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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them.—The terms “I” and ‘“the world” are opposed to each other. The world’s hatred followed necessarily from the fact that Christ had given them God’s word, and that by it they had been separated from the world. (Comp. Note on John 17:6.)
Because they are not of the world.—Comp. Note on John 15:18.
‘THE LORD THEE KEEPS’
John 17:14 - John 17:16.
We have here a petition imbedded in a reiterated statement of the disciples’ isolated position when left in a hostile world without Christ’s sheltering presence. We cannot fathom the depth of the mystery of the praying Christ, but we may be sure of this, that His prayers were always in harmony with the Father’s will, were, in fact, the expression of that will, and were therefore promises and prophecies. What He prays the Father for His disciples He gives to His disciples. Once only had He to say, ‘If it be possible’; at all other times He prayed as sure that ‘Thou hearest Me always,’ and in this very prayer He speaks in a tone of strange authority, when He prays for all believers in future ages, and says: ‘I will that, where I am, they also may be with Me.’ In this High-priestly prayer, offered when Gethsemane was almost in sight, and the Judgment Hall and Calvary were near, our Lord’s tender interest in His disciples fills His mind, and even in its earlier portion, which is in form a series of petitions for Himself, it is in essence a prayer for them, whilst this central section which concerns the Apostles, and the closing section which casts the mantle of His love and care over all who hereafter shall ‘believe on Me through their word,’ witnesses to the sublime completeness of His self-oblivion. Gethsemane heard His prayer for Himself; here He prays for His people, and the calm serenity and confident assurance of this prayer, set against the agitation of that other, receives and gives emphasis by the contrast.
Our text falls into two parts, the enclosing circle of the repeated statement of the disciples’ isolation in an alien world, and the enclosed jewel of the all-sufficient prayer which guarantees their protection. We shall best make its comfort and cheer our own by dealing with these two successively.
I. The disciples’ isolation.
Of course we are to interpret the ‘world’ here in accordance with the ethical usage of that term in this Gospel, according to which it means the aggregate of mankind considered as apart from and alien to God. It is roughly equivalent to the modern phrase, ‘society.’
With that order of things Christ’s real followers are not in accord.
That want of accord depends upon their accord with Jesus.
Every Christian has the ‘mind of Christ’ in him, in the measure of his Christianity. ‘It is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master’ But Christian discipleship has a better guarantee for the assimilation of the disciple to his Lord than the ordinary forms of the relation of teacher and taught ever present. There is a participation in the Master’s life, an implantation in the scholar’s spirit of the Teacher’s Spirit. ‘Christ in us’ is not only ‘the hope of glory,’ but the power which makes possible and actual the present possession of a life kindred with, because derived from, and essentially one with, His life.
They whose spirits are touched by the indwelling Christ to the ‘fine issues’ of sympathy with the law of His earthly life cannot but live in the world as aliens, and wander amid its pitfalls with ‘blank misgivings’ and a chill sense that this is not their rest. They are knit to One whose ‘meat and drink’ was to do the will of the Father in heaven, who ‘pleased not Himself,’ whose life was all one long service and sacrifice for men, whose joys were not fed by earthly possessions or delights. How should they have a sense of community of aims with grovelling hearts that cling to wealth or ambition, that are not at peace with God, and have no holdfasts beyond this ‘bank and shoal of time’? A man who has drunk into the spirit of Christ’s life is thereby necessarily thrown out of gear with the world.
Happy is he if his union with Jesus is so deep and close that it is but deepened by his experience of the lack of sympathy between the world and himself! Happy if his consciousness of not being ‘of the world’ but quickens his desire to help the world and glorify his Lord, by bringing His all-sufficiency into its emptiness, and leading it, too, to discern His sweetness and beauty!
But how little the life of the average Christian corresponds to this reiterated utterance of our Lord! Who of us dare venture to take it on our lips and to say that we are ‘not of the world even as He is not of the world’? Is not our relation to that world of which Jesus here speaks a contrast rather than a parallel to His? The ‘prince of this world’ had nothing in Christ, as He himself declared, but He has much in each of us. There are stored up heaps of combustibles in every one of us which catch fire only too swiftly, and burn but too fiercely, when the ‘fiery darts of the wicked’ fall among them. Instead of an instinctive recoil from the view of life characteristic of ‘the world,’ we must confess, if we are honest, that it draws us strongly, and many of us are quite at home with it. Why is this but because we do not habitually live near enough to our Lord to drink in His Spirit? The measure of our discord with the world is the measure of our accord with our Saviour. It is in the degree in which we possess His life that we come to be aliens here, and it is in the degree in which we keep in touch with Jesus, and keep our hearts wide open for the entrance of His Spirit, that we possess His life. A worldly Christian-no uncommon character-is a Christian who has all but shut himself off from the life which Christ breathes into the expectant soul.
II. The disciples’ guarded security.
Jesus encloses His prayer between the two parts of that repeated statement of the disciples’ isolation. It is like some lovely, peaceful plain circled by grim mountains. The isolation is a necessary consequence of the disciples’ previous union with Him. It involves much that is painful to the unrenewed part of their natures, but their Lord’s prayer is more than enough for their security and peace.
‘I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world.’ They are in it by God’s appointment for great purposes, affecting their own characters and affecting the world, with which Christ will not interfere. It is their training ground, their school. The sense of belonging to another order is to be intensified by their experiences in it, and these are to make more vivid the hopes that yearn towards the true home, and to develop the ‘wrestling thews that throw the world.’ The discipline of life is too precious to be tampered with even by a Saviour’s prayer, and He loves His people too wisely to seek to shelter them from its roughness, and to procure for them exemption which would impoverish their characters.
So let us learn the lesson and shape our desires after the pattern of our Lord’s prayer for us, nor blindly seek for that ease which He would not ask for us. False asceticism that shrinks from contact with an alien world, weak running from trials and temptations, selfish desires for exemption from sorrows, are all rebuked by this prayer. Christ’s relation to the world is our pattern, and we are not to seek for pillows in an order of things where He ‘had not where to lay His head.’
But He does ask for His people that they may be kept ‘from evil,’ or from ‘the evil One.’ That prayer is, as we have said, a promise and a prophecy. But the fulfilment of it in each individual disciple hinges on the disciple’s keeping himself in touch with Jesus, whereby the ‘much virtue’ of His prayer will encompass him and keep him safe. We do not discuss the alternative renderings, according to one of which ‘the evil’ is impersonal, and according to the other of which it is concentrated in the personal ‘prince of this world.’ In either case, it is ‘the evil’ against which the disciples are to be guarded, whether it has a personal source or not.
Here, in Christ’s intercession, is the firm ground of our confidence that we may be ‘more than conquerors’ in the life-long fight which we have to wage. The sweet strong old psalm is valid in its assurances to-day for every soul which puts itself under the shadow of Christ’s protecting intercession: ‘The Lord shall keep thee from all evil, He shall keep thy soul.’ We have not ‘to lift up our eyes unto the hills,’ for ‘vainly is help hoped for from the multitude of the mountains,’ but ‘Our help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth.’ Therefore we may dwell at peace in the midst of an alien world, having the Father for our Keeper, and the Son, who overcame the world, for our Intercessor, our Pattern and our Hope.
The parallel between Christ and His people applies to their relations to the present order of things: ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.’ It applies to their mission here: ‘As Thou didst send Me into the world, even so sent I them into the world.’ It applies to the future: ‘I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee,’ and in that ‘coming’ lies the guarantee that His servants will, each in his due time, come out from this alien world and pass into the state which is home, because He is there. The prayer that they might be kept from the evil, while remaining in the scene where evil is rampant, is crowned by the prayer: ‘I will that, where I am, they also may be with Me, that they may behold My glory.’John 17:8.
The world hath hated them ... - John 15:18-21.
the world hath hated them, for thy word hath made them to be of another spirit from carnal, loose, and worldly men; they have other affections, other inclinations, other designs and studies;
they are not of the world in that respect
as I am not of the world: though in other respects not so; for Christ, as to his original, was not of the world, which they were, of the earth, earthy.
and the world hath hated them; the inhabitants of the world, worldly men, such as are what they were when they first came into the world; are under the influence of the god of the world, and led by the spirit of it, and are wholly taken up with the things thereof: the unbelieving Jews are chiefly designed, who bore an implacable hatred to Christ and his apostles; and the same fate do the faithful ministers of Christ and his members share, in all ages and places, more or less: the men of the world gnash their teeth at them, secretly plot against them, and inwardly curse them; rejoice at any evil that befalls them; greedily catch at anything to reproach them; stick not to say all manner of evil of them, and to do all manner of evil to them:
because they are not of the world; they were of the world by their natural birth, and had their conversation with the men of it, whilst in a state of unregeneracy; but now they were called out of it, and were guided and led by another spirit; and were separate from the world in their lives and conversations, and which brought the hatred of the world upon them; inasmuch as they had been of them, but now had left them, and professed they did not belong to them; and because their religious lives put a distinguishing mark on them, and reproved and condemned them:
even as I am not of the world; not that Christ and his people are alike in their original; they are of the earth earthly, he is the Lord from heaven; nor are they so perfect in their walk and conversation in the world, and separation from it as he; yet there is some likeness between him and them, and some conformity in them to him, which makes the world hate them.I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 17:14-15. The intercession addresses itself to a particular, definite point of the τήρησις prayed for, namely, ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, John 17:15, and this is introduced, John 17:14, from the side of their necessities.
ἐγώ] antithesis: ὁ κόσμος.
ἐμίσ. αὐτούς] has conceived a hatred against them (Aor., see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 197; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 1. 18). This hatred Luther terms “the true court colours of Christians that they bear on earth.” Further, see on John 15:18-19.
The more precise definition of τήρησις follows in John 17:15 negatively and positively. They are not (“for I have still more to accomplish by their means,” Luther) to be taken out of the unbelieving world which hates them (which would take place by death, as now in the case of Jesus Himself, John 17:11), but they are to be kept by God, so that they ever come forth, morally uninjured, from the power of Satan surrounding them, the power of the prince of the world. ἐ κ τ. πονηροῦ is not, with Luther, Calvin, and many others, including Olshausen, B. Crusius, Hengstenberg, Godet, to be taken as neuter, but comp. 1 John 2:13 ff; 1 John 3:12; 1 John 5:18-19; 1 John 4:4; Matthew 6:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; comp. on τηρεῖν ἐκ, Revelation 3:10, also φυλάσσειν ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς in Themist. 181. 19 (Dindorf). Nonnus: δαίμονος ἀρχεκάκοιο δυσαντήτων ἀπὸ θεσμῶν.John 17:14. ἐγὼ δέδωκα … κὸσμου. Additional reason for soliciting in behalf of the disciples the protection of the Father consists in this, that the world hates them because they have received the revelation of God in Christ, and are thereby separated from the world as their Teacher was not of the world. Cf. John 17:6.14. I have given] ‘I’ in emphatic opposition to the world.
thy word] The revelation of God as a whole (see on John 17:16 and John 5:47).
hath hated] Rather, hated; the aorist expresses the single act of hate in contrast to the perfect, ‘I have given’ a gift which they continue to possess. These are the two results of discipleship; on the one side, Christ’s protection (John 17:12) and the gift of God’s word; on the other, the hatred of the world.John 17:14. Καὶ, and) The things connected are, to receive the word of God, and, to be hated by the world.Verse 14. - I have given them thy word (δέδωκα, a permanent endowment); and the implication is that they have received it (Ver. 8). The phrase is rather more condensed than before, and carries all the consequences previously mentioned, and others as well to which the Lord had referred (John 16:1-5). As a matter of fact, the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. This constant contrast between the mind of Christ and the spirit of the world pervades the New Testament. Christ had exposed its hypocrisies, and denounced its idols, and inverted its standards, and repudiated its smile, and condemned its prince, and was now indifferent to its curse. His disciples, as far as they shared his sentiments, came in also for its malediction and hatred (cf. the conflict with the Pharisees in the synoptic narrative).
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