Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Christ’s Intercession

John 17 and Luke 23

One point made often by Calvinists is that Jesus only prayed for the elect in John 17.  They point out that He only prayed for the elect in John 17 and this proves that He only intercedes for the elect.  Because Jesus did not pray for the lost in John 17, this shows that He came to die only for the elect.

However, two points are to be made.  First, a question.  I would ask Calvinists if they pray for their children?  They would hopefully answer yes.  My reply would be, “Does this mean then that you only love your children?”  Of course the answer would hopefully be no.  Simply because we find Jesus praying for His disciples in John 17 does not prove that He only died for the elect nor does it prove that Jesus only prayed for His disciples.

Secondly, I would point out in Luke 23:34 that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  He was clearly praying for the sinners who were killing Him.  Was He then not praying for the sinners?  If John 17 proves that Jesus only prays for the elect and not the world then what about Luke 23:34?  It seems clear that Jesus prayed for the sinners here who were killing Him on the cross.  That is love indeed!

I don’t doubt for one moment that true disciples have a mighty high priest who prays for us before the Father (Hebrews 7:25).  Just tonight I was interceding and was so filled with joy over knowing that Jesus sits at the right hand of God till His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).  At the Father’s side, Jesus is praying for His own.

But this doesn’t mean that I ignore the fact that Jesus shed His blood for all men (John 3:16; Romans 11:32; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 2:2).  In fact, this truth reinforces why we must preach the gospel to the lost.  The lost can be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:37).  The lost can be found in the One who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Our job is to preach; His job is to save (1 Corinthians 3:9; cf. Acts 2:47).  The Lord is faithful to save those who call upon His name in truth (Romans 10:13).  Those who repent are His own (Acts 2:38-39).  None will be condemned other than for rejection of the one true and living God (Romans 1:18-32).  Yet God is merciful and He has sent His Spirit to convict the world of sin (John 16:8).  His Spirit works through the preaching of the gospel to draw sinners to salvation (Romans 10:14-17).  God calls sinners to Himself through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).

With 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2 I stand:

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1  Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

We Never Cease to Need the Gospel

I have written before on sinning every day.  Do we sin everyday?  Can we stop sinning?  These are all for another post and another debate.  Many disciples feel that we cannot but sin every single day of our lives.  They believe that we sin in word, thought, or deed each and every day.  For them, they often mean that they don’t love God like they should (Matthew 22:37) nor do they love their neighbor as they love themselves (Matthew 22:39) and therefore they sin every day.  They would also assert that they do not pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) nor do they evangelize at all times (Matthew 28:19) nor do they give to the poor at all times (Matthew 6:2) nor do they study the Bible at all times (Psalm 119:11).  Simply put: they do not love God enough nor as worthy as He deserves.

I can see their point.  But sadly, this view is often taken to further extremes and these sins of omission are often channeled into sins of commission as well.  In other words, the lack of loving God perfectly is seen as the same sin as viewing pornography.  After all, sin is sin!  I can’t help but sin since this is all I can do.  At my best, my righteousness is still filthy before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6) so why strive for righteousness when I can’t obtain it in the first place.  My best efforts are meaningless before a holy and righteous God.  And so I am just stuck with sinfulness.  It is who I am.  It is what I do.

And that view leads to an antinomian view of the Christian life in which sin dominates and the Lordship of Christ is reduced to Him submitting even to our sins.  Even the precious blood of Jesus (while certainly able to wash away our sins) is not able to conquer our sins.  I mean a few do get “victory” over some sins but they still sin in word, thought, and deed every single day.  Before God, they still are sinners whether they are living in adultery or failing to study their Bibles like they should.

Perhaps in the future I will take a look at these false teachings about our sinfulness and about sanctification.  I fully believe that Jesus is able to deliver His saints.  Matthew 1:21 promises that His very name would mean “the Lord saves” and He will save His people from their sins.  While I fully acknowledge that His blood is sufficient to wash away our sins (Matthew 26:28), I would go further and say that His blood empowers us to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15-16).  The gospel always leads first to forgiveness of our sins and then toward holiness in this process of biblical sanctification (2 Corinthians 7:1).  Hebrews 10:14 is clear on this:

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The perfect sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is sufficient to fully save the sinner (Romans 10:4, 13) but this is just the beginning.  The Lord also sanctifies His people as Hebrews 10:14 promises.

But none of us, not one of us ever comes to a place where we don’t need the gospel.  Some think that the gospel is only for the sinners.  No!  It is for the child of God as well.  We need the gospel.  The precious truths of 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; etc. are true for the child of God.  The truth of Hebrews 4:14-16 is a truth I often pray.  I need the work of Christ always to be saved.  I need His intercession to remain saved (Hebrews 7:25).  I need the blood of Jesus to continue to cleanse me from sin (1 John 1:7).  I fall nowhere close to the holy perfection that God demands (Romans 3:23) and thus I need the work of Christ to stand before a holy God (Romans 3:24-27).  I never cease to need the gospel.  I need to preach the gospel to myself always.

At the end of the day, I need the work of Christ.  I know that the world needs to hear the gospel (Romans 10:14-17) but I need to hear the truth of the gospel as well (Romans 1:16-17).  I need to be reminded that I have not arrived, that I always need the grace of God to overcome.  My pride likes to think that I have arrived but I have not.  I am still seeking.  Still hungry to know this God who saved me.  I am still longing to be like Jesus in that I say or do (Colossians 3:17; 1 John 2:6).  I despise sin but the gospel shows me that my sins are forgiven and that I can overcome sin by the grace of God (Titus 2:11-12).  The gospel shows me that Christ is faithful, sufficient, and He is my victory, my holiness, my salvation, my power to overcome.  Christ is the one that I need to focus on and not myself or my works.  They are full of holes but Christ is perfect and He is my gospel.

In every area of my life I need the gospel.  I need the gospel over my marriage, how I raise my children, how I spend my money.  I need the gospel over my home, over my job, and over my reading.  I need the gospel in my habits.  I need the gospel in my talks with the lost.  I need the gospel for forgiveness of my sins.  I need the gospel when I am driving my truck.  I never cease to need the precious truths of the gospel.  Never.

I pray that you, my reader, hunger to know the gospel as well.   The gospel is not abstract.  It is not rules.  The gospel is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ, the living One (Revelation 1:17-18).  The gospel is not memorizing steps to peace.  The gospel is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is my longing, to know Christ (Philippians 3:8-11).  I pray that I make my boast in the cross of Christ alone (Galatians 6:14).  His cross is my cross.  His death is my death.  His resurrection is my resurrection.  I need Him every hour!

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

%d bloggers like this: