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The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:15

John 17:15  “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

In our last study, when we looked at verses 14 and 16, we focused on Jesus’ statement that the disciples, like himself, were “not of the world”, and now Jesus explicitly states that he wants the disciples to remain in the world.

Once again, we need to bear in mind that we are still really looking at the details of Jesus’ explicit prayer in v11 – “Holy Father, keep them”.   This prayer is all about the need for the disciples to be kept and how God the Father keeps them.  And Jesus’ disciples – including you and me – need to be kept, because his plan is for them and us to remain in this world, throughout their and our lives.

I wonder whether you have ever wondered why God doesn’t just take us straight to glory as soon as we are converted.  That would save us all a lot of grief, wouldn’t it?

But, God’s plan is to use us to reach the world with the gospel, so his plan is for us not to be taken out of the world but to remain in the world.

People can’t believe unless they hear about Jesus; and they can’t hear unless someone – i.e. you or me – goes and tells them.   So Jesus prays, ‘don’t take them out of the world, but leave them in the world; a world that will hate them, persecute them, imprison them, execute them; a world that will treat them in exactly the way they treated me; because they are as I am’ (v14). 

Father, “keep them from the evil one.” There’s that same word again. “Keep them”.  It’s exactly the same word Jesus used in v11 – “While I was with them, I kept them in your name”.

Notice the logical argument of Jesus’ prayer.  Beginning in v14 – “I have given them your word”, as a result of which, “the world has hated them because they [like Jesus] are [no longer] of the world.”

You see, receiving God’s word in a saving way detaches us from the world.    It takes us out of the world in a sense of belonging, but leaves us in the world in the sense of serving.

As Charles Ross puts it

“..how much of the mercy of God to sinners is thus to be seen in his leaving the objects of his love in this sinful, persecuting world, that they may bless it with their life and testimony.  It is true indeed, the world does not think so; right gladly would it get rid of Gods witnesses.  Nevertheless the fact remains that it is for their sakes that the world is permitted to stand…it is an unspeakable mercy to the world that the Lord leaves the objects of his love for a time in it.” [1]

The world loves its own, and, because the disciples are “not of the world”, the world hates them.  Don Carson puts it very graphically – “the world snarls in savage rage”. [2]

And, as Scripture so clearly teaches, the world in which we are left to serve and shine as lights is in the grip of, and ruled over by, Satan.   Satan is the ruler of this world  (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11.).  This same John also tells us in 1 John 5:19 that “…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”  Paul describes Satan as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Now, we need to stress, of course, that this rule by Satan is one permitted by the ultimate ruler of the universe, even God himself.  Part of God’s judgement on the world because of sin is to hand its inhabitants over to the rule of Satan.

I want you to notice the words of Satan which are recorded in Luke 4:6. In Luke’s record of the temptations of Jesus, he has words that Matthew does not include in his account.   Satan says to Jesus, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me. (emphasis added)

Notice that; Satan’s rule over the world has been given to him.  The question is, by whom? And the simple answer is, by God.  God, the sovereign ruler of the entire universe, as part of his curse on the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, delivered, gave, to Satan, a huge power and authority over the world.

But, and it is so important to remember this and underline it in our thinking – all of Satan’s power is by permission.  He can only do that which God permits him to do and God only allows him to do anything as part of his providential governing of the universe which is for his own wise and holy purposes.

Satan can not do anything which God does not permit for his own infinitely wise and holy purposes.

[1] The Inner Sanctuary London: Banner of Truth, 1967 pp220-221

[2] The Gospel According to John Nottingham: IVP, 1991 pp. 564-565

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