|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:11-16 Christ does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven. The prosperity of the soul is the best prosperity. He pleaded with his holy Father, that he would keep them by his power and for his glory, that they might be united in affection and labours, even according to the union of the Father and the Son. He did not pray that his disciples should be removed out of the world, that they might escape the rage of men, for they had a great work to do for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. But he prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil, from being corrupted by the world, the remains of sin in their hearts, and from the power and craft of Satan. So that they might pass through the world as through an enemy's country, as he had done. They are not left here to pursue the same objects as the men around them, but to glorify God, and to serve their generation. The Spirit of God in true Christians is opposed to the spirit of the world.
Verse 15. - The prayer of Jesus based on this. I pray (ἐρωτῶ, not αἰτεω; see Ver. 9; the ἵνα here defines the contents of the prayer) not that thou shouldest take them away - lift them up and out - out of the world, as thou art taking me by death. This natural desire on the part of some of them is not in harmony with the highest interests of the kingdom. Those interests it would henceforth be their high function to subserve. There is much testimony for them to bear, there are many great facts for them completely to grasp, many aspects of truth which they must put into words for the life and salvation of souls, individuals for them to teach and train, victories for them to win, examples which they must set before the world. If they are all to vanish from the eyes of men as Christ will do, the end of the manifestation will be sacrificed. The Lord prays, not that they should be taken out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them (τηρήσῃς, not φυλάξῃς) from the evil. The ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ is different from Matthew 6:13, ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ, and may possibly mean "from the evil one." Reuss, Meyer, and Revised Version accept the same translation here in virtue of 1 John 2:13; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18; Revelation 3:10, where the devil is regarded as dominating, the realm, the atmosphere, the spirit, and the kingdom of this world. Over against this kingdom the Lord Christ, as the devil's great Rival, rules in the kingdom of grace. Luther, Calvin, Hengstenberg. Godet, Authorized Version, and numerous other commentators, have regarded τοῦ πονηροῦ as neuter, as referring to the great characteristic and all-subduing temper, the far-reaching glamour and the godless disposition of the world. Τὸ πονήρον includes ὁ πονήρος.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I pray not that thou shouldest take theft of the world,.... Either in an unusual manner, by a translation, as Enoch and Elijah were; or by death in its common form, before their time, and purely to be rid of afflictions: this he prayed not for; for he had much work for them to do, by preaching the Gospel, for the conversion of sinners and comfort of saints; and it was for his interest they should live longer; and it would make most for his glory, and be best for his chosen people and churches:
but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil; either of sin, which is an evil and bitter thing, being committed against a good God, and a righteous law, and brings ruin and destruction upon men; from this the apostles were kept, and all the saints are; not from indwelling sin, nor from the commission of sin, but from the dominion of it, and from falling into it and by it, so as to perish eternally: or from the evil of the world; not from afflictions in it; nor from the reproach and persecution of it; but from its wickedness and lusts, and from the evil men of it: or from Satan the evil one, who is eminently, originally, and immutably so; not from being tempted by him, but from sinking under his temptations, and from being devoured by him. Christ's praying for this, after this manner, shows that evil is very abhorrent, pernicious and powerful; the danger saints are in by it; their incapacity to keep themselves from it; and that the Lord alone is the keeper of his people; but does not suggest that Christ has dropped the charge of them, or is unequal to it; but by so doing he expresses his great love to them, how dear they are to him, and what care he takes of them, and what concern he has for them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
15-19. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world—for that, though it would secure their own safety, would leave the world unblessed by their testimony.
but … keep them from the evil—all evil in and of the world.
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