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The Distinguishing Mark of Christianity

John MacArthur

Grace to You

JESUS IS LORD(1 Corinthians 12:3) is the distinguishing article of Christianity and marks the essential confession of faith (Romans 10:9). Jesus proclaimed it to His disciples, His enemies, and His casual inquirers alike – and He refused to tone down its implications.

The expression “Lord speaks of ownership, while “Master/Lord” (despotes) denotes an unquestionable right to command (John 13:13; Jude 4). Both words describe a master with absolute dominion over someone else. That explains Jesus’ incredulity at the practice of those who paid homage to Him with their lips but not with their lives: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Doulos frequently describes what it means to be a true Christian: “He who was called while free, is Christ’s slave [doulos]. You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:22-23). It describes the lowest, abject bond slave; his service is not a matter of choice.

A Misleading Translation

Unfortunately, readers of the English Bible have long been shielded from the full force of doulos because of an ages-old tendency to translate it as servant” or “bond-servant.” This tendency is regrettable, since service and slavery are not the same thing. “No one can be a slave to two masters” (Matthew 6:24) makes better sense than “No one can serve two masters.” An employee with two jobs could indeed serve two masters; but a slave could not. Scripture repeatedly calls Christians “slaves” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), purchased for God (Revelation 5:9). This is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian (Romans 14:7-9).

A Revolting Concept

Not only is slave a word loaded with negative connotations, but our generation is also fixated on the concepts of freedom, fulfillment, and autonomy. Saving faith and Christian discipleship have been reduced to the cliché “a personal relationship with Jesus.” It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous twisting of what it means to be a Christian. Many people (including Judas and Satan) had some kind of “personal relationship” with Jesus during His earthly ministry without submitting to Him as Lord. But His only true friends were those who did what He said (John 15:14).

A Difficult Truth

Slavery to Christ is not a minor or secondary feature of true discipleship. It is exactly how Jesus Himself defined the “personal relationship” He must have with every true follower (John 12:26; 15:20). In fact, the fundamental aspects of slavery are the very features of redemption. We are chosen (Ephesians 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:9); bought (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23); owned (Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 6:19); subject to His will and control (Acts 5:29; Philippians 2:5-8); called to account (Romans 14:12); evaluated (2 Corinthians 5:10); and either chastened or rewarded by Him (1 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 12:5-11). Those are all essential components of slavery.

A Divine Introduction

Jesus introduced the NT slave metaphor. He frequently drew a direct connection between slavery and discipleship (Matthew 10:24-25). His words reflect what every true disciple should hope to hear at the end of life: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21).

Jesus always described true discipleship in such terms, with no effort to adjust the message to make it sound appealing to worldly-minded sinners. He never muted what it would cost to follow Him. Would-be disciples who tried to dictate different terms were always turned away (Luke 9:59-62).

Slaves Who Are Friends

Perhaps the key passage on Jesus’ demand for implicit obedience is one already alluded to-John 15:14-15: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

The fundamental principle here is obedience. Jesus was not suggesting that His favor could be earned through service. Rather, He was saying that obedience is a singular proof that someone is His friend. Implicit obedience to His commandments is the natural fruit of genuine love for Him-the telltale mark of authentic, saving faith.

Why, then, does He say, “No longer do I call you slaves…I have called you friends” (v. 15)? Is He expressly telling them their relationship with Him was now a familiar, personal camaraderie between colleagues, rather than a master-slave relationship governed by authority and submission?

Not at all. The apostles were still His slaves, because that’s precisely what they were. He was simply saying they were His friends as well as His slaves. “The slave,” He explains, “does not know what his master is doing.” A slave isn’t owed any explanation or rationale. But Jesus had kept nothing secret from His disciples: “all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (v. 15). They were therefore much more than mere slaves to Him. They were His friends as well, privy to His thoughts and purposes (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:16).

Slavery and True Liberty

So understood correctly, the gospel is an invitation to slavery. On the one hand, the gospel is a proclamation of freedom to sin’s captives and liberty to people who are broken by the bondage of sin’s power over them. On the other hand, it is a summons to a whole different kind of slavery: “Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18; cf. 1 Peter 2:16).

Both sides of the equation are vital. There is a glorious freedom in being the slaves of Christ (John 8:36), but it means the end of human autonomy for the true follower of Christ. In other words, everyone serves some master. We are all enslaved in one way or the other (Romans 6:16-21).

There is no legitimate way to adjust the message in order to make it sound appealing to people who admire Jesus but aren’t prepared to serve Him. Jesus didn’t seek admirers; He was calling followers-not casual followers, but slaves. Remove that spirit of submission, and the most profound kind of “admiration” for Christ is a spiritual fraud that has nothing to do with true faith.

Original publication date: July 8, 2009

http://www.crosswalk.com/spirituallife/11605719/page0/

 

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From Disciples to Brethren

June 9, 2012

 “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

 It is interesting to note that our Lord never called His disciples “brethren” until after His resurrection, and our text, which identifies them as such, was the first thing He uttered after rising from the dead, at least as recorded in Scripture.

 Until then He had referred to them in a variety of ways, including “little children” (John 13:33), “brethren,” in the sense of brothers in a family (Matthew 12:49), and even “friends.”

 “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). Certainly the disciples held a special place in Christ’s heart.

 But it was not until He had risen from the dead, He who was “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18), the “firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20), that His disciples, and indeed all who would “believe on |Him| through their word” (John 17:20), could be made “sons of God” (Romans 8:14). “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). This high standing comes as a fulfillment of His determination to “be the firstborn among many brethren” (v. 29).

 He has relabeled the “great congregation” (Psalm 22:22, 25 quoted in Hebrews 2:12) the “church,” identifying the individual members as His “brethren,” and is not “ashamed” to do so (Hebrews 2:11). As we see in our text, His God is our God, His Father is our Father; in all ways, we who have believed on Him are His brothers. Oh, what a standing is ours! JDM

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FROM GRACE FOR LIFE-Beware of the False Gospel of Discipleship

Slaying The Dragon of Legalism. Because Grace Didn’t End With Salvation.

Beware of the False Gospel of Discipleship

The Seriousness of a False Gospel

There is a huge mistake being made today in many pulpits, books and other forms of Bible teaching.
It is not trivial.
And it is not being “picky” to point it out.
It’s serious.
It’s serious because it’s a “different gospel” or “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6).
And the Apostle Paul wrote, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8)

What The True Gospel Is

Before looking at the false gospel in question, it should be noted what the true Gospel is. This is not a simple task, although the Gospel itself is simple enough for a child to understand.
The reason it’s not that simple to simply state the gospel is because it is somewhat expandable in it’s content.
In other words, when we say the Gospel involves believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can expand greatly such things as “what does ‘Lord’ mean?”, “who IS Jesus Christ?”, “what does it mean to ‘believe’?”, etc.
Still, for our purposes here we need to state it with a certain amount of simplicity in order to contrast it with the “false gospel of discipleship”, remembering that the Gospel is “Good News”.
So let’s plow ahead and arrive at a useful and simple definition.
Let’s look at two Scripture passages for some guidance:
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
This passage indicates the basic historical events of the gospel — the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
This passage, along with several others, indicates the substitutionary nature of the Gospel — that we needed His righteousness, and He had to take our sins on Himself and pay for them on the cross.
Again, all of this is quite expandable, but we can capsulize the true “Good News” (Gospel) as follows:
The Gospel is the Good News that since we have all been born sinful and deserving of the wrath of God, but since God loves us, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to Earth as a Man, and that this Jesus died on a cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead — and that whoever believes in Him as Lord and Savior will not perish, but have eternal life as a free gift.
There is a lot packed into that, yet it is very simple, and is based on faith so simple that a child can (as Scripture capsulizes it) “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Faith alone. Sola Fide, as the phrase was put in the Reformation. “Not of works, lest any man should boast”, as Paul put it to the Ephesians.

What The False Teaching Of Discipleship Is

The false gospel of discipleship typically takes a form like this:
“It’s not enough to just believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and believe that He died for your sins and rose again. The gospel also includes that you must DO what Jesus said in many places in the Gospels.
“Among other things, you must ‘deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him’, Matthew 16:24.
They in effect say that we must be WORTHY to be saved (a ridiculous thought) since Jesus said we’re not worthy of Him unless we take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 10:37,38), which they say is part of the gospel of salvation, and a requirement for salvation.
As one prominent Pastor put it (echoed in song by a prominent Christian musician, and repeated as though it were Scripture), “To give all that you are, for all that He is; this is the gospel according to Jesus.”
Of course that’s NOT the Gospel. That’s legalism.
We don’t need to become worthy before we become His, and we don’t buy or earn “all that He is” by our own “giving” of ANYTHING.
His eternal life and salvation that He gives us are FREE (Romans 6:23, “…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)

The Confusion Of This False Teaching

The problem with this false teaching is that it demands the question, “How much must I deny myself to be saved?” Or, “How much must I take up my cross?” “What cross?” “How long?” “Have I really given ALL that I am for all that He is?” “How can I tell?” “And what if I think I’ve given all that I am, but I really haven’t?” “Or what if I think I’ve given all that I am, but I take something back?”
And on and on go the demonic whispers to undermine the simple faith of a true believer who is confused by what it was that brought him salvation.
And think of the confusion of a lost person hearing such a message! “What indeed must I DO to be saved?”, they are wondering!
And the teacher of this false “gospel of discipleship” cannot even answer this simple question, because they have grown up Kudzu-like vines of “works” that choke and confuse the truth of the gospel of faith alone.
The absurdity of this false gospel should be obvious just by comparing two verses on discipleship spoken by the Lord Himself (follow me closely here, please):
Matthew 16:24 reads, “…he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
If that was a requirement for INITIAL salvation, then how would one explain the parallel verse in Luke 9:23?: “…he must deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY and follow Me.”
See my point? If one has to take up his cross DAILY in order to be saved, how many DAYS must he take it up? Will he be saved if he takes it up for three days? One hundred days?
Preposterous!
Besides, Romans 1:16 says that the Gospel is THE POWER OF GOD FOR SALVATION TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE! There’s no power in setting standards of behavior for the lost in order for them to attain salvation! That’s not Good News!
Yet these teachers continue imposing standards of DISCIPLESHIP upon the lost who are not even disciples yet! In order for them to believe the simple gospel!
Sidenote: they will almost always say something like, “Now this isn’t works salvation”. But denying it doesn’t make it so. They are blind to the fact that it really IS works salvation. Like the Roman Catholic teacher who imposes works and sacraments on the people and calls it “faith”.
And believers in congregations all over the place buy into that false teaching, after they themselves have already been saved by simply believing the Gospel!
No wonder Paul wrote the Galatians with a rare emotional rant of shock and anger because they had so soon allowed themselves to be entangled in “works plus faith” teachings.
And yet his words for the sheep were not nearly as angry as his words for the teachers themselves.
May these teachers of the “false gospel of discipleship” repent, and begin preaching the true Gospel of faith apart from works.

A Word About Soteriology

Soteriology is the Doctrine of Salvation (Greek soter means savior). It’s the study of HOW we are saved. It’s an important and biblical and fascinating study.

But Soteriology is not the Gospel either.

The Gospel is basically a truth proclaimed, not a detailed explanation of the process of regeneration, believing the Gospel, justification, sanctification and glorification — each with voluminous words of clarification and controversy.
I feel compelled, however, to point out one thing from our study of biblical Soteriology.
Faith in Jesus Christ is itself a gift from God. It’s not something we manufacture. He must open our hearts and reveal Jesus Christ to us, or we will not believe.
Yet wonderfully, if He does open our hearts and reveal Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can’t NOT believe. This is what theologians call “Irresistible Grace”.
Not that God brings us kicking and screaming into His family, but that He opens our hearts and we see Him with new eyes and a new heart, and we believe in Him.
How does faith come? The Bible itself says that it comes from hearing the Word of God.
And so, if you don’t consider yourself a believer in Jesus Christ, I recommend that you read the Book of John.
It was written by John the Apostle under the inspiration of God Himself, to bring folks to faith in Jesus Christ.
It was written specifically “…so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
Interestingly, the Book of John says nothing about “denying yourself” or “taking up your cross”. Nothing about YOUR works, but only the work that Jesus Christ Himself already did for us on the cross.
In fact, in John 6:28,29, when they asked Jesus, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?, He answered, “”This is the WORK of God, that you BELIEVE in Him whom He has sent.”

The Beauty of Discipleship

Does that subtitle, “The Beauty of Discipleship”, surprise you after what I’ve just been saying?
It shouldn’t.
Although discipleship is not the Gospel — although discipleship is not the cause of our salvation — discipleship is a wonderful thing.
When one becomes a Christian, they become a disciple. A disciple is a “learner” and a “follower”. Learning of Jesus and following Him is the greatest of privileges.
And the “surrender” involved in following Him is one of the highest things that we are called to do as already-saved believers. To grow in the attitude “not my will but yours be done, Lord” is not only sublimely precious, but the source of great joy.
But to teach this growing, learning, surrendering lifestyle as “the Gospel” — to teach it as the requirement for being saved — is to put the cart before the horse.

7 comments:

Terry Rayburn said…
A Twitter friend tweeted this question…
“…might we say that discipleship is not the means of our salvation, but the measure of it?”
I said, “Sorta”, but Twitter is too restrictive for a decent answer, so…
When you say “the MEASURE of it”, you imply some kind of MEASUREMENT which usually involves a scale (e.g., “1 to 10”) or percentage (10% good disciple, 75% good disciple, etc.).
A better way of saying it might be…
“Discipleship is not the means of our salvation, but MAY be an INDICATION of it.”
I say “MAY be”, because at a given moment (or day or week) a true believer may appear to be a poor disciple.
I say “an INDICATION of”, because it may not PROVE true salvation, since one can be a pretty good pretender and not be a true Christian.
Still, the spirit of the Tweeter’s question is, “will not a true believer have at least some discipleship fruit in their lives, evidencing their new birth?”
And I believe the biblical answer to that is, “Yes”.
And the first part of the Tweeter’s question is right on: “Discipleship is not the means of our salvation”.
A.J. said…
Terry,
“They are blind to the fact that it really IS works salvation.”
You are so right. One fellow, who professes to be reformed in his theology, tells his congregation that they must attend all church meetings, otherwise they might not be saved.
b. said…
Well done! Legalism is insidious.
M.K. said…
Somehow, back in April, I missed this great article. Thank you Terry for reposting it.
M.N. said…
I just had this conversation recently. The question was, “Is Faith without works dead and if so what becomes of our Faith that justifies, makes us righteous and therefore we are Saved by faith through God’s Grace that none can boast?”The truth is all of it is done through Him. It’s His righteousness, justification, grace and good works. None can be gained or done apart from Him.The works of one who is saved by faith would be to love others as he has loved us. (I have come to know that compassion and forgiveness are the very heart of God)
What so ever you do to the least of these.
If He is in us and we are one with Him then compassion and good works has become a part of our spiritual nature. Therefore the evidence that we are truly new creations in Christ becomes apparent in our desire and our doing all manner of good works. It is through Him working in us that cause us to do ANY “GOOD” thing. The Word says that none is good but God.
… so even in doing good works by our faith STILL NONE CAN BOAST… it is not I who do them but HIM working in me and strengthening me to do so. Since it is through Christ who LIVES that I do these good things… then they this makes my Faith very much alive!
Just my take on the subject and I love the way you expounded on the subject. 100% agreement

T.J. said…
“It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
May be you need to find what this law is since an addition was made to the law after Jesus’ crucifixion.
K said…
Nice job!
http://grace-for-life.blogspot.com/2011/04/beware-of-false-gospel-of-discipleship.html

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 UCENICIE / STUDENŢIE – Generalităţi.

Motto

Walter A. Henrichsen –

Disciples Are Made, Not Born

(Ucenicii se fac, nu se nasc):

Secretul uceniciei se găseşte în cuvintele:

“oameni de încredere” (2Timotei 2.2)

Cine intră în ucenicie / studenţie, în învăţarea meseriei / profesiei are de făcut două lucruri:

A1 – se angajază cu toată fiinţa în însuşirea învăţăturii;

Se presupune că nu are alt scop decât învăţătura. A fi ucenic / student din alte considerente – că e actual, că dă bine, că obţi o diplomă şi un titlu de pus în faţa numelui – nu ţinteşte unde trebuie. Vocaţia / chemarea este aceea care stârneşte starea de inconfort mental, arderea interioară care te face să conştientizezi că există un ţel de la Dumnezeu şi pentru tine şi care te conduce – pe parcurs şi întru final – spre a sluji pe o treaptă mult mai înaltă şi cu devotament pe Dătătorul vieţii.

2 – se străduie să fie / devină om de încredere, pe care să te poţi baza; om de bază.

Astfel încât Maestrul să-i poată încredinţa tot ce ştie, toate secretele / învăţămintele meseriei. Astfel încât învăţăcelul să ajungă la rândul lui învăţat, profesor (doctor, dacă se poate) propagator de ştiinţă de carte (teoria) şi de know-how (practica) către noi generaţii (procesul de multiplicare).

Astfel încât ‘Împărăţia’ (stăpân-irea, master-area) să se întindă. Căci porunca Domnului (Stăpânului, Master/Învăţător-ului) este: Duceţi-vă în toată lumea şi faceţi uceniciînvăţându-i

Învăţătura este necesară pentru …cunoaşterea înţelepciunii şi instrucţiei, înţelegerea cuvintelor minţii, căpătarea deprinderilor de bun simţ, de dreptate, de judecată şi de nepărtinire, ca să dea celor ne-încercaţi agerime de minte, tânărului cunoştinţă şi chibzuinţă – să asculte însă şi înţeleptul şi îşi va mări ştiinţa, şi cel priceput şi va căpăta iscusinţă… (Prov.1.2-5)

Toate în vederea desăvârşirii calităţii de “fiu al lui Dumnezeu” – viitor cadru de conducere în Împărăţia Cerurilor.

B. Cine face ucenicie, cine transmite meseria are de făcut de asemenea două lucruri:

1 – se angajază cu toată fiinţa în transmiterea învăţăturii (‘încredinţează’ – 2Timotei 2.2) printr-un mod de relaţionare personal: Tu dar, copilul meu... (2Timotei 2.1)- relaţie de tip tată-fiu;

2 – se expune cu toată viaţa sa, în toate privinţele, ca o carte deschisă, ucenicului (2Timotei 3.10,11): Tu însă ai urmărit de aproape:

învăţătura mea (cât de mult şi de bine ştiu, principiile care mă ghidează),

purtarea mea (felul de lucru, de comportament),

hotărârea mea (dedicarea, aplecarea, pasiunea de a face lucrurile bine),

credinţa mea (cum apuc lucrurile nevăzute, nădăjduite, ca şi cum le-aş avea deja),

îndelunga mea răbdare (viziunea pe termen lung, aşteptarea ca lucrurile să se ‘coacă’ la timpul lor, pacienţa până să văd lucrurile făptuite, până iau fiinţă),

dragostea mea (motivaţia altruismului, izvorul dorinţei de a ajuta pe alţii),

răbdarea mea (suportarea faptului de a fi neînţeles, aşteptarea până ce lucrurile se lămuresc),

prigonirile şi suferinţele care au venit peste mine (vicisitudinile, adversităţile, răutăţile şi neînţelegerile, rănile fizice şi sufleteşti)…

Astfel încât această expunere, această punere la vedere, să dea ucenicului îndrăzneala, cutezanţa şi expertiza de a duce mai departe lucrurile (daca Master-ul a putut, înseamnă că… se poate!), de a face la fel sau chiar mai mult (...veţi face lucruri mai mari decât M-aţi văzut pe Mine făcând). Şi, de ce nu, de a face ŞCOALĂ din aceasta…

Astfel încât relaţionarea personală, de inimă, să transmită ucenicului nu doar o învăţătură sau o doctrină uscată ci o modalitate de CONSTRUCŢIE DE PUNŢI între inimi (Mentorul ca un Pontifex = constructor de poduri), să transmită practic bucuria, să propage delectarea cu imensa, copleşitoarea lucrare – în dimensiunile ei spirituale şi materiale, de forţe şi de câmp – a Dumnezeului cel veşnic, Creatorul care ne-a îngăduit a-I spune Tată, pentru că a vrut să fie aşa, pentru că este aşa şi pentru că va fi pe vecie Iubitorul, Atotcuprinzătorul Tată al nostru şi al Domnului nostru Isus Christos, slăvit s-I fie Numele!

Motorul creştinismului a constat mereu în motivaţia înaltă a muncii şi a învăţării.

© 2010 Cristian DUMITRU

http://www.dumitrucornilescu.ro/docs/UCENICIE-introducere.pdf

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<< John 17 >>
Darby’s Bible Synopsis

Chapter 17 is divided thus: John 17:1-5 relate to Christ Himself, to His taking His position in glory, to His work, and to that glory as belonging to His Person, and the result of His work. John 17:1-3 present His new position in two aspects: “glorify thy Son” power over all flesh, for eternal life to those given to Him; Verses 4-5 (John 17:4-5), His work and its results. In John 17:6-13. He speaks of His disciples as put into this relationship with the Father by His revealing His name to them, and then His having given them the words which He had Himself received, that they might enjoy all the full blessedness of this relationship. He also prays for them that they may be one as He and the Father were. In John 17:14-21, we find their consequent relationship to the world; in John 17:20-21, He introduces those who should believe through their means into the enjoyment of their blessing. John 17:22-26 make known the result, both future, and in this world, for them: the possession of the glory which Christ Himself had received from the Father to be with Him, enjoying the sight of His glory that the Father’s love should be with them here below, even as Christ Himself had been its object and that Christ Himself should be in them. The last three Verses alone (John 17:24-26) take the disciples up to heaven as a supplemental truth.

This is a brief summary of this marvellous chapter, in which we are admitted, not to the discourse of Christ with man, but to hear the desires of His heart, when He pours it out to His Father for the blessing of those that are His own. Wonderful grace that permits us to hear these desires, and to understand all the privileges that flow from His thus caring for us, from our being the subject of intercourse between the Father and the Son, of their common love towards us, when Christ expresses His own desires that which He has at heart, and which He presents to the Father as His own personal wishes!

Some explanations may assist in apprehending the meaning of certain passages in this marvellous and precious chapter. May the Spirit of God aid us!

The Lord, whose looks of love had until then been directed towards His disciples on the earth, now lifts His eyes to heaven as He addresses His Father. The hour was come to glorify the Son, in order that from the glory He might glorify the Father. This is, speaking generally, the new position. His career here was finished, and He had to ascend on high. Two things were connected with this power over all flesh, and the gift of eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. “The head of every man is Christ.” Those whom the Father had given Him receive eternal life from Him who has gone up on high. Eternal life was the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, and of Jesus Christ, whom He had sent. The knowledge of the Almighty gave assurance to the pilgrim of faith; that of Jehovah, the certainty of the fulfilment of the promises of God to Israel; that of the Father, who sent the Son, Jesus Christ (the Anointed Man and the Saviour), who was that life itself, and so received as a present thing (1 John 1:1-4), was life eternal. True knowledge here was not outward protection or future hope, but the communication, in life, of communion with the Being thus known to the soul of communion with God Himself fully known as the Father and the Son. Here it is not the divinity of His Person that is before us in Christ, though a divine Person alone could be in such a place and so speak, but the place that He had taken in fulfilling the counsels of God. That which is said of Jesus in this chapter could only be said of One who is God; but the point treated is that of His place in the counsels of God, and not the revelation of His nature. He receives all from His Father He is sent by Him, His Father glorifies Him. [See Note #63]

We see the same truth of the communication of eternal life in connection with His divine nature and His oneness with the Father in 1 John 5:20. Here He fulfils the Father’s will, and is dependent on Him in the place that He has taken, and that He is going to take, even in the glory, however glorious His nature may be. So, also, in chapter 5 of our Gospel, He quickens whom He will; here it is those whom the Father has given Him. And the life He gives is realised in the knowledge of the Father, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

He now declares the conditions under which He takes this place on high. He had perfectly glorified the Father on earth. Nothing that manifested God the Father had been wanting, whatever might be the difficulty; the contradiction of sinners was but an occasion of so doing. But this very thing made the sorrow infinite. Nevertheless Jesus had accomplished that glory on the earth in the face of all that opposed itself. His glory with the Father in heaven was but the just consequence the necessary consequence, in mere justice. Moreover Jesus had had this glory with His Father before the world was. His work and His Person alike gave Him a right to it. The Father glorified on earth by the Son: the Son glorified with the Father on high: such is the revelation contained in these Verses a right, proceeding from His Person as Son, but to a glory into which He entered as man, in consequence of having, as such, perfectly glorified His Father on earth. These are the Verses that relate to Christ. This, moreover, gives the relationship in which He enters into this new place as man, His Son, and the work by which He does so in righteousness, and thus gives us a title, and the character in which we have a place there.

He now speaks of the disciples; how they entered into their peculiar place in connection with this position of Jesus into this relationship with His Father. He had manifested the Father’s name to those whom the Father had given Him out of the world. They belonged to the Father, and the Father had given them to Jesus. They had kept the Father’s word. It was faith in the revelation which the Son had made of the Father. The words of the prophets were true. The faithful enjoyed them: they sustained their faith. But the word of the Father, by Jesus, revealed the Father Himself, in Him whom the Father had sent, and put him who received them into the place of love, which was Christ’s place; and to know the Father and the Son was life eternal. This was quite another thing from hopes connected with the Messiah or what Jehovah had given Him. It is thus, also, that the disciples are presented to the Father; not as receiving Christ in the character of Messiah, and honouring Him as possessing His power by that title. They had known that all which Jesus had was of the Father. He was then the Son; His relationship to the Father was acknowledged. Dull of comprehension as they were, the Lord recognises them according to His appreciation of their faith, according to the object of that faith, as known to Himself, and not according to their intelligence. Precious truth! (compare John 14:7).

They acknowledged Jesus, then, as receiving all from the Father, not as Messiah from Jehovah; for Jesus had given them all the words that the Father had given Him. Thus He had brought them in their own souls into the consciousness of the relationship between the Son and the Father, and into full communion, according to the communications of the Father to the Son in that relationship. He speaks of their position through faith not of their realisation of this position. Thus they had acknowledged that Jesus came forth from the Father, and that He came with the Father’s authority the Father had sent Him. It was from thence He came, and He came furnished with the authority of a mission from the Father. This was their position by faith.

And now the disciples being already in this position He places them, according to His thoughts and His desires, before the Father in prayer. He prays for them, distinguishing them completely from the world. The time would come when (according to Psalm 2) He would ask of the Father with reference to the world; He was not doing so now, but for those out of the world, whom the Father had given Him. For they were the Father’s. For all that is the Father’s is in essential opposition to the world (compare 1 John 2:16).

The Lord presents to the Father two motives for His request:1st, They were the Father’s, so that the Father, for His own glory, and because of His affection for that which belonged to Him, should keep them; 2nd, Jesus was glorified in them, so that if Jesus was the object of the Father’s affection, for that reason also the Father should keep them. Besides, the interests of the Father and the Son could not be separated. If they were the Father’s they were, in fact, the Son’s; and it was but an example of that universal truth all that was the Son’s was the Father’s, and all that was the Father’s was the Son’s. What a place for us! to be the object of this mutual affection, of these common and inseparable interests of the Father and the Son. This is the great principle the great foundation of the prayer of Christ. He prayed the Father for His disciples, because they belonged to the Father; Jesus must needs, therefore, seek their blessing. The Father would be thoroughly interested for them, because in them the Son was to be glorified.

He then presents the circumstances to which the prayer applied. He was no longer in this world Himself. They would be deprived of His personal care as present with them, but they would be in this world, while He was coming to the Father. This is the ground of His request with regard to their position. He puts them in connection, therefore, with the Holy Father all the perfect love of such a Father the Father of Jesus and their Father, maintaining (it was their blessing) the holiness that His nature required, if they were to be in relationship with Him. It was direct guardianship. The Father would keep in His own name those whom He had given to Jesus. The connection thus was direct. Jesus committed them to Him, and that, not only as belonging to the Father, but now as His own, invested with all the value which that would give them in the Father’s eyes.

The object of His solicitude was to keep them in unity, even as the Father and the Son are one. One only divine Spirit was the bond of that oneness. In this sense the bond was truly divine. So far as they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they had but one mind, one counsel, one aim. This is the unity referred to here. The Father and the Son were their only object; the accomplishing their counsels and objects their only pursuit. They had only the thoughts of God; because God Himself, the Holy Ghost, was the source of their thoughts. It was one only divine power and nature that united them the Holy Ghost. The mind, the aim, the life, the whole moral existence, were consequently one. The Lord speaks, necessarily, at the height of His own thoughts, when He expresses His desires for them. If it is a question of realisation, we must then think of man; yet of a strength also that is perfected in weakness.

This is the sum of the Lord’s desires sons, saints, under the Father’s care; one, not by an effort or by agreement, but according to divine power. He being here, had kept them in the Father’s name, faithful to accomplish all that the Father had committed to Him, and to lose none of those that were His. As to Judas, it was only the fulfilment of the word. The guardianship of Jesus present in the world could now no longer exist. But He spoke these things, being still here, the disciples hearing them, in order that they might understand that they were placed before the Father in the same position that Christ had held, and that they might thus have fulfilled in themselves, in this same relationship, the joy which Christ had possessed. What unutterable grace! They had lost Him, visibly, to find themselves (by Him and in Him) in His own relationship with the Father, enjoying all that He enjoyed in that communion here below, as being in His place in their own relationship with the Father. Therefore He had imparted to them all the words that the Father had given Him the communications of His love to Himself, when walking as Son in that place here below; and, in the especial name of “Holy Father,” by which the Son Himself addressed Him from the earth, the Father was to keep those whom the Son had left there. Thus should they have His joy fulfilled in themselves.

This was their relationship to the Father, Jesus being away. He turns now to their relationship with the world, in consequence of the former.

He gave them the word of His Father not the words to bring them into communion with Him, but His word the testimony of what He was. And the world had hated them as it had hated Jesus (the living and personal testimony of the Father) and the Father Himself. Being thus in relationship with the Father, who had taken them out from the men of the world, and having received the Father’s word (and eternal life in the Son in that knowledge), they were not of the world even as Jesus was not of the world: and therefor the world hated them. Nevertheless the Lord does not pray that they might be taken out of it; but that the Father should keep them from the evil. He enters into the detail of His desires in this respect, grounded on their not being of the world. He repeats this thought as the basis of their position here below. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” What then were they to be? By what rule, by what model, were they to be formed? By the truth, and the Father’s word is truth. Christ was always the Word, but the living Word among men. In the scriptures we possess it, written and stedfast: they reveal Him, bear witness to Him. It was thus that the disciples were to be set apart. “Sanctify them by thy truth: thy word is the truth.” It was this, personally, that they were to be formed by, the Father’s word, as He was revealed in Jesus.

Their mission follows. Jesus sends them into the world, as the Father had sent Him into the world; into the world in no wise of the world. They are sent into it on the part of Christ: were they of it, they could not be sent into it. But it was not only the Father’s word which was the truth, nor the communication of the Father’s word by Christ present with His disciples (points of which from John 17:14 till now Jesus had been speaking, “I have given them thy word”): He sanctified Himself. He set Himself apart as a heavenly man above the heavens, a glorified man in the glory, in order that all truth might shine forth in Him, in His Person, raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father all that the Father is being thus displayed in Him; the testimony of divine righteousness, of divine love, of divine power, totally overturning the lie of Satan, by which man had been deceived and falsity brought into the world; the perfect model of that which man was according to the counsels of God, and as the expression of His power morally and in glory the image of the invisible God, the Son, and in glory. Jesus set Himself apart, in this place, in order that the disciples might be sanctified by the communication to them of what He was; for this communication was the truth, and created them in the image of that which it revealed. So that it was the Father’s glory, revealed by Him on earth, and the glory into which He had ascended as man; for this is the complete result the illustration in glory of the way in which He had set Himself apart for God, but on behalf of His own. Thus there is not only the forming and governing of the thoughts by the word, setting us apart morally to God, but the blessed affections flowing from our having this truth in the Person of Christ, our hearts connected with Him in grace. This ends the second part of that which related to the disciples, in communion and in testimony.

In John 17:20, He declares that He prays also for those who should believe on Him through their means. Here the character of the unity differs a little from that in John 17:11. There, in speaking of the disciples, He says, “as we are”; for the oneness of the Father and the Son shewed itself in fixed purpose, object, love, work, everything. Therefore the disciples were to have that kind of unity. Here those who believed, inasmuch as receiving and taking part in that which was communicated, had their oneness in the power of the blessing into which they were brought. By one Spirit, in which they were necessarily united, they had a place in communion with the Father and the Son. It was the communion of the Father and of the Son (compare 1 John 1:3; and how similar the language of the apostle is to that of Christ!). Thus, the Lord asks that they may be one in them the Father and the Son. This was the means to make the world believe that the Father had sent the Son; for here were those that had believed it, who, however opposed their interests and habits might be, however strong their prejudices, yet were one (by this powerful revelation and by this work) in the Father and the Son.

Here His prayer ends, but not all His converse with His Father. He gives us (and here the witnesses and the believers are together) the glory which the Father has given Him. It is the basis of another, a third, [See Note #64] mode of oneness. All partake, it is true, in glory, of this absolute oneness in thought, object, fixed purpose, which is found in the oneness of the Father and the Son. Perfection being come, that which the Holy Ghost had produced spiritually, His absorbing energy shutting out every other, was natural to all in glory.

But the principle of the existence of this unity, added yet another character to that truth that of manifestation, or at least of an inward source which realised its manifestation in them: “I in them,” said Jesus, “and thou in me.” This is not the simple, perfect oneness of John 17:11, nor the mutuality and communion of John 17:21. It is Christ in all believers, and the Father in Christ, a unity in manifestation in glory, not merely in communion a oneness in which all is perfectly connected with its source. And Christ, whom alone they were to manifest, is in them; and the Father, whom Christ had perfectly manifested, is in Him. The world (for this will be in the millennial glory, and manifested to the world) will then know (He does not say, “that it may believe”) that Jesus had been sent by the Father (how deny it, when He should be seen in glory?) and, moreover, that the disciples had been loved by the Father, even as Jesus Himself was loved. The fact of their possessing the same glory as Christ would be the proof.

But there was yet more. There is that which the world will not see, because it will not be in it. “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.” There we are not only like Christ (conformed to the Son, bearing the image of the heavenly man before the eyes of the world), but with Him where He is. Jesus desires that we should see His glory. [See Note #65] Solace and encouragement for us, after having partaken of His shame: but yet more precious, inasmuch as we see that He who has been dishonoured as man, and because He became man for our sake, shall, even on that account, be glorified with a glory above all other glory, save His who has put all things under Him. For He speaks here of given glory. It is this which is so precious to us, because He has acquired it by His sufferings for us, and yet it is what was perfectly due to Him the just reward for having, in them, perfectly glorified the Father. Now, this is a peculiar joy, entirely beyond the world. The world will see the glory that we have in common with Christ, and will know that we have been loved as Christ was loved. But there is a secret for those who love Him, which belongs to His Person and to our association with Himself. The Father loved Him before the world was a love in which there is no question of comparison but of that which is infinite, perfect, and thus in itself satisfying. We shall share this in the sense of seeing our Beloved in it, and of being with Him, and of beholding the glory which the Father has given Him, according to the love wherewith He loved Him before the world had any part whatever in the dealings of God. Up to this we were in the world; here in heaven, out of all the world’s claims or apprehension (Christ seen in the fruit of that love which the Fatherhad for Him before the world existed). Christ, then, was the Father’s delight. We see Him in the eternal fruit of that love as Man. We shall be in it with Him for ever, to enjoy His being in it that our Jesus, our Beloved, is in it, and is what He is.

Meantime, being such, there was justice in the dealings of God with regard to His rejection. He had fully, perfectly, manifested the Father. The world had not known Him, but Jesus had known Him, and the disciples had known that the Father had sent Him. He appeals here, not to the holiness of the Father, that He might keep them according to that blessed name, but to the righteousness of the Father, that He might make a distinction between the world on one side, and Jesus with His own on the other; for there was the moral reason as well as the ineffable love of the Father for the Son. And Jesus would have us enjoy, while here below, the consciousness that the distinction has been made by the communications of grace, before it is made by judgment.

He had declared unto them the Father’s name, and would declare it, even when He had gone up on high, in order that the love wherewith the Father had loved Him might be in them (that their hearts might possess it in this world what grace!) and Jesus Himself in them, the communicator of that love, the source of strength to enjoy it, conducting it, so to speak, in all the perfection in which He enjoyed it, into their hearts, in which He dwelt Himself the strength, the life, the competency, the right, and the means of enjoying it thus, and as such, in the heart. For it is in the Son who declares it to us, that we know the name of the Father whom He reveals to us. That is, He would have us enjoy now that relationship in love in which we shall see Him in heaven. The world will know we have been loved as Jesus when we appear in the same glory with Him; but our part is to know it now, Christ being in us.

Note #63

The more we examine the Gospel of John, the more we shall see One who speaks and acts as a divine Person one with the Father alone could do, but yet always as One who had taken the place of a servant, and takes nothing to Himself, but receives all from His Father. “I have glorified thee”: “now glorify me.” What language of equality of nature and love! but He does not say, And now I will glorify myself. He has taken the place of man to receive all, though it be a glory He had with the Father before the world was. This is of exquisite beauty. I add, it was out of this the enemy sought to seduce Him, in vain, in the wilderness.

Note #64

There are three unities spoken of. First of the disciples, “as we are,” unity by the power of one Spirit in thought, purpose, mind, service, the Holy Ghost making them all one, their path in common, the expression of His mind and power, and of nothing else. Then, of those who should believe through their means, unity in communion with the Father and the Son, “one in us” still by the Holy Ghost but, as brought into that, as already said above, as in 1 John 1:3. Then unity in glory, “perfect in one,” in manifestation and descending revelation, the Father in the Son, and the Son in all of them. The second was for the world’s believing, the third for its knowing. The two first were literally accomplished according to the terms in which they are expressed. How far believers are departed from them since need not be said.

Note #65

This answers to Moses and Elias entering into the cloud, besides their display in the same glory as Christ, standing on the mountain.


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Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by John Nelson Darby [1857-62]
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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http://darby.biblecommenter.com/john/17.htm

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