John 17:9 ‘I pray for them: I pray not for the world.’

December 10, 2017 by David Farmer 0 comments

Posted in: Weekly Commentary

No less than five times in this single chapter from John’s gospel account did our Savior speak of those believing on Him as those given unto Him by the Father Himself. These are the portion of mankind, not only that believe, but with those that will believe. Neither for these only do I pray, Jesus declares, but for them also that believe on me through their word—verse 20. And in our 9th verse, He stated clearly that He prayed for these, and moreover, not for the world. The individual's spoken of here as being given to Him by the Father, are equally they to whom He should give eternal life, verse two. He manifested the Father’s name unto these elect persons, verse six. Further, He prays His Father to keep these members of mankind; to keep them in His name. Lastly, in this litany of those given Him by the Father, Jesus pleads His desire that they also be with Him where He is; namely, with the Father.

This seventeenth chapter of John provides some of the clearest evidence has the distinction between those that have been given to Christ and those that have not. Paul refers to this in his grand address to the church of the Ephesians. In a glorious and beautiful salutation to the saints that are at Ephesus, he refers to his a  spoke (including us) as those whom God has blessed;


With every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.


Yet, in spite of such inspired declarations, many professing—and, yea, many true—Christians continue to struggle with the biblical teaching concerning election. And, yes, there are many that absolutely deny this blessed truth. I say, blessed truth, simply because if God had not chosen some to salvation, there would be none saved at all. Unforgettable to memory, is a reported discussion from a classroom in a Christian secondary school when one student was attempting to defend the doctrine of election. The teacher of this class, who was also pastor of a local congregation, responded to the student by inquiring, where do get that; from Romans? The answer might well have been, if the student were faster on their feet, what if it is Romans; are you going to tear Romans out of the Bible? But that was not the case, and this theologically trained high school teacher and pastor’s inquiry went unchallenged.


Why is it so that these biblical truths are not only so often questioned, but as often rejected, and not only so often rejected, but even adamantly and angrily? What is it in the nature of man that so readily opposes these truths? Well, we could quote London’s famous ‘Prince of Preachers,’ Charles Haddon Spurgeon, when he pointed out that we—mankind—are all of us, born Arminians. Does he not make an excellently viable point? After all, what is the essence of Arminianism? What is it that constitutes both a Baptist Fundamentalist and an adherent of Roman Catholicism being of the same stamp? Is it not that they agree with one another that there exists a way for man to redeem himself? Yes, the one group holds that the final decision in the salvation of a sinner is left unto that sinner; that it is he, or she, that makes the final determination as to whether or not they are numbered among the saved. This, they believe, is attained by their own decision. Whether it is demonstrated in their walking down an aisle; raising the hand; asking Jesus to come into their heart, or any number of other contrived means by which they may add their activity to the activity of God, toward salvation. In other words, ‘God has done all that He can do; the rest is up to you.’ Man must contribute the decision; the act, which ratifies the saving activity of God for the individual. They do not, by this behavior, allow that Jesus Christ ratified, with His own blood, the salvific covenant; the New Covenant, as we find it expressed in the prophets Jeremiah (31:31-34); (Ezekiel 36:26-27); and cited in Hebrews 8:8-12. This blessed covenant was ratified by the blood of the Lamb of God at Golgotha, not by any decision, action, or synergism of man.


The synergist rails at the doctrine of election because their doctrine includes a joint participation of man; i.e. synergism. This is that very thought that Paul has condemned in Ephesian 2:8-9. He has clearly declared, for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory [or boast]. Men, by nature, would wish to boast that it was, in some way or other, of themselves. They have made themselves, in their folly, to differ from other men that refused to come to Jesus, while Paul of course happily attests that it is rather God, only God, when he has written to the Corinthians.


For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? But if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?—1 Corinthians 4:7.


He has made some to differ and some to not differ. This is according to His sovereign pleasure and determination. While men ought to be most grateful that He has made any to differ unto salvation; yet His sovereignty is challenged and found displeasing by so many. There are many professing Christians—we are not capable of reading the hearts of any—who decry the sovereignty of God in salvation. They are imitating those of whom Paul spoke in Romans 9:19 when he had stated, So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth, he responded to their complaint;


Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus? Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he also called.


Many agree to ascribe sovereignty to God when it comes to things like droughts, hurricanes, wars; but, feel it infringes upon them in salvation. Let God’s people rejoice that He has taken us out of the world, and that Christ prays for us.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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