Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Short Thoughts on John 17

John 17 is often used by those who teach that Christ died only for the elect.  They point to this passage as proof that Jesus would not pray for the world (v. 9).  That He prayed only for those whom He had chosen.  They point out in this prayer that Jesus prayed for their security (v. 12).

How should Arminians approach this passage?  Frankly, this is not a difficult passage if one reads it in context.  The question of whom had the Father given to Him is found in verse 6.  It is clear that these are His Apostles that He had chosen (John 15:16).  Jesus had personally chosen them after much prayer (Luke 6:12-13).  This was not a choice then unto salvation but to service.  No doubt they would experience the new birth (John 20:22; Acts 2:1-4) but Judas shows that they could still rebel.  The Apostles had come to believe in Him (v.8) but this was not the case at first nor always in His earthly ministry (see John 2:22; 6:66-72).

What do we make then about verse 9?  It is clear that in context Jesus is praying not for the elect (as I have heard) but His own chosen Apostles.  In fact, verses 6-19 is all about the Apostles and their relationship to the world and to Jesus Himself.  This is not about “the elect” of the future but those whom Jesus had already chosen to be with Him.

The Church does not appear until verse 20.  Verses 20-23 are Jesus’ only prayer for the future elect.  He prays for our unity.  That is all.  No mention of Him praying for our justification before God.  Our imputation of righteousness or His intercession for our eternal security.  His prayer is for the body to be unified.  Sadly, even here we find that the Church has often not heeded the prayer of Jesus and sought to be unified.  No doubt God knows His people (2 Timothy 2:19) and He sees His Church as one body (Ephesians 4:4-6).  We are baptized only into one Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and there is only one Jesus who saves (John 14:6).

In conclusion, I see nothing in the prayer of Jesus here in John 17 to validate that Jesus was going to the cross only for the elect.  Adam Clarke interestingly held that the word “world” here in John 17 (kosmos) was the Jewish world only.  Clarke wrote thus about verse 9, “But He does not pray for the world, the rebellious Jews, because the cup of their iniquity was full, and their judgment slumbered not.”  Clarke held, like myself, that He does not begin to pray for the Church until verse 20.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/13/2012 at 11:54 AM

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