Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PRAYING FOR HIS REMAINING APOSTLES” Part 6

John 17.6-19 

My heart is heavy with concern for others as well as for myself. Do you find yourself heavy-hearted, or is it just me? I tend to be a bit melancholic, somewhat moody, and under a dark cloud concerning my natural personality. My concerns of late are partly related to the season of life I am traversing. I learned a long time ago from my reading of God’s Word that the natural optimism that is so common in our country, some might refer to as our nation’s cultural disposition, and even among those at an early stage of life, is entirely unwarranted.

After all, what does any individual dead in trespasses and sins have to look forward to? Or the person who is without God in the world, the man who can claim none of God’s wonderful promises, the woman has no access to the throne of grace and therefore no guarantee that God will listen to her pleadings, that one who is utterly without hope? What do they have to look forward to?

My somewhat moody and gloomy natural disposition formed over the twenty-four years of life as an unsaved person. And it is part of the remnants of sin in my personality, which I understand was something C. H. Spurgeon and others had to deal with. I will face this challenge, I suspect, for as long as I dwell in this body of flesh.

So, what do I do? Each day for my devotions, I read God’s Word first thing, New Testament and Old Testament. I also read Christian biographies and histories of the martyrs, and I read several other things. In my office each day, the final thing I read is a portion of William Bridge’s classic, “A Lifting Up For The Downcast,” thirteen sermons preached on Psalm 42.11 in London in 1648. The book is an effective and insightful counter to spiritual depression and discouragement. Downcast and discouragement-prone Christians can find help as assuredly now from Bridge’s ministry of God’s Word as they could when he preached and wrote it four hundred years ago. The book has not diminished in its impact.

The pity is that so many Christians who are subject to the same kind of melancholy that I am plagued by seem to be content to wallow in their despondency when the remedy for what ails them spiritually is so close at hand. I think I am now reading through the book for the fourth time and find his insights into God’s Word to be of immense value.

Of course, there is no remedy for the unsaved person for what discouragement and despondency afflict them. They reject the Savior. They refuse the forgiveness of their sins that He brings. They will not consider the reconciliation with God that only Christ provides. Yet, they wonder why they are weighed down so by their burden of sins. It doesn’t make much sense. But, once you embrace that as your identity, I suppose the temptation is to cling to the misery you are familiar with.

My issues are mostly related to the well-being of those I am related to, those I love dearly, and those I want to see turned to Christ. My great consolations are my wife and daughter, my many wonderful Christian cousins on my dad’s side of the family, blessed preacher and missionary friends, and you in our Church family. What a delight you are to my soul. I am blessed when I so much as see you at a distance.

Sadly, there are the unsaved members of my family. Of course, you love and enjoy seeing your family members. But the child of God gets little encouragement from watching unsaved family members live their empty and self-centered lives, with only delusional expectations and aspirations, but nothing approaching real hope for eternity. And how can there be hope without a Savior?

My mother’s only nephew by her brother died several months ago in Texas. My cousin Mike’s passing notice arrived from an attorney dealing with the property he left behind as a never-married man with no children and no last will and testament. I last saw my cousin at his mother’s funeral in Texas and tried to reestablish contact for almost fifty years without success. My chief regret is that he likely died lost and lonely. The attorney reached me, suggesting my cousin could have contacted me but chose not to. That breaks my heart.

With my naturally melancholic personality and the present decline of our once-great nation and once enviable state, I would be in real trouble was I still lost. But being a child of God, with the indwelling Spirit of God advancing His personality against my natural tendency to be a bit moody and overcast, I find myself so frequently filled with joy and peace of mind and heart. I find the many directives to believers in Christ to rejoice so much easier to obey.[1]

It is a blessed comfort to recognize the Holy Spirit’s means to produce peace, love, and joy in my heart and mind. Of course, He makes use of my daily Bible reading and study of the Scriptures. He impresses upon me the promises God has made to those of us who belong to Him. And then there is excellent Christian literature to read that applies Bible truth and shows marvelous examples of godly individuals. Don’t forget. You are such a help to me. We encourage one another when we gather, Hebrews 10.25 declares to us. Whatever blessing I can be to you, you are so much more a blessing to me when we come together. Even on the darkest day, my spirits are lifted by your presence.

That said, my greatest encouragement, and I suspect yours as well, is not other believers in Christ. Our greatest source of uplifting encouragement is, of course, the Savior, Himself. Not only are our spirits buoyed by our consideration of the Savior now glorified and enthroned.[2] Not only do we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and our Savior’s soon return.[3] But we gain so much by seasons of reflection and remembrance of the Savior’s doing and dying for us.

Does a backward glance to the Savior resolve every problem? Are all the storm clouds overhead that threaten us dispelled? Not always. Sometimes a long glance at the Savior produces different results than an immediate resolution to a problem you or I may have. Often, we are so impressed by what we take note of with the Savior that our problems, our issues, our challenges, our difficulties are not resolved, but they become so small in comparison.

Perhaps that will result from what we take note of in the message I now bring to you. My text is in that portion of the Lord Jesus Christ’s high priestly intercessory prayer where He has already prayed for Himself, and now He is praying for His eleven remaining apostles.

We know from John 17.9 that He was praying for them and not for the world, which makes sense since the world is His enemy. Also, in verse 9, we concluded that the word kόosmoV, translated “world,” refers to the evil world system.

John 17.10 contains three assertions. The first assertion is that what is His, what is Christ’s, is the Father’s: “all mine are thine.” The second assertion is that what is the Father’s is His: “and thine are mine.” That second assertion was an astounding declaration of the prerogative of deity. The Lord Jesus Christ could not have made that statement unless He is coequal with God the Father. The final phrase in verse 10, “I am glorified in them,” was to His men and is to us a wonderful comfort as a believer in Jesus Christ. After all, the reason for our existence is to glorify God, Revelation 4.11, and we know that in glorifying Christ, we, in turn, glorify the Father.

We now come to our text, John 17.11. Please make your way there and, once you have located the verse, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” 

I suggest that we consider this verse by examining its seven components: 

COMPONENT #1 OF OUR TEXT: 

“And now I am no more in the world.” 

I shared several times that the Greek word kόsmos is to be understood according to context. 

Here are seven ways in which kosmos is used in the New Testament: 

  1. kόsmos = universe as a whole, Acts 17.24
  2. kόsmos = earth, John 13.1; Ephesians 1.4
  3. kόsmos = world system, Matthew 4.8; John 12.31; First John 5.19
  4. kόsmos = human race, Romans 3.19
  5. kόsmos = humanity minus believers, John 15.18; Romans 3.6
  6. kόsmos = Gentiles in contrast to Jews, Romans 11.12
  7. kόsmos = believers only, John 1.29; 3.16-17; 6.33; 12.47; First Corinthians 4.9; Second Corinthians 5.19 

If the word kόsmoV can be understood in its context of use to have at least seven different meanings, I would suggest to you that the kόsmos the Savior referred to in verse 9 is not the kόsmoV He refers to twice in verse 11. I am persuaded the world to which the Savior referred in verse 9 is the Satan-dominated evil world system. I am not so persuaded here in verse 11, where I believe the Lord Jesus Christ refers to the world as a geographical location where He is currently situated, as opposed to His anticipated departure from this planet earth. What I mean by that is this. In verse 9 the Lord Jesus Christ referred to the world morally. Here in verse 11, I think the Lord Jesus Christ referred to the world geographically.

Thus, when He uttered the words, “And now I am no more in the world,” He was declaring that He would no longer be physically present, He would no longer be geographically located on earth. This must be so since He was never any part of the evil dominated by Satan.

In less than 24 hours, he would give up the ghost from the cross at Golgotha and experience physical death. His body would then be placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. His spirit would be separated from His body until His resurrection from the dead. Following His resurrection, He would make a number of appearances to His followers before His final ascension to His Father’s right hand on high, where He has been enthroned for these last 2000 years.

The statement, “And now I am no more in the world,” is an absolutely correct indication of His whereabouts not being here on earth, effective in less than one day. 

COMPONENT #2 OF OUR TEXT: 

“but these are in the world.” 

Contrarily, our Lord Jesus Christ’s remaining apostles, those faithful eleven men, are in the world as our Lord prays and would remain so. Not the evil world system dominated by Satan they have been delivered from, but the geographical location known as planet earth. They would continue to live here until their martyrdom, with the young Apostle John experiencing a natural death and not martyrdom some 60 years later. John was the only apostle of Jesus Christ who was not martyred.[4] Dr. William R. Downing astutely observes about this phrase that the Protestant notion of a Universal, Invisible Church is a Scripturally unsustainable notion, since those who hold to that theory refer to that fictional entity as being in some sense “those called out of the world and so composing the mystical body of Christ.”[5] However, in this phrase, the Lord Jesus Christ places His men very much “in the world.”

The Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer was offered up at a crucial time, in anticipation of He and His men parting company. To be sure, the Lord knew He would see them in three days. He would see them several times over the next 40 days. But then He would ascend to be seen by them no more until John saw the Savior in his significantly advanced age on the Isle of Patmos, Revelation chapters 1 and 19. 

COMPONENT #3 OF OUR TEXT: 

We next read, “and I come to thee.” 

If the Lord Jesus Christ indicated where He would not be located in the first phrase of this verse, this third phrase explicitly informs Christ’s prayer audience where He would be. The apostles overheard Him say to the Father, “and I come to thee.” The English word “to” translates a Greek preposition, proV, which is also found in John 1.1-2: 

1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2  The same was in the beginning with God. 

In the first two verses of John’s Gospel the word proV is twice translated by our English word “with.” But the meaning in John 1.1, 2, and in this phrase, is the same. As the word is used in these three verses, the word means by, at, near.[6] To consider the significance of what our Lord Jesus Christ is saying in this prayer, ponder for just a moment who He is saying these words to. The Lord Jesus is saying these words to the First Person of the Trinity, the God of Israel. He is indicating that His destination is by, at, near Almighty God. No angel could or would make such a statement is this. No mere mortal would make such a statement is this. Only someone who is equal to God the Father could rightly make such a statement is this.

Truly, the eternal Son of the living God is a coequal member of the Trinity! Therefore, it is most appropriate for Him to declare to His Father, in front of His apostles, that when He leaves this earth, He will go to His Father. And when He departed this world on the occasion of His final ascension, He went home to the throne room in heaven. 

COMPONENT #4 OF OUR TEXT: 

We now come to “Holy Father.” 

Our Lord’s address to His heavenly Father is unique to this Gospel. How fitting is the Savior’s address to His Father at this point. “Holy Father” reveals two certainties and another truth by implication.

The word “holy” is profoundly important because it is preeminent among God’s moral attributes. There are a number of other attributes that are unique to God, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and sovereignty. Such attributes as these have to do with the enormity and the infinity of God. Then there are God’s moral attributes, such as goodness, mercy, love, righteousness, and holiness. Of the moral attributes of God, holiness is that attribute that is most central to the morality of God’s essence.

“Father,” of course, refers to the relationship the First Person of the Trinity has with the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity throughout all eternity. The fatherhood of God with respect to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of God is not an affectation, nor is it an assumed role or posture. On a recent YouTube video, I observed Bishop T. D. Jakes describe the fatherhood of God as a mode. That comment revealed him to be a modalist and, therefore, an anti-Trinitarian heretic after the fashion of Arius, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the United Pentecostals. The First Person’s fatherhood is not a mode of existence or a manifestation. Personhood is an innate aspect of the three Persons of the Godhead’s relationship to each other. He is the Father, a distinct divine Person from the Son and the Spirit. Allow me to shift gears again. In First Corinthians 11.3, the Apostle Paul declares that “the head of Christ is God.” In that same verse, we are told: “that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man.” Those are extremely important assertions. The Father and the Son are equal, with a functional hierarchy shown to exist in their relationship. Husbands and wives are also equal, with a functional hierarchy shown to exist in that relationship, as well. Feminism’s denial of the functional hierarchy in marriage is a denial of the Biblical view of marriage, and bears on the functional hierarchy existing in the Triune Godhead, the eternal relationship that voluntarily exists between the Lord Jesus and His heavenly Father.

What is implied by the Lord Jesus Christ addressing His Holy Father in such a way? It is related to the Lord Jesus Christ’s impending departure from His men, and His desire to comfort them in His absence. Addressing His Father in that way communicated a level of intimacy, and perhaps accessibility to those men, as they begin to direct their requests from a to that point ever-present Savior, to a future prayer life with an always-hearing Father in their Savior’s absence. Have you ever given conscious thought, consideration, and meditation to the always-hearing Father you gained when you trusted Christ as your personal Savior? If you have not yet given that much thought, Christian, perhaps it would do you well to reflect on that ... a lot. It is a reassuring comfort to always have the Father’s ear, which only occurs when you trust Christ as your Savior. 

COMPONENT #5 OF OUR TEXT: 

“keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” 

What does it mean to “keep through thine own name”? Commentators are divided. Opinions vary. The word “keep” translates terέw, meaning to watch, to guard, to pay attention to, and to preserve.[7]

What seems obvious, regardless of what you think is meant by the phrase “thine own name,” is that the Lord Jesus Christ is requesting that His Father preserve and protect in His absence those men the Father has given to Him. That is comforting assurance.

“How this brings out the value Christ sets upon us and the deep interest He has in us! About to return to the Father on high, He asks the Father that He will preserve those so dear to His heart, those for whom He bled and died. He hands them over to the care of the very One who had first given them to Him.”[8]

This brings two questions to my mind: First question: Would it have entered those men’s minds that anyone could pluck Christ’s own from His hand? Listen to what He said, in John 10.27-28: 

27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 

Christ here assures those who are His, who have received from Him eternal life, that we shall never perish. Additionally, no one can pluck a believer from Christ’s hand. Meaning? Meaning we are secure in Christ. Second question: Would it have entered those men’s minds that anyone could pluck Christ’s own from His Father’s hand? Listen to what the Savior said in the next verse, John 10.29: 

“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” 

In this verse, the Lord offers additional assurance of the believer’s security, pointing out that those who are committed to the Father’s care are, again, assured of security since no man is able to pluck Christ’s own from His Father’s hand.

Can we not be certain from this portion of the Lord’s prayer that those who are the Lord’s own, who were the Father’s own, and who had been committed by the Lord to His Father, will certainly and eternally be kept? The child of God is, and can only be, safe and secure. 

COMPONENT #6 OF OUR TEXT: 

We now come to the Lord’s purpose in requesting of His Father: 

“that they may be one” 

Here is stated the Lord’s goal. The Lord Jesus Christ’s desire was for the unity of the apostles to be preserved. Let that sink in for a moment. Recognize that their unity has already been achieved. That is clear from the verb that is used here, which is literally translated “that they may keep on being”[9] one. What the Lord wanted for His men was that what they already had be preserved.

It is not unusual for commentators to express a bit of perplexity when trying to explain this phrase, in light of two things: I have observed that most commentators tend to believe that the proper application of this phrase is to all Christians in the family of God. But they are mistaken. Such a thing leaves those same commentators wondering how real unity can be achieved without doctrinal agreement. Of course, this is related to Protestantism’s confusion about the so-called Universal Invisible Church. To insist upon unity without an agreement on the essentials of Christian doctrine is to promote an unspiritual and unscriptural ecumenicalism. This perplexity is only resolved, in my opinion, with a right view of the doctrine of the Church.

A correct view of the Church recognizes that these remaining apostles comprised Christ’s “little flock.” They are the embryonic Church of Jesus Christ. There is physical proximity. There is doctrinal agreement. Therefore, it should be of no surprise that the Savior does not here pray that they will become one, because they already have unity. This is why His prayer was for their unity to be preserved.

This prayer can only be answered in a New Testament Church congregation context, as it can be answered nowhere else in the world this side of eternity. 

COMPONENT #7 OF OUR TEXT: 

In conclusion, we read “as we are.” 

This last phrase sets the bar very high for Christian unity. When the Lord Jesus Christ used the word “we,” He was referring to the three Persons of the Triune Godhead.

Indeed, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are and have always possessed unity. This is the model to which a congregation can and should aspire. That we might display the unity that is found in the Godhead is worth praying for and striving for. 

At the outset, I made mention of the joy the child of God derives from a backward glance at the Savior. I trust that has been the case with this message for you. It has been for me.

It is joy that wells up in me as I reflect on my Savior’s relationship with the Father, His equal and yet His Son, a functional hierarchy that is eternal. What a display of humility by my Savior, that He is the Father’s Son!

Then there is His concern for His men reflected in His prayer for them. Those given to Him by the Father He committed to the Father’s care. We will see that the same principle will be applied to we who also know Christ and not just those eleven men.

Dreadful things were about to occur as He prayed. Yet He prayed. Then He took those men to Gethsemane and prayed again. Then the dreadful things began.

Yet, before it began and while it took place, His concern was for His Own. His concern was for those men, and for me, and for you.

You have never known anyone like that. You have never known anyone like Him. If that does not comfort your soul, bring peace and tranquility to your disposition, it is likely that you do not know Him.

He chooses to solve so many of the problems that I face. Other issues He allows to remain unresolved. Yet the bigness of Him, the power of Him, the sovereignty of Him, the love of Him, the care and compassion of Him, the companionship of Him, shows that even the problems that remain in the Christian’s life are, in comparison to Him, so very small.

I am good with that. It is okay by me.

__________

[1] Mt 5:12; Ro 12:15; Php 3:1; 4:4; 1Th 5:16; 1Pe 4:13

[2] 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

[3] Ac 23:6; 26:6; 28:20; Ro 5:2; 1Co 15:19; Col 1:27; 1Th 1:3; 2:19; 5:8; Tit 2:13; 1Pe 1:3, 21; 3:15; 1Jo 3:3

[4] Matthew 16.27-28; John 21.19-23

[5] W. R. Downing, The New Testament Church, (Morgan Hill, CA: PIRS Publications, Revised 2006), page 17.

[6] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 875.

[7] Ibid., page 1002.

[8] Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1-vol. edition 1968), Vol 3, page 119.

[9] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol V, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1932), page 278.

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