for us to say, I am partly sanctified. The work of the Spirit of God is not confined to this part or that, but the whole man is brought into subjection to Christ.
2. Progressive. It proceeds from small beginnings to a great increase. It is just like a grain of mustard seed, scarcely perceptible at first, but it goes on till it becomes a great tree. It is thus that it operates on the heart and mind; upon the whole outward, as well as upon the whole inward man.
III. SANCTIFICATION IS GOD’S WORK. We cannot bring a clean thing out of an unclean. It is His work, not merely at the commencement: the Great Artificer must be at the laying of the foundation stone; and not only so, but superintending and assisting to the close, from the first to the last, through all the intermediate steps, till we arrive at the fulness of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus--till we be translated into the world of purity, where no sin is to be found. This is shown by God’s Word, and the experience of the people of God. They know that their own efforts are fruitless and unavailing unless God be with them.
IV. GOD SANCTIFIES BY THE TRUTH. The truth has a tendency to sanctify
1. By the discoveries it makes to us. Where there is ignorance of Divine things there cannot be much purity. It reveals
2. By the motives it presents to us. It appeals
3. By the examples it exhibits to us. It was customary with the ancient philosophers to have the walls of their schools adorned with the images of the illustrious in former times, that in contemplating them their disciples might be led to admire their originals, and be stimulated by their exertions and attainments, and led to transcribe the graces by which they were adorned into their own characters. And we have recorded in the pages of inspiration the lives of several of God’s people for the same reason.
1. Are we using this word for the purpose of sanctification?
2. What degree of sanctification do you possess? (T. Brown, D. D.)
Sanctification by means of the truth
I. THE BLESSING FOR WHICH CHRIST INTERCEDED--sanctification. This work is
1. Divine. The Holy Spirit implants the first principle of holiness in the soul, and by His continued influences it is maintained and strengthened. “Not by works of righteousness,” &c.
2. Internal. The chief seat of man’s moral disease is the heart. It is necessary that these springs of action should be purified before true holiness can be exhibited in the life.
3. Practical. The heart being changed, corresponding effects will be seen in the conduct. Holy principles will lead to holy practices.
4. Progressive. It is compared to the progress of light. “The path of the just,” &c. At one period the Christian may resemble the tender blade; at another, the ear; till, under Divine influence, he appears as the full corn in the ear, ripened for glory. But though the work of sanctification is progressive it is not always uniform. There are seasons when the path of the Christian is like the sun in a dark and cloudy day, and others when it appears bright and cheerful. Sometimes he may resemble the corn checked by the frost of winter, and at others the same corn revived by the gentle showers and warmer influences of the returning spring.
5. Will eventually be complete in the happy abode of “the spirits of just men made perfect.”
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH SANCTIFICATION IS PROMOTED.
1. It is by the Word of truth that the work of sanctification is commenced. By this the mind is first enlightened and the heart renewed. The entrance of it giveth light, and while it enlightens it animates and purifies.
2. The Word of God is the perfect standard of holiness. It presents a right rule of action, adapted to every period and circumstance in human life.
3. The Word of truth presents most powerful motives to the pursuit of holiness. It appeals to the best feelings of the renewed heart. The love of Christ shed abroad in the heart renders sacrifice easy and duty delightful.
Conclusion: We may learn from the subject
1. The absolute necessity of holiness.
2. The importance of acquiring correct and enlarged views of Divine truth, and of earnestly seeking the influences of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the mind and to sanctify the heart. The Word of truth and the Spirit of truth are inseparably connected.
3. The importance of self-examination, and the awful condition of the unsanctified professor. (Congregational Remembrancer.)
Thy Word is truth.--By truth is meant that which sustains, answers expectation, and never disappoints; which is ever found to be consistent with reality. Falsehood or error, on the other hand, is that which is empty, vain. It does not sustain; it disappoints, and does not correspond with the real.
1. The truth concerning the external world, its phenomena and laws, is that which represents what really is, what may be relied upon.
2. So with the truth concerning the internal world of mind.
3. The truth concerning God.
4. The truth concerning our relation to God. By the word of God is meant
I. ANY REVELATION OF GOD. A word is a revelation, an outward manifestation of thought. In this sense creation is a word of God. And all that it makes known of Him--His ways, character, will--is truth. It accords exactly with what God is, and what it teaches may therefore be relied on. The world is not a phantasm, but what it reveals itself to be, and never disappoints those who rely upon its teachings. The foundation of this reality is that it is God’s word, and must be studied as such.
II. THE REVELATION OF GOD IN THE SCRIPTURES. In that sense the text means that the Scriptures are true. All they teach concerning God, man, the Person and work of Christ, the future life, &c., is true. Everything conforms to what is real, and may be relied on. Those who assume the Scriptures to be true, and act upon them, will attain the end they promise. Those who assume that what they teach is false, and act accordingly, will find out their mistake. Conclusion: It is an unspeakable blessing
1. To know what is truth and where it may be found.
2. To have the truth made accessible to us. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
God’s Word Truth
1. This is one of Christ’s many testimonies to the integrity of the Scriptures. What is the value of that testimony.
2. The Bible is not simply true, but the truth, and embraces under the promise of the Spirit of Truth, New and Old Testament alike. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved” by Him; He guided the apostles “into all truth.” God’s Word-- I. HAS ITS ORIGIN IN TRUTH. God is its author. He knows everything, has no interests to serve in perverting the truth, and by the laws of His own Being “cannot lie.” What He reveals, therefore, must be as it really is, and what He has revealed is in the Bible. And as a pure fountain will send forth a pure stream so the Bible, being God’s Word, must be true. A good man will tell the truth as far as he knows it; and shall we doubt the same power in God?
II. ITS SUBSTANCE IS TRUTH It contains
1. True doctrine. As far as nature goes it coincides with the teachings of nature, contradicting them nowhere: which is a presumption that when it goes beyond nature it is still on the same line of truth.
2. True morals. The ten commandments command man’s universal assent, and the Sermon on the Mount forms the only true basis of society, and true society will be one day constructed on that basis.
3. True history, and corroborative evidence is being discovered year after year.
4. True poetry. No better interpretation of nature and man’s higher moods is to be found than in the Psalms.
5. True promises. How many millions have verifed them.
6. True threatenings--the Flood, Sodom, the Jews, &c.
III. IT REVEALS HIM WHO IS THE TRUTH.
1. All the Old Testament points to Christ.
2. The Gospels are the story of His life, and show how He was the Truth in
3. The Epistles expound various aspects of His truth, making Him the centre and inspiration.
IV. ITS OBJECT IS TO MAKE TRUE MEN.
1. Men true to God, to self, to man; in the home, business, society, state, Church.
2. Lovers of the truth.
3. Disseminators of the truth. (J. W. Burn.)
As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world
Christian missions and missionaries: their ideals
It is our privilege to enter at once, by the open door of this utterance, into the interior of our Lord’s ideas.
He speaks of missions and missionaries. Addressing His Father, He says, “Thou didst send into the world.” It was a Divine mission, with reference to a most necessitous field of missionary operation. He says, “Thou didst send Me into the world.” Other missionaries were and are required to carry on the great transformation movement inaugurated by the ideal Missionary. They were required to “fill up that which was behind” of His “labours of love,” and His afflictions for the gospel’s sake. Hence the institution of a new mission by the ideal Missionary, a mission modelled after that of His Father: “As Thou didst send Me into the world, even so sent I them into the world.” The Saviour speaks as if He had already moved in person out of the present time into the future, and were looking back to the past. But these apostolic missionaries were not to be the last who would spread themselves out on the field of the world. The work that required to be done would not be finished when their labours were drawing to a close. The generation to which they belonged, having replaced a generation that went before, would itself pass on, and another would come in its room. On the heroes of that generation it would devolve to “fill up that which was behind” of the apostles’ labours and sorrows. Hence the Lord Jesus said to His Father, “But not for these alone do I ask, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word.” His mind was looking forward to the living results of the labours of the apostles, and, in these living results, to the first of many successive relays of missionary workers. He prayed, giving earnest expression to an agony of desire, that nothing might impede the progressive subjugation to Himself of the whole world. “I ask, that they all may be one,” &c. Our Lord saw from afar the danger of rivalry and dissension among His disciples. He saw that such dissensions would involve disunion in missionary operations at home and abroad; that such disunion meant reduced efficiency all along the straggling lines of the sacramental host; and that such reduced efficiency meant the reduction of the numbers of those who would believe in His mission, and come under the purifying influence of His own and His Father’s love. It is but another aspect of this intense longing of our Lord, that, He says, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself,” or, “I consecrate Myself,” i.e., “I am, all along the line of My mediatorial career, consecutively consecrating Myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.” It is a grand system of mutual co-operation that is needed; and when all Christian missionaries, in all mission-fields, at home and abroad, become thus co-operative, and hence consecrated after the model of our Lord’s consecration, then the bells of heaven may at once be set ringing, in jubilant peals, over the triumph of Christianity.
I. THE AIM WITH WHICH THE MODEL MISSION WAS INWARDLY FORMED AND INSPIRED. It originated in the mind, or, to go further into the interior of things, in the heart of the Divine Father. God felt compassion for men. Hence, His determination to send a Missionary into our human world. It was a determination of pure benevolence. Therein was its goodness, grandeur, glory. Dwelling in His own immensity, as the infinitely happy God, afar from the children of men, and yet near, He beheld them in their misery. The world was full of woes, in consequence of the wickedness of men. Unless the Lord Himself should interpose, what can be expected from roots of bitterness found everywhere--what but the fruits of pessimism and despair? But God has interposed, finding His opportunity in man’s extremity. “Thou,” says Jesus, “hast sent into the world,” that is, Thou hast instituted a mission in reference to this world, and it has resulted in the purest “labour of love.” It is nothing less than to bring God’s own holy happiness within the reach of His human creatures.
II. THE WAYS AND MEANS EMPLOYED BY THE GREAT IDEAL MISSIONARY TO CARRY OUT THE AIMS OF HIS FATHER
1. He entered intimately and entirely into the spirit of these aims (Psalms 40:7-8).
2. By and by the grand ideal Missionary “came.” His presence on the scene was indispensable. He came without loss of time--“in the fulness of the time.” He “emptied Himself of all but love,” and came.
3. After He came into our world, He did not take up His abode in some waste howling wilderness, and spend His days as a hermit, remote from the haunts of men. Nor did He take up His position on some conspicuous pillar like that of Simon Stylites, or on some “coign of ’vantage” in the architecture of society, and wave off the crowds that were surging around and jostling one another downwards. Far other was His plan. He mingled freely with the objects of His Father’s solicitude. He was found ever radiating pure spiritual effluence, and radiant with pure spiritual influence, wherever men “did congregate.”
4. It is noteworthy, besides, that while He did not avoid the society of the opulent and the cultured, yet He made His appearance among the humblest of those who were within the diocese of His missionary enterprise. In His sympathy with the poor, we have a pledge that the time is on the wing, though it may yet be remote, when all honest labour shall be equitably and generously rewarded, and when, in consequence, all the difficulties that beset the perplexing problem of right and righteous remuneration for work, shall, by the logic of love, be satisfactorily solved.
5. He ever went about “doing good,” now preaching on the frequented shore, now praying on the solitary mountain slope, now teaching, or reasoning, or comforting, or feeding the hungry, or healing the sick, or enlightening the ignorant, or delivering those who, in their spirits or their bodies, were the unhappy victims of influences inhuman and malign.
6. Then He was “full,” not merely of “grace,” but of “truth”; and of “truth” not merely as the ethical excellency of absolutely veracious witnessing, not merely, in addition, as the sum of true ideas concerning both God and man, but likewise as the actual antitypical impersonation of the most significant shadows of former ages. He was the true Prophet; the true King; the only One whose authority may be unreservedly trusted even when absolute; the true Priest; the true Sacrifice for sins; the true Propitiator and Propitiation; the true Light that lighteneth the way upward for every man that entereth into the world; likewise the true illuminated Way to the house that is the Father’s home.
7. He was, from the commencement of His missionary enterprise to its consummation, engaged in coming under the sins of all mankind without distinction or exception, so as to suffer by them and for them. Our sins became His sorrows and His sufferings, till His heart broke, and His self-sacrifice was complete.
III. For the very reason that the model mission culminated in the glorious propitiatory death of the ideal Missionary, its function as a mission became fulfilled, and room was made for the second great enterprise, with its peculiar complement of apostolic missionaries. They had, as far as was practicable, to take the Master’s place on the mission-field, and to carry on the work He had inaugurated. We are thus launched into the third part of our missionary theme--the part that concerns THE RELATION OF THE APOSTOLIC AND ALL SUBSEQUENT MISSIONS AND RELAYS OF MISSIONARIES TO THE DIVINE IDEALS.
1. As it was our Lord Jesus who Himself was the Founder of the second great missionary enterprise, the aims inspiring that enterprise must have been in ecactest accord with the aims inspiring the original project of His Father--to save sinners from their sins, their inhumanities, their woes.
2. It has been within the reach of every Christian mission that has ever flourished, and it is within the reach of every Christian mission that now exists, to cultivate and cherish an exact accord with the aim which animated and informed the mission of our Lord. It was in the bosom of our humanity as well as of His own divinity that He framed and modelled His grand disinterested aim, so that we can get near Him in the ethical peculiarity of His project.
3. The “ways and means” of the great ideal Missionary may in part be imitated by all Christian missionaries. Like Him, they may be
4. Even when it is utterly impossible to do as Jesus did, as when in “solemn loneliness” He bore the sin of the world and made propitiation for it, still it is permitted to all Christian missionaries, from age to age, to take their stand by the side of the cross, and pointing aloft to the crucified One, to exclaim, “Look! the sight is glorious! Lo, the Lamb of God bearing, and bearing out of the way, the sin of the world! Look! and live.”
5. It is a grand privilege to be linked on, as workers, to some disinterested missionary enterprise! (James Morison, D. D.)
The Model Missionary
These words speak of a two-fold mission; Christ’s mission from heaven to earth, and the Church’s mission from Christ to the world. The former is at once the origin, model, and motive of the latter. The text suggests a correspondence between these two missions. They correspond
I. IN THEIR AUTHORITY. Both are of Divine authority. God sent Christ into the world, and Christ sends the Church. Christians have a right to go into every part of the world to unfurl their banner on every shore, and fight the battles of the Lord. We want no licence from potentates to authorize us to preach the gospel, &c.
II. IN THEIR PRINCIPLE. What induced Christ to come into the world and inspired Him in working out His mission? All-embracing, disinterested, unconquerable love. The same must influence the Church, and no other feeling.
III. IN THEIR OBJECT. Why did He come? “To seek and to save the lost.” “This is a faithful saying,” &c. This is our work. We have to save from ignorance, carnality, worldliness, sin, the devil.
IV. IN THEIR MODE. Both are
V. IN THEIR ENCOURAGEMENTS. Christ had
1. The Divine presence; so has the Church.
2. The highest sympathy.
3. The assurance of success. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The Christian mission identical with that of Christ
Here are two impressive facts. One is that Jesus is holding converse with the Father about the conversion of the world, and the Christians whom He was to leave in it. The other is that Christ regards the mission of those Christians in the world as practically identical with His own. The two missions are identical.
I. IN THEIR PURPOSE AND MOTIVE-POWER. Christ’s mission originated in the bosom of God, in view of an infinite calamity which had fallen on man. The race was hastening to a wrecked immortality. There was but one power that could arrest its fatal progress--Love. God was Love. Christ came to establish an empire of love, and to change the moral drift of the perishing race, The apostles caught this sublime thought. “If God so loved us, we ought to love one another.” The scope of the Divine mission was universal, and hence, “All the world” became the watchword of the Christian ages. Hence, when Christ gathered a little band of followers, He pushed them out into the great world of want and woe and hate, along the line of His own career--“As Thou hast sent Me, so have I sent them.”
II. IN THEIR METHODS.
1. He ignored “superior races” and civilizations, and pushed His truth out to the weakest and the lowest. With a “sublime radicalism” He goes after the most needy.
2. He recognized the essential slowness of the cause, and hence, taught and wrought with Divine patience, believing in the immortality of truth, and looking down through a long vista of years for results.
3. He ignored the principle of demand and supply, as utterly defective for the lifting of humanity. That principle aims to merely meet existing desires. Christ ignored desires and acted in view of needs. His method was to come where there was no demand for Him, but where there was an immeasurable need; and for love’s sake, man’s sake, God’s sake, to thrust Himself upon the attention of men, when they wanted something else; thus creating a demand for spiritual life where none existed. Our mission is to proceed on the same principle. The apostles so acted. They went where there was no demand for them. The Macedonian cry which came to Paul was not the cry of the men of Macedonia, but the cry of the Spirit of God for Macedonia. These three principles should characterize our Christian methods.
III. IN THEIR REQUIREMENT OF THE SAME QUALIFICATIONS. The most impressive aspect of Christ’s mission is its divine heroism--the total abandonment of Himself to the cause of the lost. This, too, must be true of the Christian disciple. To the man who really enters upon the Christian mission, every land is his fatherland, because man identified with Christ is greater than the world on which he works, and his final home is above.
IV. IN THEIR SOURCES OF HOPE, THEIR ASSURANCE OF SUCCESS. We are not to carry to the sin-sick world a doubtful remedy. We go to lost men as messengers of hope. The Christian’s message is not simply a new law--that men have now; not a new philosophy--that has failed already; not merely a sense of guilt--there is no hope in that. What the world needs is a gospel of Hope. The story of the cross is such a gospel. The supreme theory of the Christian, then, is to grasp the Divine conception of his mission--to get Christ’s view of the ideal man. The Greek ideal man was an elegant thinker; the Roman, a great ruler; the modern, a king of commerce. Christ’s ideal man is he who, identified with God, heroically commits his consecrated powers to the service of God’s suffering poor. (J. Brand.)
The union between Christ and His Church
Christ expects that His Church will be in the world as He was in these senses
I. THAT THE MIND THAT WAS IN HIM SHALL BE IN HER. He has not overlooked the force of evil, so He expects
1. Penitence to have its perfect work not ceasing until it grows in humility, and cleanses the spirit from viler tastes and sordid vices.
2. Faith that will perpetually fill the nature and lay claim to the gift of the Holy Spirit, using it in the development of grandest virtue.
3. That love will thrive in the heart, turning the tyranny of passion into a glow of piety.
4. That His Cross will charm the eye, and protect from destructive allurements.
5. That however lofty her effort she will not fail in it.
6. That she will look on men with the eye of pity, and spare not herself in the work of their redemption.
II. THAT THE CHURCH WILL ENGAGE IN THE SAME WORK AS OCCUPIED HIM. This naturally follows. There cannot be identity of spirit without identity of purpose and employment. It is not that the Church sets before herself some outward action as exactly reproducing that of Christ, but, looking with eyes like His through the agate windows of charity upon the needs of men, she sees wants which others overlook, and feels within herself some power to meet them; and using the power she has it grows until it flows out into the variety of usefulness which is the image of Him who went about doing good.
1. Are there children about her? She will feed the lambs and carry them in her bosom.
2. Do others neglect the old? She ministers to the solitude and decay of age.
3. Does the false world tread down the fallen? She lifts them to self-respect by the love and energy with which she reclaims them.
4. She checks Pharisaism by the glow of her real charity.
5. She cries to the multitudes, “Behold your God.”
6. She engages in the absorbing effort to save the one sinner at the well. Her path may be obscure, but consecrating what she has she makes many rich. I do not ask has the Church realized all this; but is she aiming at it? Had she done so long ago, nations now lying in darkness would have been basking in the light of love.
III. THAT THE CHURCH WILL ENDURE THE SAME SACRIFICES AS HE ACCEPTED. Of course there is one part of the sacrifice which we cannot aspire to. But it is evident that no one can have the mind of Christ or do His work without being involved in sacrifices identical to the spirit in which they are accepted and the pain they involve with His. St. Paul speaks of the conflicts of Christ in his body, of being crucified with Christ, of being conformed to His death, &c. Sanctity will never be without its sorrows. You will be misunderstood and misrepresented.
IV. THAT THE CHURCH WILL BE SUFFICIENTLY EQUIPPED IN ALL SHE HAS TO DO AND BEAR. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Let that grow and it will conquer. (R. Glover.)
Christ’s consecration for His people
I. THE MISSION OF THE DISCIPLES. “As Thou hast sent Me,” &c. They were sent forth
1. By the same authority as their Master. This language could not be used by any mere man, and is in harmony with “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” When a man knows what he can do, and has to do, he is in the fittest condition for doing it. Jesus knew that He was sent into the world, and for what; and He was equal to it. Whatever authority belonged to the Father in sending the Son into the world, belonged to the Son in sending forth His disciples.
2. For a kindred purpose. Christ was the Light of the world, but His radiance was to shine through them, so that they too were lights of the world. The mission of the Son of God was personal and peculiar, and could neither have extension nor repetition (Hebrews 9:26). To proclaim the power and purpose of His death was the mission of the disciples (connect John 18:37 with 2 Corinthians 4:2). The mission of the Master and that of the disciples coincide in that both were for the glory of God and the salvation of men.
3. To a similar experience. As the world treated the Master, so it treated the servants (John 15:22; Matthew 16:24). And as in the case of the Master, so in the case of His disciples now, “No cross, no crown.”
II. THE CONSECRATION OF THE MASTER--“For their sakes,” &c.
1. By Christ’s sanctifying Himself we are to understand His devotement to the will of the Father, the surrender of Himself as a sacrifice for sin, the climax of which was at hand in the Cross “I sanctify Myself” is the language of One who had perfect control over His own course anal action; who was under no obligation to place Himself in the position of having to utter them. “He came not to be ministered unto,” &c. Accordingly, His consecration was sacrificial (2 Corinthians 5:21). In the profoundest sense He consecrated Himself for man; our cause He undertook, our interests He had in view.
2. But how could this consecration be for the sanctification of His disciples? It had what may be called a legal power, making their consecration possible. The sacrifice which the Son of God presented was the ransom price of redemption. If Christ had not become a curse for us, the curse could not have passed from us, and man could not have been sanctified for God. What mere authority could not do, God effected through His only begotten Son. Truth in all its purifying and transforming power reached them through the consecration of their Lord; for thus they saw the things of God as they had never been unfolded before. Truth is
Here are remarkable parallels, comparisons, connections:--“As--so,” “Thou--Me,” “I--them.” “I sanctify Myself that they might be sanctified.” The main thought of the text will come out under three words
I. COMMISSION--“As Thou hast sent Me,” &c. This is a style of speech which we find often in the lips of Christ; it indicates His unique personality. He says, for instance, in John 5:1-47., “As the Father raiseth up the dead,” &c. He assumes and asserts prerogatives which belong to God. He does so here. This is the grandest act of God. All that we know of God seems to be consecrated in this act: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” God, the Holy, saw with intense repugnance the pollution of men; God, the Creator, saw with grief the obliteration of His image in man. But the God of salvation had the thought of salvation. “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn,” &c. What a wonderful parallel--“Thou didst send Me, and I send Thee!”
1. Take all the missionaries, preachers, teachers, devoted servants of God, all together, they do not equal the one Jesus. No; the parallel cannot be traced strictly in regard to the person sent, nor in regard to the special purpose of the sending. The specific purpose for which Christ came was to redeem men by His own precious blood. He trod the wine-press alone. Our blood, the blood of our martyrs, does not mingle with His atoning blood. But when we have said that we may say that there is a very close parallel between the Father’s sending of Christ and of Christ sending of His apostles; for just as the great Father sees the world Christ sees it. And He has the Father’s love; for does not He give Himself? Furthermore, He is with men, just as the great Father was always with His Son. And so Christ says: “I am with you always. Go, teach all nations.”
2. Then, although we have a distinction between the persons, they are living men whom Christ sends, not books, messages, letters. We may print the gospel in all the languages of the world, and send them to all the world; but it will not save the world. Christ said: “I will send you.” You must go out, living men and women, sinners saved, hearts through whom the great love has passed--you must be able to say: “This is a faithful saying,” &c.
3. The sphere is the same. It is very interesting that though Christ confines His movements to a very small spot, yet He says, “I am come into the world.” If the Prince of Wales had landed in Ireland, just visited Dublin, and then come home again, he might truly have been said to visit Ireland; and Christ comes to Palestine and says, “I have come into the world.” He annexed the world by that act--linked it on to Himself. But it is needful that in a more literal sense the great Christ should visit the world; and so He chooses these men and says: “I send you into the world. Go into all the world,” &c.
4. And He sends them with the same purpose, “Go to save.” This is a very ennobling parallel. It is not a mere political or military mission, or a scientific undertaking; it is like that great act of God in sending down His Son--it is, indeed, an expansion of that act.
1. Whenever an honest man accepts an office his next thought will be, “How can I best prepare for it?” The high priest must be born of the tribe of Levi--he must be without blemish personally; and after that there must be special ceremonies; and then he is consecrated, and may go within the veil. But is there anything so sublime as this the Son of God saying: “I sanctify Myself”? And do you notice He used the present tense--“I am sanctifying Myself”? Although the life of our Lord on earth was brief, He retained His connection with the human race. So we regard that thirty years, especially the last three, as a period of consecration on the part of the great Saviour. He was sanctified by His daily obedience, prayerfulness, self-denial; by His fierce, but always resisted, temptations; by His Gethsemane agony; by the Cross.
2. It is a solemn thought that we are to consecrate ourselves after the manner of Christ. We do not know much about it. We sing hymns of consecration, and there are some few consecrated people among us; but the average Christian is not a consecrated person. No; his religion is rather a matter of convenience--it is not allowed to interfere with his ordinary human life; but we are to make it, by the grace of God, like Christ’s--a consecrated life. Now, that means we must set apart a life that gathers about one idea; it means, not the waters which are spread vaguely over a level surface, but the waters that are confined within deep banks and flow straight on; it means, not lines that are drawn in all directions, but radical lines that converge towards a centre. It means, therefore, that just as Christ fixed His thought upon the saving of the world, we should have our thoughts fixed on the saving of the world. As He regarded Himself as being here for no other purpose, we should regard ourselves as being here for no other purpose.
1. Christ consecrated Himself; He could do that. Can you or I have that strength to take this heavy, dull, carnalized humanity of ours and consecrate it? No; it mocks our endeavour, and we seem to lie a heavy carnal mass still. But see what Christ says: “I do this for their sakes.” So we share in His own consecration. Thus He was a typical man, in whom, in a certain sense, humanity is contained; and His consecration is potentially the consecration of men.
2. His consecration is our complete atonement, the removal of all our guilt. Oh, what a blessed step that is towards consecration to know that your sins are forgiven!
3. And this consecration of Christ brings all heavenly blessing down; it wins the Spirit for us, and is the substance of Divine truth; so that through the truth, getting these thoughts of God’s into our minds, and these great facts, and these holy influences, we become sanctified through the truth. (S. Hebditch.)
For their sakes I sanctify Myself
The sanctification of Christ
I. CHRIST’S SANCTIFICATION OF HIMSELF.
1. He devoted Himself by inward resolve. God His Father had devoted Him before. It only remained that this devotion should be completed by His own will. In that consisted His sanctification of Himself. This self-sanctification applies to the whole tone and history of His mind. He was for ever devoting Himself to work: but it applies peculiarly to certain special moments when some crisis came which called for an act of will.
(a) To convert the hard life of Duty into the comfort of this life: to use Divine powers only to procure bread of earth.
(b) To distrust God, and try impatiently some wild, sudden plan, instead of His meek and slow-appointed ways--to east Himself from the Temple, as we dash ourselves against our destiny.
(c) To do homage to the majesty of wrong: to worship evil for the sake of success: to make the world His own by force or by crooked policy, instead of by suffering. These were the temptations of His life, as they are of ours. Life thenceforward was only the meeting of that in fact which had been in resolve met already--a vanquished foe.
2. The sanctification of Christ was self-devotion to the truth. “Also” implies that what His consecration was, their’s was. His death was not merely the world’s atonement; it, with His life, was martyrdom to truth. He fell in fidelity to a cause--love to the human race. Let us see how His death was a martyrdom of witness to truth.
3. The self-sanctification of Christ was for the sake of others “For their sakes.” He sanctified Himself that He might become a living, inspiring example, firing men’s hearts by love to imitation. In Christ there is not given to as a faultless essay on the loveliness of self-consecration, to convince our reason how beautiful it is; but there is given to us a self-consecrated One--a life that was beautiful, a death that was divine--and all this in order that the spirit of that consecrated life and death, through love, and wonder and deep enthusiasm, may pass into us, and sanctify us also to the truth in life and death.
II. CHRIST’S SANCTIFICATION OF HIS PEOPLE. Those whom Christ sanctifies are separated from two things.
1. From the world’s evil (John 17:15). The only evil--sin: revolt from God, disloyalty to conscience, tyranny of the passions, strife of our self-will in conflict with the loving will of God. This is our foe--our only foe that we have a right to hate with perfect hatred, meet it where we will, and under whatever form, in church or state, in false social maxims, or in our own hearts. By the blood of His anguish--by the strength of His unconquerable resolve--we are sworn against it--bound to be, in a world of evil, consecrated spirits, or else greatly sinning.
2. From the world’s spirit. He is sanctified by the self-devotion of His Master from the world, who has a life in himself independent of the maxims and customs which sweep along with them other men. His true life is hid with Christ in God. His citizenship is in heaven. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The nature of sanctification
It is religion shining; the candle lighted, not hid under a bushel, but illuminating the house. It is the religious principle put into motion. It is the love of God sent forth into circulation, on the feet and with the hands of love to man. It is faith gone to work. It is charity coined into actions, and devotion breathing benedictions on human suffering, while it goes up in intercessions to the Father of all piety. (Bp. Huntington.)
This devotion to God is in a sense imperfect, At the end of every day we acknowledge that we have failed to work out fully into all the details of the day the one purpose which has, by the grace of God, been the mainspring of our action; and that we have often chosen unsuitable means. But each day we learn better what will, and what will not, advance the purposes of God; and each day our one great purpose permeates more fully our entire thoughts, and more fully directs our entire activity. Moreover, each day brings to us fresh proofs of the faithfulness, power, and love of God, and thus increases the strength of the faith with which we lay hold of all the benefits promised in His Word. This daily submission to the guidance of the Spirit brings us more completely under His holy influence, and, since our entire Christian life takes the form of devotion to God; all spiritual progress may be spoken of as growth in holiness. (Prof. Beet.)
Sanctification a process
As the external man perishes, so the inward is renewed day by day. As in the process of petrification, for every particle of wood washed away by the dropping well, another particle of stone is deposited in its place; so our sanctification goes on by a minute molecular change of the heart from stone to flesh, a process of depetrification. Little by little the flesh gives way to the Spirit, and more and more the spirit becomes accustomed to claim and enforce obedience. (J. B. Heard, M. A.)
Process of sanctification
It is wonderful to see how the little events of our daily life tend to our sanctification, though we know it not at the time. Every week seems so like the other! But you know when the sculptor begins his work, he strikes great pieces off the block. Every stroke tells visibly. But, when the statue is nearly finished, he takes the fine chisel, and strikes off but a little dust at a time. You scarcely see the effects of the blow; yet then it is directed with most art and skill,--then the work is nearly done. (Doing and Suffering.)
The difficulty of ascertaining our advance in sanctification
To gauge our process we must employ a measure of sufficient capacity. If we confine our attention to a few days or weeks, it is likely we shall be disappointed, being unable to perceive any advance. You must rather take in months and years. You shall stand by the seashore and be unable first to discover whether the tide ebbs or flows. It is only after diligent watching for an appreciable period that you decide that the sea is slowly but certainly advancing.
The evidence of sanctification
Look upon a holy man in his calling, and you shall find him holy: look upon him in the use of the creatures, and you shall find him holy: look upon him in his recreations and you shall find him holy. The habitual frame and bent of his heart is to be holy in every earthly thing that he puts his hand unto. (T. Brooks.)
Sanctification seen in little things
A holy life is made up of a number of small things. Little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons; little deeds, not miracles, nor battles, nor one great heroic act or mighty martyrdom made up the true Christian life. The little constant sunbeam, not the lightning, the waters of Siloam “that go softly” in the meek mission of refreshment, not the “waters of the river, great and many,” rushing down in torrents, noise and force, are the true symbols of a holy life. The avoidance of little evils, little sins, inconsistencies, weaknesses, follies, indiscretions, imprudences, foibles, indulgencies of self and of the flesh; the avoidance of such little things as these goes far to make up, at least, the negative beauty of a holy life. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Neither pray I for these alone, but for those also which shall believe on Me through their word
Saving faith through the Word
THE BENEFITS OF CHRIST’S MEDIATION ARE LIMITED TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE ON HIM.
1. In the very passage of this prayer, in which He designs expressly to set forth the wide exercise of His mediation, He yet, in most positive terms, confines it within this limitation. Nor was this the first or the only occasion in which He stated and maintained the same truth. To Nicodemus, to Martha, to the Jews, and in the commission which He gave to His apostles He strongly asserted this fundamental principle. In fact this is the universal language of Scripture on this subject.
2. And the same language, which is thus used in respect to salvation in general, is equally used in respect to every blessing of the gospel. Is it pardon? “Through His name whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.” Is it justification? “By Him, all that believe are justified from all things.” Is it adoption? “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Is it sanctification? Saints are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Is it spiritual support and strength? “He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded.” Is it spiritual light and knowledge? “I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me, should not abide in darkness.” Is it spiritual peace and joy? “Now the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing.”
II. THE SCRIPTURES ARE THE MEDIUM THROUGH WHICH THIS BELIEF IS PRODUCED (Romans 10:17; John 20:31).
1. They are the foundation on which it is built. “Faith the substance of things hoped for,” &c. But it is evident that such a belief supposes a certain degree of previous information. To believe then in Jesus Christ, and in the efficacy of His mediation, implies that we have a certain degree of previous knowledge on these subjects. And where is this knowledge to be obtained but from the Scriptures? Here only are we taught the way of salvation.
2. They are the instrument by which it is wrought in the heart. Faith is itself the gift and operation of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. But the great instrument by which He works and operates is the written Word, which is, therefore, emphatically styled “the Sword of the Spirit.”
1. Has Christ limited the benefits of His mediation to those who believe on Him? How strikingly does this truth show the importance of faith! How clearly does it point out the wide distinction between believers and unbelievers!
2. Do those who believe on Jesus Christ believe through the Word? Then how invaluable are the Scriptures!
Christ in relation to His disciples in all future times
I. HIS REALIZATION OF THEIR ACTUAL EXISTENCE. The only disciples then living were the eleven, but He prays for them who should hereafter believe, &c. And how many have believed through their word, and will yet--a great multitude which no man can number. And yet all these seem present to Christ. His great soul realized each in His distinctive personality, and for them He prays. To a soul in vital fellowship with God, and inspired with the spirit of omniscience, time and space are of little account. The prophets threw their glance into the distant centuries, but none of them saw the future as the Incarnate Word. A Being who thus knows the future can never be disappointed.
II. HIS METHOD OF CALLING THEM INTO HIS SCHOOL.
1. They must believe on Him, not on what men say about Him and not on priesthoods, but on Him. This is the only way of becoming a disciple.
2. They must believe on Him “through their word,” i.e., their testimony of Him. It is a witnessing word. “How can they believe on Him of whom they have not heard, &c. That is the method. Do not expect, any other.
III. HIS SUPREME DESIRE FOR THEM.
1. That they should be united on earth. Observe
(a) It is very vital. One living in another. “I in them,” &c. There is nothing uncommon in this idea. The object we love most lives in us as a living force. Friend lives in friend; the parent in the loving child. Love brings the distant object near, and enshrines it in the heart. Thus those who love Christ have Christ in them; and those whom Christ loves are in Him; and as Christ and His disciples both love the infinite Father, He is in them, and He loves them that are in Him.
(b) It is a unity of the Infinite with the finite, of the Creator and the creature. An attraction links the smallest atom to the highest orb of immensity, love links the humblest disciples to the great heart of the Infinite, and He to them.
2. That they should dwell with Him in heaven (John 17:24).
That they all may be one
Unity in Christ
I. THE UNITY DESIRE. These words of the Saviour have been mischievously perverted. Ecclesiastics have dreamed of a great confederation, presided over by a number of ministers, these again governed by superior officers, and these again by others, and these topped at last by a supreme visible head, who must be either a person or a council: and what is worse, they turned the dream into a reality, and the time was when, from the centre at the Vatican, one united body covered all Europe. And what was the result? Did the world believe that God had sent Christ? The world believed the very opposite, that God had nothing to do with that great crushing, superstitious thing; and thinking men became infidels. Yet people dream that dream still.
1. What were the elements of this unity which Christ so anxiously desired? The unity was to be composed of the people who are here called “they.” Who are they?
2. What is the bond which keeps these united ones together?
3. There are tokens which evidence this union, and prove that the people of God are one. We hear much moaning over our divisions. There may be some that are to be deplored among ecclesiastical confederacies, but in the spiritual church I am at a loss to discover the divisions which are so loudly proclaimed. There is a union
4. You say, “But I cannot see this unity.” Why? Perhaps
II. THE WORK THAT IS TO BE DONE BEFORE THIS UNITY CAN BE COMPLETE. There are many chosen ones who have not yet believed in Christ, and the Church cannot be one till these are saved. These chosen ones are to believe--that is a work of grace, but they are to believe through our word. If youwould promote the unity of Christ’s Church, look after His lost sheep. If you ask what is to be your word, the answer is in the text--it is to be concerning Christ. They are to believe in Him. Every soul that believes in Christ is built into the great gospel unity in its measure. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
True and false unity
There be two false peaces or unities: the one when the peace is grounded but upon an implicit ignorance; for all colours will agree in the dark; the other when it is pieced up upon a direct admission of contraries in fundamental points. For truth and falsehood in such things are like the iron and clay in the toes of Nebu chadnezzar’s image: they may cleave, but they will not incorporate. (Lord Bacon.)
I. WHAT IS THE ONENESS? There is a widespread tendency to confound it with uniformity. But there may be unity without uniformity, and there may be uniformity without unity. In the planks of a timber yard, sawn of equal length, breadth, and thickness, there is uniformity, but it is the uniformity of death without unity. In the trees of the wood or forest there is unity of life and general structure, with great diversity of form, fibre, and foliage. The very absence of uniformity adds to the impressiveness of the unity which responds in every trunk and branch and leaf to the quickening influences of the spring and the calm decay of autumn. The uniformity of a Church or society may be like the uniformity of a graveyard in which all the tombs, monuments, and headstones are of one pattern: but unity can be found only amongst the living. The oneness which the Saviour sought was Divine
1. In its model: “As Thou, leather,” &c. These words remind us of “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This is a unity
2. In its sphere--“in us.” It is obvious that Christ Jesus here claims for Himself equality with God. No mere man, without blasphemy, could use such language as this. The only sphere in which Christian unity can be realized, is in the reconciling Father and the redeeming Son. Very different are the thoughts of men on this great matter.
II. THE GRAND PURPOSE CONTEMPLATED IN THE REALIZATION OF THIS ONENESS: That the world may believe,” &c. One of the greatest obstacles to the triumphs of the gospel is in the contentions and separations which have prevailed in the Church of Christ. But when the world sees the Church, in all its sections, drawn and knit together, not to profess the same polity, and in spite of intellectual differences to show its oneness in Christ the living Head, then will the world believe that Jesus Christ has come as the sent of God for the cure of its ills and the relief of all its woes. It is not difficult to see how this spirit would operate in convincing the world. Would it not be a triumph of Christian love? “God is love,” but where is the evidence of this amidst the jealousy, sectarianism, and contentions of the disciples of Christ? In the first age of the Church the evidence was often impressive, and the heathen around them were led to exclaim, “See how these Christians love each other.” So it should be still. (J. Spence, D. D.)
The unity of the Church
I. THE INTIMATIONS TO BE FOUND IN THE WORDS OF OUR LORD. Observe
1. That there is a oneness between believers in Christ. The very essence of unity is that it proceeds from within, and is not impressed from without, that there is a common living spirit pervading and inter-penetrating all that mass, which but for it would be a multitude of separate parts. To fulfil, then, the words of our Lord’s prayer, His people must be all dwelt in by one and the same living Spirit, which so pervades every one of them that it gathers them up into a living body, communicating to them hereby a hidden principle of common life, which makes them one together, how many soever they be, and which, by the deep real separation of a distinct life, separates them from all others, how near soever such may seem to draw to them in outward things.
2. That this one life of the saints is the consequence of their union with 1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:3; Romans 8:9).
3. That this unity is a thing hidden, as are all the principles of life, but yet outwardly developed, as are all the forms of derived life in a visible body Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1Co_12:20; Colossians 1:18). From this it follows that the growth and development of this body, its form and shape, its acting and character, are all the putting forth of the powers of this indwelling Spirit of life.
(a) It is weaving forth for itself its own external increase (Ephesians 2:22; Eph_4:16; 1 Corinthians 12:6). And this it is doing in ten thousand ways; in the great limbs of Church polity and succession; in the hands wherewith at any moment the Church is ready to do her Master’s work; in the societies she puts forth; the new combinations she forms; the new phases under which she shows herself; and so also in the details of every Christian man’s character and conduct, for there is nothing so great that this life does not take it up into itself, and as it were reproduce it, nothing so small into which it cannot transfuse its own living energy, until it can fill and glorify all the minutest details of daily conduct, social intercourse, and natural affection.
(b) Then again, while outward things cannot perfect the working of this life, they may interfere with it, mar, and even extinguish it. The branch in this vine may wither, the inner life may draw itself back, until that outward part in which it once acted may be “cut off” from the life and unity of the stock. The spirit may be quenched. The individual Christian may be broken off from the living body of which he was a part. A whole branch of the Church may be withered and die. Nor can this be without grievous injury to all the body; for if “one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;” so that a time of much disunion cannot be a healthful and flourishing time of the Church any more than in a tree loaded with dead boughs there can be a healthful, vigorous vegetation.
II. THE PRACTICAL DUTIES WHICH THIS GREAT TRUTH ENFORCES UPON US.
1. We must strive really to believe it.
(a) We strip the Church of Christ of all its glory. It is in this mystery of the hidden life that the very blessedness of our redeemed state consists. It is this which binds in one the broken links of humanity. In refusing to believe it, we rob of all its lustre the marvellous dispensation in which God’s mercy has placed us. We bring it down again to a mere Jewish level.
(b) And the evil follows us into the furthest details of our own spiritual life. There are blessed secrets of strength which come out daily for Him who, with a purged eye, sees ever round Him this communion of the saints, which must be lost by him who lowers it into an empty form of speech.
(a) To hold that the declaration of the oneness of Christians with each other is but a strong way of saying that we ought to be kind to each other when we can, is far easier than to believe that, from Christ our Head, there has gone forth a true life, holding in its wonderful unity all of His together, which we are to cherish and guard in ten thousand secret instances of self-denial, and faith, and purity, and hard service, borne for each other cheerfully, because we are in very deed members one of another.
(b) Nor is this all. It is difficult to read this mysterious unity under the coarse features of common life; to believe in it, in spite of the world’s mockery, and the unfaithfulness of the better sort, and the multitude of divisions, and the weakness of our own hearts.
(c) But it is not impossible; and therefore we must strive after its attainment. And God does graciously give many aids to those who do so strive. Is it not, for instance, an assistance to us, if we will use it, whenever God withdraws behind the veil those whom in the Lord we have fondly loved here, do we not then feel that there is an inner life binding us to them, which common death cannot part?
2. But specially may our faith in this mystery be increased by diligence in performing the second duty, i.e., beginning to act upon it. God has gifted action with a wonderful power over us; and if we will begin to act sincerely in little things, as if this were true, He will work in us a power of trusting to its truth. And here is, indeed, a wide field before us. We may begin by striving with our own selfish and indolent tempers in our intercourse with those around us. (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
The unity of the Church
I. FOR WHOM IT IS DESIRED. 1, Not for men as men, citizens, subjects, persons allied in trade, politics, &c.
2. But for men as believers (John 17:20). Christ takes in the grand total, a temple in which each of these shall find a place and bear a part. Cf. Paul’s vision of a unified Church (Ephesians 1:10; Eph_2:21), and Peter’s picture of a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5).
II. IN WHAT IT CONSISTS. Generally in a oneness resembling that between the Father and the Son (John 17:21-22), and particularly in a oneness
1. Of life or community of nature (John 5:26; Joh_10:30; cf. 1 Corinthians Ephesians 4:4-6).
2. Of love, or community of affection (John 3:35; Joh_5:20; Joh_14:31; cf. Joh_13:34; Joh_15:12; Joh_15:17).
3. Of faith or community of sentiment. As the words of the Son were the Father’s, so the union of the saints should reveal itself in steadfast adherence to the Father’s word given by Christ.
4. Of action or community of labour. As the Son can do nothing but what He seeth the Father do (John 5:19), and the Father in Him doeth the John 14:10), so should Christians harmoniously co-operate Philippians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 3 John 1:8; Hebrews 10:24).
III. BY WHAT MEANS IT MAY BE REALIZED? By believers doing three things.
1. Remaining in union with the Father and the Son (verse 21).
2. Participating in the glory Christ has received from the Father (verse 22).
3. Pressing forward towards moral perfection (verse 23).
IV. TO WHAT RESULT IT SHOULD LEAD. It should awaken in the world
1. Faith in the Divine mission of Jesus (verse 21),
2. Knowledge that the Divine mission of Jesus was a fact (verse 23). Lessons:
The unity of the Church
The Church is one, not in the monarchial sense, as Romanists believe; not in the sense of historical descent of an external organization as Prelatists teach, but in the sense of a mystical body united to Christ, their common head. The consequences of the union with Christ are
I. OUR JUSTIFICATION. We become partakers of Christ’s righteousness, because it was wrought out in the name and on the behalf of His people.
II. OUR SANCTIFICATION. We become partakers of the Divine life, and this life is sustained and developed.
1. By the nourishment derived from the Word and ordinances.
2. By fellowship with Christ.
3. By the inter-communion of the saints. As one member of the body is sustained and grows in virtue of the ministration of all the other members, so it is with the mystical body of Christ.
4. This supposes organic unity and diversity of gifts; some apostles, some teachers; some have one gift, some another. With regard to these Paul teaches
(a) That each should be content.
(b) That all should sympathize, the one with the others.
(c) That all should cordially co-operate.
It is thus that the work of sanctification is carried on, not in the isolated individual, but in the soul as partaker of a common life and a member of an organic whole. So in regard to the State: What would individual gifts and attainment be to a man isolated in an uninhabited land.
III. OUR SECURITY. No man can pluck them out of the hand of Christ. The gates of hell shall not prevail.
IV. OUR GLORIFICATION. Conclusion: Duties flowing from this union--love, assistance, joy in success, abstaining from envy. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
The unity of the Church
I. WHAT IT IS NOT. Our Lord did not mean
1. A system of perfect equality with no official distinctions--anything like universal identity of endowment and function. This cannot be drawn from “As Thou, Father,” &c., inasmuch as God the Father and God the Son in the economy of redemption sustain distinct offices. Absolute equality is absurd and impossible and inconsistent with Romans 12:1-21.; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31., and Ephesians 4:1-32., which show that the unity of the Church may consist with the greatest diversity of gifts and offices.
2. The opposite of this--a vast and visible society, its base diffused throughout all nations, its officers innumerable, distinguished by all gradations of authority, and terminating in an infallible head. That our Lord did not mean a unity like this we gather from the fact that His apostles never attempted to realize it. Wherever they went they formed separate churches, not parts of one connected community. They did not join the Church of one country with that of another; they did not make their churches churches of nations and provinces, but of villages and towns. There might be more than one in each place. Each Church--however in faith and feeling connected with others--was a distinct society.
3. Uniformity in constitution and ceremonies. This is obvious from the facts
4. Perfect coincidence of opinion. This is evident from what has been said, as a Church may differ from others without forfeiting its character, so a Christian. To aver the reverse would contradict the constitution of nature and the arrangements of providence. In Romans 14:1-23. Paul distinctly refers to two classes there who held opposite opinions, but instead of interposing his own opinion, he approves the conscientiousness with which the two parties were actuated, and only denounces their want of charity. Philippians 3:1-21., too, is demonstrative of the prevalence of diversity of sentiment.
II. WHAT IT IS.
1. Its foundation must be laid in an agreement in fundamental truth. We cannot do better than take our stand where Paul stood. For the sake of usefulness and peace he could become all things unto all men. He could shave his head, circumcise Timothy, &c., and yet write against “beggarly elements.” Paul, who in fellowship and affection was the yielding universalist when prejudice was in question, was firm as a rock when principle was assailed. If ever he referred to what was fundamental he did Galatians 1:9. Whatever that gospel was, it is obvious that no man or Church that rejects it can properly be a Christian; and the whole tenor of the Epistle shows it to be the doctrine of justification on the exclusive ground of faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. If a society denies this doctrine, whatever it may have or have not, it has abandoned the faith for another gospel. This grand fundamental involves Christ’s Divinity, and the necessity of renewal and sanctification by the Spirit; but it does not involve either Calvinism or Arminianism, or Church polity, and may be held in connection with great variety of opinion on subordinate points.
2. It ought to be manifested by the recognition of each other, by Christians and Churches thus harmonizing. Every individual who “holds the Head” ought to be cheerfully recognized as a Christian by every other who does the same, and ought to share in that family affection which is peculiar to the spirit of the gospel. This feeling will produce a readiness to co-operate in all benevolent confederacies. But the text is to be realized not merely by the recognition of Christian by Christian, but of Church by Church. Every Church ought to possess the power of accepting the services of the ministers of every other. Differences of disciples ought not to be a barrier. All who expect to unite in the services of heaven, ought to endeavour to unite in the services of earth. Nothing should be a term of union but a term of salvation.
3. If this union were practised little would be wanting to the fulfilment of the prayer or the accomplishment of the result connected. Separate denominations would soon lose their hold of whatever partakes of the nature of sectarian attachments, would imbibe an enlarged and accommodating, spirit; would mutually cease to contend for trifles, and would come perhaps in the end, fused and melted by the fire of love, to take some new form, as one great consolidated community. In relation to the world, the annihilation of party distinctions, the drying up of the wells of jealousy, &c., and the taking into the garden of the Lord of every enclosure would be such a palpable demonstration of the presence and power of truth and love that the world would gaze, admire, and believe.
1. This prayer is fulfilled to a greater extent than would at first sight be supposed. The existence of separate churches, and the want of uniformity between them, do not militate against actual agreement in fundamentals, or fraternal feeling. The great saving truths are urged with equal zeal by ministers of various denominations, and members of different churches work side by side in philanthropic enterprises.
2. The prayer will never be fully accomplished but by the removal of all that interferes with the communion of churches. If Christians wait until every Church is modelled according to any supposed apostolic pattern, till some community has drawn and absorbed all others into itself, they will have to wait far longer than any of them calculate. This consummation is much more likely to follow the practice of universal communion than to precede it; but whether it ever come or not, the obligation remains the some. The one is an unquestionable duty, the other a dream.
3. We learn how to possess our souls in peace amid the alarm and agitation of the present times, It becomes us to keep our eye and heart steadily on the prayer of Christ; to engage in every religious movement which the present position of the Church may demand to promote its accomplishment. This will at once sanctify uncongenial duties, and sustain under the injustice of calumny and insult. (T. Binney.)
I. THE LORD IS TO BE RECOGNIZED AS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. His name is the only true bond of union.
II. THE COMMON FELLOWSHIP OF ALL BELIEVERS IN CHRIST.
III. THE HONEST RECOGNITION OF ONE ANOTHER AS BRETHREN IN CHRIST, whether within or without the various churches.
IV. THE DETERMINATION TO BE FORBEARING one toward another, and to maintain the body of Christ, provided the faith be maintained by the members in heart and life. (H. Varley.)
The fact and the means of Church unity
According to the present scientific theory, all of the planets came out of the sun. That central orb sent off ring after ring, and these consolidated into planets, and then, moving within the influence of their common origin, they swing without collision round the grand common centre of the sun itself. So should not the denominational planets also swing without collision around their common origin and centre, Jesus Christ? Plutarch tells us of a golden tripod that was fished from the bottom of the sea. There was a great contention about the possession of it; and, when the conflict waxed quite ferocious, it was settled that neither of the contending parties should have it, but that it should be given to the wisest man. They sent it first of all to Thales. He said, “I am not the wisest man; take it to Bias.” Bias, on being approached, said, “Don’t bring it here. I am not the wisest man in Greece. I won’t have it.” And so they sent it from one to another through a circle of the seven wisest men, with a like reception, until at last it was settled that the fair tripod should be given to Apollo. Now, they all had the modesty of true wisdom; and if all the denominations had only that modesty or real wisdom displayed by these sages never to make any claim of exclusiveness or superiority, there would be unbroken peace among them all. (H. M.Scudder.)
The essential unity of the Church
During a visit of the King of Italy to Naples, the nine Protestant ministers of that city begged the favour of an interview. The young monarch granted their request, and received them with marked courtesy. He was surprised, however, when one was presented to him as a Methodist, and another as a Baptist, the third as a Presbyterian, the fourth as a Waldensian, &c. “I do not understand,” said the king, “how you can all be ministers of the same gospel, and yet have so many distinctions. Perhaps one of you will be good enough to explain this to me.” The Waldensian minister promptly replied, “In your majesty’s army there are many regiments wearing different uniforms and called by different names; nevertheless they are under one commanderin-chief, and follow one flag. In like manner we Protestants are divided into various denominations, but we know only one Chief--Jesus Christ; and we follow but one banner, viz., that of the gospel of our crucified and risen Lord.” The king listened attentively, and then said, “I thank you for this clear explanation. You wish me to understand that while there are differences among you on minor matters, there is unity in essentials.” (W. Baxendale.)
I was walking, some weeks since, in a beautiful grove. The trees were some distance apart, and the trunks were straight and rugged. But as they ascended higher the branches came closer together, and still higher the twigs and branches interlaced and formed a beautiful canopy. I said to myself, our Churches resemble these trees. The trunks near the earth stand stiffly and widely apart. The more nearly towards heaven they ascend, the closer and closer they come together, until they form one beautiful canopy, under which the sons of men enjoy both shelter and happiness. Then I thought of that beautiful prayer of the Saviour, “That they all may be one,” &c. (Bp. M. Simpson.)
I was once permitted to unite in celebrating the Lord’s Supper in an upper room in Jerusalem. There were fourteen present, the most of whom, I had good reason to believe, knew and loved the Lord Jesus Christ. Several were godly Episcopalians; two were converted Jews--one a Christian from Nazareth, converted under American missionaries. The bread and wine were dispensed in the Episcopal manner, and most were kneeling as they received them. We felt it to be sweet fellowship with Christ, and with the brethren; and, as we left the upper room and looked out upon the Mount of Olives, we remembered with calm joy the prayer from our Lord that ascended from one of the shady ravines after the first Lord’s Supper--“That they all may be one.” (R. M. M’Cheyne.)
Friends mistaken for foes
I recollect, on one occasion, conversing with a marine, who gave me a good deal of his history. He told me that the most terrible engagement he had ever been in was one between the ship to which he belonged and another English vessel, when, on meeting in the night they mistook each other for enemies. Several persons were wounded, and both vessels were much damaged by the firing. When the day broke, great and painful was the surprise to find the English flag hoisted from both ships. They saluted each other, and wept bitterly together over their mistake. Christians, sometimes, commit the same error. One denomination mistakes another for an enemy; it is night, and they do not recognize one another. What will be their surprise when they see each other in heaven’s light I How will they salute each other when better known and understood! (W. Williams.)
The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them
The Church’s unity and its influence
THE GIFT WHICH CHRIST BESTOWS ON HIS disciples.
1. What was the glory which Christ received? A glory belonged to the Son of God in His own Divine right (John 17:5). But the glory GIVEN to Him must refer to His mission in becoming incarnate. It was the glory of being
2. The glory communicated by Christ. Clearly it has no reference to any perishable wealth or worldly honour; for “the Son of man had not where to lay His head.” It is the glory of being
II. THE DESIGN OF THIS GIFT. “That they may be one,” &c. Wherever the glory makes itself appear, you see the truest evidence of Christian discipleship, and the highest proof of Christian unity. This unity is
1. Glorious in its source: “I in them, and Thou in Me.” In this way only are Christians truly and vitally one. In the absence of the living Saviour from individual souls, no forced process of uniformity, no subscription merely of the same creed, can effect their union in one body. Christ is in all His true disciples; in their understandings, as the object of the highest knowledge; in their hearts, as the King of Love; in their consciences, as the Prince of Peace; in their whole inner being, as the Lord of Life, the Captain of Salvation, and the Hope of Glory. Thus He becomes the true principle and bond of all unity.
2. Gradual in its realization: “That they may be perfected into one.” Many things hinder the complete enthronement of Christ in the soul, and so many hindrances prevent the perfecting of the Church’s oneness. Christians, instead of showing their essential unity, have appeared to be the fiercest and most uncompromising foes. But all hindrances will yet be overcome.
3. This triumph of unity is the very highest design which can be realised in relation to the Church. Sin is the element of discord, and the principle of dissocialism and separation in the world; and God’s great purpose for the destruction of this discord, and the restoration of true harmony, is the establishment of a holy brotherhood in Christ, the living Centre and personal Head of men. By Him God is to reconcile all things unto Himself.
III. THE GLORIOUS END TO BE ACCOMPLISHED. “That the world may know that Thou hast sent Me,” &c.
1. In John 17:21, Jesus said, “that the world may believe;” here He says that the world may know. Knowledge is belief, or faith in its highest attainment. The growing oneness of the disciples would be to the world an evidence of Christian truth, and the triumph of Christian love, mighty and irresistible. But Christ gives an additional thought--“that Thou hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” Through-this conviction alone, of God’s infinite love, do the children of the world become the children of God. What an exhibition of the exceeding riches of Divine grace in the gift of God’s only begotten Son would this oneness supply!
2. This oneness, moreover, would show the exceeding blessedness of consecration to God. (J. Spence, D. D.)
The glory, unity, and triumph of the Church
I. THE GREAT MEANS OF THE UNITY which Christ proposes here. “The glory which Thou gavest Me,” &c. The glory which the Father gave the Son was
1. That He endowed Him with the Holy Spirit (John 3:34-35). The Holy Ghost descended upon our Lord in His baptism and abode upon Him. In Him was fulfilled Isaiah 11:1-3. In this Spirit there is glory, for the prophet further says, “His rest shall be glorious.” Now upon each true disciple this glory of God rests according to his measure. Owing to this endowment, there rested upon Jesus Christ a wondrous glory in many respects.
2. In the sanctification of His blessed person. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.” How consecrated to God He was from His childhood till He said, “It is finished!” This is the glory which He gives to us. His prayer is, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.” His disciples live unto holiness, and are known as a people zealous of good works.
3. In His mission. “As thou hast sent Me into the world, even so,” &c.
4. In His model humanity. You, too, are not to be common men, but model men. Jesus especially was a model in
5. Wherever this glory is seen true unity is developed. Suppose I were to find a man, living in the likeness of Christ, with this spiritual glory conspicuous upon him. Suppose he is a coalheaver, the glory of his character will be none the less conspicuous amid the dust; or suppose that he is an earl, the glory will be none the more dim because of the good man’s honours. The holy consecration in each case is the same, and the degrees of rank do not affect the essential beauty of either. If you bring a company of common Christians together and they begin discussing, I daresay they will jangle; but if you could select a number upon whom this glory rests, within a short time they will be all on their knees together, or singing together, or engaged in some form of loving fellowship. Spiritual men are so essentially one that like two drops which lie close together they have an increasing tendency to unite.
II. THE UNITY ITSELF. It is not uniformity. This our Lord says nothing of. Though we are one body in Him, yet all the members have not the same office.
1. “I in them.” Christ lives in His people, and we are so to act, in the power of the Holy Ghost, that onlookers shall say, “Surely Christ lives again in that man, for he acts out the precepts of Jesus.”
2. “Thou in Me.” That is, God is in Christ. This is manifestly true, for you cannot read the life of Christ without seeing God in Him.
3. This brings about the union of believers with the Father: being one with Christ, and Christ being one with the Father, the point is reached for which our Lord prayed, “that they also may be one in us.”
4. Couple this with believers being one with each other, and you get the being “made perfect in one.” Moved by the same love of holiness, inspired by the same spirit of love, the eternal Father’s will is the will of the Son, and the Spirit worketh in us also to will and to do according to the good pleasure of the Lord.
III. THE EFFECT WHICH THIS PRODUCES.
1. It will convince the world of the truth of Christ’s mission. When they see men who are no longer selfish, hard, ungenerous; men no longer governed by their passions; men who desire that which is holy, just, and good; men living to God--then the world will say, “Their Master must have been sent of God.” And then, not only will their characters convince, but their unity, because the ungodly world will say, “We see the glory of Christianity in the poor man, and we see the same in the rich man.”
2. But the world is also to be convinced of the Father’s love to us. When the world sees bodies of truly consecrated men and women living together in holy love, then they will also see much joy, peace, mutual consolation, and they will perceive that the providence of God makes all things work together for their good, and that the Lord has a special care over them as a shepherd hath over his flock. Then will they say, “These are the people that God has blessed.” See how He loves them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. IS THE SAME IN ALL MORAL INTELLIGENCES. This prayer speaks of several grand unities.
1. One life. The life of God and Christ are here spoken of as one.
2. One truth; “Thy truth.” Truth has many sides, but it is one essential whole. Truths are but phases of His.
3. One Church. The Christly in all sects and countries are but one family of which Christ is the Head.
4. One love. Benevolence has many modifications, but in essence it is the same in all.
5. One glory. The glory that Christ had was the glory of God, and this He imparts to us--the glory of moral goodness. In the eye of conscience, in the light of the Bible, and in the estimate of God, the good only are glorious.
II. IS COMMUNICABLE FROM ONE BEING TO ANOTHER. Three things are necessary to its communication
1. The manifestation of it. Were the Eternal to conceal His glory, no creature intelligence could participate in its rays. A good being to make others good must show his goodness.
2. The contemplation of it. What boots it, if no eye observes the manifested glory. The man who at noonday shuts his eyes is as much in the dark as though it were midnight.
3. The imitation of it. There must be an effort on the part of the observer to imbibe, cherish, and develop the Divine goodness.
III. COMES TO MAN THROUGH CHRIST. Christ is the only perfect Revealer, “We beheld His glory,” &c. It is by studying and imitating Him that men become glorious. “For we with open face,” &c.
IV. IS CONSISTEST WITH CIRCUMSTANTIAL SUFFERING. As seen in the case of these disciples
1. How glorious their endurance!
2. How glorious their achievements! To their victories we owe our liberty, Bibles, schools, asylums, Christendom. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Saints glorified on earth
I. THE CHARACTER OF THIS CHRIST-GIVEN GLORY.
2. Positively. His glory lay in the purpose and aim of His life, as appointed by the Father and accepted by Himself. It was early made known that God’s glory was His goodness. At the Incarnation the angel song showed this, and so did Christ at the first manifestation of His glory at Cana. And now with the Cross in prospect He prays (John 17:1-2).
3. It is clear then that Christ gives glory to His people in calling them to carry forward His work and in granting them necessary equipment (John 17:8; Joh_17:18). Christians are given to know the glory of being fellow-labourers with their Master. Perhaps to some the Lord’s call to service has been unattractive and irksome. It is the glory He hath given us. Is not the soldier honoured when appointed a part in the thick of the fight?
II. THE DESIGN OF CHRIST IS GIVING GLORY TO HIS PEOPLE.
1. To glorify God by making Him known (John 17:1; Joh_17:6). The fruitful cause of the world’s woe is ignorance of God.
2. To lead to blessed union with God and one another, “that they may be one” &c.
3. Here is discovered the responsibility of all disciples. By unfaithfulness we may turn our glory into shame.
III. THIS CHRIST-GIVEN GLORY THROWS LIGHT ON THE FUTURE GLORY OF THE SAINTS, which will consist of
1. A call to higher service. “Inasmuch as thou hast been faithful over a few things,” &c.
2. The realization of perfect and harmonious relationship with God and one another.
3. The possession of true rest and joy--the joy of accomplished and prospective service. (J. Stevens.)
The mutual glory of Christ and His people
I. THE NATURE OF CHRIST’S GLORY. There is
1. The essential glory of Christ.
2. His mediatorial glory.
3. His remunerative glory.
II. SOME INSTANCES IS WHICH THIS GLORY IS COMMUNICATED TO THE SAINTS.
1. They have glorious titles.
2. Glorious privileges.
3. They are brought into glorious relations.
4. Glorious acts and exploits are ascribed to them.
5. Glorious prespects are before them.
1. The vanity of earthly things.
2. The dignity of real Christians.
3. Press forward to possession.
4. Let Him who put this glory on us receive all glory from us. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Christ’s glory given to His people
I. CHRIST’S GLORY.
2. Union with God.
3. Perfection of attributes.
II. HIS PEOPLE’S GLORY.
1. They are sons of God.
2. They are one with Christ.
3. They reflect His nature.
4. They are kings and priests. (W. W. Wythe.)
The glory Christ gives to His disciples
As the essence of the glory of Jesus consists in His dignity as the Son, and the well-beloved Son, so the glory He has bestowed on believers is the filial dignity, the state of adoption (John 1:12). Whereby they have become what He eternally is--children of God and objects of His perfect love. This glory Jesusbestowed on His own, by bringing matters to such a state that God could justly reflect upon them all the love which He has for Jesus Himself (verses John 15:9-10). Thus the proposition which follows, “that they may be one,” &c., is easily understood. Once objects of the same Father’s love, and bearing in common the image of their Elder Brother, they form among themselves a closely united family (cf. Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:10)
. (F. Godet, D. D.)
I in them and Thou in Me
The three unions
There are three most admirable unions proposed to our faith in the Christian religion.
The Unity of Essence, in the Trinity; the Unity of Person, in Jesus Christ; and the union between Christ and His Church. The first of these is an ensample and prefiguration, as it were to the second; and the second to the third. For we cannot better represent the union with His Church, than by the hypostatic Union, or by the union of the Word with human nature (1 John 4:8). (W. Norris.)
Unity in nature and grace
There is one remarkable difference between nature and grace; for nature of one makes many; for we are all but one in Adam, but grace of many makes one; for the Holy Ghost, who as a fire melts all the faithful into one mass, and makes of many one body, in the unity of God. (W. Dell.)
The union of believers with Christ
The Scriptures have borrowed from nature four metaphors, to describe this mystical union; but neither of these singly, or all of them jointly, can give us a full account of this mystery.
1. Not that of two pieces united by glue (1 Corinthians 6:17), for though this union be intimate, yet it is not vital.
2. Nor that of the graft and stock (Romans 6:5), for though this union be vital, yet the graft is of a more excellent kind and nature than the stock, and the tree receives its denomination from it; but Christ, into whom believers are ingrafted, is infinitely more excellent than they, and they are denominated from Him.
3. Nor conjugal union, for though this be exceeding dear and intimate, and they two become one flesh; yet it is not indissolvable, but must be broken by death; but this betwixt Christ and the soul abides to eternity.
4. Nor that of the Head and members united by one spirit, and so making one physical body (Ephesians 4:15-16), for though one soul actuates every member, yet it doth not knit every member alike near to the head, but here every member is alike nearly united with Christ the Head, the weak are as near to Him as the strong. Note
I. THE REALITY OF THIS UNION, which appears
1. From the communion which is betwixt Christ and believers (1 John 1:3). It signifies such fellowship or co-partnership, as persons have by a joint interest in one and the same enjoyment (Hebrews 3:14; Psalms 45:7). Now this communion is entirely dependent upon Union (1 Corinthians 3:22-23).
2. From the imputation of Christ’s righteousness for justification Romans 3:24; Rom_4:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
3. From the sympathy that is betwixt Christ and believers; Christ and the saints smile and sigh together (Colossians 1:24; Acts 9:5).
4. From the way in which the saints shall be raised at the last day Romans 8:11).
II. THE QUALITY AND NATURE OF THIS UNION. More generally, it is an intimate conjunction of believers to Christ, by the imparting of His Spirit to them, whereby they are enabled to believe and live in Him. All Divine spiritual life is originally in the Father, and cometh not to us, but by and through the Son (John 5:26; Romans 8:2). The Spirit must therefore first take hold of us, before we can live in Christ, and when He doth so, then we are enabled to exert that vital act of faith whereby we receive Christ (John 6:57). So that the Spirit’s work in uniting a soul into Christ is like the cutting off the graft from its native stock (which He doth by His illuminations and convictions) and closing it with the Living Vine, and so enabling it (by the infusion of faith) to draw the vital sap, and thus it becomes one with Him. Or as the many members in the natural body, being all quickened and animated by the same vital spirit, become one body with the Head (Ephesians 4:4).
1. Negatively it is
(a) By way of sustentation: all our fruits of obedience depend upon John 15:4).
(b) To all our privileges and comfortable claims (1 Corinthians 3:1-23. ult.).
(c) To all our hopes and expectations of glory (Colossians 1:27). So then destroy this union, and with it you destroy all our fruits, privileges, and eternal hopes, at one stroke.
(10) It is an enriching union (1 Corinthians 1:30; 1Co_3:22). All that Christ hath becomes ours: His Father (John 20:17); His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20); His providences (Romans 8:28); His glory (John 17:24).
III. INFERENCES. If there be such an union betwixt Christ
1. Then what transcendent dignity hath God put on believers! Well might Constantine prefer the honour of being a member of the Church before that of being a head of the empire. Some imperious grandees would frown should some of these persons but presume to approach their presence; but God sets them before His face with delight, and angels delight to serve them.
2. Then the graces of believers can never totally fail (Colossians 3:3).
3. How great and powerful a motive then is this, to make us liberal in relieving the necessities and wants of every gracious person! For in relieving them we relieve Christ Himself (Matthew 25:35; Mat_25:40).
4. How unnatural then are all those acts of unkindness whereby believers wound and grieve Jesus Christi This is as if the hand should wound his own head, from which it receives life, sense, motion, and strength.
5. Then surely they can never want what is good for their souls or bodies. Every one naturally cares and provides for his own, especially for his own body. (J. Flavel.)
Christ in man
You may sometimes have seen a wife, wedded in true love and heart, surrender to a man who is good and strong. At first his goodness and strength are merely the object of her reverence, but gradually they seem to pass into her. New elements of character are developed in her, a firmness, a decisiveness, a breadth of view, a depth of sympathy which were wanting before. You would not say that her individuality had been lost; on the contrary, it seems informed, inspired, filled out and completed. You would not say that she was a reflection of him; no, you would rather say that she lives in him, or from another point of view, that he lives in her. Her relation to him is not imitative but receptive. He passes into her. If he is removed by death, it is observed not so much that she has lost something, as that part of her, the best and greater part, has gone; she is no longer what she was; she reminds you of a home that once had a tenant, but now though furniture and decorations remain the same, the tenant is there no more. In such an illustration we may get some idea of this august doctrine. It is something more than that hopeless task of copying the human life of Jesus, it is the actual communication of His Divine life, as the Lord Himself puts it “I in them.” He--shall we say? the beautiful and perfect spouse enters the soul, not ideally, but really; and entering in He moulds the ugly and repulsive outlines of our being into conformity with His own. (R. F. Horton, M. A.)
The indwelling of Christ
On a bright but chilly day in early spring you see your friend walking on the shady side of the street, as some foolish people will do. You call over to him: “Come and walk in the sun with me.” The sun is many millions of miles away, yet you speak of being in it, and walking in it, when you are bathed in the light and warmth continually proceeding from it. In the same way are we in Christ when we are surrounded by the gracious loving presence of His Holy Spirit. So, “Ye in Me.” But not only must the light be around us, but in us, before we can be said to live in it and walk in it. A blind man is surrounded by the sunlight as any one else is, but he does not live in it; he does not walk in it; he cannot enjoy it. Why not? Simply because it is not in him. We must have eyes; and these eyes must be opened to receive the light into the body, so that we may live in it, and walk in it, and enjoy it. And in the same way must the eye of faith be opened to receive the heavenly light into the soul before we can even be aware of its presence; and it must be kept open in order that we may “walk in the light as He is in the light.” Christ must be in us by His Holy Spirit in order that we may live in Him. (J. L. Nye.)
Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved Me
The Father’s love to the believer
I. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH WE MAY UNDERSTAND THIS TO BE POSSIBLE.
1. God cannot love but with all the love He has. He can never be less than God--that is, perfect. He can do nothing which even He could improve upon. Then, when He loves, it is in the fullest measure in which even God can love. “Now Jesus loved Martha,” &c., that sounds as if He loved them more than others, so does “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” but not necessarily so, because they were more responsive to that love. The difference is not in God, but in us--in our reception of His love.
2. Those who believe in Christ, are loved in Him. In connection with the rest of the prayer it is not so hard to believe the text. If there be this oneness between Him and them, how can it be otherwise.
3. The sacrifice of Christ manifests such a love. For how must the Father feel to those for whom He gave His Son?
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE DIVINE LOVE WHICH THIS IMPLIES.
1. It is love checked by no barrier. Once it was checked, it could not utter itself because of sin. You have seen a swollen stream heave, impatient of restraint, against the flood-gates which keep it back. It was so once with God’s love to men. But the barrier is removed, “Christ hath put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” and now that love leaps forth free to all. But it finds another check, hearts are closed to its reception, it surges round them seeking to enter, but for the most part in vain; it cannot have its way with men because they will not let it. But not so all. Some have “known and believed the love that God has to them,” they have opened their hearts to it and it can do for them what it would; these are they who believe on Christ, see their sin put away in Him, and in Him their acceptance by the Father; to them that love goes forth as to Him.
2. It is a love of closest intimacy. There is a love which is little more than kindly feeling, there is that which is mainly a delight in what perhaps we cannot approach, there is the love of friendship with its exchange of confidence and mutual happiness, but there is also the love of some one who comes so near to us that he is our second self. That most nearly represents the Father’s love to the Son, “the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father.” We are apt to be content with much less, cherishing but a reverence to God which keeps us at a distance, and not blending with it a confidence as great which compels us to “draw near.” God forbid that we lose the reverence, but that we lose the confidence God forbid too! Yet that is our portion, since Christ says the Father has loved us as He loved Him.
3. It is an everlasting love. For the Father’s love to the Son will never cease, and through earth’s sins and sorrows and conflicts, through all the changes we dread, through the mystery of death, in the glory of heaven and throughout its endless future, unweariedly the Father will love us still.
III. THE EFFECT OF THIS LOVE OF GOD ON HIS PEOPLE, or rather, the effect of knowing it.
1. It satisfies when every other love fails. And that is always.
2. It is the quickening power of holiness. For the way into holiness is to be loved into it by God. (C. New.)
Father I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me.
Christ’s last will
Jesus no longer says, “I pray” but “I will.” This expression, found nowhere else, in the mouth of Jesus, is generally explained by saying that the Son thus expressed Himself, because He felt Himself on this point so fully in accordance with the Father. But this He felt in every prayer, and this unique expression must be taken in its relation to the unique character of the situation. It is the saying of a dying man: “Father, My last will is … ” It is truly His testament which Christ thus deposits in His Father’s hands. (F. Godet, D. D.)
Christ’s wish for man
The truth that men are judged by their desires finds its highest illustration in Jesus. The perfection of His nature is shown in the perfectness of His wishes. When His desires shall be all fulfilled, then there will be nothing more in the universe to be desired. The wish of the text is a prayer; but a prayer is merely a wish turned Godward. It was the instinct of Christ’s nature that He looked for the fulfilment of His wishes, not to Himself, and not to the things about Him, but to His Father. He was desiring in His heart
I. THAT HIS PEOPLE SHOULD BE WITH HIM.
1. The obvious meaning of this is the Saviour’s affection for His disciples. When friend is going away from friend, how naturally the wish springs up into words: “Oh, if I could only take you with me!” Now, the sublimity and the charm of the earthly life of Jesus consist in large part in the broad and healthy action of the simplest human powers which it exhibits. The simplest natures are the grandest natures always. And so it is a part of the greatness of Jesus that He so simply feels and utters this cordial human affection, and says, “I shall miss you. I wish you could go with Me.” We want not merely to admire this in Jesus; not merely to feel its charm. We want to catch it from Him. Elaborate civilization is always making elaborate, artificial standards.
2. But these primary emotions are deeper and richer in Him than in ordinary men, in proportion to the depth and richness of His nature.
Christ till we are like Him. Not till He is formed in us do we enter truly into Him.
II. THAT THEY MIGHT BEHOLD HIS GLORY. Perhaps this sounds to us a little strange at first. The schoolboy wants his schoolfellow to come home with him that he may see the state in which his father lives. The American says to the foreigner, “Come, see our land, its vastness, its resources, its progress.” The Christian says, “Come to my church. You shall hear our music,” &c. Before the words can be cut entirely free from low associations, we must remember what Christ’s glory is. The heart and soul of it must be His goodness. What outward splendour may clothe Christ eternally we cannot know, but this we are sure of, that in at its very centre the glory of God must issue from and consist in the goodness of God, not in His power. Think for a moment of what prospects that wish of our Lord opens. Nowadays men are telling one another how tired they are of seeing sin on every side. We cheat ourselves if we think that it is peculiar to our times, for it has always been so. We cheat ourselves if we think that it is universal, for there is bright and glorious goodness around us, mixed with the sin on every side. But how imperfectly we see it! How much goodness there must be in Him which we do not see! For here this truth comes in, that only the like can see its like; only the good can really discern, appreciate, and understand goodness. Men live alongside of the best saints, and never know that they are good. The higher we climb, the more the peaks open around us. Now apply all this to the Saviour’s prayer. Only by growth in goodness can His goodness open itself to us. What is He praying for, then? Is it not that which we traced before, that we might be like Him? So only can we see Him. It is His glory that He wants us to see, but, back of that, He wants us to be such men and women that we can see His glory. I think of Jesus as He walked through Jerusalem. Men passed Him by; others just looked at Him, and sneered, and went their way. Do you think that did not give Him pain? Surely it did. They could not see His glory. But was not His pain that He saw them incapable of apprehending Him? Was not this what He was really mourning for when He sat on the Mount of Olives? Not, “Woe is me!” but “O Jerusalem?” Sometimes, in very far-off way, it is given to a man to echo this experience of Jesus. Sometimes a man is living for the good of other people, and other people will not see it, and he is left to sit upon the mountain and look down in sorrow upon the city which he longs to save. At such a time a man wants, and often enough he fails to get, the spirit of Christ’s prayer. He wants men to “see His glory,” and they will not. Is it for himself or for them that he is disappointed? The man whom you helped yesterday and who ungratefully slanders you to-day, are you indignant about yourself or pitiful over him? It is hard to keep out pride and jealousy, but let us remember how He wanted men to see Him because it was so wretched for them, not for Him, that they should be blind to Him. I think, then, that we have reached the meaning of this prayer of Jesus; and we are struck immediately by seeing how it really is identical with all His prayers for men. It is always that men might be saved from sin, that His goodness might come to us and we might be good. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Christ’s prayer for His people
I. THE TONE OF THE PRAYER.
1. Wonderful majesty. “Father, I will!” How awful this sounds! Such a petition was never heard before. Compare it with the prayers of the most eminent of God’s people--Abraham, David, and Solomon.
2. Authority as well. Here is no condition, qualification, or contingency expressed or implied. It is the language of Him whose will is absolute law through all the universe. And this is the foundation on which the ultimate salvation of the redeemed is made to rest.
II. THE SCOPE OF THE PRAYER
1. The persons prayed for are--“those whom Thou hast given Me”--believers of every age. It takes in all the redeemed.
2. What is asked is “that they be with Me where I am.” This is a comprehensive petition. It embraces all that Christ could ask for His people, all that they can desire, or that God can give. There has been much curious discussion of the question whether heaven is a state or a place. It is clear from the teachings of the chapter, that heaven is a stale (John 17:21; Joh_17:23). The unity prayed for in the former and the perfection in the latter of these verses prove this conclusively. No locality can be heaven to us, unless we attain unto the state there described. At the same time this verse proves that heaven is a distinct locality (John 14:2). If He were speaking here as the Creator alone, the language used would not necessarily imply locality. But He is speaking as “the Man Christ Jesus.” “True, ‘where I am’ is a wide, wide phrase. Where He is, heaven is; where He is not, there is hell. A throne without Him is but the devil’s dungeon of darkness, wherever it be placed; a dungeon with Christ in it, a fiery furnace with Christ in the midst, is a palace of glory. If we be where He is, what is there that can be worth seeing, or knowing, or having besides? ‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee?’”
III. THE DESIGN OF THE PRAYER. “That they may behold My glory,” &c. This refers to the glory which pertains to Him by virtue of His mediatorial office. It is the glory of revealing God’s will; of bringing to an end the great rebellion which sin had introduced into God’s dominions; of lifting off the curse from this groaning creation; of making all things new; of gathering His elect out of all nations, of raising them from the dead, and carrying them with approval through the solemn scenes of the last judgment, and assigning them the place of dignity they will occupy in His everlasting kingdom; and of conducting the affairs of that kingdom through all eternity.
IV. THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THE PRAYER RESTS. “For Thou lovedst Me,” &c. There is something very striking and sublime in this argument. It is not our love for one another or of God, nor Christ’s or the Father’s love for us, but God’s love of His own blessed Son. In conclusion, this subject suggests
1. How unspeakable is the glory on which the redeemed will gaze!
2. The true philosophy of salvation, or the secret of the Christian’s security. (R. Newton, D. D.)
The Lord’s last prayer for His people
I. HIS LAST AND DEEPEST DESIRE CONCERNING US.
1. There is something unspeakably affecting in the designation “those whom Thou hast given Me.” Many titles He had already given His people--disciples, friends, brethren, &c.; names advancing in depth of tendernessas the end drew nigh; but here at the last He recalls one that He had used among the first. He does not point to the larger gift of the human race (Psalms 2:1-12.); nor does He indicate any fragment predestined to be His; the sentiment is that all whom the Father teaches He draws by His Spirit, that He may consign them to His Son for salvation. The fact that they are the Father’s gift makes them unspeakably precious to Jesus, who therefore wishes the eternal society of His own.
2. But it is for our sake that He makes the request. His people are not with Him in the fall meaning of the word. When departing He said He would be with them, not that they should be with Him. Save in a few swift glimpses His Church has never seen Him since, save by the eye of faith.
3. Whilst we might be musing as to the glory of the place, our Lord attracts back our thoughts to Himself “that they may behold My glory.” This is twofold
II. THE STRENGTH OF THE PECULIAR EXPRESSION, “I WILL”
1. Whence has He that strong confidence on our account, sinners as we are?
2. What is the object of His intercession?
3. The prayer is granted. Whatsoever is necessary for our perfect deliverance from sin is here pledged, and hereafter there will be a most glorious answer when the saints, body and soul, are presented faultless by the Son to the Father.
III. THIS DEEP DESIRE AND STRONG INTERCESSION IS UTTERED IN OUR HEARING for our instruction and encouragement.
1. We are taught, by the connection of our text with the fact that Christ prays not for the world, how important it is to our peace that we should know that we are given of the Father to the Son. There is a terrible distinction. Our Lord says nothing further about those that are not His. They will not be with Him where He is. With whom then, and where?
2. With what transcendent honour are we here invested. To be the elect of God, the peculiar heritage of Christ--“Where I am there shall My servant be,” &c. With what ardour should we be inflamed to make ourselves worthy of this honour.
3. The prayer is our strong assurance while we watch and labour and pray.
4. Oar Lord permitted us to hear this prayer for our strong consolation in surrendering our friends to Him in death. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)
Christ’s unveiled glory
I. OF WHAT STATE OF MIND THIS IS THE EXPRESSION ON THE PART OF CHRIST.
1. It expresses the depth and intensity of His love to the Church He has redeemed. Montaigne says, “We hate those we injure”--certainly we love those whom we have blessed. Christ having redeemed us in this life is intent on blessing us in the next.
2. It turns on the principle that sympathy is most precious to the noblest natures. Christ could not think of the splendours of His throne without connecting them with His people.
3. It contains the idea of personal interest in them as precious property by special donation from the Father. What more valued than a father’s gift, especially when given as an expression of love and for a sublime purpose.
II. WHAT VIEWS IT FURNISHES OF THE FUTURE LIFE.
1. The happiness of heaven will be realized in the immediate presence and unveiled glory of Christ. The king makes the court, not the court the king.
2. Whatever displays are made in that life of the majesty of the Godhead, will be made in the Person of Christ. To all eternity He will be “Emanuel--God with us.” How transporting itwill be to find His glory that of “the Lamb that was slain!”
III. WHAT REFLECTIONS THE SUBJECT SHOULD AWAKEN.
1. Earnest desire to be one with Christ.
2. Adoring gratitude that He has invested us with this hope which cannot die.
3. A deep concern for the religious welfare of others. (S. T. Day.)
The glorification of the Church
I. ITS SIGNIFICANCE EXPLAINED.
1. Co-existence with Christ. Now He co-exists with the Church Matthew 18:20; Mat_28:20); then the Church will co-exist with Him Matthew 12:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Now He comes down, then He will take us up. Now the place where they are together is the scene of the Church’s trials, conflicts, labours, discipline: then the place will be the house of many mansions, the scene of Christ’s exaltation and glory.
2. Communion with Christ. Christ and His Church have that here (1 John 1:3). Here we see Him, but not with open vision (1 Corinthians 13:12). There the vision will be unveiled and full (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 22:4). They shall behold His glory, not only its outward symbol--the throne, sceptre, angels, trumpets, &c.
but the eternal, perfect love of the Father to Him, and the glory which, moved by that love, the Father put upon Him when He constituted Him the Crown of redeemed humanity (Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:22).
3. Conformity to Christ. This is realized here in part (2 Corinthians 4:18), there it will be complete (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2).
4. Co-partnership with Christ. Christ is here co-partner of the Church s sufferings (Hebrews 4:15); by and by we shall participate in His glory (verse 22; Revelation 3:21; 2 Timothy 2:12).
II. ITS CERTAINTY GUARANTEED.
1. By the “I will” of the Divine Servant. Having accomplished the work (verse 4) Christ was entitled to claim the stipulated reward--not merely to “ask” or “wish,” though that would have been enough. And as failure is impossible with reference either to God’s promise (Hebrews 5:13), or Christ’s reward (Isaiah 53:2), so certainly Christ’s believing people will eventually be glorified with Him in heaven.
2. By the “I will” of the Divine Son. As such Christ had power to bestow eternal life (verse 2), and so the ultimate glorification of the Church is seen.
III. ITS JUSTICE VINDICATED (verse 25, 26).
1. If the world is not glorified it is because it cannot be. Eternal righteousness forbids the glorification of such as know not the Father.
2. If the Church is glorified, it is because glory is the necessary outcome of grace. Lessons:
1. The blessedness of heaven.
2. The certainty of salvation.
3. The necessity of growing in knowledge.
4. The righteousness of the unbelieving world’s doom.
5. Grace the song of the glorified. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Why they leave us
1. The prayer of the Saviour rises as it proceeds. He asked for His people that they might be preserved from the world, then that they might be sanctified, and then that they might be made manifestly one; and now He reaches His crowning point--that they may be with Him where He is, and behold His glory. That prayer is most after the Divine pattern which, like a ladder, rises round by round, until it loses itself in heaven.
2. This last step of our Lord’s prayer is not only above all the rest, but it is a longer step than any of the others. He here ascends, not from one blessing which may be enjoyed on earth, to higher, but mounts right away from all that is to that which is reserved for the eternal future.
3. Not only does it rise as to its subject, but it even ascends as to the place which the Intercessor appears to occupy. Has it not been so with yourselves in prayer, that you might have cried with Paul, “Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell.”
4. Still the prayer rises, not only as to its matter and place, but in a higher style. Before, our Lord had asked and pleaded; but now He says, “Father, I will.” It is well not only to groan out of the dust as suppliant sinners, but to seek unto our Father in the spirit of adoption with the confidence of children, and then, with the promise of God in our hand, lay hold upon the covenant angel, and cry, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Importunity is a humble approach to this Divine “I will.”
I. Let us begin as our text begins with THE HOME-WORD--“Father.” Is it not the centre of living unity? If there is to be a family gathering and reunion, where should it be but in the father’s house?
1. What can be more right than that children should go home to their Father? From Him they came, to Him they owe their life, and should not this be the goal of their being, that they should at last dwell in His presence?
2. “Father!” why, it is a bell that rings us home. He who hath the Spirit of adoption feels that the Father draws him home, and he would fain run after Him. How intensely did Jesus turn to the Father!
3. This is the consummation which the First-born looks for, and to which all of us who are like Him are aspiring also, namely, that God may be all in all. Our Brother is gone; but we ask, “Where is He gone?” and when the answer comes, “He is gone to the Father,” all notion of complaint is over. To whom else should He go? A child may be happy at school, but he longs for the holidays. Is it merely to escape his lessons? Ask him, and he will tell you, “I want to go home to see my father.”
II. THE HOME IMPETUS. How shall the chosen get home to the Father. “I will,” said Jesus, “that they be with Me”; and with Him they must be. Examine the energy of this “I will,” and you will see that it hath the force of
1. An intercessory prayer. I cannot imagine our Lord’s interceding in vain. If He asks that we may be with Him where He is, He must assuredly have His request. You cannot hold your dying babe, &c.; for Jesus asks for it to be with Him. Will you come into competition with your Lord?
2. A testamentary bequest and appointment. No man who makes his will likes to have it frustrated. Our Saviour’s testament will assuredly be carried out in every jot and tittle.
3. Desire, resolve, and purpose. If Jesus saith, “I will,” then it is yours to say, “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
III. THE HOME CHARACTER. “They also, whom Thou hast given Me.” The Greek is somewhat difficult to translate. There is here a something in the singular as well as persons in the plural. “Father, I will concerning that which thou hast given Me, that they may be with Me where I am.”
1. Our Lord looked upon those whom the Father gave Him as one--one body, one Church, one bride: He willed that as a whole the Church should be with Him where He is.
2. Then He looked again and saw each of the many individuals of whom the one Church is composed, and He prayed that each, that all of these, might be with Him and behold His glory. Jesus never so prays for the whole Church as to forget a single member; neither does He so pray for the members individually as to overlook the corporate capacity of the whole.
3. I feel glad that there is no sort of personal character mentioned here, but only--“Those whom Thou hast given Me.” It seems as if the Lord in His last moments was not so much looking at the fruit of grace as at grace itself; He did not so much note either the perfections or the imperfections of His people, but only the fact that they were His by the eternal gift of the Father. The Father gave them as a love-token and a means of His Son’s glorification. If I possess a love-token that some dear one has given me I may rightly desire to have it with me. Nobody can have such a right to your wedding-ring, good sister, as you have yourself, and are not Christ’s saints, as it were, a signet upon His finger, a token which His Father gave Him of His good pleasure in Him? Should they not be with Jesus where He is, since they are His crown jewels and His glory?
IV. THE HOME COMPANIONSHIP.
1. The nearness of the saints to Christ in glory--“that they may be with Me.” In heaven the saints will be nearer to Christ than the apostles were when they sat at the table with Him, or heard Him pray. “For ever with the Lord”--this is heaven.
2. They must occupy a place: that place will be where Jesus is. We are to be, not metaphorically and fancifully, but really, truly, literally with Jesus.
3. Notice the occupation of those who are with Jesus: “That they may behold My glory.” Love always pines for a partner in its joys. When I have been specially charmed with glorious scenery, I have felt myself saying, “How I wish that my dear wife could be here!” How unselfish it is on our Lord’s part to think Himself not fully glorified till we behold His glory! How unselfish He will make us also, since it will be our glory to see His glory! Who would keep a brother out of it an hour?
4. Observe the fellowship which exists in the glory land. “That they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me.” So when the Lord brings His people home, we shall be one with Him, and He one with the Father, and we also in Him one with the Father, so that we shall then find boundless glory in beholding the glory of our Lord and God.
V. THE HOME ATMOSPHERE. Love: “Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.” Can you follow me in a great flight? There was a day before all days, when there was no day but the Ancient of Days. Oh the intensity of the Divine love of the Father to the Son! There was no universe, but God alone; and the whole of God’s omnipotence flowed forth in a stream of love to the Son, while the Son’s whole being remained eternally one with the Father by a mysterious essential union. Love is both the source and the channel, and the end of the Divine acting. Because the Father loved the Son He gave us to Him, and ordained that we should be with Him. Let our saintly ones go home if that is the design of their going. Since all comes of Divine love, and all sets forth Divine love, let them go to Him who loves them. Hold your friends lovingly, but be ready to yield them to Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE OBJECTS OF THIS PRAYED. “That which Thou hast given to Me” and “they also.” But in what respects were this people given by the Father to the Son?
1. In the first instance, He gave them to Him in the everlasting covenant.
2. But, in the second instance, the Father gives them to His Son in the day of their espousals--in the day of their effectual calling. “All that the Father giveth Me,” saith Jesus, “shall come to Me” (John 6:37),--not all that the Father gave Me,--as if He were speaking merely of some transaction in the past,--but all that the Father giveth Me--referring to the day of their espousals to Christ. “Wherefore, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). It is for souls, that are effectually called and justified, that Jesus prays that they may be with Him in glory.
II. THE MANNER AND SPIRIT OF THIS PRAYER. Jesus no longer says, “I pray” (John 17:9; Joh_17:15; Joh_17:20), but “I will.” Oh, what a wonderful prayer is this! We never read of any prayer like this, offered up by any saint on earth. Some of them, indeed, attained to great nearness to the Lord--such as Abraham, and Jacob, and Moses and David--and yet they never did, or ought to, use such language to God. And what shall we make of this prayer?
1. I think we may say, in the first instance, there is in it a beaming forth of His Divine glory, as the Eternal Son of God.
2. And surely this expression sets forth the reality and intensity of the Saviour’s love. It was in the exercise of infinite love that He laid down His life for them.
3. Further, we may well believe, that this is an expression of will, founded on acknowledged right. Jesus had the price of our redemption now in His hand, ready to lay it down.
4. And, as has often been remarked, this I will on the part of Christ is in perfect accord with the known will of His Father. “Father, I will,” says Christ; “and I will too,” re-echoes the voice of the Father. Oh, blessed harmony this between the will of Christ and the will of His Father!
5. But I apprehend, that this unique expression is to be explained by the unique character of the situation. Jesus is just about to lay down His life for them, and He now expresses His last will and testimony: “Father, My last will is.” It is truly His testimony which Jesus deposits in His Father’s hands.
III. WHAT THE BLESSINGS REALLY ARE, which Jesus thus asks for those that the Father gave Him: “That where I am, there they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me,” &c.
1. He asks that where He is, there they also may be with Him. Ah! yes, such is His love to them, that as He came from heaven to earth to save them, so He will never be at rest until He has them with Him where He is. And is not this heaven--its chiefest, choicest ingredient--to be where Christ is? (Philippians 1:23).
2. But why does He pray that they may be with Him where He is? How are they to be employed? “That they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me.”
3. Notice here the object to be beheld--“My glory which Thou hast given to Me”--“My glory peculiarly and emphatically,--and yet My glory which Thou hast given to Me,”--not His essential glory as the Son of God viewed abstractly, and by itself; but the glory given to Him as Immanuel, God-man, Mediator. Oh, who can tell what glory now encircles Him, as the Son of Man exalted to the right hand of God? But did they not behold this glory already? Assuredly they did by faith. And it is indeed a solemn truth, that none shall behold His glory by sight in heaven that do not first behold it by faith on earth. Some beheld this glory before He came in the flesh (John 8:56; Joh_12:40). Some beheld it by faith while He tabernacled upon earth (John 1:14). And some behold it now, though He is in heaven, and they upon the earth (2 Corinthians 3:18). But the beholding mentioned in the text is something higher, nearer than all this. This is the beatific vision, to which they shall attain when He has gathered them home to be for ever with Himself. It is impossible to behold this glory and to remain a mere spectator of it. To behold it is to partake of it--to become a sharer with Him in His glory. Then shall be fulfilled the words: “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them.” This is the height to which Jesus elevates His Church.
4. And one of the most interesting and delightful things connected with this glory, which they are to behold, will be to trace the source of it in the Father’s everlasting love: “The glory which Thou hast given Me, in that Thou lovedst Me.” The Father loved the Son with an everlasting love as His Son--His Only-Begotten Son. But He also loved Him with an everlasting love as Mediator. “Then I was by Him as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight” (Proverbs 8:30). Oh, surely it will be an eternal feast to the hearts of the redeemed in heaven to see the glorious unfoldings of the Father’s love towards their Covenant Head. Such, then, the two great blessings which Jesus here asks for the collective body of believers, viz., spiritual unity and eternal glory. (C. Ross, M. A.)
Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.--The Unitarian conception of the Divine Unity being arithmetical, not dynamical, its advocates deny plurality of persons or hypostases in the Godhead. And yet they loudly proclaim the truth that God is love, a truth which most strongly urges on our acceptance the doctrine of plurality. Love always demands two at least--a subject and an object, one to love and another to be loved. If God is love, as we most emphatically believe, then He must have had some one from eternity to love. Who then is that one Himself? But self-love is no love, it is the denial of love. Who then? The Church answers--His Son, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of HisPerson. Plurality of persons must not, however, be confounded with plurality of Gods. When men are invited to Christ they are not enticed away from God, for Christ is with God; when they are called to worship Christ, they are not bidden to serve an idol, for Christ is God. (J. Cynddylan Jones, D. D.)
O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee
The “amen” to the sublimest of all prayers
GOD AND THE WORLD.
(a) His existence is the foundation of all right.
(b) His will is the standard of all right.
(c) His works and Word the revelation of all right.
2. The world--unregenerate humanity. This ignorance is
(a) The barbarian world hath not known Thee. It is sunk in idolatry, superstition, and sensuality.
(b) The civilized world. When this was said, Egypt, Greece and Rome had done their best; but even in Athens God was “unknown.”
(c) The conventionally Christian world. Its science denies; its literature, politics and commerce ignore; its creeds and Churches misrepresent God.
II. CHRIST AND HIS SCHOOL,
1. Christ, “I have known Thee.” From any lips but His how presumptuous would this sound! Who among the world’s geniuses or sages could say it?
2. Christ’s School “they have known”
III. THE PREACHER AND HIS MISSION (John 17:26). What Christ did is the genuine work of every true preacher. What was it?
1. A persistent declaration of the Divine character. To declare self, or theories and speculations about God is what some do: but to declare His “Name,” His moral character, the essence of which is love, is Christ’s work.
2. A persistent declaration of the Divine character in order to transfuse Divine love into human souls. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Our Lord first addresses God as “Father,” then as “Holy Father,” and lastly as “Righteous Father.” Note that holiness and righteousness flow from the Fatherhood of God. Note also that the manifestation of the Divine fatherhood is consummated in the manifestation of the Divine righteousness. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The righteous Father known and loved
The text speaks of
I. A KNOWLEDGE OF INFINITE VALUE AND ITS TEACHER.
1. What is that knowledge?
(a) Peculiar--“The world hath not known Thee.” The heathen world knew nothing of a righteous Father. Their gods were generally monsters of iniquity. The Christian world does not know God as a “righteous Father.” Sceptics labelled as “thinkers” reject the evangelical idea of God, and the atonement which that idea involves. It knows an effeminate, indiscriminate fatherhood, but not “the righteous Father.” It will not bow before the majesty of His justice.
2. This knowledge comes to us by a Teacher. Christ declared the “righteous Father”
II. THE OBJECT OF THE KNOWLEDGE IS THE INFUSION OF A LOVE UNRIVALLED IN VALUE.
1. This discovery of love is inward, “may be in them,” i.e., that they may know it, be persuaded of it, believe it and enjoy it; that they, through knowing the righteous name, may come to perceive the love of God towards them. When the Divine Father gives up His best Beloved for guilty man we may well say, “Behold how He loved Him!”
2. This love was of a most extraordinary kind. He loves you as He loves His best Beloved. It must be altogether boundless and unspeakable. Now, if you fully know the righteous fatherhood of God, as Christ would have you know it, you will learn that God loved you as He loved His Son. If He had not loved you as He loved the Son, He would have spared His Son.
3. It was a love of complacency and delight. Remember those words at Christ’s baptism and at two other occasions. Always draw a distinction between the love of benevolence with which God loves all His creatures and the love of complacency, which is reserved for His own. The Eternal Father views us in Christ, and in Him He takes delight in us as a father does in his children.
4. God the Father loves His Son infinitely. How could He do less? Without beginning has He loved Him, and without an end will He love Him, and also without change, without limit, and without degree: in the same way doth He love His people, whose hope is fixed in Him as the “righteous Father.”
5. This love wherever it reigns in the heart creates a return love to God.
6. This love comes through an indweller, “and I in them.”
And I have declared unto them Thy name
The Divine name
The name of God is His moral character.
This is the stability and glory of the universe. These words present it
I. AS THE HIGHEST OBJECT FOR REVELATION. “I have declared.” Paul said at Athens, “Him declare I unto you.” Not only is this the highest function of
1. The material universe.
3. But of Christ the greatest Being.
II. AS THE GRAND ORGAN OF REFORMATION. “That the love,” &c. God’s character is the reformatory force.
1. Moral reformation consists in the transfusion of Divine love into souls.
2. This transfusion of love can only be accomplished through a manifestation of the Divine character. God’s character alone generates love. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
“Love and I”--a mystery
I. THE FOOD OF LOVE TO GOD.
1. Knowledge. “I have made known.” We cannot love a God whom we do not know. Only when the eyes are opened to behold the loveliness of God will the heart go out towards God, who is so desirable an object for the affections.
2. A knowledge given by Christ. It is not knowledge that we pick up as a matter of book learning that will ever bring out our love to the Father. Not knowledge communicated by the preacher alone. “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He that knows not Christ knows not the Father.
3. Knowledge coming gradually. “And will declare it.” As if, though they knew the Father, there was far more to know.
4. Knowledge distinguishing us from the world. It is the mark by which the elect are made manifest (John 17:6).
5. Knowledge of the name of God.
(a) Holy. To a holy mind there is nothing in the world, there is nothing in heaven more beautiful than holiness.
(c) Merciful; “Who is a God like unto Thee.”
(d) Love, and there is a something about love which always wins love.
II. THE LOVE ITSELF.
1. What it is not. The prayer is not that the Father’s love may be set upon them, or move towards them, but be “in” them. Christ did not die to make His Father loving, but because His Father is loving.
2. This love is of a very peculiar sort. “The love wherewith Thou hast loved Me.”
3. This indwelling of the Father’s love in us has the most blessed results.
III. THE COMPANION OF LOVE. “I in them.” Catch those two words. Here is “love” and. “I”--love and Christ come together. Oh, blessed guests!
1. We are sure that He is where love is; for, where there is love there is
2. You need not go abroad to find the Lord Jesus Christ. He lives within you.
Spiritual illumination and Divine love
I. THE GREAT SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION. “I have declared to them Thy name.” The name was the Jewish formulary for God; His perfections, glory, grace.
1. That the saving knowledge of God comes to us by direct communication from Christ. Not by wisdom, virtue, strength of our own; “for the world by wisdom knew not God,” but from the discovery which Christ makes by His word and Spirit: “I have declared.” See it in the woman of Samaria--in His patience with the disciples. It is Christ’s prerogative to convey the saving knowledge of God to the mind; it is our privilege to seek that knowledge from Him.
2. That we need spiritual illumination from above, not only at our first conversion, but through the whole progress of our spiritual life. “I have declared--and will declare it.” Paul prays for the Ephesians that God would give them the spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of Him--and yet they knew Him already. Paul, who was taught not of men, but of Christ Himself, and was even caught up to the third heaven, puts himself among the number of them who know only in part; and this will be true of the most learned and holy men to the last hour of life.
3. It becomes us to acknowledge our ignorance, and to implore Divine teaching. This is a promise to be pleaded in prayer. We are like babes, unskilful in the word of righteousness. The best persons and the best churches still need more light. It is not enough that Christ has declared to them, but He must still declare--not indeed new truths, new essentials of salvation, but He conveys new impressions of truth to the mind; new aptitudes to receive, to appropriate, to exemplify and apply truth.
II. THE GREAT LOVE WHICH GOD BEARS TO HIS CHILDREN It is here compared to the love which God bears to Christ. This love is said to be in them, just as Christ is said to be in them. By God’s love to Christ, learn His love to you.
1. This love is ancient in its date. “Thou hast loved Me from the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 8:22; Pro_8:31).
2. Unlimited in its degree. As you can place no limit to God’s love to the Mediator, so you can place no limit to His love to the people He has redeemed. Many would discourage the hopes of God’s children. Satan himself would rob them of consolation. False systems of religion do this.
3. Enlightened in its exercise. God’s love to Christ was enlightened, and His conduct towards Him was regulated with a view to the office He was to sustain, and He allowed Him to pass through scenes of pain, poverty, temptation. So He does us: much tribulation.
4. Constant in its duration. It is an everlasting love. (The Evangelist.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 17". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany