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John 17:13-19: A Prayer for Perseverance, Part 2 Print E-mail
Easter Season
Sunday, 02 April 2017

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The author of Hebrews teaches us that holiness is necessary. He told us to strive for...the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (12:14). Holiness is not optional for the Christian. Some want to dismiss this as being legalistic and rule-oriented religion, but the Bible connects our relationship with God through faith in Jesus with striving to be holy, striving to be more like our Savior. Jesus connects growing in holiness, or sanctification, with perseverance in His prayer for the apostles in John 17. The Lord holds us fast and perseveres us in the faith by making us more and more like Jesus and setting us apart for the mission of declaring the good news.

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As we have noted, the High Priestly prayer of John 17 can be broken up into three section: Jesus prays for Himself (v. 1-5), for His disciples (v. 6-19), and for the church (v. 20-26). Last week we looked at the first part of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in verses 6-12. We noted that Jesus is praying for their perseverance. He is praying that the Father will hold them fast. He knows that His death is coming and that He will be returning to the Father, so He prays for their protection (see v. 11). The prayer for perseverance continues this morning in verses 13-19. Once again I want to ask and answer two questions from this section of the prayer: who is Jesus praying for and how does He pray for them? Let’s answer those this morning.

Who does Jesus pray for?

Again, the easy answer is that Jesus is praying for His disciples, those that followed Him throughout His ministry. What is interesting in this prayer is how Jesus describes these men. We saw last week that they are those that Jesus revealed the Father’s name to, those that the Father gave to Jesus, those that kept the Word of Jesus, and those who were glorifying Jesus. So then, how does Jesus describe them in verses 13-19?

First, they are those who have been given the Word. Again we see the emphasis on the Word in Jesus’ prayer. Look at verse 14a. Jesus has given His Word to these men. This is a reference to His life and teaching. These men have listened to the sermons, they have discussed the parables, they have heard the exhortations and warnings. And as we saw last week, they have heard the Word and received the Word and kept the Word. They have believed what Jesus has taught them, even if their understanding has been limited at this point. The disciples are the men who have been given the Word.

Second, they are those who are not of the world. Look at the rest of verse 14. Jesus says the same thing about these men in verse 16. Look at that with me. There is a great emphasis on the world in Jesus’ prayer for the disciples. The word for ‘world’ is used nine times in the seven verses that we are looking at today. And it has already been used four times in the verses that we looked at last week (see v. 6-12). The world refers to humanity in rebellion against God. The disciples are men who have come out of the world (see v. 6). Like Jesus they are not of the world. And since they no longer belong to the world, the world has hated them. The world only loves its own and so it hates these men who have come out of the world. As Rich Mullins sang: “The world can’t stand what it cannot own.” The disciples are not of the world and they are hated by it.

Third, they are those who are sent to the world. Look at verse 18. Now this seems odd at first. I thought we just said that they came out of the world, why are they now being sent to the world? These men have come out of rebellious humanity in the spiritual sense. They have left the world in that way. Yet, Jesus is sending them into the world to bring good news just as He was sent by the Father to bring good news. They have come out of rebellion so that they could preach repentance and faith to those who are still enslaved to it. This is the pattern that we see throughout the New Testament: Jesus saves and Jesus sends. He calls us out so that He can send us out. We turn from our sins and believe in His death and resurrection so that we can encourage others to do the same. We are evangelized so that we can become evangelists. The disciples are men who have been called out of the world and now sent to the world to bring glory to Christ. They have been given the Word, they have been called out of the world and hated by it, and they are sent to take the good news back and point people to the Savior.

How does Jesus pray for them?

So then, how does Jesus pray for these men? As we said, His overall prayer is that these men would persevere, that God would hold them fast. He wants these men to keep the faith. He already knows what is going to happen to them in the book of Acts. He already knows the suffering and difficulty that they will face as His followers. So He prays that the Father will keep them and protect them. How does He specifically pray for that in our verses this morning?

First, He prays that the Father will keep them from the Evil One. Look at verse 15. We see again that Jesus is not praying for their physical removal from the world. They have come out of the world spiritually, but they are still called to take the good news to the world. Jesus is praying that the Father will protect them and keep them from the prince of this world. We have a real Enemy who is really seeking to destroy us. He is doing all that he can to stop the mission of God, namely His glorification through the redemption of a people. He tried to tempt Jesus to forsake this plan. And he goes hard after his followers to forsake it as well. So Jesus prays for them. The mission is not safe. Living for Christ in hostile territory is never easy. And we are all living in hostile territory if we are still living in the world. The Enemy is real, but He is not greater than the God who holds us fast! All of Hell cannot overcome the ones that He protects!

Second, Jesus prays that the Father will sanctify them in the truth. Look at verse 17. Jesus prays that they will be holy, set apart for service. He prays that the Father will make them more and more like their Savior. There is a clear connection between perseverance and sanctification. We are either persevering in the faith by becoming more like Christ, or we are not in the faith. There is no perseverance apart from sanctification. Granted, it will seem slow at times. We will have seasons of little growth in holiness. But little growth is not the same as no growth. Jesus prays that the Father will keep us growing in holiness and keep us ready for service.

And how does this sanctification happen? It comes through the Word, the truth of God. We live in a world full of lies. We face an Enemy who is the Father of lies. In order to fight, we need the truth. And it is found in the Word of God. The best thing that we can do to persevere in the faith is to consistently feed on the Word. Our hearts and our minds are guarded through meditation on the truth, through hearing it preached and taught, through studying and memorizing it. This is the path to perseverance. Compromising with the world is not the path to perseverance. Abandoning the Word is abandoning the truth. And such a path can only lead to danger and destruction. Jesus prays for God to keep us from that path. He prays that the disciples will be sanctified and set apart through the Word. As they set out on mission to be His witnesses, they are equipped and kept by the truth that He has taught them in the Word. He prays for the Father to keep them and persevere them through their sanctification by the Word.

Before we move on to the final section of Jesus’ prayer next week, I want to conclude by considering two more questions that our text addresses this morning.

First, what is the hope for the disciples truly being set apart for service to the Lord? Can they or we really have hope in becoming holy? Perhaps you are here this morning and you feel like that is an impossibility. Maybe you are thinking: ‘How could the Lord ever set me apart for service? How could He ever use me?’ Let me give you some good news. Look at verse 19. The goal is our sanctification, our forgiveness and redemption, our conformity to the truth of the Word. How is that made possible? Jesus says: And for their sake I consecrate myself. Jesus is going to make our sanctification possible by setting Himself apart for service on the cross. On the next day, He will serve God and serve us by dying on a tree under the righteous wrath of God. His service as the Lord will set us apart for service to the Lord. The glorious good news is that Jesus served you through His death so that you can serve Him through your life. He paid for your sins so that you could repent and have new life in following Him.

But why did He do this? What is the purpose of our salvation? As we said a couple of weeks ago, our redemption brings glory to God. Our salvation displays the worth of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are saved for His glory. But it is for our good as well. Look at verse 13. In the middle of His prayer for the disciples, Jesus says why He is praying for them (and why He has taught them): that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. Jesus died for your joy. He set Himself apart for service to God so that you could know the joy of serving Him as well. The world may have its fun, but it cannot offer joy like this! Jesus prays that the Father will keep His disciples and sanctify them. He has sent them to be witnesses in hostile territory and they will be hated for their service. But they will have joy that is incomparable: the joy of God, the joy of fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus prays for their perseverance so that their joy may be full. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 April 2017 )

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