Thoughts on John 17.

J. N. Darby.

1905 199 There are different kinds of unity we trace in the reading of this Gospel; the unity of the twelve, of saints now in grace, and by-and-by in glory. John 17:9 begins intercession. Before this the Lord had been setting things in order, whereby His disciples learnt the principles, of the grace they are brought into. Then He takes His eyes in a sense off them, and looks up to His Father, pouring out His heart to His Father, and putting His disciples between Himself and the Father. Thus did He bear them on His heart. "Father, the hour is come: glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee." He had been glorified by the Son in His humbling Himself; and now He was going to glorify Him in another way, in resurrection. He takes a double place. First, it is Headship or Lordship in full glory, as having a title of dominion over all flesh by taking His place of power in heavenly places; and He has all in His hands. Secondly, it is His giving eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him; and this is the most precious part in grace, though there is nothing of which Christ is not the legitimate Head. "The head of every man (andros) is Christ, and the head of Christ is God."

"Eternal life" is not only to know God the Father, but to know Jesus Christ whom He sent. To trust God's power, and to believe in His providence, is not eternal life. For this, we must know from God that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Relationship in grace must be established too.

Another thing follows, that He, having finished the work given Him to do, goes back into glory. "Glorify Thou Me, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." Having accomplished what He came for, He goes back into glory. What a peculiarly blessed place it is into which we are brought, poor wretched things that we are! "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14), and "out of His fulness have all we received" (ver. 16). We have all with. Him. The saint's present standing is a portion in union with Him who existed before ever the world was. In John 17:6 He says, "I manifested Thy (the Father's) name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them Me, and they have kept Thy word."

We belong to the Father; and all this grace in Him comes to us from the Father. "Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name." We have been brought up by Jesus, through all these counsels of love, to see the Father; and this is "eternal life." I know the Father by the things Christ speaks. "They have kept Thy word," feebly, feebly indeed; but the Lord's grace owns them and speaks of them as having continued with Him in His temptations.

John 17:7. "Now they came to know that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee." This is more than knowing Him as Messiah. They knew the Father, and Christ the object of the Father's heart, and all the counsels of God about Him.

John 17:8. "For I have given them the words which Thou hast given Me." Thus He put them into the same measure of communion with the Father as He had Himself (not the realization of it, which is another thing). For the moment they have life, they are made "partakers of the divine nature," and they are looked upon as having everything. "And they received them, and did know surely that I came out from Thee." They saw by the glory of His person that He came out from the Father. "And they believed that Thou didst send Me." They believed in the actual love of the Father, as well as in the glory of His own person. He rests the claim upon the Father's care for them upon two points. They belonged to the Father; and the Son loved them (John 17:10): we are the objects of the common interests of the Father and the Son. "I request for them," etc. They would now no longer be under His own care, as they had been while He was in the world with them; and He commits them to the Father "that they may be one, as we are."

This is the first intimation of the unity of the disciples. The Holy Ghost makes them all divinely one. There cannot be two Holy Ghosts, one in you and one in me; but union is produced by one Holy Ghost. Flesh indeed there is, but that is something in you and something in me, not in Him. Thus the unity here alluded to in John 17:12 is properly the unity of the apostles as such, though there may be also unity of the same kind in a very little, or ever so low a sphere. There is unity in the activities of active service, and the unity of the body, as members of it. But "one as we are" is apostolic unity. There was unity of purpose in all the active energy of accomplishing salvation between the Father and the Son. They were one in it. The Father prepared a body for the Son, and the Son said, "Lo I come." There was one mind in the Father and in the Son about our salvation. Whatever the active energy of love may be in the saints too, the Holy Ghost is the source of it. Thoughts, purposes, actings, all are produced from one spring; and it creates unity. The Holy Ghost has made us one in it; but according as the Holy Ghost works actively in us, it produces unity in service. "And now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in them" (John 17:13).

All He was thus, He would have us be. He had joy in doing His Father's will in communion with His Father's mind; though He had the contradiction of sinners against Himself.

He says, "I have given them Thy word" (John 17:14), that is, as we have it in the Gospels; and the effect of the testimony is to make the world hate them, because they are not of the world. This was not merely having life. Mark, it is not "the words" they received, which excite the hatred of the world. They would gladly share the Christian's joy and happiness, if they could: it is the word of testimony that they held. "I request not that Thou wouldest take them out of the world," etc. "Sanctify them through Thy truth." Two things are connected with the sanctification of the saints. Firstly, the Father's word, which is communicated to us by Christ. Secondly, Christ set apart in glory in heaven; not only the Father's word coming to us through God in the Man coming down in humiliation, but Christ setting Himself apart on high as the glorified Man (ver. 19).

From vers. 14 to 19 He is referring to their passage through the world. In John 17:19 to 21 He is speaking of them, not as messengers of the word, but as receivers. They ought to be both; but now He speaks of communion, "that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21), not "as we." In singing a hymn there may be the expression of the unity of the Holy Ghost in us. This will be fully realised in the eternal state; but now we know something of it. People of different countries, habits of thought and feeling all different; directly they get on this ground, they are one. Every motive that governs man, every feeling and thought, gives way; peculiarities of natural character all sink when on this common ground. What a testimony to the world grace is! "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, [art] in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me."

John 17:22, 23. "And the glory that Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one as we are one; that they may be perfected into one, I in them, and Thou in Me." This is the manifestation of the glory; and then it is, "that the world may know that Thou didst send Me." They cannot help it then, and they do not believe it then but know it, "and that Thou didst love them even as Thou didst love Me."

Saints have been loved as Jesus is loved; and the proof of it is that they are in the same glory. Yet, this last is not the highest thing. The love that has given the glory is better than it, and the grace that has spent itself in procuring it is better than the thing procured. The world will see the glory; but they will never see the love in the Father's house. Christ has submitted to be spit upon, and to every kind of humiliation; but He is glorified because of it, and we shall see Him as He is. We shall behold that glory which was His before the foundation of the world. This is more than sharing with Him the glory which He receives consequent upon His humiliation.

The saints are in a more blessed place when off their thrones and casting their crowns at His feet, than when on their thrones, because they will be adoring Him who has given them. "Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world," and I want them to see even that glory. He would have us see the way He was loved before the foundation of the world. This is the personal glory (John 17:24); as the world's lot is in ignorance of the Father to its ruin (John 17:25).

John 17:26. "And I made known to them Thy name, and will make known." This He is doing now; and then would have us enjoy the love, and know Himself as the conductor of it into our hearts, "I in them."

How dreadfully short we come in the realisation of all this, for communion or for active service, by the power of the Holy Ghost! Nevertheless we know that all this is our portion, by the Lord's opening of the case, so to speak, to the Father. J.N.D.