Notes of 2 Addresses on John 17:25-26; 1 John 2:20; 3:1-2; 4:12
The Righteous Father
In this prayer the blessed Lord is presented as making intercession to the Father in behalf of His disciples—“The men whom Thou hast given Me out of the world.” He had finished His work down here. The day in which self-sacrificing love had wrought for the deliverance and enlightenment of a rebellious people was now about to close in the night of His death, indeed had already closed, for this prayer seems to anticipate His death; and that people among whom He had done works which no other had ever done, were being left in all their God-hating nakedness, with no cloak for their sin, and His desires for the few who had never abandoned Him are poured out into the open ear of the Father who had given those few to Him.
He had come into the world as sent of the Father, and to bring the light of the Father before the eyes of men. His works did this, for they were not mere exhibitions of supernatural power, but were wrought for the deliverance of men from the bondage and oppression of evil. He tells the people that “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for what things soever He does, these also does the Son likewise.” His words also were the expression of the Father’s heart, for the Father had given Him a commandment what He should speak. It was the Father working and speaking in the Son and bringing Himself by these means before the eyes of men, that they might know Him and turn to Him from all the misery of the distance into which their blindness and obstinacy had brought them. It was the great and final appeal made by God to the flesh. If this failed the recovery of man in the flesh was hopeless. In Jesus man was confronted with God revealed in love. How great that light! How ineffably sweet, powerful, and life-giving! A light above the brightness of the sun, pure, holy, heavenly, divine! Where it was received, cheering, refreshing, healing, vivifying! Drying the tearful eye, brightening the blurred vision, and making the sorrowful and broken hearted sing for joy! The Dayspring from on high had visited the people; the Sun of righteousness had risen with healing on His wings; the heavenly host had celebrated the event, proclaiming peace upon earth and God’s good pleasure in men; heaven had rung with joy; the infernal hosts had stood aghast, bewildered and terrified, as God had in this way drawn near to man, to make one mighty and unparalleled attempt to reach his stony heart, and soften it with the influence of His fathomless love, and thus deliver the poor slave of the devil from his implacable and unmerciful foe. Man, the being it concerned more than any other in the universe, is alone insensible to the presence of his Deliverer. The revelation that should have softened his stony heart, has only hardened it more than ever, and Jesus turns from earth, where He had laboured in vain and spent His strength for nought, to heaven and to the Father, in whose ear He pours out the desires of His heart for the few who have placed all their hopes in Him, and who still cleave to Him in spite of the verdict pronounced by the leaders of the world that “This Man it not of God.”
We have in verse 25 the simple result of the labours of Christ to get at the hearts of men and win them for God. “Righteous Father, the world has not known Thee.” This is the first statement. The righteous Father had been declared in Christ, but the lawless world had no heart for that revelation. There was no affinity between the righteous Father and the unrighteous world. The world waits and looks for the man of sin; it will recognize him when he arises, and it will hasten to his banner; but the righteous Father—it will have none of Him.
In strong contrast with this, the Son stands forth as knowing Him of whom the world refused to take any account. “I have known Thee.” The righteous Son knew the righteous Father. He had come forth from the Father, and had come into the world; He had been about the Father’s business since He came to earth; the work given Him to do by the Father He had done to the Father’s satisfaction; He had walked in company with the Father, and had been the delight of the Father’s heart, as the Father had been the delight of His; and now He was going back to the Father, to the glory which He had with Him before the world was. Thus the Son appears in contrast to the world, that world that could take no account of the Father, except that its hatred was provoked by His presence in it.
Now the disciples come into view: “These have known that Thou hast sent Me.” They had been enabled to trace the presence of Christ down here to the love of the Father’s heart. This was the stature to which their great Teacher had brought them. They had heard His words, and had felt them to be the words of eternal life. They had believed He came forth from God, and that the Father had sent Him to make known to poor degraded man the contents of that heart of infinite love.
Thus the true condition of things is made known to us as the result of Christ’s ministry upon earth—
1. The righteous Father declared.
2. The world’s utter ignorance of that Person.
3. The Son’s knowledge of Him.
4. The disciples knew the Father had sent the Son.
One might suppose that not much had been accomplished by the coming of Christ into the world, but this would be to make a tremendous blunder. Was it not much that the Father was declared, even though but the eyes of a few poor fishermen were gladdened by the light? Was it a small matter that the wisdom of the world had been put to the test and shown to be incapable not only of finding God out, but of knowing Him when He became perfectly revealed before their eyes? Was it not much that man has been thoroughly exposed and manifested in all his incorrigible God-hatingness? Was it nothing that man was now going into the Father’s presence in heaven in the Person of Jesus to secure that place for those poor despised followers of His? Was it not much that through His death He had secured a right to bestow upon His own the Holy Spirit, who would bring the hearts of those who received Him into the deep and blessed enjoyment of all that had come to light in the Son, and who would enable them to testify the grace of God world-wide, so that others might be brought to enjoy along with them fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ? The light that had come into the world in Jesus, though it had been met with general rejection and hatred, had found its way into some hearts. It had found a lodging place in the hearts of these few poor despised followers of His, and it was to remain there to work out the sovereign will of the Father, when He who had brought it into the world would be hidden in God.
At present He had nothing further to do with the world, and He was going back to the Father who had sent Him. But He had not finished with His own whom He was leaving behind Him. He says to the Father: “I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” He had declared the Father’s name to them all the time He had been with them; but they never had connected that name with themselves, but with the One who had declared it to them. In Him they had seen the Father, but it was His Father. But the time was now come when they were to learn their association with Him in this relationship and intimacy. Propitiation having been made, God glorified with regard to sin, and the flesh removed in the judgment of the cross, the blessed Lord can speak of them as His brethren before the Father’s face, and let them know that if He was going back to the place from whence He came, He was going to His Father, and their Father, and to His God, their God. And not only this, but they were to receive the Holy Spirit, whereby they would be able to enjoy the place and relationship made known to their hearts in these wonderful words.
This was to have a two-fold effect upon them. First, “That the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them.” New affections were to be begotten in their hearts, and these were to be divine. The love wherewith the Father loved the Son was to be in them; it was to be the life of their souls. It was to go back to the ear of Him from whom it came in their cry of “Abba Father”; it was to go out among themselves in the self-sacrificing spirit of Christ, and it was to be the spring of all their activities in testimony to the world of the grace of God. They had breathed the atmosphere of that love all the time of their companionship with Jesus, for as the Father had loved Him so had He loved them, and now they were to breathe that atmosphere in the presence of one another. What departure from all this there has been! To a very large extent malice, hatred, and envy have taken the place of these holy affections, and the poisonous fumes of hell have pervaded that sphere which should only have known the influence of heaven. Blessed be God, there is still a resource for the individual who feels the true state into which the profession of Christ has lapsed, and that is to get near to Christ, in whom that love rests, and where it is maintained in all its freshness and power; and if we only draw near to Him and look to Him in the confession of our deep failure, He will bring the Father so before our souls that those holy affections will awake in all their heavenly power, and the heart of Christ will be gladdened, as in some feeble measure we answer to His mind.
The second effect the declaration of the Father’s name was to have upon them was, that Christ was to be in them: “I in them.” Their old natural characteristics were to disappear. The lawlessness and hatred which marked the world and which were inseparable from the flesh, were no longer to be manifest among the followers of Jesus; the righteous Son was to give character to His disciples. If the love wherewith the Father loved the Son was to be in them, the Spirit of the righteous One was to be in them also, and from henceforth they were to be characterized by righteousness and love.
This is what we find in John’s first epistle. The thing that was true in Christ is seen in the epistle to be true in the disciples. All that was true of them as in the flesh had come under the judgment of the cross, and they had received the Spirit, and were being formed according to the revelation made to them of God in Christ. The love of the righteous Father had become the life of their souls, hence they are characterized by righteousness and love. Therefore we know that anyone who practises righteousness is born of Him. Righteousness never sprang from the flesh, its source is in the righteous Father. Lawlessness is characteristic of all born of the flesh, but to trace it to its source we must not stop at the one by whom it came into the world; it originated with the devil, and he that practises sin is of the devil, for the devil sins from the beginning. In contrast with this, the one who practises righteousness has his origin in the righteous Father, he is begotten of Him.
Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not. If the world did not know the righteous Father presented in the righteous Son, it cannot know His righteous children. And it is to this place of children of God that the Father in His infinite love has called us. The apostle desires that we should pause and contemplate this manner of love. What a place of favour ours is during the rejection of Christ from the earth, that we should be called to present to the world the moral features of God! In this way we have the place Christ had, in whom the righteous Father was held in living power constantly before the eyes of men. Those who saw Him saw the Father; and we are called as children of God to let the world see His moral features in us. Behold what manner of love!
The world does not know us, it may even hate us, as it hated Him, but nevertheless the light has a powerful influence upon the surrounding darkness, and men dare not do in the presence of the light the things that they would revel in without shame, if the light were not there; and also by these heavenly beams many a poor benighted and perishing soul is directed into life and blessing. The place the children of God are set in down here is in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, in the midst of whom they shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.
But the children of God have a future before their souls bright with hope. When He is manifested we shall be like Him. This is our crown of rejoicing. We shall be like Him, and we shall appear in His glory. He says to the Father, “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou has sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” In that day the world shall have come to the point of knowledge at which the disciples had arrived when Christ was leading them down here, “These have known that Thou hast sent Me.” The world does not yet know this. Had the followers of Jesus maintained a testimony of unity, it might have believed that the Father sent the Son, but we have altogether failed in regard of this, and lost our opportunity of giving the world this light; but the day is coming when, manifested in the same glory as God’s Son, we shall make the world, not believe, but know that the Father sent the Son, and has loved us as He loved the Son. What a joy this will be to us! and what grace on the part of God to employ us to take the veil from off all faces, and to give the world to know that the Father sent the Son as its Saviour! In the measure in which saints walk in divine affections today, in that measure do they bear testimony to this; but we have all to lament how feebly we do this, and because of this feebleness, the world must wander onward to judgment in its night of unbelief; but its night of darkness shall soon be brought to an end, and we who have so miserably failed in our testimony shall, as glorified with Jesus, make the world to know that which we have failed to make it believe.
In John 17 the Lord is speaking to the Father regarding His disciples, and in verse 25 He declares the result of His ministry while here upon earth. He had come into the world and had brought the Father into it, that is to say, the Father was declared in Him. He could say, “He that believes on Me, believes not on Me, but on Him that sent Me. And he that sees Me sees Him that sent Me” (John 12:44-45). Until Jesus came into the world it could be said, “No man has seen God at any time.” There had been no full revelation of God. Creation had borne witness to His power and divinity, but what He is in His nature remained unrevealed. But the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. Wonderful words! “In the bosom of Father.” It was in that bosom He dwelt; His home was there. He knew the secrets of that bosom, and He came to tell them out into the ears of men. Moses knew nothing about that bosom. He could only set before the people the demand of God. Jesus came to tell us of the Father’s heart. He did not come to condemn, He might justly have done so, neither did He come to set before men the evil and wickedness of the human heart, though by His coming the heart of man was laid bare in all its badness, but the object of His coming was to bring the light of God here. The Father that dwelt in Jesus was the Doer of those mighty works, and the words He uttered were the Father’s words, for the Father had given Him a commandment what He should say and what He should speak, and that commandment was life everlasting.
Peter knew something of the power of those words, whatever more learned men may have missed, as witnessed by his confession recorded in chapter 6 of this gospel. It is recorded there that when He spoke of giving His flesh for the life of the world, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him, and when He challenged the twelve and said to them, “Will ye also go away?” Peter answers for all: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Those blessed words had been brought home in power to the heart of Peter. They were the Father’s words, spoken from the Father’s heart through the lips of Jesus. What a revelation! He had spoken words that never man had spoken, and He had done works that never man had done. How could it be otherwise? for such a Person never had been on earth before. And what was the effect of all that He had said and done? The full result, as far as the world is concerned, is put in few words: “The world has not known Thee.”
In the earlier part of the prayer the Lord addresses the Father as “Father,” or “Holy Father,” here He says “Righteous Father.” The lawless world had not known the Righteous Father. There is nothing but sin in the world, and of this the Holy Spirit bears witness; and between the lawless world and the Righteous Father there was no affinity. The world has rejected, condemned, and killed the Righteous One; it cannot bear the presence of righteousness. Cain imbrued his hands in his brother’s blood, and wherefore slew he him? The answer of God is, “Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” And the spirit of Cain is the spirit of the world, and the world does not change. As long as the Spirit of God is upon earth his presence maintains the testimony that there is nothing but sin to be laid to the charge of the world (John 16:8). Sin is placed to the account of the world, because the Righteous One has been rejected out of it, and is gone to the Father, and the world system and its prince are detected, exposed, and judged.
But the Righteous Son stands out in strong contrast to the lawless world; He says, “I have known Thee.” Though the light of the Father was here in the person of the Son, the world had no heart for it. But the Son knew the Father. The world therefore can no longer remain in relationship with God; it must be rejected, that everything may come into relationship with the Father in the Son.
Next He speaks of His own. They were the men whom the Father had given Him out of the world. He says, “Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me.” They were poor and despised and of little account in the world, and they were all the more despised because they had been drawn to Christ. They were not the great and noble of the earth, but the Father esteemed them a good gift for His Son. Their being drawn after Jesus was no mere accident, the Father had drawn them to His Son, and had given them to Him, and He had received them; and He loved them and gave Himself for them, and He never intended to part company with them. Of them He says, “These have known that Thou hast sent Me.” The words the Father had given to the Son He had given to them, and they had received them, and He says, “Have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me.” This marked them off from the world. They might have been ill able to argue the point or to give a very intelligent reason for their faith according to the thoughts of men, but they had heard the Father’s words spoken by the Son, and those words had got into their hearts, and they were enabled to trace the presence of Jesus upon earth to the heart of the Father.
This was how the whole matter stood when Jesus was leaving the scene of His labours. You have the Righteous Father, the world, the Son, and the disciples. The Father had been declared, and the world did not know Him, the Son knew Him, and the disciples had been brought to the knowledge that the Father had sent the Son.
He has for the present finished with the world, He does not pray for it; He says, “I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.” At that moment He was concerned about His disciples, those who had known that the Father had sent Him. To them He had declared the Father’s name—that wonderful name! What does that name speak of? The full revelation of God—all that He is in the grace and love of His heart. All that the blessed God is in His approach to man is contained in that blessed name. More than that, it speaks of new relationships for man with God. This name He had declared to His disciples from the outset. Moses spoke of Jehovah, but the Son declared the Father. But He would declare it again in resurrection. He would declare it in such a way as would convey to them the truth of heavenly relationship for heavenly men. It was not to be sons upon earth with the Father in heaven. The declaration of the Father’s name had gone no farther than this before His death and resurrection, but now the message was to be, I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God and your God. It was now to be man in heaven with the Father in sonship.
He had a twofold object in this declaration of the Father’s name: first, in order that the love wherewith the Father had loved Him might be in them; and second, “I in them.” Who could measure the Father’s love to the Son? Who could describe that love? And it was not only to be the portion of their hearts, but it was to be in them, that is, it was to be the very life of their souls—their new divine nature. It was that they might live to the Father and to the Son and to one another in the power of that great and boundless love; they were to be bound together by it. They were thus to be morally of God, as begotten of Him. In this love there is nothing earthly, nothing merely human, nothing of the affections belonging to flesh and blood. It is all divine, and all of the Father. “He that loves is born of God, and knoweth God.”
The second result of the declaration of the Father’s name to them was that Christ was to be in them. Christ in Peter and John and James and in all the others. But where were these men after the flesh? Crucified with Christ. Paul puts all plainly before us in very few words where he says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). All that the disciples were, morally, gone in the judgment of the cross, and the Master now in the disciples.
This is true Christianity. It is a very real thing. It is not a matter of holding certain doctrines; it is not the mere subscription to a creed; Christianity is a vital thing. It is the parting company with all that a man is in the flesh, good and bad, and the partaking of the moral characteristics of Christ. It is “Christ liveth in me.”
When you come to John’s first epistle you get those two things in the saints which are the result of the declaration of the Father’s name to them, the love wherewith the Father loved the Son in them, and Christ in them. This means that the believer is born of God. The love of God is the nature of the believer, and “he that loves is born of God and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7). Again in this passage (1 John 2:29), “If ye know that He is righteous.” Who is righteous? It does not say. This is peculiar to this epistle, you rarely can tell whether it is the Father or the Son the writer has before his mind, neither is it important, because the Father was in the Son, and the Son in the Father. The Father is the Righteous Father, and the Son the Righteous Son, and if righteousness is found in anyone down here it is a proof such an one is born of God. He is not of lawless Adam, or lawless flesh, he is a child of God.
But I must get my ideas of righteousness from the Righteous One, or I shall have no true thought of righteousness. I shall possibly take honesty among men to be the righteousness spoken of here. But it is not that. I get the truth about a man when I get to see him in his relations with God. I suppose Cain and Abel got on well enough together until it became a question of approach to God. Both may have been equally honest in their relations with men, but the true nature of both came to light when they set up their altars. No doubt Saul of Tarsus was very correct in all his relations with men, for as to all that the letter of the law required, he was blameless, but he was all wrong in his relations with God. But everyone that does righteousness is born of God. Christ, the Righteous One, is in him. “I in them.” And if the Righteous One is in me, as my life, I am sure to practice righteousness.
But this was produced in the disciples by the Father’s name declared to them by the Son, and the apostle calls our attention to the love that was connected with that name, and bestowed upon us; that love that called us into the place of children of God, as born of Him, that we might set forth His moral features in this evil world. But as the world did not know the Righteous Father, nor the Son, for He could say, “They have not known the Father nor Me,” so the world does not know His righteous children. Had believers kept themselves in the love of God, had that love wherewith the Father loved the Son been ever the great light of their hearts, they would have been as the blessed Lord desired they should have been, one in the unity of the divine nature, and the world would have been brought by this great testimony to believe that the Father sent the Son (John 17:21). The opportunity for this is now over. Instead of the love of God keeping the hearts of His people and binding them together, it has been strife and division, and the world has to stumble along in its darkness and unbelief.
But shall the world never be told that the Father sent the Son? Yes, through the rich grace of God that which we have failed to do during the long dark night of the rejection of Christ will be accomplished at His manifestation, for when He is manifested we shall be like Him, and then the world shall be brought to know what we have failed to make it believe. He says in chapter 17, “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” God in Christ and Christ in His own, displayed in glory. What grace on the part of God to us! We who have so failed to let the world see that the Father sent the Son shall yet be used to clear the name of Christ before the eyes of the world. Nothing of you and me shall appear in that day. We shall be like Him. There is much of ourselves in evidence today, and Christ is very little seen in us, but in that day nothing shall appear but Christ in His people, and then the world shall come to the knowledge that Christ was no mere adventurer, that His rejection and crucifixion was the great sin of the world, and that His death was the great witness of His love to the Father and of His perfect obedience. This will be a great day for you and me, and it will be a great day for the Father and the Son, and it will be a great day for this poor world. The world shall then know what the disciples had come to know when the blessed Lord was about to leave them and go to the Father.
We need to be more in the enjoyment of the Father’s love, to contemplate more constantly the manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, and thus be better able to express that love toward one another. As the Father loved the Son, so the Son loved His disciples, and His desire was that that love should so become their life and nature that they should manifest it toward each other.
I could understand some one saying that we must go beyond even believers in the exercise of love, and there is the world and its need of the gospel. This is so, but how are we to set about doing this work? The answer to this is found in the verse I read in chapter 4 of the first epistle, “No man has seen God at any time.” You get the same expression in the gospel (chap. 1). In the gospel the only begotten Son is the answer, here it is the saints, if they love one another. Where is God to be seen now? If we love one another, God dwelleth in us. We can do nothing that possesses any value, unless we do it in the power of God. We can do no work that shall abide without Him. Are we going to do everything in the energy of our own love, or the love of God? We must have God with us if we are to accomplish any good. All that is really necessary is, that we should love one another, for if we love one another God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. What does that mean—love perfected in us? It means there is nothing lacking. Every direction which the love of God takes is found in the saints, if they love one another. Everything that is needful for saints, and everything that is needful for sinners, will be found where the love of God is perfected. All that can benefit man must go out from where He dwells. It is poor work getting up what is called an interest in the gospel. The great thing is to get the heart into the enjoyment of the love of God, so that the saints first of all get the benefit of it, and then the world will have the overflow.
How great that love! As I have said, there is nothing of the old affections in it. It is of God. As far as the flesh is concerned, there may be no reason why we who are here tonight should love one another. There may be no earthly link between us, there may be no natural bond to hold us together; but in the love of God there is a bond that no power can sever, binding us heart to heart now and for all eternity; and it is our unspeakable privilege to be always in the deep and blessed enjoyment of that love, that subsists between the Father and the Son. In this way God will dwell in us, and His love be perfected in us.