John 17

The Son’s Intercessory Prayer to the Father
John 17
John 17. There were many times when the Lord would depart into a solitary place and pray to His Father. But here, we are given a window into the communion between the Father and the Son. It goes beyond anything we could ask or think, yet the Spirit of God has seen fit to record this for our blessing. It is by God’s grace that we are permitted to draw near and listen to this prayer. We do well to approach it with reverence, as the communication is that of extreme affection and understanding between the Son and His Father. The Son’s prayer largely concerns His desire for the Father’s glory and for the blessing of His own. We find that the Son is sharing with the saints His place before the Father! Like nowhere else in scripture, in John 17 we have the Son’s deepest desires made known:
  • vv.1-5: The Son’s desire that the Father be glorified in the glorified Son, as man.
  • vv.6-21: The Son’s desire that, while in the world, His saints would glorify Himself.
  • vv.22-26: The Son’s desire that, in a coming day, His saints be glorified with Him.
Previously in His ministry, the Son had spoke to the disciples of the Father. Now the disciples are privileged to hear the Son speak to the Father about the disciples! This prayer is in stark contrast to that prayer prayed shortly afterward in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36). In the latter, the Son expressed His desire that the cup of judgment be removed from Him. But in John’s gospel He is viewed as the Son of God, and the work of the cross as already accomplished. In fact, one of the key features of John’s gospel is that the Son speaks in many cases outside of time. This is why He could say “I have finished the work” before the work of the cross was complete.
This chapter is the last part of what is called “the upper room ministry”, which encompasses the Lord’s special last words to his disciples before going to the cross. It is notable that the upper room ministry begins with the Lord washing the disciples’ feet; a type of the Lord’s ongoing work as our Advocate, to bring in the washing of the water of the Word to restore us after defilement or failure. At the end of the upper room ministry we have the Lord’s prayer to His Father, which gives is the character of the high-priestly work that He now carries on for us in heaven; interceding for us that we might be preserved. To summarize, the upper room ministry is “book-ended” by the Lord’s intercession, first as an Advocate, then as High Priest. Now, that being said, the Lord Jesus did not become our High Priest until He passed through the heavens to be seated at God’s right hand in glory (Heb. 4:14). This chapter rather gives us the character of His intercession, while Hebrews gives us the doctrine of His Priesthood. Also, the character of the Lord’s prayer in John 17 rises far higher than that of a priest to God. In this chapter we have the Son opening up His heart to His Father, giving us a view into their relationship, and the Son’s greatest desires. It is one of the deepest portions found in the Word of God. Another has said, it is “a river in which lambs may wade and elephants may swim”.

Reporting a Completed Work on Earth: Ready for Glorification (17:1-8)

These things Jesus spoke, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee; v.1 The Hour of Christ’s Glorification with the Father. After Jesus had finished the upper room discourse, He “lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father…”. As another has remarked, “Father” is the key word in this chapter. It was to heaven that Jesus would return. His Father was in heaven, and it was to heaven that He then lifted His eyes and addressed the Father. He says, “the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee”. As we have mentioned a number of times before, there are various “hours” in John’s gospel. Here and in John 13:1 it is the hour of His return to the Father. The death and resurrection are completely passed over. The glorification of the Son here refers to the new position that He would take, as glorified in heaven though still a man. Christ would be glorified when He ascended back to heaven, and sat down at God’s right hand. Notice that Jesus does not say “I demand” in connection with His glorification, as He later does when it comes to our preservation and sanctification. He does not demand His own glory. As a perfect man, He remains dependent and asks the Father to glorify Him. But even in this, there is no selfishness; “glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee”. As a Son, His zeal for the Father’s glory is preeminent. How would the Father be glorified by the Son being glorified? The following verses explain. But the glory of the Son in v.1 is an acquired glory, which is different from His essential glory. The acquired glories of Christ are what He gained by coming into the world and accomplishing the Father’s will. Particularly, this would seem to be His glory of redemption, a glory He gained by way of the cross.? He uses that glory now in the way v.2 explains.
2 as thou hast given him authority over all flesh, that as to all that thou hast given to him, he should give them life eternal. 3 And this is the eternal life, that they should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. vv.2-3 Consequence: Eternal life given. The Father would be glorified by the Son extending His unlimited power to grant eternal life to the elect. Notice the tense. When speaking of power over all flesh, He says “thou hast given him authority over all flesh”. As God, the Son always had this authority. But the Son as a man on the earth was given that authority from the Father.12 But when it comes to giving eternal life, it is; “that as to all that thou hast given to him, he should give them life eternal”. The object of the Father investing unlimited power in the Son as man was that, when glorified in heaven, the Son would put forth that power to grant eternal life to other men; those that the Father had given Him. And thus, by giving to the elect (i.e. “all that thou hast given to him”) eternal life, these chosen ones would be brought into the knowledge, love, and communion of the Father and Son. And in that circle of highest Divine blessing, these blessed ones would behold the glory of the Father and Son, and thus the Father would be glorified along with the Son (v.1). Here we have a clear definition of eternal life (v.3).
Eternal Life.

The term "eternal life" is commonly translated “everlasting life” or “life eternal”. The term is used in two different ways in scripture. In the Old Testament (e.g. Psa. 133:3; Dan. 12:2) and the synoptic gospels (e.g. Mark 10:30) eternal life refers to the Millennial kingdom. But in the other New Testament books, and especially John's writings, "eternal life" refers to a life the Christian possesses now. The word “eternal” does not define the duration of the life, but it defines the character of the life; "the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). It couldn’t be the idea of "living forever" because eternal life pertains to believers, and even the unsaved live forever in eternal fire. What is implied in "eternal life" is the possession of divine life in communion with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit; "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).3 Old Testament saints had divine life, but not in the character of "eternal life" because they did not know God as Father, since the death and resurrection of Christ was not complete (John 20:17). Eternal life is the highest character of life that one can ever know, because it is the same life that the Father and Son enjoy together (1 John 1:3), and which had existed from eternity to eternity (John 1:2). All that God is as light and love are enjoyed by the believer, who is brought into fellowship with Divine Persons through the indwelling Spirit, such that he enjoys common thoughts and feelings with God! In 1 John we find that Christ Himself personally is that eternal life. He is also the perfect expression of that life; the Word of Life. God purposed in His eternal counsels that the fellowship of the Father and the Son would be shared with the sons of men! Read John 14:18-20. We are brought into this fellowship through the gift of eternal life. It is the greatest blessing that God can bestow on man, as it is the very same life of Christ! This eternal life, which He shares with others, is "in His Son" (1 John 5:11) meaning it cannot be possessed apart from Him, and that "he that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12).4

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4 I have glorified “thee” on the earth, I have completed the work which thou gavest me that I should do it; 5 and now glorify “me”, “thou” Father, along with thyself, with the glory which I had along with thee before the world was. vv.4-5 His Work Complete and Its Results. The Lord Jesus now speaks of His work on the earth. He could say, “I have glorified thee on the earth”. We might compare this verse with John 13:31; “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him”. The two things were accomplished simultaneously: the Son of man was glorified at the cross, and He perfectly glorified God in Himself. In John 13, it is specifically the cross; God glorified “in him”, that is in Christ as a sin bearer. But in John 17:4 we have a different thought. Here it is His entire path up to and including the cross, which had glorified the Father.5 As a result, we have the Son requesting that the Father glorify Him with the Son’s own personal glory, which He had before the world was, such that it is viewed as acquired, or given to Him by the Father (see v.24). When He became flesh, that personal glory was veiled. He isn’t asking to be re-invested with that glory; because He never lost it, as He never ceased to be the Son. But what He willingly laid aside in becoming man, He now requests to be unveiled, and the attitude of it is perfect dependence! He does not demand this on the basis of His being the Son. He could have, because He had full right and title to that personal glory. But instead He offers up His accomplishing the work given Him by the Father as adequate basis to be given that glory again, now as a man. The Son is competent to rule on His own work (c.p. 1 Cor. 4:3-4). He who knew what was required to glorify the Father says, “I have completed the work”. A similar thought is found in the Victor’s cry on the cross; “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Notice that the Father was glorified on the earth by the Son’s work. But now, ascended at God’ right hand, the Son is glorified with the Father.
6 I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world. They were thine, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word. v.6 The Father’s Name made known to the elect. In order that the believers would be able to know the Father, the Son came also to manifest the Father’s name to the elect. The Son was the only one competent to make the Father’s name known; “neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matt. 11:27; see also John 1:18). This means that the Lord showed the disciples who the Father was – His character, what He was like – as the Son only had known Him. The Father was manifested in the entire pathway of the Son. It would be fully made known in resurrection (John 2o). It wasn’t now the name of El-Shaddai made known as before to Abraham, or Jehovah to Israel, but Father which brings before us His identity and relationship in the Godhead. How wonderful that we can know the Father in the same character that the Son knows Him! Of course, this is not so say we know the Father in the same measure as the Only-begotten, but we can know Him in the same character; as children in the family of God. The Son has unselfishly shared His relationship with us! The enjoyment of this relationship is eternal life, and elsewhere we find that we enter into it by the Spirit. The Lord speak of the elect; “They were thine”. They belonged to the Father in a special way, not merely as creatures, but as having a place in the purpose and counsel of the Father’s heart. And in time, the elect were given to the Son “out of the world”. Here it is black and white; the elect and the world. The position of the disciples is “out of the world”. The disciples’ failures are passed over without a mention; “they have kept thy word”. It is beautiful to consider in John 17 that the elect are viewed as the Father’s love-gift to the Son!
In Thee most perfectly expressed,
The Father’s self doth shine.6
7 Now they have known that all things that thou hast given me are of thee; 8 for the words which thou hast given me I have given them, and they have received them, and have known truly that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou sentest me. vv.7-8 Knowledge of the Elect. The disciples had come to understand what the world would never see; that the Son really had come from heaven, that the Son really was sent by the Father, and that the things the Son said and did were from the Father. It was important that the disciples believe not only that the Son “came out from” the Father (i.e. demonstrating His own love in coming), but also that the Father “sent” the Son (i.e. the Father’s own love toward the disciples, 1 John 4:9).7 The world had rejected our Lord’s testimony; either doubting it, questioning it, or regrettably attributing His work to Satan. The disciples by contrast had received the testimony of the Son, and believed it. These “words” of the Father went far beyond what the disciples had in the Old Testament. They involve things that pertain to the Father’s family.

Prayer for His Disciples on Earth (17:9-19)

9 I demand concerning them; I do not demand concerning the world, but concerning those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine, 10 (and all that is mine is thine, and all that is thine mine,) and I am glorified in them. vv.9-10 The Son Glorified in the Saints. The Lord uses the word “demand” in His prayer in a way that we could never use it. He prays as on an equality with the Father. The Lord would request nothing for the world; the world was in opposition to the Father. He doesn’t pray that the world would be reformed, or that the world would be favorable to the saints. The world was under judgment (John 12:31). There is a day coming when the Son will ask the Father for the nations as His inheritance (Psa. 2), but that day is still future. Now His thoughts are for the elect, the chose co-heirs, who are gathered out the world, and given to the Son as a love-gift. The Lord gives two reasons or motivations to the Father. First, those the Father has given to the Son are still the Father’s also; all that they have is shared “All that is mine is thine, and all that is thine mine.” This is a beautiful standard of unity. The interests of Father and Son are the same. Second, the Son is glorified in the saints; “and I am glorified in them”. If Jesus was loved by the Father, that was another reason of the Father to keep them.8 This is a general principle which is later developed by the apostle Paul. The conduct of the saints reflects the character of Christ (His moral glories) to this world, and this brings glory to the Son.
11 And I am no longer in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one as we. v.11 Preservation and Unity. A simple proof that the prayer of John 17 transcends the confines of the present is here in v.11. Though praying on earth, the Lord could say “I am no longer in the world”. Obviously He is speaking as if the cross were already accomplished. Jesus was going away, and His prayer was that the Father might keep the saints which were in the world. These are the circumstances to which this prayer applies. He addresses the Father as “Holy Father”, because the subject here is the believer’s walk, and it is a matter of moral preservation. In v.25 the Lord addresses Him as “Righteous Father”, because the subject is bringing the saints to be with Christ, and it is a matter of a righteous answer to the work of Christ. He prays that the Father would keep the disciples in the Father’s own name, which means that the saints are to be kept in a way that is morally suitable to the Father’s character; as the Holy Father.910
Then the Lord brings in the thought of unity; “that they may be one as we”. He wanted the disciples to be preserved in unity! The unity that He refers to is a unity that is based on holiness; i.e. Holy Father. The world speaks about unity, but what they really mean is confederacy: the agreement between multiple parties to work together for a limited purpose. The world’s unity is really an agreement to tolerate evil for selfish purposes. But true unity is a unity that has God as its center, and exists in separation from evil. The unity here is the unity of the apostles were to have with one another. This unity was achieved by the power of the Holy Ghost. While the Lord was here on earth, they were arguing who would be the greatest. But when the Holy Spirit was sent, there was never seen such unity among men. They were identical in mind and purpose, being “full of”, or entirely under the power of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4). In their writings, mostly contemporaneous, there is absolute harmony. Practically too, brotherly love reigned among them as they worked with a common object and mission. This was essential to the foundation of Christianity, because the truth that the apostles put forth in their doctrine was reflected practically in their lives! The key to understanding this unity is the words “as we”; as the Father and Son are one in purpose, one in mind, and one in affection.
Three unities. There are three unities in John 17.11
  1. A Unity in Purpose (Past, of the apostles, v.11) – the oneness in desire, aim, thought, and purpose of the apostles in the power of the Holy Spirit; “one as we are”.
  2. A Unity in Communion (Present, of the Spirit, vv.20-21) – the oneness of fellowship for all the saints with Father and Son, those who share eternal life; “one in us”.
  3. A Unity in Glory (Future, in glory, vv.22-23) – a visible display of glory that the saints will share in – “perfect in one” – which will make the world know that the Father sent the Son!
The three unities relate to the world: (1) the world hates, (2) the world believes, and (3) the world knows. The first two were accomplished in the early days of the Church, although the Church as since lost them. But the third unity is future, in the Millennial day of glory, and it will swallow up the first two, and it will never fade away!
12 When I was with them I kept them in thy name; those thou hast given me I have guarded, and not one of them has perished, but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. v.12 Preservation. The Lord speaks of having guarded the disciples while here on earth; and had done so in the Father’s name, in love and holiness. He had kept them from being lost. There was one disciple who was not preserved, but this was because he was “the son of perdition”. Judas was not a true child of God; i.e. he was not one of those the Father had given to the Son. The title “son of perdition” is applied here to Judas, and elsewhere only to antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3). It is an ominous title, reserved for individuals who have fitted themselves for a notorious role in Satan’s agenda; whether it be in betraying the Lord as Judas did, or in leading the great end-times apostasy as the man of sin will yet do. There had to be a betrayer, “that the scripture might be fulfilled”, but it didn’t have to be Judas. The scriptures that refer to Judas are of course those in the Psalms (see Psa. 41; 55). Here we have another proof that this prayer is from the vantagepoint of the work already having been complete; Judas is viewed as having already perished. But here, it is the Son’s perfect work of keeping His own, with one exception (Judas) that the scripture might be fulfilled, and now He hands the care of His own back to the Father. How blessed to see the diligent care of the Father and the Son for the elect!
13 And now I come to thee. And these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in them. v.13 The Son’s Joy Fulfilled. The Son was now coming to the Father, asking for the Father’s divine protection over His own which were still in the world. The same loving care that the Father had for His own Son would be shown to the disciples. The Son always walked in the sunshine of His Father’s pleasure, and this was His joy. The disciples were to have the conscious sense of the Father’s love toward them as well, because they were placed before the Father in the Son’s place. By walking in the enjoyment of this relationship, they could have the Son’s joy “fulfilled in them”. If we walk in unrighteousness, we will not be able to enjoy the Father’s love, and practically we will not experience the Son’s joy. Communion is imperative! To this end, we have been given the Father’s word (v.14). How important the Word of God is to communion with God.
14 I have given them thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. v.14 The Father’s Word and the World’s Hatred. The Son had given the disciples the Father’s word; i.e. those divine communications that placed the disciples in closest relation to the Father, resulting in the Son’s joy fulfilled in them. But not only were the disciples to share the Son’s place before the Father, but they would also share the Son’s place before the world. The world hates the believer “because they are not of the world”. This means that the believer is of a totally different character, and has a life with a totally different origin, than the men of this world. It was the same reason that the world hated the Lord Jesus. The world is a system that runs on the engine of lust. Man’s will, in independence of God, goes to the world-system to satisfy needs, and grant the desires of the flesh. A person here on earth who has eternal life, who finds total satisfaction in the relationship with the Father and Son (eternal life), and in the communion of that love, is altogether different, and unfitting, in this world. “Therefore the world knoweth us not because it knew Him not” (1 John 3:1). It causes the hatred of the world to rise up against us, in the measure that we are “not of” the world, as it did against the Savior, whom this world cast out and crucified. The measure of the believer’s separation from this world is set to the highest standard; “they are not of the world, as I am not of the world”. This is not an exhortation for the believer to be different; it is a fact – we are different.12
The World.

The world is a vast system set up by men, energized by Satan, in which men may live in independence of God.13 The world provides manufactured resources to fill the void that exists in every human heart. Where did the world come from? What is the world characterized by? Where is it going? These are important questions to ask and have answered from the Word of God.

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15 I do not demand that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them out of evil. 16 They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. vv.15-16 Separation from Evil. The Lord then prayed in detail about His desire for the disciples to be kept separate from evil. He is clear that it was not His will for the disciples to be taken out of the world; i.e. for them to be taken to heaven. He wanted them to be kept separate from the negative influence of the world. Again it is repeated, the measure of the believer’s separation from this world is set to the highest standard, that of the Son Himself; “they are not of the world, as I am not of the world”. The world is under the sentence of judgment, but that judgment has not been executed yet. So, in keeping with the revelation of the true state of the world, the believer separates from it. When a man is on death row, those around him are aware of his sentence, and they regard him accordingly; as a condemned man. So it is with the believer and this world. We cannot leave the world, and total isolation is not God’s mind anyway, because the Lord has sent us into the world (v.18). But moral separation from the world is imperative. Worldliness is deadly to the Christian as it disrupts communion, the enjoyment of the Father’s word, and of eternal life. Happily, worldliness cannot rob the believer of his security in Christ.
17 Sanctify them by the truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world; 19 and I sanctify myself for them, that they also may be sanctified by truth. vv.17-19 Practical sanctification and testimony. The Lord now comes to the issue of practical sanctification.

The verb "to sanctify" means 'to declare or set apart as holy, or for a holy purpose'. As an example, we read that "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" (Gen. 2:3), not because it was previously defiled by sin, but because the Sabbath was to be set apart from the other six days. But when sin is present, sanctification involves separation from it. God is holy (Rev. 4:8), and all that is in association with God or in proximity to Him must be holy too; "Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully" (Psa. 24:3-4). There are several different aspects of sanctification in scripture; sometimes called positional (or, once-for-all), practical (or, on-going), and provisional (or, outward). Read more...

The aspect here is practical sanctification, which is ongoing through a believer’s life; therefore it is sometimes called “progressive” sanctification. In these verses we find that the Lord has two modes that He uses to sanctify us practically. In v.17, He uses the washing of the Word of God, for the conscience. God uses His Word to continually remind the believer of what he is in Christ, and to illuminate his moral state (Eph. 5:26-27). We have an example of this continual “washing” in ch.13, with foot washing. If we want to be set apart for God, we must be found reading the Word of God.
In vv.18-19, He sets Himself apart in heaven as an object, for the heart. This too has a sanctifying effect. Christ has set Himself apart as a man in glory. By attaching our hearts to Himself in that sanctified position, we “also might be sanctified through the truth”. This is the secret to overcoming the world; “and this is the victory which has gotten the victory over the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4-5). Faith detached our hearts from this world, and attaches them to an object in heaven. With open face, we behold the glory of the Lord, and are transformed into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18). Victory over the world is gotten through faith in the Son of God as the center of another world altogether! The world pales in comparison to the Son. In v.18 we have the second side of the disciples’ position. The disciples would be sent out in service by the Son. The standard for service and testimony in the world is that of the Son; “As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world”. As the Son was sent by the Father in love into this world to make the Father’s character known, so the saints are sent into the world by the Son to render a testimony to Himself. Again, the highest standard is used.
The Sanctification of the Son. Twice we read that the Son was sanctified; once in John 10:36, and again in John 17:19. Neither have to do with sin in the same sense as with the believer's sanctification. Sanctification is a broad term, and it means "set apart for a holy purpose". As an example, we read that "God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" (Gen. 2:3), not because it was previously defiled by sin, but because the Sabbath was to be set apart from the other six days. The Son was set apart as well, not from sin, but from every other occupation, to come into this world and accomplish the will of God (Heb. 10:5). This was a totally new position for the Son to take! In a certain way, He was set apart from the other Persons of the Godhead - not separated, of course - because He alone of the three became man. In that way, the Son was sanctified in incarnation. In John 17 we find that upon His ascension, the Son was sanctified again! That time it was the Son returning to heaven, setting Himself apart as a man in glory. Previously, there had been men on earth, but never a man in glory. Now there is! Christ has left this world, and taken a new position. By attaching believers to Himself in that sanctified position, we "also might be sanctified through the truth", by detaching our hearts from this world, and attaching them to an object in heaven. To review; first the Son was sanctified by the Father at His incarnation, and then the Son sanctified Himself at His glorification!

Prayer for All Believers (17:20-26)

20 And I do not demand for these only, but also for those who believe on me through their word;  v.20 The Scope Expanded. In His prayer, the Lord now expand the scope to go from praying for the disciples specifically (vv.9-19), to all believers. He looks down the avenue of time, and sees all those who would come to believe on Himself through the “their word”; i.e. through the preaching and teaching of the apostles. This leaves room for vast numbers of people who would later come to believe on the Son, and it would include believers at the present time.
21 that they may be all one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. v.21 Unity of Expressed Communion. The second unity refers to all those that believe through the apostolic testimony. This unity is a unity of communion that the saints are to express in testimony. As we have it in 1 John 1:1-4, there is a communion of those who share eternal life “in the Son”.141516 We gather that it refers to a unity of shared life because it says “one in us”. Having eternal life in the Son gives the capability of enjoying and expressing the communion that flows from the Son having revealed the Father, and the Father loving and delighting in the Son; “thou in me, I in thee”. It is the thought of fellowship.17 This oneness would be a testimony to the world, that the Father had sent the Son. That unity was brightly displayed at the beginning of the church’s history; “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:31-32). There at Pentecost, the oneness of the family was strikingly evidenced. It didn’t matter who they were, what they had done, or even what language they spoke; i.e. all that previously characterized and divided the human race. The power of the Holy Spirit brought forth a powerful testimony before the world, overcoming every human barrier. This unity would evidence that the Father had sent the Son, because it was a heavenly people, enjoying the days of heaven on earth.18 The end result was that “the world may believe”; and truly, thousands per day were converted. This pentecostal unity was marvelously sustained by the Holy Spirit as a testimony to the world. Sadly, this did not continue. Sin, strife, pride, and division came in to breakdown the unity. Nevertheless, unity is still the mind of God for His own; “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6).
22 And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one; 23 I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and that thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me. vv.22-23 A Unity in Glory. The third unity is future, in glory, when we will be “perfected into one”. When Christ who is our life shall appear, we be manifested with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). The glory spoken of here is an acquired glory; the glory of redemption “which thou hast given me”, in answer to the work of the cross. It will be “given” or shared with us! We, as a united company, will share the glory of Christ. No sin will enter that scene, and no division. We will be perfectly one, in our thoughts, desires, and actions, even as the Father and Son are one. This cannot be until we are glorified with Christ. We see this in Revelation 21, where the Lamb is the source of light in the midst of the city, and the city shines with the glory of God, and nations walk in her light. The saints will be perfectly conformed to the image of the Son, who is their life (“I in them”), and the Son will be that vessel manifesting the Father’s glory (“and thou in me”). The world will see the glory of the Son reflected through His people. Christ “shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe” (2 Thess. 1:10). It will not be then a question of “that the world may believe”, but “that the world may know”. The visible display of glory will make it known that the Father sent the Son, though rejected when He came. How could there be a glorified man in heaven, reflected in a redeemed company, unless the Father had sent Him to earth? Then the world, which once persecuted, scorned, and cast out the saints as they did the Son, will then be made to know that the Father has loved the saints, just as He has loved the Son! Amazing grace! In this glory, the second unity (of communion, v.21), though it ought to be so now, will then be perfectly fulfilled in answer to the Son’s request!19 But this oneness will not end when then Millennium fades into eternity; we will be one forever!
Oh what a home! But such His love
That He must bring us there,
To fill that home, to be with Him,
And all His glory share.
The Father’s house, the Father’s heart,
All that the Son is given
Made ours—the objects of His love,
And He, our joy in heaven.20
24 Father, as to those whom thou hast given me, I desire that where I am they also may be with me, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. v.24 The Son’s Greatest Desire. The prayer now coming to a close, grows even more intimate; “I desire”. We are getting to the deepest desire of the Son’s heart concerning His own; “I desire that where I am they also may be with me”. It is to have us with Him, to enjoy His company. The Son’s heart would not be content, strange as it may sound, with returning to the Father. He must have His own with Him! Amazing. And also, to behold His glory. He speaks of this glory as an acquired glory, because the Father “gave it” to Him, but He also speaks of it as His personal glory; “my glory”. It is a glory for the world to see; i.e. it is not His official glory which He will display before the world when He comes as king of kings. Further, it is far higher than any glory the Son will share with us, when we reign in His kingdom. I believe this is the same glory as we have in v.5; it is the glory which the Son had before the foundation of the world, but now given to Him as a man.21 Compare what the disciples saw on the mount of transfiguration (His official glory), with the bright cloud that overshadowed, and the Father’s voice declaring “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. I don’t believe we can exactly state the terms of this glory, because we are not there yet. Some have called it the glory of preeminence, but that may not be adequate. It appears to be connected with His being loved by the Father before the foundation of the world. So, perhaps this glory is that which the Father has given the Son to signify His love, joy, satisfaction, approval, and delight in His well-beloved Son. Like Joseph’s coat of many colors, it is the Father’s personal gift to the Son. When we are where the Son is, in the Father’s house, He will show it to us privately. In heaven, as it were, the Son will take us aside from all else – from administrative responsibilities, from the eyes of the world, to be alone with Himself – just Himself and those whom the Father has given Him. We shall then, unselfishly, adoringly, eternally, gaze upon His glory. As we behold that special glory, we will learn as never before, the Father’s eternal love for the Son; “for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”.22 This is the Son’s greatest desire.
A righteous response. This (v.24) will be the blessed answer to the Son’s portion on earth, and so perhaps it is connected with v.25; “Righteous Father”. On earth the disciples would witness Christ’s dishonor, and His rejection by the world, but in heaven they would also witness His glory, and the immeasurable love of the Father. It is a righteous response from the Father.
25 Righteous Father, — and the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. v.25 The believer in contrast with the world. The Lord now addresses the Father as “Righteous Father”. He speaks of the unrighteousness of the world, and so “Righteous Father” is appropriate where “Holy Father” was used when it was a question of preserving the saints. The Father would deal righteously with the world as with His Son, so Jesus appeals to Him as “Righteous Father”. The Son, who had now reached the end of His earthly path, and was about to be delivered up to be crucified by the world, now lays out the character of the world before the Father. This is the conclusion of the prayer. He had asked the Father (v.1) to glorify His Son. Now He makes clear the righteous choice, as it were, between the world and the Son.23 24 The world is here defined in terms of not knowing the Father. It is true that the world is elsewhere defined as that which rejected the Son. But here, the world is ignorant of the Father, in contrast to the Son who knew the Father perfectly, and was a competent witness of the Father. The Lord associates His disciples with Himself; all those who know the Father has sent the Son are not of the world.
26 And I have made known to them thy name, and will make it known; that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them. v.26 Provisions for the Pathway. The Son had already manifested the Father’s name to the disciples on earth, and would make it known again in resurrection (John 20), so that the disciples would the consciousness of two things with them in the pathway. First, they would have the consciousness of the Father’s love, as toward them in the Son’s place; “that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them”. Just as the Son walked daily in the sunshine of His Father’s love, so the disciples (ourselves included) would be conscious that they are loved as the Son is loved by the Father. Second, we have the abiding possession of eternal life, the very life of Christ, “and I in them”, and this also causes us to feel that we are loved by the Father. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are made to feel the Father’s love as the Son feels it, and thus “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 5:5). When we appear with Christ in glory, the world will know that we are loved by the Father, but it is for us to know it now! Love, the love of God – perfect, infinite, constant, personal – is the believer’s possession for time and for eternity!
  1. For another example of this duality, see John 5:26, where the Son already had life in Himself (John 1:4), but as a man on earth He was granted it by the Father. Incredible humility!
  2. Some teach that the Son was given authority over all flesh in resurrection, on account of the purchase of all things which took place at the cross, viewed as an accomplished fact here. I am not sure about this, but I tend to think the authority was given to Him in incarnation, although He does not use it for giving eternal life until glorification.
  3. Another has stated that eternal life is... "the possession of divine life in fellowship with the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit." - Anstey, B. The First Epistle of John.
  4. A deeper blessing it is impossible for God to bestow or for man to receive; for it is exactly what characterised the Lord Himself, Who is the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us. Only Christ could be said to be that life; we as believers are not, but we have it in Him; and as by faith alone it is received, so in faith it is exercised, sustained, and strengthened. - Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  5. The language here is more of sustained relationship than in John 13:31-32, where it is a question of glorifying God, before Whom sin comes into unsparing judgment. Here it is glorifying His Father, and so there is no special contemplation of that final dealing where all that God is and feels came out against evil imputatively laid on the head of the Son of man. Here the entire path of Christ on earth in giving Himself up to obey and please His Father is summed up. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  6. Conder, Josiah. Thou Art the Everlasting Word. Little Flock Hymnbook #150.
  7. Note that these expressions suppose the equality of the Son with the Father, and His relationship to the Father.
  8. …if Jesus was the object of the Father’s affection, for that reason also the Father should keep them. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  9. How utterly blasphemous is the attribution of this blessed name ‘Holy Father’, to the Roman Catholic popes!
  10. Jesus indicates the name according to which the Father was to keep them: “Holy Father,” to keep them with the affection of a Father, and according to the holiness of His nature. – Darby, J.N. The Gospel of John, Notes and Comments, Vol. 6.
  11. There are three unities in John 17: (1) apostolic—“ one as we,” one thought and purpose; (2) “one in us,” like 1 John 1:1-4 — the true fellowship of saints — is the unity of the Spirit viewed practically; (3), entirely future — unity in glory — “perfect in one.” – J.N. Darby. Notes of a Reading with J.N.D. on the Unity of the Spirit.
  12. They are not of the world, as Christ is not of the world. It is a fact, and not merely an obligation, though the firmest ground of obligation. They are not of the world, not merely they ought not to be; whilst if they are not, it is grievous inconsistency even to seem to be of the world. It is to be false to our relationship. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  13. For the world in the sense here conveyed is that vast system which man has built up away from God in independence and self-reliance, and to the exclusion, not of His nominal honour, but of any real submission to His righteousness, His will, word, or glory. This fully came out in the rejection and cross of His Son. - Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  14. This unity is not the same as the unity of the body of Christ, although the same Spirit that produces the unity of v.21 also unites the members of the body. Here is in the oneness of a family that enjoys a common life.
  15. “…That they also may be one in us” — not “as we,” but “in us,” in the Father and the Son. It is communion in virtue of the Father made known in the Son, and of the Son the object of the Father’s love and delight, into which we are brought by the Holy Ghost. With the Father we share the Son; with the Son we share the Father. Into this blessedness the saints were now for the first time to be introduced, and in such sort that they should all be one, even as the Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, so they also one in the Father and the Son. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  16. For them He asked a unity analogous to that which existed between the Father and the Son in the work of redemption; the same thoughts, the same counsels, the same truth. The Son accomplished the Father’s thoughts in the unity of the same nature. – Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John.
  17. It is always the Father revealed in the Son that is the basis of their union. Now this revelation gave them a heavenly object, one only and the same object that absorbed the heart’s affections, and thus destroyed the influence of the earthly objects that would have tended to divide them, such as their social or national position, and even what was still more difficult, their religious position. They were Christians, sons of the Father, associated with Christ; their fatherland was heaven. Pilgrims and strangers down here, they declared plainly that they sought their native country. Now, in this, they were necessarily one; one in their origin, one in their object, and that with Christ Himself, the Son of the Father. He that sanctified and they who were sanctified were all of one. (See Heb. 2:11.) – Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John.
  18. Thus washed, sanctified, justified, children of God consciously, the Holy Ghost given, they find others in the communion of the same blessing. They are all one, as the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, and brought out as they were of the strongest prejudices into a mutuality of enjoyed blessedness, into oneness in the Father and the Son. What could more powerfully bear witness to the world that the Father sent the Son? – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  19. …while the saints are to be one even as the Father and the Son are one, it will be Christ the Son in them and the Father in Him. And this as exactly agrees with Rev. 21 as the former answers to 1 John 1:3. – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
  20. Trench, J.A. How Blest a Home. Little Flock Hymnbook #127
  21. Thus, in speaking as Man in the midst of His own, He speaks of the glory into which He was going to enter, as being given Him of God. Nevertheless He presents it here objectively as His personal glory. … He demanded that they should see His glory, the glory that He had as loved of the Father before the world existed. – Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John.
  22. 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. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  23. …That the Father Himself should decide in righteousness between Him and the world. The answer very soon followed, when Jesus sat down on the Father’s throne. – Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John.
  24. Even in human conversations, when we are asking another for a favor, we might get to the end and then suggest certain motivations, or underscore what it at stake.