“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14-16)
Jesus often spoke of the world’s hatred for His disciples (John 15:18-25) So does the New Testament (I John 3:13-15). The fallen and sinful world system of thought and behavior hates God and is in rebellion against Him. Consequently, the world hates Jesus’ disciples. The world hates us. Always has, always will.
Jesus then prayed something quite interesting. He prayed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” When the Holy Spirit brings a sinner to faith in Christ resulting in conversion through the preaching of the gospel, the sinner does not immediately go to heaven. Rather, all true believers remain on earth to accomplish the mission and task God has given to each one to accomplish.
While on earth, believers become targets for the evil one: the devil (Job 1-2). Jesus prayed that God the Father would protect us from the devil. No that we would immediately be transferred to our heavenly home. What a precious prayer by our Lord.
Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The reference here refers to protection from Satan and all the wicked forces following him (Matt. 6:13; 1 John 2:13–14; 3:12; 5:18–19). Though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the defeat of Satan, he is still loose and orchestrating his evil system against believers. He seeks to destroy believers (1 Pet. 5:8), as with Job and Peter (Luke 22:31–32), and in general (Eph. 6:12), but God is their strong protector (John 12:31; 16:11; cf. Ps. 27:1–3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Jude 24–25).”
John Calvin writes, “He (Jesus) shows in what the safety of believers consists; not that they are free from every annoyance, and live in luxury and at their ease. But that, in the midst of dangers they continue to be safe through the assistance of God.”
Jesus also made a statement at this point in His prayer that we might overlook. I know I have until recently. The statement is “I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
The repeated phrase “I am not of the world” is similar in structure to Jesus’ previous I AM statements which the Apostle John records. The first was “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). The second was “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12). The third was “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7-9). The fourth was “I am the good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). The fifth was “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26. The sixth was “I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:1-6). Again, Jesus used the significant phrase “I Am” (ἐγώ εἰμί; ego eimi) to indicate that He presently and actively exists as Yahweh Incarnate.
However, in John 17:14 the negative adverb “not” is conspicuously added to Jesus’ I AM statement. In the most emphatic of declarations, Jesus declared in His prayer that He in no way presently and actively exists as belonging to the fallen world system. Jesus did not belong, and never will, to any system of thought and behavior which is in rebellion to God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and/or Himself.
The implication of Jesus’ statement is huge. Believers in Christ must never presume to think, believe or behave in a way that is disobedient to the Word of God and justify such thinking, believing and behaving as in some way approved and sanctioned by Jesus. Jesus will never lead any of His disciples, or the unconverted for that matter, to disobey the revealed Word of God. This is because Jesus is not of the world. It is also because the written Word of God is the revelation of the person and work of not only God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but also God the Son.
Take some time today while in the midst of your daily responsibilities to thank God that He is your strong protector. He always will be. Thank Him also that He is not of the world. He never will be.
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!