SET APART BY GOD

 

Week of August 6, 2006

 

Bible Passage:John 17:9-23.

 

Biblical Truth:Jesus prayed that believers would be set apart by Godís truth; believers must therefore take seriously their responsibility to carry on Christís work in the world.

 

In the World: John 17:9-13.

 

[9] I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; [10] and all things that are Mine are yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. [11] I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. [12] While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. [13] But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.[NASU]

 

Background:[6-8] These people for whom Jesus now lifts His voice in prayer are those whom the Father has given to the Son. This gift was not rooted in anything intrinsic to the people themselves. In a profound sense they belonged to God prior to Jesusí ministry. The gift was irrevocable and the Father was able to guarantee it. Jesus had no doubt of the final outcome. Manifested doubtless sums up all of Jesusí ministry, including the cross that lies just ahead. Godís name embodies His character; to reveal Godís name is to make Godís character known. In spite of much misunderstanding on their part, the disciples were obedient and had accepted the message Jesus gave them. It seems that Jesus is saying that only now at long last have they come into the knowledge of which He speaks. The knowledge appears to be that Jesusí mission is divine, that He has nothing except what the Father has given Him. All is of God. What is central is that all that we see in Him is of God. It is important to note the stress placed on the divine revelation in this passage. The essential thing is not the example of Jesus but the words God has given Him. The attitude of the disciples is described in three ways. First, they received the words in question. This sets them in contrast with other men of their day. Secondly, they came to know, and to know of a certainty, that Jesus was of divine origin, that He came forth from God. This is, of course, an essential part of the revelation. The disciples still had misconceptions and their faith was still weak. But Jesus recognizes that basically their attitude to Him is right. They know that He has come from God. Thirdly, they can be described as men of faith. They have come to believe that the Father sent Christ. This point concerns more of His mission rather than His person which the second point deals with. Christ was sent to do a divine task.

 

[9] Jesus prays for the little group of His friends. Notice that they are again described in terms of their relationship to the Father. They have been given to Christ. They belong to the Father. The antithesis between the disciples and the world is extremely sharp, but it should not be made absolute. However wide is the love of God, however salvific the stance of Jesus toward the world (12:47), there is a peculiar relationship of love, intimacy, disclosure, obedience, faith, dependence, joy, peace, eschatological blessing and fruitfulness that binds the disciples together and with the Godhead.

 

[10]Jesusí statement all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine assumes His equality with the Father. Each has full title to the possessions of the other; they share the same interests and responsibilities. It is worth noting that Jesus now returns to the thought of glory which we saw in the earlier part of the chapter. But now He says that He has been glorified in the disciples.

 

[11]The title Holy Father is unusual and is comparable to the phrase Righteous Father that appears in verse 25. The holiness of God contrasts with the selfishness and evil of the world that confronted the disciples. On the basis of the holiness of Godís character, Jesus requested the Father to preserve the disciples while they are still in the world. In Your name, the name which You have given Me points to the whole revealed character of God. Jesus prays that God, the God He has revealed, may in that revealed character keep those who have such need of Him. The purpose of His keeping of them is that they may be one, a thought which recurs in verses 21-23. The unity for which Christ prays is a unity which rests on a common basic attitude, that of abiding in Him and having Him abide in them. It is the Divine unity of love that is referred to, all wills bowing in the same direction, all affections burning with the same flame, all aims directed to the same end. This is not unity of organization but unity of heart and mind and will. The unity of the Son and the Father was manifested in the deep love that each sustained for the other and by the perfect obedience of the Son to the Father and the perfect response of the Father to the Son.

 

[12] During His ministry Jesus protected the disciples and kept them safe in the revelation of God himself (Your name). Jesus has been utterly faithful to the task assigned Him, to keep and protect those that the Father has given Him. The reference to the fulfillment of Scripture assures the reader that the defection of Judas is foreseen by Scripture, and therefore no evidence of a failure on Jesusí part. The Fatherís will was done both in the eleven and in the one, for Scripture was fulfilled. The reference to the fulfilling of Scripture brings out the thought of divine purpose.

 

[13] This prayer demonstrates the depth of Jesusí communion with His Father, and this constitutes a paradigm for the intimate relationship with the Father that the disciples themselves will come to enjoy. Jesusí joy, like that of the disciples for whom He prays, turns on abiding in the Fatherís love, which itself turns on obedience to Him. Jesus is praying that the disciples may be kept safe, which is equivalent to praying that they may so be preserved that they remain in the Fatherís love, obedient to Him and in hearty allegiance to the word Jesus taught. This will result in the disciples sharing in the fullness of His joy.

 

Different from the World: John 17:14-19.

 

[14] I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. [15] I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. [16] They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world [17] Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. [18] As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. [19] For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.. [NASU]

[14] The dangers from which Jesus is asking His Father to protect His disciples are real and urgent. He has given them His word, and they obeyed it. That word is nothing less that the truth of the revelation of God, the knowledge of which is eternal life. The consequence of the disciplesí having been chosen out of the world, of their having obeyed the word the Father gave Jesus, is that they, like Jesus, are aligned with the Father and His gracious self-disclosure in Christ Jesus. Insofar as they side with this revelation, the disciples infuriate the world. This revelation, in presenting the truth and commanding assent, condemns the world and exposes its evil, and the world snarls in savage rage.

[15-16] Until the consummation, when the last enemy is destroyed, the whole world is under the control of the evil one. The Christiansí task is not to be withdrawn from the world, nor to be confused with the world, but to remain in the world, maintaining witness to the truth by the help of the Paraclete. The spiritual nature of the conflict is laid bare. The followers of Jesus are permitted neither the luxury of compromise with a world that is intrinsically evil and under the devilís power, not the safety of disengagement. But if the Christian pilgrimage is inherently perilous, the safety that only God Himself can provide is assured, as certainly as the prayers of Godís own dear Son will be answered.

[17] At its most basic level of meaning, holy is almost an adjective for God: He is transcendent, other, distinct, separate from His creation, and so the angels cry unceasingly in His presence, ďHoly! Holy! Holy!Ē Derivatively, then, people and things that are reserved for Him are also called holy. Ideally if someone is set apart for God and Godís purposes alone, that person will do only what God wants, and hate all that God hates. That is what it means to be holy, as God is holy. Jesus is the one whom the Father set apart (sanctified) as His very own and sent into the world. That is, the Father reserved the Son for His own purposes in this mission into the world. Otherwise put, the Son sanctified Himself, i.e. He set Himself apart to be and do exactly what the Father assigned Him. Now He prays that God will sanctify the disciples. In Johnís gospel, such sanctification is always for mission. The mission of the disciples is spelled out in the next verse; the present verse focuses on the means of the sanctification: truth. This can only mean that the means Jesus expects His Father to use as He sanctifies His Sonís followers is the truth. The Father will immerse Jesusí followers in the revelation of Himself in His Son; He will sanctify them by sending the Paraclete to guide them into all truth. Jesusí followers will be set apart from the world, reserved for Godís service, insofar as they think and live in conformity with the truth, the word of revelation supremely mediated through Christ. In practical terms, no one can be sanctified or set apart for the Lordís use without learning to think Godís thoughts after Him, without learning to live in conformity with the word He has graciously given. By contrast, the heart of worldliness, of what makes the world the world, is fundamental suppression or denial of the truth, profound rejection of Godís gracious word, His self-disclosure in Christ.

[18] As Jesus was sanctified and sent into the world, so the purpose of the sanctification of His followers is that they are sent, by Jesus Himself, into the world. Sent implies equipment for a definite mission. The mission of Christ forms the pattern for the mission of the apostles. Their lives are not to be aimless. They are given a definite commission by their Lord. Their task is to discharge it, even as He discharged His mission.

[19] Jesus sanctifies Himself for them which is atonement language recalling Old Testament passages where the sacrificial animal was consecrated or set apart for death. The sanctification of the believers consequent upon Jesusí sanctification of Himself must be something akin to what He undergoes. In language that applies equally well to the consecration of a sacrifice and the consecration of a priest, Jesus is said to consecrate himself. His sacrifice cannot be other than acceptable to His Father and efficacious in its effect, since as both victim and priest He who is one with the Father voluntarily sets Himself apart to perform His Fatherís will.

 

United in Divine Purpose: John 17:20-23.

 

[20] I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; [21] that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. [22] The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one [23] I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. [NASU]

 

[20-21] This extension to those who will believe through the witness of the original disciples assumes that their witness will in some measure prove effective. What Jesus prays for these believers-to-be is that all of them may be one. This is not simply a unity of love. It is a unity predicated on adherence to the revelation the Father mediated to the first disciples through his Son, the revelation they accepted and then passed on. The believers are to be one in purpose, in love, in action undertaken with and for one another, in joint submission to the revelation received. All of this is to the end that the world may believe that You sent me. As the display of genuine love amongst the believers attests that they are Jesusí disciples, so this display of unity is so compelling, so un-worldly, that their witness as to who Jesus is become explainable only if Jesus truly is the revealer whom the Father has sent. The purpose clause at the end of verse 21 shows that the unity is meant to be observable. It is achieved by common adherence to the apostolic gospel, by love that is joyfully self-sacrificing, by undaunted commitment to the shared goals of the mission with which Jesusí followers have been charged, by self-conscious dependence on God Himself for life and fruitfulness.

 

[22] Jesus has given His glory to them in the sense that He has brought to completion His revelatory task. Glory commonly refers to the manifestation of Godís character or person in a revelatory context. Jesus has mediated the glory of God, personally to His first followers and through them to those who believe on account of their message. And He has done all of this that they may be one, just as We are one.

 

[23] The thought is breathtakinglyextravagant. The unity of the disciples, as it approaches the perfection that is its goal, serves not only to convince the world that Christ is indeed the supreme locus of divine revelation as Christians claim (that You sent Me), but that Christians themselves have been caught up into the love of the Father for the Son, secure and content and fulfilled because loved by the Almighty Himself, with the very same love He reserves for His Son. The most amazing thing is that everyone who is in Christ is loved by the Father to the same extent that Christ Himself is loved by the Father. Godís love for Himself is infinite. He loves Himself for His infinite beauty and purity. He loves the Son infinitely, for the Son is the essence of the Father. And the Father loves those for whom the Son died infinitely. Is there any better news to be heard?It is hard to imagine a more compelling evangelistic appeal.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†† What does sanctify mean? What is the relationship between sanctify, truth and word? How can we allow Godís word to have this effect upon us? Why is verse 18 placed between 17 and 19? How is being sent dependent upon being sanctified?

 

2.†† What does it mean in verse 19 for Christ to sanctify Himself? Why is the disciples being sanctified by the truth the result of Jesus sanctifying Himself?

 

3.†† List all of the ďthatĒ (purpose) clauses showing why Jesus was praying in verses 20-23. Why is Jesus placing so much emphasis upon unity? How would you define this unity? [Note the connection between truth and unity in these verses.] What can you do individually and corporately to be perfected in unity both in your Christian life and in your church?

 

References:

The Gospel of John, James Boice, Baker Books.

The Gospel According to John, D.A. Carson, Eerdmans.

The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.