From “Studies in the Lord’s Prayer,” by Pastor K. David Oldfield
If I was a downed pilot, caught behind Taliban lines in Afghanistan, I would want nothing and no one but the best to come and rescue me. I would want someone with capability, opportunity, desire, and authority to come and get me. I would want someone to save me, who was trained and commissioned for that kind of job. I’d want him equipped with the best and fastest helicopter, medical supplies and experience. I’d want air support to protect both me and the rescue people. I’d want the very best of the very best.
That is precisely what we have when it comes to our soul’s salvation. Even down to the preplanning of our salvation from before the foundation of the world.
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:” When the Lord Jesus uttered these words, He was probably not more than 12 or 14 hours away from the cross. All of the preparatory work among His disciples had been completed. They had been given sufficient information to carry them through until the day that they were endued with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would soon guide them into all necessary truth, as Jesus had told them. They had observed their last Passover together, and they had celebrated the first Lord’s Supper. Judas had left and was making arrangements to quietly deliver Christ to the priests. The little group of disciples was on its way to Garden of Gethsemane, if they weren’t already there. The hour, the time, had come for the mutual glorification of the Father and the Son.
“When the fulness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” That fulness of time included the moment of His conception to the time of the presentation of the sacrificial blood on the altar in Heaven. Now the Saviour prays that the Father oversee the final aspects of the great glorification process. And the key ingredient in the glory of them both was in the salvation of wicked sinners.
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh. . .”
Since Jesus said that He has been given power over all flesh (whatever that is), it is extremely important that we define the word “power.” There are several Greek words which are translated “power” in the New Testament. “Ischus” and “kratos” are used about a dozen times each, and they refer to power in the sense of “strength.” Then there is the familiar word “dunamis” which speaks of “ability.” We might say that “dunamis” takes the first two words to a higher level. “Dunamis” is the ability to use one’s strength. Totally unfettered power. The next word translated power is “exousia” which is often rendered “authority” in the Bible. “Exousia” takes “dunamis” to a higher level again. It is the absolute authority to use one’s strength and ability. The Lord Jesus has absolute authority and power over ALL flesh.
Remember that it’s in prayer to God the Father, that the Lord Jesus boldly states that He has been given both ability and authority over all flesh. But this is not the first, nor the last time that He’s says things like this: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”(Matt. 28:18). This, of course, was after His resurrection. No human being has ever made a claim any bigger than this one: “I have authority over every thing: living or dead, spiritual or fleshly, earthly or Heavenly.” And in Matthew 11 the Saviour has already said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father.”
A.T. Robertson comments on this verse: “This sublime claim is not to be whittled down or away by explanations. It is the timeless aorist like ‘exousia’ in Matthew 28:18. It points back to a moment in eternity, and implies the pre-existence of the Messiah.” In other words, the Lord Jesus has had this authority over all things since long before creation.
And the reference to “all flesh” is just what you might expect it to be: Christ Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords over all the children of children and subjects of subjects. This is talking about saved and lost, saints and sinners, elect and non-elect. There is not a human soul or human body that is not under the authority and power of Christ. The fact that the Bible here refers to “flesh” doesn’t exclude inanimate objects or spirit beings. The Father knows the entire extent of the domain and dominion of the Son. And the Bible elsewhere talks about His authority over angels and demons. But here, the Lord Jesus simply wasn’t talking about them. He is talking about weak, frail, sinful, hell-bound children of Adam – like us. The Son is completely aware of exactly what kind of flesh that He is talking about.
Now I know that I’m jumping a step ahead, but what a blessing there is in this for us who are “the called according to His purpose.” “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Rom. 8:28-39.
When the Lord Jesus says that He has power over all flesh that he should give eternal life. He is teaching that we are kept by the power of God unto salvation. He is teaching we shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck us out of our Saviour’s hand. He is saying that our rescue team cannot be defeated on their mission to save us.
But just one word of caution before we go on: That this authority was given to Christ, doesn’t mean that He is or was inferior to the Father. As God, the Son, He has always been equal to the Father in every possible way, but in the sense that a covenant was made, and the Son agreed to be the anointed Messiah, as Saviour and Messiah all power was given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth.
And once again, I emphasize that no mere man, could ever make this statement. No man can say that he has power over all flesh. Jesus of Nazareth believed Himself to be ……. Jesus knew Himself to be …….. deity, one with the Father, the eternal Son of God. This is either foolishness, blasphemy or absolute truth. And we know it to be the truth.
“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life”
Remember that our Saviour is praying for the glory which is rightfully His. And what is the argument that He uses to stake his claim to that glory? He pleads the completion of His commission – the salvation of the lost. Jesus’ authority and dominion is for the purpose of salvation. If salvation isn’t completed then Christ is a complete and utter failure, a fraud, a sham.
And what is this eternal life? It is the opposite of eternal death; it is the opposite of the second death. It is the life of God Himself. It is the eternal and joyful fellowship with the eternal God – His crowns, His kingdom, His new creation, His nature, His glory, His joy, His peace. One minute of that completed salvation makes the best of this world pale into forgottenness, and we shall enjoy the best of God for ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever.
And obviously, eternal life is the gift of God. People try to convince themselves that they can earn salvation through various means. Of course this is impossible nonsense. But if we think of salvation in the sense of eternal life, the nonsense becomes completely ludicrous. How can anyone earn life? People either have life or they don’t. They don’t buy it, earn it, steal it, or borrow it. Life is always a gift. And eternal life is gift of God.
Notice carefully that the Lord Jesus doesn’t say that He has authority over all flesh in order to make a bonafide offer of eternal life. Without getting into the question of repentance and faith, the sinner’s responsibility before God, eternal life is the gift of God through Christ.
“That he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
I am told that the Greek, from which this verse is translated, is more complicated than can be easily translated into English. J.C. Ryle restates this part of the verse this way: “Thou hast given the Son power over all flesh…that with regard to all that body, or thing, which Thou has given Him…. He should give eternal life to each of them.”
This verse teaches that there was a group of people, taken out of all flesh, and given to Christ. The Saviour then, in turn, gives eternal life to each of the individuals within that group. Elsewhere in the scriptures, this group is called “the elect.”
There are no statements here or elsewhere which imply that this group made themselves chosen. They didn’t believe on Christ and then the Father gave them to the Son to save. That’s getting the cart before the horse. And word “foreknowledge” doesn’t express that idea either, because it means “foreordination” When we let the verse speak, it says that God chose a multitude of people and gave them to Christ, and Christ was giving eternal life to each of those special people.
Remember that the Lord is not speaking directly to us in John 17, but rather to His Father. Although the Lord is not speaking directly to us right here, earlier He was. And in John 6:35-40, He said essentially the same thing: “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Over and over in the prayer that we are studying the Lord speaks of the saved as having been given to Him by the Father. Verse 6 – “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” Verse 9 – “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Verses 11 and 12 – “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” Verse 24 – “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
God, the Father, before creation itself, gave to the Son a group of people to save. Everyone of those people will of their own free will come to Christ in repentance and faith. And Christ will give eternal life and the bread of life to each and everyone of them – without fail. And as Jesus was teaching in John 6, those who have not been given to Christ will of their own choice and will stubbornly refuse to come to the Lord. What a glorious and wonderful doctrine!
Now tying this back into verse one: The completion of our salvation is grounded in the glory of the Father and the Son. The completion of our salvation is guaranteed by the glory of the Father and the Son. And our redemption from sin could not possibly be any more secure than it is.