Thursday, March 20, 2008

John 17:13-19

13"I am coming to You now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them. 14I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. 18As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."

Jesus shows that the reason why He was so earnest in praying for His disciples was not that He was anxious about their future condition, but rather to provide a remedy for their anxiety. Jesus prays to His Father in the presence of His disciples, not because He needed any words, but to remove from them all doubt. This was for their joy, but Jesus says “My joy within them.” And that’s what we experience. Our joy is indeed His joy within us. Joy comes from Christ alone, and we receive it through faith alone.

V14 teaches us the reason for Jesus’ prayer. Jesus prays for His disciples because the world has hated them. He says that His disciples are not of the world, because all those whom He regenerates by His Spirit are separated from the world. Calvin says, “God will not let His sheep wander among wolves without showing Himself to be their shepherd.” The preservation of the disciples was certain – for Jesus asked the Father to protect them once Jesus had gone back to heaven. Because this request came from the Father’s will, as we have already noticed, the Father could not refuse it. In fact, it was not for the Father that Jesus ultimately prayed – but for His disciples, so that they might hear Jesus’ prayer and so be filled with joy. God does not take His people out of the world, because He does not wish them to be effeminate and slothful; but He delivers them from evil, that they may not be overwhelmed; for He wishes to fight through them and to have them to fight for Him.

The disciples are not like the world anymore, but like Jesus. Being like Jesus, the world will hate them just as it hated Him. But just as Jesus overcame the world, not by leaving it prematurely, but by finishing His course, even to the end of crucifixion, so the disciples would overcome, not by being plucked out of the world, but by God’s grace to protect them from the Evil One who rages against them and turns his children, the unbelieving world, to the hatred and persecution of all who would be like Jesus. Truly, the ancient Christian saying is faithful: “If we died together, we will also live together; if we endure, we will also reign together” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).

Jesus has just prayed that the Father would preserve His people, so that, just as Jesus had overcome a hostile world, they would overcome that same hostile world. In v17-18, He asks that the Father would sanctify them, consecrate them entirely to Himself, and defend them as His sacred inheritance. The work of redemption begins with the Father’s plan, which sent Jesus into the world to accomplish redemption; but even though the Son fully accomplished redemption, the plan is not yet complete; for even as the Father sent the Son into the world, so the Son has sent us into the world. The Father sent the Son to accomplish redemption, and the Son has sent us to give the news of that redemption. The Father sent the Son to suffer for redemption to be accomplished; the Son has sent us to suffer so that the effects of redemption might be spread (Colossians 1:24). In all these ways, we, as believers, mirror the activity of Christ – what an amazing and undeserved opportunity has been given to us by divine grace! To suffer for the gospel is, as the early Christian believers found out, a most precious gift (Acts 5:41)! But we must not forget the way in which we are sanctified as the Son was sanctified; it is only through the Word of God (Ephesians 5:26). Let us be people of the Word! If we would be like Christ, let us be people of the Word! It is through the Word of God that the Spirit of God changes us into the glorious image of Christ Jesus our Savior.

Finally, in v19 we learn that because Jesus consecrated Himself to the Father, His holiness comes to us; for as the blessing on the first-fruits is spread over the whole harvest, so the Spirit of God cleanses us by the holiness of Christ and makes us partakers of it. This is done by imputation (Jesus is our righteousness; we have become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)); but Jesus is also our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), because He has presented us to His Father in Himself, that His Spirit renews us to holiness. We are sanctified by faith.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

John 17:10-12

10 "All I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine. And glory has come to Me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name - the name You gave Me - so that they may be one as We are One. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name You gave Me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled."

Those whom the Heavenly Father has decreed to keep, He gives to Jesus – and as v10 declares, Jesus is glorified through them; through saving the elect, Jesus is glorified. That’s why He cares so much for us – He gets glory through us. God unites the elect, but it is not enough that men be agreed in some manner. We are to be unified as the Father and Son are unified. This truth has been difficult for me to process. I see the rest of this High Priestly Prayer having come true and clearly coming being answered, but the part dealing with the unity among believers seems anything but near fulfillment. Believers are very distant in doctrine and lifestyle application. Yet God is no less glorified.

In v12, we see that as long as Jesus was on earth, He Himself was keeping His disciples safe in their knowledge of God – with the exception of Judas Iscariot, the Son of Perdition, concerning whom God had long before determined final apostasy and judgment, and recorded it in the Scriptures. As we have noted before, Jesus mentions Judas specifically, so that none of His disciples would think that Judas’ loss had been out of the Father’s will, and therefore, that their own preservation was uncertain. This revelation is for their benefit. Finally, some confusion has arisen here regarding the predestination of Judas to evil behavior. Some say that he is not to blame since his fall was foretold. But this is poor logic, for we do not suggest that the children of Israel were innocent in their repeated falls into idolatry on account of Moses’ prediction (Deuteronomy 31-32). Nor do we suggest that Isaiah’s prophecy that the people would see and hear but not perceive or understand gives them excuse for their stubbornness in rebellion. So, Paul’s conclusion on this matter in Romans 9-11 stands firm and true and helpful. Man is predestined, based not on God’s foresight but upon His purpose, and yet man is accountable for his sin. This is part of the mysterious plan of God to give all kinds of men over to disobedience so that He could have mercy on them – to the praise and glory of His grace.

Monday, March 17, 2008


The builders of the wall under Nehemiah's guidance gathered to hear the word of the Lord (and have it explained - a great plug for the importance of expository preaching) in Nehemiah 8:1-3, 7-8. Upon hearing the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) read and explained to them over the course of six hours, perhaps for the first time for some, they wept and mourned (verse 9). They realized their sinfulness in light of God's holiness. But then the leaders of the people told them not to mourn, for this was a time of joy (verses 9-10). In fact, Nehemiah says, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." I understand that. I get the theology behind these instructions. But like them, I am in great distress (Nehemiah 9:37).

I am saddened by my continuing sin, the patterns of sin that come and go, ebbing and waning their way in and out of my life. Sometimes I am strong in the Lord and in His mighty power; other times I am just as weak and frail in living for the Lord as I was when I first believed. This is painful, and rightly so. The Holy Spirit convicts, and I am convicted. Yet, I also know the grace and mercy and compassion and steadfast love of the Lord, in the light of the cross and in the light of His great faithfulness in keeping His covenant promises to those who believe in Jesus. So I ought to be filled with joy - The joy of the Lord is my strength. I'm having trouble figuring out the application of this truth. How can I mourn and weep over my sinfulness and be joyful at the amazing grace of God at the same time? What does it look like?

It looks like a life of humble repentance and service while at the same time rejoicing in the presence of God, and His many, many blessings. It looks like the tax collector who stood far back, beating his breast while he prayed, "Have mercy on me, a sinner," while at the same time being like the young calf released from the stall to frolic in the field for the first time. But how can I put it into practice in my life? Why do I feel down?

The folks in Nehemiah 10 responded by writing a covenant - they promised to keep themselves from evil. I could do that, but it would be foolish - for I know that I am a sinful man. Even though God has begun a good work in me, and even though He will see it through to completion, I will continue to sin, though perhaps less, throughout the rest of my earthly life. It's a rather depressing thought, but I suppose I must consider this conundrum as a form of suffering, and like Paul in Romans 8:18, conclude that "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

Hebrews 12:1-4 is an apt conclusion, but I'm open to hear your thoughts on the matter:

"1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."