An Investigation into the Principle Means of God's Preservation of His Saints and Its Resultant Effects
Please Stand with me (if not standing) for the reading of God’s word: Read Passage:
This is the word of the Lord:
Capture the attention
Capture the attention
This can be exciting news. It is often news we want to hear if we need a job.
But what if you don’t really know what the job is? Or perhaps you don’t know how to do the job. Maybe you know the job requires some equipment, and you start to wonder if you have what you need or the skills that it takes to keep this job.
Clarify the subject
Clarify the subject
For many Christians, for many of us, we are in a similar boat. We have placed our faith in Christ, we have joined a church. We are doing churchy things. And then we find out that we should be making disciples. This is something we see some other people doing, and don’t really know if we can do it ourselves.
We start to feel ill-equipped and unqualified, and we falter when we try.
We are in need of perseverance.
Create the need
Create the need
We know that we are called to make disciples as the key component of Jesus Great Commission to his followers, yet we are regularly drawn away from our mission, either due to a lack of faith or a host of distractions that rob us of the true joy of serving our Savior.
Credit the word
Credit the word
In our passage for this morning we are in the middle of Jesus prayer to the Father at the end of his last supper. It is here that we see what Jesus’ priorities are for us, and what he knows we need.
Convincingly state proposition
Convincingly state proposition
Today we dig in to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, so that you can persevere in your mission with confidence and joy.
Transition (chart course)
Transition (chart course)
This morning we will see who Jesus is praying for, and what he is praying for them to be able to persevere in their calling.
Jesus begins by telling the Father who he is praying for. He is doing this so his listening disciples will persevere in their mission with confidence and joy.
Look at verses 6-11 with me.
The first thing Jesus mentions is that he has “manifested your name to the people.” What is he talking about here? He is speaking of one of his primary purposes in his incarnation. The Son of God took on flesh to make known the Father. If we go back to John 1:14-18, we read that the Word became flesh, that he has revealed the glory of the Father, and in his flesh, he has made God known. That phrase, made him known, means to explain him, to reveal who God is by showing us in his life what words can only express so much of.
Moses wanted to know God. When he faced the overwhelming prospect of escorting Israel to the promised land after their rebellion, he wanted to know that God would be with him, and most of all he wanted to know as much about God as he could know, asking, “show me your glory.” God’s response was to speak to Moses about his character, revealing that he was merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and so on.
Jesus has lived out this character in front of his disciples. They know God because they know Jesus. That is why Jesus said at the beginning of his prayer that eternal life was to know God and Jesus whom he had sent. And this is why when Philip asked to see the Father in John 14:8, Jesus replied that if he had seen him, he had seen the Father.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus is the Son and the Father, or the Son is the Father. Jesus’ interaction with the Father through prayer alone shows us they are distinct persons. What this points us to is their union in essence, in their divine nature and being. The God who is One is revealed to us in the Son. The disciples have had God revealed to them through knowing Jesus.
Secondly, the disciples are described as those who have been given to the Son. These people are gifts from the Father. These imperfect people. These dull headed people. These people who would all abandon him in a few short hours, they were all gifts to the Son.
What makes these people so special? Jesus says they have kept his word. They didn’t perfectly obey, nor did they perfectly understand. Instead, what this means is fleshed out for us in what Jesus continues to say about them in verses 7-8. They know all that Jesus has was given to him by the Father. They received his words rather than reject them, such as those who walked away in John 6. They have also believed, and by implication followed Jesus because they believed, that Jesus was sent by the Father.
Another question: What is so important about knowing that Jesus was sent by the Father? This is an important theme in John’s gospel. We first see the language of the Son being sent by the Father in John 3:17, which tells us the mission of the Son. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Every time Jesus refers to himself as “sent,” this mission is what he is referring to, and it is this purpose that people need to believe about him, which is that he was sent to save through his substitutionary death and resurrection. This theme is so important to John that he uses this phrase 16 times in his gospel as a key self-designation by Jesus.
Keeping and believing. These characteristics are what separate the disciples from the world. Jesus is not praying for the world, in that his prayer for the world is not the same as what he is praying for those who are already his. If Jesus were not concerned for the world, he would not have been sent into the world to save it.
As we come to the end of Jesus’ description of his disciples, he again repeats that they were the Father’s and are now his, but now he adds that he is glorified in them. This glory is due to their keeping his word, which is in contrast to how the hostile world reacts to him. Though quite imperfect, it is through their honoring of the Son in their allegiance to him that they bring him and the Father glory.
This is who Jesus is praying for. They are the Father’s gift to the Son, and he is determined to do all he can to keep this gift safe as he prepares to return to the Father.
One of my children recently had a birthday. One of the gifts he received was from his aunt and uncle. They knew that he liked vehicles, especially trucks, and that is what he got. When he first opened the box, he saw that he got a toy truck. Now, he has lots of trucks. He has enough trucks that no one truck seems to be more valuable than the others. But as he was opening his new truck on his birthday, he started to see things about his present that he did not notice upon first tearing into the wrapping paper.
The first thing he noticed was that there was not just 1 truck, but 2!
Then he noticed that there were guns on the hood!
Then he saw that they were laser guns!
Then he saw that the trucks were remote controlled!
In the end, what he discovered was that he had two remote controlled laser-tag trucks. And since he has gotten these trucks he treats them better than his other trucks. He takes care of them differently, and understandably, he spends more time with these new trucks.
Just as my son recognized that his trucks were valuable gifts, Jesus recognizes that his disciples are valuable gifts from his Father. They are so valuable, that Jesus recounts to his Father what makes them valuable, and he prays especially for them.
Now, I am usually reluctant to tell people that God makes much of them. This is probably an over-reaction to so many messages that make too much of people and too little of God.
But it is true that God makes much of his disciples. He makes much of you.
Sure, we are all imperfect. We are all sinners. We are all foolish and selfish and thoughtless and thankless all too often. But does this mean that God does not love you?, and do all that he can for you as a treasured possession?
Far from it! We need to remember that Jesus just described his disciples, a motley crew of ignorant, dull, prejudiced, selfish, and rather hard to deal with people. These people are a gift from his Father. He counts their stumbling obedience as keeping his word. He counts their wavering faith as receiving belief. He counts their mixed obedience as a means of his glory.
Why is this so? Because he has cleansed them, and he is about to purchase them with his own blood.
Do you know that this is how he looks at you? Do you doubt your value to God? Do you even doubt that you are his because you know you fail?
Let me remind you of God’s attitude toward you from Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord you God is in your midst,
A mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.
This is God’s heart toward you.
Do not let yourself be haunted by thoughts that you are not worthy of his love. He has made you worthy, and he has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Take joy in this, brothers and sisters, and be confident that he who purchased you also delights in you and prays for you.
This is who Jesus is praying for, and now we will look at what he is praying for them.
Jesus begins his requests to the Father in the second half of verse 11, and the first request runs through verse 13. There we see Jesus is praying for his disciples to be kept by the Father in unity so that they will persevere in their mission with confidence and joy.
The request Jesus makes is for the Father to “keep” them, specifically, keep them “in your name.”
If you have an NIV or NLT, you will see it translated as “protect them by the power of your name,” however the NIV also includes a footnote that reflects something closer to the ESV and NASB. The translations that treat the prepositional phrase “in your name” as a means of protection is not foreign to how God’s name is sometimes seen or portrayed as an instrument of power.
However, this does not fit the context of Jesus prayer or his reference to “the name,” especially in verse 6. As we can see, Jesus refers to the name as something that has been given to Jesus himself, as he mentions here in verse 11 and again in verse 12. In verse 6, the name is representative of God’s character. If Jesus is the revelation of God in the flesh, then this use of the name better fits how we should take it, as referring to God’s character.
So, what does Jesus mean when he asks the Father to keep the disciples in his name, a name that was given to Jesus? In essence, Jesus is praying that God will keep his followers in firm faithfulness to the revelation Jesus himself has mediated to them. Jesus is praying specifically for their perseverance in the faith. He is praying for their perseverance in the truth. And we see, again looking at verse 11, that it is for the purpose of their unity.
The connection between unity and being in the name is then compared to the unity of Jesus and his Father. Jesus said in John 10:30 that he and the Father were one. This is not just a reference to the shared divine nature, but of the shared mission, the mission for which Jesus was sent.
The nature of the disciples’ unity and its preservation is further highlighted in verse 12. Jesus says that he had kept the disciples in God’s name while he was with them. Even though he has not left yet, he is speaking of his time of ministry up to that point. During his ministry, he called them to follow him, and he revealed the Father to them. They persevered in following him because they were united in faith through the Son’s revelation of the Father.
This is why Judas, the “son of destruction,” is mentioned. He turned away from following Jesus. He was lost because he was not united by faith with Jesus or the other apostles.
Jesus mentions that Judas was lost to fulfill the Scripture. His destruction was certain because he turned away from Jesus. He was not forced to do this. He did this of his own accord, and he acted according to his own desires.
But what we can take away from this being mentioned here is that just as Judas’ betrayal was certain, so is the certainty of our preservation if we are in Christ, following him by faith.
It is also important to see that Jesus is not asking the Father to help his disciples stay faithful, or that Jesus showed his disciples how to stay faithful, or even that he told them to stay faithful. No, what we see here is Jesus asking the Father to preserve them, just as he himself preserved them.
This is divine sovereignty in our salvation. Just as we were not the beginning of our salvation, we are not the end of it. It is all of God. We, his people, never perish because he never ceases to pray for us. We stand and persevere to the end, not because of our own strength, but because Jesus intercedes for us.
Is this not the reason we find joy in our salvation, that it is a work of God for us. This is the joy that Jesus speaks of in verse 13. He has shared these things, even this prayer to show the preserving work of God, so that his joy would be fulfilled in them. And this is a joy that we can have and should have as well.
The doctrine of perseverance is often referred to as eternal security. We are certainly secure in Christ. Jesus said in John 6:37 that whoever comes to him he will never cast out. And in John 10:28 Jesus said that he gives his sheep eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of his hand. The power rests in God’s saving grace that is poured out to us by his love. Yet we cannot, we must not separate this truth from what Jesus said about his disciples in the beginning of this prayer. They kept his word. They received it and believed it. It was not a single profession by mouth alone. In John 8:31 Jesus said to those who believed, “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Or in John 15 when he speaks of being the vine and his disciples the branches. Jesus says that abiding in him and his love means keeping his commandments.
What I am not saying with this in any way is that we are responsible for our salvation or contribute to our salvation. Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” But where the Spirit gives life, there is evidence of that life. There is fruit that comes from our connection with the vine, and all the nourishment for that fruit comes from the vine. What perseverance, or eternal security looks like until we die is this, that we stay connected to the vine, and our life reflects that connection. He knows we are not perfect, and he does not expect it. But we will show evidence of the new life we have as the Spirit transforms us into the image of the Son.
It is our failures that highlight the need and presence of God’s grace in keeping us in Christ as we continue to hope in him.
Imagine, sitting at that dinner with Jesus as one of his disciples. You have heard Jesus pray to the Father, and he mentions that you have kept his word. You know that you have failed. You know that he isn’t saying all that he could say. But then you hear him ask the Father to keep you. You look back at the past few years and realize that Jesus has kept you. He taught you and loved you and even sent you out a few times in his name. He rebukes you in your failures but never sent you away. You hear of the betrayer, and though you know your weakness, you somehow know that he isn’t talking about you. He is praying for your protection and preservation, and all you can do is rejoice at the grace that is coming from his mouth. These words, he says, were spoken so that you could have his joy, the joy he experienced with his Father. And as you hear his prayer, you feel that joy coming over you like a flood, for he has kept you.
What does this mean for you? Well, first of all it should cause you to rejoice and praise God!
But what if you can’t find this joy? At this point, I can only suggest that this is something that cannot be pinpointed in a sermon. We all have things that fight for our attention and devotion, and there are many times that we can misplace where we look for joy. This is something you can and should investigate if your joy in Christ is overshadowed by other concerns. Talk to your spouses or friends who know you well. Jesus has made his joy available to you, and it is worth pursuing for God’s glory.
This is also why we pursue unity. His prayer applies to all of us. Everyone one in this room will give you a reason to not pursue unity, because everyone in this room will do something that you don’t agree with, say something you don’t like to hear, or sin against you in a way that you are not quick to forgive.
But this is not how Jesus deals with you. Jesus draws you closer and closer, loving you, forgiving you, and keeping you.
We are not united just to have peaceful relationships. We are united in the gospel, united in the mission of taking his name to a fallen world. We are united because when we look around this room, we should not see a room full of those who we can’t work with and fellowship with.
When we look around this room, we should see a company of the redeemed, a room full of the people of God, a room full of people who have been loved by God and kept by God.
And because this is who we are, we strive to live in that unity, extending grace and love and forgiveness. We do this as a testimony to the world of the Father’s love for us, and to welcome the world to know him who gives eternal life.
So, Jesus prays for our preservation so that we will be both unified as believers, and so that we will have his joy in us. Now we will look at another kind of keeping Jesus prays for.
Jesus’ second request is in verses 14-16, where he prays for their protection from the evil one so that his disciples will persevere in their mission with confidence and joy.
Jesus bookends this short section by drawing the distinction between his disciples and those in the world, namely, that they are not of the world. And both times he says they are not of the world as he is not of the world. And in the middle of this not-world sandwich is Jesus’ request of the Father to keep his disciples from the evil one.
Why is this necessary? What does he mean by this? Jesus had said the same thing back in John 8 when he was talking with the Jews, and they were confused about his comments about going where they cannot come. Jesus told them he was not of the world, while they were of the world. The result of being of the world is that they would die in their sins. Jesus was speaking to those who did not believe, for he said that unless they believe they would die in their sins.
Coming back to our passage, Jesus speaks of his disciples as not being of the world because they had been given God’s word and had believed in him and that the Father had sent him. As a result, their sins are forgiven and will not die in their sins. Because of this they are no longer counted as part of this world.
Jesus spoke of the world’s hatred to his disciples earlier in the evening, back in John 15. Jesus said the world would hate them because he had chosen them out of the world. And because of their hatred they would persecute his disciples.
Going back to Jesus prayer, Jesus asks the Father to keep them or protect them from the evil one. We should not miss the connection that would have been in the disciples’ minds as they heard this. In John 8, Jesus had said to the Jews who were opposed to him that their father was the devil because they did not love him. And he had also said the devil was a murderer from the beginning. So as the disciples were hearing Jesus’ prayer in light of all this, they would understand that to not be of the world would mean to be a target of their hatred, a hatred fueled by the devil.
But despite the world’s hatred for his disciples, Jesus does not pray for them to be taken out of the world. They will remain in the world as his witnesses.
It is no secret that the world at large is non-Christian. As Jesus says in John 3, the world and the people of it love the darkness because their works are evil. Those who love the darkness will hate the light because it exposes them as evil. Jesus’ is the light of the world, both a beacon of salvation to those who are his, and a spotlight on evil for those who are not.
Because we have turned to him, we are lights in the world. The hatred that was displayed toward Jesus is directed toward his disciples, especially as we are more and more Christlike.
Peter’s first letter also warns us of this when he says in chapter 5:8 to be sober minded because the devil is seeking someone to devour. He gives this warning in the context of facing sufferings, not just violent persecution, but of any kind of suffering or rejection. But he also gives this warning with the promise of later joining Christ in his glory.
When Paul writes about spiritual armor in Ephesians 6, he refers to faith as a shield to protect against the flaming darts of the evil one. The devil is out to kill our faith, and he will use every weapon in his arsenal to attack and weaken it.
We don’t always need to expect hostility and rejection. Our lives and interactions with the world should be respectful, particularly as we treat each person as an image bearer of God.
As you seek to live in a way that is pleasing to God, you will be acting in a way that is loving toward those around you. No one is offended by this.
But when you have the opportunity to share the gospel, exposing sin or rejection of God in general, you are likely going to face some sort of rejection.
This may not be all that threatening to your faith. But as time goes on the rejections can become more personal. Some will ridicule your beliefs, perhaps instilling doubt in God’s word.
When this comes, you need to remember that Jesus warned us of the unbelieving world’s rejection. You also need to remember that it is for this very thing that Jesus has prayed. He has prayed for you to be protected from the evil one and from a hostile world.
You need to lean on the safety that only God himself can provide, knowing that his protection is assured as certainly as he will hear the prayers of his own dear Son.
So far we have seen who Jesus is praying for, and that he prays for their unity and protection so they will persevere. Now we will look at how his final request, for their sanctification.
Jesus prays in verses 17-19 that his disciples would be sanctified so that they would persevere in their mission with confidence and joy.
In these three verses Jesus uses the same word three times. In most of our bibles it is the word sanctify. The ESV translates it the second time, at the beginning of verse 19 as consecrate, but it is the same word in Greek.
What does this mean? Generally speaking, sanctification or being sanctified is to be made holy. That is a term we throw around enough, but what does that mean? Again, we often understand this in the category or moral purity. This is a rare word in John’s Gospel, occurring as a verb 3 times, two of which are here. Then we see it as an adjective paired with the Holy Spirit three times, once by the disciples calling Jesus the Holy One of God, and once by Jesus, at the beginning of his prayer in verse 11, referring to the Father as Holy Father. This connects the prayer for their sanctification, their holification, to the Holy Father.
When we think of God as holy, we think of him as distinct, transcendent, pure, and separate from his creation. This use is restricted to descriptions of God.
Another definition is to be set apart. This is how it is applied in the OT to things or people that are designated for service to God, such as the furnishings and instruments of the temple, the priests and prophets.
This is not an either/or usage, but a both/and. Jesus is praying for them to grow in their own holiness as God’s people, and to be set apart for his purposes.
The means of their being set apart is the truth of God’s word. If we look back in John 15:3, Jesus says they are clean because of the word he spoke to them.
God’s word is the sanctifying and cleansing water by which Jesus washes his church according to Paul in Ephesians 5:26.
Jesus is praying for his disciples to be set apart for God’s service. We see this most directly as he moves in the next verse to the purpose of their sanctification. It is because he is sending them as he was sent.
As I mentioned earlier, Jesus being sent was for the purpose of saving the world. That is not our job. We are not little saviors. However, we are messengers of the Savior. We are his ambassadors. We are in a foreign land, sojourners and strangers, sent on a mission.
I don’t know about you, but I often wonder how is it that I am qualified for such a task.
The answer is in verse 19. Jesus says that he sanctifies himself for their sake.
Jesus is not making himself more holy. He does not need to be cleansed. No, here he is referring to how he has set himself apart for God’s mission. Here he is living out what the Father set him apart for, which is for his people.
What is that mission? It is to save a people for himself!
Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took on flesh, lived a sinless life, was crucified on a Roman cross, and on the third day was raised from the grave.
Our crucified and risen Lord has paid your debt, removed the stain of sin, and brought you into his kingdom.
If you are here today, and you have not turned to God in Christ in repentance and faith, I want you to know that there is nothing greater for you to do that to make that step. You need not bring anything with you as you come to him. He has graciously offered the gift of salvation if you would only believe, trusting that he has paid your debt and suffered in your place so that you could have eternal life.
For those of us who have turned to Christ in faith, this is what Jesus has called you to. He has set you apart to send you into a world that is no longer your home, though it once was. This world is his world, and even though it has rejected him, he has not left it to be destroyed. He came to save it, and we are called, we are sent, to this world with this message.
In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the main character, Christian finds many troubles on his journey. Shortly after the beginning of his journey he comes to the house of the Interpreter, who shows him thing to help him persevere on his way. In the Interpreter’s house he saw a painting of a man, “a very grave person hang up against the wall; and this was the fashion of it: It had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth was written upon its lips, the world was behind its back; it stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over its head.”
When Christian asked who this was, the Interpreter’s explanation describes him as the Apostle Paul, but says he is one of a thousand, indicating he is one of many of God’s messengers who bring his word. Then he says that this man is the only authorized person who can guide Christian on his journey in all the difficult places he will go.
This man represents all the prophets and apostles who God used to give us his word. And this is the means of God preparing us for his service.
What this illustrates, and what Jesus intends for us is that in order to be properly prepared to be sent into the world, we need his word.
His word will sanctify you as let it expose your sin. At the same time, his word will sanctify you as you are shown God’s redeeming work for you in Christ.
You need his word to help you know God. You need his word to help you love him. You need his word to know how to glorify him. And it is his word that you need to bring to the world to make disciples of him. That is what we are all called to, and that is the mission we are sent on.
If we are preserved and sanctified by the word, this means that we need to be continually immersing ourselves in the word.
We need to have private meditation on the word. Remember the blessed man of Psalm 1 is he who meditates on the Law of the Lord day and night.
We need to hear the preached word. It is in this that the word is explained and unfolded and applied in ways that are pointed and from one who is caring for your soul.
We need to have community in the word, for mutual upbuilding, a means of growing together, by speaking the truth to one another in love
As we have seen, Jesus prays for you so that you can persevere in your mission with confidence and joy.
Summarize main point
Summarize main point
He prays this prayer so that we will be united, both with him and with each other. He prays this prayer to that you, having heard it and understood his desires for you, would have his joy fulfilled in you. He prays this prayer to help you endure in difficulty and doubt. And he prays this prayer to prepare you and preserve you for his mission.