Christ, having prayed for himself, comes next to pray for those that are his, and he knew them by name, though he did not here name them. Now observe here,
I. Whom he did not pray for (John 17:9): I pray not for the world. Note, There is a world of people that Jesus Christ did not pray for. It is not meant of the world of mankind general (he prays for that here, John 17:21; That the world may believe that thou hast sent me); nor is it meant of the Gentiles, in distinction from the Jews; but the world is here opposed to the elect, who are given to Christ out of the world. Take the world for a heap of unwinnowed corn in the floor, and God loves it, Christ prays for it, and dies for it, for a blessing is in it; but, the Lord perfectly knowing those that are his, he eyes particularly those that were given him out of the world, extracts them; and then take the world for the remaining heap of rejected, worthless chaff, and Christ neither prays for it, nor dies for it, but abandons it, and the wind drives it away. These are called the world, because they are governed by the spirit of this world, and have their portion in it; for these Christ does not pray; not but that there are some things which he intercedes with God for on their behalf, as the dresser for the reprieve of the barren tree; but he does not pray for them in this prayer, that have not part nor lot in the blessings here prayed for. He does not say, I pray against the world, as Elias made intercession against Israel; but, I pray not for them, I pass them by, and leave them to themselves; they are not written in the Lamb’s book of life, and therefore not in the breast-plate of the great high-priest. And miserable is the condition of such, as it was of those whom the prophet was forbidden to pray for, and more so, Jer. 7:16. We that know not who are chosen, and who are passed by, must pray for all men, 1 Tim. 2:1, 4. While there is life, there is hope, and room for prayer. See 1 Sam. 12:23.
II. Whom he did pray for; not for angels, but for the children of men. 1. He prays for those that were given him, meaning primarily the disciples that had attended him in this regeneration; but it is doubtless to be extended further, to all who come under the same character, who receive and believe the words of Christ, John 17:6, 8. 2. He prays for all that should believe on him (John 17:20), and it is not only the petitions that follow, but those also which went before, that must be construed to extend to all believers, in every place and every age; for he has a concern for them all, and calls things that are not as though they were.
III. What encouragement he had to pray for them, and what are the general pleas with which he introduces his petitions for them, and recommends them to his Father’s favour; they are five:—
1. The charge he had received concerning them: Thine they were, and thou gavest them me (John 17:6), and again (John 17:9), Thou whom thou hast given me. “Father, those I am now praying for are such as thou hast entrusted me with, and what I have to say for them is in pursuance of the charge I have received concerning them.” Now,
(1.) This is meant primarily of the disciples that then were, who were given to Christ as his pupils to be educated by him while he was on earth, and his agents to be employed for him when he went to heaven. They were given him to be the learners of his doctrine, the witnesses of his life and miracles, and the monuments of his grace and favour, in order to their being the publishers of his gospel and the planters of his church. When they left all to follow him, this was the secret spring of that strange resolution: they were given to him, else they had not given themselves to him. Note, The apostleship and ministry, which are Christ’s gift to the church, were first the Father’s gift to Jesus Christ. As under the law the Levites were given to Aaron (Num. 3:9), to him (the great high priest of our profession) the Father gave the apostles first, and ministers in every age, to keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation, and to do the service of the tabernacle. See Eph. 4:8, 11; Ps. 68:18. Christ received this gift for men, that he might give it to men. As this puts a great honour upon the ministry of the gospel, and magnifies that office, which is so much vilified; so it lays a mighty obligation upon the ministers of the gospel to devote themselves entirely to Christ’s service, as being given to him,
(2.) But it is designed to extend to all the elect, for they are elsewhere said to be given to Christ (John 6:37, 39), and he often laid a stress upon this, that those he was to save were given to him as his charge; to his care they were committed, from his hand they were expected, and concerning them he received commandments. He here shows,
[1.] That the Father had authority to give them: Thine they were. He did not give that which was none of his own, but covenanted that he had a good title. The elect, whom the Father gave to Christ, were his own in three ways:—First, they were creatures, and their lives and beings were derived from him. When they were given to Christ to be vessels of honour, they were in his hand, as clay in the hand of the potter, to be disposed of as God’s wisdom saw most for God’s glory. Secondly, They were criminals, and their lives and beings were forfeited to him. It was a remnant of fallen mankind that was given to Christ to be redeemed, that might have been made sacrifices to justice when they were pitched upon to be the monuments of mercy; might justly have been delivered to the tormentors when they were delivered to the Saviour. Thirdly, They were chosen, and their lives and beings were designed, for him; they were set apart for God, and were consigned to Christ as his agent. This he insists upon again (John 17:7): All things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee, which, though it may take in all that appertained to his office as Mediator, yet seems especially to be meant of those that were given him. “They are of thee, their being is of thee as the God of nature, their well-being is of thee as the God of grace; they are all of thee, and therefore, Father, I bring them all to thee, that they may be all for thee.”
[2.] That he did accordingly give them to the Son. Thou gavest them to me, as sheep to the shepherd, to be kept; as patients to the physician, to be cured; children to a tutor, to be educated; thus he will deliver up his charge (Heb. 2:13), The children thou hast given me. They were delivered to Christ, First, That the election of grace might not be frustrated, that not one, no not of the little ones, might perish. That great concern must be lodged in some one good hand, able to give sufficient security, that the purpose of God according to election might stand. Secondly, That the undertaking of Christ might not be fruitless; they were given to him as his seed, in whom he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied (Isa. 53:10, 11), and might not spend his strength, and shed his blood, for nought, and in vain, Isa. 49:4. We may plead, as Christ does, “Lord, keep my graces, keep my comforts, for thine they were, and thou gavest them to me.”
(1.) The great design of Christ’s doctrine, which was to manifest God’s name, to declare him (John 1:18), to instruct the ignorant, and rectify the mistakes of a dark and foolish world concerning God, that he might be better loved and worshipped.
(2.) His faithful discharge of this undertaking: I have done it. His fidelity appears, [1.] In the truth of the doctrine. It agreed exactly with the instructions he received from his Father. He gave not only the things, but the very words, that were given him. Ministers, in wording their message, must have an eye to the words which the Holy Ghost teaches. [2.] In the tendency of his doctrine, which was to manifest God’s name. He did not seek himself, but, in all he did and said, aimed to magnify his Father. Note, First, It is Christ’s prerogative to manifest God’s name to the souls of the children of men. No man knows the Father, but he to whom the Son will reveal him, Matt. 11:27. He only has acquaintance with the Father, and so is able to open the truth; and he only has access to the spirits of men, and so is able to open the understanding. Ministers may publish the name of the Lord (as Moses, Deut. 32:3), but Christ only can manifest that name. By the word of Christ God is revealed to us; by the Spirit of Christ God is revealed in us. Ministers may speak the words of God to us, but Christ can give us his words, can put them in us, as food, as treasure. Secondly, Sooner or later, Christ will manifest God’s name to all that were given him, and will give them his word, to be the seed of their new birth, the support of their spiritual life, and the earnest of their everlasting bliss.
3. The good effect of the care he had taken of them, and the pains he had taken with them, (John 17:6): They have kept they word (John 17:7), they have known that all things are of thee (John 17:8); they have received thy words, and embraced them, have given their assent and consent to them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou didst send me. Observe here,
(1.) What success the doctrine of Christ had among those that were given to him, in several particulars:—
[1.] “They have received the words which I gave them, as the ground receives the seed, and the earth drinks in the rain.” They attended to the words of Christ, apprehended in some measure the meaning of them, and were affected with them: they received the impression of them. The word was to them an ingrafted word.
[2.] “They have kept thy word, have continued in it; they have conformed to it.” Christ’s commandment is then only kept when it is obeyed. Those that have to teach others the commands of Christ ought to be themselves observant of them. It was requisite that these should keep what was committed to them, for it was to be transmitted by them to every place for every age.
[3.] “They have understood the word, and have been sensible on what ground they went in receiving and keeping it. They have been aware that thou art the original author of that holy religion which I am come to institute, that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.” All Christ’s offices and powers, all the gifts of the Spirit, all his graces and comforts, which God gave without measure to him, were all from God, contrived by his wisdom, appointed by his will, and designed by his grace, for his own glory in man’s salvation. Note, It is a great satisfaction to us, in our reliance upon Christ, that he, and all he is and has, all he said and did, all he is doing and will do, are of God, 1 Cor. 1:30. We may therefore venture our souls upon Christ’s mediation, for it has a good bottom. If the righteousness be of God’s appointing, we shall be justified; if the grace be of his dispensing, we shall be sanctified.
[4.] They have set their seal to it: They have known surely that I came out from God, John 17:8. See here, First, What it is to believe; it is to know surely, to know that it is so of a truth. The disciples were very weak and defective in knowledge; yet Christ, who knew them better than they knew themselves, passes his word for them that they did believe. Note, We may know surely that which we neither do nor can know fully; may know the certainty of the things which are not seen, though we cannot particularly describe the nature of them. We walk by faith, which knows surely, not yet by sight, which knows clearly. Secondly, What it is we are to believe: that Jesus Christ came out from God, as he is the Son of God, in his person the image of the invisible God, and that God did send him; that in his undertaking he is the ambassador of the eternal king: so that the Christian religion stands upon the same footing, and is of equal authority, with natural religion; and therefore all the doctrines of Christ are to be received as divine truths, all his commands obeyed as divine laws, and all his promises depended upon as divine securities.
(2.) How Jesus Christ here speaks of this: he enlarges upon it, [1.] As pleased with it himself. Though the many instances of his disciples’ dulness and weakness had grieved him, yet their constant adherence to him, their gradual improvements, and their great attainments at last, were his joy. Christ is a Master that delights in the proficiency of his scholars. He accepts the sincerity of their faith, and graciously passes by the infirmity of it. See how willing he is to make the best of us, and to say the best of us, thereby encouraging our faith in him, and teaching us charity to one another, [2.] As pleading it with the Father. He is praying for those that were given to him; and he pleads that they had given themselves to him. Note, The due improvement of grace received is a good plea, according to the tenour of the new covenant, for further grace; for so runs the promise. To him that hath shall be given. Those that keep Christ’s word, and believe on him, let Christ alone to commend them, and, which is more, to recommend them to his Father.
4. He pleads the Father’s own interest in them (John 17:9): I pray for them, for they are thine; and this by virtue of a joint and mutual interest, which he and the Father have in what pertained to each: All mine are thine, and thine are mine. Between the Father and Son there can be no dispute (as there is among the children of men) about meum and tuum—mine and thine, for the matter was settled from eternity; all mine are thine, and thine are mine. Here is,
(1.) The plea particularly urged for his disciples: They are thine. The consigning of the elect to Christ was so far from making them less the Father’s that it was in order to making them the more so. Note, [1.] All that receive Christ’s word, and believe in him, are taken into covenant-relation to the Father, and are looked upon as his; Christ presents them to him, and they, through Christ, present themselves to him. Christ has redeemed us, not to himself only, but to God, by his blood, Rev. 5:9, 10. They are first-fruits unto God, Rev. 14:4. [2.] This is a good plea in prayer, Christ here pleads it, They are thine; we may plead it for ourselves, I am thine, save me; and for others (as Moses, Exod. 32:11), “They are thy people. They are thine; wilt thou not provide for thine own? Wilt thou not secure them, that they may not be run down by the devil and the world? Wilt thou not secure thy interest in them, that they may not depart from thee? They are thine, own them as thine.”
(2.) The foundation on which this plea is grounded: All mine are thine, and thine are mine. This bespeaks the Father and Son to be, [1.] One in essence. Every creature must say to God, All mine are thine; but none can say to him, All thine are mine, but he that is the same in substance with him and equal in power and glory. [2.] One in interest; no separate or divided interests between them. First, What the Father has as Creator is delivered over to the Son, to be used and disposed of in subserviency to his great undertaking. All things are delivered to him (Matt. 11:27); the grant is so general that nothing is excepted but he that did put all things under him. Secondly, What the Son has as Redeemer is designed for the Father, and his kingdom shall shortly be delivered up to him. All the benefits of redemption, purchased by the Son, are intended for the Father’s praise, and in his glory all the lines of his undertaking centre: All mine are thine. The Son owns none for his that are not devoted to the service of the Father; nor will any thing be accepted as a piece of service to the Christian religion which clashes with the dictates and laws of natural religion. In a limited sense, every true believer may say, All thine are mine; if God be ours in covenant, all he is and has is so far ours that it shall be engaged for our good; and in an unlimited sense every true believer does say, Lord, all mine are thine; all laid at his feet, to be serviceable to him. And what we have may be comfortably committed to God’s care and blessing when it is cheerfully submitted to his government and disposal: “Lord, take care of what I have, for it is all thine.”
5. He pleads his own concern in them: I am glorified in them—dedoxasmai. (1.) I have been glorified in them. What little honour Christ had in this world was among his disciples; he had been glorified by their attendance on him and obedience to him, their preaching and working miracles in his name; and therefore I pray for them. Note, Those shall have an interest in Christ’s intercession in and by whom he is glorified. (2.) “I am to be glorified in them when I am gone to heaven; they are to bear up my name.” The apostles preached and wrought miracles in Christ’s name; the Spirit in them glorified Christ (John 16:14): “I am glorified in them, and therefore,” [1.] “I concern myself for them.” What little interest Christ has in this degenerate world lies in his church; and therefore it and all its affairs lie near his heart, within the veil. [2.] “Therefore I commit them to the Father, who has engaged to glorify the Son, and, upon this account, will have a gracious eye to those in whom he is glorified.” That in which God and Christ are glorified may, with humble confidence, be committed to God’s special care.