Our Lord's High-Priestly Prayer: Part 3 -- Joh_17:11-16
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
In this section our Lord continues His intercession on behalf of His immediate disciples. They had walked with Him for three-and-a-half wonderful years. They had listened to the gracious words proceeding out of His mouth and had been thrilled by His mighty works. Confidently they had looked forward to the proclamation of His kingly authority and the setting up of a new dynasty in Judea. Now they dimly apprehended that He was about to leave them and go back to the glory from which He came, and they were bewildered and troubled. He Himself knew, as none but He could know, what the world would mean to them after He had gone, and what its attitude would be to them as they went forth carrying the message of the gospel, so He tenderly committed them to the keeping power of the Father. “Now I am no more in the world,” He says, “but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (Joh_17:11).
Remember that all the way through this prayer He is anticipating the work of the cross. He speaks as though that were already in the past, and He looks at everything from the standpoint of His resurrection and ascension. It is as though He had already taken His place in the holiest as the great interceding High Priest. How blessedly He enters into the experience of His people. As on an earlier occasion, He looked down upon them from the mountaintop while they were toiling in rowing across the stormy sea, so now He sees them exposed to trials and temptations of every kind, but He “ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb_7:25).
There is a wonderful sense in which the saints are viewed even now in the heavenlies. We are told in Ephesians 2 that He “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph_2:6). Christ is our Representative and God sees us in Him. Eventually we shall be with Him as an actual experience. But now we are like the children of Israel treading the sands of the wilderness. We need divine help to sustain us in a land of drought and desolation. There is nothing here that can minister to our needs. We are like David, who said, “All my springs are in thee” (Psa_87:7). We must draw from the Lord Himself that which will build us up in the spiritual life, and He pleads with the Father on our behalf that we may be sustained as we tread our pilgrim way.
Moreover, He is concerned that we be kept in the realization of our unity one with another. “Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” It is sometimes said that this prayer of our Lord’s has not been answered, because Christians are so scattered and divided. This, however, is not true. The unity of which He here speaks is the unity of life-family unity-and all believers are one in this sense. But it is a blessed thing to manifest this practically. It is as you and I realize our relationship to the Father that we are kept in the manifestation of this unity. Then there will be unity in testimony. We see how this prayer was answered from that standpoint in the early days of the church when the apostles went forth witnessing to Christ the Lord, confirming the Word by signs. Thus with great power the apostles witnessed to the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was unified testimony based upon a common life in Him.
Then in Joh_17:12 He says, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” He had revealed the Father’s name to them, and nurtured them in the blessedness of their divine relationship and responsibility. While He was with them, He guided, advised, corrected, and chastened, if need be, in order to keep from turning from the right hand to the left. Now He had brought them all safely through, losing none that the Father had given Him.
We are not to understand that He had actually lost one, namely Judas, the son of perdition, for this is not what He says. In the original, “the son of perdition” is in the nominative case, therefore it is as though He said, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” Judas had never been given to the Son by the Father. He walked in company with the rest, was even trusted as their treasurer, but long before his manifest defection the Lord had said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, but one of you is a devil?” (Joh_6:70).
You may be sure that whenever the Father gives any one to Jesus, He gives him for time and eternity. Such a person will never be lost. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Php_1:6). People call this the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but I rather like to think of it as the perseverance of the Savior. He says, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept.” If I had to keep myself, I would be hopeless of getting through. I would be sure that something would happen some day which would cause me to lose my hold on Christ and be lost. But it is His hold upon me on which I rely. None can pluck the believer out of His hand. I receive great comfort from these words. When He gives His account to the Father, when the last believer of this dispensation is safely arrived in heaven, He will be able to say of the entire elect church, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost.”
You may think you know of exceptions to this, but it will be made manifest in that day that these apparent exceptions were like Judas himself, never really born of God. It is said of him that he was lost “that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Does that mean that Judas could not have been saved had he honestly desired to be? No. But we need to distinguish between God s foreknowledge and His predestination. It was foreknown that Judas would betray the Lord Jesus Christ. It was foretold in the Word of God, but this does not mean that God had foreordained it. He permitted Judas to take his own way unhindered by divine grace, and Judas went wrong. God foreknew that he would do this, so the Scripture was fulfilled in his doom.
In Joh_17:13 we read, “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Our English word fulfilled is really two words turned around. To get the exact meaning, reverse the syllables, and you have “filled full.” And that is what our Lord has in mind. It is as though He said to the Father, “Now I am coming to Thee, and I am leaving them down in that world of trial, but I pray that their hearts may be filled full of joy. I want to share My joy with them. I would have them filled with that.” In what did He find His joy? In doing His Father’s will and communing with Him. As we trust and obey, this joy will fill our hearts to overflowing.
There is a great deal of difference between joy and happiness. Happiness comes from the old English word hap. A hap is a chance. If happenings are pleasant, a worldling is happy. If the happenings are unpleasant, this person is unhappy. But the Christian has a deep-toned joy as he walks in fellowship with God that no happiness can ever affect or change. This was what gave such power to the testimony of the early disciples. Men could beat them, put them in prison, fasten their feet in stocks, condemn them to death, but they went through it all with songs on their lips. This is not of the world. It is the manifest joy of the Lord.
Then He says, “I have given them thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (Joh_17:14-16). How slow we are sometimes to recognize the reality of our “strangership” down here. We know theoretically that we are not of the world, and yet how much like the world we are in our tastes, in our ambitions, and in our behavior. The trouble is we are not occupied enough with the land to which we are going. No one can really put this world beneath his feet until he has seen a better world above his head. We are called to separation from that system which has no place for Christ, and our sustenance, as we pass on to our heavenly goal, is the Word which He has given us.
Notice that our Lord Jesus never expressed opinions concerning anything. Strictly speaking, He had no mere ideas to give out. People talk of Jesus’ views, of Jesus’ ideas, of His conceptions of things. But this is all wrong. When He spoke, it was God speaking. He gave forth the Father’s Word, and that Word is far above all mere opinions or notions. Let us cling to it, let us hold it fast. As we walk in obedience to it, prove that we do not belong to the world, but that as a pilgrim people, we are pressing on to the rest that remains for the people of God.