Jesus, the Father, and the disciples in John 17

The lectionary reading for Easter 7, the last Sunday of the Easter Season before Pentecost, is the first part ‘great prayer’ of Jesus in John 17.1–11. The lectionary divides the chapter into three parts over Years A, B and C, which either assumes that preachers and people have a good memory from year to year, or perhaps suggests that we think about the whole passage, but only read one section each year.

Our chapter divisions do, for once, follow the logic of the narrative; the end of chapter 16 concludes the farewell discourse that began in John 13.31, and John 17.1 highlights this, as John turns from the disciples to speak to his Heavenly Father. (The phrase ‘he lifted up his eyes to heaven’ is a standard indicator of prayer directed to God.) But this part of the discourse, though formally directed to God, otherwise continues the form and style of the previous discourse. There continue to be abrupt changes of subject, and a kind of circling around from one subject to another, with summary apophthegms along the way. And the prayer is marked by a distinctive mix of past and future, so that things that, within the narrative, are future are referred to in the past tense:

  • ‘I have overcome the world’ (John 16.33)
  • ‘I have brought you glory…by finishing the work…’ (John 17.4)
  • ‘They have obeyed your word…they know everything’ (John 17.6–7)
  • ‘They knew with certainty…they believed’ (John 17.8)
  • ‘I remain in the world no longer’ (John 17.11)

It is clear that none of these things are actually past: Jesus only overcomes the world in his death and resurrection; his work is only finished in the cry of completion from the cross (John 19.30); the disciples clearly do not yet understand, and have not yet believed until later in chapter 20; and Jesus is still in the world!

This kind of folding over of narrative time has been a feature of the Fourth Gospel earlier in the story, so that we are introduced to Lazarus, Mary and Martha by means of an event (the anointing of Jesus) that has not actually yet been related (John 11.2). But this effect has been intensified as we approach the Farewell Discourse, so that in John 12.23 we read that ‘the hour has now come’, we hear language that belongs in Gethsemane (‘My soul is troubled’ John 12.27), and Jesus declares that ‘the ruler of this world has been cast out’ (John 12.31—compare Rev 12.9–10, using a cognate verb).

There is a sense in which this makes the gospel easier to read for us, reading from the future and knowing how the story unfolds (the gospel appears to assume that we have already read Mark). But it creates a strange narrative dynamic, where Jesus, in contrast to the other characters, is all-knowing, and operates with a different sense of time. Mark Stibbe (John: Readings Commentary 1993) comments:

We are confronted again with a frequent paradox of the farewell discourses: the remembrance of things hoped for…

Throughout John, there is a powerful sense of the presence of the eschatological future. Though the last day is still anticipated as a future event, many of the characteristics of that future day (resurrection of the dead, judgement, the giving of eternal life) are dispensed to a needy humanity in and through the ministry of Jesus. The realities of God’s tomorrow are present in the today of Jesus’ life…

The eternal has entered history…and, as such, Jesus can speak of future actions as past realities. Jesus can revel in temporal paradoxes because he perceives history always from the perspective of eternity (p 177).

The whole of the farewell section has a chiastic structure, that is, a symmetry that revolves around the central section of chapter 15. (You can see a detailed sequence of parallels between chapter 14 and 16, as pointed out by Raymond Brown in his 1966 commentary.) Here we see some clear parallels between the beginning of chapter 13 and the opening verses of chapter 17:

John 13John 17
1 Jesus knew the hour had come…1 ‘Father, the hour has come.’
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power.2 ‘You granted him [the Son] authority over all people’.
1 He loved them to the end (telos)4 ‘I have brought you glory on earth by completing (teleioo) the work you gave me to do.’

The parallels here, and the repetition of themes in the prayer, remind us that Jesus is not so much petitioning the Father as declaring things to him; it is a prayer (as was the prayer in John 11.41–42) intended to be overheard, and as such it continues to be part of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples, as well as to us who also overhear it.

There are varying views on the structure of the prayer overall, which arise because of the recurrence and repetition of themes. But, broadly speaking, we see:

  1. a focus on Jesus and the Father (verses 1 to 6)
  2. the petition for the disciples, for their protection and sanctification (verses 6 to 19)
  3. prayer for ‘those who will believe’, for their unity in the truth of Jesus’ words (verses 20 to 26)

The lectionary division cuts across this, so that we read the first section and the beginning of Jesus’ prayer for protection for the disciples.

There are clearly features in the prayer which are distinctive to the Fourth Gospel—but we should not let that push us into thinking the differences with the Synoptics are greater than they really are. Jesus’ address of God as ‘Father’ is prominent in this gospel—but it is also prominent in Matthew, where Jesus describes God as [heavenly] Father no fewer than 45 times. And there is a very Johannine-sounding description of the unity of Father and Son in Matt 11.27, including the statement that ‘all things have been given to me’, an idea repeated throughout this prayer (‘those you gave me’ John 17.6).

The mention of ‘glory’ comes at the beginning and end of this subsection, and is characteristic of the second half of the gospel, sometimes called the Book of Glory (in contrast to the ‘Book of Signs’ that constitutes the first half of the gospel) from the introduction of the idea in John 12.23. The mutual action of bringing glory to one another between the Father and the Son has some parallels in God’s relationship with Israel in the prophet Isaiah (see, for example, Is 44.23, 46.13, 55.5, and all through chapter 60). But the shared glory ‘before the world began’ reminds us of the Prologue to the gospel, when the Word was ‘with God in the beginning’ (John 1.2) as well as the Pauline expression of Jesus ‘equality with God’ in Phil 2.6.

The granting of Jesus ‘authority over all humanity’ places Jesus alongside God, who is the only one with authority over the world in Jewish thought. But again it reminds us of Matthew’s gospel, which reaches its climax in Jesus’ statement that ‘all authority has been given to me’ (Matt 28.18) and Paul’s understanding of all things being put in submission to Jesus (1 Cor 15.27). The granting of ‘eternal life’ again echoes the Prologue, where Jesus is ‘the life who is the light of all…to those who did receive him, he gave the right to become children of God’.

There is here a close relationship between understanding and relationship; eternal life is to ‘know you…and Jesus Christ’, the only time in the gospel where Christos (‘messiah’) is used as a kind of title. This ‘knowledge’ is not merely factual, as is the case in later ‘gnostic’ developments, but relational. Yet this relationship also includes knowledge and understanding, as the later emphasis on ‘knowing’ and ‘the word’ demonstrate.

Jesus’ prayer for his disciples demonstrate both the solidarity and mutual sharing between Father and Son; the disciples belong to the Father and have been given to the Son, and the Son now offers them back in prayer to the Father. The word of the Father has been passed on to them faithfully by the Son, and they have received the words of Jesus and have kept them.

The prayer also demonstrates the radical disjunction between the disciples and ‘the world’. Throughout this gospel, ‘the world’ has an ambiguous status. On the one hand, it was created by God through Jesus (the Word) and so owes its very existence to him. And this world is the constant object of God’s love. Yet this world has not received him, and so stands in judgement (John 3.17), and because of that also stands in opposition to Jesus’ followers (John 16.33). Just as Jesus has been in the world but is not of the world, the same is true of the disciples as they find their true home in him. Thus Jesus’ prayer is not that the disciples will be taken from the world, but that they will be protected in it. The language of ‘protect’ (or ‘keep’) resurfaces repeatedly in this next section.

Although it is not part of our lectionary reading this year, it is worth looking ahead to the final part of the prayer, since this is often taken out of context and understood as a concern for unity separated from other issues.

Jesus’ key concern is for the protection of the disciples in the midst of the world in which they remain but to which they do not belong. ‘Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17.17) The language of truth goes to the heart of a key theme in John; as Andrew Lincoln and Mark Stibbe have pointed out, the whole of John can be understood as a form of trial narrative, with witnesses called to testify to the truth of Jesus’ claims and identity, and the Father even called to the witness stand (John 8.18). That is why the conflict is so sharp with the ‘leaders of the Jews’ in chapters 5 to 8, because they are the prosecuting counsel, and that is why John’s account of the crucifixion naturally includes the extended dialogue with Pilate (conveyed to us by one of the servants there) which is not included in the synoptics.

‘Your word’ here cannot refer to Jesus himself, even within the ‘logos’ Christology of John, not least because Jesus has already talked of the cleansing and sanctifying work of his words, that is, his teaching of truth, in relation to abiding in the vine (John 15.3). To be holy involves remaining in the person and work of Jesus, and remaining in his teaching which reveals the truth about us, God and the world. It is into this context that Jesus then longs for the unity of his people. The parallel with the unity between Jesus and the Father cannot be exact, not least with the hindsight we have following the Nicene expressions of our understanding of the Trinity. But it is about the unity of commitment, will and understanding; just as Jesus does the will and work of the Father, and just as the Father’s testimony is completely unified with the testimony of Jesus, so his disciples are to have that one commitment to true testimony which reveals the truth of God—and which will then lead many who have not themselves been witnesses of Jesus also to believe (John 20.31). There is no sense here that the unity of the believers in and of itself, disconnected to the truth, plays any role in the conviction of the world.

Jesus finishes the prayer with an inclusio return to the theme of glory, but does so with a unique address to God as ‘righteous Father’—only the third time John uses the term ‘righteous’ (after John 5.30 and 7.24) and the only time in the New Testament that God is described in this way.

So Jesus’ prayer for unity is tightly bound with concerns for the truth, for holiness, for the distinctive testimony of his people over against the world to which they do not belong, leading to the revelation of the glory of God and by which, through faithful testimony, many in the world will come to believe that Jesus is the only true revelation of the Father who loves them and draws them to himself.

Although this is often described as Jesus’ ‘High Priestly Prayer’, perhaps by conflation with the idea of Jesus offering continual intercession for us in Hebrew 4.14, prophets were also known for their intercession for Israel. More than that, Jesus’ prayer appears to be closely connected with his promise of what the Spirit will do when he comes, in chapters 14 and 16. It might therefore be more accurate to consider this to be ‘Jesus’ prayer as Paraclete’; the things he prayers for as our Advocate before the Father (protection, glory, unity in the truth, holding onto his words) are all things that the Spirit will effect amongst Jesus’ followers—both the disciples, and those who come to believe through their testimony.

Join James and Ian as they explore all these issues and their implications for preaching here:

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39 thoughts on “Jesus, the Father, and the disciples in John 17”

  1. Hi Ian – the theology is perhaps over my head, so I am reduced to nit-picking: where is the source for your statement that Jesus’ full conversation with Pilate was passed on by Pilate’s servants? The (interesting) link you give refer to Herod’s servants and the disciple Joanna.

  2. As Anglican Canon Terry Palmer noted :

    “Jesus is the Apostle-Envoy or ‘Shaliach’ of God : He is the Son through Whom ‘in these last days God has spoken’ His final word”.

    (‘The Church Times’; 14 August, 2015).

    A ‘Shaliach’ is a Jewish term that denotes a fully authorized, ‘Agent-Representative’ who is sent out by a superior, to act on their behalf. Consequently, in Jewish terms ” A person’s agent is regarded as the person himself ” (Talmud; Ned. 72b; Qid. 41b).

    As Anglican Canon, Anthony E. Harvey, perceived, Johannine Christology in its original First century CE, Jewish context, is based upon the Jewish ‘Shalicah’ concept (See his Essay : ‘The Constraints of Monotheism’, within the book ‘The Constraints of History’).

    As the article : ‘The Four Gospels in Synopsis’ within ‘The Oxford Bible Commentary’ (Edited by Barton and Muddiman) declares – regarding original Johannine Christology :

    ” The Son is sent by the Father – ‘The Father, the One Who sent Me’ is a formula that occurs 21 times in John – and the relationship [between God and Jesus] has been analysed in terms of the Jewish institution of the ‘Shaliach’ – an envoy sent out with the same [authorized] powers as his principal [superior]. Whereas the modern [i.e. Post-New Testament] Hellenized mind may define equality in the static [Greek Philosophical] terms of being, the Semitic [Jewish] mind, nowhere more clearly than in John 5:19-30, defines the relationship in dynamic terms of equality of action and [delegated] authority, unity of purpose and honour received [from the Father, the only true God; John 17:1-3].

    Because Jesus is the Shaliach of God, i.e. God’s fully accredited, ‘Agent-Representative’, Jesus can truthfully say that the Father is ‘the only true God’, (John 17:1-3); And why the author John, can say that the whole purpose of his Gospel is to prove that :

    ” Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name. “

    • Yes, I think you’re absolutely right there, Steve. Good spot.

      To me, Steve, the Jewish ‘Shaliach’ model of the relationship between God and His Son, Jesus, has much more explanatory power than the later Gentile, Greek Philosophical, ‘Trinitarian’ model (which was eventually finalized at the Council of Constantinople in 381 CE.)

      I’m very interested in Fourth Century, Gentile Christology, Steve, but I’m much more interested in First century Christology, of the New Testament.

      • Are you the author of a book on my shelf??

        I like both explanations. But, Especially explanations that elicit awe and worship and are easy on the brain. That’s why I like my Abraham, Isaac, Chief Steward model. The Throne is neuter but the presence in it is personal and plural. Abraham’s tent prefigured the Temple, prefigured Christ. We don’t worship the tent any more than we worship His clothes, or his ephod.
        I think…mebee Jesus could not say I AM GOD as long as the Father remained in heaven. The Spirit (Angel) did not accept worship in Revelation, as long as Jesus and his Father were elsewhere. Jesus said “we worship what we know” . Therefore we come to the Father worshiping Jesus whom the Spirit has made known.
        Thinking out loud…please dont stamp all over my reasoning.!!

        • Hi, Steve;

          Thanks for your latest thought provoking comments.

          Steve – this is how the ‘NIV Study Bible’ notes to Genesis 16:7 ff, apply the Jewish ‘Shaliach’ [ Agent-Representative] concept to the “angel of the Lord’ :

          “Since ‘the angel of the Lord’ speaks for God (in the first person [Gen. 16:10]), and Hagar is said to name ‘The Lord Who spoke to her “You are the God Who sees me” ‘ (Gen. 16:13), then the angel appears to be both distinguished from the Lord (in that he is called ‘messenger’ – the Hebrew for ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’) and identified with Him…..Traditional Christian Interpretation has held that this ‘angel’ was the pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ as God’s Messenger-Servant. It may be, however, that as the Lord’s personal messenger who REPRESENTED HIM and bore His credentials [as God’s Shaliach – God’s fully authorized, AGENT-REPRESENTATIVE], the angel could SPEAK ON BEHALF OF (and so be ‘identified with’) the One Who sent him [i.e. GOD]. Whether this ‘angel’ was the second person of the Trinity remains therefore, uncertain.”

          • YES! the Angel of the Lord throughout the O.T.;
            as is the angel in Zechariah.
            Before Joshua He is the Commander of the Lord’s army.
            Before Jesus He is the Dove.
            Before the Throne: blazing torches.
            Before John: a towering giant.
            To the saved: the fragrance of life.
            To the unsaved: the stentch of death.
            To His enemies: a blazing storm of fire
            To his friends: a still small voice.
            From the inside of the new Jerusalem: a wall of transparent gold.
            From the outside: a wall of fire expanding at the speed of light.

    • Absolutely. Halleluyah !

      In Jesus, Son of God, and Messiah (John 20:31), we see ‘the one true God’ (Who is the Father; John 17:1-3), fully manifested to us, poor human mortals !

      It’s a Miracle – for which we praise God, and the power of His Messiah (Rev. 12:10).

      May God bless us all, through Jesus.

      • How, why, when of, what, where, who of Salvation. Addressed, if not fully so, in Ian’article as he touches on the time, eternal and escatologival aspect.
        Ian brings Good News
        I am not awed by a mere human being. There is no Good News in that. I worship Jesus, I AM, Glorious God Incarnate.

        • Yes – but JESUS incarnates the presence of the ONLY TRUE GOD, Who is the Father (See John 14:10-11; John 17:1-3; John 20:17; John 20:31)

          Compare 2 Cor. 5:19 – “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”.

          The GOOD NEWS is that GOD saves us through His Son, Messiah Jesus, and transforms us, closer and closer into Christ’s Image (2 Cor. 4:6; 2 Cor. 3:18).

          There is NO BETTER NEWS for human beings than the resurrection of JESUS.

          See 1 Cor. 15:1-58.

          • –A ‘Shaliach’ is a Jewish term that denotes a fully authorized, ‘Agent-Representative’ who is sent out by a superior, to act on their behalf. Consequently, in Jewish terms ” A person’s agent is regarded as the person himself ” (Talmud; Ned. 72b; Qid. 41b).–

            sounds exactly like the Chief Steward to me. Going out in the Father’s name to bring a wife back for the groom, the son, Isaac.

          • STEVE – I’ve responded to your comment, but it’s further up the thread ( I think !)

        • Strategies some may use to protect the Trinity doctrine from the Lord Jesus Christ’s words in John 17:3, that THE FATHER is “THE ONLY TRUE GOD” :

          (1). Just IGNORE the words of John 17:3, and act as if they were not in the New Testament. REFUSE to seriously consider the words, or answer any questions upon them.

          (2). CHANGE the text of John 17:3, so that it reads other than what Jesus actually said. This is what Augustine tried to do.

          (3). ADMIT to the truth of Jesus’ words in John 17:3, and agree that they clearly seem to contradict the Trinity, but then claim “The Trinity is a Mystery”, so of course the Trinity doctrine completely baffles our puny minds.

          • Is Jesus talking about himself in the 3rd person in John 17:3 when He uses the word ‘Christ’?
            I take it to be the Holy Spirit speaking through Jesus of The Father.
            Almost going back to the first words, “Let us make man…”.
            When Jesus was transfigured, He was clothed in the Holy Spirit and the Father covered Him as a cloud. I see a differentiation there.
            More subtle is when The Holy Spirit speaks through Jesus directly, as in John 17:3. Usually, Jesus looks up to heaven for guidance. The Father gives the instruction to the Spirit (the Dove who “remained on him”), then the Spirit gives the message to Jesus who speaks it to His listeners.
            John 17:3 is one of those clues to the mystery of the ‘Throne’.

  3. “Incarnates the Presence of God the Father ie God Incarnate, made flesh. Distinction without s difference. Almost a Trinitarian, I surmise.
    Anyway I’m stopping here as it, you and me
    are distractions from Ian’s marvellous article, which seems to be the main purpose of your hijacking comments.
    Ian’s articles which seems to rattle you in your entrenched opposition.

    • I absolutely love Ian’s articles.

      I used to write Ian, as a respected Anglican theologian, years ago, on Romans 7, and the differences between ‘Sola Scriptura’ and ‘Prima Scriptura’.

    • Geoff – yes – a good piece, which I enjoyed reading, but …. I have some problems with it. If Jesus says he has overcome the world, then I take this to mean that Jesus really has overcome the world at the time he is saying these words. If he announces that the disciples (except for Judas) have come to believe (and – as a corollary from John 3:16 – that they are saved in the sense that they *will* have eternal life) then I accept that this is what Jesus means in John 17.

      The point is that it is more than just a *future* reality; the battle has been won and the first fruits of this reality are already established when Jesus says these words. At the time of the prayer, Jesus has not yet been crucified and has not yet risen again, but the outcome of the spiritual battle has already been established (in some sense); the first fruits of the victory are already present.

      While John 17:6-19 is about the disciples, the same principles apply to us. The wretched man of Romans 7:14-25 gives the present tense reality of someone who is saved (and has the Holy Spirit dwelling within them as a deposit *guaranteeing* what is to come – with the first fruits already breaking through).

      Indeed, we see the principles of the `wretched man’ (describing the current experience present tense of a mature believer) in Peter when he denies Jesus three times; there really is no contradiction if we take Jesus to mean exactly what he says in John 17 – where we are informed that *all* the disciples except for Judas *have* passed from death to life – and the obvious points outlined in the article (e.g. that the crucifixion had not yet taken place; Peter would deny Jesus three times; Thomas would express doubts about the bodily resurrection, etc ….)

      We get a better understanding of the passage if we take the words of Jesus at face value, when he uses a perfect tense, indicating something that has already been completed in the past, he really means this – those recording his words haven’t recorded them inaccurately and Jesus isn’t using the perfect tense in some wiggy ungrammatical fashion – and then try to figure out why the words of Jesus can be correct when taken in this way.

      • As I see it, it’s like this:
        The arch criminal has been arrested and put on remand, awaiting trial.
        His followers can’t believe he is going down this time, they assume he will wiggle out of all the indictments as usual. The deposition process takes ages and ages. Meanwhile the criminal keeps up the rhetoric against his accusers from prison. Eventually satan is brought up out of the abyss and the trial begins. Wonder of wonders the actual trial lasts but a moment before satan and his hords are thrown into the lake of burning sulphur.
        We are in the millennium, the period between satan’s arrest and trial. His minions behave, or appear to behave, as if business as usual will happen soon.
        There is nothing technically stopping the Gospel; it is just out lack of faith, and our fear that the threats of the evil one; through his minions, stopping us.

      • Hello Jock,
        If I’ve read you correctly, I agree with you, and I see the words are accurate but set in the context of John – in the context of the Gospels, the whole canon of the NT and the whole canon of the Holy Bible.

        I think Ian’s citation of Stibbes is a key aspect:

        ” We are confronted again with a frequent paradox of the farewell discourses: the remembrance of things hoped for…

        Throughout John, there is a powerful sense of the presence of the eschatological future. Though the last day is still anticipated as a future event, many of the characteristics of that future day (resurrection of the dead, judgement, the giving of eternal life) are dispensed to a needy humanity in and through the ministry of Jesus. The realities of God’s tomorrow are present in the today of Jesus’ life…

        The eternal has entered history…and, as such, Jesus can speak of future actions as past realities. Jesus can revel in temporal paradoxes because he perceives history always from the perspective of eternity (p 177)”.

        Succinctly, that is frequently expressed as the Kingdom now, but not yet in fulness, in consummation. We know the result, in a way his hearers didn’t, the end game, even if it is not yet fully realised. And even while the spiritual battle rages.

        While perhaps not on the point of your comment, I also appreciate the identification of the chiastic structure, a structure that aids memorisation, a structure familiar in the OT, likely familiar to John’s first readers.

        I think Ian’s article needs to be taken in the round, as a whole.
        And I’d draw to a close with Ian’s reference to the *book* of Glory : the Glory of God in person, face of Jesus revealed.
        From Awe to doxology.

        • Geoff – I guess that the thing that worries me here is that – if you’re ‘in Him’, then you instinctively *know* that when Jesus uses the perfect tense (action completed in the past) then it is correct in a sense that is crucial for the believer – so that when a commentator starts mucking about with ‘oh oh look Jesus is using a past tense for things that haven’t happened yet’ we begin to wonder what the agenda is.

          It’s similar (not the same, but strongly related) to how we see John 3:16. A believer *knows* that he/she has already passed from death to *eternal* life (i.e. communion with God – and we will go to heaven when we pass from this life to the next). That is, I see my sins being dealt with in the crucifixion and, by the resurrection I know that ‘my sin, not in part, but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more’.

          Believers of the Old Testament were also looking at the cross (although they didn’t see it in quite that way at that time – but the ‘man of sorrows’ from Isaiah and the Messianic psalms indicate that they had a shrewd idea of it) – so in some sense the past tenses of John 17 are absolutely correct.

          Even in so-called ‘Evangelical’ circles I see an anti-Christian version – it isn’t ‘Christ alone’ but rather ‘Christ plus something else’ where the something else might be that I was smart enough to accept Jesus as my Saviour (unlike the unwashed heathen who never darken the doors of the church) or it might be ‘oh look at me – through the Holy Spirit I succeeded in keeping myself from sin and if I continue to keep myself from sin then I’ll get to heaven’.

          I know I’m making connections that aren’t really there – but when a commentator starts by suggesting that the past tense refers to a future state (and then uses some nice words like ‘Kingdom now, but not yet in fulness’) I begin to wonder about it.

          • Geoff (post script) – actually, when it comes to OT people of faith, I really liked the comment that David Shepherd made on an earlier John 17 post, which indicated that Elihu really had understood it.

          • Elihu. Nope. He got very close but God had to talk over him to shut him up. All Job’s friends had to sacrifice , and Job had to intercede for them. The whole point was to show how close theology gets to the truth but gets lost in endless debate. It is wrong to use anything uttered by Job’s friends to bolster a theological debate. Behind all the pious words stands the accuser gaslighting Job through them.

          • Steve – well, any suggestion that Job was on the naughty seat because he was a sinner is rubbish. Yes – all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God, but the opening of Job is completely clear that this is not the reason for the trials and tribulations of Job; quite the opposite. Job is undergoing trials and tribulations precisely because he is righteous in the eyes of God – and Satan is given leave to test his faith.

            I suppose there is something in the words of Elihu that may point to Job being a sinner and may point to this having something to do with the current trials and tribulations, but this doesn’t seem to be the main thrust. Furthermore, although Job had a good case, he did argue it rather badly and he did more-or-less accuse God of being unjust.

            But the thing that catches attention here: Job 19:25 – Job knows that his redeemer lives – and the ESV translation of Job 33 (words of Elihu) does bring out ‘mediator’, ‘ransom’ – the key watchwords from the great hymn ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’ words which describe the basis of our faith, why we know (John 3:16) that, when we come to believe, we have passed from death to eternal life (life which cannot be lost again).

            You’re probably right about some of the undercurrent in Elihu’s words, but he does seem to get much closer than the others.

          • Didnt Paul do the same thing when he referred to believers as ‘Chosen… glorified’ when the glorification hasnt happened yet?


          • Peter – exactly – Paul gives indicatives telling us (those who believe) the state that we are already in – in some sense it has happened – we get the first fruits of it now – we have to wait until we get to heaven before we get it in all its fullness – but the past tense is correct.

            Jesus (in John’s gospel) and Paul are saying exactly the same things – although in John 17, Jesus is saying it before the crucifixion.

        • Hello Jock,
          Job was counted righteous by God. It is suggested that there are echoes of Jesus, a type, a foreshadow, figure.
          Aren’t believers chosen before the foundation of the world something God did, that happened before we were born and believed even if it is not realised, perhaps in retrospect, with hindsight.
          I’d coin a phrase that God in scripture shows us the * history of the future*. He is outside of time. Eternal.

          I agree with you that in many evangelical circles justification, at times, seems to be dependent on sanctification i.e. Jesus plus works.

          BTW. The older I get, the more I realize how sinful and I am and see Romans 7, which God used leading up to conversion, applies to me as much, perhaps, knowingly with conviction, even more so now as a believer, but it is with some necessary immediacy followed and countered with the indicatives of Romans 8.
          And it wasn’t until conversion that I was away of a Spiritual battle that persists.

          • Justification should lead on to progressive sanctification. This is the whole teaching of Romans 6, and the obligation on the believer to identify themselves with Christ in, (a) His death (whereby we consider ourselves dead to the power of Sin, and dead to the written Jewish Law as the ruling regime in our lives (cf. Romans 7:4, 6) and, (b) in His resurrection to a new life, through which, in lives now empowered by the holy Spirit, we crucify ungodly passions and desires (Romans 6:6, = Gal. 5:24), which once dominated our lives, thereby, making us ‘slaves of Sin’ (Rom. 7:23). Christians, through the enabling holy Spirit, should be ‘servants of God’ (Rom. 6:22), not ‘slaves of Sin’. See Romans 8:12-14, = Gal. 5:16, 18, 22-26). Romans 7:14-24 is Paul’s expansion of his point in Romans 7:5, and refers to pre-Christian, Jewish experience under the Torah – related in the present historical tense, because Paul remembered it so vividly. Our obligation is to ethically walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16; 5:19-21), because we are not under obligation to former ways (Rom. 8:12).

          • Geoff – I think you’ve expressed this very well – and it’s very nice to see your profession of faith!

          • Pellegrino – yes – Romans 6 tells us that, through belief, we *have died* to sin, which means we are justified and – yes – sanctification (i.e. ever closer walk with God) will follow. Neither Geoff nor I said anything to contradict this.

            The crucial point here, Pellegrino – do you know that you are saved – i.e. that you *have* passed from death to *eternal* life (by ‘eternal life’ I mean something that cannot be lost) – or do you think that salvation requires something else (e.g. do you think it depends on how you respond to the Holy Spirit and how you progress with Sanctification)?

            As far as Romans 7 (a different topic) goes: firstly, I see Saul (before the Road to Damascus) as an angry man, utterly convinced that he is right, persecuting the followers of The Way. The soul-searching of the wretched man Romans 7:14-25 doesn’t chime in with this. Like Geoff, I see that the longer I am `in Him’, the more I I become more aware of my own sin – so taking the ‘wretched man’ as present tense for a mature Christian does chime in with my own experience (while taking it as a description of the past – before conversion doesn’t).

  4. Hello Jock,
    One or two last points regarding revival, justification, sanctification, works.
    1 Revival. While I don’t have references to hand, someone who studied revivals, concluded that they drew to an end when in effect sanctification became regarded as a replacement for justification ie you were justified only so much as you were sanctified, in effect sanctification and justification were inverted.
    2 Sanctifiction takes place contemporaneously with justification, but it is also a process of holiness
    ( which includes conviction of sin) to become evermore like Jesus.
    3 There is often a heavy implication, if not a direct express exhortation both in preaching and teaching: try harder or you are not measuring up ( usually as a result of a defict of *works*) whereas sanctification, holiness is far wider and deeper, and I’d suggest includes fruit of the Spirit.

    4 It has been said correctly in my view that our Christian walk and discipleship is grounded in a reiteration of the Gospel, Done, Done, Done.
    Teaching us to ” cast my deadly doing down – down at Jesus feet, to stand un him alone, gloriously complete.” James Proctor, “It Is Finished”, hymn

    • Geoff – gosh – this is a very interesting analysis of revival and does explain a lot of what I have seen. For example, my grandfather came to faith in 1923 as a result of the Lowestoft revival, but of his 5 children, my mother was the only one who took the Christian faith seriously. Retrospectively, I see that the comments you made do chime in and could go some way to explaining where it all went wrong. If you could find the co-ordinates of this study, I’d be very interested – it seems as if the author has understood something important.

  5. Hello Steve,
    A book that encapsules ( the clue is in the title) Keller’s approach and is/was readily available is, “Shaped by the Gospel”.
    It is a publication in book form of section one of a bigger book, Centre Church.
    It garnered many plaudits, and contains critiques from Michael Horton and Dane Ortlund with Keller’s responses.
    Though it seems to be aimed at leaders I’d suggest it is of great benefit and edification to ordinary Christians.
    The gospel is good news, not good advice/ information.
    I heard Keller in a recording say he wasn’t a theologian, but a practitioner.


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