[Photograph above: Bridge across the
If you ever have to do with a boastful infidel who shows how he despises your Christ and the Gospels, say – ‘Great critic, you are far superior in enlightenment and knowledge to the Galilean and his poor uneducated fishermen. Please then to throw off now a superior prayer that shall dash into dust the prayer of Jesus which follows!’
1, 2. ‘These things spake Jesus and lifted up his eyes unto heaven, and said, “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee. As Thou hast given Him authority over all flesh, that unto all whom Thou hast given Him, He should give everlasting life.” ’
This prayer carries with it its own evidence; its impossibility of being forged. Never was such a prayer before uttered, so simple, so sublime, so lofty in composition and expression. Even now that it has been so long known, there is no equal thereto. Nor could the cleverest of men concoct such a prayer.
‘How could John give it us exactly?’
By the Holy Spirit; according to Christ’s promise (14: 26).
It is the High Priest of heaven, who is also the Lamb of God, consecrating Himself; and confidently trusting His Father, on the way to the cross. Where the faith of any other had been swallowed up, there Jesus scarcely touches on His sufferings; but looks on them as an element in the glorification of the Father, and the road to His own glorification.
It consists mainly of three divisions. (1) Prayer for Himself - (2) for His original Apostles - (3) for the believers raised up by them.
‘He lifted up His eyes to heaven.’
Here are two Persons, clearly distinguished, for all who do not wilfully close their eyes. The Son on earth lifts His eyes and His prayer, to a Father in heaven.
Jesus ends the last chapter with a note of victory. But He utters it on His way to death. And how is death victory? Is it not the sign of unrighteousness, visible defeat? Omnipotence can alone make it victory in resurrection. Jesus then turns to His Father.
Jesus pleads for glory. (1) He desired glory from the Father, whom He in His turn would glorify. (2) He would manifest His glory, by giving to His ransomed ones by His own power, eternal life. (3) It would be the due recompense to the wonderful work He has achieved for the Father.
‘Father.’ This is the keynote of the whole prayer: the Saviour’s confidential outpouring of soul to Him whom He loved and served - His God and Father.
He says, ‘Thy Son,’ thus bringing into view the weightiness of His person, and what He is to the Father.
He desires the Father to glorify Him, that He in His turn may, as the God-man, glorify the Father. ‘Grant Me resurrection, ascension, and a session at Thy right hand; that I may achieve Pentecost and its wonders of grace, with the oversight and advance of the church.’ But the prayer does not cease there; but looks onward to the day of power and of resurrection.
He says not – ‘Our Father.’ For throughout He takes a stand not belonging to any creature, and far above His saved ones. While others would have had their thoughts engulfed in a view of suffering at the door, He in perfect calmness trusts His God.
The other evangelists had given us the trouble that agitated the soul of the Saviour, almost to the taking away His life; as the result of the endurance of the wrath on sin. This chapter gives us the Lord Jesus’ perception of the Father’s good pleasure in Him, and the blessing which he confidently anticipated as the result of His death.
‘The hour is come.’ This hour had still been drawing nearer to our Lord’s apprehension. His sense of it had burst forth into open expression, when Gentiles had desired to behold Him. That gave Him the intimation that He must die. While He lived He was the Jew, bound to maintain the exclusive system of Judaism. But when rejected by His own nation, and put to death by them in unbelief, He would in resurrection be free to be the Saviour of Gentile and Jew alike.
He says, therefore, ‘The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified.’ That was a word to all, Jew and Gentile. The Son of Man is the Second Adam, to whom all things are (according to the eighth Psalm) to be subjected: and this the Saviour, in His explanation of His Father’s words (v. 28), goes on to anticipate. But the Seed of the Woman must first suffer the bruising of the heel, by His lifting on the cross, ere He wrench the kingdom from the hands of the Old Serpent and bruise his head. This our Lord first notices in verse 31.
Christ then reminds the Father of His virtual promise, given in answer to His Son’s appeal: ‘I have glorified it,’ in the past, ‘I will glorify it again.’
‘Glorify Thy Son.’ These words are too high for mere man.
God glorified His Son : in the signs which attended His death and resurrection; in His raising Him from the dead, which avouched Him to be His Holy One, greater than any son of man; and in His elevating Him by the ascension to His own right hand, having given Him a name and a kingdom above any other. He is yet to glorify Him in the millennial kingdom.
‘That Thy Son also may glorify Thee.’ Jesus here sets Himself by Himself; It is not ‘that one of Thy sons may glorify Thee,’ but He takes as His own name, in a peculiar application, the title of ‘Son.’ In the sense in which He is so, none else is.
The end for which the Saviour asks glorification from the Father is, that He may expend what is given, in the glorifying of the Father Himself. Thus our Lord carries out the principles of the prayer taught to the disciples, the first petition of which is, ‘Hallowed be Thy name.’
Jesus’ sufferings then unto death were a partial fulfilment of this prayer. They glorified the Son, who could so patiently endure the Father’s will, and trust Him, and love Him, in spite of the terrors of wrath, that would have produced despair in any mere creature. They glorified the love of the Son, in that He could surrender Himself to woe so awful, to save guilty sons of men. They glorified the Father also, in that He was willing to give His Son. The Father can trust the Son to employ all that is given for the Father’s glory. He will glorify His Son, by giving Him all power to raise and judge the sons of men.
2. ‘As Thou hast given Him power (authority) over all flesh to give eternal life to what Thou hast given Him.’
‘As.’ ‘As it is fitting.’ ‘Give Thy Son glory,
according to, and adequate to, the supremacy above all flesh that Thou hast
assigned Him.’ And since it is
eternal life that is to be bestowed, and that on multitudes lying in corruption
in the sepulchre, therefore nothing short of that power of the Godhead which
raises the dead and preserves all creatures, will suffice. The glory bestowed by the Father should
answer to the pre-eminent position declared to be His Son’s. The Prince of Wales might justly ask of his
mother dress, house, equipage, and a table suited to his birth,
and to his destined sovereignty over
The glory of the Soil is to be manifested in pursuance of the Father’s intention to make Him head of all creation, and the giver of eternal life to His elect.
‘All flesh’ takes in more than the sons of men. Jesus, by taking flesh or becoming incarnate, is constituted the Ruler and Heir of all: not of men alone; but as the eighth Psalm says, of ‘all the works of God,’ 5-8. ‘All flesh’ comprehends creatures inferior to men, possessed of ‘flesh;’ or a nature subject to disease and death. The expression occurs in the history of Noah’s flood, wherein all creatures, and not merely man, were destroyed (Gen. 6: 17, 19; 7: 15, 21; Lev. 17: 14). Jesus is Judge of the destiny of all. But there is, besides, the gift of eternal life by the Son to those elected by the Father. It is not that all will finally be saved, but those destined to this glory by the Father.
‘All flesh’ lies under sin and death, and is unable to rescue itself therefrom. He who would raise out of it the creatures, and the elect, unto life eternal, must be glorified with the full glory of God.
3. ‘Now this is eternal life, to know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.’
This is the source of that constant designation of our Lord, which the
Spirit so oft uses afterwards. The
Christ of Israel is also the Son of God; though
By ‘eternal life’ is not meant mere ‘endless existence;’ for that will belong to the wicked also. In Scripture it means the right state of the soul, consequent acceptance before God, and bliss in Him. This is already possessed by all believers.
Their souls are possessed of the knowledge of God, as the Father and the Son. The knowledge of God as the Father is eternal life. It is the perception (arising out of the acceptance of God’s testimony in the Gospel); that God is now dealing out [eternal] salvation in grace, to whosoever will ask: the belief in Father, the Son, and the Spirit, as the one only true God.
This, in opposition (1) to Israel - who refuse to own any God, but Johovah, the God of Law; and whose rejection of the testimony to the Father and the Son is drawn out for us so fully in this Gospel. Such cannot have eternal life. They despise the witness of God, and die in unbelief.
This in opposition (2) also to the heathen - with their many false gods and idolatries. These must perish, as worshipping and serving the creature, and not the Creator; and condemned by their own many violations of the witness of conscience.
In opposition also to (3) the intellectual deists of past and present times - who, asserting the unity of the Godhead, refuse to acknowledge any Trinity. Hence, Jesus adds at once the necessity for knowing Himself as the Sent of the Father. God cannot now be known, save through Christ as the Son. Only in Him is there atonement for sin; only through Him can eternal life be given. Deny the Trinity, and you put away atonement; and if there be no atonement for sin, man must perish in his sins.
He cannot know God, who has never heard, or never received, God’s testimony about Himself. The heathen walk in darkness through ignorance of God. The darkness does not accept the light. The scientific of our day generally accept God only in His natural attributes, as the Great Architect, Astronomer, Mechanic, and so on. But of His attributes of justice and mercy, and their reconciliation in the work of the Son, so that men may be at peace with Him, and love Him, they know nought; and refuse the Saviour’s teaching, because it abases human pride.
‘The only true God.’ Jesus hereby excludes imaginary and false gods, but not Himself, whom the Father salutes as God; whom John in his first Epistle calls ‘the true God, and everlasting Life.’ He is not speaking of the Godhead as exclusively centred in the Father; or as opposed to the Godhead of Himself, the Sent One. Could the knowledge of a creature be necessary to everlasting life?
He had before spoken of Himself in His relation to God – ‘Thy Son.’ Now He utters His own name in His relation to men - the Mediator between God and man, sent to reconcile the parties. His name as the man, is ‘Jesus - the Christ.’
The knowledge of God is not merely intellectual, but
spiritual; the result of the testimony of God accepted. He who knows God as his Father in Christ, and
is able to draw near with confidence, has eternal life already begun in his
soul. He is waiting still for the redemption of the body, and the
4. ‘I have glorified Thee on the earth; the work which Thou gavest me to do, I have fulfilled.’
The first sentiment was – ‘Glorify Thy Son, that I may glorify Thee, 0 Father!’ This is - ‘Glorify me, for I have glorified Thee.’ God is glorified by creation; how much more by the work of redemption, wrought at such charges to Himself, and to His Son!
How had Jesus glorified Him? (1) By doctrine - by His declaring the new name of the Father. (2) By acts - His life of benevolence and humiliation, and His miracles of mercy.
There was a work of obedience and death, to be done on earth by the Mediator, as Son of God and Son of Man; necessary to the Father’s glory in redemption, and to man’s salvation. That the Saviour presents to the Father, as now accomplished it being certain, at this latter stage, that He would not draw back from the completion of it in His sufferings unto death. Must not the Father, then, in requital for obedience so glorious, exalt Him, as never one before?
Jesus here says – ‘What was necessary to be done by Me as man on earth, and what could be done here below, I have effected. Now other means and stronger, and a different locality, are needful to Thy glory and Mine, and to man’s redemption. Restore to Me the glory of the Son’s Godhead, which, in becoming man, I put off in order to the accomplishment of the work.’
‘The glory which I HAD with Thee.’ He was in the form of God. He was in the bosom of the Father; ‘the only-begotten Son.’ Before creation there was nothing but God. It was a glory which He had beside the Father, in His presence of glory in heaven. This is the force of the phrase.
Here is Jesus’ testimony to the Father, of His entire
obedience, His entire perfection. There
is not, as with the saved sons of men, confession of sin, and trust in God’s
mercy alone for salvation; in opposition to desert of woe. Had there been but one omission, one
overstepping of the line, God had been dishonoured by Him. 0ffence in one point had been guilt in
all. Christ asks for the due reward,
then, of the perfection displayed. Who
but He could attest the full completion of the work assigned? In thirty-three years He accomplished what
Moses left unfulfilled in one hundred-and-twenty. Moses must die, because he has sinned; for
one visible offence against God’s glory.
‘Because ye sanctified Me
not, in the midst of the children of
The Father accepts this as the true statement of His Son’s work, by His raising Him from the dead, and seating Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.
5. ‘And now do Thou, Father, glorify Me with Thyself with the glory which I had before the world was made, with Thee.’
As the result of such glorification of the Father, He asks for His own glorification. And for an especial form of it – the restoration to Him of the divine glory which He possessed before He became man. He here testifies His pre-existence, and His abiding with the Father, and in His divine glory, before creation began. Jesus, then, is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. He is not one who began to be at creation. As Paul says, He was in ‘the form of God,’ and stooped and emptied Himself of glory in His becoming man. Now the bitterest part of that humiliation - the death on the cross - is at the door; but, beyond that, He anticipates so perfect a passage across the darkness, that the Father will be obliged to exalt Him above all creatures as His Son. This appears also in Hebrews 1. Jesus, by His eternal generation, was the Son; above all angels, in a sense that cannot justly be assigned to them. But Paul goes on to testify, that by His perfection of service during His incarnation, He has re-won the place of superiority to angels. He has again been saluted as ‘the Son,’ on the Father’s raising Him from the dead (Heb. 1: 5). That place no angel has ever by his obedience earned. The un-fallen angels by their obedience just fulfil the work demanded of them, but no more. They are not meritorious servants of the Most High, who can claim a reward, and such a reward, as their desert.
Neither God nor His Son began to be. The world did begin. There were ages uncounted before it was created.
On the other hand the Father speaking to the Son, after His work on earth, owns His Godhead; and assigns to Him the kingdom as the result of His perfect love and righteousness, and hatred of iniquity (Heb. 1: 8, 9).
There are, then, three aspects of the matter presented in this verse.
(1) Jesus, as the Son, had glory with the Father before all creation.
(2) He stripped Himself of that glory to become the servant. He has so lived on earth, as that the Father has been glorified, and He can claim glory in the day to come, when the Most High shall assign to each the reward of his works. Nay, the glory is to begin at once. ‘Now.’ ‘Glorify Me with (that is, ‘beside’) Thyself.’ Jesus’ glory is to begin at once in the presence of the Father on His ascension; and the same divine glory which He enjoyed before His human birth, is to be restored to Him. Who of mere men could say such things with truth? Who could put forth such pretensions without blasphemy? and the Father’s eternal displeasure?
‘But may not “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” mean only, that Christ had that glory in the counsels of the Father, before the Christ had any existence?’
So speak some, whose aim is just the opposite to that of the Father; to diminish as much as may be, the honour given in Scripture to the Son. Whenever you find this, be on your guard!
No! First, if Jesus be a mere man, how did He know what was the glory destined Him, before creation existed? Secondly, this was nothing peculiar to Himself. God had destined a special glory for Abraham, David, and others as well. Thirdly, the natural sense of the words imports - that Jesus not only existed ere creation, but dwelt in glory in the presence of the Father. Fourthly, this is sustained by many other passages, specially of John’s Gospel and Epistles. ‘The Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.’ His was glory before creation; for He created all, and the cause must be before the effect; while the glory of the Creator must be infinitely above that of the creature. Again, ‘What and if ye shall not see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?’ ‘Before Abraham was born, I am.’ ‘Who being in the form of God, emptied Himself’ (Phil. 2.). ‘He that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.’ ‘He that progresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of the Christ, hath not God’ (2 John 9). Observe how the ‘we’ in this prayer sets Jesus on a level with the Father (ver. 11, 21, 22). The Object of worship and Giver of life is the Son.
6-9. ‘I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gayest Me out of the world; Thine they were, and Thou gayest them to Me, and they have kept Thy word. Now have they recognised that all things which Thou gayest Me are from Thee. For the words which Thou gayest Me, I gave to them, and they received them, and knew of a truth that I came out from Thee, and that Thou didst send Me. I ask for them; I ask not. for the world, but for those whom Thou gayest Me, because they are Thine.’
In these verses we see the immense importance attaching to true views about our God, and a right faith in Him.
Such as our views of God are, such is our religion. Such as our spiritual centre is, such will be our circumference.
The difference between the friends and the foes of God, turns on the acceptance or the refusal of the testimony of God about His Son. To accept the testimony of the Father to the Son is life and peace. To refuse it is to grow hardened in unbelief. Unbelief wrought the sin of the Garden; and unbelief is the settled temper of the world in relation to God, whom it hates. That unbelief and that hatred show that it is of its father, the Devil; and that with him it will dwell for ever under the wrath of God. For how can God be otherwise than wroth with those who refuse to believe His testimony, and break His commandments?
‘Manifested.’ In opposition to Old Testament obscurity. The Saviour refers to the crucifixion-psalm (Ps. 22: 22). ‘I will declare Thy name unto my brethren.”
Jesus now turns to mention His desires concerning His apostles. They were not worthy in themselves, but they are linked on to the glory of the Son. They are valued by Him (1) as the Father’s gift (what omnipotence this supposes over the sons of men!) and (2) as the agents appointed to uphold and spread the glory of the Son. They are valued by the Father as accepters of the Son of God, and partakers of His counsels while the world rejects Christ and His word.
‘Thy word.’ We should have expected ‘My word;’ but all through Jesus and His Father are seen in the closest harmony.
How all eternity turns on our acceptance of the testimony of the Son, and acceptance of the Son to whom the testimony is borne! See it in the two crucified robbers! The accepter of Christ is saved on the very edge of death.
‘The Jews condemn the Son; these, My apostles, approve. They confess that My words and My works are not from Beelzebub as their source; but from Christ, the Son of God.’
Hence the sternness with which all systems are to be treated, which explain away or deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Ordinary Unitarians in their supposed intellectual superiority, refuse to Christ the eternal Sonship, Godhead, and worship, which Jesus claims to Himself. If you have to deal with such, ask them ‘What they think of Christ?’ They will tell you ‘He was an excellent teacher, and a good man.’ Ask them, then - Whether He is a ‘good man’ who makes Himself equal with God, and never refuses religious worship when offered, but sometimes claims it?
Swedenborgians are another class of Antichrists, who, under pretence of possessing profound wisdom, deny the Father and the Son; while, in order to set up some pretence of acknowledging the Son, they describe the Son as a portion of unintelligent, but sinful matter, with which for awhile the One God clothed Himself, only to put it off again for ever!
This and other errors spring from Satan, and would be cast away at once as contrary to the Scripture, only that the evil heart of unbelief is ready to accept whatever will take off from the conscience the pressure of Scripture truth; which condemns and humbles man, the sinner.
No words of God or man can be trusted, if this chapter does not present to us Two Persons; one of whom is praying to the other.
How did Jesus ‘manifest the name’ of God to His disciples? Partly bywords; partly by deeds. He taught disciples to address God as the Father in heaven. He taught them to trust Him as a Father. He taught the principle of grace, as opposed to the justice of the Law; and thus showed the character of God as the God of grace. Jesus’ miracles of mercy, and words of tenderness, displayed the gracious tempers of Him who made known the Father.
But observe, Jesus did not declare God to be ‘the Father of all men,’ or of the world of unbelief. The name of ‘Father’ was declared to disciples, not to unbelievers. God is not the Father of all men; as if all were going on, after more or less of discipline now and hereafter, to salvation.
God is the Father of none who refuse His testimony to Jesus, as His own eternal, only-begotten Son.
Here Christ draws the most marked line between the saved elect, and the world. The world is the usurped possession of the Wicked One, and the men of the world give him their allegiance, obedience, and affections. The saved are those who are taken out of the world, and given to Christ. Here is the Father’s election, leaving the mass of men to their unbelief and resistance of His word and will.
‘Thine they were.’ This seems to point to God’s election from all eternity of some of His creatures. They belong to Him, and He disposes of them as seems to Him good.
They belong to Christ, in a sense different from the worldly. Their final salvation is certain.
‘They have kept Thy word.’ Shall we suppose this to refer primarily to their obedience to the Law of Moses; and then to their submission to John’s doctrine and baptism; then their leaving John, by John’s own direction, to attach themselves to Jesus, as John’s superior? since which time they had obeyed the commands of Christ, which were, in effect, the commands of the Father.
We may compare the present counsel of God in regard to the
Church, with the previous work of the Most High under Moses. That is described as being Jehovah’s taking ‘a nation from the midst of another nation by
temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by
a stretched out arm,’ Deut. 4: 34. Now God is taking, not a nation, but individuals, out from the midst of Jew and Gentile,
not by open miracle, much less by war; but by grace, to be to Him a people of
inheritance, far higher than
‘Now have they known.’
This seems to refer to their late declaration of faith (16: 29, 30).
And then the stress is laid on ‘Now.’
‘The words which Thou gavest Me, I gave to them.’
Our Lord seems to be pointing at Moses’ prophecy – ‘I will raise them up [in two senses - (1) Jesus’ birth, and (2) resurrection] a prophet from among their brethren like unto Thee, and will put My words into His mouth, and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him,’ Deut. 18: 18, 19.
Thus the prophecy and our Lord’s words lay stress on the same
thing. Jesus spoke the words given Him.
As referring specially to the twelve, Christ had sent them out to Israel with the same message concerning the coming kingdom of glory, which Jesus had borne, and with the same tokens of miracle, with which He Himself heralded the kingdom (Mark 1: 14, 15; Matt. 10: 7, 8).
But the essential point is, the recognition that Jesus as the Son came forth from the Father, and that He sent the Son. The acceptance of the testimony of God in Scripture to Jesus’ Godhead and mission, as introducing us - and as alone capable of introducing us - into the knowledge of our God, is that on which Christ lays stress; and on it so should we. This levels all theories of men, and specially the Gnostic doctrine of more Gods than one, and many emanations from God (or demigods); while Jesus Christ was not one Person, but two.
The acceptance or refusal of this truth makes the gulf between the church and the world. Do you believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Creator and Redeemer commissioned by the Father, alone able to save?
For those who believe this doctrine, Christ here prays. The world in its unbelief stands outside this prayer of Christ. As it refuses His High Priesthood, it refuses also His prayer of intercession, uttered as the High Priest.
The world and the Church - unbelievers and believers - these are the two bodies which Jesus and the Spirit sever from one another, by clear, strong, deep lines. It is fitting that we do so too. While we confess the open invitation addressed to all to listen to the Son, as God’s great grace to the world, let us hold fast also the election of God out from the world; without which that proclamation had been in vain. For the world hates both the Father and the Son. And the more serious among the world assert and hold doctrines opposed to those testified by our Lord.
Observe Jesus’ constant care through all His words and deeds, to make it apparent that His zeal for His ransomed ones had respect to their belonging to the Father, no less truly than to Himself. ‘Those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.’
10. ‘And all things that are Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them.’
Those given to Jesus are ‘beloved of God.’ They are bearers of God’s glory to the world. Though given by the Father to Christ, they cease not to belong to the Father; for, as Jesus says, they have all things in common; one their plan, their power, grace, and truth.
These are words which could only rightfully be spoken by one
possessed of Godhead. For it is not as
if our Lord said - ‘All I have belongs to
Thee.’ That is true; but it is
true of all. The Saviour’s words are – ‘All Thou hast belongs to
‘I am glorified in them.’ This is the new ground alleged for the Father’s showing them special favour. To whatever concerns His Son’s glory, the Father is fully alive: almighty to promote it. They would certainly therefore be blest. The bearers of Christ’s glory would be saved and glorified. In one view, Jesus was already glorified in them. They accepted Him as the Son of God, despite His poor surroundings; and in spite of the hatred and unbelief of their nation. But the word looks on to the future, and the work is beheld by our Lord in its completion.
So a young mother on her death-bed, leaving behind her fatherless children, under a sense of their weakness, and the wickedness of the world around, is filled with care; and desirous of recommending them to some trusty and fitting protector. Christ commits them, then, to the care of the Heavenly Father; for they were the common property of the Father and the Son. What can sustain them against the world’s evil current that runs so strong? The Almighty Father alone. Jesus is now looking back on His course well-nigh finished, and His office well sustained. He has not, like the pastors of earth, to confess shortcomings and errors. All was well done, and He is sensible of His Father’s approval.
His sheep were chosen out from the evil world, and the flesh in them still makes them inclined towards it. If they turn towards it they become like it; and the more like it they become, the more unfit are they for dwelling with the Holy Lord above.
11. ‘And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name whom* Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as we are.’
* The majority of the uncial copies reads – ‘“which” Thou gavest Me.’
Jesus speaks here in the style of God. He treats of the things that be not, as though they were. Was He not still in the world, and at the threshold of His sore conflict, when He thus spoke? Aye, but He is sure of His Father’s counsels, and of His own victory. Death is not to Him the great object, though around it clustered all that was terrible to nature. His death is regarded as the source of trial and danger to others, rather than to Himself. He sees it as the closing of earth and the opening of heaven: while concerning heaven itself He speaks only of the Father, as the centre of it all to Him.
His little flock were ‘still in the
world.’ Christ looks on the world
as a place of peril; a stormy sea, amidst whose waves, shallows, and rocks the
vast majority of men make shipwreck. And
these His disciples, as still in the flesh, would be amidst perpetual
temptations to turn aside from the Father and Himself. Some
are drawn away by its golden lures; some frightened by its frowns and threats. The
flesh in the renewed is no better than in the lost. Hence it is a perpetual conflict, in which we
are not to give way. Christian, learn to look on the world, as did your
Master! Did He view it as a pleasant
garden, into which you may safely enter and delight yourself? How can you go into it voluntarily without
damage? without often falling? Would you, if you had been in
‘Holy Father.’ Some brethren in prayer say – ‘Indulgent Father.’ This word seems the contrast to that. By ‘indulgent’ we mean one who opposes not, but yields to the humours and desires of those under his care. Now God is set forth to us rather as the Father who chastises all His sons for their profit.
‘Holy Father.’ This is said in opposition to the unholy world, of which Satan is the Prince. The Father desires that we should be unlike the world. He is holy, and separate from evil, and desires and commands that we should be so too. ‘Be ye holy, for I am.’ God is not solely, ‘Father,’ or ‘Father of all;’ but ‘Holy Father.’ He is aiming at producing in us His own tempers, which are the opposite to those of the world. As renewed, we are His children but we are to ‘become’ more like Himself - Matt. 5: 18 (Greek).
The unholy world contaminates and spoils God’s children.
‘The whole world lieth in wickedness - while we know that we are of God’ (1 John 5: 19). How can it be otherwise, when Satan is its God? In Jesus’ temptation by the Devil and his lures, we behold the Saviour’s holiness, shrinking from all that is contrary to His Father’s mind and commands.
The Lord under Moses testified that He was holy; but it was a different kind of holiness commanded then - that of the flesh. Hence they were to eat no meat of a creature that had died of itself, or had been torn by dogs (Ex. 22: 31). And the holiness of Jehovah was conjoined with His threatening and terribleness (Lev. 20: 6, 7) against such as were idolaters, or using the services of evil spirits. They therefore were to be unlike the nations of earth in all their ways, walking after the ordinances of the Lord their God. What was His character under Law was shown impressively at Sinai. Recur at once to that, when any would tell you that God, out of Christ, is only mercy. ’Tis false; ’tis written in lines of clearest evidence for all time.
But now the Most High God is to His Christ, and to His people in Christ a ‘Holy Father.’ While He chastises His people now for their sins, it is not to destroy them; but to make them partakers of His holiness.
The world is unholy because it pursues its own way regardless of God’s will and word. It likes the gifts; the Giver it hates; the will of God, the promises of God it despises; His threatenings it fears not. Holiness then is unlikeness to the world, and likeness to God. It is a coming out from it, first in heart, then in life.
‘Keep them.’ These sheep sadly need a shepherd to attend them. Beside their pastures are the dens of the lions and the caves of the bears. Here are pits, there are deadly herbs. ‘Keep them!’ Preserve them from the evil. Our prayer then is not to be – ‘Father, put us to the proof! Let loose upon us the lion and the bear, and see how gallantly we can stand their attack, and put them to flight!’ It is, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’
‘Keep in Thy name.’ The expression is a difficult one, but I take it to signify, that as He called Himself their Father, so He would watch over these sons with a father’s love.
‘Those whom Thou hast given
‘That they may be one.’ The Father and Son are one in the divine nature possessed in common; the knowledge of the Father and the Son is wrought by the Holy Ghost, who transforms God’s elect. This is the means whereby they are brought into unity with one another.
‘That they may be one, as WE are.’
Wonderful words! Here Jesus sets Himself beside the Father as His equal. Those given to Christ as heirs of eternal life, have many diversities by nature of station, people, education, prejudices. The Devil, the world, and the flesh seek to disunite them, and often do sever those of Christ’s flock. But for God’s Almighty Spirit there had been no union at all. And how little of unity has there been, and is now, of oneness among God’s chosen! How immeasurably below the perfect unity subsisting between the Father and the Son! Has the prayer of Christ, then, failed? No! There is at the foundation a unity of nature among those regenerated by the Spirit of God. And there is time enough in eternity to produce the oneness for which Jesus prays, after the disturbing forces shall have been removed. This seems to me to show, that the saved in Christ shall form one body wonderfully united and co-ordinated in eternity, and distinct from other companies of the redeemed.
‘But how are we to be one, as the Father and the Son are one?’ I am not sure that I see clearly the force of these words. It is to be observed, then, that Jesus does not say – ‘that they may be one with us.’ Nor – ‘that they and we may be one’ - which would imply an equality with Jesus and the Father in nature. But they import, I believe, a union complete among themselves, as a family of the redeemed. And Almighty power shall one day execute what is here only begun.
‘As we are.’ How blasphemous, if Jesus be not possessor of Godhead! Did the Most High suffer one so to address Him - to die affirming Himself to be the Son of God - and yet after all honour - Him in a way He never honoured any before? 0 then it is clear, that the Father affirms His pretensions! He is ‘Light of light; very God of very God.’
Jesus does not ask that He might be one with the Father. He was so already. He assumes that He was, by that simple but sublime expression – ‘As We are!’ Observe again, He does not join Himself with the elect, in this prayer, as other servants and ministers of God do; but His ‘We’ connects Him with the Godhead.
Here, Christians, let us see how valuable in the sight of our Redeemer is the union of His people! May we seek to promote it in all lawful ways! The basis of it is love. Love immeasurable and eternal unites the Father and the Son. May we be transformed into that likeness continually!
12. ‘When I was with them in the world, I used to keep in Thy name those whom Thou gavest Me, and I guarded them; and none is lost, but the Son of Perdition, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.’
Here is still the same majestic style of the Godhead, speaking of things that be not, as though they were. Was He not with them in the world still? Yes! but He beholds as accomplished what was yet at the door. The separation was all but effected.
‘I kept them.’ The ‘I’ is emphatic. Who of men, the most faithful of shepherds, durst say so? ‘By My divine wisdom and power I instructed them, led them out of error into truth; out from evil company and communications into the society of the holy. And now, what I did perfectly, do thou!’
Jesus does not say of Judas – ‘I lost him. Satan plucked him out of My hand.’ But He says – ‘None is lost, but’ Judas was lost beyond recovery. He was ‘the Son of Perdition.’ His loss was already foretold in Scripture. By the title ‘the son of,’ is meant that he was guilty of sin, worthy of hell. This is the meaning of the Hebrew expression, ‘son of death’ (1 Sam. 20: 31; 26: 16). It may refer also to his coming forth out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17: 8). There are but two signalised with the expression, ‘Son of Perdition.’ (1) One is the False Christ; (2) the other (Judas, as I believe) is the False Prophet. They are both also destined to the lake of fire.
Where in Scripture is Judas’s fall foretold? In Psalm 69: 25; in Psalm 109. and 41: 10, to which places Peter refers in the Acts. ‘But if the Scripture foretold Judas’s fall, how could he be responsible, in doing what the Scripture said he should?’ Observe, the Scripture made Judas’s act certain. But it does not mean that he was compelled to do it against his will. The necessity under which he acted left him quite free. It was a necessity with his will, and not against it. Had it been a force from without, compelling him against his inclination and choice, he had not been free, or guilty. But as all the choice and the force were from within, he was wholly guilty.
I gather from the Gospel of John, that the history of Judas and the place given him among the disciples by Jesus, was in John’s days a great stumbling-block and engine forcibly plied by the adversary against the truth. ‘How could Christ be God, if he chose and suffered to enter his inner circle of friends and helpers, a man like that? Could it arise from anything but ignorance?’ Hence the Scripture-reasons for the Saviour’s conduct toward him, and the proofs of His knowledge of his character, are fully drawn out in this Gospel from an early date. So strong have been the proofs, that they have well nigh, if not entirely, quelled the objections against the Gospel, liable to be urged against it from the place assigned to Judas, and his dismal end. Jesus discards him as one of those whom He had not kept. His destruction was not due to Jesus’s negligence. His fall was the heavier, and his sin the more awful, because of the clear light that had shone upon him from the Saviour’s life, miracles, and instruction.
How simply Jesus regards God’s elect as His property, given to Him and kept by Him! Some may and do say in our day, ‘I don’t believe in ‘irresistible grace.’ All depends, after all, on a man’s own choice; and that choice is free; and God saves no man against his will.’
This is partly true, partly false. God does not drag a man to salvation, while his heart refuses and resists. But when He wishes to save, His grace cannot be resisted. Why? Because He begins His work at a point above the will. He changes the nature, and the will changes at once. Yonder is a sow in the mire. Drive her out, and she will come back again. Her will is unchanged. But suppose, that with an enchanter’s wand you turn her into a dove. Now she flees the mud; she hates it. Such power is irresistible, the will is on the side of the power.
What a place Scripture held in the mind of our Lord, and in the mind of His apostles, as instructed by the Lord. Men can get quit of its words as by a snap of the fingers; but ’tis not so with the Son of God. Men regard the words of their fellows. How much more should they stand by the words of God!
What are the lessons attaching to Judas’s fall? His history tells us what man is. How, set in the very best of positions for his good and salvation, he turned them to his sorest bane. See, too, how hateful in God’s eyes is treachery among believers. Among God’s chosen, love and unity are to reign; for Christ gave Himself up to death to save His own; and we in consequence are called upon to yield life itself for the good of our fellow-believers. How hateful, then, in His sight the treachery of which Judas is the type! Of one, who, eating the bread of His Master, secretly engaged himself to betray Him to His enemies!
The preservation of the disciples by Christ was beheld in their deliverance from death, and above all from sin. So Peter, sinking, is lifted up; and the storm that sorely threatened their vessel is quelled; so Jesus’s intercession prevails against Satan’s sifting.
These words do not suppose that Judas was one of those given to Christ for salvation. For such are secure of eternal life. John 6: 37-39; 18: 9. If the Son so cared for the disciples because the Father gave them, it was fitting that the Father should now ‘keep,’ that is, ‘guard,’ those whom the Son was leaving.
13 ‘But now I am coming to Thee, and these things I speak in the world, in order that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.’
Jesus was about to withdraw from earth to heaven. The Great Shepherd was near to suffer the smiting of Jehovah, as foretold. How, then, should He care for the flock? The sheep should be scattered; it was written so. And what would become of them in that dark and cloudy day? The Father must keep them, or they would be swallowed up in the whirlpool. Jesus, therefore, commends the flock to His Father’s care.
Christ on this occasion prayed in the presence of His disciples; not desiring, like the hypocrite, the applause of men; but as conveying to us instructions full of comfort and joy. May we not justly rejoice, that Jesus prays for us as He did for Peter? thus our faith shall not be put out in darkness.
‘These things I speak in the world;’ that is, before He had left earth for heaven. And He allows the disciples to hear His prayer, that from its calm and assured tenor they might, amidst the tempest, be comforted.
‘That they might have my joy.’ How wonderful, that on the eve of that betrayal to the cross, He should speak of His joy!
And that He was not, as other men would have been, swallowed up in the contemplation of His own sufferings; but able to think of His disciples’ joy!
‘Joy in themselves.’ As not only having the right and title to it in the coming day, but already possessing it within. How great His love!
Christian! Your Lord desires to have you always rejoicing. In the circumstances around you, you may be much troubled; but in the Lord and His grace to you lies a springing fountain. Jesus was going away from the world of earth to the Father’s presence of joy. But while yet on earth, with its legions of evil men and spirits wheeling already around to enclose and arrest Him, He tells of joy to us. He was about to speak to the Father in another manner on high; but now, while still in the world, He would thus address the Father with a view to His disciples hearing His kindly designs for them, that they might rejoice.
The joy of the Son was in His Father’s fellowship. And our joy as believers is to be in our fellowship with the Father and with the Son. Let us seek it then, and we shall not need the joys of the flesh and of the world.
The world vainly vaunts itself as possessed of joys, and holds true believers to be fools, because they will not run with them to enjoy ‘the pleasures of sin for a season.’ But on all their joy woe is spread, and judgment is coming to strip them of all they value. They do not know the joys of the children of God. They cannot, while in the flesh. They need to believe the testimony of God and His people ere they do.
Let us, then, seek to be joyful! Let us ask for joy. Ours are its unfailing sources. Let us draw on them continually!
14. ‘I gave them Thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.’
You call tell what a man is, and where he stands, by his
treatment of the Scripture. The infidel
refuses to own it as the Word of God at all.
But to apostles, and, above all, to the Son of God, the words of the Lord are pure words; silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times. ‘The Scripture cannot be broken.’ You may hang your whole weight upon its least twig. What was the good of being a Jew? ‘Much every way, chiefly because unto them were committed the oracles of God.’ They are God’s decisions for our guidance; not like the oracles of old, expensive and deceptive.
‘The world’s hatred,’ says Luther, ‘is the court-dress of Christians.’ The Saviour makes the world’s hatred of His people a plea for His Father’s love and care. They were the depositors of God’s treasure, His word; and the world would rob them of it; not that it values the jewels, but that it hates the Giver and His servants. And how great the dangers of the world’s enmity was shown in the case of Judas. How, then, were the servants of Christ, amidst so many perils, to escape shipwreck? By the Father’s keeping. Through that blest promise – ‘God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.’
To the apostles, and through them to us, the new doctrines of
Christ proceeding from the Father, had been
committed. And this very fact produces
enmity in evil hearts. The great ones of
the Jews were displeased to find Jesus taking as His companions and
depositories of His truth - publicans, fishermen, and the uneducated, while
passing by them. Moreover, the substance
of the word given was hateful. Had he
Jesus was not of the world, in nature, in birth, in principles, in conduct. Neither were the disciples in their renewed nature and new birth. Our Lord begs, then, that the hatred of the world may be outweighed by the Father’s love.
Christ describes His work on the apostles as being His gift to them of the word of God. Truth, new and of saving import, discovering to us God, and joy, and peace in Him, had been by Christ made known. The Son alone could truly discover to us the knowledge of God. Hence the stress on ‘I.’
The world refuses God’s word, and is guided by the spirit and
maxims of Satan. It knows not God, and
does not desire to know Him. Hence it
suspects, refuses, hates those who are guided by the word of God, and led by
the Spirit that inspired it. Ever since the sentence of Jehovah in
Its hatred to the sinless Son of God was stronger than that against any other. But the more any resembles Jesus, the more will he be refused by the world. The reason why some believers are accepted, is not because of their graces and resemblance to Christ and conformity to the Word of God; but because they are unfaithful to its principles, ignorant of its truths, and unlike in spirit to their Lord. That is the principle here supposed. The disciple is hated by the world, just in proportion to his resemblance to the Son of God,
And if the trials resulting therefrom be great at present, they point on to glory like Christ’s in the day to come. It is an honour to be rejected by the world for principle, and spirit, and conduct such as were found in our Lord.
15. ‘I ask not that Thou shouldst take them Thou shouldst keep them from the evil.’
This verse and the 17th unfold two aspects of the Father’s keeping. Jesus desires - (1) their protection from the evil; and (2) their being led into the truth more and more fully. That truth would make them unlike the world; and would cause the world less and less to desire their company; while they, on their part, would less and less covet what is of the world. Thus Paul says of the cross of the Christ, that by it the world was crucified to Him, and He unto the world.
If the world be so evil, and Christ love so deeply His people, why not, at once, remove them out of it? He had but to ask and have. But the Saviour of set purpose would not so ask. It was not the counsel of His Father, nor His own. While the world is evil, the disciples are yet awhile to stay in it. Reasons many arise, why they should so tarry; arising from their relations to God, the world, and to themselves. They have to bear witness for God, to show by word and deed the light amidst the darkness. It may be, that some of the world may listen to their testimony, and forsake their paths of death. But for the presence of the sons of God, judgment had long ere this overtaken the world. Besides this, the world is the Christian’s school and training-ground. The Saviour has much to teach him, and that in the way of practice. He has to put off the old man, and to put on the new. He has to learn humility, patience, mercy, love. And the world is the place to exercise these graces; to discover to the Christian how much of the old man remains, and to lead him to put it away. It is also a sphere of service, and a place of suffering, on the way to reward.
Then the retiring from the world into a monastery is not the mind of Christ. So did not our Lord; so did not His apostles. The Lord can keep His people from the evil of the world; and this is what is to be desired by them, and sought. But it supposes, too, that they do not voluntarily go into it. While we pray – ‘Lead us not into temptation;’ and keep ourselves off its domains, we shall be kept. But what if we put ourselves on Satan’s ground? We shall stumble there assuredly.
16. ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.’
Vain is the attempt to sanctify the world. It holds in all things with its fallen Prince
and Ruler, and the world continues the perverse generation, unchanged to the
close. But these were drawn out of it,
and needed keeping, lest they anew should be swept into its
Christ’s attitude then toward the world is to be ours also. He had not the spirit of the world, and sought not its praises or its prizes. Neither then should the Christian. Jesus ruled not the world; nor pursued after its wealth or pleasures. Neither then should the Christian. The regenerate of the Spirit are born again, to the intent that they should stand aloof from the world which knows not God. The sons of God are not the seed of the serpent.
17. ‘Sanctify them by Thy truth. Thy word is truth.’
This brings before us by contrast the ancient Mosaic sanctification. That was of the flesh, cleansing by bathing in water, and by the water of sprinkling. The priests were to be sanctified by blood, and water, and oil. These were the shadows of the sanctification in spirit and truth. As John observes, ‘Law came by Moses, grace and truth by Jesus Christ.’ The worship of God, now made known by His Gospel-name, demands the inward reality. There must be the being begotten of God by the Spirit, and the birth out of the water of baptism. The new life begun must also be fed with the truth of God, the sincere milk of the Word.
Here is the positive aspect of the case. There must be God’s preservation against danger. This is effected instrumentally by the word of God, as David says – ‘By the words of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer’ (Psalm 17: 4).
The life begun needs new food. The principles and commands of Christ are to supersede and set aside the old principles and way of the flesh and the world. We must know what God designs us to do, how to walk so as to please Him, whither we are going, what our heritage, what the objects we are to pursue.
separation from wickedness in heart and life. The men of the
world flow on in the world’s current, use its maxims, and act after its
ways. It is a world of falsehood. God shows us by His Scripture the truth
concerning the world; how it is a place of foes, and of falsehood. Hence it leads us to avoid the evil. The world is unholy. To be
holy we must turn away from its current.
Better objects must rule us. Evil
seen frightens us. God’s call has
authority with us. We see in His word, and in examples round about us the present mischiefs of worldliness.
We behold in the Saviour’s teachings the disastrous effects of it in the
day to come. See the difference between
The more truth we accept, the greater is our separation from the world. Each new portion of Christ’s truth suggests new reasons for standing apart from the evil that is around us. But sanctification does not mean separation from God’s people, the members of the Son of God. Many have come, indeed, through the false principles taught, to value themselves on separation from believers. And they have spoken and acted, as if believers who held any one wrong principle were to be separated from. Such was not Paul’s teaching, or our Lord’s mind. Do not accept false doctrine at their hands; but do them all the good you can. While partially in error, they are really sons of God. Love and help them! Their errors call for your teaching them the truth; not for your fleeing from them, as if they were the seed of the serpent.
‘But how can I associate with those who hold the non-eternity of punishments, those who sprinkle infants, who deny the Lord’s coming, and the Christian’s heavenly calling?’
Does God call us to separate from believers - members of Christ, because some of their views are erroneous? Never! Did Paul stand aloof from Corinthian believers, because there were false doctrine and evil practice? Does he refuse to own the Galatian Christians, because of their error on the foundation-point of justification? If so, we ought not to have fellowship with ‘Brethren,’ because they, too, in general, are wrong on justification: denying the righteousness of the Lord Jesus to be ours.
The way in which many justify
themselves in it is to ask – ‘Are we not to abstain
from evil?’ God calls
you to depart from iniquity: He does not
use so indefinite a word as ‘evil.’ But God’s
people are not evil, and to hold intercourse with them is not to commit
iniquity. Nor are you guilty of
their errors, if you hold
fellowship with them: else Paul was
verily guilty in his intercourse with
Intelligence of truth is only to be learned from Scripture. Each new portion of truth accepted makes us more like God, more unlike the world. The world feeds on the things of the earth, and present objects and hopes; it seeks them, too, by means condemned by God. The more men drink into its spirit and accept its principles, the more unfit are they to live with God, and His Christ; the greater enmity do they bear to those who are His sons. Hence John says‑ ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are of the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ He says not, ‘there can be no love of God as Creator.’ But the more the world is loved, and the more any draws near to the character and life of this world, the more opposed is he to a life and objects of faith, and to promises which refer to heaven.
Holiness, then, is produced through the Scriptures applied by the Holy Ghost. The pleasures and the engagements taught in the Scriptures, will more and more make us out of tune with the pleasures of the world. He whose delight is in prayer and the Word of God, will neither delight in card-playing, or dancing, or the theatre. Seek, then, to advance in the knowledge of God, as taught by His word. Read and study the Scriptures by the Spirit of God. And if so, you will keep away from those books which would unfit your mind for Scripture. None ever, after novel reading, sat down to enjoy the Gospels or Epistles. The novel sets false views, false hopes, and often wickedness before the mind; leads men to covet earth, and to pursue it as their hope. Stand aloof, then, from the unholy world and its books! Cleave to God!
Where is truth to be found?
Here the ancients wandered to and fro till reduced to despair till Pilate could sneeringly inquire, where much-talked of truth could be met with.
But God in His Word has given to us sacred oracles which distinctly inform us where this jewel, more precious than rubies, can be found. (1) Jesus is ‘the truth;’ none comes to the Father but through Him. (2) The Holy Spirit is ‘the Spirit of truth’ (14: 6, 17). (3) And now the Scripture is given us as the depository of truth. ‘Thy word is truth.’ And truth sanctifies. While error makes a man careless of his words and his ways, and renders him insensible of sin in its effects present and to come, the truths of God’s book open our eyes to the evil of much that the world calls ‘innocent.’ As Israel was to keep aloof from the wicked, guilty nations of Canaan, lying under judgment, so is the Christian to keep away from the world’s pursuits; for it, too, is opposed to his God; and is lying under the wrath of God, together with its prince, although it is being respited awhile in grace.
‘Sanctify them by Thy truth.’ As referred to mail the sinner, sanctification is a turning him from the evil of the world, and of his own fallen heart, to love and obey God. For the world is unholy in its will, which is contrary to God’s; and in its ways, which are the expression of its will. The separation of old to Jehovah was the purification of the flesh by water, blood, oil, circumcision, and so on; in order to bring them out from the Gentile idolatries and abominations around. But now it is effected in the spirit and conscience, by the acceptance of the truth.
Now sanctification is spoken of as the Father’s work. Under Moses it was spoken of as something within their own reach. ‘Sanctify yourselres!’ The truth is the Father’s truth. It is that new line of revelation which springs out of the new name of God, and His discovery of Himself in His Son. Hence, as truth is the means of sanctification, it is called ‘the holiness of the truth,’ Eph. 4: 24 (Greek). God first enlightens the understanding in the principles of His truth, and then leads the heart to follow them.
There were different degrees of un-holiness and uncleanness
So there was something peculiarly
unclean; an idol. So, even in
The new revelation of our Lord Jesus rules that the spirit and conscience now are ‘the man.’ It begins by setting right the soul; turning it from enmity to love to God, and taking away the sins of the past life by the blood of the Great Sacrifice. It buries in the grave of the waters the flesh; on the cleansing of which Moses expended his strength. It is corrupt and dead! The Christian is to account himself dead thereto.
There is first the acceptance of the first elements of saving truth. Then the soul has moved across the gulf which severs the spiritually alive from those spiritually dead. And God has provided a new birth, to mark the new life communicated by His Spirit - the invisible wind - which breathes where it lists.
For the world is the kingdom of the devil, the father of lies. He feeds it with false imaginations of the value and blessings of the things of time. He rules men by the false pictures of their lusts. He leads them from one broken cistern to another. The more any accepts the truths of God, especially as presented in the New Testament, the more is he led away from the devil and his deceits; the more are the men of the world estranged from him; the more does he find that the earth is not his rest, and his inheritance.
Now this is a gradual process, wrought by (1) the Holy Spirit as the Great Agent, (2) through the Scripture as the constantly accessible source, and (3) by means of the teachers, whom Christ raises up for the needs of His Church: while (4) the truth taught by the Spirit ranges almost wholly round the person of Christ, who declares Himself ‘the Truth.’
The Church, then, ought to be advancing in the knowledge and love of the truth. The more we know of God and His Christ, the farther ought we to be from the world which knows not the Lord; the more ought God’s people to be united among themselves in judgment and practice.
How far is this from being the case! In most assemblies of believers the teachers know but little, and the taught receive less. Most believers content themselves on principle with the first elements of the truth. Hence, the distinction between them and the world in principles, and practice is but small. Many are drawing nearer to it, instead of daily increasing the distance between themselves and it.
But in our day the Spirit of God has caused new truth to shine out from the pages of Scripture: new truth as to Christ, and the Christian’s standing, calling, duties, privileges, and hopes.
Hence there is a greater distance morally between Christians
who are accepting this truth, and those who are refusing it. Truth sanctifies; leads out from principles
and practices, the evil of which, but for those truths accepted, would not have
been seen, or abandoned. Ought the
ministry of the
It is a solemn thing for any believer to have presented to him, and enforced on his notice, a truth of Christ. Here is fresh food for the soul; here a new point of sanctification. If the truth of God in Christ accepted sanctifies, the refusal of that truth un-hallows; leads downward to the world instead of upwards to God. The reception or refusal of truth is the test of each. It tells what is in his heart. The evidence of truth would prevail at once in a right heart.
Light refused brings darkness; and we find Jesus rebuking even apostles, just as He is about to send them forth on His mission to the world; because of their unbelief, and hardness of heart in refusing the truth of the resurrection, offered to them by evidence so firm (Mark 16.).
Where fresh truth is refused by a believer, his growth is checked. He begins to hate the truth, and to speak against those who hold it, and are zealous for it. Sympathies are cut off, where all ought to be united in love.
Is there any truth now before you, my reader, which you are refusing? Some turn away from the command of baptism; and the truths of which it is the centre, and the door. They will not listen, they refuse to weigh the evidence. Some refuse the doctrine of reward according to works, and the seeking with zeal the prize set before us - the entry into the millennial kingdom (Phil. 3.) Some do not decide at all. They do not search the Scriptures, to see what they say thereon. They are waiting. They are expecting to be taught, by some special revelation to themselves, which never comes. Enquire of them after years of tarrying what think they? You will find they are as undecided as ever.
Does not Scripture teach the truth clearly in this case? Certainly! It is given, that the man of God may be perfect. Is it not promised, that on the single eye the Lord will send the abundance of light? How is it then, that they have it not? - Because their eye is not single. Because they do not seek, and so do not find. They have heard the truth much spoken against, they have spoken against it themselves; and so are not willing, candidly and diligently, to weigh the Scripture proofs thereof.
Have Christians now the ancient gifts of the Spirit? Does each believer possess them at once on believing? Can they ordinarily be had, if there are no apostles? If we have them, the Brethren and their worship and ministry are right in the main. If we have them not, they are wrong in those points which are the basis of their system: on points in which they differ from other Christians. Cannot these questions be decided by Scripture? Surely! And easily. Shall we prefer truth or error?
If the Spirit of God has been bringing truth to light, the enemy, the world’s master, has been furbishing up old errors as if they were new truths. What zeal has been expended in asserting the non-eternity of the punishment of the lost! What earnestness in teaching Englishmen that they are Jews!
Now the effect of these errors is to hinder the Spirit of God, to load away from discerning the true character of God, and from the Word of God; and to lead the soul back to the world, its hopes, and joys. As truth makes holy, so error makes unholy. The soul fed with pure truth, and accepting each new phase of it given in the Scripture, grows in intelligence, confidence towards God, and heavenly-mindedness. The soul that is refusing truth is hindered in its course, stunted in its growth, turned more or less towards the flesh and the world.
But what if the soul be habitually fed with falsehood? What if one turn to fiction, as one’s solace and joy?
This sort of food insensibly leads to the world, fills the imagination with worldly hopes, and leads away from joy and delight in God and Christ.
But what if the soul feeds on religious error? It is more and more led to dislike the Scripture, the God which the Scripture describes, and the hopes which it sets before the mind. Error makes unholy, and opens the way to the wickedness of the heart, in forms which vary according to the shape of the error imbibed. And as God’s truth leads the renewed man to love the children of God, so error received raises up barriers of enmity and contempt.
But it may be said – ‘As the result of all this - If sanctification be separation from evil, are you not thus proving the doctrine which you deny - that the enlightened Christian is warranted in separating from the Christian who is in error?’
Can we decide this point by scripture? Certainly!
The Lord Jesus teaches the union of all believers; enforces it, prays for it earnestly. They are God’s elect, given Him by the Father, objects of His delight, prayer, joy. We are to ‘endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace’ (Eph. 4: 3). This is to continue, ‘till all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to the measure of the nature of the fulness of the Christ’ (13).
Are we then to sever ourselves from the fellowship of believers, because, together with truths which associate them with God as sons, and with the Son of God as very members of His body, they hold this, that, and the other error?
And the answer is clear enough. The Holy Spirit teaches us that the most entire affection should reign between the members of the body of the Christ. God’s design is, that there should be no schism, no severance between them; even as in the natural body each part plays into the other, and all conspire to one end. Now partial error answers to disorder of various kinds in the members of the natural body. It is only allowable to cut off any for open moral evil, distinctly named in 1 Cor. 5. Neither Jesus nor Paul ever called on any believers to sever themselves from individual believers, or from his assemblies, because of error of doctrine found in them.
There is one body from which all believers are called to sever
themselves, and that is the world. Paul would sever believers
from men, when they begin to blaspheme the truth; and the
18, 19. ‘As Thou hast sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they may also be sanctified in truth.’
The Saviour has spoken of the Apostles before, in relation to their being left in the world, while He is away. But He now shows wherefore they are not to be taken out of the world. It is - for one great reason - because they are to act upon the world for its good. They are to occupy, upon Christ’s leaving the earth, the position of lights in the world; instructing it by word and life what God is, and what is the way to Him.
Jesus, on leaving the world, tells the Father of His doing all in His power to further His Father’s designs. He gives the disciples His own position toward the world; and also toward the Father; which is better far.
Disciples, then, are not only left in the world, but sent into it; with a mission from Christ to do His work, as He did the Father’s. And it is in reference to this that Jesus sends them, and will require an account of them at last whether they did aught, and how they did it. Thus we see in Matthew’s parables of the Steward and the Talents, that the Master receives at His coming an account, and gives sentence concerning them; not whether they are converted or hypocrites, but whether as servants they have done their errand. May the Lord enable us to meet that account, and depart from it with joy!
The nineteenth verse is one of considerable difficulty. ‘I sanctify Myself.’ How could Jesus, if He had no sin,
sanctify Himself? This thought of
sanctification naturally arises from our sinfulness. To us who are sinful, sanctification is
mainly and primarily a putting away of sin, as the way to holiness. The
‘I sanctify Myself.’ The expression ‘sanctify’
refers in the Old Testament to the offering in sacrifice. So God bids
Now, in one view, Jesus could say (as in chapter 10: 36), that the Father had already sanctified Him, and sent Him into the world. In that He had perfectly fulfilled the Father’s will. But He is about to offer up Himself as a sacrifice; and to this, I apprehend, the Saviour refers. He, in dying, designates beforehand the intent of His death. He consecrates His offering, to present it to God. Thus He rises above the previous consecrations. Consecration of old was something coming from without. ‘Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn’ (Ex. 13: 2). ‘Sanctify yourselves, and come with Me to the sacrifice’ (1 Sam. 16: 5). The service of God demanded a peculiar preparation, not required by ordinary business. Jesus, then, aware of all, devotes Himself to the arduous trial by fire of Himself as the sacrifice. So the Passover-lamb was sanctified; first by its being singled out of the herd, and then kept by itself four days ere it was slain. But bulls and goats knew not of their destination. The Saviour knows of and accepts the Father’s purpose in His death.
‘In order that they also may be sanctified in truth.’ The atonement effected by this sacrificial consecration of Himself is the foundation of our becoming holy.
(1) In one view, Jesus’ perfect sanctification before the Father is our sanctification also. Jesus is made of God unto us ‘sanctification’ as well as ‘righteousness’ (1 Cor. 1: 30). ‘For their sakes,’ who are My disciples; not for ‘the consecration of humanity,’ as it is sometimes put. We can be sanctified; for Christ has atoned for sin by His death; for indwelling sin, no less than for visible acts of transgression. Sin once put away by the sacrifice of Christ, holiness can come in. This was the intent of Christ’s death. By virtue thereof His people will at last be completely sanctified. Christ’s work and death are the pledge to God that sanctification shall be completed at last.
Jesus desires their sanctification ‘in truth;’ that is, in opposition to the ceremonial holiness of the Law. Thus John is confirming his statement in the preface to his Gospel that, while Law with its shadows came by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. ‘Sanctified in truth.’ Not ‘through the truth’ in this place. ‘That they also may be sanctified’ stands in beautiful opposition to the ‘sanctify yourselves’ of Law. That was a righteous call and demand of God in the days of Law. For Law reckoned on the flesh as bound to furnish, and promising to furnish, all that the Lord required. But now came ‘grace by Jesus Christ;’ and so, as flesh is empty of good and full of evil, not justification only, but sanctification, too, is part of God’s work for the saved in Christ. It is a sanctification ‘in truth,’ as opposed to the hallowing of the flesh by circumcision, by the blood of bulls and the ashes of a heifer, which left the real man in spirit entirely evil before God. Saul was outwardly hallowed to God as king, through the anointing oil poured by the prophet on his head; but when tried in the inward man he failed more and more, till the Lord put him away altogether, and cut him off in His displeasure.
While, however, in the great commencement of holiness, the believer is passive, yet he is actively to seek to be holy. And life is a training to this end; and the troubles, trials, persecutions, temptations of life, are God’s exercises of graces.
20. ‘But I pray not for these alone, but for those that shall believe on Me through their word.’
The Saviour now passes over from the twelve to the results of
their testimony. He supposes (what is so
true), that faith throughout the world, and throughout the time of His absence,
would arise out of the testimony of the twelve witnesses especially chosen by
Himself and His Father. He confidently
looks through the dark clouds of unbelief in
Faith is to be faith ‘in Himself.’ He is the new and great object of faith. His death and resurrection is the new work of God presented to the world, which is the test that discriminates between the evil generation and the sons of God by faith. These gracious words, then, of our Lord embrace us also. He prayed for us who believe. Though oft and severely assailed, our faith shall not utterly fail. Thus, too, the ministers of the Gospel who have succeeded to the apostles, to bear to other generations apostolic testimony, are recognised. Faith is produced, not by argument, but by testimony. ‘By their word.’ The Lord be praised that we have their written words in our hands still! This is the foundation of Christian faith - the apostles’ words. By them we believe. By the same means also, faith is to be confirmed. How does faith in our most holy religion grow? By the Gospels and Epistles more and more accepted, believed, studied, loved. How is it that the faith of many is of so frail a structure? Because apostles’ words are so little known and studied. Because writings of this world draw away the heart.
All true faith rests on the testimony of the apostles, whose word Jesus thus countersigns, as thoroughly to be accepted. The word is His. It is not only their attestation to the facts of the Lord Jesus’s life, but also the deductions therefrom, in the way of doctrine and command. And all we know now of apostles’ teaching or of inspired disciples, is found written. The New Testament alone is the true foundation of faith. Hence where the Scriptures are taken away, true faith is not found. Faith, if true, does not rest on the word of man, but of God. Faith in God’s word delivered by inspired men is faith in God.
21. ‘That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou has sent Me.’
Profound, indeed, and full of grace are these simple words. Jesus desires the unity of His followers. A unity wrought out of so great diversity as that subsisting between Jew and Gentile, white and black, learned and ignorant, rulers and servants, young and old, male and female, is most glorifying to God. It is His Spirit of oneness which overcomes the diversities of the flesh. Under the Law, God was dividing between Jew and Gentile - a middle wall of partition fenced off one from the other. Now, God is glorified in the unity of His people. The flesh and Satan divide; Christ unites. But very wonderful is the character of the union described as Christ’s design. Unity, like that which subsists between the Father and the Son!
‘That they may be one in us.’ How are we to understand that? I am inclined to suppose, that it speaks of the unity as that of the great family of sons with Christ the Son. ‘That they should be one in us’ is not quite the same as ‘one with us,’ though obedient believers become partakers of the divine nature. This is Peter's testimony (2 Pet. 1: 4), ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ But here we must move reverently; and I should be glad in this, as in other points, to receive more of God’s light. Who can fancy that he has attained to full knowledge of any part of God’s truth? Such a one ‘knows nothing yet as he ought to know.’
‘One in us’ seems to show, that Christ is speaking of the union of believers with Himself, rather than among themselves.
‘That the world may believe that Thou host sent Me.’
Outward uniformity, such as obtained under Moses, is all that that portion of the world which calls itself by Christ’s name, seeks, or is able to offer, as a substitute for unity of the spirit. The unity of the disciples in God, and among themselves, is a something desirable in itself, as springing from love. But the Saviour puts it as a means to a further end, connected with their mission and testimony. He would make the unity of His disciples a convincing proof to the world of His mission. The worldly are not given to investigate moral and spiritual questions; they have neither ability nor will, nor care for such trifles, or ‘fooleries,’ as they think them. But the moral evidence is mighty even with those who gainsay or scoff at it. Unity, then, the unity of love among the children of God, is a new spectacle in this world of strife, and discord, and hatred. ‘See how these Christians love one another,’ was an evidence of striking force to the heathen; and by it the Christian faith not only gained a hearing, but prevailed and spread.
On the contrary, nothing is more commonly alleged against the truth by unbelievers, as cutting short all investigation of the truth, or releasing them from any obligation to believe it, than strife. ‘0, they are always quarrelling among themselves!’ And the many divisions into which the Christian camp is severed, weaken greatly the moral effect of the truth. But infidels, in so objecting, only lend weight to the divine foresight of Christ, Who, long ere the appearance of the Christian Church as His witness to the world, laid such stress on their unity, and its exhibition, as a power to load souls to Himself.
Unity of life and walk depends on unity of faith. And faith rests on what God has now said through His inspired disciples.
‘That they all may be one.’ The severance which God made under Moses between Jewish flesh and Gentile flesh is here cast down. Oneness of spirit through faith has come in instead. ’Tis sad, that men will seek to rear up new walls of their own, where God has thrown down His own dividing wall. How evil are sects in God’s eyes! How contrary to the oft-expressed desire of our Lord!
Does the unity here spoken of refer to the (1) unity of believers one with the other? or (2) to their oneness with Christ, and with the Father through Him? This latter would seem the true sense, because it is the only one which has been realised. The idea of ‘the universal brotherhood of all men’ in Christ is a vain deceit. Unbelief is disunion from God.
What shall we say then? That this prayer of Christ has failed? The unity of the disciples among themselves has indeed failed, and with it the testimony to Jesus’s mission arising out of that unity. But the union of the true members of Christ to their divine Head has not failed. Therefore, this, I think, must be the sense here.
22, 23. ‘And I have given to them the glory which Thou gayest Me, that they may be one, as We are one. I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in one, that the world way know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.’
‘One, as we are.’ Are we not reminded of the Lord’s words at the beginning?-‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ The man as first created was good, but this new man how far better! (Eph. 4: 22-24).
This perfect unity with Christ, and with God through Him, will be seen in part in millennial days; and the world’s belief will be conquered. But it will be by glory, not by grace. And the full consummation will not be reached till the eternal state; when the saved who are not accounted worthy of reward shall at length enter on eternal glory, through the grace of God’s election.
What is this glory which Christ has
given to disciples? A glory already
granted by the Father? I think it refers
to the lustre which belongs to
Christ as the Only Begotten Son. ‘They shall shine as the sun’ in the eternal glory with
Christ, even as the risen Christ shone to the eyes of the beloved disciple in
We are even now in Christ oil high, and Christ is in us below now (Eph. 2.). But this passage speaks, if I mistake not, of a day to come, when the oneness of the members with Christ the Head will be made manifest. Christ shows Himself now as the link with God. ‘I in them.’ Christ’s prayer stops not short of its final end - glory. Grace is good, but it is but the way to glory as the end.
Our fellowship with the Father is through the Son. This speaks of a time when the unity which now is so disturbed and broken by the various hindering influences of the flesh, the world, and the devil, shall have past; and the deeper unity arising out of a renewed nature, and oneness with God in Christ - even the Sonship of God, the privilege of believers now - shall be completed, and manifested to others, as well as enjoyed by themselves.
‘Perfected in one.’ To this end the various gifts of Christ, as apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, in God’s scheme, are tending; until at length the body of Christ in its full stature, according to the intent of the Most High, shall have been reached (Eph. 4.)
The fencing off of some believers from other believers accepted of God in Christ, constitutes a sect. Demanding terms of communion other than those of Christ’s appointment, is sectarian. Jesus orders the collection of all diamonds, the rejection of all flints. There is the line of demarcation; the enclosed within it are God’s true unity. But many disciples like not anything so wide as that. They want polished diamonds, not rough ones; they seek intelligent Christians, not ignorant ones; sound Christians, holding no error. Let us stand by the counsel of God!
Then shall at length all failure be excluded, when God shall take the matter wholly into His hand. When believers enjoy the promised glory fully, the world shall know the reality of the Saviour’s mission; their senses themselves will convey the satisfactory proof.
‘And that Thou hast loved them as Thou hast
This last verse looks onward to the time of millennial perfection; when the wicked being all removed by judgment, the glory of Christ, both personal and official, shall shine forth. For with grace is connected glory. ‘We have approach by faith into the grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory’ to come (Rom. 5: 2). The Father has given to Jesus the glory of the millennial kingdom, and to it we are called: to obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus (1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 2: 14; 2 Tim. 2: 10). Then the unity of Christ’s body will be begun to be manifested, although its completion is deferred, till grace comes in after ‘the day of judgment.’ After all the ransomed of Christ’s Church are gathered in, the whole will be completed in one, according to the pattern of the human body, to which it is compared in 1 Corintliians 12.
Then the world will know that the Father sent the Son; for
the world walks by sight, not by faith; and then will be seen the glory
attached to our present calling. As yet the
sons of God are not manifested. They have great privileges and inheritances,
which during this, the time of their education, do not appear. In consequence,
the world does not believe in the great things of which they speak. But when men see the ransomed of the Church
shining in heavenly brightness, and dwelling over in the presence of God, kings
and priests before Him in the city of His building, they will be constrained to
confess, by its visible results, the reality of the mission of Jesus. Just as the nations of Canaan were compelled
to own the mission of Moses, when the conquering arm of Joshua laid low their
walls, opened a path through their river, and divided their lands among the
people led out of
Do not fall, reader, into the usual mistake of supposing, that all the saved belong to ‘the Church;’ and that all the saved have the same standing and privileges. Our God delights in variety.
And the training and standing of the several bodies of the
saved have been very different: as that of the Patriarchs, of those under the
Law of Moses, and those under the Gospel.
These diversities look onward to eternal differences among the
redeemed. This verse is in part
explained, if we look to John’s other great work - the Apocalypse. There we see at the close two great bodies;
the dwellers in the Eternal City of God, and ‘the
nations’ who dwell outside (Rev. 21., 22.) They answer to the world now.
They occupy a position far inferior to the saved ones risen from the
dead, who have their mansions in the city of
In the earlier days of Moses, the jealousy and pride of the flesh prompted men of Israel to think that they had as good a right to be leaders and priests as Moses or Aaron; and Jehovah was obliged to guard His appointments with severity; cutting off in indignation by miracle those who refused to own the differences He had made. But in those days, when none shall enter into the new world but those written in the book of life, no such jealousy shall arise; nor shall any rebellious ones among the saved attempt to wrest by violence for themselves what God has put out of their reach.
24. ‘Father, I will, as it regards what Thou gavest Me, that where I am, they may be with Me, that they may behold My glory, which Thou gavest Me; for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.’
Two different significations may be given to the Greek word which we translate ‘will.’ Some would render it ‘I will,’ some ‘I wish.’ ‘I will’ is much stronger. But though both senses resemble one another, the stronger sense seems to me the best. For Jesus is now, as about to die, disposing of His effects by His last will – ‘the New Testament’ - a better than that of Moses. It is by virtue of His legacy to us that we enjoy, and shall enjoy, the salvation of God. So He says to apostles – ‘I appoint unto you, as My Father hath appointed to Me, a kingdom.’ [See, Luke 22:29.] There the word used is that especially suited to a bequest by will.
As the testator, in making his will, trusts that his executors will faithfully carry out his wishes founded on his lawful claims, so Jesus trusts His Righteous Father to fulfil all His wishes.
For the elect are God’s gift to Him; and now, when leaving the world by death, He intimates to His Father how He would have them disposed of. The elect are God’s gift to Christ. In that view they are passive. God wrote their names, ages ere the world began, in the Lamb’s Book of Life. He has all power over the sons of men to dispose of them at His will. If He leaves them to themselves, they perish. If He has chosen them, they shall certainly be saved; they will certainly choose Christ. Our passiveness in the hands of Almighty Grace is a joyful subject of contemplation.
Jesus would have His elect finally set by His side. At present in this day of grace we are
changing into the spiritual image of Christ, though, in point of locality, we
are far from Him. But then, in the
eternal day of glory, of which Jesus spoke in the previous verse – ‘we shall be ever with the Lord.’ Heaven were devoid of its chief bliss, if the
Saviour, our Redeemer, object of our worship, service, love, were not there. Jesus is now in a special place. He is not a naked spirit,
but possessed of a risen body in the heaven of heavens. Some people speak as if heaven were a state,
and no place. This is a
mistake, arising out of the forgetfulness or denial of our taking up again our
bodies in resurrection. Jesus will lead
to the Father the sons whom He is educating now at a distance from Himself, in
order that they may dwell with Him in His city for ever. God our Father has ‘predestinated
us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto (or for) Himself.’ Or, as our Lord says in the prophets – ‘Behold, I and the children whom God bath given
With what intent?
‘That they may behold My
glory.’ The worthy object of our contemplation
will be all the perfections, personal and official, of the Son of God. Others desire friends whom they love to come
and see them, their house and grounds, their family, and the beauties of their
neighbourhood. But Jesus’ self is the
one great object. The vision of Him will
change us into the same image, as the glory of God on
This word of Christ may remind us of Moses’ desire to see the Lord’s glory, as the Mediator under the Law (Ex. 33: 18-23). He was informed of the impossibility of seeing the fall blaze of it, without (as a sinner meeting his deserts) being struck by death. But God did not give him of his eternal glory. How vastly superior the Gospel to the Law! Here the saved of grace are to behold - as their portion in eternity - the glory of their Mediator, and to partake it in common with Him!
Only those given by the Father to the Son will thus be with Him.
‘My glory.’ Jesus, as the Eternal Son of God, had ever glory, as ‘the image of His Father’ answering to all His perfections, just as the impression answers to the seal, or as the light streaming from the sun’s body expresses what is the nature of the sun. This is the glory belonging to our Lord by His essence.
But there is also a glory by gift from the Father. The two natures of Christ appear in this and several other passages. ‘Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever.’ ‘0 God, Thy God hath anointed Thee, with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows’ (Heb. 1: 8, 9).
This glory now bestowed on Christ was the result of the Father’s love, being apparently the result of the Son’s perfect work as the Mediator. So Jacob gave to his son Joseph, as a proof of his love, a coat of many colours. So Jonathan, as a token of his love to David, stripped himself of his garments, his bow, and girdle.
‘For Thou lovedest Me before the foundation of the world.’
Those who would cut down the glories of Christ to the smallest possible space, allow only that the Father’s love of Christ was destined for Him from all eternity, just as it might be in the case with any one of God’s chosen, as Abraham or David. But here Jesus speaks of a glory which He possessed before the world’s foundation; a glory springing from the Father’s good pleasure and delight in the Son, who was ‘in the beginning with God.’
25. ‘0 Righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee (but I know Thee), and these have known that Thou Last sent Me.’
That opening phrase is full of wonderful wisdom and knowledge –
‘Righteous Father!’ It is a combination of
words supposing perfections found in union in God, and in Him alone. It is a combination of justice and of love in God; a
combination never seen or stated before by man. The Old Testament and the mission of Moses
were destined to show God as the God of righteousness or justice, and to
impress the fear of Him on
God is the Righteous Father of Christ, and the Saviour welcomes both these perfections; both righteousness and mercy. The Father was ‘just’ in exacting the debt from our Great Surety after He had taken it on Himself. He is now ‘just’ in bestowing eternal life on believers. He is ‘just’ in shutting out the world from eternal life.
The absence of this knowledge of God’s double perfection caused the Jew to stumble at a Messiah slain. How, if God be righteous and Jesus were also righteous, could the Son of Man be slain? The Jews condemned the Son, because they knew not the righteousness of God as the Judge; or the righteousness which God has in grace provided, through Christ’s finished work, for the sinner. So great and severe was the judicial righteousness of God, that He would not spare His own Son when He became surety for sinners, although He spared Abraham’s son to Abraham. So blessed is God’s provided righteousness, that the worst of sinners, clad in it, is saved!
Jesus beheld in His Father, and adores, this combination of perfect righteousness and perfect love. To see this, and accept it, is to know the Gospel, to know God, to be saved!
The world knew not this.
One may often hear in the prayers of Christians the phrase, ‘Indulgent Father.’ But God never so calls Himself. His justice is never trodden down, or thrust aside, by His mercy. If God justify the sinner it must be as the Judge, who is just even in justifying (or pronouncing righteous) the soul that believes in Jesus (Rom. 3.)
The world’s plan of salvation is neither justice nor mercy. Man is to present some good works to God, as the price of his salvation. But as he is still a sinner, justice must be thrust back from its full claims, in order to allow him to be saved. The Fatherhood of God must bid His righteousness wink hard, and let the culprit go by!
After ‘the world hath not known Thee,’ we naturally expect – ‘but these have known Thee.’ But Jesus sublimely puts Himself first. The apostles had known the Father only as their faint knowledge was derived from the perfect knowledge of the Son. Before Jesus had laid on Him the burthen of our sin, with what marvellous confidence does He speak!
‘The world knows Thee not.’ Jesus does not add, ‘but will one day know Thee.’ The Jew set up his own righteousness before ‘the Righteous Father,’ only to be rejected. He rejects the righteousness of God, which would bring him out from under Law; only to be condemned as the sinner by Moses, in whom he trusts. What is the effect of God’s justice when judging the world? He condemns it all, Jewish and Gentile; as the first chapters of Romans tells us. ‘The righteousness of God’ saves the believer; for Christ is His righteousness, and God can pronounce righteous only those who are found in the Great Surety.
Jesus distinguishes always between ‘the
world’ and ‘His own.’ He puts Himself between the two; and thus is like the Presence-cloud
Jesus beholds His Father’s righteousliess, not only in the grace which crowns Him meritoriously as the result of His work, but also in the death to which the Father delivered Him up.
In the 25th verse our Lord beforehand defends His confidence in the great things He anticipates for Himself and his saved ones from His Father. The Jews condemned Him as worthy to die a cursed death, because of blasphemy. He asserts Himself to be the Beloved of the Father. Whence arises this mighty gulf between the two? Jesus explains. It was because of their ignorance of His Father. ‘The world hath not known Thee.’ He trusts, then, the sentence of the Righteous Father, as that which shall make manifest on whose side is the truth. And that sentence came in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. For He was the first so to rise. As the result of the conflict between the Jews on the one hand, and Jesus and His disciples on the other, the Righteous God His Father would undertake His cause. Wherefore He boldly beforehand proclaims His trust, which is confirmed by the issue. Our Lord entrusts all His commissions, not merely to the mercy of the Father, but to His righteousness. ‘He will do’ all that the Son has asked Him; for He has asked only what is His due, and what is for the glory of the Father to grant.
Out of this will spring (1) the
The world in our day is teaching God’s Fatherhood, as a something which embraces all men; and as proving that God cannot, as a Judge, condemn the wicked to hell-fire. God’s Fatherhood is made to swallow up His righteousness. But Jesus holds and teaches both perfections. God is to Him the ‘Righteous Father.’ As God is a Father, He is love to His elect. But as God is righteous, He is ‘the consuming fire’ (Heb. 12: 29).
This the Saviour sublimely announces, just at that solemn moment when the Father was exacting of Him the payment of the debts of His saved ones. There is no salvation for us in any other way; because no forgiveness could be had from justice and Law by anything short of the shedding of the blood of the Son. ‘The soul that sins shall die.’ Jesus’ obedience, then, to Law in full perfection through His whole life, had not sufficed. Hence, with frequency and with emphasis, the New Testament insists on the death of Christ as our deliverance; and especially on His blood as our redemption. Without that, God’s righteousness and truth, as the Law-Giver and Governor of the world, had not been met; and God would not have given salvation. Though a Father, and willing to forgive, it must be in full consistency with His righteousness. That difficulty overcome, the grace of the Father can flow forth freely, fully, eternally, to all those who accept the sacrifice of our Great High Priest, offered to God in order to take away (or cover) sin. The world has not known and will not believe this, though God and His Christ testify it. What a proof that such a scheme never sprang from man! What springs from man, man can understand. It savours of his imperfections. But here is God in His perfection of righteousness and of mercy; yet a perfection refused alike by Jew and Gentile, by rabbi and by philosopher.
In this phrase, then, of the Saviour – ‘Righteous Father’ - see an antidote to the great delusion of the day; which expresses itself in the text – ‘God is love’ - applied, not (as John applies it) to believers, God’s elect, who accept this God of righteousness and mercy; but to all men: while it leaves out and is ready to deny the answering truth testified in that same epistle, ‘God is righteous’ (1 John 1: 9; 2: 29). The same truth is more signally testified in those words, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.’
Jesus knows and has known from eternity this Father in His righteousness, and can trust Him even now when He is going down as a sacrifice to justice, into the valley of death. Christ abates none of His confidence in the Father, even in that distressing moment. He who led Him down to death could not, by virtue of His righteousness, leave Him there. Death in seizing this ‘Jesus the Righteous’ could not hold Him. The Father would prove Him the Son of God, by raising Him from the dead. Our Lord, through all the darkness of the surrounding cloud, sees the hand of His Father, and submits in full confidence to the surrender of life. Of this aforetime God gave a type, in the self-surrender of Isaac to the knife of His Father, Abraham.
‘And these have known that Thou sentest Me.’
The knowledge or the ignorance of Jesus as the Son, is the point of severance between the world and the church. Observe, reader, how remarkably Christ puts Himself between the two parties, as that which causes the difference between them. The world knows not the Father, because it knows not the Son. It knows not the ‘Righteous Father,’ because it sees not the Son as the Sacrifice; bearing the sin of the world in order to atone, and to introduce us to the knowledge of the perfect Father. God is not known by those who know not Christ as the Eternal Son, sent out from the bosom of the Father in order to declare Him. This makes the doctrine of the Trinity an essential thing in our religion. The doctrine of salvation through a Divine Mediator’s atonement for sinners, is necessary to salvation. That was the great truth, which Jesus testified, and against which, as this Gospel testifies, the Jews fought, till they slew Him Who bore witness thereto. But the Son could trust His Father. Against all the resistance and cavils of the Jews, against all the jeers of the unbelievers around the cross, even during the total eclipse, when the Father forsook Him; the Saviour is firm. Men regarded Jesus’ surrender to death, and the death by the cross, as a proof of His being an enthusiast, or an impostor. But our Lord here testifies that all those views and actions sprang from ignorance of ‘the Righteous Father,’ Who would soon undo His bonds, and prove that, instead of being a blasphemer, who ought to be put to death by Law as a male factor, He was the beloved Son; who knew and could trust, against all contrary appearances, the will of His Righteous Father.
This difference of belief or unbelief in the Son of God, testified by the Most High, produces a different spiritual state now in the rejecters, and a different eternal lot to the two parties. As they who know the Righteous Father through the sacrifice of the Son, are to see the glory belonging to ‘the Only Begotten’ for ever; so the world, as refusing that testimony, must dwell in darkness; shut out from God and His Son for evermore.
26. ‘And I have made known to them Thy name, and will make it known, in order that the love wherewith Thou Last loved Me may be in them, and I in them.’
The knowledge of God’s name sprang out of the Saviour’s discovery of it to His apostles. Christ was persuaded, too - though now going down to dark death - that He should yet come up again, and tell anew and more fully the name of the Father to His disciples (Ps. 22: 23). This was fully carried out after the descent of the Holy Spirit as the instructor of the Church.
Such as our God is, such is our religion. True religion and right conduct can only follow from a true view of God. The worshippers of many gods cannot know the true God. And from ignorance of the truth of God, only evil can spring. The name of God is a condensed statement of the character of God; just as a well-chosen title to a book gives us a general glance at its contents. Jesus, then, came to make known to us the new name of God, as Father, Son, and Spirit.
To the Law of Moses belongs the name of God, as ‘Jehovah’ – ‘the Eternal, the self-subsisting One.’ To part of the patriarchal dispensation belongs the name of ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’
Our Lord, then, made known to disciples the true name of God, of which we boast. He testified to Himself as the Son sent by the Father on high. The Father in turn testified to Jesus as His Son (1) at His baptism, (2) on the Mount of Transfiguration, (3) on Jesus’ appeal noticed in the twelfth chapter of this Gospel, and (4) by His resurrection. This name, refused by the Jews even to their blaspheming both the Son and the Spirit, was accepted by the twelve, and is owned by us. Without it there is no Christian! He who owns not the name of God peculiar to the Christian dispensation, is no Christian.
‘That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them.’ This may take three senses, according as we regard ‘the love’ spoken of to be (1) God’s love to them, as members of His Beloved, being the same as His love to His Son; (2) or their love to the Son, as being in principle the same as that wherewith the Father regards the Son; (3) their love one towards another. Then He prays that that may be of the same kind as that of the Father towards His Son.
Love, not knowledge, is the last, the decisive point. We possess the love of the Father eternally, only as we are in the Son, and the Son in us. But this love and its resting place are not for all. It is not, ‘And I in all,’ but ‘And I in them.’ Simple words! But the meaning who can fathom? Eternity alone will disclose it!