By Joseph Ametepe
We live in a fallen, broken, evil and dangerous world. As such, nations and individuals invest a great deal of their time, talents, and treasures in making themselves secure and protected from attacks. Nations and individuals invest in cyber security to protect themselves from crippling cyber-attacks. They also spend a great chunk of their resources in acquiring the most technologically advanced security cameras and accessories to monitor their physical properties and valuable assets. While these efforts are commendable and comforting to man, they often fail us. Cyber securities are breached. Security cameras, however sophisticated they are disabled by crooks and criminals, therefore, defeating their purpose. The only One who can offer us security that never be breached is the loving and living God, the only true God of the universe. He is fully and finally revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature (see Heb. 1:3). He revealed to His early disciples in His High Priestly in John 17 that our protection is the Father’s chief concern.
As our Lord transitioned from praying for Himself to praying for His disciples, He specifically requested the Heavenly Father for His gracious work of preserving His own who are in the world.
“I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are one” (John 17:11).
Pouring out His heart to the Father on behalf of His disciples, the Lord Jesus acknowledges three things to the Father in the above verse. First, He is no longer in the world. You see, the Lord Jesus was so sure of His sacrificial death on the cross and departure back to the Father that He treated His departure as an already accomplished fact. Actually, earlier in His prayer for Himself, the Lord Jesus did a similar thing with regards to His work. Being so certain of His death and subsequent resurrection, which He had not yet accomplished, the Lord Jesus confidently declared to the Father: “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). Second, His disciples are in the world. Third, He clarifies why He is no longer in the world. He is coming to the Father.
Having acknowledged these three things, our Lord then asks the Holy Father to keep the disciples in His name. He prayed specifically to the Father to preserve the disciples because they would be exposed to the world’s hatred, hostility, snares and schemes. You see, He would no longer be with them physically to give spiritual protection and covering. So Jesus prayed to the Father to take over the responsibility of protecting His own. “Based on the eternal nature of immutable God (“name”), he prayed for the eternal security of those who believed. He prayed that as the Trinity experience eternal unity, so may believers,” says pastor and preacher John MacArthur.
To further stress the urgency and importance of His request of the Father to protect and preserve those who believed in Him, the Lord Jesus lovingly reminded Him that He did not fail in keeping and guarding them while physically with them.
“While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” (John 17:12).
I love how the Lord Jesus communicates with the Father. The Father knew that the Son had faithfully served His purpose up to this point. He did everything He had called, consecrated, and commissioned Him to do. Yet, it was the Son’s delight to remind the Father, that without fail, He protected the disciples and kept them safe and secure from the world. But He also reminded the Father that not all were kept and protected. I believe that it was with a heavy heart that the Lord Jesus made this known to the Father. I know that because the Bible tells us that God does not delight in the death of the wicked (see Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11). Judas’ death was no pleasure for Jesus or the Father. The son of perdition would perish. But it was no delight for the three persons in the Godhead.
The expression “the son of perdition” points to Judas Iscariot’s eternal damnation. Judas was a betrayer not a believer. Judas’ damnation and doom was not at all a failure on our Lord’s part. Rather, He affirmed to the Father that Judas’ damnation was foreseen and foreordained in Scripture (cf. Ps. 41:9; 109:8).
Our Lord continues to remind the Father of what He has accomplished on earth and why He is asking Him to protect the disciples who had expressed genuine saving faith in Him.
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:13).
During His time on earth, our Lord faithfully instructed the disciples in the way of God. He gave the God’s word. Giving the word was the great passion of Christ our Lord. He gave much attention to instructing His disciples. He made certain that they understood the word of God. They would in turn declare God’s word to a hostile world. It’s no secret to the Father that the world hates the disciples. But our Lord sweetly and gently brought it to the Father’s attention. How lovely! The Lord Jesus makes it clear in His prayer to the Father, that just like Him; believers are not of this world. But Jesus has just announced to His disciples that He is leaving the world. He is going to the Father (v. 11). So the natural question is: should the disciples of Christ also not depart this world and go to the Father? In other words, should they not be taken out of the world which hates them and is hostile to them? If I were in charge of the world, I would have taken the disciples out of the world, to save them from all the hatred and hostility of the world. But thank God, I am not in charge of the world and you are not. God is. Moreover, He knows better than we do. Also, He has divine and dependable power to defend and deliver His disciples from all evil should He choose to leave them in the world. This is what our Lord now prays about.
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
The verb used for “ask” is “erotao.” A very distinct meaning of the verb “erotao” is to pray but in distinction from the verb “aiteo.” The first provides the most delicate and tender expression for prayer or request with the one asking and the one being asked, on equal level, such as the Lord Jesus asking of the Father. This is made very clear in John 14:13, 14 where the word “aiteo” is used in the case of us asking God as an inferior to a superior, leaving it up to Him to do that which pleases Him. In John 14:16 when the Lord Jesus is praying to the Father, or asking the Father, the verb “erotao” is used, also in John 17:9, 15, 20. ~The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, p. 1835
The point here is that, as One who is equal with the Father, the Lord Jesus requests the Father not to remove from the world those who have genuine saving faith in Him, but to preserve them from the evil one or evil. Our Lord did not entertain any doubt about His Father’s ability to preserve and protect His disciples. He has divine and dependable power, not only to defend us, disarm and defeat the enemy of our souls, but also deliver us from the works of the enemy. In other words, God has taken our protection in the world very seriously. As such, the Lord Jesus, who is equal with God, fervently sought Him on our behalf to protect us from the evil one or from evil [Greek, poneros] in the moral and spiritual sense. Poneros is Satan as the first author of all mischief in the world. The point here is that our Lord is specifically praying for our protection from Satan and all the wicked and evil forces following him and doing his bidding. You see, though Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross would result in the defeat of Satan, he is still loose and orchestrating his evil system against believers. He has come to steal and to kill and to destroy (see John 10:10) and to devour believers (see 1 Peter 5:8). But thanks be to God! He is their protector and defender and defense and deliverer. Indeed, even though believers are living in a world that hates them and is hostile to them, their protection from the evil one is the chief concern of God. In other words, you are protected. I am protected by the all-powerful God of the universe.
It will interest you to note that our Lord uses the same verb in His requests for our protection. The verb is “keep.” It’s “tereo,” in the Greek. This also means: “to watch,” “to preserve as opposite to leaving.” In His first request for our protection, our Lord asked: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name” (v. 11). In His second request, He asked: “Keep them from the evil one” (v. 15). Then also, in reminding the Father of accomplishing His purpose on earth, He stated: “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them” (v.12). What we learn here is that “tereo,” occurs three times in our Lord’s prayer on our behalf. What’s the point of all that? It’s to emphasize that our protection is our heavenly Father’s chief concern. In other words, the repetition of “tereo” is to stress the point that God takes full responsibility for our protection here on earth. It’s a major concern of His.
In these days of the Covid-19 pandemic and protests, protection and peace of mind are what we desperately need. You see, when we feel protected, our minds are at peace and at rest. This is what Jesus prayed for. Yes, the days in which we live, are disturbing and distressing. We have seen thousands of people die as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions more have contracted the virus. But the pandemic is still wreaking havoc in our world, showing no signs of slowing down. But if you have expressed genuine saving in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can have peace of mind. Why? It’s because your protection from this pandemic and from all evil, here and hereafter, is the chief concern of the heavenly Father. Our protection and preservation and peace are all God’s concern. He will not fail to take care of us. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity!