Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PRAYING FOR HIS REMAINING APOSTLES” Part 4

John 17.6-19 

Are you finding it as difficult to control your emotions as you watch your country’s institutions collapsing around you as I am? When I consider the latest heartache in Afghanistan, the ongoing insanity on our southern border, what appears to be the intentional destruction of our inner cities across the land, utter capitulation to the rising threat of communist China, the betrayal of our nation’s allies to our nation’s enemies in both the Pacific and the Middle East, the manipulation of our population by the propaganda of the mainstream media and the censorship of the tech giants, I begin to seethe with rage. I do not enjoy being taken advantage of.

But when I open my Bible and am reminded by twenty-eight different verses that my Savior presently sits on the throne of the universe,[1] and when our study of John 18.1-12 on Wednesday nights shows irrefutable proof that even in the Garden of Gethsemane, when more than 500 Roman soldiers and Temple guards came by night to take the Lord Jesus into the custody, that would result in His unjust trials, false accusations, and crucifixion, that He was in command of that situation, the stirrings of my mind and heart begin to settle.

I am reminded of a chorus I overheard decades ago, “Our God is an awesome God. He reigns in heaven above.” That is so true. And His Son, my Lord, our Savior, the One Who has conquered death, is the King of kings and Lord of lords. My mind and heart settle with the comfort that unseen reality trumps my observations, that the facts that the five senses cannot perceive outweigh the information bombarding my five perceptions.

Seeing such catastrophes and injustices and feeling via empathy the pain and sufferings of those I cannot reach out to and help, I pray to the God of all comfort.[2] I trust the One who does all things well.[3] My confidence is in the Righteous, Who will come 

“with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”[4] 

To further impress upon you the competence of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us consider a portion of His high priestly intercessory prayer, offered up to the Father shortly before His arrival with His eleven remaining apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His sacrifice for sins. The broad setting of our context is the Savior’s understanding of what lies immediately beyond His crucifixion and resurrection, particularly for His chosen men. Is it not vastly more than merely remarkable that the eternal Son of the living God would take the time, shortly before surrendering to the armed soldiers and guards, minutes before the indignity of unjust trials, and hours before the brutality of His crucifixion as our Sin-bearer, to pray for those men?

He prayed for Himself, understandably. Then He prayed for those men. Finally, He prayed for you and me, if you are one of His or if you will someday become one of His. Why did He pray for His men? We will not attend to the content of His prayer for them so much as the fact of His prayer for them. That is what we will focus on at this time as we look to our text, John 17.9.

That is what merits our consideration as the chaos and confusion of this wicked world noisily pesters us for our attention. It was quiet during the Savior’s season of prayer as He uttered these words. But He knew that soon after they arrive in the Garden of Gethsemane, after His season of prayer and their failure to pray as He would urge them, the troops would come with their weapons, their torches, and their paid stooge, Judas Iscariot.

John 17.9 records the Savior stating to His heavenly Father in prayer what He wanted those men to hear: 

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” 

In the first five verses of John chapter 17, the Lord Jesus Christ prayed to His heavenly Father for Himself somewhere on their journey from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane. Beginning with verse 6, He began to pray for His eleven remaining apostles. To help us with context, let us read verses 6, 7, 8, and 9: 

6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.

7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 

Notice the four things the Lord Jesus Christ mentions in verse six. His first comment, 

“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world,” 

rehearses what the Father had done in the past (the giving of those men to Him from out of the world) and what the Lord Jesus Christ has done up to this point with those men. He has manifested God’s name. That is, He has focused His disciples' attention on God the Father and His glorious attributes. Then He adds that these men were the Father’s, that the Father then gave them to Christ, and that these men given to Him have kept the Father’s word.

Verse seven reviews a very significant realization on the part of the remaining apostles, that those men had come to realize and somehow grasp that everything Christ has been given came from the Father. Such communion could only reflect the Lord Jesus Christ’s deity and equality with the Father.

Verse eight is a restatement to the Father of four things. I have mentioned before that it is not unusual for a new believer in Christ to make a mistake during prayer of informing the Father, as though God needed to be told what is happening and what the pertinent facts are. The Lord Jesus Christ is not doing that here. Rather, He recognizes that the Father delights when those who pray to Him recount our blessings and His accomplishments. Christ has been a faithful messenger, 

“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.” 

The eleven have been responsive disciples: 

“and they have received them.” 

This resulted in the remaining disciples knowing and believing important things: 

“and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” 

Arriving at our text, we see the Lord has moved His remarks from what He has done to what He is now doing: 

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” 

These are four precise real-time related phrases that seem designed not so much to articulate anything God the Father does not already know but are statements uttered to the Father for the benefit of those eleven bystanders.

Imagine the wonder of being with the Savior that evening so long ago, listening to Him praying to His heavenly Father for you, saying four things that are presently so: 

First, HE SAID, “I PRAY FOR THEM.” 

Look back to John 16.23, where the Savior said, 

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” 

There, only moments before, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to His men about their prayers to request things of the Father, very possibly to request information, to obtain answers to their questions about what was going on. This phrase, however, is more likely referring to the Lord Jesus Christ asking, not for information about them from the Father, but to His present request to the Father for their blessings and benefits.

Should we not camp here for a moment or two to reflect on the context of this event? The Lord Jesus Christ is the God-man, and He is consciously aware of and fully knowledgeable that an epochal event is about to occur. Only minutes before, He dispatched Judas Iscariot to complete the conspiracy to betray Him, almost certainly telling his fellow conspirators where the Lord Jesus would likely be found.

He has now begun to pray to the Father on behalf of these men before crossing over Kidron to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He will again pray, yield to the Romans and Temple guards assigned to take Him into custody proceed to His crucifixion. His crucifixion will arguably be the most significant of all achievements by the Triune Godhead. Unlike Creation, or the Incarnation, or the Resurrection, or the Second Coming, or the Great White Throne Judgment, or the New Heaven and the New Earth, the Crucifixion will require the humiliation of the Second Person, as He becomes our Sin-bearer and suffers the death of the cross. Anticipating the most stupendous event to ever occur, the Lamb of God is presently taking the time to pray for His “little flock.”[5] An astonishing thing for the Savior to do, and well worth the time spent meditating about what He did and why. 

Next, HE SAID, “I PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD.” 

This declaration is a bit of a shocker for some people. They are shocked because they imagine the Lord Jesus Christ to be more like what they think He ought to be like and do than what the Bible reveals Him actually to be like and do. Like so many unsaved people, new Christians commonly live in “the world of ought to be,” and it is only over time that God gradually brings them to “the world of is.”

It becomes easy to understand why the Lord Jesus Christ would refuse to pray for the world with a little reflection. The world, after all, opposes the plan and purpose of God at every turn. The world is not only unredeemed. It is also unredeemable.

We already understand that the Greek word kόsmoV, translated into our English word world, can be seen to have as many as seven different meanings in the New Testament. It seems clear that the way the Lord Jesus Christ uses the term here refers to the evil world system that Satan, First John 5.19, dominates: 

And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” 

Therefore, it should be no surprise to us that the Apostle John urged his readers to consciously and conscientiously love neither the world nor the things that are in the world, First John 2.15-16: 

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 

Why such a stark contrast between the people of God and this evil world system that is populated by the mass of unsaved mankind? Because God’s plan has never been to save the world or those who are of the world. God’s plan has always been, and the Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer here reflects the truth that individuals are saved out of the world and that those individuals who do not turn from sins to trust Christ for the salvation of their souls must certainly face the destruction that is determined for the whole world.

We see this pattern reflected in type throughout the Old Testament. The Flood destroyed the old world, with only Noah and his family being delivered from judgment in the Ark, a wonderful type of Jesus Christ. We see this again with Lot’s deliverance along with his wife and two of his daughters from the city of Sodom before Sodom’s destruction. And we see this with the Exodus of the children of Israel and the plagues God visited upon the Egyptians.

Let us not forget that God loves the world, John 3.16. Let us not forget that God is long-suffering and benevolent toward the world up until the time that His justice demands judgment must fall. As well, let us not forget that during this day of grace, God’s will is for His people to be gracious, kind, and loving toward our neighbors.

At the same time, God’s people are not to be so naïve as to deny that an impassable spiritual gulf separates every born-again Christian from every unsaved individual. We can like them. We are commanded to love them. But let us never forget the great chasm that separates the saved from the lost. We live in different spiritual universes.

That is why we befriend them, witness to them, and declare to them the unsearchable riches of Christ. However, apart from faith in Christ and the miracle of the new birth, no one on the wrong side has any hope of coming over to the right side. 

Third, HE SAID, “BUT FOR THEM WHICH THOU HAST GIVEN ME.” 

Notice how the Lord Jesus Christ described His remaining apostles to His heavenly Father in presently praying for them. What He said about those men is true of every born-again Christian from that day to this.

The statement is, in my opinion, the simplest and most easily understood explanation of why I am a Christian and my brother to this point is not. This is why the Apostle John was a believer in Jesus Christ, while Judas Iscariot perished and went to his place.

It has nothing to do with one person being better than another person since salvation is not the result of works of righteousness or anything resembling personal merit. Those who end up obviously belonging to Christ and become believers in Jesus Christ before they pass from this life to the next are those God the Father has given to Jesus Christ.

But how does anyone know that he has been given to Jesus Christ by God the Father? My brother may yet show that he has been given by God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing would make me happier. He was always the better of the two of us growing up. But someone who dies without Christ is someone who God did not give to the Lord Jesus Christ.

How is this seen? This is seen when a sinner, who is dead in trespasses and sins, turns in repentance and faith believing to Jesus Christ, trusting Him for the forgiveness of all his sins. Someone who turns from sin and trusts the Savior, no matter the depth or degree of the sins he or she was once involved in, shows, through faith in Christ and living for Christ to the end, that they have been most profoundly blessed by God the Father giving them to the Lord Jesus Christ.

When was this gift given? It was given in eternity past: 

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” 

First Peter 1.2. When does the sinner experience the benefit of this gift given in eternity past? When that sinner turns from his sins and trusts the Savior. 

Finally, HE SAID, “FOR THEY ARE THINE.” 

These words translate from Greek a phrase that is comprised of only three words. The word order in Greek is as follows: 

“for yours they are.” 

Quite emphatic. The Lord Jesus Christ with this acknowledges one of the most basic realities known to man.

Though the Lord Jesus Christ is here praying to God the Father on behalf of His remaining apostles, He makes use of a universally recognized truth that applies to everyone. Yet it is a truth that is so repulsive to the unsaved, to Christ rejecters, that they go so far as to deny the very existence of God because of what is to them an indignity.

God the Father has every right to give people to His Son. After all, He is the Creator, and all that one creates is by rights his. I belong to God because He made me. You belong to God because He made you. This entire universe belongs to God because He created it.

Now you know why Marxists and Socialists think ownership of property is immoral and that what is yours they feel they have a right to take for themselves. The ownership of what you have made belonging to you leads all the way back to God. The atheists don’t want property rights because property rights for you would suggest property rights for God. And they can’t have that.

Because we are God’s creatures, God has the moral right and the legal standing to give what He created, and therefore owns, to Jesus Christ. I know that the world, especially the Western world with our fixation upon fair play and fairness, resents the notion of anyone being owned by anyone. We are so egalitarian in our thinking that many lost people find it difficult to swallow even the abstract notion of God, Almighty God, infinite God, actually owning them. Therefore, to dismiss the unpleasant thought that they might be owned by anyone, they have chosen to dismiss the notion of God and His ownership of mankind.

May I state the obvious, something anyone who knows me should already know about me and my beliefs? Slavery is wrong. Slavery has no redeeming qualities. Slavery is an institution that is more than 4000 years old and seems to have been practiced almost universally in every region of the planet where people lived. That being the case, you might wonder why the institution of slavery is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Your willingness to receive my explanation is entirely dependent upon whether you live in “the world of is” or “the world of ought to be.” If you live in “the world of ought to be,” nothing I say will satisfy you. It is those who live in “the world of ought to be” who hate George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for daring to work to create a nation that tolerated slavery, even though slavery was practiced everywhere in the world and was not illegal anywhere in that day. Our nation’s founders lived in “the world of is,” not “the world of ought to be.” Therefore, though they disliked slavery, and wrote against it, they made a choice between what they might be able to do (bring together a new nation) and what they thought was then impossible to do (end slavery, when slavery existed everywhere for always). They chose to bring a nation into existence, and wrote a Constitution that could be amended to make possible at some point in the future the ending of slavery in our nation once and forever. If you reject my understanding of our nation’s founding, it may be because you live in “the world of ought to be” and not in “the world of is.” I am sorry for you.

Back to the Bible. For several thousand years of human history, especially in His dealings with the nation of Israel, God chose to regulate slavery rather than remove slavery. Why did He do that if slavery is so wrong? And slavery is wrong, very wrong. But slavery is one symptom of a much more serious problem, the problem of sin. God properly recognized that the slavery of the soul to sin is a more serious matter than the bondage of one’s physical body. Therefore, God chose to regulate slavery in Jewish culture while dealing directly with the underlying cause of slavery, which is man's sinfulness and need for salvation.

Much more could be said about this entire topic, but it is crucial to recognize that even though it is wrong for any human being to own any human being (first, because all human beings are equal in the sight of God, and, second, because human beings are sinful), being God’s possession is not wrong, not immoral, not unethical, and not illegal. After all, He is God.

Keep in mind that being owned by God is not the only truth related to God giving those eleven men to Jesus Christ. There is also this matter of depravity. Each of us, every one of us, is dead in trespasses and sins and incapable of responding to the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ.

Because of unsaved mankind’s spiritual condition, not one sinner would ever be saved from his or her sins were it not for the fact that God gave some to His Son, Jesus Christ. And the basis for God giving some sinners to Christ? The Lord Jesus Christ said, “for they are thine.” 

I do not doubt that many people find it repugnant that God owns human beings and gives some to His Son, Jesus Christ. However, you will not find that to be the case for any of those of us who have been given to Jesus Christ. It is only in Christ that anyone experiences liberty of the soul, Galatians 5.1: 

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” 

The eleven men the Lord Jesus Christ took a few moments to pray for were elect according to the foreknowledge of God. Minutes before praying for them, the Lord Jesus declared to them, 

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”[6] 

Although the Lord knew that His men would shortly be distracted and confused by the presence of hundreds of Roman soldiers, dozens of Temple guards and strange to them the sight of Judas Iscariot standing among uniformed and armed men come to take their Master from them, more important for them at present was for them to hear Him pray for them.

In much the same way, it is vital for you and me to trust that there are more important matters before us than social justice, than economic inequities, than the catastrophe in Kabul, than the betrayal of our nation’s allies, than the chaos at our southern border, and than the loss of our civil rights by overreaching bureaucrats and politicians. What is more important to you, and what ought to be recognized to be more important to you, is what you will understand to be more important to you throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. I speak, of course, of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

What does any of what is going on around you matter if you end up in the lake of fire? Ultimately, what was necessary for those eleven men was their relationship with Christ. Nothing else much mattered when viewed from an eternal perspective.

The same is true in your case. I do not doubt that you will someday see the truth of what I declare. Consider the claims of Christ. Consider the concern of Christ for His Own. Come to Christ.

__________

[1] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[2] 2 Corinthians 1.3

[3] 2 Peter 1.17

[4] Jude 14-15

[5] Luke 12.32

[6] John 15.6

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