John 17 - Part 3
H. M. Linton
as we look through this prayer of the Lord it surprises us to notice the number of times that the Lord makes reference to
Since it does not refer to the same thing in each case, the context must elucidate what the Lord had before Him as He uses the term. The first and penultimate references bring before us a point of time (see vv. 5, 24). All things down here have a beginning and He who was from the beginning was the Lord Himself. In verse 5 we read of “the glory which I had with thee before the world was”. In that eternity which is past we have our Lord in essential glory and that, in the company of, and in company with His Father. Here before time began our Lord had a glory that was neither earthly nor of this earth. As He is approaching the end of His earthly pathway He links that which He has done, “I have glorified thee on the earth”, with that which was before Him and unites it all with His Father. He prays “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” in that eternity which preceded time. In the last reference the words “for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”, v. 24, bring together that glory and the realization of the Father’s love to Him. The sphere in which the Father and the Son were together therefore was a sphere of glory and of love.
In verse 6 the Lord speaks of “the men which thou gavest me”. We have previously noticed that we are the gift of the Father to the Son, but here we see from whence this gift had been taken, “out of the world”. The Lord does not say merely “of” the world but “out of” the world. This involved a definite separation from the element which had previously been their natural sphere. Here we are confronted with a far reaching and solemn truth, that those whom the Father has given the Son are in the purposes of God set apart and removed from the old order of things. This new position is so definite that He says in verse 9, “I am praying for them, I am not praying for the world”, Amplified N.T. The world had rejected Him and His word, and so, turning from it, He intercedes for those men whom the Father had given Him. The fulness of that rejection was shortly to be seen at Calvary and so His spirit yearns and makes request for that little company so dear to Him. They were the firstfruits of His toil and passion; “I am praying for them”.
In verse 11 we read “I am no more in the world, but these are in the world”. In that sphere where He had been rejected and His word spurned, this handful of disciples would be left. The Lord Himself was to be no longer physically present with them. The situation called forth the urgent petition because “I come to thee”. Turning to the only One from whom succour could come, and to the One who abhorred the unholy character of the world, He prays “Holy Father, keep through thine own name (that is, in the knowledge of Himself) those whom thou hast given me”. He says “While I was with them ... I kept them in thy name”. It is instructive to note the all-prevailing power of “the name”. The object before the Lord is that that joy which He experiences may fill their hearts. What a wonderful provision this would be to fortify them against all the attacks of the adversary which would be their experience “in the world”.
A change in their walk and character was produced by the possession of the word of the Father. Now “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”, v. 14. In other words they had now ceased to be of this world and had become like the One who came into the world but was not of it. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly”, 1 Cor. 15. 48. It would be impossible for this state of affairs to exist without radical reaction from the godless around them. Hence we read that “the world hath hated them”. So we see the burden of the Lord as He speaks to His Father in prayer. He has on His heart the disciples who are left here, and realises the meaning of the hatred of “the world” to this company of His own.
As we come to verse 18 we have another “as” and “even so”. He refers to the great fact that the Father had sent Him into the world. Time and again there is evidence of this fact in the Lord’s words and works and also in the utterances showing the Father’s approval of that which the Son had done and was doing. Now we see that as the Father has sent Him, so He in turn was sending them. He spoke “as one having authority”, so they should speak with all the authority of the Word of God. They were to be His mouthpiece to proclaim the truth of God in His absence. Do we speak with all the authority of these who had been commissioned to preach, or is our utterance feeble and faltering, lacking the “thus saith the Lord”? “So have I also sent them into the world” are the Lord’s words.
It is a cause for grief that there is such a lack of unity among the Lord’s people. What a different testimony would be borne if only there was the oneness of which verse 21 speaks. Its result would be “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me”. It is saddening to think that we, by our attitude to others who are genuinely the Lord’s own, may be hindering others “in the world” from believing that “the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world”, 1 John 4. 14. Oftentimes there are obvious reasons why we are unable to have fellowship with those whose walk is disorderly, but the ideal would bring such honour to the Lord. In verse 23 we see this amplified, “that they may be made perfect in one” or that they may become one and perfectly united. As in metal, dross or foreign matter will prevent a perfect union or weld, so between believer and believer that which is dross will prevent that perfect oneness that is glorifying to God.
The last expression relating to the world is in verse 25. Here the Lord addresses His Father with the words “O righteous Father, although the world does not know thee, I know thee, and these men know that thou didst send me”, N.E.B. And so turning from all that is involved in the words “the world”, He offers to His Father this petition for “those whom thou hast given me out of the world”. Ought we not to think as He thinks, and to walk as He walked before God His Father, that our God might be glorified?