Calvary Road Baptist Church

“The Lord Jesus Christ Praying For His Remaining Apostles” Part 12

John 17.6-19 

I have mentioned to you numerous times that what I believe to be the greatest conversation recorded in God’s Word is found in John chapters 13 through 17. The Lord Jesus Christ’s conversation with His apostles, beginning with the twelve and ending with the eleven after Judas Iscariot’s departure from the Upper Room, is recorded in chapters 13 through 16.

The Lord’s high priestly intercessory prayer, found in John chapter 17, is the concluding portion of that conversation, with the Savior’s comments taking the form of His prayer to His heavenly Father with His remaining eleven apostles overhearing His prayer. No other conversation found in God’s Word comes close to the treasure trove God has preserved for us in these five chapters.

Our Lord’s prayer in chapter 17 emphasizes three concerns the Son of God prayed to His heavenly Father about. John 17.1-5 reveals our Lord’s initial prayer request, which was for Himself. I dealt with those verses in five messages that you can read on the Church website or listen to on the Church’s YouTube site.[1] John 17.6-19 reveals our Lord’s concern and requests for His remaining eleven Apostles, with this message being the twelfth sermon devoted to exploring and expounding His communiqué to His Father. Those messages, too, can be read on the website or watched on the Church YouTube channel. In John 17.20-26, the Savior concludes His prayer by presenting His requests to the Father on behalf of those believers in Jesus Christ who will come after the eleven down through the ages to our present era.

If you were here last Sunday morning, you would recall that I began to consider the second request the Lord made to the Father for those men who accompanied Him that evening. Turn your attention to John 17.17, and let us read that verse again. Once you find it, I invite you to stand for the reading of Scripture: 

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” 

During our first consideration of this second request to the Father by the Lord Jesus Christ in His high priestly intercessory prayer, I focused on the word “sanctify.” I also dealt with the first half of the verse, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” At this time, I will consider the final phrase, “thy word is truth.”

The Lord Jesus Christ’s plea to His Father to sanctify His men was a request, a plea, an urging that the Father do something He does not have to do. Whatever obligation the Father might have to consider and respond to the request of His beloved Son, He has no obligation to bless these eleven men beyond a self-imposed commitment to them. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ’s is a request that the Father graciously bless His men.

Built into this request for gracious benevolence and blessing is the means to be employed in the Father’s answer to His Son’s prayer, in the Father’s gracious blessing of these eleven men. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ specified the means of grace to be used by God the Father when granting His request that His men be sanctified, set apart, reserved exclusively for ministry to Him. The first half of the verse, which we dealt with last week, established that the means of grace is immersion in the truth.

This portion of the verse explicitly identifies the truth to be employed by God the Father as the means He was asked to use to answer His Son’s prayer and also the means of sanctifying the apostles.

Allow me to make four observations to add grist for your mill, cud for your deliberation, fodder for your rumination, material for your meditation: 

OBSERVATION NUMBER ONE 

“Thy word is truth.” 

How long do you think it has been since the Lord Jesus Christ said to His men, in John 14.6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life?” and then uttered these words, “thy word is truth”? How much time has passed? Three minutes? Five minutes? Ten minutes? We have no way of being sure, but it cannot have been very long.

Do you imagine the Lord’s men were so inattentive to His earlier remark, or this prayer, that they did not notice His assertion that He is the truth and also that God’s Word is the truth? Do you imagine that this is a lapse on His part? Did the Lord Jesus Christ misstate Himself? Or is there an astounding relationship that exists between God’s Word and God’s Son? I ask this question because the contemporary notion of “my truth” and “your truth,” as if there is no absolute truth, is not conceived as possible in a Biblical worldview.

After all, we do read in this Gospel account, 

John 1.1:       

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

John 1.14:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” 

There can be no doubt that the Gospel writer intentionally identified the One to whom he was referring, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Word.

This is why Gospel ministers, theologians, commentators, and Bible-believing Christians have for centuries maintained that the Lord Jesus Christ is the living Word of God. At the same time, the Bible, the holy Scriptures, is the written Word of God.

After all, the Scriptures are all about Him, as He pointed out to His adversaries who criticized Him for healing an impotent man on the Sabbath day, John 5.39. He said to them, 

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” 

OBSERVATION NUMBER TWO 

“Thy word is truth.” 

The approach I have long led our Church to embrace as we seek to understand and obey God’s Word is the historical-grammatical approach to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is nothing more than the science and art of interpretation derived from the Greek language and the Greek messenger god, Hermes. It is the science of interpreting or finding the meaning of the author’s words.[2] Thus, our strategy as Christians should always be to seek to understand what was stated or written by the person who uttered or wrote the words we find in Scripture and how that individual intended his statement or writing to be understood by the intended audience.

Of course, the one who originally spoke the words we are considering was the Lord Jesus Christ. And the one who originally recorded His words was the Apostle John. Of course, John was also numbered among the eleven men who overheard this prayer to God the Father, making him an eyewitness to the event he recorded.

Can there be any severe dispute regarding what was meant by the label “thy word?” Would the Lord Jesus Christ have intended anything other than the Hebrew Scriptures that comprised the accepted canon of Scripture at that time? The answer to that question is obviously “No.”

The Apostle Paul’s comment reinforces this understanding to Timothy in Second Timothy 3.16–17: 

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 

Therefore, “thy word” is the Lord Jesus Christ’s label for what we identify as the Hebrew Scriptures. The Greek New Testament not yet having been inspired, there can be no doubt that the Bible is God’s Word, and God’s Word is the Bible.

May I point out a few things about the Bible you hold in your hand, either a printed form book or a smartphone app? I could go on for hours, but allow me to make a few comments about the Bible’s uniqueness concerning its continuity. The Bible is the only book that was 

  1. Written over about a 1500 year span.
  2. Written by more than 40 authors from every walk of life, including King, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds. For example: 

Moses, a political leader, and judge, trained in the universities of Egypt; 

David, a king, poet, musician, shepherd, and warrior; 

Amos, a herdsman; 

Joshua, a military general; 

Nehemiah, a cupbearer to a pagan king; 

Daniel, a prime minister; 

Solomon, a king, and a philosopher; 

Luke, a physician, and historian; 

Peter, a fisherman; 

Matthew, a tax collector; 

Paul, a rabbi; 

and Mark, Peter’s secretary. 

  1. Written in different places: 

By Moses in the wilderness, 

Jeremiah in a dungeon, 

Daniel on a hillside and in a palace, 

Paul inside prison walls, 

Luke, while traveling, 

John while in exile on the Isle of Patmos. 

  1. Written at different times: 

David in times of war and sacrifice 

Solomon in times of peace and prosperity 

  1. Written during different moods: 

Some writing from the heights of joy; 

Others writing from the depths of sorrow and despair; 

Some during times of certainty and conviction; 

Others during days of confusion and doubt. 

  1. Written on three continents: 

Asia 

Africa 

Europe 

  1. Written in three languages: 

Hebrew, the language of the Israelites and practically all of the Old Testament. 

Aramaic, the common language of the Near East until the time of Alexander the Great (sixth century B.C. through the fourth century B.C.). 

Greek, the language comprising almost all of the New Testament. It was also the international language spoken at the time of Christ, as English is becoming in the modern world.[3] 

What would be my reaction to a person who doubts the accuracy of the Bible and questions its uniqueness distinguishing it from every other literary work known to man? Probably laughter. Such a view of the Bible cannot be held by anyone who wants to be taken seriously by serious-minded people. The absurdity of those who decry the uniqueness of the Bible without bothering to study the issue. However, those are the only ones left because once you embark on a serious consideration of God’s Word, you become convinced by your own investigation into the historical truth of the matter.

On the other hand, if I was dealing with someone who was intellectually honest and wanted to examine God’s Word, its reliability, its accuracy, and its authority, I would give my whole-hearted attention to helping that person find answers to any and all questions he or she might have. 

OBSERVATION NUMBER THREE 

“Thy word is truth.” 

Is it not interesting that the Lord Jesus Christ identified Himself as the truth in John 14.6, that the Lord Jesus Christ identified the Bible as the truth in John 17.17, and that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, will soon ask the Lord Jesus Christ as He stood before him, “What is truth?”

I read John 18.37-38, the Savior standing before Pilate’s judgment seat: 

37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? 

The essential difference between the evil world system personified by Pontius Pilate, the pragmatist, the moral relativist, the sinner consumed by selfish pursuits and interests standing on one side, with the Lord Jesus Christ standing on the other side, would soon be on full display.

The Roman governor represented a view of the world and reality that denies the very existence of moral absolutes and is typically blind to any consideration of moral absolutes. This moral relativist concerns himself with situational ethics and does not own even the possibility of an absolute right and an absolute wrong. He does not care to consider such things. Are you like Pilate in that regard? Pilate was the representative of all that is pragmatic, the feel-good approach to decision-making. The so-called “might makes right” view of culture or the “majority rules” perspective.

But that scenario is six or seven hours away from where we are in John’s Gospel narrative. At present, we are concerned with Two who are One. The Second Person of the Triune Godhead, the eternal Son of the living God, is praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His men, is not far removed from offering Himself a sacrifice for sins. This is truth in action. The Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God (if truth be recognized) are not the truth in the abstract but are the truth as concrete reality.

Why is it important to recognize the distinction between truth in the abstract and truth as a concrete reality? With truth as an abstract, the consequences for being at odds with the truth are nebulous and indistinct, open to dispute, and hypothetical. One can think about the truth, mull over the truth, discuss the truth, hypothesize about the truth, theorize the truth without ever truly coming to grips with the truth. To you, it’s just a notion. However, once you recognize the truth as a concrete reality, the Lord Jesus Christ as the God-man as a concrete reality, and the Word of the living God as a concrete reality, then one begins to fathom the dire consequences of being at odds with the truth which is Christ and the truth which is God’s Word. Conflicting with the concrete reality of truth, therefore, indisputably results in the damnation of one’s soul. Think about, talk about, mull over in your mind about, discuss with your friends about, but fall short of actually embracing this Savior who is truth ... and you will suffer the torment of the damned for all eternity. 

OBSERVATION NUMBER FOUR 

“Thy word is truth.” 

I commented about the means of grace concerning the first half of this verse last week. I intentionally and carefully pointed out that the means of grace to be employed by the Father when answering His Son’s prayer was the immersion in truth of the person being sanctified. Concerning the second half of the verse, it is undeniable that the truth in which a person is to be immersed to be sanctified is the Bible, the Word of God.

What can be concluded from this second request offered by the Savior to His heavenly Father? There are several valid conclusions:

First, one can confidently assert that there is such a thing as the truth, and that the existence of the Son of God and the Word of God stands in opposition to the concept of moral relativism and the denial of absolute truth. People with the depth of a birdbath remind me of a line from a famous movie that entered popular culture while not necessarily making any sense. The famous line Jeff Bridges spoke in a movie years ago, “Yea, well, like, that’s just your opinion, man,” has no serious application.[4]  There is absolute truth, and there is one’s opinion. Jesus Christ is absolute truth. The Bible, the Word of God, is absolute truth. No wonder Antifa, Black Lives Matter (a Marxist organization), and leftists despise the Bible and Christianity.

Next, no believer in Jesus Christ is sanctified for service and spiritual growth by God the Father except in answer to this prayer request from His Son. Yet this prayer request includes not only the plea to the Father to sanctify but also specifies the means to be employed in sanctifying.

We learn from the first half of verse 17 that the means is immersion in the truth. We learn from the second half of verse 17 that the truth in which the person is immersed to be sanctified is the Word of God.

Meaning? It is not possible to grow as a Christian or become more holy as a believer apart from immersion in the Word of God. Half measures will not do, and two minutes in Our Daily Bread are insufficient. If you are going to be sanctified, by God, in answer to Christ’s prayer, you will need to be in this book we refer to as the Bible.

What attitude best prepares you for this undertaking? James 1.21 is very helpful in this regard: 

“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” 

Let me remind you that the Lord Jesus Christ intended to leave His followers in this evil world and not take them or us out of the world. Remember His first request to the Father for His men, in John 17.15: 

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” 

He planned to leave those men here but to keep them from evil. He plans to keep us here but to keep us from evil. And how are we to be kept from evil? The process is sanctification, verse 17, and how this process is accomplished is the truth, the Word of God.

Long story short? If you are not a Christian, you will blend into this world, and you will get along quite comfortably, attend a Church service from time to time, read the Bible occasionally. But if you are a real Christian, you become conscious as time proceeds that you are not what you used to be, and you do not comfortably fit this world we live in. To survive, to avoid being devoured a piece at a time, you must be sanctified, separated unto Christ’s use, and that happens only through God’s Word.

You will find comfort and joy as you are immersed in God’s Word. And your need to be taught God’s Word, which occurs when we gather, becomes more and more apparent to you. And as a growing Christian, your appetite for the truth of God’s Word will grow over time.

Christian? The Savior prayed for you in John 17. Do your part to see His prayer for you answered.

__________

[1]www.CalvaryRoadBaptist.Church and https://www.youtube.com/c/CalvaryRoadBaptistChurch/videos

[2] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 851.

[3] Josh D. McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), pages 4-5.

[4] https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/thats-just-like-your-opinion-man/photos

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

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