John 17

J. N. Darby.

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I have it on my heart to say a few words on this chapter in reference specially to the character of sanctification.

At this moment, as we all know, the Lord was rejected. From chapter 13 we get Him speaking on this ground: "Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father." All through the Gospel, from chapter I, He is unknown to the world, and rejected by the Jews. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." But from chapter 13 He speaks as going out of the world and ascending on high.

In this chapter, however, what is brought out is, that He came forth from the Father, not from God only; and this involves "eternal life": "To know thee [the Father] the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." That is where eternal life comes in. Its character is that it is the knowledge of the Father; for the Father sent His only-begotten Son, that we might live through Him. Of course, therein we know God also, "who by him do believe in God"; but it is in the knowledge of the Father, and Jesus sent by Him, that there is eternal life. And then the character in which we know Him is that of "holy Father"; and this is sanctification. When it is a question of the world, it is "righteous Father." It is not that grace does not go out to poor sinners in the world to deliver them out of it, but that saints are not of it and have done with it.

In some places it is a current thought that Christ came into the world to connect Himself with humanity — that He united Himself to man in the incarnation — which is utter falsehood. He was a true man — in one sense more man than we are, for a perfect thing is more than a corrupt thing. The union of God with man — with humanity as it was — is wholly unscriptural; there is none before redemption. Nor is it ever said that God, or a divine Person, united Himself to us. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, true man in the flesh, but no union with us; and to maintain that there is is totally false. I refer to it, because it is very current among Christians of all shades and forms. The doctrine of Scripture is that we are united to Christ after redemption is accomplished — to a glorified Christ. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone" — entirely and totally alone.

169 We have here a most important point practically, because "the friendship of the world is enmity with God." Wherever I let the spirit and associations of the world in, I am associating myself with that which has rejected Christ. It may seem harsh, but it is not so harsh as the world rejecting Christ when He was here in grace. So the judgment of God is connected with it. He says, Righteous Father, I have manifested thee, and the world has not known thee. So when it comes to the Holy Ghost it is, "Whom the world cannot receive," because it does not know Him; it is only the believer who can. The world is a judged system, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out." The Lord laid the foundation of an entirely new state of things, as to which He says, "holy Father." As to the world, it is said, it "hath not known thee"; and you cannot present God better to the world than Christ did.

You will find as things go on in these last days that this question will come up. Faith sees by the Holy Ghost what God's thoughts about it are, and our part is to get hold of them. When the Lord comes, it will be too late for the world; that is the day of judgment.

"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The Father has a world of His own which He has given to us, to which He has taken Christ to be the centre — the new creation. The world, as it is, rejected Christ when He came into it; and now all that is over. He came in grace: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself"; "He came unto his own and his own received him not." And now we are to walk by faith as to these things, and not by sight, for the whole thing we belong to is a new creation. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." That is what a Christian is; and we have to keep hold of it in our walk and in our testimony. I do not know what good we are if we go along with the world that rejected Christ. It is true we have the treasure in earthen vessels, but we belong entirely to the new creation; the treasure is not in its natural associations as to its surroundings here.

It is a solemn thing to say, but it is the truth, that we are begotten by the word of God. Plenty of creatures He had before; you might call Adam a kind of firstfruits if you like; but the saints now are the firstfruits of a creation that is not manifested at all, except as they live according to it here. We have to shew it out in our bodies until Christ comes.

170 We read also, "By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once." In Hebrews it is always sanctification by the blood — on the cross. There was a complete breach between God and the world, and the believer set apart to God. Here there is a double ground of sanctification, God's will and Christ's offering. And thirdly, which is the practical part of it, we get the Holy Ghost as Him who actually works it, the immediate agent of the work in us: "Elect, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." There is the communication of a new life in Christ: "He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." It is the spiritual life, of course, he is speaking of; a man has not got life at all if he have not got the Son.

But, you say, do they not all know this? No. The common doctrine is that you are born again, but this is viewed as a change of the old man. They say that you were body, soul, and spirit before, and that you are only body, soul, and spirit after, only in a changed state, and that it is an exaggeration to speak of anything more — of two natures — of any new nature added. But it is a totally new thing — Christ our life, so as even Adam, innocent, had it not. And this is really the principle of holiness. That which is born of God is a holy thing; we are "born again … by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever," for the word of God does abide for ever. It is a totally new thing; in the unconverted world it is not there at all; and therefore the Lord stops Nicodemus by saying, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"; he must be born of water and the Spirit. Many, I trust, do know this, but, where there is ignorance as to it, it will work gradually out in some shape, and it makes all the difference whether I distinctly recognise that it is a new man, Christ living in me, by which I live to God.

Christ is that eternal life which was with the Father, and becomes spiritually our life; it is nothing that is in man or of man. That gives it its true character. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us." We have seen eternal life in the Person of the Son come down from heaven; He was made a man; so in John we read, "The life was the light of men." It is emphatic there. It is not the life of angels. It is what you call a reciprocal proposition. That is, life and light of men answer completely to each other, and each may be affirmed of the other.

171 All that which was simple failure at the beginning came out as enmity against God's own Son when Christ was in the world. He displayed divine goodness and power, all that divine grace could be; but this manifested God, and this man would not have at any cost. He says, "They have both seen and hated both me and my Father." He was rejected in His word, and in His work, as is brought out in John 8 and 9. Thus it was not a question merely of failure and sin; there had been plenty of that before He came; it was that God Himself had been manifested in goodness before men, and because He was God they would not have Him. The world has been tested in this way, and the result is that, fallen man having been turned out of paradise, God, as far as man could do it, has been turned out of the world into which He had come in grace, when it was in the sin and ruin into which man, that was turned out of paradise, had got. And so the world will not now bear a man that is like Christ. It will bear plenty of Christians; an amiable Christian it will get on with; but a Christian is called to be faithful. Remember the Christian has two natures, and wherever he gets on with the world, it is the Christian who goes to the world, for the world cannot go to the Christian; it has only one nature.

"The carnal mind is enmity against God." Says the world, we will not have Him. So "He gave himself to deliver us from this present evil world." Thus I get the One, the Man that the world rejected, and that God delighted in; and God says, I must carry out My purposes of grace; and to Christ, Come and sit at My right hand till I carry them out. So that is where He is gone, and the world sees Him no more.

Now for the character of sanctification connected with this.

In Israel it was a little different. God was amongst them as a delivered people. He said to them, "Be ye holy, for I am holy"; I will not have you in My camp without holiness. God was there; within the veil certainly; but still He insisted upon it that they were a people whom He had taken to Himself, and that they must behave themselves as such. The veil was there unrent, "the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest"; this characterising the whole of God's dealings then with man as to the revelation of Himself. He was sitting within the veil; death to any man who came in! even the beast that touched the mount was to be stoned. God was saying, I am so holy that I cannot let any one come near Me. I will give you laws and promises, but into My presence you cannot come.

172 It is not so now. When Christ died, the veil was rent, and we have "boldness to enter into the holiest." What was was that God did not come out to man, and man could not go in to God. Keep the law, and have human righteousness, but still do not come near Me. All this closed in the rejection of Christ. What is is that the veil is rent from top to bottom, and that the only place I have to walk in is in the light as God is in the light, and if I cannot walk in the light I cannot walk with God at all. A Christian's place is not that he ought, but that he must walk in the light as God is in the light, or he cannot walk with Him, or in relationship with Him at all, for now there is no veil. We have a title to be in the holiest by the blood that brought us there, and are fit for it as cleansed from all sin, and there is no other place to walk in with God. But we reckon ourselves also dead to sin, to all that is without. This is the very thing that gives us deliverance. I am not in the flesh at all, therefore I can go in with boldness.

We then come to what this sanctification is positively. God has personally accepted man in Christ; the Son of God is in the glory. Our actual condition is never spoken of except as being in connection with the second Man in glory; our only connection with God is in Christ; we are "predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." This is not a question of our responsibility; it all depends upon the finished work of the second Man; it rests upon what is done. Christ has obeyed even unto death, and is glorified. As the result of His work, we have been begotten again with the word of truth, we have been made the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, and thus have a new nature. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.

Now this new nature must have an object, and God has given it one that is not in this world at all. There is not a single thing in this world that will not unsanctify us if we go after it. Sanctification is all connected with Christ in glory. The whole thing is new: the nature, the character, the object by which we are sanctified through the Holy Ghost, is outside the world entirely. The work being fully accomplished, the Holy Ghost comes down and says, Now the world is done with, and if you do not come out of it in body, be out of it and in heaven in spirit. I have come down purposely to connect you with One outside it. The object before us is a glorified Christ; He is our life: we are "created in Christ Jesus." The believer has duties here, and is not taken out of the world; but his life is wholly connected with Christ at the right hand of God, and everything that diminishes our perception of Him there diminishes our practical sanctification here.

173 Our testimony is that the Man whom the world rejected is at God's right hand. Where the gospel begins is (not with Christ come into the world, great as was the grace and love shewn in that to win man's heart, and to which he turns to feed on with delight when saved, but) with Christ turned out of it. The world rejected Him, and God took Him up into heaven and made Him there the head of the new creation, and we are to be conformed to it. "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." "Sons of God"; we have the title of Christ: "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God." This was never said before redemption.

And just mark how the apostle identifies us with Christ; "the world knoweth us not because it knew him not." He completely associates us with a rejected Christ down here. "Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be" — we have the treasure in poor earthly vessels now; "but we know" — we are so identified with Christ — "that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" — up there in glory. We shall never see Him as He was down here in humiliation, but in glory we shall see Him as He is.

174 And now what is the effect of this? "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." I see the work of redemption accomplished; I see Christ at the right hand of God; that is the Man I am connected with; and as to this first Adam, I must reckon it dead; it is enmity with God, and I am not in it though it be in me. When we look at our portion, it is that "we are sons of God, and when he shall appear we shall be like him." That is the Christian hope, beloved friends, and the only thing that there is for the Christian's heart.

He "purifieth himself even as he is pure." I can never be as He was, for He never had any sin in His nature; but I am going to be perfectly like Him. Thus I may do without all the notions of men as to perfection in this world; these are a mere delusion from beginning to end, for it is a glorified Christ we are going to be like, and no other Christ. He does not say we are to be pure as Adam was.

And why purify myself? Because I am not pure, and therefore I must purify myself. He does not say pure as He is pure. But He is the standard by which I purify myself — Christ, as He is there above. I am to be like Him, and the life I have of Him can never be satisfied till then. I have ever to purify myself.

You may find other passages on the subject, but there is no other way of looking at sanctification in Scripture. There is no setting apart to God except in the second Man. It is, "Beholding with open [unveiled] face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory." Into what image? Why, the image of the One I am looking at — Christ in glory. We have it expressed in three ways: "Beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord"; then "the glory of Christ who is the image of God"; and then "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." When I come to associate it with man, I must get it as it is in Him up there. If I say, Where am I to look at God's holiness in a man? I answer, In Christ in glory. He was the Holy One and walked according to the Spirit of holiness down here, and I am to walk as He walked; but that by which the Holy Ghost works this in us is by looking at the glorified Christ up there, by having an object and a motive up there which takes my heart out of all that is here, as His was who walked through the world, as I have to do. I am going to be with Him and like Him. A man who, in heart, is not only with God and for God, but even now an imitator of God as a dear child — that is Christian sanctification.

175 And as when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, and we purify ourselves now as He is pure; our holiness, our walk now, is referred to that day in 1 Thessalonians. His coming runs through all our relationships here, and then as to holiness it says, "The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all, even as we do toward you; to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father" — where? In our walk down here, of course, people say. But it is not so put. It is "at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." It is quite true the work in us is to purify ourselves as He is; but it is to be "unblameable in holiness" when He appears. Of course if we are sincere, we purify ourselves now as He is; but God has taken man clean out of this world as to his living associations and his conversation, and "when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory."

What a blessed calling is ours! all connected with a glorified Christ — a Christ that the world has rejected; with a holy nature, born of God, and as an object for this life, He has given you the glorified Christ the Son of God. God, even in this way, is making you partakers of His holiness. You say, But I must get this holiness formed perfectly in a man to know its true character. You have got it in Christ up there. Now let us turn back to the chapter we read, and you will find it there.

It puts us in Christ's place before God — before the Father, more strictly — and into Christ's place before the world. The first verse begins by bringing in the Father's name, Christ on high after finishing the work, and then the disciples are placed before the Father too, His name being manifested to them. "Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son." The verse beginning, "Now come I to thee" closes the first part. Then He says, "I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." This is our place. In the thoughts and mind of God we do not belong to the world at all. Christ tested it in every way, and never found, except in a poor woman who anointed Him at Bethany, a single comforter or capacity for sympathy in others, not even in His disciples.

176 How then am I to be set apart in the world? If I have nothing wholly outside it, my leaving particular evils comes to giving up one thing and taking to another; but getting something that is outside of it delivers me wholly from its power.

Let us keep to the word of God. The word of God is the word of God; it "discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart." Men when reasoning against the truth will reject the word of God; they will reject its authority, and say, "Do not quote the Bible to me." It is just as if, when I have a fine-tempered sword in my hand, they should tell me not to use it. When you meet with cavillers, the only way is to use the word, and you will find that it does detect. Just use the word, and you will be astonished to see how they come out with all their rationalism and infidelity.

But to turn to it now. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Well, He says, "sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." This is just what Christ the blessed Son of God was; He was the truth itself, and the truth perfectly suited to man's heart and conscience. This is what the word of God does, looked at as a means. The Father's word brings the truth into my heart, and searches it, and detects everything that is there; it comes as a light and shews everything there that is not of the new creation. And it does so by revealing what is up there. The law did not do this; it came and claimed from man what man ought to be down here; no murdering, no stealing, and, besides this, condemning lust. It takes man as man, and says, That is what man ought to be. But this is not what we have got in Christ. What we have in the truth in Him is the bringing of what is heavenly down to a quickened soul, the bringing down to it all that is in God's mind about itself. It is set apart to God by the revelation of what is heavenly, what is in Christ above, and judges thus all that is not. They were believers, and now He is looking for them to be sanctified, and that is done by shewing them what is heavenly, associating them with what is in Him above by the Father's word.

"As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." To carry what? The manifestation of Christ revealed by the Father's word. I cannot be sent into the world if I am in it and of it, nor can I go there as sent by Christ, but as I am fully associated with Him in the spirit of my mind. He says, I send them into the world as Thou hast sent Me. What does that tell us of their mission?

177 "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified by the truth." He is set apart as the Man of God's counsels and heart, as Man in glory. Nay, He says, "I set myself apart"; and the Holy Ghost brings the knowledge of it down, and, by the communication of Christ in glory, makes me more like Him every day. He says, You must not have a motive that is not drawn from Me in heaven. All sanctification is referred to being like Him there, kept by the Holy Father to walk as He walked down here before His Father.

Whilst it is, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me," it is, "Righteous Father, the world hath not known thee." It is very solemn. He appeals to the Father as against the world. It is lying in wickedness. Meanwhile, Christ is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." "Imputed" cannot be applied to all these words. If to any, it is not the subject of this text. People talk of "imputed sanctification"; how about imputed redemption? What does that mean? I hope we shall get more than imputed redemption on going into glory! It is the kind and measure and standard of these things, and that is Christ, and He made them of God to us.

It is a question of partaking in God's holiness. The world has rejected the Son of God. Up to the cross it was proved that nothing could win man's heart: he must be born again; and now, being born again, I am associated with Christ. I am going to be in the same glory that He is in, and I am going on until I get there, purifying myself as He is pure. Then I shall see Him as He is, and be like Him. The world we are naturally of has rejected the Son of God, and the associations of the believer are with a glorified Christ, waiting till He comes to take him home. God has sanctified us to Himself by the blood of Christ.