The Joy of Being Guarded by God in a Sinful World
The mark of a Christian is that they are eternally joyful while we are in the world.
Jesus is no longer in the world but we are in the world. Our Lord’s concern is to bring glory to the Father and to bring us to the Father.
Here He is functioning as our Great High Priest. Our Lord is literally presenting us to the Father blameless as He lifts us or carries us to the Father in this magnificent prayer.
The OT high priest, who was a shadow of Jesus the true and eternal High Priest, wore highly symbolic clothing. Among his priestly garments he wore two things that are very emblematic of what Jesus is doing here in His High Priestly Prayer.
Exodus 28:11–12 (ESV)
11 As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree. 12 And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.
So, the high priest, as it were, carried God’s people before Him into the Holy of Holies and prayed for them or literally remembered them to God. We have the picture of the high priest carrying the people to the Father in the Holy of Holies on his shoulders.
Exodus 28:29–30 (ESV)
29 So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord. 30 And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.
Here the high priest wore the breast piece of judgment, which also had the names of the 12 tribes. He would bear the judgment of the people as he made the appropriate sacrifices.
So, we see the two-fold mission of Jesus to bear our sins and present us to the Father or literally to carry us to the Father. This is exactly what He will accomplish in the next few hours of His life. Now in His prayer we are on His shoulders as He carries us to the Father by prayer and when He hangs on the cross He is bearing our judgment. Jesus is the High Priestly breastpiece as He hangs on the cross He is our shield protecting us from the judgment of God.
In 1650 John Owen wrote The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. In this most amazing Puritan writing Owen explains that the OT priest had two main functions. The priest was responsible to present to God the blood offering to satisfy God’s justice for sin. Second, intersession was made to God on the basis of that sacrifice. Owens writes, To offer and to intercede, to sacrifice and to pray, are acts of the same sacerdotal office, and both required in Him who is priest. The Christian hope of salvation therefore rests on both Christ’s dying as our eternal sacrifice and Christ’s eternal praying. Owen says, By the one He hath procured all good things for us, and by the other He will procure them to be actually bestowed, whereby He doth never leave our sins but follows them into every court, until they be fully pardoned and clearly expiated.
Our great need here is to find complete confidence in the High Priestly work of Jesus. He secures our salvation on the cross and applies the sacrifice to us through His ministry of intersession. In Christ the way is provided and applied to all who belong to Him.
Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen
John 17:11–19 (ESV)
11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
In the OT, the High Priest would make the sacrifice for sin first then he would enter into the Holy of Holies to intercede in prayer for the people. In Jesus’ case He does it in reverse order. He prays first then goes to the cross. He does this because He has no need to make a sin sacrifice for Himself. He has no sin to be paid for and no judgment to remove; all our Lord’s sacrifice is for His people, those that the Father gave Him. Secondly, He prays first and sacrifices second because it is in the sacrifice, Him going to the cross that His children will be left unattended. For a few days His followers will not have a Shepherd so our Lord prays to the Father that He will be their shepherd while He is away saving us from our sin.
The reason we can rest and have peace that our salvation is eternally secure and fixed in heaven is because Jesus died on the cross to purchase us and that He prayed as our High Priest that the Father would eternally keep us.
Because our Lord’s death purchased our salvation and because He prays for us we are kept by the Father as an answer to Jesus’ prayer. The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints becomes a reality because Jesus prayed that the Father would keep us.
While on earth Jesus kept all His followers but He knows He’s leaving to go to the cross and then to ascend to the Father and He doesn’t want us to be without a Shepherd even for a minute. He prays that the Father would shepherd us until the Holy Spirit comes. Even in those few days Jesus was praying that we would not be left without God as our Shepherd.
The picture of this might be a parent getting their child out of the car seat and holding their hand to cross the street. The mom needs to get something out of the car and so transfers the child’s hand to the Father to cross the busy street with dad. Never for a second will the parents allow the child to go unattended on the busy street but transfers the child back and forth by his hand. That’s what Jesus is doing for His people. While He goes to the cross He places our hand in the Father’s for safekeeping.
We must understand here that the safety and security we’re speaking of is in the spiritual realm. Our souls are eternally kept from the evil one. We cannot ever be lost. God keeps all for whom Jesus prayed.
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
I pray we are seeing here just how sure Jesus is that the Father will do everything He asks Him. Again, He’s so sure that He can ask for things that can only come about by means of the cross even before the cross event takes place. So sure is Jesus that He could even make promises along these same lines to His disciples beforehand as well…
John 10:27–30 (ESV)
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Our Lord tells us that not one of His sheep, those the Father gave Him, will ever be lost. There is no 99 in the pen and the Shepherd goes out after the one. Jesus will never loose a lamb.
Judas was not an exception. Judas was never one of Jesus’ sheep. He walked along with them but his heart was not focused on Jesus but only on the moneybag. In fact Jesus calls him the son of destruction. He also tells us that Judas did what he did so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
Jesus knew that Judas was not one of His…
John 6:70–71 (ESV)
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
So, far from catching Jesus off guard, the betrayal of Judas was that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
Psalm 41:9 (ESV)
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
Psalm 55:12–13 (ESV)
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
Luke 22:21–22 (ESV)
21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”
One thing we must seek to understand is that Judas’ betrayal while it was determined by God to take place, He in no way forced Judas to do anything but rather used Judas’ own sinful desires to accomplish what God wanted accomplished. Judas is responsible for his own actions just as everyone is responsible for their own actions.
13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
God keeps all who belong to Him. Jesus’ prayer is for all His followers that they would be kept. So God guards His own. We are eternally kept by God and from the evil one. Our souls are forever guarded and kept perfectly safe.
We are still in the world, this is the very world that hated and murdered Jesus, the very world that loves evil and hates good, the world that passes off sin as tolerance and alternative lifestyles, the world that if you disagree, you’re homophobic, Islamophobic or whatever new invented word they come up with. This world hates Jesus and if you’re his, hates you as well.
Because we are hated by the world there is the human tendency to seek to please them or to water down the message in order not to be hated. Jesus gives us a wonderful antidote to the fear of the world/man…JOY!
So, here the mark of a true believer and a true church is joy. Because God is guarding our most precious possession and because we are eternally kept and because this really isn’t our home anyway we can be hated by the world and still have real eternal joy.
According to the Bible it is essential that the people of God not only live in this world but live in it with great joy. Paul gives us a command…
Philippians 4:4 (ESV)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Our joy in not circumstantial but found in Jesus Christ. In Him we rejoice, in Him we are happy even though in the world we will be hated…
Even when the OT prophets looked forward to the coming of Christ they were joyful.
Isaiah 35:1–2 (ESV)
35 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2 it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Jesus prays for our joy in the midst of the world. He would go on to pray…
John 17:13 (ESV)
13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Are you joyful? Are you living in the reality that your sins are forgiven, your eternal destiny secure, and your Lord has paid it all for you. Live there not in this world and you will find the joy that Christ has prayed you will find.
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Because we are still in the world and being sent out into the world, Jesus prays that we would be different than the world. He prays that we would be sanctified. This word, sanctify means to be set apart by holiness and for holy purposes.
Our Lord realizes when He leaves there will be a threat to His followers in the form of our desire to fit in and be like the world around us. He prays against that tendency.
The church looses her effectiveness in the world when she becomes like the world. We are to live in the world but be radically different than those around us.
I want to wrap up today by looking at what I believe to be very godly insight into this matter of the church becoming secularized or like the world.
James Montgomery Boice shared this in his commentary on this passage as he noted four ways this takes place.
The Church looses its effectiveness when…
1- The church begins to embrace the world’s wisdom…How often have we seen this today? When it comes to sexuality, marriage, parenting, financial management, leadership principles, personal counseling, and more the churches are tempted to incorporate the wisdom of the world with little to no consideration of God’s Word.
2- The church begins to embrace the world’s theology…Most of the theological challenges to sound biblical doctrine within evangelicalism today have their origin in secular and unbelieving academic institutions. Evangelicals are influenced by worldly academia because they desire its approval and accreditation. The world believes the Bible has errors, that man is basically good and needs no redemption, that the celebration of Christ’s cross promotes violence, that the Bible’s creation story is a myth, and that the Bible’s teaching sexual purity and gender roles is out of date. Often biblical terminology is retained but the meanings of the terms are twisted. For example, sin no longer means rebellion against God but holding wrong political views, Jesus is no longer a sin-bearing Savior but a moral example, Salvation involves not being made right with God but liberating society from oppressive social structures.
3- The church becomes secularized as it adopts the worlds agenda. If the world ‘s agenda is to end all wars then the church becomes a peace movement. When the world takes up the mantle for ecology, the church follows, energy crises, homelessness, world hunger, tax relief, etc. Many of these causes are noble but the problem is the church has received its agenda from the world.
4- The church becomes of the world when it adopts the world’s methods. Is the church to take up political power to dictate laws? Are we to grow our churches through manipulation and manmade strategies? Is the church to become a consumer driven entity, is the church to be market driven? Do we take a poll to see what’s popular? Do we ultimately concern ourselves with demographics? The answer is NO!
The Church is not to escape the world but in order to have any sort of eternal impact; the church must be different than the world.
1 John 5:19 (ESV)
19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
God guards us while we are in this world. He gives us joy while we are in this world. He keeps us while we are in this world. He sanctifies us while we are in this world.
Reformed Expository Commentary, John by Richard Phillips
Macarthur Expository Commentary, John by John Macarthur