Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #917 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Given

John 17:1-5

Delivered 07/22/18

This morning in our study of the Gospel of John we come to chapter 17, which is a prayer that Yeshua prays to the Father. This chapter has had a special place to me since I was a young Christian. In the fifth century, Clement of Alexandria remarked that in this prayer, Yeshua was acting as a High Priest on behalf of His disciples. From the time of David Chytraeus (1530-1600) this chapter has commonly been referred to as Yeshua's "High Priestly Prayer."

As Yeshua's instruction to His disciples in the upper room come to a close, He turns to the Father in prayer. He prays for Himself and as the intercessor on behalf of His disciples. In the Old Covenant, it was the High Priest who offered the bloody sacrifice to Yahweh on His sacred altar and whose responsibility it was to serve the covenant people as God's representative and the people's intercessor. Now, in the New Covenant order, it is Yeshua Himself who is offering both the sacrifice of His passion and death and His intercession on behalf of His disciples to God the Father. That's why this prayer has come to be known as "Yeshua's High Priestly Prayer."

We know from the Gospels that Yeshua prayed a lot. Prayer was important to Him. Mark tells us:

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35 ESV

When Yeshua was about to select the original twelve apostles, Luke says:

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. Luke 6:12 ESV

But, in most cases, we are not told what Yeshua prayed. We have a few short sentences here and there, such as at the grave of Lazarus, Yeshua prayed, "Lazarus, come out." And at Gethsemane, He prayed, "If it be Your will, let this cup pass from Me." Then at the cross He said, "Into Your hands I commit My spirit." But for the most part we don't know what the Lord said in prayer, until we get to John 17.

In Matthew 6 we have the prayer that Yeshua taught His disciples, which is called the Lord's Prayer, but it's not the Lord's Prayer. It is a prayer that Yeshua taught the disciples to pray. It is a pray that He said, "Pray this way." But He did not pray that prayer. He couldn't pray that prayer. He never prayed that prayer, because that prayer says in part, "Forgive us our trespasses, our sins." He told us to pray that way. He didn't pray that way. That was the disciples' prayer. That's our prayer. That's a pattern for our prayer. John 17 is the real Lord's Prayer.

Warren Wiersby writes, "Whether He prayed it in the Upper Room or en route to the Garden, this much is sure: it is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth and the greatest prayer recorded anywhere in Scripture. John 17 is certainly the 'holy of holies' of the Gospel record, and we must approach this chapter in a spirit of humility and worship." (Wiersbe, 1:367)

Philip Melanchthon, co-Reformer with Martin Luther, said this of John 17: "There is no voice which has ever been heard, either in heaven or in earth, more exalted, more holy, more fruitful, more sublime, than the prayer offered up by the Son of God Himself." John Brown of Edinburgh, while expounding this chapter in the 19th century, stated, "All that is peculiar and wonderful in Christianity is here" (An Exposition of our Lord's Intercessory Prayer [Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers], 1978 from 1866 edition) viii).

We notice also that this prayer was intended to be overheard; its audience is not the Father alone, but those disciples present with Him who were in a little while about to be utterly devastated. It is also meant to be overheard by us, centuries later, so that we also, like them, will be encouraged and instructed by it. This prayer recorded in John 17 is the longest recorded prayer of our Lord in the New Testament. It is found only in the Gospel of John.

The chapter divides itself into three simple sections. In the first five verses, it is Christ praying to the Father for Himself. The theme of glory dominates verses 1-5. Yeshua requests the Father to glorify Him with the glory they shared from eternity. And then from verse 6 through verse 19, we have Christ praying for His disciples. The theme there is "kept." Yeshua asks the Father to preserve His disciples. Then from verse 20 to verse 26 we have Christ praying for future believers, His Church. The theme there is unity. Yeshua desires for those in His church to be in oneness with each other.

When Yeshua had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, John 17:1 ESV

"When Yeshua had spoken these words"—links John 17 to the farewell discourse of John 14-16. We have talked before about the fact that the Last Discourse has many of the characteristics of a Farewell Speech, a literary form frequently used in the Bible and the Intertestamental Jewish literature. Often the Farewell Speech concluded with a prayer. The book of Deuteronomy is an extended Farewell Speech. In Deuteronomy 32 and 33 Moses brings the speech to its closing climax by prayer.

"He lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said"—looking to heaven, with arms raised, is the traditional Jewish position of prayer.

A Song of Ascents. To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalms 123:1 ESV
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. Matthew 14:19 ESV

According to the parable in Luke 18:13 the tax collector did not feel himself worthy to do this;

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' Luke 18:13 ESV

Let me ask you this, Does the Bible mention Yeshua or anyone else closing eyes in prayer? No. So why do Christians today close their eyes for prayer? If I had to guess I would say to block out distractions.

"Father"—who is Yeshua praying to? He is praying to Yahweh, the Father. A man wrote me last week and said, "I have a question. In John 17, Jesus/Yeshua is praying to His Father. Is it your understanding that the Father is Yahweh/Jehovah? If so, then is Jesus/Yeshua praying to Himself? No, Yeshua is not praying to Himself that wouldn't make much sense. The doctrine of the trinity states that there is one God, who is one in essence or substance, but three in personality. This does not mean three independent Gods existing as one, but three Persons who are co-equal, co-eternal, inseparable, interdependent, and eternally united in one absolute Divine Essence and Being. In this prayer Yeshua, who is Yahweh, is praying to the Father, who is Yahweh. Here the Son prays to the Father, both of whom are Yahweh.

Calling God "our Father" is common for us now two thousand years later. But in the Tanakh the term "father," with reference to God, is used about fourteen times and never of any individual addressing the Father or God as his own father? So when the Lord Yeshua came and said, "After this manner pray ye, 'Our Father who art in heaven,'"; That was something new and striking. They would have been astonished to hear that they are able to address God as their own Father.

"The hour has come"—this Gospel refers to Yeshua's "hour" seventeen times. In the first half of the Gospel,"The Book of Signs," "the "hour" is anticipated as the moment of climax in Yeshua's ministry (see John 2:4; 4:21; 5:25; 7:30; 8:20). In the second half of the Gospel, "The Book of Glory," after entering Jerusalem for the last time, Yeshua speaks of His "hour" as being imminent, and we understand that His "hour" is not only the climax of His ministry, but that it is also the climax of His earthly life (see John 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1). This is the last time the hour is mentioned in John's Gospel.

It was the hour that fulfilled the divine design, when before the foundation of the world, God ordained that Christ be crucified as an effective sacrifice for sin. It was the hour of the cross. In the redemptive drama everything is under a divine timetable and by divine appointment. The cross shows God's supreme sovereignty. The Jewish leaders did not want to crucify Yeshua during the Passover, because they feared a riot among the crowd (Matt. 26:5). But Yeshua was God's Passover Lamb whose blood applied in faith would protect from God's judgment. And so He was sacrificed during the Passover. The cross shows that God is sovereign over all things, including the so-called "free will" of sinners.

"Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you"—Yeshua doesn't say, "Glorify me," He will say that in verse 5, but here it is, "Glorify your Son." The term "the son" is a messianic term.

This is not a selfish prayer, this prayer is grounded in the basic unity between Himself and His Father: if He is glorified, the Father is automatically glorified. This recalls His teaching in John 5:

that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. John 5:23 ESV

When Christ seeks His own glory He is seeking the glory of the Father; only when Christ is glorified is the Father glorified.

When he had gone out, Yeshua said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. John 13:31-32 ESV

How is the Son to be glorified? By the cross. The glory is in Yeshua's sacrificial death. It is then that the Son glorifies the Father through His obedience and the Father glorifies the Son in accepting His sacrificial death as the atonement for the sins of man. "Glorify the son that the son may also glorify you"— means: "enable Me to successfully complete the mediatorial work of the cross, the Resurrection and the Ascension that as a result of that you may be glorified as well."

D.A. Carson has some insightful comments here, He says:

"That God's appointed hour has arrived does not strike Jesus as an excuse for resigned fatalism, but for prayer: precisely because the hour has come for the Son to be glorified, He prays that the glorification might take place. This is God's appointed hour; let God's will be done—indeed, Jesus prays that His Father will accomplish the purpose of this appointed hour. As so often in Scripture, emphasis on God's sovereignty functions as an incentive to prayer, not a disincentive." (Carson, D. A. [1991] The Gospel according to John [pp. 552-571]. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)

To glorify God is to display His perfect attributes so that others will marvel at who He is. It means to make Him look good, as He truly is. And nothing glorifies God like the cross. You may be thinking, How could torture and a violent death display God's attributes? The cross showed how seriously God regards sin. It showed the intensity of God's opposition and anger towards all rebellion. And it show His love for His elect.

since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. John 17:2 ESV

There are three uses of the Greek word didomi: "give" in this verse, all referring to the idea of giving something as a gift. "Since you have given him authority over all flesh"is the first use. "To give eternal life"—is the second use. "To all whom you have given him"—is the third use. So Yeshua has been given absolute authority. Therefore He has the power to give eternal life. And the Father has given a certain people to the Son three gifts:

"Since you have given him authority over all flesh"—God the Father gave His Son authority or absolute power over humanity. We see this in:

And Yeshua came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Matthew 28:18 ESV
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, Ephesians 1:22 ESV

Why does the Son have to be given authority? Isn't it His by virtue of His being God? Yes, but this points to something specific. The Father gave Yeshua sovereign authority over mankind on the basis of the Son's obedience in humiliation, death, resurrection and exaltation.

So by virtue of His authority over all mankind He has authority to give eternal life.

Yeshua said this earlier in:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28 ESV

"I give eternal life to them"—this is a claim to Deity. No one but God can give eternal life. Notice that He doesn't say, "They have earned eternal life." Eternal life is a gift. We do not earn it. We do not deserve it. It is not by work of righteousness that we have done that we are saved.

"To give eternal life to all whom you have given him"please notice that it doesn't say that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. That would be true, but here He says that He gives eternal life "to all whom you have given me." So who are "the given"? Who has the Father given to Yeshua? This is important because "the given" all of them, get eternal life. Notice what Yeshua said earlier:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37 ESV

Yeshua had connected "coming" to Him to "believing in Him" in verse:

Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:35 ESV

What I want you to see here is that "coming to Yeshua" and "believing in Yeshua" are synonymous concepts. These are parallel terms, coming to Christ is the same as believing in Christ and vise versa. This is very important in understanding this text.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37 ESV

So since "coming to Christ" and "believing in Christ" are synonyms, who believes in Yeshua? "All that the Father gives to Him"—the ability to believe on Yeshua requires divine enablement. It is only those whom "the Father" enables to believe that "come to" Yeshua in faith. These are "all" the people whom "the Father gives" to the Son as gifts. Yeshua viewed the ultimate cause of faith as God's electing grace, not man's choice.

Those of you who hold to an Arminian view, the order here is crucial. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me"—Yeshua does not say that all who come to Him will then be given to Him by the Father. We do not determine by our response who will be the Father's gift to the Son. Rather our response is determined by the prior election of God.

The word "gives" is a word of destiny. It's divine sovereign election. The concept of the elect being a love gift from the Father to the Son is taught throughout Scripture. Notice what Isaiah writes:

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. Isaiah 8:18 ESV

Who is speaking here? The Epistle to the Hebrews quotes these words as the distinct words of Yeshua:

And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Behold, I and the children God has given me." Hebrews 2:13 ESV

Speaking of Isaiah 8:18 The IVP Bible Background Commentary states:

"These are not the words of the prophet, speaking of himself and his natural children, nor of his spiritual children, his disciples, called sometimes the sons of the prophets; but of Christ, who has a seed, a spiritual offspring who are given Him of God, in the covenant of grace."(IVP Bible Background Commentary).

The Scriptures represent the Father as promising the Son a certain reward for His sufferings on behalf of sinners:

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11 ESV

"He shall see His offspring"—this is a reference to the elect of God. God has given the elect to Christ, we are children of promise. Notice, that it says "He will see it and be satisfied," and not frustrated.

So Yeshua doesn't give eternal life to all without exception? He only gives eternal life to "the given." One commentator writes, "This phrase should not be understood as the Father giving some humans to Jesus and not others." What? No, that is exactly what it means. The Lord Yeshua has sovereign authority to give life and He gives life to those to whom the Father has given to Him. This is one of the clearest statements of what is called "particular redemption" or "limited atonement." This is one of the five points of Calvinism known as "TULIP":

Total Depravity

Unconditional Election

Limited Atonement

Irresistible Grace

Perseverance of the Saints

LIMITED ATONEMENT deals with the issue of for whom did Christ die? Did He die for everyone or for the elect? Now, of course, election is not enough to save us by itself. There is this matter of divine justice—which must be satisfied. That is, God cannot merely take sinners into His fellowship. Their sin must be dealt with first. In fact, they must be punished. This is the very heart of Gospel, that Christ came, and in the place of sinners offered a sacrifice to God for their sin. In Yeshua's words, "I lay down my life for my sheep" (Jn.10:11). Because His death was in their place and for their sin, they will go free. They are punished in Him, their Substitute. This, again, is the whole essence of the Gospel, the very hallmark of Christianity.

It is for this reason that we say, further, that Christ died with the intention of saving His elect. He gave His life "for his sheep" (Jn.10:11). To be sure, the value of Christ's person and work is infinite. His death, therefore, was entirely sufficient to atone for all the sins of all the men who ever lived. But, it was not designed to do that. We know this, very simply, because not all are saved. His mission, as He defined it, was to give eternal life to all who the Father had given Him. Christ died not merely to make possible the salvation of all mankind, but to make certain the salvation of all that the Father had given to Him—the elect.

but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:26-29 ESV

The ultimate reason they did not believe in Yeshua was that they were "not" His "sheep." Too many, who are Arminian in their soteriology, this is offensive. Yeshua was telling His listeners that He had not called them. They had not been given to Him by the Father. They did not belong to His flock. So their unbelief was no surprise. And the reality is this: You can't come to God unless God calls you. Yeshua was emphasizing their inability to believe.

Believers, the New Testament clearly teaches that Christ bore the sins of many, not all. The essential issue here concerns the nature of the atonement. Yeshua's atonement involved both expiation and propitiation. Expiation—Christ removing our sins. He paid for them. Propitiation— satisfaction of sin before God. If Christ bore in His own body on the tree the sins of all men without exception, then none will ever perish. Christ's atonement was only for the elect, it was limited.

It is my conviction that the five points of Calvinism are biblical and are the true Gospel. The Church today is being flooded with a new gospel, a humanistic gospel. The Gospel is always and essentially a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgement. It is a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good, both in nature and grace. Its center of reference is God. But in the new gospel the center of reference is man. You choose, you decide, you initiate salvation. The chief aim of the Gospel was to teach men to worship God, but the concern of the new gospel seems limited to making them feel better.

Our minds have been conditioned to think of the cross as a redemption, which does less than redeem, and of Christ as a savior, who does less than save, and of God's love as a weak affection, which cannot keep anyone from perishing without their help, and of faith as the human help, which God needs for His purpose. This is not the gospel, the Gospel is "God saves sinners."

"To all whom you have given him"—this use of "given" points to an act by the Father that has a distinction and permanency to it. He uses the Greek perfect tense to distinguish this giving from the other two usage's of give. The verb is perfect active indicative which speaks of an enduring gift! The Father's gift to the Son is a gift of a people who will be redeemed and sanctified to be conformed to the image of Yeshua the Christ.

Someone may say, "Well I think that even those who are not 'the given' can still come to Christ because the Bible says, 'Whosoever will, may come.'" Well look at:

And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." John 6:65 ESV

So you can't come if you are not "the given" and if you are "the given" you will come:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37 ESV

Then verse 39 says:

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. John 6:39 ESV

All the given are risen. So no one can come except the given, all the given will come. And furthermore, of the given, not a single one shall be lost. That my friends is an ironclad argument.

Believers, that phrase "all You have given Me" appears seven times in this prayer. That is a defining statement regarding believers, you and me, and all believers since the work of Christ was applied. All believers—listen—have been given to Christ from the Father. In Scripture, seven symbolizes completeness or perfection.

Believers, this Gospel should be the death of Arminism. How can you know this book and not hold to a Calvinistic soterology? I had a friend who was a preacher who wanted to argue with me about Calvinism. He adamantly denied it. Until he began doing a verse by verse study through this Gospel. He is now Calvinistic in his soterology.

If you are a believer, it is because God gave you to Christ, and He gave you because He chose you, and He chose you before the foundation of the world, the Bible says, and He wrote your name down. Seven times it refers to believers as those whom the Father gives the Son. It is completely wrong to think that that decision is left to us:

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Yeshua the Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3 ESV

Knowing in Semitic thought, and in the biblical context, is not merely the result of an intellectual process to access and store information. It is to have intimate, personal knowledge that results in a covenantal relationship.

The word "know" is a present tense verb, which means that our knowledge of Him continues and continues. He is referring to a personal, intimate relationship with the living God, which grows as the years press on. He does not mean that we know about God, rather we know God. It is an experiential knowledge of God, a subjective experience of God grounded in the objective truth concerning God, which He has given to us in His Word.

This knowing of God is what was the promise of the New Covenant:

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:34 ESV

Study the Gospel and the first letter of John in depth: you will notice that eternal life is inseparably linked with the person of Yeshua.

This verse is the last of nine times that the Gospel of John records Yeshua speaking about "eternal life." Without exception, "eternal life" in the Gospel of John, the other Gospels and the rest of the Bible, always refers to eternity in heaven with God.

"The only true God"—Yeshua described the Father here as "the only true God." This does not mean that Yeshua was acknowledging that the Father was God, and that He (Yeshua) was not God, as Unitarians believe. Rather it means that Yeshua was acknowledging that there is only one true God.

Does this go against the divine counsel viewpoint? No, there were many other lesser deities, but they were all created by and were subject to Yahweh. According to Deuteronomy 32:8, Yahweh divided up the nations and put these lesser gods over them. But Yahweh chose Israel as His people.

To say that Yahweh is the only God was an ancient biblical slogan of incomparability of sovereignty, not exclusivity of existence. It was a way of saying that a certain authority was the most powerful compared to all other authorities. It did not mean that there were no other authorities that existed.

This is the only place in the New Testament where our Lord called Himself "Yeshua the Christ."

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. John 17:4 ESV

The Greek text reads, "I have glorified you upon the earth by having finished the work, which you gave me to do." Yeshua probably was including His death, Resurrection, and Ascension, to which He referred proleptically (to describe an event that is not yet past as though it were already completed). Yeshua can thus speak proleptically, as if His work (including even the work of the cross) is already completed, since the "hour" has already come and His departure is at hand.

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. John 17:5 ESV

In 17:1 Yeshua prays for the Father to glorify Him. Now He repeats the request and defines the glory for which He prays more specifically as the glory which He had with the Father before the world existed.

This request presupposes Yeshua's preexistence with the Father and His equality with the Father (10:30). As the pre-incarnate Son of God, Yeshua was united in glory with the Most Holy Trinity before the world was created (John 1:1-3).

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7 ESV

The word "but" here is a contrastive—"not this, but this." The word "emptied" is the Greek word kenoo, it means: "to make empty." Figuratively, it means: "to abase, naturalize, to make of none effect, of no reputation." What did He empty Himself of? Glory!

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. John 17:5 ESV

Yeshua is asking the Father to reverse the self-emptying entailed in His incarnation and to restore Him to the glory that He shared with the Father before the world began.

On a very practical note, please notice here that Yeshua is praying for something that is sure to come to pass. People often say, "If you believe in the sovereignty of God, then why pray?" We pray because we realize that it is prayer that is the divinely directed means for the accomplishment of His certain goals.

We pray for all kinds of things, health, wisdom, financial problems and that is okay I guess. But notice here that Yeshua's prayer is primarily concerned with the Father's will? He prays that what He knows about the Father and His purposes will be accomplished. Sovereignty and prayer are not mutually exclusive. We need to follow Yeshua's example of prayer. What He prayed for must be important.

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