Notes of an Address on John 17:25-26; 1 John 2:20; 3:1-2; 4:12
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 the 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, they “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 knows 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 lives 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 lives 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 knows 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 dwells 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 dwells 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.