Jesus Prays For His Disciples - Part One
Scripture: John 17:6–10
Jesus Prays For His Disciples-Part OneJohn 17:6-10
Sunday, February 8, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith
As we are coming to the end of the fourth gospel, we are approaching the purpose statement, which indicates the reason why John composed His work. In chapter 20, verses 30-31 the Apostle wrote, "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written 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's purpose of writing was to proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. And I think he's done a pretty good job staying faithful to that purpose!
I trust this is evident for those of you who have been with us for the past two years. Especially as we covered chapters 1-12, every sermon was the gospel. In other words, every sermon came from a text that taught what a person must do to in order to be saved from an eternal hell and receive the promise of eternal life in God's presence.
Now as we approach the primary Passion narratives, I was hoping for a final opportunity to clearly present the gospel in a straightforward, succinct and most comprehensive manner. That opportunity presents itself in this morning's text.
But before we start, some of you may be wondering, why is it so important to clearly understand the gospel? Why devote a whole sermon specifically to this topic? Allow me to give you three reasons.
First of all, it is the only message that leads to salvation. Odds are, with a church this size, there may be some who have never placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. If I am speaking to you, it is no coincidence that you are here this morning. God wants you to hear this message. I promise you will not depart from this sanctuary without hearing exactly what the Bible says a person must do in order to be eternally saved.
Second, we need to understand the true gospel in order to present it to others by way of evangelism. A false gospel will always result in false converts. Quite often when I share the gospel with professing Christians, they affirm everything I say, but quite often when I ask professing Christians to present the gospel to me, few are able to deliver it with biblical accuracy. There's a problem with that. First, how can we believe something we are unable to articulate? Second, how can we accurately share the gospel with others? We are called to be "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20). We have a message from the King. It is essential that we speak accurately on His behalf.
Third, salvation is not a one-time belief in Jesus Christ. Quite often when believers are asked if they are saved, they will point to a date in the past when they trusted Christ. Such rationale cannot be supported with the Scriptures. What matters is not what we did in the past with the gospel, but what we are doing right now with the gospel. Biblical belief is present tense. It is ongoing faith. We need to continually hear the gospel because we are continually required to place our faith in the gospel. A true Christian lives by the gospel, treasures the gospel and continues by faith in the gospel.
I'm so glad no one complained over these past two years about the consistent repetition of the gospel. C. H. Spurgeon, possibly the greatest of all preachers once said, "I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothing but hammer away on this one nail. With me it is, year after year, 'None but Jesus!' Oh, you great saints, if you have outgrown the need of a sinner's trust in the Lord Jesus, you have outgrown your sins, but you have also outgrown your grace, and your saintship has ruined you." Few things brought me greater joy than when a senior in our church remarked after the gospel presentation at the Christmas concert, "Pastor, I never get tired of hearing that message!"
The world teaches that there is one God, but many ways to that God. Christianity teaches that there is one God and only one way to that God. For Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (Jn. 14:6). There is one way of salvation and only one gospel. It is imperative that we not only understand it, but also believe it and are able to correctly articulate it. Not an inch of error is permitted with this message. Close does not count! The Apostle Paul in Galatians sternly speaks of the tragic consequences of deviating from its accuracy. "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed" (Gal. 1:6-9)! We dare not play fast and lose with this message. There is much too much at stake. Yes, the salvation of humankind is at stake, but we must remember that the ultimate purpose of the gospel is God's glory!
We find ourselves in chapter 17, Christ's prayer to His Father. Last week we learned that Jesus in the prelude to His prayer began (in verse 1) and ended (in verse 5) with a petition for His glory. Not only did Jesus commence this prayer for His glory (in verses 1-5), He also concluded the prayer for His glory. In verse 24 He said, "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."
The glory of the Triune God is always preeminent in all that is decreed. Therefore, the plan to save men and women through the gospel is ultimately for the glory of God. The gospel rests on humankind no different than a diamond rests on black velvet. The backdrop does not make a glorious object more glorious, but it accentuates and reflects and radiates the glory of the object. Through the gospel we see the revelation of God's love and the extent to which He will go to save those who have turned their back on Him in rebellion. Through the cross we see His forgiveness, mercy and grace in ways no human could ever have imagined. The gospel presents God's necessity to uphold justice even to the point of exercising His wrath on His beloved Son who becomes the sin-bearer for humankind. The gospel presents a God who must be worshipped above all, obeyed with delight and trusted with confidence. The gospel presents a God who is sanctified and set-apart from us, but yet enters an intimate relationship with His own whereby they may refer to Him as "Abba Father" (Rom. 8:15; cf. Mk. 14:36)! The gospel presents a God who has the power to transform us into Christlikeness and give us the desire to no longer esteem ourselves, but now live to esteem and glorify Him.
There is no doubt that the gospel glorifies God. And there is no doubt that God is glorified when men and women turn from serving sin and Satan and self begin to serve the "one true God" (Jn. 17:3). These are specifically the ones Jesus prays for in this section of His prayer, these are the ones who will behold His glory and these are specifically the ones who bring Christ great glory - thanks to the gospel. In verses 9-10 Jesus said, "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them."
1. THE GOSPEL FROM GOD'S PERSPECTIVE
Since the gospel, the salvation of men and women is so important for God's glory, let's first examine it from God's perspective (point #1). Remember this is all couched in the context of Christ's prayer and it serves to provide the reason why the salvation of humans brings forth His glory.
Allow me to read verse 6. Jesus said, "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word." Salvation from God's perspective is seen in three sections of this verse.
First of all, God the Father sovereignly selects men and women from His creation and gives them to Christ. Ephesians 1:4-5 says the Father "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." Just as God is sovereign over the tiniest atom and the greatest star, He is sovereign over those who will receive eternal life. Jesus makes this clear in His prayer. Verse 6- "Men whom you gave Me out of the world." Verse 6- "They were Yours and you gave them to Me." Verse 9- "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours" (see also verses 2 and 24). Earlier in chapter 6 Jesus said. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me" (Jn. 6:37a; cf. 6:39; 18:9).
Well, (in the second part) how do they come to Jesus? It is not some mystical action; rather the process is spelled out clearly in the beginning of verse 6. Jesus said, in reference to those chosen by the Father, "I have manifested Your name to (them)" (cf. 17:26; Psm. 22:22). This means Jesus revealed the truth about God to them. Most of those whom He prayed for in the first century personally saw Jesus Himself manifest the name of the Father. Now, after His ascension, Jesus uses us as His mouthpiece to manifest the name of the Father. Accordingly, Jesus specifically makes this petition for us in verse 18. "As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."
So the Father gives some to the Son. The Son manifests the name of the Father to them. And finally all those whom Christ calls, will come. And they evidence that coming (end of verse 6) by keeping Christ's Word. This means they will place their faith in the gospel and show that faith through ongoing belief and obedience. God from His perspective knows His children will always keep His word. They will persevere until death. And the need for Christians to faithfully persevere until the end is essential to demonstrate that Christ is able as the Good Shepherd to keep those entrusted to His care by the Father (Jn. 17:12; 18:9).
The result of this three-step process of salvation from God's perspective (sovereign selection, manifesting His name, keeping His word) is His glory.
2. THE GOSPEL FROM MAN'S PERSPECTIVE
As we move to the second point, the gospel can also be seen from man's perspective. Follow along as I read from verse 8. Jesus said, "For the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me." Like before, salvation from man's perspective is also seen in three sections of this verse. We must receive, understand and believe Christ's words.
First of all an individual must receive the gospel. He or she must "take it in." And in order to "take it in," a person must hear the gospel. Mark my words, God has ordained it in such a way that a person will never be saved without hearing the gospel. Romans 10 states, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:14-15, 17; cf. 1 Pet. 1:23)
The Word of God always precedes the Spirit of God to regenerate hearts. This understanding gives us the impetus to commit ourselves to missions and evangelism. People must hear the gospel in order to have eternal life. Christians do not have a "right to remain silent." If salvation is based on people hearing the gospel, the most loving thing we can do is faithfully, accurately and boldly preach the "good news" to everyone! Christ has sent us into the world as His ambassadors (Jn. 17:18; 20:21).
Last I heard the ocean temperature is currently 38 degrees. Imagine with me that our church went for a lunchtime cruise and while our boat was 10 miles offshore, the vessel suddenly sinks. One of us is fortunate to instantaneously come across the rescue boat, which is large enough to accommodate everyone. Knowing that we would have seconds to live, the individual realizing he has been saved, speeds off to the shore by himself. Beloved, when we refuse to share the gospel with others we are basically saying, "I've got my salvation and I could care less if everybody else perishes."
We must proclaim the gospel! And having the confidence that God saves through the gospel of Jesus Christ we don't need to water it down. We don't need to manipulate. We don't need to add any gimmicks. We simply need to share the unadulterated gospel and leave the results to God. For the Apostle Paul clearly said the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16).
Second, verse 8 says the gospel must be understood. People must understand the gospel in the sense that it is clearly and accurately presented. That is our responsibility. But moreover, they must understand the gospel in the sense that it is the glorious message of eternal life and not absolute foolishness. That is the Holy Spirit's responsibility. Paul said, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18; cf. 1:21, 23; 2:14).
So in order to be saved, people must receive the gospel, understand the gospel and finally, believe the gospel. Jesus ends verse 8 with these words, "And they believed that You sent Me." Here we are essentially talking about faith, faith that God has sent Jesus Christ to put away sin by His work on the cross. It's being certain that His plan is the only hope for forgiveness. The intellectual assent mentioned earlier of understanding now gives way to individual commitment having been personally convinced of these truths.
The result of this three-step process of salvation from man's perspective (reception, understanding, faith) is also God's glory.
3. THE GOSPEL FROM A BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE
We have seen salvation explained both from God's perspective and man's perspective as it is mentioned by Jesus Christ in verse 6 and 8 for the purpose of God's glory mentioned in verse 10.
Now let me ask you, can each of you who profess Christ rightly articulate the gospel? If someone asked you how they can have eternal life, what would you say? If I passed out paper, what would you write? If I called you up to the pulpit, what would you say? It is crucial that each of us rightly understand the gospel before we depart from this sanctuary. Both our salvation and God's glory is at stake! Therefore with the time that remains, I would like to present to you this wonderful gospel in its entirety. I plan to break the gospel down into five, easy to remember parts. God-Sin-Christ-Faith-Consider.
The first part is "God." The gospel begins with the character of God. And what better attribute is there to consider than the one spoken of most often in the Scriptures-His holiness. Isaiah in his throne room experience heard the Seraphim proclaim, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isa. 6:3; cf. Rev. 4:8). God is holy. He is pure. He is set apart from His creation. His eyes cannot look upon evil (Hab. 1:13), much less tolerate it in His immediate presence.
The Scriptures say this holy God "has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness" (Ac. 17:31; cf. Psm. 50:6). As Creator all are accountable to Him (Rom. 1:25). All will stand before His throne (Heb. 9:27). All will be judged according to His holy standard of perfect righteousness.
This may not be the God of Hollywood or sadly even of the American church, but this is the God of the Scriptures. And we have no other choice as the creature to acknowledge Him as such.
The second part of the gospel is "Sin." Once we rightly understand the character and nature of God, we must understand the character and nature of man. Though we like to believe that all humans are basically good, the Scriptures speak to the contrary. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 6:23a adds, "For the wages of sin is death." Although God's standard is perfect righteousness, Romans 3:10 emphatically declares, "There is none righteous, not even one."
We need to rightly understand that our goodness is not comparing ourselves to criminals (or any human being for that matter), but rather comparing ourselves to God and rightly understanding His definition of sin. Jesus said "that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5:28). Would any man in this room admit to perfection in this area? You say, what if that is my only sin? Well, in James 2:10 we read, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." In the sight of God we are all sinners by personal choice and responsible for the consequences.
Despite our greatest attempts, we cannot work our way to a holy God (Isa. 64:6) because our sin remains. Even our "good deeds" are tainted with sin. The Puritans used to speak of their need to repent of their repentance! God cannot and will not lower His perfect standard and still remain a holy God worthy to be worshipped. Therefore we as humans are lost, under the wrath of God and deserving of hell. Even now, the Scriptures declare that humans are "judged already" (Jn. 3:18).
By now, I hope you see the great chasm that separates God and humans. We would have more success jumping across the Atlantic Ocean than being able to work our way to God based upon our personal merit (and I mean that literally)! As humans we prefer rather to dethrone God to the level of George Burns (remember that blasphemous movie?) and elevate man to the level God. We prefer to create a god in our own image and view human beings as morally good creatures perfectly acceptable before God. We believe God owes us eternal life. Such thinking is further proof of our own depravity. I hope you see that humans are desperate for God to act on their behalf if they have any hope of receiving eternal favor in His sight.
Fortunately for us, God did! And the answer is found in the Person of Jesus Christ (part 3). John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus Christ lived the perfect life according to God's righteous standards. Then He went to the cross and died the perfect death as a substitute for humans. Though He was without sin, He accepted the sin of others and then received the appropriate punishment from our Holy God that we as sinners deserve. Romans 8:32a says "(God) did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all." That's why we call Jesus our Redeemer, our Substitute, our Atonement and the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn. 1:29). Through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, God is able to deal with sin in perfect justice and then and only then deal with humans in perfect forgiveness.
Christ, because of His work on the cross has made salvation possible. But how do we receive His gift of eternal life? How do we make the transaction and appropriate His work to our account? The answer is the fourth part of the sequence, "faith." Faith is turning away from my own righteousness and looking to Christ. Faith is relying upon Him, depending upon Him and clinging to Him. Faith is forsaking my sin and submitting to His lordship. Faith in Christ is the biblical avenue to true salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
The gospel is God, sin, Christ, faith and finally, "consider." As Rick sang earlier, we must consider the cost and the demands of the gospel. Are we willing to forsake all that we are for all that Christ is (Lk. 14:25-34)? Are will willing to endure persecution for the name of Christ (Mt. 10:22)? Are we willing to give Jesus Christ first-place in all that we do (Col. 1:18)? Are we willing to go and sin no more (Jn. 8:11)? Are we willing to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ (Mt. 16:24-26)? Obviously none of us succeed with perfection in these areas, but those who follow Jesus make these areas their priority.
Today's church has ceased to preach the true gospel. As a result, most people see no need for a Savior. Those who do profess Christ may be moral, but are often unregenerate and not born again. Many accept Jesus as a genie, but as Lord. Personal holiness is ignored and even mocked while Jesus Christ takes His place on the shelf with all the other idols in ones life.
We need to make a choice. Do we wish to follow the world or the Scriptures when it comes to proclaiming the message of salvation? The degree to which the Grace Tabernacle is effective in God's eyes is in our capacity to glorify Jesus Christ by equipping His saints to extend His kingdom. We must not think we have a better plan and a better message than the one He has entrusted to our care. Jesus' prayer began with the gospel, and it is for those who have believed the gospel. We must understand the true biblical gospel, embrace it in our own lives and faithfully share it with accuracy through both our words and our conduct.