I pray…that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

John 17:15

Christianity today is so entangled with this present world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern.

Compromise is everywhere—but actually no real union between the world and the Church is possible. When the Church joins up with the world, it is the true Church no longer but only a pitiful hybrid thing, an object of smiling contempt to the world, and an abomination to the Lord!

Nothing could be clearer than the pronouncements of the Scriptures on the Christian’s relation to the world. The confusion which gathers around this matter results from the unwillingness of professing Christians to take the Word of the Lord seriously.

This whole thing is spiritual in its essence. A Christian is what he is not by ecclesiastical manipulation but by the new birth. He is a Christian because of a Spirit which dwells in him. Only that which is born by the Spirit is spirit, no matter how many church dignitaries work on it!

Lord, I pray that the leaders in my church will stand firmly on biblical principles when faced with social and political issues of moral importance.[1]

17:15 The Lord did not pray that the Father should take believers home to heaven immediately. They must be left here to grow in grace and to witness for Christ. But Christ’s prayer was that they might be kept from the evil one. Not escape, but preservation.[2]

15. I do not make request that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil one.

For the verb to make request see on 11:22. On the surface, one might have expected that the mention of the intense hatred which the disciples would have to endure from the side of the world would have been followed by a request that the Father remove them from the world. Yet, Jesus refuses to make this request. The reason is that the disciples have a task to perform. The nature of that task is not clearly indicated here, not even in verse 18, unless we take that passage in connection with all that precedes it. It was, however, clearly indicated in 15:27: “And you must also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (see on that verse). Naturally, therefore, Jesus cannot now pray that the witnesses be removed!

What he does request is this, that the Father keep the disciples from the evil one, or from evil. Both translations are possible. We prefer the former, for the following reasons:

(1) Again and again, during this night, Jesus has spoken about Satan, the prince of this world (12:31; 13:27; 14:30; 16:11): that he would be cast out; that he had entered into Judas; that he was on his way; and that he had been judged. Judas had fallen a prey to the evil one. Why, then, is it unreasonable to suppose that Jesus would pray that the others might be protected against the wiles of Satan?

(2) 1 John 5:18 is, to a certain extent, a parallel passage. Here the keeping has as its result, that the evil one does not touch the man who is born of God.

(3) It is almost impossible to suppose that Jesus, in speaking of keeping his (and the Father’s) own, was not thinking of the allegory of the shepherd watching over and guarding his sheep. Hence, 10:29 (“and no one is able to snatch it out of the hand of the Father”) occurs to the mind immediately. Now the enemy referred to in 10:29 is definitely personal; it is not just evil in general, but Satan, the false prophet, the persecutor, etc. Hence, also here in 17:15 we think of the evil one, Satan.

(4) The fact that back of all sinister influences stands Satan himself, so that it is especially against him that the believer needs protection is the prevailing New Testament view (both in the teaching of Jesus and in that of the apostles); see in addition to the passages listed under (1) and (2) above, also: Matt. 4:1; 13:19, 38, 39; John 8:44; 13:2; Acts 5:3; 2 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 2:2; 4:27; 6:11, 12; 1 Thess. 2:18; Jas. 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; Rev. 12:3; 20:2.[3]

15 In the OT we find that Moses, Elijah, and Jonah all prayed that they might die (Nu 11:15; 1 Ki 19:4; Jnh 4:3, 8)—better to be taken “out of the world,” so they thought, than to suffer any longer for what appears to be a lost cause. But God does not remove his servants from the world; it is the specific arena of their ministry. The message of redemption serves no purpose apart from those who need to hear it. It is less important that we “hear the old, old story” yet again than it is that we share it with those who have never heard. While a hostile world may not be the most receptive audience, they are the ones who need to hear the message.

Jesus prays that his disciples be protected “from the evil one.” Tou ponērou (GK 4505) could be taken as neuter and translated “evil” (so KJV), but it is better to take it as masculine and translate “the evil one” (cf. 1 Jn 2:13; 3:12; 5:18). To be protected ek (“out of”) the evil one assumes that believers are in danger of falling into the grasp of Satan. One of contemporary Christianity’s most serious failings is that it seems to proceed oblivious to Satan’s opposition to God’s work in the world. While believers regularly recite the Lord’s Prayer with its petition to “deliver us from the evil one” (Mt 6:13), life seems to go on as though all such phrases are just nostalgic reminders of an earlier period in which people believed in demonic beings.[4]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1557). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, p. 360). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 604). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.


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