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B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)



      This prayer, so solemn and so tender, would never have been recorded had it not been intended for our study and profit, but I approach it with a feeling that it is almost too sacred for the usual verbal and textual criticism. It is the overflow of the full soul of the Lord in devotion to the Father, a fitting close to the wonderful discourses beginning in chapter 13; offered, standing, in the Upper Room, just before the Lord led his disciples out into the moonlit night, on the way to Gethsemane. This is the real Lord's Prayer of the sacred word; the prayer of Matt. 6:9-13, is the disciples' prayer, taught to them by the Lord. In order to drink in its spirit, the student must realize that the Lord stands at the foot of the cross, is about to suffer, and before the separation from his disciples and the agony and shame of the cross, he goes to the Father in their behalf and in his own.

      Dr. Wm. Milligan, of Aberdeen, outlines this remarkable prayer as follows: "The chapter on which we now enter contains what is generally known as our Lord's High-priestly Prayer. Such a name is appropriately given it; partly, because it is the longest and most solemn utterance recorded of the intercessions with which Jesus approached the throne of his heavenly Father on his people's behalf; partly, because he was at this moment standing on the threshold of his especial work as their great High Priest. No attempt to describe the prayer can give a just idea of its sublimity, its pathos, its touching yet exalted character, its tone at once of tenderness and triumphant expectation. We are apt to read it as if it were full of sorrow; but that is only our own feeling reflected back upon what we suppose to have been the feelings of the Man of Sorrows. In the prayer itself sorrow has no place; and to think that it was uttered in a tone of sadness is to entirely mistake what must have been the spirit of Jesus at the time. It speaks throughout of work accomplished, of victory gained, of the immediate expectation of glorious reward. It tells, not of sorrow, but of 'joy,' joy now possessing [251] his own soul, and about to be 'fulfilled' in his disciples (verse 13). It anticipates with perfect confidence the realization of the grand object of his coming,--the salvation of all that have been given him (verse 12), their union to himself and the Father (verse 21), their security amid the evils of this world while they execute in it a mission similar to his (verses 11, 15, 18,) and, finally, their glorification with his own glory (verse 24). . . . The prayer naturally divides itself into three parts; in the first of which Jesus prays for himself, in the second for his immediate disciples, and in the third for all who, in every age, shall believe in him. But the three parts are pervaded by one thought--the glorification of the Father in those successively prayed for, the accomplishment in each of the Father's purpose, and the union of a in the perfect, the spiritual, the eternal bond of love."

      "Here is holy ground; here is the gate of heaven. No such prayer was ever heard before or since. It could only be uttered by the Lord and Savior of men, the mighty Intercessor and Mediator, standing between heaven and earth before his wondering disciples. Even be could pray it only once, in the most momentous crisis of history, in full view of the approaching sacrifice for the sins of the world, which occurred only once, though its effect vibrates through the ages. It is not so much the petition of an inferior suppliant, as the dialogue of an equal, and a solemn declaration of his will and mission. He intercedes with the eternal Jehovah as the partner of his counsel, as the executor of his will of saving mercy. He looks back on his pre-mundane glory with God, and forward to the resumption of that glory, and comprehends all his present and future disciples in unbroken succession as a holy and blessed brotherhood in vital union with himself and his Father."--Schaff.

      1. Father, the hour is come. After the discourses were ended, he "lifted up his eyes," the very attitude being stamped on the memory of John, and began his prayer. "The hour" of the great sacrifice, of the tragedy of the cross, the hour for which Christ came into the world had now come; in this hour he needs the Father's presence. Glorify thy Son. He was about to stoop to shame. It was an unutterable humiliation for the Son to die as a malefactor. He prays that God may lift him from this humiliation to his former glory, that he may glorify the Father. Had he been left in the tomb, the shame would have been complete. Christ not only prays that he shall be "lifted up," but that he may so "drink the cup" that the cross itself shall be a glory. The glorification of the Son in his resurrection and exaltation demonstrates the glory of his self-sacrifice and humiliation.

      2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh. This shows how the Son is to be glorified. It is by "giving him all power in heaven and earth," and [252] "committing all things" to him, raising him from the dead so that "he should give eternal life."

      3. This is life eternal, that they might know thee, etc. The knowledge of God as manifested in Jesus Christ is the first requisite to salvation and life eternal. When there is full knowledge, a recognition by the heart as well as the intellect, of God in Christ, then comes submission and eternal life. Man cannot know Christ by the intellect alone. That knowledge requires faith and love. Not God alone must be known, but Christ also, for he "is the way, the truth, and the life."

      4. I have glorified thee on the earth. He had done this because he could say, "I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do." In a few hours he would cry from the cross, "It is finished."

      5. And now, O Father, glorify me, etc. In this prayer the word Father occurs six times. Jesus never says, "Our Father," as he teaches us to pray, nor "My Father," which would separate him from us, but "Father." He repeats the requests to be glorified and explains what he means. He asks a restoration of his former glory, that he had before he took on himself human form.

      6. I have manifested thy name to the men which thou gavest me, etc. In the first five verses he had prayed for himself. Now he prays for his disciples. The apostles are especially meant. To them he had "manifested the name by revealing the Father in himself and showing God's matchless love.

      7. That all things . . . given me are of thee. The Lord had taught with great emphasis that he and the Father were one, and that his words and works were of the Father. This the apostles were now learning. As all was of God it would stand firm and eternal, in spite of the cross.

      8. They have believed that thou didst send me. The life, teaching and miracles of Jesus had wrought profound faith in his disciples, but they were startled and staggered when he told them he was about to die. Hence, we have these long and tender discourses for their preparation. They have the desired effect, for in [253] chapter 16:29, 30, they repeat their declaration of love, saying: "We believe thou comest from God."

      9. I pray for them. The apostles. The prayer from verse 9 to verse 19 is for these. I pray not for the world. Not at this time; he came into the world to save it, and we are not to conclude that he would never pray for its conversion and welfare. Now, however, his petition is confined to the apostles, the little band who are hanging upon his words. He even bids us to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:44), yet some rigid Calvinists have insisted that Christ would only pray for his chosen ones. Paul bids us pray for all men.

      10. I am glorified in them. Christ's glory here upon the earth is manifested by his disciples. These are all God's, for "all mine are thine, and thine are mine." There are no separate interests. He therefore pleads for his disciples; 1. Because they are the Father's; 2. To them is entrusted the work of manifesting the glory of the Son's redeeming love. They are to proclaim the gospel to the world.

      11. I am no more in the world, but these are in the world. He now goes to the Father; these are left behind to preach the gospel, establish his kingdom, manifest his glory. Hence, he pleads that he may "keep them through his name," or power and love. He especially pleads that they may be kept "one," united as the Father and the Son. They had often shown jealousies and ambitions, but in order to do Christ's work they must be united as a band of loving brothers, of one family, with one interest and one work.

      12. None of them is lost but the son of perdition. God had given him twelve; he had kept them in the name of the Father, and only one was lost, Judas, the traitor, the son of perdition, which the Scripture had predicted. See Ps. 41:9. So, even one of those that God had given him could be lost.

      13. I speak these things in the world. I am now coming to thee, and about to leave the world, but before I leave it, I speak these things in order that my joy, the joy I feel over my completed work and return to my Father, might be fulfilled in them, by their being partakers of my joy. [254]

      14. I have given them thy word. I have entrusted to them the word of the Lord, to preach it, the gospel, to men.

      15, 16. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world. The world had hated the Master and was about to slay him, because he was not of the world. So it would hate the apostles, who were not of the world, and seek to slay them; he does not pray that they should be taken out of, the world, for they have a work to do, but that the Father would keep them from the power of the evil one. See Revision. Like him, they are to be "separate from sinners, and undefiled," but to remain that they may carry on the saving work.

      17, 18. Sanctify them by thy truth: thy word is truth. To sanctify is to render holy, or to consecrate. Those sanctified are saints. The means of canonization is not a Pope, but the truth, and lest some should mistake, Christ adds, "Thy word is truth." He prays for their consecration by the power of the word in their hearts. Every disciple should be thus consecrated, but the means is not "the second blessing," a miraculous work of grace, but the reception of God's word into our hearts and the complete surrender to his will spoken in his word. The apostles needed that consecration for the work named in verse 18. They were to be sent into the world to work and suffer, as the Father has sent the Son.

      19. For their sakes I sanctify myself. He did this when he came into the world, when he made it his meat to do the Father's will, and when he gave himself to death. We sanctify ourselves when we "present our bodies as living sacrifices."

      20. Neither pray I for these alone. We enter upon the third section of the prayer, that for all disciples in every age, a prayer for us, for all who should believe on the Lord through the preaching of the gospel by the apostles. Every one who loves the Redeemer should reverently seek what the Lord prays for in his behalf.

      21. That they all may be one; . . . that they my be one in us. This is a prayer [255] for the closest union among the saints. As the Father and Son are one they are to be one. The Lord all through this discourse has shown the intimate union between the Father and himself. The Father is in him and he in the Father, all that is the Father's is his, and his is the Father's. They have no separate will, kingdom, or interests. Such a union is demanded among the disciples of Christ. It is impossible while they are divided into various denominations with separate work, property and interests, separate churches, colleges, papers and missions. Denominationalism is utterly opposed to this prayer, and every apologist for it is disloyal to the spirit of the prayer. Nor is it fulfilled in any church where there are factions, where "all are not perfectly joined together, of the same mind and the same judgment." If Christ abides in the heart, the one life will draw all who have Christ formed within them, into one family. This unity is needful and the Lord prays for it, That the world may believe that thou hast sent me. There is no other source of skepticism so fruitful as church quarrels and sectarian divisions. The consecration and unity of Christendom would speedily convert the world. The most potent argument of the infidel against the Kingship of Christ is that he has not power to unite his followers.

      22, 23. The glory . . thou gavest me I have given them. God gave Christ the glory of Sonship and this resulted in their unity. So Christ gives to his disciples the glory of becoming the sons of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1). This glory, the adoption and gift of the Spirit, ought to effect that they be one as we are one, with Christ in them, and God in Christ. With Christ in us and God in Christ, we ought to be "perfectly joined together," and be so "perfect in one" that the world would see in our peace, love and unity, that God had sent Christ and that he was reigning in our hearts.

      24. I will that they . . . be with me where I am. That in due time all my disciples shall follow me to heaven, where they shall see the glory of Christ.

      25. I have known thee. The world knew not God, and Christ came to reveal him. He had revealed him to his disciples and they would reveal him to the world. [256]

      26. I have declared unto them thy name. The character and love of God and the blessings of his service.


      1. Our Lord prayed for himself, not for temporal benefits, but for eternal glory. So, too, we may pray, but not that we may have to spend upon our lusts. We may pray for consecration.

      2. We should especially pray for what the Lord prayed, that we may be one as he and the Father are one. Every saint ought to speak, labor and pray for the unity of Christendom.

      3. We cannot pray the prayer of Jesus and labor to build up sectarianism. In the spirit of love we should oppose it, and labor to destroy sectarian names, creeds, organizations and interests. As the Son and the Father are one, have one work, one kingdom, one spirit, one interest, so must all that are Christ's. We must "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." There is "one body" and "one Spirit," as there is "one Lord."

      4. Division is the shame of Protestants. The Catholics point to it and exclaim, "Is Christ divided?" Infidels point to it and say, "This is Babylon, confusion. All is uncertainty. These people cannot see alike or agree." As long as this division prevails the world will be unconverted.

      5. It is one thing to preach union, and another to have the spirit of union. None have it unless the love of Christ abides in the heart. A church, rent with antagonism, defeats the Savior's prayer. The man who preaches union with a narrow, exclusive, sectarian spirit in his heart, defeats Christ's will. He who preaches union must be so filled with Christ's love that he will extend his hand to all who love the Master.


      The most remarkable feature of this wonderful portion of the word of God is the Lord's prayer for those who would believe upon him in the coming ages. It seems as if the very climax of earnestness is reached when he travails in soul for the saints who in after times, should be gathered to him from out of the world by the preaching of the gospel. Such a prayer uttered with such heartfelt fervency, right at the foot of the cross, should have a pre-eminent sacredness for every believer in every age; in other words, for every subject of the prayer, and no one upon whose heart rests the petition that came from the Savior's heart can refuse to do all in his power to secure the results for which the Master prayed. Indeed, one who could harbor a thought in opposition to that for which the Lord travails in soul, certainly has some other spirit rather than that of Christ.

      There is just one thought in this petition and that one thought is the unity [257] of his people. Am analysis of the petition in their behalf will show how this burden rested upon his soul. He prays (1) "That they all may be one;" (2) "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be one in us;" (3) He prays for the oneness "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me;" (4) "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them that they may be one, as we are one;" (5) "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfect in one, even as we are one." Four times the petition goes to the Father for their oneness, such unity as that of the Son and the Father, and as this divine unity is secured by a reciprocal indwelling, so he asks that believers may be in him and that he may dwell in them by the Holy Spirit, in order that they may keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Hence, as the Father hath given him glory, he imparts the same glory to them that they may be one. Finally he asks for this oneness because without it the world will not be brought to the faith.

      No true disciple can appropriate this prayer without the deep conviction that all that hinders the "oneness" prayed for, is sinful, in disobedience to the will of both the Father and the Son, and calculated to defeat the object of Christ's coming into the world. What opposes this oneness is Anti-christ. It becomes him, therefore, to ascertain what this petition really asks for and to see that his own course is in harmony with the Lord's will, as revealed in the prayer. While the word church is not named, all concede that in praying for the unity of believers the Lord prays for the unity of the body into which believers are gathered. It will aid in ascertaining his meaning to see the characteristics of the early church in which we know that he dwelt by his Spirit. Its history tells that "the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32), and that "walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit they were multiplied" (Acts 9:31). Here, then, was oneness, oneness of heart and soul in one body, and the result is that the world believed upon Christ, and the believers were multiplied. These early Christians fulfilled the conditions of the Savior's prayer and the results in behalf of which he prayed, followed.

      These believers, though in a few years counted by tens of thousands, composed of Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, and scattered through western Asia and southern Europe, were only one body, and the different members of this body were bound to each other by the most indissoluble ties. A favorite figure of Paul is the likeness of the church to the human body, which is composed of various members but all with one life, interest and mutual dependence upon each other. No less than twelve times be speaks of the church as the body of which Christ is the Head, often emphasizing the fact that there is but one body. "In one Spirit ye are baptized into one body and all partake of one spirit" (1 Cor. 12:13). Taking Jews and Gentiles Christ "makes in himself of two one new man, so making peace, that he might reconcile both to God in one body" (Eph. 2:15, 16). In the apostolic age there was no thought of bodies of Christians. The church was a unit. All the figures point to its unity. There is one kingdom; the Lord says, "I will build my church;" he is the Bridegroom and the church is the bride; "there is one fold, and one shepherd; the "one loaf" on the Lord's table Paul tells us represents the "one body;" there is one Head even as there is one body, and [258]

      Paul (Eph. 4:3-6) commands us to keep the unity of the Spirit In the bond of peace and names seven characteristics that imply and compel unity. "There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all; and in you all."

      On the one hand we have these emphatic declarations of the unity of the church, and on the other the strongest rebuke of divisions, schisms and sects. The word hairesis occurs nine times in the Greek of the New Testament, is rendered four times heresies, and five times sect. It always means a split, or sect, and is condemned as one of the works of the flesh. Anything that divides God's people is a hairesis, and a sect comes under the strongest condemnation.

      It is clear from this examination of the Scriptures that the oneness prayed for by the Savior is inconsistent with the existence of denominationalism. It implies the breaking down of all divisions among the people of God as completely as those between Jew and Gentile were destroyed by the cross so as to mould them into one body. It implies such unity between all saints as exists between the various members of the human body. It implies oneness of life and of spirit, in one body under one Lord. Such a union, one that would unite all believers into one army, take away the reproach of Zion, and oppose a solid front to the adversary, would cause the world at once to believe that the Father sent Christ into the world. In order that this unity may have an effect upon the world it must be seen; hence there must be organic unity that it may be visible. Such unity did exist in the apostolic ages but then there were no sects; it has not existed since the apostasy and will not be restored until God's people all stand together as one body, having one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one calling, one hope, one Father. The fiction of an invisible church and an invisible unity does not meet the demand.

      A unity that introduces religious rivalry into every country village, that refuses to unite in combined effort to save the world, that breaks up the soldiers of the cross into guerrilla bands rather than combine them into one great and invincible army, and that breaks to pieces at the door of the church or the communion table, has none of the conditions of that oneness for which the Savior prayed. Those conditions will never be met, until "all the multitude of them that believe are of one heart and soul." For this consummation all who love the Lord ought to labor and to pray.

      I am well pleased to give, as an evidence of the increasing sense of the need of unity, the following passage from a published discourse of Dr. John Fulton, a leading Episcopal minister: "Unless I have greatly misunderstood one of our Savior's most solemn utterances, I suspect that our divisions are worse than negatively unchristian; in their effects they are decidedly anti-christian. What else can our Lord have meant when he prayed to the Father, 'that they may all be one, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me?' If these affecting words mean anything, is it not that, in some way or other, the unity of Christ's followers is a divine condition of the conversion of the world? If that is his meaning, then is not every needless division treason to the [259] kingdom of Christ? And, to speak very practically, what can it be but treason to permit the helplessness caused by our divisions to hand over to perdition, so far as we are concerned, perhaps more souls than our divided ministry is saving? With what consistency are we spending millions of money in foreign missions, while the wasteful wantonness of our denominational divisions, together with the crippled inefficiency which is caused by them, is virtually and needlessly consigning more thousands of our own countrymen to heathenism in one year than all our missionaries put together have ever converted in five? God forbid that I should disparage any effort to spread his Gospel at home or abroad; but while we are rejoicing over the heathen whom we save, let us not forget the account we have to give of the heathen whom our divisions are making by the thousand in every great city of this land."--Christian Unity and Christian Faith, page 12.

[NTC3 251-260]

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B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)

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