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Shortly before the time when he was going to be called upon to lay down his life for us, Jesus Christ prayed a prayer which gives tremendous insight into his heart, his intentions, and his priorities. Thankfully, God had this prayer recorded in the gospel of John. In it we learn, among many other matters, about one significant thing he left with his disciples.
John 17: 6–8
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
Note that Jesus manifested God’s NAME to his disciples—but he gave them God’s WORD.
When one thinks of all of the possible “parting gifts” Jesus could have left his disciples, the list could go on and on. But the record indicates that he gave them one thing and one thing only. Why would this one thing be of such value to his disciples, soon to be left without him in the world?
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [evil one].
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Jesus Christ understood the state of the world. He knew and had encountered the god of this world. He was fully aware that, since Adam, all men lived in constant jeopardy in the very world man had been formed, made, and created to have dominion over. And he knew that, having aligned themselves with Satan’s enemy, his disciples were at even greater risk: they would be the targets of the active hatred of all the world’s systems.
And yet he didn’t leave them with swords, bombs, or machine guns. He didn’t leave them with plans for building Christian fortresses in the wilderness. He left them with words.
Jesus Christ recognized the power of these words—the power to sanctify, to set apart from evil, all those who believed them. In a real world full of real wickedness, words might seem like a flimsy defense; but Jesus knew that these words were different, that they would sanctify his disciples, as they had sanctified him.
How wonderfully ironic that their trust in these words, which had brought the world’s wrathful attention on them in the first place, would also serve as their protection against that same attention. And in truth not just their protection, but the only protection.
Why, you might ask, did Jesus leave his disciples in the world at all? Did he not love them? Why not take them with him before they had to face the bleak prospect of life without him?
Why? Because they had a mission to perform.
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
You see, they were not simply left in the world—they were sent into it. Why? To give that same Word to others. Yes, the very thing which placed them at enmity with the world in the first place, which would also sanctify them in the world, was the thing they were to carry into the Devil’s strongholds as a weapon of offense against those strongholds, setting men and women free whenever and wherever it was believed.
The last earthly words of Jesus Christ to his disciples, and, by extension, to you and me, make it clear that as his followers we are not mere longing, waiting prisoners, but freed ones given a commission to set others free.
The gift of holy spirit was given on the day of Pentecost to assist in that glorious mission and to give us intimate fellowship with our Heavenly Father in this unheavenly place. But that gift is also to be operated according to and in alignment with those wonderful words which have already been given.
When we were defenseless, helpless, hopeless, Jesus Christ was the only one willing and able to help. We received the salvation for which he paid. We acknowledged his lordship. Now, as sons of God, we have been called and equipped for service. But that service must be on His terms, not our own. And the standard for all true Christian service is His Word—as my offense and my defense, as the basis for what I stand against and for what I’m drawn to, in my mind, on my lips, and underlying any endeavor I undertake.
1This teaching article, The Right to Speak for God ─ Part 2, is an excerpt from a book published by Scriptural Study Groups: Tom Burke, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, (Scriptural Study Groups, 2010) 207–210.