Chapter Fourteen – John 17:20-21

From “Studies in the Lord’s Prayer,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield

John 17:20-21

Everyone who owns a car or truck agrees that it’s important to check the oil every once in a while. What are the reasons for checking that oil? We check oil because we know that if we don’t the pistons may dry out, seize up and ruin the motor. Or we may check the oil, because we have stock in a company that produces oil, and we want to make sure that people are buying that product, even if it is only ourselves. It might be for sentimental reasons – we love that vehicle and want it to turn into a classic. Like feeding the dog, we do it because we love the dog. Maybe we check the oil because we have nothing better to do with our time. Maybe we use the oil on the dipstick like we use hand lotion. It might be because we are trying to keep the weeds down on the driveway, and we’re hoping that the oil in the car looks dirty enough to warrant changing. There might be a dozen reasons to check the oil in our vehicles.

And why should we strive to live holy lives, to spread the Word of God, and to serve the Lord? This time there might be a hundred very good and very Biblical reasons, but what reasons does the Lord give us? Verse 21 says that the whole world might know that the Father hath sent the Son into the world. The Lord’s reasons should be infinitely more important to us than those we come up with ourselves.

“Neither pray I for these alone . . .”

Remember that chapter 17 is the prayer of the Messiah. And He’s not praying to us. It is important to remember that we are overhearing this most intimate conversation.

How often during His 33 years upon earth did the Lord Jesus pray? Do you think that He could exhort us to pray without ceasing, if He Himself ever ceased to pray? How many of those prayers of Christ are recorded for us to read and study? There were a few, such as the one in the Gethsemane. But we can be pretty sure that we find less than a hundredth of one percent of the Lord’s prayers recorded in the Word of God.

That this prayer is recorded makes every word of it important. And, the first to hear this prayer were the disciples, or the inner circle of the disciples, or just John. And the Lord Jesus knew that He was being heard and recorded for posterity – for us. But as He prayed, those eleven disciples were first upon His heart and mind.

To remind us that we have just as much right to these requests as the original disciples, the Lord lifts His spiritual eyes from the eleven to us. And this reference doesn’t just apply to what is following, but to the entire prayer. I pray also for them who shall in the future believe on me.

Now, how about a theological question: Properly speaking, can deity pray? If so, to Whom does He pray? Can one person of the Trinity beseech another person of the Trinity, if they are indeed one? Probably not.

But it is not as the Second Person of the Trinity that the Lord prays for us. This is the prayer of the Messiah, our Elder Brother, our Great High Priest, our Saviour. This is the God-Man praying, our Substitute, our Redeemer.

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word . . .”

Are you a believer? Do you fit into this verse? If you are then you may insert your name. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for the believer named Kenneth David Oldfield – 523-71-5823” (S.S. number altered to protect the guilty). The Lord Jesus Christ prays for me. He prayed for me 2000 years ago, and He continues to intercede for me before Father’s throne.

So how can I sin against such care and concern? How can I murmur and complain against the rigors of the wilderness through which I’m wandering? How can question the Lord? How can I fail to live in a fashion that pleases and glorifies Him?

Some of the things to which the Lord Jesus doesn’t refer here are very interesting: For example, He doesn’t say, I pray for the rest of the elect. Would this have been appropriate? Certainly. He doesn’t pray for those who haven’t yet come to understand that they have been given by the Father to the Son for salvation. The specific point of contact between us, as sinners and our Saviour, the Lord Jesus, is our faith. For all intents and purposes you are not a child of God, until you humbly repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Forget for a moment about the talk about a specific people given to the Son to Redeem. Forget about the words “election” and “chosen”. If your faith is not in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross then you are not a Christian. The Lord may indeed be praying for you, but you are still in the great need of salvation. And being outside the faith means that you have no right to ever be inside that faith. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3).

But it’s not just faith to which Jesus refers, it’s faith in Christ. The Lord is not praying for those who believe in God. The Devils believe in God and they tremble in fear.

The Lord is not concerned at the moment about those who merely believe the Word of God. He’s talking about, and praying for, those who believe on Himself. Acts 13:38: “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

And what is the foundation of our faith? It is the Word of God. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” How essential it is that we, including you, spread the Word. Don’t you see here that there will be no believers on Christ without the ministry of the Word?

A moment ago I quoted Romans 10:17, now let me give you the context beginning with verse 12: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

There is a sense in which, there will never be another person saved unless we give them the Word of the Lord.

“That they all may be one . . .”

This is not talking about blending all the saints together into one huge person. There is no “universal saint,” just as there isn’t a “universal church.” This is not speaking about cloning the best Christian and making all the rest look just like him. There will probably be as much diversity in glory as there is on earth today, except for that which is caused by sin.

And this is not talking about salvation because all those saints will be equally saved. But this is a prayer for a different kind of unity. I’m not sure that in this life we can even begin to understand all that is contained in this, because of what we read in the next part of the verse: “As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee . . .”

There is a mutuality of being in the Father and the Son. They are one in nature and essence, in power and will, and in understanding and affection. And this union infinitely transcends any kind of union among men. I read and reread half a dozen explanations of what this verse entails, and there were lots of high falutin words, ideas and principles, but the more that I read the more that I was confused.

Perhaps it refers to oneness in will and purpose; one in glory and honour; one in heart, but at the same time there will be a distinction of persons even throughout eternity.

“That they also may be one in us . . .”

This is not a prayer for a mechanical or organizational oneness. It’s a prayer for genuine unity from the inside out. As long as we retain our weak and petty preferences, it’s not going to be fulfilled. The weakness is not in the Lord or His prayer, but in us.

Notice that in the statement about “one in us,” the grounds of our oneness is the Lord Himself. It’s not a unity in doctrine alone, or in our future glory, or in a unified purpose toward that glory. It is a oneness in Christ Jesus, our Saviour. How shall all men, know that we are the disciples of Christ? By our love for one another.

“That the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

Here is something of which we need to be constantly reminded: The purpose of our salvation is not us, but Christ.

This prayer that we may be one in Christ, is for the glory of Christ, not for ourselves. I have read a time or two that some people think that the multiplicity of denominations is good. Some think that this variety permits different people, with different backgrounds to find the style of worship and the kind of doctrine that suits them better than someone else’s. But I think that the multiplicity of sects and denominations is a curse in unspiritual people. It is something that Satan has encouraged and fanned. These differences are not a blessing but a shame upon the name of Christ.

Since this was a prayer of the Lord Jesus, shouldn’t it be our prayer as well? Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if one by one the Baptist churches in this community came to the same doctrines on the church, and then they approached us about baptism? Wouldn’t it glorify the Saviour, if each of the Baptist churches, learned the doctrines of salvation by pure grace? And then what if other churches in other denominations came to these and other scriptural doctrines? Wouldn’t the world begin to sit up and take notice? Wouldn’t the world begin to recognize that the Lord, He really is God; the Lord He is God?

This should be our prayer as well as the Saviour’s prayer.

Go to Chapter Fifteen »