John 17:15
Notice -

I. THE NEGATIVE PART OF THIS PRAYER. "I pray not," etc.

1. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the material world. Although he was about to leave it, by an ignominious death, yet his death did not make theirs necessary. Their death would neither decrease nor increase his agonies. Some think that because they die that all should follow. But Christ was so far from being selfish, that he was willing to die that his disciples might live and remain.

(1) Christianity does not in itself shorten life, but rather lengthens it. It has been the occasion of death, but never its direct cause. It has a direct tendency to increase life in length, and invariably in breadth and depth; sometimes in sum, always in value; sometimes in days and years, as in the case of Hezekiah; always in usefulness and influence, as in the case of Jesus. Heaven is not jealous of her children's physical and material enjoyment on earth. The tenant shall remain as long as the house stands, and when it crumbles, Heaven will receive him into her mansions.

(2) Christianity does not incapacitate man to enjoy the material world. On the contrary, it tunes the harp of physical life, sweetens the music of nature, paints its landscape in diviner hues, beautifies its sceneries and renders them all sublime and enchanting. The material world to man is what his inward and spiritual nature makes it. Christianity fills the world with joy; embroiders its clouds with love, tinges even its winters with goodness; makes the thunder rattle kindness as well as power, and the storm to speak of mercy as well as majesty. It fills the world with sunshine, and makes it, not a dreadful prison, haunts of demons, but the thoroughfare of angels, the nursery of happiness, the temple of God and the gate of heaven.

2. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the social world, but that they should remain in it. Sociality was one of his own characteristics. Christianity opens and not shuts the door of society, and brings man into closer union with his fellow. Bigotry, priestcraft, and religious prejudice have banished many from society, and imprisoned many a Bunyan; but pure Christianity, never. Its direct tendency is to sanctify and bless all the relationships of life, and refine and inspire our social interests. Christ said, "Let your light shine," not on the mountain-top, in the lonely wilderness, not in the secluded cloister or nunnery, but "before men" -in the fair and in the market, in the busy exchange and behind the counter, among the throngs of men.

3. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the troublesome and wicked world. This world was then, and is now, "a world of great tribulation." Still it was not his wish to take-his disciples from even this. Not that he took any pleasure in their pain - far from it; he bore as much of it as he possibly could - but because he had greater regard for their eternal good even than for their temporal comforts. Tribulation is the only way to life. This he had himself; and the servant is not greater than his Lord, but must enter life in the same way.

4. Christ recognizes the Father's right to take them hence when he pleased. They were his, and their lives absolutely at his disposal. The world cannot drive the Christian hence when it pleases, but when the Father pleases. When it appears to do so, it is only a servant, and acts by permission. The believer's life is not at the mercy of the world, but at the mercy of the Father.

5. While recognizing his right to take them hence, still it was not his wish that they should be taken then. And why?

(1) Because Christ had much to do on and in them in the world. They were not yet ready to depart. They had not yet completed their earthly education. They had not yet been in the school of the "Comforter." They had made some progress, but very far from perfection. Much had to be done with regard to their spiritual life which could not be so well done in any other state. This world was a furnace to purify them, and the great Refiner and Purifier saw that they were not fit to be taken out.

(2) Because they had much to do for Christ and the world. The Father had given them to Jesus for a special work - to be witnesses of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and to publish the story of his love and the facts of his earthly history to the ends of the earth. This must be done before they could be honorably taken home. They could serve the Master and their generation better here than elsewhere.

(3) The new earth and its King could not afford to lose them yet. The wicked world wished to drive them hence; but it knew not what was best for its good, and it was under the control of infinite benevolence. The farmer, in disposing of his corn, must take care of some for seed. Heaven must not take the disciples away; else what will the world do for seed, Jesus for laborers, the gospel for tongues to publish it, and the Gentiles for salvation? They were more needed now on earth than in heaven. Heaven could do for some time without them. The golden harps could afford to wait; but the world could not afford to wait long for the water of life. The earth could not afford more than to give Jesus back at once, and he could do more good there through his Spirit than here; could send supplies down from above to his friends, and open fire from the heavenly batteries on the foe. The disciples could better attack him from this side, so as to place him between two fires, etc.; cause him to surrender his captives by the thousands. Not one of them could now be missed. Each one had a special duty, and was specially trained for it, and the departure of even one would be a loss to the world and to Jesus.

II. THE AFFIRMATIVE PART OF THE PRAYER. "That thou shouldest keep," etc.

1. The evil which is in the world is recognized. "Keep them from the evil" -the evil one. There are in this world many wicked men and wicked spirits, but there is one standing alone in wickedness, and in opposition to goodness, to God and man. He has succeeded to attract a large following of the same character as himself; but he keeps ahead of them all in wickedness, and the eye of Christ could single him out among the black throng, and point to him as the evil one, or the evil thing. As there is an evil one, there is an evil thing, an evil principle, power, and influence. The evil assumes many forms. The form in which it was most dangerous to the disciples now was apostasy from Christ, and this is the only form in which it can really conquer. It is fully recognized and revealed by Christ in all its forms, magnitude, and danger.

2. A distinction is made between the world and the evil. It is not the world as such is evil, but evil is in the world. The world does not make men evil, but men make the world. There is in the world an evil one and an evil thing, which prostitute its holy and good laws and forces to answer their ends. No one had the fever of sin by contact with the objects of nature. No one was morally contaminated by fellowship with the sun anti stars. No one was corrupted by listening to the blackbird's song or the nightingale's warble. The world as such is in sympathy with good and against evil. "For the whole creation groaneth," etc.

3. To keep the disciples in the world from the evil is preferable to taking them at once out of it.

(1) This plan recognizes the advantage of this world as a sphere of moral government and discipline. The highest training for a soldier is on the battle-field. The best training for a mariner is on the ocean, and in an occasional storm; he cannot attain this on dry land. The best sphere of moral discipline is in a world where there is good and evil. In hell there is only evil without any good. In heaven there is only good without any evil. In this world there are both, and it is specially advantageous to choose the one and reject the other. Christianity keeps a man from sin, and not sin from him; eradicates from his heart the love of it, and implants in its stead the love of purity. A change of world would not in itself change character. The elements of sin in the soul would break out in heaven itself.

(2) This plan is more in harmony with the ordinary arrangements of Providence. It is an original arrangement of Providence that this world should be populated, and that each man should live a certain number of years - the allotted period of time. Christ does not wish to interfere with this arrangement with regard to his followers, but let them live the lease of life out, to do battle with sin, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The wheels of providence and grace fit into each other and revolve in perfect harmony. There is no special warrant wanted to take them hence, no special train required to take them home.

(3) This plan demonstrates more clearly the courage of Jesus. Although he knew that earth and hell were getting madder and madder against them, and would be madder still, yet he had no wish that they should be taken hence. He remained in the world to the last till he finished his work, and he had sufficient confidence that his followers would do the same. He is willing that they should undergo the same test. This is Divine heroism worthy of the Captain of our salvation. To keep them from the evil by their removal from the world would appear somewhat like beating a retreat; but the word "retreat" was not in his vocabulary.

(4) This plan more fully demonstrates the wisdom and moral power of Christianity. To make them victorious in the fight, and reach the desired haven in spite of the severest storms. Great power would be manifested in keeping the Babylonian youths from the fire, but a far greater power was manifested in keeping them in the fire from being injured by the flames. To take the disciples Out of the world miraculously would manifest Divine power, but to keep them in the world from the evil manifested a miracle of grace and of the moral power of Christianity. The one would be the skill of a clever retreat, but the other the glory of a moral victory.

(5) This plan involves a completer and more glorious personal victory over evil and the evil one. Jesus was very desirous that his disciples should be personally victorious, and conquer as he conquered. This must be done in the world in personal combat with the evil. There is no real and ultimate advantage in a mechanical or artificial diminution of evil, and strategic victory over the evil one. He will only gather his forces and rush out with greater vehemence and success. The policy of our great General was to let him have fair play - let him appear in full size, in his own field, and have full swing, as in the case of Job; then let him be conquered under these circumstances. The victory is final, complete, and most glorious.

4. To keep the disciples from the evil was now Jesus chief concern. This was the struggle of his life and death, and the burden of his parting prayer. "That thou shouldest keep," etc. As if he were to say, "Let them be poor and persecuted, tempest-tossed and homeless; let them be allied to want and wedded to death; but let them be kept from the evil. Not from hell, but from the evil; there is no hell but in the evil." How many there are who are more anxious to be kept from every evil than from the evil - from complete apostasy from the truth, and backsliding from Christ! This was his chief concern for his followers, and should be the chief concern of his followers for themselves and for those under their care.

5. In order to be kept from the evil, the disciples must be within the mediatory prayer of Christ and the safe custody of the Father. In order to be saved from a contagious disease, we must keep from it or have a powerful disinfectant. The world is full of the fever of sin, and we have to do continually with the patients; we live in the same house. And there is but one disinfectant which can save us, i.e. the mediation of Jesus and the Father's loving care. Jesus knew the danger in which his disciples were - how weak and helpless they were in themselves, how prone and exposed to the evil. The evil one, "the roaring lion," watched for the departure of their Master in order to rush on them; but as a tender mother, in going from home, leaves her children in the care of some trustworthy one, charging such to keep them from danger, especially from the fire; so our blessed Lord, before he left the world, left his disciples in good custody and safe hands, those of the Father, praying him to take care of them, especially to keep them from the evil. Before the great departure at Jerusalem, he insured all his most valuable property in the office of his Father's eternal love, of which he was the chief Agent; and insured it so not only as to have compensation in case of loss, but against any loss at all. "Holy Father, keep," etc. The house was insured before, and was safe, and there was no need of a rush out of it; but now he insures the tenants. The premium he had paid on the cross. This is the only safe insurance from evil. We wonder often how we have escaped from the evil in many a dark hour; but the insurance was the secret. - B.T.







I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
I. THE MOTIVES WHICH PROMPTED THIS PRAYER.

1. To evince the tenderness of His heart toward His people. Usually, when any master-grief takes possession of the mind, we seldom have much disposition or power, to sympathise with the sorrows of others. Had our Lord been the subject of this infirmity, this was not the time for Him to have been concerned about the future trials of His people. Yet at this moment, when we might suppose His every thought and feeling to have been absorbed in the sword that was about to pierce His soul, we find Jesus turning to consider the comparatively little griefs of His dear disciples, His prayer seems to be — "Holy Father, think not of My coming sufferings, but think of these whom I am about to leave full of sorrows, and keep them."

2. That He might instruct His disciples to the end of time in that mighty interest with which He is always engaged for their spiritual preservation. As you go through the successive clauses of this chapter, you will find in almost every verse something to show that God has a direct interest in the consummation of that scheme which Jesus came both to reveal and to accomplish; that "His own great name" was to be furthered thereby, and that it formed part of the covenant which He made with Jesus, that these His people should be saved through His blood.

II. THE TRUTHS THAT ARE TO BE LEARNED FROM THIS PRAYER. 1 That the world is full of dangers. The world is, and must ever be the Christian's adversary. It is a sinful place. The prince of evil is its god; the fascinations of evil are its snares; the works of evil are its employments; and the triumphs of evil are its boast and its pride.

2. That there are ends to be accomplished by our remaining in the world which make it expedient that we should for a time be kept in it. And this expediency consisted in this: these His disciples had a work to do. They had His honour to promote and His gospel to spread. This is true of us. We have all our stated duties to fulfil; we have all a nook in His providence to fill up; we have all our own little wheel to turn in that vast machine, which governs and controls the universe. It is not therefore the language of true obedience to say "My soul is weary of life; would that God would take me to Himself!" It is nothing more than the suicide's thought, clothed in Gospel language. It is impatience of the yoke Christ has laid on the shoulder. It is not the saint's desire to "rest from his labour;" it is the worldling's desire to rest without labour. It is the wish to use that part of our Lord's prayer, "Father, glorify Thy Son," without remembering that other part of it, "I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do."

3. That the power of this evil of the world is so great, that we can only be delivered from it by the almighty power of God.(1) Who can contemplate the legion of spiritual foes which encompass the believer's path, and remember at the same time the powerful ally and abettor of Satan that we carry in our own hearts; and not feel, that unless the power of the grace of God interfered on our behalf, none of us would be saved?(2) And then, how mercifully mysterious and varied are the methods of the Divine protection? Before the temptation comes; while the encounter lasts: yea, and even afterwards, when mourning in humiliating bitterness of soul over some recent defeat, how often have we found the restoring power of God's grace overruling for the benefit of His people's souls every incident of their lives!(3) Observe the means by which we are thus kept (ver 11). "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," &c. Here is the argument with which we are permitted to come to the mercy-seat — that God's name is engaged and pledged to keep us from evil.

3. That the only lawful measure of solicitude we are to entertain about the things of this world is, that we may be "kept from the evil" which belongs to it. Life is full of disappointed projects and griefs. Then how important is it, that we should be able to ascertain what solicitude we are permitted to entertain. The passage tells us that our only solicitude is to be guided by this; not by the evils themselves, but their spiritual results. I am not to pray against poverty; but I am to pray against its evils. I am not to pray against riches; but I am to pray against their temptations. I am not to pray against the disappointments, and vexations, and crosses, and cares of life; but I am to pray, that however multiplied and grievous are the forms of trial that await me, I may never have a murmuring, unsubmissive, discontented spirit.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

The saintly painter Fra Angelico flung out his thoughts upon the cells of San Marco, and those who visit Florence are arrested and subdued by the purity of his dreams. My friends, that other powerful artist who adorned the ceiling of the Sistine, has traced our figures copied more directly from the study of the human form, but warmed into life by the fire of Divine genius; and of such men we cannot but say that they penetrated the hidden chambers of another world before they could leave before the eyes of five astonished centuries such visions, more lovely or more appalling than the mysteries and marvels of our dreams. But I tell you that in the streets of London, in the streets of Manchester, it is possible for us in our ordinary life to see pictures more pure than the dreams of Angelico, more powerful than the masterpieces of Angelo. Here we are face to face with living men, seine in youth, in the early days of passion and struggle, some in age, when the fire is failing and the eye growing dim, who, in the midst of a world that forgets God, or defies Him, are enabled to do mighty things though hidden to sustain an inner life of loyalty to supernatural principle amidst the fretting care of daily toil.

(Knox Little.)

I. WHAT OUR LORD ASKS FOR US. His petition has two sides — a negative and a positive. To be kept from evil in the world means —

1. To be engaged in the world's business, and have it rightly directed. Some have thought that we would be more Christian if we were to withdraw into solitude. But this is impossible for the mass of men, and it is in direct opposition to the example of Christ, and to the spirit of His gospel. Paul did not think his office suffered when he wrought as a tent-maker, and was not labour consecrated by the Son of God Himself? Whatever is open to men, that is just and right in business, is open to Christians, and whatever their hands find to do, they are to do it with their might. The gospel asks of its friends that all their business should be —(1) Directed to a true end. Other men may turn their work to the ends that are merely personal. The Christian's toil should not have self for its end, but God and Christ, and in them, the good of humanity. Men may call this ideal and impracticable, but it is the only thing that can redeem human business from being dreary, degrading toil, and man himself from feeling that he is a mere beast of burden,(2) Done in a right manner. The law of truth and justice should regulate every part of it. Some think they can separate their religion from their business; but it is the vain old endeavour to serve God and Mammon. Christianity must touch everything in life if it touches it at all. If the gospel is not to make Christians truthful and upright, I do not see any great purpose it can serve on this side time or beyond it. If the world and its business are ever to be put right, and cleared of the robberies that threaten society, where is the stand to be made if not by those who have lifted up their hands to God and said, "We are His witnesses"?

2. To suffer under its trials, and to be preserved from impatience. If a man would escape trial, he must needs go out of the world, and when Christ prayed that His disciples should be kept in it, He knew that they were to suffer affliction. Moral distinctions are not observed in the providential allotment of calamity. This stumbles many. But if God were to exempt His friends from trial, He would take away from Christians one of the most effective means of their training, and one of the most striking ways in which they can prove their likeness to Christ. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour, but it is not seen in his being saved from suffering; it is in the way in which he meets it. Few things do more to raise the tone of our own Christian life, and to prove to men that there is a hidden property in religion which can turn the bitterest thing in this world into sweetness.

3. To be exposed to its temptations, and preserved from falling into sin. God has not seen fit to deprive sinful things of their attractiveness, nor to disarm the great enemy of his fiery darts, nor to quench at once and altogether the inflammable material in our heart. This would be fighting the battle and gaining the victory without us, and there could then be no perfected purity, no established character, no conqueror's crown. This should mark a Christian in the world, that he should have a deeper view of what is to be aimed at in character — of what is meant by being kept from evil. It is not to be preserved from misfortune, or sickness, or reproach, or bereavement, but from sin.

II. WHY HE ASKS IT.

1. For the benefit of the world. If Christ were to remove men so soon as they become His followers, He would be taking away from the world its greatest blessings. True Christians are the salt of the earth and its light.

2. For the honour of His own name. There is glory that accrues to the name of Christ when a sinner drops the weapons of rebellion, and when His redeemed are brought home. But it is for His honour also that there should be an interval between — a pathway of struggle, where the power of His grace may be seen preserving His friends in every extremity. It was a glorious thing for the Head Himself to enter the lists of battle, and to depart a victor, triumphing through endurance to the death. But it multiplies His triumph, or brings out all that was hidden in it, when we see it repeated in the victory of the weakest of His followers. It is like the sun reflecting His image from every dewdrop, folding out His treasures in the green leaves and colours of all the flowers, and flashing His light along the beaded moisture of gossamer threads — for we believe that not a blessing or a comfort, not a grace or virtue rises out of the night of our sin and suffering — not the slightest filament of feeling sparkles into hope — but it will be found that it owes its source to the fountain of light and life which God has opened for His world in Jesus Christ.

3. For the good of Christians themselves. "Master, it is good for us to be here," Peter said on the Holy Mount, "Let us build here three tabernacles. Why go down again into the dark world of opposition and trial, when we can enjoy at once the heavenly vision"? But "he wist not what he said," and he was compelled to descend and travel many a weary footstep, before he reached that higher mount where he now stands with his Lord in glory. We, too, may sometimes feel that it would be better for us to be carried past these temptations and struggles, and to enter at once into rest. But He who undertakes for us knows what is best, and as it was expedient for us that He should depart, so must it also be that we should for a season remain behind, Not that this is indisipensable for our sanctification, for the Saviour who could carry the dying thief at once to paradise, could do the same for all of us. The reason seems rather to be that there are lessons which we have to learn on this earth which can be taught us in no other part of our history.(1) The evil of sin. And, therefore, we are detained in a world where its effects are so terrible, where we have to struggle with it.(2) That we should enjoy more fully the blessedness of heaven. Our bitter bereavements will intensify the joy of its meetings; its rest will be sweeter for the hard toil; and its perfect light and purity fill the soul with a far more exceeding glory for the doubts and temptations which oppress us here.Conclusion: Let this petition point out —

1. Our duty. What He asked for us we must aim at. Let us fear nothing so much as sin; and feel that our life can aim at a true and noble end, only when it breathes the air of this prayer of Christ.

2. Our security. The life of a Christian man is in no common keeping. It is suspended on the intercession of Christ (ver. 24).

(J. Ker, D. D.)

I. THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST DID NOT PRAY. The reasons for this negative prayer are twofold.

1. Those which were personal to the disciples.(1) Christ's knowledge of the moral uses and value of temptation. It is not the physical frame of the sluggard that attains the highest muscular development. So there is a necessity of spiritual assault from without, and spiritual resistance from within, in order to the perfection of our spiritual nature.(2) Christ's knowledge of the moral uses of suffering. These also are directly instrumental in soul development by the invigoration of its energies.

2. That which related to the world. It was for the world's sake that our Lord would not have His disciples removed. They were to be its "light."

II. THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST DID PRAY. The man who has turned to Christ is not freed from the possibility of falling. There is not given him such a measure of grace as to render his relapse impossible, nor does Satan give up hope of recovery. What an encouragement to endurance and effort that Christ prayed then and prays still! Learn —

1. The necessity of constant watchfulness and endeavour. Christ prays for us, but we by our own acts must render the prayer effectual.

2. A lesson of confidence. By ourselves we must fall, but we are not by ourselves.

(W. Rudder, D. D.)

Christ is "come into the world," and therefore thou needest not "go out of the world" to meet Him. He doth not call thee from thy calling, but in thy calling. The dove went up and down from the ark and to the ark, and yet was not disappointed of her olive-leaf. Thou mayest come to the house of God at due times, and thou mayest do the business of the world in other places too; and still keep thy olive, thy peace of conscience (Genesis 24:27; 1 Corinthians 5:10).

(J. Donne, D. D.)

I. THE WORLD. The world is a globe some eight thousand miles through and three times eight thousand miles round. It is one of the lesser members of a family of worlds. The whole universe, within the telescopic horizon, is composed of gigantic continents of suns, the dim lines of which shimmer in the ethereal depths. Yet our planet, relatively so small, is a vast world. What moral interests centre in it I It was not the first theatre of intelligence and responsibility. When the progenitors of our race received their being, there were mighty tides of good and evil, bliss and misery, sweeping from an unknown past into the unfathomable gulfs of the endless future. When but one pair of human beings was alone amidst the otherwise unpeopled solitude, they were caught and borne along by the evil current. Murder broke out in the first family; and sin has been in every household since. What a world is ours at the present moment! Call before you its heathenisms and its inadequate reception of the gospel in what are called Christian lands. Portray to your imagination its wars, vices, diseases, sufferings. Barbarism conceals none of its iniquities; civilization is often as guilty behind its decorous exterior. Poverty brings temptation, and riches are full of snares. Ignorance surrounds our path with danger; and learning is commonly only a variation of peril. Deformity makes life sordid; and beauty as frequently ministers to luxury. Idleness breeds mischief, and occupation tends to nurture ambition and greed. Disappointment chills and sours not a few; and success destroys many more. The seeming goodness of one droops in hours of ease; another falls in the time of conflict. And oh l of what delusions and perils the best men are conscious! The godly feel their evil and see their dangers as no others can.

II. OUR SAVIOUR'S DESIRE THAT HIS DISCIPLES MIGHT REMAIN IN THE WORLD.

1. How differently our Lord regarded human life from many whose history inspired men have handed down to us! Jesus never desired for Himself or His followers an unhonoured escape from the tests of this mortal career. When the patient Job was overwhelmed with affliction, he longed for the hour of death. So did the Psalmist (Psalm 55:5); Elijah (1 Kings 19:4); Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:2); and Jonah (Jonah 4:3). Oh! how transcendently unlike all this is the bearing of Jesus! "Thy will be done" is His lifelong prayer.

2. Jesus surpassed all others in His lofty estimate of the possibilities of a human life in this world of mystery, sin, and death.(1) He would not have become incarnate in this world of temptation and suffering, if it had been utterly unfit for the trial and development of a Godlike life. His assumption of our humanity not only illustrates the greatness of our nature and destination; but it also guarantees the wisdom and endorses the goodness of the Providence which rules the earth.(2) He knew all the worst of Satanic and human evil. He saw it as we never can. No man ever beheld the actual sinfulness of his own spirit. If you could have before you the evil of every soul in a large city, your reason would reel. Jesus looked on the unveiled reality, but yet said, "I pray not," &c.(3) Christ loves His disciples, yet His affection did not prompt, but forbade, the supplication, "Father, take them out of the world."(4) Jesus knew human life by experience. He trod the depths of its temptations, and drank the cup of its sorrows to the dregs. His hands were hard with labour, His frame was wearied by fatigue. Yet, while He passed through all, and more than all, our trials and griefs, though without sin, He said, "I pray not," &c.(5) Our Saviour was now penetrating the deepest shadows of His incarnate life. To-morrow all the harrowing scenes are enacted that end in the cross. Yet, when the Lord's experience of a human probation was awful beyond conception, and while He was aware that His disciples were to share His Cross in many lands, He did not pray, "Father, take them away from a world so terrible, where their faith will be tried by flame and their foes will shed their blood."(6) Christ could have taken His disciples out of the world in an instant if it had been the best for them. He could have commanded ministering spirits to bear His followers along the starry pathway to the mansions of the blest (Matthew 26:53). But He did not even pray that they might be taken out of the world.(7) Jesus must have set a high value on a soul tempered in the fires of trial and suffering in this fallen planet. A soul that bears the test of life, and comes out of the process confirmed in loyalty and love to God and righteousness, must be destined for some sublime vocation in coming worlds. "Kings and priests unto God" are not empty titles. Contemplating the unfading crown to which His faithful disciples were advancing, Jesus said, "I pray not," &c.(8) Jesus wished His disciples to be like Himself. He desired them to yearn over this sinning and suffering world with a compassion like His own. To share His joy, they must be equally willing to live, and toil, and suffer. To ask that believers might be taken out of the world, without nobly living and working in it, would be to beseech that His kingdom might fail.

III. OUR SAVIOUR'S PRAYER THAT HIS DISCIPLES MIGHT BE KEPT FROM THE EVIL OF THE WORLD.

1. Our Lord knew that the end of a life like ours cannot be attained except through a probation like ours. He did not cry, therefore, "Father, stay the direful ordeal, and rearrange the lot of man." But He prayed, "Father, keep these from evil."

2. He knew that the life of God in the soul was endowed with all the properties necessary to its triumph. The one thing that represses, hinders, and overthrows, is sin. Keep this deadly influence away, and there will be progress and victory. Hence Jesus stretched the bright shield of His intercession over the heads of His disciples, saying, "I pray," &c.Conclusion:

1. A Christian has every reason to cultivate a temper contented, jubilant, as he surveys this mysterious scene. The adamant of a Saviour's intercession is stretched over every soul that confides in His redeeming grace.

2. The great end of life is not ease and comfort. The great concern is, to be preserved from evil. The terrible tests of life are not to be lowered. We are to bear them (James 1:12).

3. How sad is the contrast of multitudes, to whom the gospel is preached, and who seek no deliverance and preservation from evil!

(H. Batchelor.)

We have here —

I. A NEGATIVE PRAYER.

II. THE MEANINGS OF THIS PRAYER.

1. That they should not, by retirement and solitude, be kept entirely separate from the world. Hermits and others have fancied that if we were to shut ourselves from the world we should then be more devoted to God and serve Him better. But monasticism has demonstrated its fallacy. It was found that some sinned more grossly than men who were in the world. There are not many who can depart from the customs of social life and maintain their spirit unsullied. Common sense tells us that living alone is not the way to serve God. It may be the way to serve self. If it be possible by this means to fulfil one part of the great law of God, we cannot possibly carry out the other portion — to love our neighbour as ourselves. I have heard of a man who thought he could live without sin if he were to dwell alone, so he took a pitcher of water and store of bread, and provided some wood, and locked himself up in a solitary cell, saving. "Now I shall live in peace" But in a moment or two he chanced to kick the pitcher over, and he thereupon used an angry expression. Then he said, "I see it is possible to lose one's temper even when alone," and at once returned to live among men.

2. That they should not be taken out of the world by death. That is a blessed mode of taking us out of the world, which will happen to us all by and by. How frequently does the wearied pilgrim put up the prayer," Oh that I had wings like a dove!" &c. But Christ does not pray like that; He leaves it to His Father, until, like shocks of corn fully ripe, we shall be gathered into our Master's garner.

III. THE REASONS.

1. It would not be for our own good. We conceive that the greatest blessing we shall ever receive of God is to die; but it is better for us to tarry, because —(1) A little stay on earth will make heaven all the sweeter. Nothing makes rest so sweet as toil; nothing can render security so pleasant as a long exposure to alarms. The more trials the more bliss, the more sufferings the more ecstasies, the more depression the higher the exaltation. Why! we should not know how to converse in heaven if we had not trials to tell of. An old sailor likes to have passed through shipwrecks and storms, for if he anchors in Greenwich Hospital he will there tell, with great pleasure, to his companions of his hair-breadth escapes.(2) We should not have fellowship with Christ if we did not stop here. Fellowship with Christ is so honourable a thing that it is worth while to suffer, that we may thereby enjoy it. Moreover, we might be taken for cowards if we had no scars to prove the sufferings we had passed through and the wounds we had received for His name. I should never have known the Saviour's love half so much if I had not been in the storms of affliction.

2. It is for the good of other people. Why may not saints die as soon as they are converted? Because God meant that they should be the means of the salvation of their brethren. You would not, surely, wish to go out of the world if there were a soul to be saved by you. Mayhap, poor widow, thou art spared in this world because there is a wayward son of thine not yet saved, and God hath designed to make thee the favoured instrument of bringing him to glory.

3. It is for God's glory. A tried saint brings more glory to God than an untried one. Nothing reflects so much honour on a workman as a trial of his work and its endurance of it. So with God.

IV. THE DOCTRINAL INFERENCES.

1. Death is God taking His people out of the world; and when we die we are removed by God.

2. Dying is not of one-half so much importance as living to Christ. It may be an important question, How does a man die? but the most important one is, How does a man live? Do not put any confidence in death-beds as evidences of Christianity. The great evidence is not how a man dies, but how he lives.

V. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS.

1. That we never have any encouragement to ask God to let us die.

2. Do not be afraid to go out into the world to do good.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A young lawyer, going to the West to settle for life, made it his boast that he "would locate in some place where there were no churches, Sunday schools, or Bibles." He found a place which substantially met his conditions. But before the year was out he wrote to a former classmate, a young minister, begging him to come out and bring plenty of Bibles, and begin preaching, and start a Sunday school; for, he said, he had "become convinced that a place without Christians, and Sabbaths, and churches, and Bibles was too much like hell for any living man to stay in."

Though Sir Thomas More lived so much in the world and at Court, yet his heart was kept unworldly by the singular virtue of his private life. If he entertained his equals freely, he also frequently invited the poor to dine and sup with him; the more he was in the king's palace, the more he resorted to the cottages of the poor; when he added to his house a library, he provided also a house near his own for the comfort of his aged neighbours; and when most involved in worldly business he built himself a chapel. He never entered on any fresh public employment without an act of devotion and a participation in the Lord's Supper — trusting, as he said, more to the grace of God thus derived than to his own wit; and so long as his father lived he never sat on the judgment-seat — that seat was the Lord Chancellor's — without asking his blessing on his knees.

(F. Myers, M. A.)

Congregational Pulpit.
I. BECAUSE THE WORLD NEEDS THEM. It needs —

1. Their example. They are the lights of the world. In their character, duties, and sufferings they show the blessed influence of religion. A good example has a wonderful attraction. Godly men are living epistles.

2. Their testimony. They are God's witnesses. They go into the world and bring the truth in contact with men's minds. The world needs them as it needed the glorious mission of their Lord and Master. Think of the results of their labours. Be faithful, and testify fearlessly for God and truth.

3. Their prayers. The prayers of the Church are like Moses' rod. Israel needed Elijah's prayers. Jerusalem sinners needed the prayers which preceded the pentecostal visitation. May the Lord increase the number of praying ministers, teachers, and parents!

4. Their sympathies. See the glorious institutions of our Lord, the ministrations to the sick and dying, &c., &c. What is the source of such benevolence? The life of religion in the souls of men.

II. BECAUSE THEY NEED THE WORLD.

1. For the trial of their faith (Hebrews 11.). The Christian's trials are necessary as a heavenly discipline. They come forth as gold. Reliance on Jesus is faith's first exercise; confidence in God as a Father is established as we pass through this world of care and temptation.

2. To prove the sincerity of their love. We are in a state of probation. Our profession of love must be tested. Thus it was with Peter: "Lovest thou Me?" — then go and give tangible proof thereof. Saints are sent into the gospel vineyard, and in the next world the Great Proprietor will say to the faithful, "Well done," &c.

3. For their progressive sanctification. High situations are attained by degrees; health promoted by exercise. Strength and skill are obtained by conflict. Storms clear the atmosphere. Thus with the book of "truth" as our guide and help, we struggle onward and upward, gathering strength as we go, and rejoicing in anticipation of that world where sin has never found an abode. Let the saint and the sinner, respectively, inquire, Am I improving the period of my earthly existence?

(Congregational Pulpit.)

I. FROM WHAT BELIEVERS SHALL BE KEPT.

1. Negatively; not —

(1)An absolute freedom from all afflictions, which are either the consequences of sin or corrections of God (Psalm 89:28; Hebrews 12:6-10; 1 Corinthians 11:32).

(2)All suffering for righteousness sake (John 15:19; John 16:33).

(3)A full discharge from Satan's temptation (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 12:7).

2. Positively. They shall be kept —

(1)From all damning error and delusion (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:4; 1 John 2:20; John 16:13).

(2)From the tyranny of Satan (John 8:36).

(3)From all temptations superior to their strength, or have more strength given them, answerable to their trials (1 Corinthians 10:13).

(4)From sinking under the burden of affliction (Isaiah 43:1, 2).

(5)From the power and reign of sin (Daniel 7:12).

(6)From the curse and condemnation of the law (Romans 8:1).

(7)From the slavish fear of death (1 Corinthians 15:55, &c.).

II. WHAT ASSURANCE THERE IS THAT BELIEVERS SHALL THUS BE KEPT FROM THE EVIL, THOUGH NOT TAKEN OUT OF THE WORLD. Note the following considerations: —

1. That of the Person praying; the beloved, in whom the Father is always well pleased, and who He always hears.

2. That of what He asks for, and on what ground. His request is for the preservation of His people, in order to their eternal happiness, which is most agreeable to the will of God, and the end for which He was sent by Him into the world (John 6:39).

3. That of Him to whom His request is directed, viz., the God who "spared not His own Son," &c.

4. That of the persons for whom He intercedes — His children and chosen, such as He has a special interest in and bears a peculiar love unto.Application:

1. Hence learn the greatness and constancy of Christ's love to His people, and of His desire of their eternal blessedness with Him.

2. What a powerful argument should it be with all to come to Him unfeignedly. Who would live a day in the world without an interest in this prayer of His, of being kept from the evil?

3. It may greatly strengthen the faith of true Christians in their daily prayers for deliverance from evil.

4. How much is the world mistaken as to Christ's servants, as if they were the most miserable persons in it, when their Lord hath provided so fully for their safety and happiness.

5. How inexcusable must it be to forsake Christ and His service for fear of suffering. He that would save his life by running from the Lord of life takes the direct way to lose it.

6. Let this encourage us cheerfully to follow the Captain of our salvation whilst we live, and to commit our souls unto Him when we die.

(D. Wilcox.)

(Text in connection with Romans 12:2): —

I. THERE IS NOTHING IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD, WHICH REQUIRES ITS DISCIPLES TO ABJURE SOCIETY.

1. This might be inferred from the consideration of human nature. Man is a social being. He was never intended to spend his life in solitude. The heaviest punishment is that of prolonged solitary confinement. Our villages and cities all proclaim that man was intended for society.

2. Almost the first appearance of the Saviour in His public ministry was at a social entertainment, and oftener than once He accepted an invitation to a feast, and availed Himself of the opportunity which it afforded to illustrate and enforce the great things of His kingdom. The grand distinction between Him and the Baptist was that the latter sought the wilderness, but Jesus mingled with the people. Thereby He taught that His design was not to turn men into anchorites.

3. In perfect harmony with this view of the case is the petition in the prayer. It would not be good for the Christian to withdraw from social intercourse, for though solitude is occasionally beneficial, yet it would be extremely injurious to a man to have for a series of months no other companion than himself. The supreme happiness of life is in going out of self for the benefit of others. It is, therefore, quite a false idea, that there is more of holiness and happiness in seclusion than in society. I do not say that no true spiritually-minded ones have preserved their holiness in such a place: the story of Port Royal proves the opposite. But I do affirm that those are most truly walking in the footsteps of our Divine Master who are seeking in daily life to serve their God. There is a manliness and an energy about the piety of such men which we look for in vain even among the most saintly of secluded ones. The hothouse may be indispensable for tropical shrubs, but it would render delicate the Alpine tree. Even so the Christian religion was designed by its Founder to stand the winter of the world; and to nurse it within the artificial protection of the monastery will weaken its vitality.

4. But neither would it be good for the world if the Christian should abjure his intercourse with society, for how then would the prophecy of its conversion be fulfilled? Jesus said to His disciples, "Ye are the light of the world," but how shall they dissipate its darkness unless they penetrate its atmosphere? He said, "Ye are the salt of the earth," but if the salt come not into contact with that which is to be preserved, how shall its antiseptic qualities begin to work upon it?

II. THOUGH MOVING AMONG OTHER MEN, THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE DIFFERENT FROM THEM. Here we come to the second text.

1. The root of the Christian's nonconformity is his regeneration. The peculiarity about him is that he works from an inward principle that is different from that of other men. By the renewing of his mind he has come to see things in a new light, and so when he acts differently from other men, it is not because he is under the iron law of a superior, but because he chooses so to act, and finds his happiness in taking such a course.

2. What, then, is this inward principle? It is a regard to the will of God. Thus Peter and John said, "Whether it be right in the sight of God," &c.; and Paul, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" So every genuine child of God takes the will of his Father to be the rule of his life. Other men ask, "Will it pay?" Others consult their ease or custom; but the Christian regulates himself by the Word of God.

3. In what way will this inward principle develop itself in the outward conduct?(1) It will keep him from everything that is positively sinful. No man can be a Christian and deliberately do what God has declared to be wrong. "He that is begotten of God sinneth not." So far all is plain; but I may see the form of evil where others may see none, and others where I see none; hence, differing in our application of the principle to individual cases, we shall differ from each other in our conduct regarding them. Thus one asks, should a Christian play cards? another, should he go to the theatre? another, should he go to public balls? Now, if these were personal questions, and I were asked what I ought to do regarding them, I should say at once that considering the evil repute in which these things are held, the evil surroundings from which they have been inseparable, and the pain that would be given to tender consciences, the course for me is clear. But then I am not the director of another man's conscience. The great difference between the New Testament and the Old lies just there. The Old gave minute directions for all possible contingencies; the New gives principles, and lets each man follow these for himself.(2) Furthermore, in settling such questions we should have regard, not to the fashion of our circle or the gratification of our own curiosity, but to the glory of God: "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink," &c. Raise the question above all temporary considerations. Look at it in the light of God.

III. ON ALL PURELY INDIFFERENT MATTERS, AND WHERE HIS CONFORMITY WILL NOT BE MISUNDERSTOOD, BUT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE SPIRITUAL BENEFIT OF OTHER MEN, THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE AS THEY ARE: "I am made all things to all men," &c. Paul did not become like other men in their sinful pursuits, but he cultivated that spirit by which he was enabled to suit himself to the people among whom he moved. He did not needlessly offend prejudice.

1. In order to benefit men, the believer should be courteous, gentlemanly, polite, in his intercourse with men. Some think that their Christianity gives them a right to set all social distinctions at defiance, and by way of asserting their equality to all they treat all with contempt. Under pretence of being faithful, and of asserting their brotherhood, they are only impertinent; while, again, there are those in the wealthier circles who cannot endure the poorer, and treat them with disdain. Now, all that conduct is utterly inconsistent with Christian principle.

2. But in taking thought of the courtesy, do not forget the great end which as Christians you ought to have in view. You are in society to benefit it. But even in seeking that, you must be upon your guard against repelling where you desire to attract. Do not drag religion into your talk so as to make it distasteful. Cultivate the art of incidental allusion, and if you make a transition in the conversation, make it naturally, so that your companions may not be jolted into silence. Find out what your friends are interested in, and, descending to their level, you will be able to lift them. A friend went one evening into the room where his son was taking lessons in singing, and found his tutor urging him to sound a certain note. Each time the lad made the attempt, however, he fell short, and the teacher kept on saying, "Higher! Higher!" But it was all to no purpose, until, descending to the tone which the boy was sounding, the musician accompanied him with his own voice, and led him gradually up to that which he wanted him to sing, and then he sounded it with ease. So let us do in conversation with those whom we meet in society, and we may become very skilful in winning souls to Christ.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Nature never builds fences. The mountain slopes down to meet the valley, the day fades and darkens into night, the shore shelves off into the sea, but the exact point at which the one merges in the other is undetermined. Is there, then, no distinction between them? Is the daytime as the night because no eye can fix the instant when the gates unclose to let the morning through? Is the separation between land and sea unreal because between them lies a narrow strip over which they alternately hold sway? The Christian life must slope downward to meet the world and mingle with it. In business partnerships, in political interests, in social matters, in hundreds of affairs, the Christian and unchristian man must meet on neutral ground. Is the distinction between them therefore lost; even for an instant? Because they have great interests in common, because in many things they act alike, is the one in all essentials like the other? No more than the day is as the night. Narrow is the border-land on which the two men meet. As regards all the great realities the one is in the shadowy valley and the other on the sunlit heights; both touch the twilight's border-land, but one never passes over it into the day, nor the other beyond it into the night.

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