John 17:1-11 - The Lord's Prayer
Here are a few observations that may be helpful in unpacking this passage, commonly refered to as The High Priestly Prayer of Jesus.
V1 – Purpose clause (ἵνα plus the subjunctive glorify. The Son’s cross work (“the hour has come”) purpose is to glorify the Father. I would argue that this purpose of glorifying the Father supersedes redeeming the elect discussed in v 2.
Note two major concepts in v 1-11 – “give” (δίδωμι ) appears 11x and “glory” appears 6x. And vs 2,6,9,11,12, and 24 each refer to those given to the Son by the Father. And all of this encased in glory. At the end of the day that is what salvation is all about - God’s gifts and glory. Particular redemption best reflects the gift and glory nature of this salvation.
V2 – The Father gave the Son absolute rule (ἐξουσία) over all “flesh” (σάρξ), that is all people living in a body on earth. Given the “even as” ( καθὼς), this rule is somewhat of an expression the Father glorifying the Son (v1). See Carson Farewell Discourse… 177-180 for discussion of the connection between vs 1,2).
Purpose clause = (ἵνα plus the subjunctive “give” δώσῃ). Thus the absolute powerful rule of the Son is seen in his sovereign granting of eternal life to all the ones given (πᾶν ὃ δέδωκας perfect) to him by the Father. Clearly, the ones given to the Son = the ones to whom the Son gives eternal life and both groups are not equal to the “all flesh” but rather a subset thereof.
V3 - Another purpose clause = (ἵνα plus the subjunctive “know” γινώσκωσιν). Knowing God is foundational. Again, the focus is on the Godhead, not the elect.
V4 – In vs 2 the Father gave the Son authority over all people, gave the Son selected people, and now (v4) gives Him a task (“work” ἔργον ) that undoubtedly is the cross but is referred to by the Son as the work of glorifying the Father.
Another purpose clause = (ἵνα plus the subjunctive “to do” ποιήσω). The Father expected that the Son would actually accomplish his assigned task!
V6- A striking statement about the Son’s work – His task was to not only to die for them but to also open their blind eyes to the identity of the Father. – He “manifested the Father’s name” (Ἐφανέρωσά σου τὸ ὄνομα) to them. The apparent result is that they believed as evidenced by they “kept your word.”
Those given to the Son are further set in contrast with another group – “the world”. The Father took individual “men” “out of” the universal world of men and gave these selected ones (and no more) to the Son (cf Eph 1:4-5).
Vs7-8 This eye-opening work is expanded in vs 7-8 to include the deity of the Son Himself and it is again repeated that they “received” and “believed”. More transactions between the Father and Son are mentioned. A possible excursus might be to identify the “everything” the Father gave to the Son.
V9-11 - In v 6 The Son claims to minister to those given to Him by the Father by revealing the Father to them; in v 7-8 He imparts to them the very words of the Father and opens their eyes to the identity and mission of the Son. Now in v 9-11 He intercedes with the Father on their behalf. And, John goes out of his way to tell his readers that the Son performed unique ministries for those given to him by the Father that He did not undertake for the remainder of mankind.
The “they are yours” clarify the Father giving people to the Son. The line of thought may go something like this: 1) The Father owns everything and every human being by virtue of his being the sovereign creator; He can do what he wants with what he owns. 2) On the basis of His own pleasure, the Father selected certain men to be in a unique relationship with Him. 3) The Father granted ownership of these men to the Son. 4) The Son nurtured, instructed, and redeemed his own and finally intercedes on their behalf with the Father. 5) The Son’s activity on their behalf is designed to glorify the Father.
So, at the end of the day, the priestly ministry of Christ must be co-extensive with His intercessory ministry. Those for whom Jesus offers himself in sacrifice must also be those for whom He intercedes.
“…Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).
“…Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
“My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 21:1-2).
Thus, John 17:9: ”I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine”.
What kind of God would love all men enough to die for them, but not enough to save them or even pray for them? Would Jesus really have not prayed for those for whom He died? Yet, this is precisely what a general atonement requires.
On the basis several factors including this passage, I conclude that the substitutionary death of Christ was not universal in either its effectiveness or its design. Its design was to provide an actual payment to God for the sin-debt of the elect. In other words, the death of Christ was never intended by God to redeem any except those He chose to save before the foundation of the world. Therefore, its effectiveness extends no further than the elect. No salvific benefit of Christ’s death comes to any but the elect. Salvation is not universal because the atonement was not universal. Salvation is limited to the elect because the atonement was limited to the elect. When Christ died, He died in the place of certain specified sinners – those previously chosen by God. This same death not only rendered to God a sufficient and effective payment for the sins of the elect, but purchased everything necessary for their final salvation: their regeneration, faith, repentance, justification, sanctification, and glorification. (Note that descriptive terms of salvation convey actual accomplishment rather than potentiality - redeemed, reconciled, propitiated, and etc). Thus, perhaps a better description of the doctrine of limited atonement is Particular Redemption. And yet it is true that there are non-salvific benefits that accrue to the non-elect as the teaching of common grace attests. In this sense, God “loves the world” without distinction but not without exception.
However, we must remember the context: the Lord’s prayer drives the passage not the issue of the atonement.
Most commentators see three major sections in chapter 17: The Lord prays for himself (1-5), the disciples (6-19), and all future believers (20-26).
What can we learn from his praying? This prayer is for our edification - we can look over his shoulder. Most of his prayers were private, but this is a public prayer. Undoubtedly, Jesus wanted his disciples to hear him pray. Thus looking for lessons is warranted, but not necessarily for rote models.
Several applications and lessons are evident from the chapter
I. Jesus Prays For Himself 1-5
Though Jesus asks that the Father glorify him, he makes the request so that he might glorify the Father 1,5
The basis for Jesus’ request is his own faithfulness in fulfilling his divine commission to secure eternal life for the elect 2-4
Carson (180) captures the essence of these verses: “Jesus prays, in effect, “Father, you know that in principle you have given me a supreme position over all people…in order that I might give eternal life to all those you have given me. Now, Father, …my prayer is that you fulfill your Word. Glorify your Son (just as you promised you would), in order that by bringing glory to you he might effect the salvation of those you have given him. “
Lesson 1: Eternal life is a gift
When we compare Jesus prayer for himself with the way we pray for ourselves we may observe that…
We tend to pray for our external problems - health, finances, vocational issues, more faith, more obedience, more wisdom, more holiness. This is all okay but…Jesus does not prayer-list his problems. In fact, Jesus essentially prays that the will of the Father be accomplished (the salvation of God’s people). See Mark 14:36 in Gethsemane - “not what I will, but what you will.”
Lesson 2: Though Jesus’ prayer is not intended to be duplicated, we should beg God to fully accomplish his will in our lives, no matter what the consequence whether painful or pleasant.
II. Jesus Prays For His Disciples 6-19
A. Before offering requests for the disciples, Jesus reminds the Father (and the disciples themselves) who the disciples are 6-10
The disciples understand the Father via the revelation of the Son 6
The disciples belonged to the Father from the beginning 6
The disciples were God’s gift to the Son 6
The disciples obeyed Jesus’ word 6-8
The disciples are to be distinguished from the world 9-10
The disciples are a means glorifying Jesus 10
Lesson 3:Because of the Son’s approach to the Father is a vivid picture of his love for us, let us never again question his love.
Lesson 4: Is our approach to God a carefully thought out address or merely a spontaneous blurt?
B. Jesus has specific solicitations in mind as he approaches the Father on behalf of his disciples 11-19
He prays for their unity 11-12
Lesson 5: Because friendly fire kills as certainly as does enemy fire, never forget who the enemy is!
Lesson 6: Though not fully attainable, our goal must be to be united with believers as the Son is to the Father.
He prays that they might experience joy 13
Lesson 7: Public prayer not only ought to be supported by believers, it is also extremely valuable for them.
He prays that they might be protected from the evil one14-16
Lesson 8: We ought to spend a greater proportion of our time praying about our spiritual struggle than about temporal matters such as health and wealth.
He prays that they might be sanctified 17-19
III. Jesus Prays For Future Believers 20-26
Lesson 10: A certainty: others will believe.
A. He asks the Father for their unity 20-23
Lesson 11: The love of the Father for believers is parallel with the love of the Father for Son 23-24
B. He prays their presence with him in heaven as well as their comprehension of his being 24
C. He prays for the attendance of divine love and the divine presence