Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #919 MP3 Audio File Video File

Holy Father, Keep Them

John 17:11-19

Delivered 08/05/18

We are looking at our Lord's High Priestly Prayer found in John 17. This is the final chapter of the Upper Room Discourse where the Lord is preparing the disciples for His departure. He has been teaching them for the past four chapters, and now in chapter 17 He prays for them.

This prayer divides itself into three simple sections. In the first five verses Yeshua prays for Himself, that He would be glorified through the cross so that in turn He would glorify the Father. The theme of glory dominates verses 1-5. Then in verses 6-19, He prays for the disciples, that they would be kept and set apart from the world. The theme there is "kept." Then in verses 20-26, He prays for future believers, which includes us, that they would be unified so that the world may believe that the Father sent Yeshua. The theme there is unity.

This prayer of Yeshua to the Father pulls together many important themes from Yeshua's teaching found throughout this Fourth Gospel. We'll see many of them today.

So far we have looked at the first 10 verses. We saw last week in verses 6-10 that our Lord dealt with the fact that He has accomplished what He came to do, and so He is now ready to return to the Father in heaven. In verses 11-19, our Lord prays for His disciples in light of the fact that He is leaving them to go to the Father. As we study these verses we must, as always, keep in mind audience relevance. The Lord is praying specifically for His disciples who are about to carry on His mission during the transition period. Look at verse 20:

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, John 17:20 ESV

This shows us that in verses 6-19, Yeshua was praying specifically for His current disciples. With that in mind, let's look at Yeshua's praye:

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11 ESV

The context here is that the disciples are still going to be in the world after Yeshua returns to the Father.

"And I am no longer in the world"—if you compare this with what Yeshua says in verse 13, the statements seem to contradict each other, "These things I speak in the world." The key to this apparent contradiction is that in both verses Yeshua says to the Father: "I am coming to you." Yeshua's departure from the world is so near that He can speak here in verse 11, as if He has already left the world. Some ancient manuscripts add: "I am no longer in the world, yet I am in the world," which seems to unite verses 11 and 13 and express that Yeshua is in a state of transition to the Father.

"But they are in the world, and I am coming to you"—the Lord is leaving the world to return to the Father, but the disciples are going to remain in the world which is very hostile to them. Very soon they would no longer have the Son's encouraging presence with them.

"Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one"—I want to bring out here that there is what I feel to be a significant difference in the manuscripts here and in verse 12. Notice how the KJV puts this:

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. John 17:11 KJV

The ESV has, "keep them in your name, WHICH you have given me..."

The KJV has, "keep through thine own name THOSE WHOM thou hast given me..."

With the ESV, the name of God is given to Yeshua; with the KJV, the name of God preserves those whom God has given to Yeshua.

Let's look at verse 12:

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. John 17:12 ESV

The KJV reads,

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. John 17:12 KJV

The ESV has, "I kept them in your name, WHICH you have given me."

The KJV has, "I kept them in thy name: THOSE that thou gavest me."

With the ESV, the name of God is given to Yeshua; with the KJV, it has to do with the preservation of the "given." So which one is right? A significant combination of early manuscripts has "WHICH you have given to me." Other early manuscripts and related later witnesses have "THOSE WHOM you have given me." So the manuscript evidence doesn't help us much, and neither do the scholars, they are both pretty evenly divided on this. I'm going with the KJV because I think the context leans toward Him talking about the "given" not the "name."

If we take the KJV as correct that means that seven times in this prayer Yeshua prays for "those the Father had given him." It is a well established fact that the number 7 in Scripture is the divine number of spiritual completion and perfection. The idea that a certain group of people have been given to the Son by the Father is seen all through this Gospel. So it makes sense that Yeshua would focus on the "given" in this prayer.

Okay, let's go back to verse 11:

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11 ESV

The title "Holy Father" appears only here in the Fourth Gospel. This is the only time that Yeshua uses this title. "Holy" points to God's separateness from His creation and from sin. "Father" points to His nearness and approachability.

Does it seem wrong to you that the Catholics call the Pope "Holy Father"? Does he deserve God's title? The Catholics answer this by saying:

"Since we are His holy people, and His people are the Church, it is fitting that the head of His holy people be called "Holy Father"—not because of his own merit, but because Christ died for him and for the Church that he leads on earth." (

Who made the Pope the head of Christ's Church? I thought that Yeshua was the Chief Shepherd.

The first request that the Lord makes is for the preservation of the given ones. In verse 9 Yeshua said, "I pray for them: I pray not for the world." Well this is what He prays for them. He prays first for their preservation.

"Keep them in your name"—this phrase could mean, "by the power of your name" or if the preposition "en" is locative instead of instrumental in mood it would mean, "keep them loyal to you." It could be both of these, but the context favors the second view. Loyalty seems to be the objective of the keeping, and the dominant idea, not the means to it, namely, not the Father's power. The Greek word Yeshua uses here is tereo, which is the same word repeatedly used for keeping His word.

Knowing the temptations the disciples will face in His absence He prays that they will remain loyal to Him in the midst of trials and temptation. He is praying that they will persevere in their faith.

Let me ask you something, Do you think that the Father answered the Son's prayers? If He prayed that the Father would keep the "given" then the "given" were kept.

This is what Calvinists call the "Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints." This is one of the five points of Calvinism. We just went over this a couple of weeks ago. The acronym —Tulip—is used for the five points of Calvinism. It stands for: "Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints."

When someone says that they believe in the perseverance of the saints, you have to find out what they mean by that, because this doctrine is interpreted in two different ways:

View 1. A true Christian will never fall away, but will live a life of holiness and obedience. They will always persevere in holiness, they will always live a holy life.

View 2. The other interpretation, which I hold to is basically that no one whom God has brought to a saving knowledge of Yeshua will ever be lost. When I use the term "Perseverance of the saints," I'm speaking about what most would call "eternal security."

Spurgeon used to say, "It's not so much the perseverance of the saints that is prominent as it is the preservation of the saints by God."

The majority of Church goers do not understand that our salvation is not based upon what we do, but upon what Christ did. They think that their relationship with God is based upon their performance. They think that as long as they live "right" that God will not condemn them. This is a "works" system. To attempt to live the Christian life by works is to live under constant guilt and condemnation. But to understand that salvation is by grace through faith, and that we are absolutely secure because of Christ's work, will bring great peace to your soul. Security is vital to peace.

If you think a person can lose their salvation, then you do not understand salvation. And you certainly don't understand what we have studied so far in this Fourth Gospel. Yeshua makes it clear that the salvation and security of the sheep are not the result of the sheep's efforts, but rather the sovereign will and working of God:

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

The construction of the Greek clause "they shall never perish," literally it reads, "they will indeed not ever perish." It is an especially strengthened expression. You couldn't emphasize it more in the Greek if you tried. Yeshua had previously said that part of the task, that the Father had given Him to do, was to preserve all those whom the Father gave Him (6:37-40).

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 10:29 ESV

Our salvation is dependent upon the choice of the Father in eternity past. He chose out the mass of humanity, a people to give to His Son. The only ones who believe in the Son are the ones the Father has given Him. The Son dies for the salvation of the sheep that the Father gave Him. And all the sheep that the Father has given to the Son will believe in the Son and be given eternal life, they will never perish. The elect sheep are kept safe in the hands of the Father and the Son. It is the sovereignty of God which assures our salvation. No one overrules His will. No one overpowers Him. No one nullifies what He has achieved. No one takes away those He has purchased. Our God is sovereign and our salvation is secure.

We must understand that our salvation is based upon the act of One person— Yeshua the Christ. Please get that! The security of our salvation is not based upon our acts. Just as we were all condemned by Adam's act, so also we are made righteous by Christ's act.

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 ESV

Romans 5:12-21 is a comparison of two men—Adam and Christ. The comparison is very simple; there are two men, who each performed a single act that brought forth a single result, and the result is experienced by every member in their respective races. The emphasis in this section is on how one man's act affects all he represents.

The word "made" is not causative, but declarative. Those in Adam were declared sinners. It is imperative that we understand this: "By one man's disobedience many were regarded as sinners." He doesn't say, "made sinful," but "made sinners." The whole human race has been constituted legally as sinners. That is our judicial standing before God. And it is based entirely and solely on Adam's one act of disobedience.

That is one side, but thank God there is another side to the parallel—"even so." By the righteous act of One Man, the Lord Yeshua the Christ, the many are made righteous. Our salvation is based entirely on Him, and from Him, and in Him. As my being a sinner came entirely from Adam, all my righteousness comes entirely from the Lord Yeshua the Christ.

Yeshua was regarded and treated as a sinner that we might be regarded and treated as righteous in the sight of God. As a believer, I am righteous, and I will always be righteous because I am in Christ, and Christ never changes, so neither will I. Your salvation and mine depends only, and entirely, and exclusively upon the obedience of Christ.

"Keep them in your name, which you have given me"—the ones that Yeshua prays that the Father will keep are those "you have given me." As we have seen throughout this Gospel this is a reference to the elect of God, those chosen before the foundation of the world and given to Yeshua as a gift for His redemptive work.

"That they may be one, even as we are one"—their unity is the purpose of their being kept. They cannot be one as Yeshua and the Father are one unless they are kept. This is not talking about us getting along with each other in the Church. It is that we may be one even as the Trinity is one. This is not organizational unity, but rather intrinsic, organic unity that stems from sharing the divine nature as a result of the new birth. This unity is compared to the unity which exists between the Father and the Son. In John 10:30 Yeshua said, "I and the Father are one."

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. John 17:12 ESV

"While I was with them, I kept them in your name"—the earliest manuscripts have "with them," but a few early manuscripts and related later witnesses have "with them in the world." The prepositional phrase "in the world" doesn't add much because we are told this in verse 13.

Yeshua says, "I kept them in your name...I have guarded them"—Yeshua had kept these disciples loyal to God, and had guarded them from external attacks while He was with them. The word guarded here is from the Greek phulasso, which means: "to protect from outside threats." It's used in Luke 11 of a strong man guarding a house. It's used in Acts 28 of soldiers guarding Paul.

We see this guarding in action in chapter 18,

So he asked them again, "Whom do you seek?" And they said, "Yeshua of Nazareth." Yeshua answered, "I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go." John 18:7-8 ESV

When they came to arrest Yeshua, they also wanted to arrest the disciples. The Lord never lets that happen; He protects them from that. The imagery here is suggestive of the Good Shepherd imagery of chapter 10, especially verses 27-30. Yeshua is the Good Shepherd who protects His sheep.

"Not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction"—not one of whom? None of the ones that the Father had given Him. None of the "given" has perished. None of them. Earlier Yeshua said:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28 ESV

In our text Yeshua affirms that indeed none of them have perished. Yeshua guarded and protected His disciples except the one who was destined to be lost. The literal translation is "except the son of perishing." This Semitic expression, in the literal Greek text, is a play on the word "to perish,"not one has perished except the son of perishing. This is a reference to Judas.

"That the Scripture might be fulfilled"—this indicates that some passage in the predicted Judas' betrayal and defection. The exact passage is not specified here, but in John 13:18, Psalm 41:9 is explicitly quoted by Yeshua with reference to the traitor.

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. Psalms 41:9 ESV

This is a Psalm of David. Who was David's adversary? It seems that David is referring here to Ahithophel. Does anyone remember how Ahithophel died? He hung himself. And we know that Judas in the New Testament is his parallel,he also hung himself. So that Ahithophel becomes an illustration, a type, of Judas.

It is interesting that the "son of destruction" carries the name of Yeshua's tribe: the tribe of Judah. The Hebrew name Yehuda means "Yahweh's people." Isn't it ironic that it was Yahweh's people who rejected Him, with the exception of a faithful remnant, the "given." And within the apostles there was both a "true Judah" and a "false Judah"? The true Judah who believed in the Messiah was the Apostle Judas, son or brother of James, also called Jude to distinguish him from the other Judas.

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. John 17:13 ESV

"These things I speak"—probably refers to the entire farewell discourse. Again Yeshua says that He is going to the Father.

"That they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves"—this echoes earlier statements about the disciples possessing Yeshua's joy in 15:11:

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11 ESV

Yeshua's joy, like that of the disciples, comes from abiding in the Father's love, which happens as we live in obedience to Him. Yeshua is praying that the disciples will be kept loyal to the Father, which would mean that they are abiding in Him and sharing His joy.

David put it this way in the Psalms:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalms 16:11 ESV

Joy is the product of an intimate relationship with God produced in us by the Holy Spirit as we receive and obey the Word.

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17:14 ESV

"I have given them your word"—there is a double meaning here since "word" means message, but it was also a title for Christ in John 1. Yeshua has conveyed the message of God to the disciples, most powerfully by being that message Himself.

"And the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world"—once again He returns to the theme of the world's hatred for the disciples. The world hates them because they are not of the world, just as He is not of the world. Yeshua has stressed this point to them. Back in chapter 15, verse 18, He said, the world would hate them because it hated Him. He told them in verse 20, the world would persecute them. He told them again in verse 23 that they would be hated because the world hates Him and hates the Father. In chapter 16, He told them in verse 2 they would be put out of the synagogues and be killed by those who thought they were serving God. He wanted them aware that the world is a dangerous place for the children of God.

Here's the irony: the people who bring to the world the most glorious and liberating message of grace are the most persecuted religious group in the whole world.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. John 17:15 ESV

The world hates believers and is dangerous, but we need to be in it. To use the analogy of Matthew 5:13-14, the disciple cannot be salt and light without being in the world. Christians are not to withdraw or isolate themselves from the world. The world is where we're needed. But know this, the minute you tell the world that certain behavior is evil, you will be accused of being intolerant and judgmental. If you go into the world expecting to be popular and well-liked, you'll be in for a rude awakening.

"I do not ask that you take them out of the world"—this part of Yeshua's prayer; it is something that many Christian groups have missed down through the centuries. Groups like the Essenes, who were the group responsible for the major Dead Sea Scrolls, they physically withdrew from the world into the wilderness. They took themselves out of the world.

The Monastics orders have withdrawn from the world to meditate, and to think over spiritual things. Dionysius the Areopagite devised a scheme to accomplish separation from the world. He built a platform on the top of a stone column. And he would climb up for extended times of contemplation on the top of his column, and he would drop down written meditations to his friends below and receive food and other things that he needed to survive up on his platform. In the 5th century, Simeon the Stylite tried to escape from worldliness by living for 36 years on a platform on top of a pillar. Thousands flocked to see him perched up there and to listen to his preaching. He spawned a movement of other pillar-dwellers that lasted for 500 years!

Today we have the Amish and some sects of the Mennonites who are known for their distinctive clothing and lifestyles that separate them from American culture. Many of them think that it's worldly to own or drive cars or wear buttons on their clothes. Some fundamentalists also seek to separate themselves from the world. And not only separating from those who do not believe, but have separated from those who are unwilling to separate from those who don't believe. In other words, a second degree of separation is often practiced by them.

"But that you keep them from the evil one"the words "evil one" are from the Greek word poneros, which is a word that could be neuter or masculine in gender, it may represent the neuter, "that which is evil," or the masculine, "the evil one," but in almost every case in which this expression occurs, it is a reference to a personal, masculine, evil one, and that is the most likely meaning here. In view of the frequent use of the masculine in 1 John 2:13-14, 3:12, and 5:18-19 it seems much more probable that the masculine is to be understood here, and that Yeshua is praying for His disciples to be protected from Satan.

Satan, the Evil One, was the prince of that world. Yeshua will refer to Satan as "the prince of this world" three times in this Gospel, and in 1 John 2:13-14, Lazarus reminds us that the whole world is under the Evil One.

So who or what is this Evil One? When it comes to spirit beings such as Satan, the devil, demons, and unclean spirits there are basically three positions. 1) Some believers don't believe in a personal devil or demons; to them there is no such thing. 2) Some believe that Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings that are still very active today. 3) Some believe that Satan, demons, and unclean spirits are real beings, but were all defeated and destroyed in AD 70 at the return of Christ when judgment took place. This is the position that I hold.

Notice what Paul wrote to the believers in the transition period:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

The word "rulers" is from the Greek arche, which has a wide range of meanings. The word "authorities" is from exousia, which means: "power, ability, privilege." These titles are used of human and spiritual powers, but notice the other words used, "cosmic power," which comes from the Greek kosmokrator. This is its only use in the New Testament, but it is used in Testament of Solomon of spiritual beings. In the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, kosmokrator means:"'lord of the world, world ruler," and it occurs in pagan literature as an epithet for gods, rulers, and heavenly bodies. Why would Paul use this word that is used only here in the Bible, but was used in other literature for spirit beings if he did not mean spirit beings?

Paul goes on to say, "against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places"—these forces are "spiritual," they are not human, and they are in "heavenly places," which denotes the spiritual realm, the place where Yahweh dwells.

So in the first century their battle was with "spirit beings." That's why the Lord prayed that they would be kept from the evil one. What about us? Do we need protection from the evil one? No! This spiritual battle was unique to the first century saints. The battle with spiritual powers is over.

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Matthew 24:29 ESV

The "the stars" and "the powers of the heavens" are the same spiritual "cosmic powers" and "spiritual forces of evil" that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:12. We know that this is speaking of AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Yeshua the Christ be with you. Romans 16:20 ESV

The Greek word used here for crush is suntribo, it means: "to crush completely, i.e. to shatter." When is it that Satan is to be crushed completely? It's at the end of the Old Covenant, when the Lord returned in judgment on Israel. Paul said here to the Roman Christians that it would happen "soon."

Paul told the first century Roman Christians that Satan would soon be crushed completely. If Satan is still around, then we have a problem with inspiration, which is a huge problem, because if the Bible is not inspired by God, it is of no value to us. I believe that Satan is a defeated foe. I believe this because I believe in inspiration.

We (twenty first century believers) are not fighting against powers, against the world forces of this darkness, or against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. That battle was fought and won by our Lord Yeshua two thousand years ago. The battle is over, Christ is victorious. Those gods who rebelled against Yahweh have been judged.

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17:16 ESV

This is a repetition of the second half of verse 14. The only difference is in word order.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17 ESV

I'm afraid that I have used this verse out of context up until now. This is the value of verse-by-verse study. You learn things in context. We usually think of sanctification as something that has to do with inward moral holiness, becoming more Christlike in our behavior. Studying these verses in context it becomes obvious that our Lord is not using the word in that sense here, because He says in verse 19, "I sanctify Myself" and we know that He needed no improvement of holiness.

The Greek word used here for sanctify is hagiazo. It was a term that was used in the LXX for something that was set apart for sacrifice. In classical Greek the word that is used for "to sanctify" is a term that is not used in the New Testament, but in the LXX, and in the New Testament, we have a word that is almost entirely biblical in force, and it is almost synonymous with the dedication of an object for purposes of sacrifice. So it has the Old Covenant sense of the consecration of an object to the purpose and will of God.

When the Lord prays that they be sanctified, He is asking that they be set apart for a particular purpose of God. That is a mission that He has given to those original disciples. In this context it means to set the disciples apart from the world for the accomplishing of the work of God in the world. In John's Gospel, such "sanctification" is always for mission.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17 ESV

I had always taken this verse to mean make us practically holy through the truth of your word. Well this is not talking about practical holiness or the Bible. When Yeshua said this there was no Bible, as we know it with 66 books. They had the Tanakh, and that was all. So the truth here could not be referring to what we know as the Bible. Today, when we say "the truth" we mean the divinely revealed word of God as contained in the Holy Scriptures. But then, He meant all that God had unfolded through the Tanakh and the New Testament fulfillment in the person of Christ, His person, His words, His work. "Your word is truth." That is "the word that Yeshua gave them through His preaching and teaching and His life.

What is interesting here is that Jewish tradition declared that God had consecrated (sanctified) Israel, separating them from the rest of the world, by giving them His Law. And here God was consecrating His Church by giving them His Son, the Word.

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. John 17:18 ESV

He had "sent them into the world" with a mission (cf. 13:20; 15:26-27; 20:21). Similarly, the Father had "sent" the Son "into the world" with a mission (10:36). John 3:17 indicates that God sent the Son into the world in order that the world be saved. Yeshua sends the disciples into the world for the same purpose—though the salvation of the world will be accomplished by the proclamation of the saving work of Christ ,not by the work of the disciples. Yeshua is setting them apart for the work He has called them to do. They are, in a sense, being commissioned.

And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:19 ESV

The words "consecrate" and "sanctified" are from the same Greek word hagiazo. I don't know why the ESV translates it here differently here. Yeshua did not mean that He intended to make Himself more holy than He already was, since that would have been impossible. When Yeshua said, "I sanctify myself that they might be sanctified" He's saying, "I am going to the cross, I am setting Myself apart for sacrifice," for that's the sense of the term in the Tanakh.

So He's setting Himself apart for sacrifice in order, "that they also may be sanctified in truth"—this is a hina purpose clause with a perfect passive participle, which implies that the results have already occurred and continue in force. Through His sacrifice "the given" will be given new life, through a new birth, and then they also will be set apart for the mission of taking the Gospel to the world.

Yeshua is "setting Himself apart" to do the will of the Father, that is, to go to the cross on the disciples' behalf (and on behalf of their successors as well).

Believers, I believe that we also are to set ourselves apart to do the will of the Father. Our prayer should continually be, "May Your will be done in my life that You will receive glory."

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