James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:John 17:1-26
THE INTERCESSORY PRAYER
This chapter because of its subject, and its great preciousness is worthy to stand out by itself. Bernard divides the prayer into three great parts and a sequel:
1. for His work and glory (John 17:1-5); 2. for the disciples (John 17:6-19); 3. for all believers (John 17:20-24); 4. the sequel (John 17:25-26).
The first and second part he subdivides again into two sections (John 17:1-3 and John 17:4-5, and John 17:6-10 and John 17:11-19, respectively). The third into three (John 17:20-24).
The Scofield Bible divides it into seven petitions:
1. That Jesus may be glorified as the Son who has glorified the Father 2. For restoration to the eternal glory (John 17:5) 3. For the safety of believers from the world (John 17:11) and from the evil one (John 17:15) 4. For the sanctification of believers (John 17:17) 5. For the spiritual unity of believers (John 17:21) 6. That the world may believe (John 17:21) 7. That believers may be with Him in heaven to behold and share His glory (John 17:24).
The same source notes the five gifts which Christ bestows on them whom the Father gives him:
1. eternal life (John 17:2); 2. the Father’s Name (John 6:26); 3. the Father’s words (John 8:14); 4. His own joy (John 17:13); 5. His own glory (John 17:22).
We have here the only long prayer of our Lord which the Holy Spirit has thought good to record for our learning. And how wonderful it is when we think of the One Who prayed it! One Person of the adorable Trinity praying to another Person of the Trinity! Or when we think of the occasion on which it was prayed, the night in which he was betrayed! Or those for whom it was prayed, disciples soon to forsake Him and flee, and other believers like ourselves, so unworthy of it all, or finally, when we think of its terms, the character of its petitions. Wonderful indeed! Perhaps it was prayed in the room where the Lord’s supper was instituted, but from the closing words of chapter 14 it seems likely to have been uttered in some quiet place outside the walls, and before the crossing of the brook Cedron (John 18:1).
Among the utterances, we note especially the last clause of John 17:1, which proves, inferentially, the equality of Christ with God. Then John 17:3 as a description of saved souls. Of course, head knowledge is not here meant, but that to which we have been renewed by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ (Colossians 3:10). God known out of Christ is a consuming fire. A question of grave importance arises at John 17:12. The “but” in this case is not exceptive but adversative as Bishop Ryle thinks. It does not mean that Judas was once a true believer who became lost, but should be read: “Those to whom Thou gavest Me I have kept, and out of them not one is lost. But there is one soul that is lost, even Judas, the son of perdition.” This view is con-frmed in John 18:9, where no hint is given of any exception having been made by our Lord in the previous instance, when John of course, heard Him speak. John 17:17 seems to us next in importance. Sanctification there is in the experimental sense. Saints are sanctified the moment they accept Christ in that they are then set apart for God, but after that they are expected to become sanctified in that their life and conduct are to measure up to their position. In this verse we see such sanctification to be an obligation; and also that it is the work of God in us, He must do the sanctifying; and yet there is an instrument or means to be used to that end, even His Word of truth. Without a knowledge of God’s Word in us the Holy Spirit has nothing on which He can work so to speak, hence the primary importance of Bible reading and study.
John 17:19, in this connection must not be misunderstood. Christ Himself required no sanctification in the sense of experience or growth. He was always perfect and without sin. The word in His case is the same as “consecrate’’ or “set apart.” He offered Himself to God as a sacrifice in other words, that His people might be both justified and sanctified. To pause next at John 17:21-23, the unity of believers there sought is not that of any visible church or denomination, but that of the church considered as the body of which he is the head, and which was effected potentially on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:1-6). We express this unity not in forms of worship, discipline or government, but in oneness of will, heart, doctrine and conduct.
1. How does Bernard divide this prayer?
2. How does Scofield divide it?
3. What are the gifts Christ bestows on His disciples?
4. What makes this prayer wonderful?
5. Where, presumably, was it uttered?
6. What question arises at John 17:12 and how is it answered?
7. What are we taught about sanctification?
8. What are we taught about Christian unity?