We now come to Christ's great prayer (John 17). It is divided into three parts: First, what he asks for himself. Second, what he asks for his immediate disciples. Third, what he asks for those that should hereafter believe on him.
Let us see what the things are he asks for himself: "Glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee." A little farther down, "Glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." He asks for himself, glorification. Glorification consists of the following things: (1) That the dead body should be made alive. (2) That it should be raised from the grave. (3) That it should be reunited to the spirit. (4) That it should be taken into the final glorious home. (4) That it should there be in possession of all the promises made concerning it. This is glorification.
When the body dies, it dies in weakness. But it is raised in strength. It dies in dishonor; it is raised in honor. It dies in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. (But Christ's body never did see corruption.) It dies a mortal body, is raised an immortal body. It dies a natural body, and is raised a spiritual body. All this is involved in the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection is a part of glorification - not all, but part of it.
Christ's prayer was that he might be glorified with the glory that he had with the Father before the world was made. What a remarkable proof of the divinity of Christ; to his antecedent deity! "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." God Elohim subsisted eternally as Father Elohim, Son Elohim, and Holy Spirit Elohim. "Now, glorify me with the glory that I had with thee before the world was." He prayed that this might take place, and the reason that he prayed it is explained in Philippians [chapter 2]: that when salvation was undertaken he could not remain on an equality with God, but laid aside his heavenly glory, stooping to take the form of a servant in the fashion of a man; that in the fashion of a man he might work out redemption, and then carry that raised and glorified man up to the throne of the universe, up to the right hand of the Father.
He prayed for them, but not for the world. I stop to ask a question: Did not Christ pray for sinners? He is not talking to them here; he is talking to Christians. "I pray for them, my disciples, whom God gave to me." My question is, Does it mean that Christ never did pray for sinners? Did Christ ever pray for sinners? On the cross Christ said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And in Isaiah 53 it is said, "He made intercession for the transgressors." Some hyper-Calvinists claim that praying for sinners is foolish. It once went sweeping over Texas and came nigh capturing it. In sweeping away the mourners' bench and some of the hurtful methods used in carrying on protracted meetings, it swept away the mourner himself. These heretics taught that the sinner had no right to pray for himself, and that Christians had no right to pray for him, and that Christ did not pray for them. Praying for sinners is not in print here, because this is an intercessory prayer for his people. But it does not contradict other passages, which show that he prayed for his persecutors, and all transgressors. Samuel prayed, "God forbid that I should so sin as not to pray for them." Here he says, "Holy Father, keep in thy name them whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, etc."; that is, "Keep now the gift." When he was in the world, he kept them. He is now going out of the world. Christians are those who are kept (See 1 Peter 1:5). Then he prays, "Keep them, that they may be one, even as we are one." Here he prays for their unity. Next in order, he prays that his joy may be fulfilled in them (v. 13). He will be satisfied when he shall see the travail of his soul. He who had been the saddest man in the world is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, the Good Shepherd that rejoiced over the lost sheep found. That was his joy, his express joy, and the Father's joy. "Now, Father, I pray that they may have my joy fulfilled in them."
Notice again in v. 15 a negative form of prayer: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world." He was unlike Elijah, who, getting whipped so bad he ran off into Arabia, and never stopped until he reached Mount Sinai. He thought it was better for him to die, when battle came on, better to get out of the world. "Father, I do not pray that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one," that devil, who goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Keep them from him. Just like that other prayer of his, "deliver us from the evil one."
The next thought is in v. 17: "Sanctify them through thy truth." Here we come to the doctrine of sanctification. The instrument of sanctification is the word of God, the medium is faith, "sanctified by faith that is in me," and the purpose of sanctification is to take the regenerate soul and make it more and more like God until it is perfectly like God. He prays for their sanctification, but he did not pray that they should be sanctified before the time.
The next element of the prayer is in v. 20: "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word." "Whatever I have prayed for the apostles, I have prayed for everybody who through their preaching may be converted, and everybody who may believe on me through any preaching: I pray for them." This is where we come in. We may rest assured that if God numbers the hairs of our heads, he numbers the heads; and if he numbers the heads, he knows one head from another, and as he brought salvation, he prays for us. Not like the boy who said, "God bless papa, mama, little brother and sister, Aunt Jane, etc.," calling the names of the immediate friends and relatives. Not so with God; Jesus prayed for us before we were born.
I will now call attention to the last element of this prayer, v. 24: "I will that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory." Jesus wants us to know what he prays for concerning us. He does not pray for us to be taken out of the difficulties and the battle of life, but that in these trials we may be kept from the devil, and that our sanctification may be progressing, and that we may be glorified, that we may be with him and share his inheritance. But a brother asks, "Why do certain scriptures represent the Christian as already sanctified if our sanctification is not yet complete?" This is a pertinent question. The answer is,
The word "sanctify" has several meanings: "One of them, to set apart, to consecrate, and in this sense a Christian is already sanctified.
God sees us as complete in Christ, and so beholds us as if all the blessings in Christ were already fulfilled in us: "Ye are complete in him." In this sense a Christian is reckoned already sanctified.
But in fact the full salvation secured for us by Christ is not yet fulfilled in us. We have not yet laid hold of all the things for which Christ laid hold of us (see Philippians 3:12-14). Everybody ought to read that old Puritan book by [John] Flavel on The Methods of Grace. Sanctification is not applied like justification. Considered legally in Christ we are complete now, but in us the work commenced in regeneration must be carried on until the day of Jesus Christ.
[From B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible. Formatted by Jim Duvall.
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