John 17

Next follows a chapter which one may perhaps characterise truly as unequalled for depth and scope in all the Scriptures. Holiness, devotedness, truth, love, glory reign throughout. Who can wonder, seeing that it is unique in this respect, as it is the Son opening His heart to the Father when just about to die and leave His own for heaven? Yet, profoundly interesting and momentous as the case was, it is the Son addressing Him thus which is so wondrous a privilege for us to hear. But all this may well fill our hearts with the sense of utter insufficiency to speak of such communications suitably. Nevertheless, as the Saviour uttered all within the hearing of the disciples, so the Holy Spirit has been pleased to reproduce His words with Divine precision.310 They are therefore for us now, as then for His favoured followers. Encouraged by this grace, we would count on the Lord’s real and living interest in us, and on His faithfulness Who still abides with us to glorify Him by taking of His things and showing them to us.

John 17:1-19.

“These things 310a spake Jesus, and lifting up His eyes unto heaven, said, Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son, that Thy349 (or, the) Son350 may glorify Thee,311 according as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that, everything which Thou hast given Him, He should give them life eternal. And this is the eternal life,312 that they know312a Thee, the only true312b God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ.312c I glorified Thee on the earth, having‡ finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do; and now do Thou, Father, glorify Me along with ( παρὰ) Thyself with the glory which I had along with Thee before the world was “ (verses 1- 5).

The Lord had closed His parting instructions to the disciples, who had now to testify of and for Him; and so much the more because He was just about to leave them, His own personal testimony being already complete. To them not only had He spoken with fulness, but promised the Holy Spirit from Heaven on His departure that there might be power as well as truth. Unto heaven, therefore, did the Saviour lift up His eyes in addressing His Father. He Who even as Son of man is in heaven as a Divine Person was going there in bodily presence, when the work of redemption was effected. In virtue of this work accomplished in death, proved in resurrection, He would take His seat there, the Witness of its infinite acceptance. His proper ministry on earth, not merely to men but to the disciples, had been fully rendered. To the Father He turns as ever, but now in the hearing of His own, as indeed He would open His heart, if about Himself and His work, about them yet more, always the Sent One and Servant in Divine love, though Lord of all. He looked to heaven when He blessed and brake the five loaves to feed the five thousand. He looked there and groaned as He made the deaf stammerer to hear and speak. Upward He lifted His eyes when at the grave of Lazarus He said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. To heaven He, raising them once more, said, “Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee.” He is ever a Divine Person, the Son, but in flesh; not here as in the other Gospels the rejected and agonized sufferer, but the perfect executor of God’s purposes, heavenly and everlasting, and the manifestation as Son of the Father.

Hence, whatever the necessary and all-important intervention of His death, without which all else had been in vain for God’s glory in presence of sin and ruin, He nowhere speaks of it here, nor does He ask for resurrection, but glorification. Further, the Father’s name, so prominent in this Gospel, and particularly in these closing discourses to the disciples, is manifestly and more than in this chapter It is indeed the characteristic of the Christian; even in the simplest form of His blessedness, the youngest, the babe, is described by our Apostle as having the Father known (1 John 2:13): a wondrous privilege, only possible through the Son of God come and redemption wrought, only enjoyable by the Holy Spirit given, the Spirit of adoption. But as at the beginning zeal for His Father’s house devoured Him, so here His heart is set on glorifying His Father in that heaven to which His eyes were lifted. “Father, the hour is come: glorify Thy Son;” but, even so, it is “that Thy Son may glorify Thee.” Become man, He asks the Father to glorify Him; He is Son, and when there glorified, it is still to glorify the Father. “According as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that, everything which Thou hast given Him, He should give them eternal life.” Though God, He exerts no power in His own right; He is true to the place into which He was pleased to come, and as man receives authority from the Father, but authority inconceivable either in its universality of sphere or in its speciality of object, were He not God. For the authority given is over “all flesh”; and the special aim now, as to whatsoever the Father had given Him, is to give them eternal life. Thus the right of our Lord extends without limit, the Gentile being no more outside His title than the Jew; whilst eternal life is the portion of none beyond what is given of the Father to the Son, as elsewhere it is said to belong to the believer only.

This leads to the explanation of “the eternal life” in question. Life for evermore, life to eternity, is the blessing commanded by Jehovah on the mountains of Zion (Ps. 133); and of the many Jews that sleep in the dust of the earth, some shall wake to everlasting life, as others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12). But both these Scriptures contemplate that great turning-point for the earth, the kingdom when it comes in manifest power and glory. The Lord speaks of life as given in Himself to faith now. “And this is the eternal life, that they know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ.” If it be distinguished from that which is to be enjoyed in the displayed kingdom by-and-by, it stands as to its character in the knowledge not of the Most High Possessor of heaven and earth, with the true Melchisedec a Priest on His throne, but of the Father and of His sent One, the only true God now plainly revealed in the Son, the one Mediator between God and man. If distinguished from the past, it is no longer the Creator-God giving promises to the fathers protected and lodging as under the shadow of the Almighty; nor yet the sons of Israel in relationship with the name of Jehovah, the moral governor of that chosen nation. But the children of God now possess the revelation of the Father and of Jesus Christ Whom He sent; and this knowledge is identified, not with promises nor government, but with “eternal life,” as a present thing in Christ, the portion of every believer. A deeper blessing it is impossible for God to bestow or for man to receive; for it is exactly what characterised the Lord Himself, Who is the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Only Christ could be said to be that life; we as believers are not, but we have it in Him; and as by faith alone it is received, so in faith it is exercised, sustained, and strengthened.

It may be noticed further that, as eternal life is bound up with the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, in contrast with the gods many and false of the Gentiles,313 so it can only be where Christ is known Whom the Father sent, in contrast with His rejection by the Jews to their own deeper guilt and ruin. Neither the Son nor the Holy Ghost is excluded from the deity, which is elsewhere predicated or assumed of both equally with the Father. The object in hand is to assert it of the Father and to state the place taken here below by Him Who did not regard it as a prize (act or object of plunder) to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondman. (Phil. 2:7.) He was here to obey, to do the Will of the Father that sent Him. But that He took such a place in lowly love is the strongest if indirect proof of His proper and eternal Godhead; for even the archangel is a servant, and can never rise out of the position or relation of a servant. Whereas the Son was pleased to take it in order to make good the full blessing of redemption unto the glory of God the Father. So life was in Him, and He was eternal life before all ages; but here He is viewed as coming down to impart it in a scene departed from God, and to a creature, which otherwise must know death in its most terrible shape of judgment as now of guilt.

Next, the Lord presents His work: we have seen His Person as already pleaded. But now He urges what He had done here below. “I glorified Thee on the earth, having finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Thou Me along with Thyself with the glory which I had along with Thee before the world was.” The language here is more of sustained relationship than in chapter 13:31, 32, where it is a question of glorifying God, before Whom sin comes into unsparing judgment. Here it is glorifying His Father, and so there is no special contemplation of that final dealing where all that God is and feels came out against evil imputatively laid on the head of the Son of man.313a Here the entire path of Christ on earth in giving Himself up to obey and please His Father is summed up. Therefore it was the more needful to specify its completion, “having finished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.” He speaks not more as the faithful servant than as the conscious Son of God Who sees all completed to the Father’s glory, Who had given Him the work that He should do it Who alone could. And thereon does He ask the Father to glorify Him, not because of His personal glory and relationship only, but in virtue of the work completed to His glory here below, that He might thus lay a valid and sure title for us to join Him in the same heavenly blessedness.

It is not that He ever did or could cease to be God, any more than after becoming incarnate He will ever cease to be man; but, having in Divine love come down to be a servant and a man to glorify God the Father and make a righteous channel for all the purposes of Divine grace, He asks to be glorified by the Father along with Himself with the glory which He had along with Him before the world was. There He had been from everlasting as the Son; there He asks to be as the Son but now also man, the Word made flesh risen, to everlasting. It was His perfection as man to ask for this glorification. Not even as risen does He glorify Himself. He had emptied and humbled Himself for the Father’s glory; He asks the Father to glorify Him, though He states His eternal and Divine competency by asking to be glorified with the glory He had with the Father before the world was.313b Never so weighty a plea, never so solid a ground of righteousness, never such exquisite and infinite grace.

The Lord then explains how souls were brought into such nearness of relationship to Him before the Father; as He had already laid the basis in His Person and work.

“I manifested Thy Name to the men Whom Thou gavest Me out of the world. Thine they were, and to Me Thou gavest them, and they have kept Thy Word. Now have they known that all things as many as Thou hast given Me are of ( παρὰ) Thee; because the words which Thou gavest Me I have given to them, and they received (them), and knew truly that I came out from Thee, and believed that Thou didst send Me” (verses 6- 8).

Thus the manifestation of the Father’s Name is first laid down. It was a characteristic and most influential truth, the Son being the only one competent, though none of course could enter in even so but by the Spirit, as we know and as is taught elsewhere. But as the Son could manifest His Father’s name, so this He did in unjealous love, that the disciples, the men whom the Father gave Him out of the world, might know what He is as the Son knew Him; not, it need hardly be said, infinitely as was proper to the Only-begotten, but after that manner, as children of God, to whom the Son would impart that which was wholly outside and above man, and intrinsically of God for the family of God.314

For though the Lord had come to the Jews as their promised Messiah on earth, Him they would not have but even rejected, as they were just about to do even to the death of the cross. Hence, whatever may be the Divine retribution another day when God makes inquisition for blood, and above all for His blood which they had blindly imprecated on themselves and their children, it became wholly a question of sovereign and heavenly grace, which, coming in the Person of the Son, manifested His Father’s name as no saint had ever enjoyed, no prophet so much as predicted, save, perhaps, in such a sort as to fall in with and confirm this most precious privilege when communicated. But even Hosea 1:10 is comparatively vague. Here all is as full as it is precise. It was the positive side of what the Lord undertook with His own here below, and its highest character: not the meeting sin and misery in grace, nor even the display of excellency as the righteous One, the Servant and Man, and as such Son of God; but the manifestation of what His Father was and is as He knew Him, and as they were learning who were given to the Son by the Father out of the world. For the world is now defined and judged as alien and opposed to the Father. How blessed for the disciples to hear themselves thus singled out and designated as His by the Son to the Father!

Nor is this all. “Thine they were, and to Me Thou gavest them, and they have kept Thy word” ( λόγον). It appears to me that they err who refer the Lord’s description to His followers as formerly of Israel merely, and as walking in all the commandments and ordinances of Jehovah blameless. These were His elect out of the elect nation, His enemies now yet to be restored another day. The Father had a purpose about these, and thus they belonged to Him Who gave them to the Son, the object of His love and effectuator of His counsels, as He is also the accomplisher of redemption, to His own glory. And as the men given out of the world are thus viewed on a Divine ground outside Jewish ties, so that which formed their souls and their ways was quite distinct; they had kept, says the Son, His Father’s word, made known by Himself when with them on earth hitherto. This we have, speaking generally, in the Gospels, with not a little they could not then bear in the Epistles. Everything refers to the Father: the Son, a man on earth, is always exalting Him, and in view of His own departure would endear them to Him and give them the assurance of it.

This is developed yet more in what follows. “Now have they known that all things as many as Thou hast given Me are of Thee.” They had entered into the secret of which the world knew nothing: the Father was the source of all that was given to the Son. Some wondered at His works and His words; others in their enmity blasphemously attributed what was beyond man to Satan. The disciples had learnt that they were all of the Father, as the Son desired that they should. It was not only that He came out from the Father, nor that He had finished the work the Father had given Him to do, as their title to blessing with the Son before Him; but the means for bringing them into the blessing were also of the Father; “because the words which Thou gavest Me I have given them, and they received (them), and knew truly that I came out from Thee, and believed that Thou didst send Me.’’314a Thus the Lord handed over to His disciples those intimate communications of grace which the Father gave to Himself. It was no longer a question of the ten words given by Moses, the measure of man’s responsibility to prove his sin and ruin which he neither owned nor felt.

The words ( ῥήματα) which the Father gave the Son were the expression of Divine grace and love according to that blessed relationship in which the Son stood, though man; and the disciples, once mere men, but now born of God, have life eternal in Him, and are given these words by the Son, that they might know and enjoy the new relationship which grace had conferred on them. Nor was it in vain, however slow of heart they might be in believing all. For if He had given to them the words the Father gave to Him, the disciples received the truth really, though no doubt imperfectly. The result was that they came to know truly that Christ the Son came out from the Father, and believed also that the Father sent Him. This is all the reckoning of grace here, not measuring degrees, but making much of reality, as He can well do Whose love gives, deepens, and secures from first to last. Even for them to know assuredly that the Son came out from the Father does not suffice His heart, for this would not necessarily prove more than His own love in so coming; but the disciples believed the further truth that the Father sent Him, the proof of His own love to them. How rich, how needful, is every word of His grace!

“I request for315 them: not for the world do I request, but for those whom Thou hast given Me, for they are Thine (and all My things are Thine, and Thy things Mine), and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, and these351 (or they) are in the world, and I come to Thee” (verses 9-11).

It is concerning the disciples He makes request, not for Israel nor the nations, not for the land nor the earth at large, but concerning those whom the Father had given Him. It is no question of taking up the world for government or blessing now: He is occupied with the joint-heirs, not with the inheritance as yet. By-and-by, as Psalm 2 lets us know, Jehovah will say, “Ask of Me, and I will give (Thee) nations for an inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession.”315 But then the Son will reign on His holy hill of Zion, instead of being rejected on earth and received up on high. Then, instead of sustaining the suffering family of God who bear His reproach here below and wait for heavenly glory with Him, He will break the nations “with a sceptre of iron, and dash them in pieces as a potter’s vessel.” It will be, not the interval of the Gospel, as now, but the day of the kingdom in power and glory. Here the Lord is praying for His own as the precious gift of the Father to Himself, while cut off and having nothing that was promised Him here below; and He asks the more, because they were the Father’s.

But it may be well to say that this gives occasion for a parenthetic statement which lets out much of the light of His personal glory: “And all My things are Thine, and Thy things Mine.”352 As the Son of David, the Messiah, could this reciprocity have been so expressed? Is it not evidently and only in virtue of His being the Eternal Son, one with the Father, that they have rights and interests no less boundless than common? After this, however, He returns to the saints as those in whom He was glorified as a fact, not past, but abiding, urging their care on the Father, because He sees both Himself no longer with them in the world and themselves so much the more exposed in it, as He was going back to the Father. Hence arises a fresh appeal.

“Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which353 Thou hast given Me, that they may be one even as (also)† we316 (are). When I was with them,354 I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me, and I guarded (them), and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now unto Thee I come, and these things I speak in the world that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (verses 11-13)

The Lord asks His Father, as the Holy Father, to keep the disciples in His name that they might be one, even as also the Father and the Son are. And this was accomplished by the power of the Holy Ghost in those very men who then stood around Him. Never before or since was such unity produced in human beings on earth. Yet the Gospels are the plainest proof that they were far from it whilst our Lord was here below with them. It was to be the fruit of His grace through redemption after He went on high and sent down the Holy Ghost to effect it. And it was essential as a practical basis for Christianity. For doctrine is not enough without reality in life, and this most of all in those who were raised up of God to lay down the foundation. Their work and their written words were all during one generation in striking contrast with those of the Old Testament.

Granted that they were men of like passions with ourselves or any; granted that they displayed varied and not slight infirmities even under their Master’s eyes and ministry on earth; granted that they then from first to last betrayed petty prejudices and narrow hearts and no small jealousy of each other, even in presence of the deepest love and lowliness, and of words and ways which made their contrasted jars (and the selfishness which gave rise to all) most humbling and painful: all this, with more, only adds to the blessedness of what God wrought in these very men by His Spirit in answer to the Lord’s demand. The power of the Father’s name, which the Lord here below knew so well, was manifest in them; and the twelve were one even as the Father and the Son. None would have ventured so to describe but Christ; but if He did, He is the truth; and, in fact, with whom or what else could their unity as witnessed in the Acts and Epistles of the Apostles be compared? Never elsewhere was seen such rising above egotism in the aims, measures, objects, in the life and service, of men on earth; never such common devotedness to, and absorption in, the will of God for the magnifying of the risen and glorified Jesus.

The Lord, then, in committing to the Father His own whom in that name He was keeping whilst here, speaks of having kept them safe, save that one who was doomed to destruction. Awful lesson! that even the constant presence of Jesus fails to win where the Spirit brings not the truth home to the conscience. Does this enfeeble Scripture? On the contrary, the Scripture was thereby fulfilled. John 13 referred to Judas that none should be stumbled by such an end of His ministry. Here it is rather that none should therefore doubt the Lord’s care or the Scripture. He was not one of those given to Christ by the Father,317 though called to be an Apostle: of those so given He had lost none. Judas was an apparent, not a real, exception, as he was not a child of God, but the son of perdition. To see the awful end of so heartless a course would only give more force to His works of grace Who, if He left the world for the Father, was bringing them into His own associations before the Father. Judas may never have meant the worst, as Satan did who entered him; but he did mean at all cost to gratify his love of money, trusting that He who had heretofore baffled His enemies would be able to extricate Himself. But he trusted his own thoughts to the death of His Master, and to his own eternal ruin; as Jesus carrying out His love in obedience to His Father would bring His own by His death to glory on high and His own place there, and expressed it here that even now they might have His joy fulfilled in themselves. For now that the Lord was going to the Father He speaks these things in the world to that end. The Father would prove the value of His name when the Son was not here in person to watch over them; and the very ruin of Judas rightly read should make the Scripture still more solemn and sure to their souls.

From verse 14 the Lord pleads for another object on behalf of the disciples. He had entreated for them to be set in His love in presence of the Father; He now asks that they may have His place in presence of the world. As He had sought their association with Himself in the one case, so in the other He would have no less an association. There it was for His joy to be fulfilled in them; here it is for the Father’s testimony in and by them. It was His own place on earth, as in heaven.

I have given them Thy word; and the world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I do not ask that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them out of317a the evil. Of the world they are not, as I am not of the world” (verses 14-16).

It is not here, as in verse 8, “the words” ( ῥήματα) given of the Father to the Son which the Son had given to the disciples, the communications of love, whence they knew truly that He came from the Father, and believed to their joy that the Father sent Him. It is here (as in verse 6) the Father’s “word” ( λόγος), the expression of His mind. This, it was said already, they had kept. But the Lord resumes the notice of it in connection with testimony in the world which for Him was closed. In the world they were to be witnesses of Him, and the Father’s word He has given them, and the world hated them, not for that word only, offensive as it is to the world, but because they, the disciples who had it, were not of the world, even as their Master is not. This is the true measure of unworldliness, and it is intolerable in the world’s eyes, and nowhere so much as in the religious world. For men on earth to know themselves possessors of life eternal sounds presumptuous to such as know not Christ and His work. But to add that they are not of the world, the world will have to be the worst intolerance.

Yet nothing is so lowly as faith, and faith works by love, the very reverse of despising others or trusting in themselves that they are righteous. Christ is all to the believer, as He is to the Father; and as He is not of the world, so they are not. That they are not of the world depends on the former truth, that they are the Father’s and given to the Son, Who manifested the Father’s name to them and kept them in that name; as He besought that the Father would keep them still during His absence from the world. Christ in John is from the outset unknown to the world and rejected; they know not the Father and the Son. So it is with the children of God. “Therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew Him not.” (1 John 3:1.) The breach is complete. “The world hated355 them,” as it hated both the Father and the Son.

Never had there been such a breach before. It was not so during God’s dealings with Israel of old; nor yet in their ruin during the ensuing times of the Gentiles. Man was still under trial; and even while the Lord was here below, the character of His ministry was God in Him reconciling the world to Himself. But the world would none of Him, and is judged in its prince. And as man is now in the light of the cross pronounced lost, so is the saint crucified to the world and the world to him. They are not of the world, as Christ is not of the world. It is a fact, and not merely an obligation, though the firmest ground of obligation. They are not of the world, not merely they ought not to be; whilst if they are not, it is grievous inconsistency even to seem to be of the world. It is to be false to our relationship, for we are the Father’s and given to the rejected Son, Who has done with the world. But if it be said that this is to bring in everlasting and heavenly relationships now, be it so; this is exactly what Christianity means in principle and practice. It is faith possessing Christ, Who gives the believer His own place of relationship and acceptance on high as well as of apart from and rejected by the world below; which he has to make good in words and ways, in spirit and conversation, whilst waiting for the Lord.

Hence, if going back to law or flesh, as in Galatia, was to fall from grace, no less thorough is the departure of the Christian when he seeks the world of which he is not. That the world improves for Christ or His own is as false as that the flesh can ameliorate. It is the light become darkness, and how great is that darkness! There may not be the reflex of the latter part of Rom. 1, but it answers to the beginning of 2 Tim. 3. It is the natural man knowing enough to forego what is shameless, and to invest all with a religious veil; it is the world essentially occupying itself with the things of God in profession but in reality of the world, where common sense suffices for its service and its worship, and the mind of Christ would be altogether inapplicable. What a triumph to the enemy! It is just what we see in Christendom; and nothing irritates so much as the refusal so to walk, worship, or serve. It does not matter how loudly you denounce or protest; if you join the world, they will not mind your words, and you are faithless to Christ. Nor does it matter how much grace and patience you show; if you keep apart as not of the world, you incur enmity and hatred and contempt. A disciple is not above his Master; but every one that is perfected shall be as his Master. To act as not of the world is felt to be its strongest condemnation; and no meekness or love can make it palatable. Nor does God intend that it should, for He means it as part of the testimony to His Son. And as the world neither receives nor understands the Father’s word, so it hates those who have that word and act on it.

Doubtless there is a moment when the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we the living who remain shall be caught up together with them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air, when He shall Himself with a shout, with archangel’s voice, and with trump of God, descend from heaven; and thus we shall ever be with Him. But the Lord did not ask yet that the Father should thus take His own out of the world, but that He should keep them out of the evil. This He does by His grace through His word, as we shall see presently. Only the Lord, before He explains how the Father keeps the saints, reiterates in a new form so as to give greater emphasis, “Of the world they are not, even as I am not of the world.” Nor is anything more speedily forgotten, unless the eye be fixed on Christ above with continual vigilance as to our motives, ways, and ends, as well as unsparing self-judgment. It was of all moment to have it firm and clear that the world and the Christian have no common ground, and that Christ Himself, according to Whose grace and for Whose glory in communion with the Father we are here, is the pattern of our unworldliness. What separateness so absolute? or dependent on relationship to the Father so near, save only His Who is in the highest way its pattern? For the world in the sense here conveyed is that vast system which man has built up away from God in independence and self-reliance, and to the exclusion, not of His nominal honour, but of any real submission to His righteousness, His will, word, or glory. This fully came out in the rejection and cross of His Son, Who thereon reveals as wholly distinct in source, nature, character, and aim, those that the Father owns as His in the world, whose fellowship is indeed with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Of the world they are not, as He is not. They are Christ’s.

Now comes the formative power, as wholly new as above man, and not of God merely, but of the Father. “Sanctify them by (or, in) the truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also sent318 them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (verses 17-19).

It is impossible to overrate the importance of the Saviour’s words for His disciples; it is easy for men to misapprehend them, as those do who lower and narrow the word to separation for ministerial service.356 But He had at heart a more personal and intimate want, that the disciples should themselves be imbued with, formed and fashioned by, the truth. The law now sufficed not; not even in the most comprehensive sense, as embracing the Prophets and the Psalms. For Christ was come, the Only-begotten Who declared God otherwise unseen of anyone. He revealed the Father, Who would make a fresh and full yet permanent revelation, as we have it not only in Him but in the Scriptures as a whole. The sanctification or setting apart was therefore as new as complete. It was to the Father that the Son spread His request for men who were none of them heathen, but of the holy seed.319 Yet for such does He say, “Sanctify them by the truth.” The truth was revealed as it never was before. “Thy word,” the Father’s word, “is truth.” Truths had been made known, never the truth till Jesus Who is it. For He first, He only as an objective display, showed out every one, God, man, Satan even, and every thing; heaven, earth, hell, and all things in them, as they really are; for His Person (the Word made flesh) alone was competent to do it. His advent and redemption gave the suited occasion and needed object for the full revelation, as being Son of man and withal true God and eternal life. By the truth, then, the Father’s word, were the disciples to be sanctified. The Father revealed, not only in the Son personally, but in His word detailedly, changed all for the soul. None but the Son, and the Son a man on earth, glorifying the Father perfectly in His life, glorifying God as such in His death, could furnish the adequate motive for the Father’s love, object for His ways, centre of His counsels, and manifestation of His glory. Hence all is out and in perfection: testimony higher, deeper, fuller is looked for in vain; as those know who, acknowledging the Son, have the Father also, and are not of the world.

Then comes their mission, which is drawn from the same unworldly source and is characterised by it. “As thou didst send Me into the world, I also sent them into the world.” Moses disappears even as a pattern; so do the prophets. Even John the Baptist (and among those born of women was no prophet greater) was but man in mission from God; but he that is least in the kingdom is greater than John. He that cometh from above-from heaven-is above all. Such was Jesus; and as the Father sent forth Him, so He too sent those who then surrounded Him, their mission as new as the Word which formed and furnished their souls. It flowed from One apart from the world and above it, Who had been sent into it on an errand of infinite love to the Father’s glory, and was in spirit no more here but in heaven, whither He was actually going soon. It was thus the Son sent the disciples associated with Himself in heaven and charged with the Father’s testimony to the world. Not of the world as He was not, they could be and were sent into it. Had they been of the world, they could not be sent into it; but, as taken out of it by grace in Christ, they were not of it, and could be sent.

This is fitly followed by another and crowning means of sanctification of which the Lord speaks. “And for their sakes I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified in truth.” It is not the Father’s word now as given to them here and revealing Him in every detail as the disciples needed, though inseparable from Christ’s Person as come into the world, where they too were sent. This was essential both for themselves and their work. But grace does more; and the Lord goes on to show how He is setting Himself apart on high, the Son as ever but model Man before the Father in heaven, so as to complete their sanctification in seeing Him thus in glory.

Thus it is not only the truth brought out here in all its application, but the truth also in the glorified Christ as the suited object to animate and strengthen as well as transform, while we behold Him with unveiled face: God revealed in man, the Son of man; the Son of man now glorified by God in Himself, and this straightway, that the disciples might be sanctified “in truth,” both bearing on their nature and walk. For, without such an object above, the fullest demonstration of God’s righteousness and power were lacking, and so too, one might add, of the Father’s love and glory, as well as what was due to His own Person, not only as Divine but as man, and man glorified according to the counsels of God. And the disciples also needed His blessed Person thus before them at God’s right hand in order to fix and fill their affections, beside the Word which perfectly reveals all the mind of God in grace. For it is not simply as incarnate that the Lord sanctifies Himself on their behalf; nor yet as dying sacrificially, according to Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria, with a crowd of followers since their day. For on the cross for us God made Him sin Who knew no sin. It is as glorified, consequent on death and resurrection, that He becomes the pattern of His own. Beholding Him they are transformed into His image from glory to glory even as by the Lord the Spirit; and, when He shall be manifested, they are to be like Him, seeing Him as He is, and conformed to the image of the Sun in resurrection glory. God Himself could give no other portion so blessed, when Christ shall be the Firstborn among many brethren.

The Lord now proceeds to plead for those to be brought into faith in Him by Apostolic testimony that they too might form a unity according to God and bear witness before the world to His mission of the Son. Verse 11 had contemplated only those disciples who were then surrounding Him in view of special grace and the consequent responsibility which attached to them. Those to follow have their new vested interest.

John 17:20-26.

“And not for these only do I request, but also for those that believe357 on Me through their word, that they may all be one,319a even as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one358 in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (verses 20, 21).

There was to be, as we have seen, an astonishing exhibition of unity in the Apostles. But there is another and larger unity here. Those believing on Him through their word are now presented to the Father, “that they may all be one.” Room is thus left for multitudes of believers, for confessors of His Name, Jew or Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free; for those that had hitherto clung tenaciously to legal forms, the substance of which they refused through their unbelief of Him; for those that had been well-nigh as obstinate in cleaving to the dreams of heathenism and its debasing immorality, in utter ignorance of the only true God truly known through Him Whom He sent. The Gospel was about to go forth to every land and in every tongue, as the Holy Ghost bore witness on the day of Pentecost; and the most strikingly on that day, because they as yet were Jews only from Gentile countries as well as Palestine. For the miracle was not the senseless and comparatively easy one of enabling all, home or foreign sons of Israel, to understand the wonderful works of God in the Hebrew tongue, but conversely that they, every man in his own dialect in which he had been born, should hear the disciples speak. God had of old smitten men’s pride and divided them into ever so many differing tongues. Grace now rose above judgment, not reducing them all to one lip and the same words, but meeting each where thus confounded and scattered.

Nor was this by any means all; but the power of the Spirit baptized all the believers into one body, the Church. The unity here, however, though produced of course by the same Spirit in those who compose that body, is not that which fell to the Apostle Paul to set out. Of a spiritual nature it nevertheless displays itself in that which the world can see and appreciate in measure. It is not precisely “one as we,” that is, as the Father and the Son, which verse 11 had predicated of the disciples. As the Father and the Son had but one mind and affection, purpose and way, so was this oneness desired for the Apostles in their work and life; and wondrously was it realised in them, as we have already noticed. Here the saints at large, those who believe through their word, are in view; and the thing sought is that they should “all be one,” “even as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us”-not “as we,” but “in us,” in the Father and the Son. It is communion in virtue of the Father made known in the Son, and of the Son the object of the Father’s love and delight, into which we are brought by the Holy Ghost. With the Father we share the Son; with the Son we share the Father. Into this blessedness the saints were now for the first time to be introduced, and in such sort that they should all be one, even as the Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, so they also one in the Father and the Son.

This was to be a testimony to the world, not preaching only, but this oneness so unearthly, so unprecedented among men, oneness in the joy of Divine grace which drew together souls so diverse and by the power of Divine objects, motives, and affections, those who had been once utterly indifferent or bitterly opposed, hating and hated. What a call for the world to believe that the Father sent the Son! For this, and this only, but this adequately accounted for it, when the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven gave the truth energy in hearts purified by faith. For as flesh tends to scatter by the assertion of its own will, so the Spirit operates to unite in the Father and the Son; and when the world sees the fruits of such gracious and holy power in the oneness of men otherwise alienated, and by nothing so keenly and permanently as by their varying religions, what a demonstration that the Father sent the Son! For here at least was no power of the sword, here no pandering to lust, here no inducement of wealth or worldly honour, here no allowance any more of sin than of human righteousness, no pride of philosophy any more than religious show or ritualism. None can deny that as built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets there was constant and unresisting exposure to the world’s scorn and violence. Self-sacrificing love reigned, grace we may say through righteousness in devotedness to the name of Jesus; and a heavenly separateness to Him for Whom they avowedly waited from heaven. What then accounted for so astonishing a change from all that had previously characterised mankind, not merely among the Gentiles but in Israel even in its most flourishing estate? What did it attest but that the Father sent the Son? What of grace and truth, of perfect and eternal redemption, of near and heavenly relationship, does not this involve?

For if the Father sent the Son, it could not but be for ends impossible otherwise and worthy of the true God revealing Himself in sovereign grace, yea, in intimate love as well as in the light which makes everything manifest. Nor was the Son only to make the truth known and to impart the Divine nature, the eternal life capable of receiving and enjoying light, and walking in it by the Spirit of God. There was an incomparably solemn yet blessed work to be wrought to God’s glory as well as for man’s deep need and everlasting salvation: sin had to be borne in judgment, a propitiation made for our sins so complete that God should be righteous in justifying the believer, and that believers should become God’s righteousness in Christ. Thus washed, sanctified, justified, children of God consciously, the Holy Ghost given, they find others in the communion of the same blessing. They are all one, as the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, and brought out as they were of the strongest prejudices into a mutuality of enjoyed blessedness, into oneness in the Father and the Son. What could more powerfully bear witness to the world that the Father sent the Son?

There is yet another unity of the deepest interest which our Lord next spreads before the Father: not discipular or Apostolic, which was so marvellously sustained; nor of testimony in the grace that would embrace all Christians which after a bright display at first has long painfully broken down; but unity in glory where all is to be stable and according to God perfectly.

“And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one as We (are) one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected into one (and)359 that the world may know that Thou didst send Me and lovedst them as Thou lovedst Me” (verses 22, 23).

This is wholly distinct from what we have seen, though all be to the praise of Christ. It is an exclusively future unity, though the glory be given to our faith now, and grace would have us apprehend it and feel and walk accordingly.320 For all is revealed to act now on our souls. But this unity will be in glory when we shall be one as the Father and the Son are. Hence failure here is impossible. The weakness of man, the power of Satan, can damage no more.

The manner of this unity is to be noted also. It is not the mutuality which we had described in verse 21, that we should be one in the Father and the Son, as the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father. Such is the admirable way in which the Saviour set out what we are called to now by the Spirit, that the world may believe the Father sent the Son. But by-and-by, when the glory is revealed, there will be this new character, that, while the saints are to be one even as the Father and the Son are one, it will be Christ the Son in them and the Father in Him. And this as exactly agrees with Rev. 21 as the former answers to 1 John 1:3.

For as the holy city-new Jerusalem-is the bride, the Lamb’s wife, the symbol of ourselves glorified in that day, so we are shown that the city had “the glory of God,” and the Lamb its lamp, while the nations walk in its light (Rev. 21:11, 23, 24). Thus are the blessed on earth to enjoy the heavenly glory, not directly like the glorified on high who have the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb as their temple, and need none other; whereas those on earth have it but mediately. Yet how constant and impressive the proof before them that the Father sent the Son! For how else could there have grown up such a holy temple in the Lord? And what adequately could account for men thus called out of the earth and glorified on high? Sovereign grace had given them that heavenly portion as the fruit of His mission Who at all cost to Himself had glorified God on the earth. And now they share His glory above, and are so displayed before the wondering world.

The salvation-bearing grace, which had appeared to all and had done its suited and appointed work in redeeming and purifying these to God as a people of possession, will then have given place to the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; but this through the church reigning over the earth, at any rate as the ordinary or normal method of its manifestation during the kingdom. As we by faith saw the Father in the Son to eternal life, they in that day will behold and learn them in the Church, the glorious vessel of the light of Christ in Whom God’s glory shines. For then the false glory of man is for ever judged, never more to mislead the heart; and Satan will never regain his bad eminence in the heavenlies whereby he found means most effectively to misrepresent God, oppose Christ, accuse the saints, and deceive the world. It is thenceforward the glory of God that is established before all eyes, so that men “ know “ it in and by the glorified saints, instead of being objects of testimony that they might “believe.” For the earth shall be full of the glory of Jehovah (Num. 14:21), and of the knowledge of Jehovah (Isa. 11:9), and of the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah (Hab. 2:14), as the waters cover the sea. Then Christ shall have come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believed, in that day.

Therefore do we hear for the first time of being “perfected into one.” The Apostolic unity first spoken of, unity in counsel and action as the Father and the Son gave pattern, was as blessed as it was all-important for the place they had to fill and the work to be done in the testimony of Christ. Still it was comparatively partial, at least necessarily on a small scale. Far wider was the second unity of fellowship in the Father and the Son exhibited in the Pentecostal assembly at large, when thousands of souls walked together superior to selfish influence, and great grace was upon them all, and of the rest durst no man join himself to them, but the people magnified them, and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women. (Acts 5:14.) But this was only transient. The third will be perfect in glory, and thus permanent as well as complete.

And the effect will be immense and immediate, as indeed one could not conceive it otherwise. The world will contemplate with amazement the Church in the glory and the glory of God in the Church, or (as the Lord says) the Father in Him, and He in them glorified. It is unity perfect both in connection with its source and in manifestation of the Divine glory. And what a demonstration that the Father sent the Son and loved the saints as He loved Him! For how should the Son be there as the glorified Man unless previously sent here in love? and how should we be manifested together with Him in glory, unless loved with the same love? It is no question of “believing” then, but of undeniable fact. The world will “know” it. We may know now what is only revealed in the Word to our faith; but in that day will be a display of Divine glory.

The closing section of our Lord’s words is quite distinct in its character, and yet more intimate, as is marked by His use of Θέλω, “I will” (or “desire”), for the first and only time throughout His prayer.

“Father, that what360 Thou hast given Me, I desire that, where I am, they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me, because Thou lovedst Me before (the) world’s foundation. Righteous Father, though361 the world knew Thee not, but I knew Thee, and these knew that Thou didst send Me. And I made Thy name known to them, and will make (it) known, that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them and I in them” (verses 24-26).

First, the Lord desires of the Father that those whom He had given Him should be with Him where He is. He is in spirit on high before the Father, and would have His own with Himself there. It is no question of display in glory before the world, even though in the closest association with Him; it is to be with Himself where no stranger can (I do not say merely intermeddle with the joy, but) look on Him or them, in the hidden scene which Divine love forms for its deepest satisfaction. There the Father has the Son after glorifying Himself perfectly in the face of all possible difficulty, and the suffering entailed not only by creature opposition and malice, but by Divine judgment of God on that evil, the consequences of which must be borne unsparingly by Him, Who would vindicate God on the one hand, and on the other deliver to the uttermost the guilty, so far as suited the gracious purpose of God. And this Jesus did in absolute obedience, as became Himself a man in grace beyond measure and at all cost; this He did in infinite suffering to His Father’s praise, Who acquired fresh and everlasting glory and could thenceforward act as freely as righteously according to His nature and His love.

And now, as we have seen at the beginning of the chapter, going to heaven on the ground not of His personal title only, but of His work, He expresses His desire that His own also, the disciples whom the Father had given Him, should be with Him above, “that they may behold My glory.” It is not, on the one hand, that which is personal from everlasting to everlasting, beyond creature ken, that in the Son which I presume none really knows nor can, save the Father Who is not said to reveal Him (Matt. 11:27). Neither is it, on the other hand, the glory given to the blessed Lord which is to be manifested even to the world in that day, in which glory we are to be manifested along with Him (Col. 3:4). Here it is proper to Himself on high, yet given Him by the Father as we are in His perfect favour to behold it: a far higher thing than any glory shared along with us, and which the Lord, reckoning on unselfish affections Divinely formed in us, looks for our valuing accordingly, as more blessed in beholding Him thus than in ought conferred on ourselves. It is a joy for us alone, wholly outside and above the world, and given because the Father loved Him before its foundation. None but the Eternal could be thus glorified, but it is the secret glory which none but His own are permitted to contemplate, “blest answer to reproach and shame,” not the public glory in which every eye shall see Him. Nothing less than that meets His desire for us. How truly even now our hearts can say that He is worthy!322

Next, the Lord draws the line definitely between the world and His own, and makes it turn not on rejecting Himself, but on ignoring His Father. Here, therefore, it is a question of judgment in result, however grace may tarry and entreat; and therefore He says, “Righteous Father,” not “Holy Father” as in verse 11, where He asks Him to keep them in His Name, as He Himself had done whilst with them. Now He sets forth not the lawlessness of the world, not its murderous hatred of Himself or of His disciples, nor yet of the grace and truth revealed in the Gospel, nor of the corruptions of Christianity and the Church (which we are sure lay naked and opened before His all-seeing eyes), but that on the one side the world knew not the Father, and on the other that the Son did, as the disciples that the Father sent the Son: words simple and briefly said, but how solemn in character and issues!

Never was so competent a witness of anyone or anything, as Christ of the Father. Yet the world knew Him not, nor received His testimony for a moment, but rose up more and more against it till all closed in the cross. Thenceforward He is hid in heaven, and those who believe on Him are heavenly. False pretension to it is salt that has lost its savour. And all those who are true are the first to own that all turns for them on the Son’s knowledge of the Father, as they themselves knew the Father sent Him. It is no question of themselves at all, but of the Father; and He is only known in the Son Whom He sent; and this is eternal life, whether now had in Christ or enjoyed without alloy when we behold His glory on high; as ignorance of the Father implies the guilty rejection of the Son, to the everlasting loss, and not merely passing judgment, of the world.

But lastly, where Christ is known as the Father’s sent One, the deepest blessing and the highest privileges are even now given, and not merely what awaits the saints at Christ’s coming. “And I made known to them Thy Name, and will make known, that the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them, and I in them.” If ever there was one capable of estimating another, it was the Son in respect of the Father; and His name, the expression of what He was, with equal competency He made known to us. He had done it on earth to the disciples; He would do so from heaven whither He was going; and this that He might give them, and give us, the consciousness of the same love of the Father which rested ever on Himself here below. As if to cut off the not unnatural hesitation of the disciples, He adds the blessed guarantee of His own being in them, their life. For they could understand that, if they lived of His life, and could be somehow as He before the Father, the Father might love them as Him. This is just what He does give and secure by identification with them, or, rather, as He puts it, “and I in them.” Christ is all and in all.

John 18 - 21.

W. Kelly.

Part 4 of An Exposition of the Gospel of John

Edited with annotations, by E. E. Whitfield.

(The reference figures, relate to the notes respectively so numbered in the Appendix — john_app.doc.)

348 [Cf. “ Introductory Lectures,” pp. 556-558.]

349 Treg. and Tisch., with W. and H. [and others], omit σοῦ, “thy,” following BCpm, etc. T. R. has καὶ “also,” but the best do not accredit it. So a ABCL Π, etc.; but the finite verb in DEXY ΔΛ, etc.

350 Ibid.

351 B, two cursives, DF (not the other Ita. nor Vulg.) Memph., Æth., Arm., Goth. read αὐτοὶ, “they,” in which they are followed by Tisch. in his last ed. and by W. and H. [and Blass, but Weiss adheres to οὗτοι].

352 It is surprising that the editors and commentators have not noticed the natural if not necessary parenthesis of all but the last clause of verse 10. As to the universe, it would not be true to say yet δεδόξασμαι ἐν αὐτοῖς. It is precisely true of the saints.

353 The Text. Rec. has οὓς, “whom,” but the better authorities support , “which “ (verse 11); and so in 12, though not so many.-The best also omit “in the world” (12), as some of them καὶ, “also” (11).

354 Ibid.

355 The verb ἐμίσησεν is to be explained as meaning, neither the future as Kuinöl, nor the present as Bloomfield. It is the most emphatic preterite possible, the whole being summed up in its conclusion, though no doubt it was the fact then, and was about to be yet more and more manifest by-and-by.

356 Hence Jos. Mede regarded ἐν τῃ ἀλ. as meaning εἰς τὴν ἀλ., and Bishop Pearce followed, as did Tittmann and Kuinöl, in the same wake. So Dr. Bloomfield (Rec. Syn., iii. 634). “From this verse He speaks of the evangelical office to be committed to their charge, and expresses His wish that they should be ‘wholly dedicated and given up to it.’“ He consequently would take ἐν τῃ ἀλ. as for ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀλ. How little these commentators believe that every word of Scripture is from God!

357 Text. Rec. reads the future with some cursives, but against the great authorities.

358 ἔν ACcorrELXY ΓΔΠ, etc., and good versions; but BCpmD, some old Latin and other versions, omit, followed strangely by Treg., Tisch., Alford, W. and H., and the Revisers [Weiss and Blass]. The homoeoteleuton plainly accounts for this.

359 BCDLX, some cursives, etc., omit καὶ, “and” [Edd.], which is read by A and a dozen more uncials, most cursives, and good ancient versions.

360 , “what,” BD, etc. [most Edd.], instead of οὓς, “whom” [Lachmann], as in the mass of authorities [ACL, Syrsin, etc.].

361 It has been suggested, in order to make it smoother English, “though the world knew Thee not, yet,” etc., to translate thus, “Righteous Father! and the world knew Thee not! But,” etc. I prefer simply to follow the words faithfully, “but I knew Thee,” in a sort of parenthesis, contrasted with the world, and introductory of His own, who at least knew Him as the sent One.