John 17:14-26, The Lord’s Prayer for Our Sanctification and Glorification

[November 20, 2011] Today is Christ the King Sunday. I refer to it as Christ the Victor Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the church year, so it is appropriate that we celebrate His victory. He was crowned on His ascension, but crowned so that He might put all His enemies under His feet (Psalm 110:1). The idea of the Kingdom is not simply that God rules over all, but that God overcomes all that opposes Him. Hence our prayer, “May Your Kingdom come.” The Kingdom then is directly related to the work of Christ. The last words of Jesus to His disciples before He turned His eyes to heaven and began His prayer in John 17 was, “Take courage; I have overcome the world.”

The World and Its Ruler (John 17:14-16)

We too overcome the world by virtue of the new birth, that is, our being in Him and He being in us, through faith, that is, by believing the revelation of who Jesus is, namely the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5). The revelation of Jesus as the Son of God is the revelation of His divinity (“I Am”), and therefore the revelation of the Father’s name, the Holy Trinity, the mystery of creation, and our salvation and glorification. This revelation and the faith that it creates in us separates us from the world and frees us from its power.

“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world.” In the Gospel according to John the word (logos) is undoubtedly the revelation of Jesus.

The world (kosmos) in this context certainly does not refer to the creation, nor does it refer to the human race as such. It refers to society—and therefore Jesus prays, “I do not ask that You would take them out of the world,” and, “As You have sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world”—but society in a particular sense. The world refers to people, yes, but people who are glued together by the mental sphere that they share, a realm of shared assumptions, ideas and perspectives. The world is thus people as they share in the collective soul of humanity, but, again, this “collective soul” in a particular sense. This collective soul does  not refer to something natural, but to an artificial creation that rejects nature. The human race has decided at some point to reject God and to take up arms against the divine and create their own “world” that is isolated and insulated from God. The natural relation with God has been ruptured and therefore humanity has become not only alienated from God but from reality itself. This artificially constructed world with which humanity identifies is a lie, a delusion, a false reality. It is this world more than any other that defines the failed social condition of the human race.  

The word, the revelation of reality that comes about by the spiritual knowledge (gnosis) of Jesus that exposes the lie, frees us from the world so that we “are not of the world even as I [Jesus] am not of the world.”

However, if we are in the world but are not of it, participating in the social structure but not believing the lies (the shared beliefs and values) that hold it together, a conflict inevitably ensues. The world will recognize that we do not belong and will hate us. We are playing along but not engaging in the game. We do not believe in it. We refuse to believe in the rules of the game or the definition of things that we are given. We are inside, but we are obviously outsiders. Our neighbors will feel our sympathy and our love, but that is not always enough. It is not enough that we have some of the same passions; we must also agree with them, share their assumptions and goals. Otherwise, they will begin to feel a certain dissonance. This will anger them, and sometimes they will project this onto us and imagine that we hate them.

Jesus prays, literally, “Keep them out of the evil.” Probably this should be translated, “Keep them out of [the hands of] the evil one.” 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the evil one.” The world, as described above, is not just a collective; it is a gestalt. That is, it exemplifies a pattern that is so unified that its properties cannot be derived from its parts (so Webster). Aspects of the world thus exert particular powers that transcend any individual person. They arise from the collective souls of humanity, yet they are greater in power than any individual soul. They dominate and enslave humanity. We call the power of the world as a whole the evil one. This “power” acts as if it were a mind with an agenda and with clear intentions, as if it were a living being. Indeed, on a subtle level of consciousness, it may be exactly that—embodied in an immaterial way, an archangel if we would adopt the terminology of the Bible.

To be kept out of the hands of the evil one would be to not fall under his dominion and influence. Though the world may afflict us and we may suffer as a result, Jesus prays that we may remain in the word (the revelation) and thus be kept in the Father’s name (verse 11).

Sanctification by the Word (17:17-19)

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” The word is the revelation of Jesus. Jesus came that He might be manifested, and He manifested His glory to His disciples and continues to manifest Himself to His believers. He reveals to them who He is, and He does this through His word. This word comes to us through His witnesses, whose testimony is contained in the Scriptures. For us, the word that reveals Jesus is the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Scriptures properly explicated. The revelation, however, is not just the words of Scripture or preaching and teaching. It is when those words enable a possibility in the spirit, the possibility of perception, of “beholding” the reality of a thing. Words may only form a cognition or even an understanding that corresponds to the original ideation. That is not enough. They need to awaken the awareness of the spirit that transcends cognition, a direct knowing.

What is revealed is the truth, not truth as a teaching (which is representational) but truth as the perspicuity of reality. The spirit reflects reality as a mirror and sees itself. This requires that the human spirit has become alive with the divine Spirit. In “beholding” Jesus the Holy Spirit within us sees and recognizes itself, and thus divine self-knowledge takes place within us (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-14. We share in that divine self-knowledge. This is what revelation means.

The reality that is revealed is not only the reality of the divine, the reality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but the reality of creation in that light, and the reality of its mystery and end—its divinization (glorification) in the Holy Trinity (without change or confusion of essence). In beholding Jesus we behold reality (see John 1:14, 17; 14:6; and 1 John 5:6).

To sanctify means to set apart from what is common; to set apart for the exclusive use of God. Paul says that Christ gave Himself up for the church “that He might sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing of the water in [the] word (rhēma)” (Ephesians 5:26). The revelation of the truth in Jesus certainly sanctifies us in and of itself, setting us apart from the world. However, we are not only set apart from the world; we are also sent into the world. This requires that our sanctification be active, as Jesus’ own was. Jesus sanctified Himself for our sake. Our sanctification in Him (1 Corinthians 1:30) needs to be an active sanctification in the revelation of Him. Paul says that we need to present our bodies “as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification” that we might have “fruit unto sanctification” (Romans 6:19, 22). Our soul needs to die to its false identifications with the world and its values and ideas and ways of looking at things and be transformed according to the revelation in the spirit. “You did not so learn Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him as the reality is in Jesus,” but “put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man, which is being corrupted according to the lusts of the deceit, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man, which was created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the reality” (Ephesians 4:20-24). “Do not be fashioned according to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). The outer change has to derive from this inner change, and not by the imposition of moral standards from the outside.

Outer restraints and disciplines are necessary, but only as scaffolding until the inner structure is built. The scaffolding without the inner structure is not only weak and vulnerable but misleading. Therefore, a Christian must understand this and exercise humility, and avoid self-righteousness. “Will power” is not what it appears; it is deceptive. Once the inner structure is built, the restraints and disciplines emerge naturally from within rather than imposed from without.

Our Oneness Is the Oneness of the Holy Trinity (17:20-21)

Jesus prays for the oneness of all “who believe into Me through their word” (that is, the word of His chosen eyewitnesses, the eyewitnesses of His glory). Jesus prays that by this means “the world may believe that You have sent Me.” Apparently, this oneness has persuasive power by manifesting the authenticity of the church’s message. If one looks at Christendom in the world, it seems like quite the opposite is the case. The misbehavior of the church, its arrogance and intolerance and gullibility, speaks of anything but its authenticity. The historical existence of the church seems like the history of the world, not of something “not of the world.” It is hard to get past the scandal of this.

Yet we still have the words of Jesus. They stand apart from the church and judge the church. The fact is that people do continue to believe into Jesus and do so because they see something authentic in the messengers. In spite of our human failure, once in a while God acts through our words to reveal Himself. The reality of our holiness is not completely invisible, though it is largely so. The reality of our holiness is not in us, but seen through us. In fact, in ourselves we are only what anyone can see, which is no different than what is in any other human being. (Sorry, but if we are honest, we would have to admit this.) The Holy Spirit enables the revelation of Jesus to be seen in the spirit of another through the words that we share, communicated from our own spirit.

It is there, in our spirit where the Holy Spirit has awakened us, that we discover the reality of our oneness. It is not a oneness that is only spiritual (for the spirit is inclusive of our entire being), but it is spiritual in nature. It is not organizational or institutional, nor is it merely emotional. It is personal, though (not in the individualistic sense, but in the sense of personal “face-to-face” relations. For it is this quality of our oneness that reflects, or embodies, the oneness between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The persons of the Trinity (who they are) are defined strictly by their relations to one another. Their oneness and co-inherence derives from their sharing—as persons—the divine essence (what they are). That essence is indivisible into parts and does not change in degree or shade. They each are the divine essence entirely, without diminution or addition. Moreover, the divine essence derives from their personhood. Personhood is ontologically prior to essence. Just as “You, Father, are in Me, and I in You,” so is our oneness. We participate in the oneness of the co-inherence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through our personhood which is awakened and invigorated by our being in Christ. And this is reflected in our relationships with one another. Our oneness is demonstrated in our love of one another (John 13:34). The church ought to reflect the personal love of its members; its form out to derive from this. It usually does not.

The personhood of the Christian, made visible in the Christian’s love of another, is where we see the oneness of the church, and sometimes it is the only place where we see it. It is in our friendship.

The Transformative Affect of Glory (17:22-23)

The Father has given Jesus glory, and He has given this glory to us in order that this oneness may be actualized and perfected. When that oneness is actualized and perfected, then the world can perceive and know that “You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” The world will be given evidence that is persuadable on a spiritual plane, persuadable because it demonstrates genuineness and authenticity.

The glory of the Son is His sonship. All that the Father is, the Son is, but this derives from the Father as the source. The Son is the word and image that expresses the Father. The Son thus glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son. When the Son manifested His divinity as a human being, His glory was manifested. The Father revealed Him through the Holy Spirit.

When we believe into Christ and are made children of God, we share in His sonship. Unfortunately in English there is no gender-inclusive word that expresses this. (A son or daughter is not the same as a child: a teacher has children; only parents have sons and daughters.) To share in the Son’s sonship is to participate in His relation to the Father and the Father’s relationship to Him, and thus to participate in the divine nature and in the divine co-inherence. This is what we mean by divinization or deification. Our participation is by grace, not nature, but it is real nonetheless. Our participation does not mean that we stop being created by nature just as the Son’s total participation in human nature does not mean He stopped being divine. The mutual participation in natures is without change or confusion; but it is also without separation or division. It has a direction. The Son takes on our human nature as by an act of His own divine freedom. We participate in the divine nature only by God’s grace (by the same divine freedom with which the Son takes on our human nature).

We know the authenticity of oneness in our personal love for one another by our co-inherence with the Son (He dwelling in us and us dwelling in Him). This takes place in our spirit. He dwells in our spirit by the Holy Spirit; we dwell in Him by faith. As this takes place in one of us, that one person knows her or his oneness with all the others. The love that emerges is natural and spontaneous, but it can—and should—be strong and firm and steadfast. This is the expression of the inner reality of the revelation of Christ in us.

The Son’s glorification ultimately takes place when He is thus glorified in us and, eventually, in the whole creation. This glorification is expressed in the church, in particular in the “overcomers” within the church, by our love. The full expression and blossoming of glorification will take place in the resurrection. In the resurrection—eventually at least—we will be everything the Son is in His resurrection. The bride in the Book of the Revelation depicts this—for she matches her Groom in every way, as the Holy Spirit Herself does. I might dare to say that the marriage of the bride and Groom is the manifestation of the eternal relationship of the Holy Spirit and the Son.

My Glory” (17:24)

Jesus prays that we may be with Him where He is. To be with Him where He is is to be before the Father in His place, to receive from the Father what He receives and to give to the Father what He gives. It is to participate in the life of the Trinity in the place occupied by the Son. We do this through the Holy Spirit (who is Christ in us) who puts us in Christ. The revelation of Christ in our spirit, then, is only the beginning of a process that finds its consummation in our complete and perfect likeness to the Son in union with Him. There we may behold the glory of the Son which the Father has given Him—that is, we would behold how the Son fully manifests the Father. The Father’s complete and total self-giving to the Son—the giving of the divine nature—is how the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world, that is, in eternity. The Son’s receiving the fullness of the Father and reflecting it back, that is, expressing or manifesting it, is how the Son loves the Father. We can only behold the divine glory as we are in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, in His human nature, was about to enter the glory that He always had in eternity as the divine Son. His human nature was about to become divinized by His natural glory. His human nature was about to share in all the properties (perfections) of His divine nature. It was about to become transcend space and time as it became eternal and omnipresent. We behold the divine glory through the createdness of Jesus’ human nature when it becomes divinized. In seeing Him, we see what will become of all creation. Just as the divinization of Jesus’ human nature, divinized all that He was—as a human being—from His conception to His death, so the divinization of the creation will divinized the creation from its creation to its glorification. (Before that can happen, of course, the judgment will have had to have saved the creation.)

The Conclusion of Jesus’ Prayer (17:25-26)

The revelation of the Father’s name … [To be continued at another time.]  

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