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John 17:11-19 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 1 mins 44 secs

Mechanics of Spiritual Growth; John 17:11-19


Jesus begins to pray in verses 6-19 for the disciples and there is application of that to every church age believer. Then in verse 20 He shifts over to praying specifically for those who will believe. What is important here is that we see what Jesus is praying for. This tells us something about His priorities for our lives and what His scale of values is. We have to look here at what Jesus is praying to be accomplished in our lives and we have to see if that runs counter to what we want to have accomplished in our lives. Jesus is out to accomplish a goal in our lives and we are either going to be involved in trying to frustrate that goal or we are going to be operating in cooperation with that goal. This is why some believers have lives of misery, never seem to get anything done, and always repeat the same errors. It is because they are not concerned with the same things that God is concerned about for their particular life. Jesus' prayer here is for believers, not unbelievers.

John 17:11 NASB "I am no longer in the world; and {yet} they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, {the name} which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We {are.}" Jesus is stating here that He is in the world. It is important that we understand this word that will be used several times in this passage. It is the Greek word kosmos [kosmoj] and its primary meaning has to do with that which is an orderly, systematic arrangement. In this passage there are two different phrases: "in the world" and "of the world." Jesus uses the word here to refer to the physical environment of the earth and human society. But when He uses it in the sense "of the world" He is talking more about what we have defined as the cosmic system, the system of ideas, thoughts, philosophies, procedures and policies that are contrary to God's thinking. When we look at the entirety of the Scriptures from Genesis one to Revelation twenty-two what we have is called the mind of Christ. It is the thinking of Jesus Christ, and what we can extrapolate from every chapter, every passage of Scripture, is God's viewpoint on every issue of life. It may not discuss every detail but it certainly gives us the framework for evaluating everything. There is no field of endeavour left untouched by the Word of God. It provides the starting point, the framework, the basis, for thinking about everything. So the Bible expresses one unified view of everything.

So we have this contrast in this prayer between the cosmic system which is the environment of human thought which is antagonistic to God. There are two elements of cosmic thinking: a) it exemplifies a hatred or antagonism toward God and the truth of the Bible; b) it is based on arrogance. Man thinks that he has a better way just generating out from his own experience, his own thought, his own frame of reference, that he can come up with what he thinks is a more reasonable analysis of the situation and problem. What we have seen too many times is that he is too limited, he just doesn't know enough. Rationalism and empiricism cannot provide any source of basis for knowledge of truth. What happens is that throughout history there are these trends. We see it in philosophy. There will be an age where man thinks he has all the truth, then comes an age of scepticism where he can't find truth, can't know truth, and thinks there is no such thing as absolute truth, that everything is relative and we can't really know anything for sure. But people can't live like that.

That helps us to understand the vocabulary and the frame of reference for what Christ is praying for for every single believer in this prayer.

When He says "I am no longer in the world" He is speaking of the fact that on the next day He will be crucified and go to the grave. Three days later He will rise bodily from the grave, there would be over 500 witnesses to His resurrection so that no one could claim that it was just a subjective fabrication of the disciples. After forty days He ascends to heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father as our high priest. "They themselves," church age believers are going to remain in the world surrounded by human society and all of the various thought forms, philosophies and ideas of human viewpoint in the world system. "I come to You Holy Father." He addresses the Father in a unique way here: "Holy." This is from the Greek word hagios [a(gioj] which emphasises uniqueness, and the main idea is to be set apart, distinct or unique. Here Jesus emphasises the uniqueness of God, that he is set apart because of His holiness, because of His integrity, His absolute righteousness and perfect justice. So he focuses on the character of God right here and we need to remember that as a backdrop to understanding this prayer. "Keep them in thy name." Here we have the Greek word tereo [threw], an aorist imperative. It is interesting here that we have several requests. This is an imperative of request, it is not a command, it is not that God the Son is mandating or demanding something of God the Father. We have the preposition en [e)n] plus the dative, and this can indicate a number of things but in this context it indicates means. We have seen that the concept of name indicates all that a person is; it is to reflect the essence or the character of a thing. So when Jesus prays "Keep them in Your name" He is emphasising the fact that it is by means of God's character that the believers are kept. What did he just emphasise in terms of God's character? His holiness, His integrity, His perfect righteousness and justice. This takes us back to imagery of the ark of the covenant, that those two cherubs who looked down on the mercy seat—righteousness and justice—are satisfied by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, so that man's salvation is dependent not on his deeds, his ritual, church attendance and involvement, or any other human factor. It is based exclusively on God's character and that His righteousness and justice are satisfied, and when we trust Christ as our saviour we are saved at that instant. When Jesus prays this He emphasises the fact that our security as believers is based on who God is. Proverbs 18:10 NASB "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe." It is the character of God that preserves us, not our own character.

" … {the name} which You have given Me," indicating the same identical essence as the Father; "that they may be one even as We {are.}" So Christ is praying for our unity. But this is not the kind of unity that is often presented in the church today. In the Scriptures unity is not based on experience, it is not at the expense of doctrine; unity is always based on doctrine. We are positionally one, Romans 12:4, 5 NASB "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." This is our position at the instant of salvation, we are all unified positionally in one body. Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 4:4-7. So Jesus is praying for us to be unified in doctrine as well and that must imply that we are to study the Word of God. 

John 17:12 NASB "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name…" By means of His essence. This emphasises Jesus' role in eternal security. "… which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished…" apolluo [a)polluw] which means to perish eternally. "… but the son of perdition [noun form of a)polluw], so that the Scripture would be fulfilled." This indicates that Judas was the one who was lost because he had never put his faith alone in Christ alone. [13] "But now I come to You; and these things [the doctrines He taught] I speak in the world [in the presence of human society] so that they may have My joy made full in themselves." God promises every believer incredible joy. This isn't the kind of emotional, ecstatic happiness that we all know about, this is the kind of non-emotional, stable contentment that is marked by the fact that we have a relationship with God. We understand that God is in control of all things and so no matter bad things are, no matter how good things are, there is a level of stability in our lives because we are living on the basis of absolute truth. John 16:24 NASB "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." That indicates again that joy is the result of learning to apply doctrine.

John 17:14 NASB "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Once again the emphasis is on content, not experience: He has communicated doctrinal principles to them. There is a correlation. When we are living on the basis of divine viewpoint the world is going to reject you. The cosmic system is always antagonistic to the Word of God. "…because they are not of the world." Believers are not from the source of the cosmic system, they have been born again, are new creatures in Christ. They are now members of the family of God and there is a radical distinction between those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and those who are not, and this is part of an overall spiritual conflict in then heavenlies and so there will always be this antagonism between believers and the cosmic system that is Satan's system operational in the world today.

We must understand that worldliness is not what we do as much as how we think. It has to do with our norms and standards, our opinions, and if they do not line up with the Word of God then they are called worldliness. James 3:13 NASB "Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom." Wisdom in Scripture is always the application of doctrine. So James is going to give a criteria for whether we are really applying the Word or not. [14] "But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and {so} lie against the truth." He recognises the truth; there is one truth, not many truths. If you have arrogance and rejection of doctrine then you lie against the truth. [15] "This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic." This wisdom is really a false wisdom. It comes from the sphere of the earth, it comes from man, it is natural and comes from the soulish man who is not born again, and demonic. These are all related. [16] "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." Human viewpoint always collapses into dissention, antagonism, and ultimately implosion and fragmentation. [17] Contrast: "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." So we can use this as a benchmark evaluation tool to look at the thoughts in our own souls.

Romans 12:2 NASB "And do not be conformed to this world [to cosmic thinking], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind [thinking], so that you may prove [demonstrate] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

John 17:15 NASB "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil {one.} So once again we are protected by Jesus Christ from any kind of personal attack. There is indirect attack from Satan but we are not ever going to lose our salvation and go back into the domain of Satan. [16] "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." We as believers do not come from the source of the world. Once we are saved we are new creatures and there is a distinction. [17] "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." Aorist imperative of request. An aorist imperative always emphasises the highest priority. This is the priority He is identifying, that we are to be sanctified. This is the noun hagiasmos [a(giasmoj] which comes from the noun hagios [a(gioj] meaning holy or to be set apart. We are to live a distinct life. On what basis? We are set apart by means of truth. Once again it is en [e)n] plus the dative of means, means of truth, the truth. Jesus said: "I am the truth." There is only one truth, not many truths. He defines the truth for us; it is the Word of God that is truth. That is why we put our emphasis on learning the Word of God. It is only as our thinking is transformed and renewed by the truth from God's Word that we look at life from God's viewpoint, evaluate situations and scenarios, and apply the principles of God's Word to life. In that way we grow, we mature, we advance as Christians. This is the process, and we move from the position of an absolute. 

John 17:18 NASB "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." There is a commission to the apostles and to believers to go out and witness, to explain the gospel to unbelievers. [19] "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth." Jesus sanctified Himself at the cross by fulfilling the will of God for His life and dying as a substitute for our sins. He went to the cross for our sakes. It was for the purpose that not only the disciples but all believers might be sanctified by means of truth. So the Word of God, then, is absolute truth. Never be afraid of that. The worldly culture around us wants to say we are arrogant because we think there is only one way. We are always going to get that and there is always going to be opposition but the Word of God says there is truth.

So Jesus emphasises in His prayer that we are to focus on the Word of God, that is our priority. It is done through the filling of the Holy Spirit, however. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to understand the truth.