17:15 The disciples are in the world, but they do not belong to the world. For this reason they are prey to persecution. The “evil one” is a reference to Satan (cf. 1 John 2:13; 4:4; 5:18). 17:15 keep them from the evil one. Jesus knows that the world will hate His disciples as it hated Him, but He does not ask for the disciples to be protected from suffering, but rather that they would be kept from the evil one. It is not the physical or social troubles of the world from which Jesus wishes His disciples to be “kept,” but from its moral corruption. See “Christians in the World” at Col. 2:20. 17:15 evil one A general term referring to a malicious figure. In some contexts, it can refer to the devil specifically (see note on 13:2; note on 13:27). 17:15 Even though God’s people in the midst of hardship may sometimes want to be taken out of the world (see Num. 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; Jonah 4:3, 8), Jesus does not ask for that. The place of believers during this lifetime is not to withdraw from the world but to remain in the world and to influence it continually for good, as difficult as that may be. keep them. The central request of the prayer is repeated again (see John 17:11). Jesus prays that his own will be guarded from the evil one, that is, Satan, who would attack them to destroy their lives and their ministries. But the Greek phrase ek tou ponērou can also mean “from evil” (see ESV footnote), since Greek nouns denoting abstract qualities often take a definite article, in which case it would be a prayer that their lives and ministries not be overcome by Satan or by any other kind of evil, and that they be kept from doing evil as well (see 1 John 5:19). 17:15 keep them from the evil one. The reference here refers to protection from Satan and all the wicked forces following him (Mt 6:13; 1Jn 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18, 19). Though Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the defeat of Satan, he is still loose and orchestrating his evil system against believers. He seeks to destroy believers (1Pe 5:8), as with Job and Peter (Lk 22:31, 32), and in general (Eph 6:12), but God is their strong protector (12:31; 16:11; cf. Ps 27:1–3; 2Co 4:4; Jude 24, 25). 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. 17:15. God’s plan was not to remove the disciples from danger and opposition (take them out of the world) but to preserve them in the midst of conflict. Though Jesus would soon be taken out of the world (v. 11), His followers are to remain in it. Like Daniel in Babylon (Dan. 1–2; 4–6) and the saints in Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22), God intends for His followers to be witnesses to truth in the midst of satanic falsehood. Satan, the evil one (cf. Matt. 5:37; 1 John 5:19), as head of the world system, seeks to do everything possible to destroy believers (cf. Rev. 2:10; 12:10) but God’s plan will prevail. Christians must not take themselves out of the world but remain in meaningful contact with it, trusting in God’s protection while they witness for Jesus. 17:15 “I do not ask You to take them out of the world” Christians have a mission in the world (cf. v. 18; Matt. 28:19–20; Acts 1:8). It is not time for them to go home!
|NASB, NKJV||“the evil one”|
|NRSV||“the evil one”|
|TEV, NJB||“the Evil One”|
This term is either NEUTER or MASCULINE. This literary unit mentions the personal force of evil often (cf. 12:31; 13:27; 14:30; 16:11); therefore, this verse, like Matt. 5:5; 37; 6:13; 13:19, 38, should be “the evil one” (cf. 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John 2:13–14; 3:12; 5:18–19).
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.
Ver. 15. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.—
The parting prayer:—
I. The motives which prompted this prayer. 1. To evince the tenderness of His heart toward His people. Usually, when any master-grief takes possession of the mind, we seldom have much disposition or power, to sympathise with the sorrows of others. Had our Lord been the subject of this infirmity, this was not the time for Him to have been concerned about the future trials of His people. Yet at this moment, when we might suppose His every thought and feeling to have been absorbed in the sword that was about to pierce His soul, we find Jesus turning to consider the comparatively little griefs of His dear disciples, His prayer seems to be—“Holy Father, think not of My coming sufferings, but think of these whom I am about to leave full of sorrows, and keep them.” 2. That He might instruct His disciples to the end of time in that mighty interest with which He is always engaged for their spiritual preservation. As you go through the successive clauses of this chapter, you will find in almost every verse something to show that God has a direct interest in the consummation of that scheme which Jesus came both to reveal and to accomplish; that “His own great name” was to be furthered thereby, and that it formed part of the covenant which He made with Jesus, that these His people should be saved through His blood.
II. The truths that are to be learned from this prayer. 1. That the world is full of dangers. The world is, and must ever be the Christian’s adversary. It is a sinful place. The prince of evil is its god; the fascinations of evil are its snares; the works of evil are its employments; and the triumphs of evil are its boast and its pride. 2. That there are ends to be accomplished by our remaining in the world which make it expedient that we should for a time be kept in it. And this expediency consisted in this: these His disciples had a work to do. They had His honour to promote and His gospel to spread. This is true of us. We have all our stated duties to fulfil; we have all a nook in His providence to fill up; we have all our own little wheel to turn in that vast machine, which governs and controls the universe. It is not therefore the language of true obedience to say, “My soul is weary of life; would that God would take me to Himself!” It is nothing more than the suicide’s thought, clothed in Gospel language. It is impatience of the yoke Christ has laid on the shoulder. It is not the saint’s desire to “rest from his labour;” it is the worldling’s desire to rest without labour. It is the wish to use that part of our Lord’s prayer, “Father, glorify Thy Son,” without remembering that other part of it, “I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do.” 3. That the power of this evil of the world is so great, that we can only be delivered from it by the almighty power of God. (1) Who can contemplate the legion of spiritual foes which encompass the believer’s path, and remember at the same time the powerful ally and abettor of Satan that we carry in our own hearts; and not feel, that unless the power of the grace of God interfered on our behalf, none of us would be saved? (2) And then, how mercifully mysterious and varied are the methods of the Divine protection? Before the temptation comes; while the encounter lasts: yea, and even afterwards, when mourning in humiliating bitterness of soul over some recent defeat, how often have we found the restoring power of God’s grace overruling for the benefit of His people’s souls every incident of their lives! (3) Observe the means by which we are thus kept (ver 11). “The name of the Lord is a strong tower,” &c. Here is the argument with which we are permitted to come to the mercy-seat—that God’s name is engaged and pledged to keep us from evil. 3. That the only lawful measure of solicitude we are to entertain about the things of this world is, that we may be “kept from the evil” which belongs to it. Life is full of disappointed projects and griefs. Then how important is it, that we should be able to ascertain what solicitude we are permitted to entertain. The passage tells us that our only solicitude is to be guided by this; not by the evils themselves, but their spiritual results. I am not to pray against poverty; but I am to pray against its evils. I am not to pray against riches; but I am to pray against their temptations. I am not to pray against the disappointments, and vexations, and crosses, and cares of life; but I am to pray, that however multiplied and grievous are the forms of trial that await me, I may never have a murmuring, unsubmissive, discontented spirit. (D. Moore, M.A.)
Every-day holiness:—The saintly painter Fra Angelico flung out his thoughts upon the cells of San Marco, and those who visit Florence are arrested and subdued by the purity of his dreams. My friends, that other powerful artist who adorned the ceiling of the Sistine, has traced our figures copied more directly from the study of the human form, but warmed into life by the fire of Divine genius; and of such men we cannot but say that they penetrated the hidden chambers of another world before they could leave before the eyes of five astonished centuries such visions, more lovely or more appalling than the mysteries and marvels of our dreams. But I tell you that in the streets of London, in the streets of Manchester, it is possible for us in our ordinary life to see pictures more pure than the dreams of Angelico, more powerful than the masterpieces of Angelo. Here we are face to face with living men, some in youth, in the early days of passion and struggle, some in age, when the fire is failing and the eye growing dim, who, in the midst of a world that forgets God, or defies Him, are enabled to do mighty things though hidden to sustain an inner life of loyalty to supernatural principle amidst the fretting care of daily toil. (Knox Little.)
Christ’s prayer for His disciples:—
I. What our Lord asks for us. His petition has two sides—a negative and a positive. To be kept from evil in the world means—1. To be engaged in the world’s business, and have it rightly directed. Some have thought that we would be more Christian if we were to withdraw into solitude. But this is impossible for the mass of men, and it is in direct opposition to the example of Christ, and to the spirit of His gospel. Paul did not think his office suffered when he wrought as a tent-maker, and was not labour consecrated by the Son of God Himself? Whatever is open to men, that is just and right in business, is open to Christians, and whatever their hands find to do, they are to do it with their might. The gospel asks of its friends that all their business should be—(1) Directed to a true end. Other men may turn their work to the ends that are merely personal. The Christian’s toil should not have self for its end, but God and Christ, and in them, the good of humanity. Men may call this ideal and impracticable, but it is the only thing that can redeem human business from being dreary, degrading toil, and man himself from feeling that he is a mere beast of burden, (2) Done in a right manner. The law of truth and justice should regulate every part of it. Some think they can separate their religion from their business; but it is the vain old endeavour to serve God and Mammon. Christianity must touch everything in life if it touches it at all. If the gospel is not to make Christians truthful and upright, I do not see any great purpose it can serve on this side time or beyond it. If the world and its business are ever to be put right, and cleared of the robberies that threaten society, where is the stand to be made if not by those who have lifted up their hands to God and said, “We are His witnesses”? 2. To suffer under its trials, and to be preserved from impatience. If a man would escape trial, he must needs go out of the world, and when Christ prayed that His disciples should be kept in it, He knew that they were to suffer affliction. Moral distinctions are not observed in the providential allotment of calamity. This stumbles many. But if God were to exempt His friends from trial, He would take away from Christians one of the most effective means of their training, and one of the most striking ways in which they can prove their likeness to Christ. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour, but it is not seen in his being saved from suffering; it is in the way in which he meets it. Few things do more to raise the tone of our own Christian life, and to prove to men that there is a hidden property in religion which can turn the bitterest thing in this world into sweetness. 3. To be exposed to its temptations, and preserved from falling into sin. God has not seen fit to deprive sinful things of their attractiveness, nor to disarm the great enemy of his fiery darts, nor to quench at once and altogether the inflammable material in our heart. This would be fighting the battle and gaining the victory without us, and there could then be no perfected purity, no established character, no conqueror’s crown. This should mark a Christian in the world, that he should have a deeper view of what is to be aimed at in character—of what is meant by being kept from evil. It is not to be preserved from misfortune, or sickness, or reproach, or bereavement, but from sin.
II. Why He asks it. 1. For the benefit of the world. If Christ were to remove men so soon as they become His followers, He would be taking away from the world its greatest blessings. True Christians are the salt of the earth and its light. 2. For the honour of His own name. There is glory that accrues to the name of Christ when a sinner drops the weapons of rebellion, and when His redeemed are brought home. But it is for His honour also that there should be an interval between—a pathway of struggle, where the power of His grace may be seen preserving His friends in every extremity. It was a glorious thing for the Head Himself to enter the lists of battle, and to depart a victor, triumphing through endurance to the death. But it multiplies His triumph, or brings out all that was hidden in it, when we see it repeated in the victory of the weakest of His followers. It is like the sun reflecting His image from every dew-drop, folding out His treasures in the green leaves and colours of all the flowers, and flashing His light along the beaded moisture of gossamer threads—for we believe that not a blessing or a comfort, not a grace or virtue rises out of the night of our sin and suffering—not the slightest filament of feeling sparkles into hope—but it will be found that it owes its source to the fountain of light and life which God has opened for His world in Jesus Christ. 3. For the good of Christians themselves. “Master, it is good for us to be here,” Peter said on the Holy Mount, “Let us build here three tabernacles. Why go down again into the dark world of opposition and trial, when we can enjoy at once the heavenly vision”? But “he wist not what he said,” and he was compelled to descend and travel many a weary footstep, before he reached that higher mount where he now stands with his Lord in glory. We, too, may sometimes feel that it would be better for us to be carried past these temptations and struggles, and to enter at once into rest. But He who undertakes for us knows what is best, and as it was expedient for us that He should depart, so must it also be that we should for a season remain behind. Not that this is indisipensable for our sanctification, for the Saviour who could carry the dying thief at once to paradise, could do the same for all of us. The reason seems rather to be that there are lessons which we have to learn on this earth which can be taught us in no other part of our history. (1) The evil of sin. And, therefore, we are detained in a world where its effects are so terrible, where we have to struggle with it. (2) That we should enjoy more fully the blessedness of heaven. Our bitter bereavements will intensify the joy of its meetings; its rest will be sweeter for the hard toil; and its perfect light and purity fill the soul with a far more exceeding glory for the doubts and temptations which oppress us here. Conclusion: Let this petition point out—1. Our duty. What He asked for us we must aim at. Let us fear nothing so much as sin; and feel that our life can aim at a true and noble end, only when it breathes the air of this prayer of Christ. 2. Our security. The life of a Christian man is in no common keeping. It is suspended on the intercession of Christ (ver. 24). (J. Ker, D.D.)
Christ’s prayer for the disciples:—
I. That for which Christ did not pray. The reasons for this negative prayer are twofold. 1. Those which were personal to the disciples. (1) Christ’s knowledge of the moral uses and value of temptation. It is not the physical frame of the sluggard that attains the highest muscular development. So there is a necessity of spiritual assault from without, and spiritual resistance from within, in order to the perfection of our spiritual nature. (2) Christ’s knowledge of the moral uses of suffering. These also are directly instrumental in soul development by the invigoration of its energies. 2. That which related to the world. It was for the world’s sake that our Lord would not have His disciples removed. They were to be its “light.”
II. That for which Christ did pray. The man who has turned to Christ is not freed from the possibility of falling. There is not given him such a measure of grace as to render his relapse impossible, nor does Satan give up hope of recovery. What an encouragement to endurance and effort that Christ prayed then and prays still! Learn—1. The necessity of constant watchfulness and endeavour. Christ prays for us, but we by our own acts must render the prayer effectual. 2. A lesson of confidence. By ourselves we must fall, but we are not by ourselves. (W. Rudder, D.D.)
The Christian in the world:—Christ is “come into the world,” and therefore thou needest not “go out of the world” to meet Him. He doth not call thee from thy calling, but in thy calling. The dove went up and down from the ark and to the ark, and yet was not disappointed of her olive-leaf. Thou mayest come to the house of God at due times, and thou mayest do the business of the world in other places too; and still keep thy olive, thy peace of conscience (Gen. 24:27; 1 Cor. 5:10). (J. Donne, D.D.)
The disciples in the world:—
I. The world. The world is a globe some eight thousand miles through and three times eight thousand miles round. It is one of the lesser members of a family of worlds. The whole universe, within the telescopic horizon, is composed of gigantic continents of suns, the dim lines of which shimmer in the ethereal depths. Yet our planet, relatively so small, is a vast world. What moral interests centre in it! It was not the first theatre of intelligence and responsibility. When the progenitors of our race received their being, there were mighty tides of good and evil, bliss and misery, sweeping from an unknown past into the unfathomable gulfs of the endless future. When but one pair of human beings was alone amidst the otherwise unpeopled solitude, they were caught and borne along by the evil current. Murder broke out in the first family; and sin has been in every household since. What a world is ours at the present moment! Call before you its heathenisms and its inadequate reception of the gospel in what are called Christian lands. Portray to your imagination its wars, vices, diseases, sufferings. Barbarism conceals none of its iniquities; civilization is often as guilty behind its decorous exterior. Poverty brings temptation, and riches are full of snares. Ignorance surrounds our path with danger; and learning is commonly only a variation of peril. Deformity makes life sordid; and beauty as frequently ministers to luxury. Idleness breeds mischief, and occupation tends to nurture ambition and greed. Disappointment chills and sours not a few; and success destroys many more. The seeming goodness of one droops in hours of ease; another falls in the time of conflict. And oh! of what delusions and perils the best men are conscious! The godly feel their evil and see their dangers as no others can.
II. Our Saviour’s desire that His disciples might remain in the world. 1. How differently our Lord regarded human life from many whose history inspired men have handed down to us! Jesus never desired for Himself or His followers an unhonoured escape from the tests of this mortal career. When the patient Job was overwhelmed with affliction, he longed for the hour of death. So did the Psalmist (Psa. 55:5); Elijah (1 Kings 19:4); Jeremiah (Jer. 9:2); and Jonah (Jonah 4:3). Oh! how transcendently unlike all this is the bearing of Jesus! “Thy will be done” is His lifelong prayer. 2. Jesus surpassed all others in His lofty estimate of the possibilities of a human life in this world of mystery, sin, and death. (1) He would not have become incarnate in this world of temptation and suffering, if it had been utterly unfit for the trial and development of a Godlike life. His assumption of our humanity not only illustrates the greatness of our nature and destination; but it also guarantees the wisdom and endorses the goodness of the Providence which rules the earth. (2) He knew all the worst of Satanic and human evil. He saw it as we never can. No man ever beheld the actual sinfulness of his own spirit. If you could have before you the evil of every soul in a large city, your reason would reel. Jesus looked on the unveiled reality, but yet said, “I pray not,” &c. (3) Christ loves His disciples, yet His affection did not prompt, but forbade, the supplication, “Father, take them out of the world.” (4) Jesus knew human life by experience. He trod the depths of its temptations, and drank the cup of its sorrows to the dregs. His hands were hard with labour, His frame was wearied by fatigue. Yet, while He passed through all, and more than all, our trials and griefs, though without sin, He said, “I pray not,” &c. (5) Our Saviour was now penetrating the deepest shadows of His incarnate life. To-morrow all the harrowing scenes are enacted that end in the cross. Yet, when the Lord’s experience of a human probation was awful beyond conception, and while He was aware that His disciples were to share His Cross in many lands, He did not pray, “Father, take them away from a world so terrible, where their faith will be tried by flame and their foes will shed their blood.” (6) Christ could have taken His disciples out of the world in an instant if it had been the best for them. He could have commanded ministering spirits to bear His followers along the starry pathway to the mansions of the blest (Matt. 26:53). But He did not even pray that they might be taken out of the world. (7) Jesus must have set a high value on a soul tempered in the fires of trial and suffering in this fallen planet. A soul that bears the test of life, and comes out of the process confirmed in loyalty and love to God and righteousness, must be destined for some sublime vocation in coming worlds. “Kings and priests unto God” are not empty titles. Contemplating the unfading crown to which His faithful disciples were advancing, Jesus said, “I pray not,” &c. (8) Jesus wished His disciples to be like Himself. He desired them to yearn over this sinning and suffering world with a compassion like His own. To share His joy, they must be equally willing to live, and toil, and suffer. To ask that believers might be taken out of the world, without nobly living and working in it, would be to beseech that His kingdom might fail.
III. Our Saviour’s prayer that His disciples might be kept from the evil of the world. 1. Our Lord knew that the end of a life like ours cannot be attained except through a probation like ours. He did not cry, therefore, “Father, stay the direful ordeal, and rearrange the lot of man.” But He prayed, “Father, keep these from evil.” 2. He knew that the life of God in the soul was endowed with all the properties necessary to its triumph. The one thing that represses, hinders, and overthrows, is sin. Keep this deadly influence away, and there will be progress and victory. Hence Jesus stretched the bright shield of His intercession over the heads of His disciples, saying, “I pray,” &c. Conclusion: 1. A Christian has every reason to cultivate a temper contented, jubilant, as he surveys this mysterious scene. The adamant of a Saviour’s intercession is stretched over every soul that confides in His redeeming grace. 2. The great end of life is not ease and comfort. The great concern is, to be preserved from evil. The terrible tests of life are not to be lowered. We are to bear them (James 1:12). 3. How sad is the contrast of multitudes, to whom the gospel is preached, and who seek no deliverance and preservation from evil! (H. Batchelor.)
Better to stay than go:—We have here—
I. A negative prayer. II. The meanings of this prayer. 1. That they should not, by retirement and solitude, be kept entirely separate from the world. Hermits and others have fancied that if we were to shut ourselves from the world we should then be more devoted to God and serve Him better. But monasticism has demonstrated its fallacy. It was found that some sinned more grossly than men who were in the world. There are not many who can depart from the customs of social life and maintain their spirit unsullied. Common sense tells us that living alone is not the way to serve God. It may be the way to serve self. If it be possible by this means to fulfil one part of the great law of God, we cannot possibly carry out the other portion—to love our neighbour as ourselves. I have heard of a man who thought he could live without sin if he were to dwell alone, so he took a pitcher of water and store of bread, and provided some wood, and locked himself up in a solitary cell, saying, “Now I shall live in peace.” But in a moment or two he chanced to kick the pitcher over, and he thereupon used an angry expression. Then he said, “I see it is possible to lose one’s temper even when alone,” and at once returned to live among men. 2. That they should not be taken out of the world by death. That is a blessed mode of taking us out of the world, which will happen to us all by and by. How frequently does the wearied pilgrim put up the prayer, “Oh that I had wings like a dove!” &c. But Christ does not pray like that; He leaves it to His Father, until, like shocks of corn fully ripe, we shall be gathered into our Master’s garner.
III. The reasons. 1. It would not be for our own good. We conceive that the greatest blessing we shall ever receive of God is to die; but it is better for us to tarry, because—(1) A little stay on earth will make heaven all the sweeter. Nothing makes rest so sweet as toil; nothing can render security so pleasant as a long exposure to alarms. The more trials the more bliss, the more sufferings the more ecstasies, the more depression the higher the exaltation. Why! we should not know how to converse in heaven if we had not trials to tell of. An old sailor likes to have passed through shipwrecks and storms, for if he anchors in Greenwich Hospital he will there tell, with great pleasure, to his companions of his hair-breadth escapes. (2) We should not have fellowship with Christ if we did not stop here. Fellowship with Christ is so honourable a thing that it is worth while to suffer, that we may thereby enjoy it. Moreover, we might be taken for cowards if we had no scars to prove the sufferings we had passed through and the wounds we had received for His name. I should never have known the Saviour’s love half so much if I had not been in the storms of affliction. 2. It is for the good of other people. Why may not saints die as soon as they are converted? Because God meant that they should be the means of the salvation of their brethren. You would not, surely, wish to go out of the world if there were a soul to be saved by you. Mayhap, poor widow, thou art spared in this world because there is a wayward son of thine not yet saved, and God hath designed to make thee the favoured instrument of bringing him to glory. 3. It is for God’s glory. A tried saint brings more glory to God than an untried one. Nothing reflects so much honour on a workman as a trial of his work and its endurance of it. So with God.
IV. The doctrinal inferences. 1. Death is God taking His people out of the world; and when we die we are removed by God. 2. Dying is not of one-half so much importance as living to Christ. It may be an important question, How does a man die? but the most important one is, How does a man live? Do not put any confidence in death-beds as evidences of Christianity. The great evidence is not how a man dies, but how he lives.
V. The practical lessons. 1. That we never have any encouragement to ask God to let us die. 2. Do not be afraid to go out into the world to do good. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The world’s need of Christians:—A young lawyer, going to the West to settle for life, made it his boast that he “would locate in some place where there were no churches, Sunday schools, or Bibles.” He found a place which substantially met his conditions. But before the year was out he wrote to a former classmate, a young minister, begging him to come out and bring plenty of Bibles, and begin preaching, and start a Sunday school; for, he said, he had “become convinced that a place without Christians, and Sabbaths, and churches, and Bibles was too much like hell for any living man to stay in.”
Unworldliness in the world:—Though Sir Thomas More lived so much in the world and at Court, yet his heart was kept unworldly by the singular virtue of his private life. If he entertained his equals freely, he also frequently invited the poor to dine and sup with him; the more he was in the king’s palace, the more he resorted to the cottages of the poor; when he added to his house a library, he provided also a house near his own for the comfort of his aged neighbours; and when most involved in worldly business he built himself a chapel. He never entered on any fresh public employment without an act of devotion and a participation in the Lord’s Supper—trusting, as he said, more to the grace of God thus derived than to his own wit; and so long as his father lived he never sat on the judgment-seat—that seat was the Lord Chancellor’s—without asking his blessing on his knees. (F. Myers, M.A.)
Mutual necessity; or, why saints are left to sojourn in a sinful world:—
I. Because the world needs them. It needs—1. Their example. They are the lights of the world. In their character, duties, and sufferings they show the blessed influence of religion. A good example has a wonderful attraction. Godly men are living epistles. 2. Their testimony. They are God’s witnesses. They go into the world and bring the truth in contact with men’s minds. The world needs them as it needed the glorious mission of their Lord and Master. Think of the results of their labours. Be faithful, and testify fearlessly for God and truth. 3. Their prayers. The prayers of the Church are like Moses’ rod. Israel needed Elijah’s prayers. Jerusalem sinners needed the prayers which preceded the pentecostal visitation. May the Lord increase the number of praying ministers, teachers, and parents! 4. Their sympathies. See the glorious institutions of our Lord, the ministrations to the sick and dying, &c., &c. What is the source of such benevolence? The life of religion in the souls of men.
II. Because they need the world. 1. For the trial of their faith (Heb. 11). The Christian’s trials are necessary as a heavenly discipline. They come forth as gold. Reliance on Jesus is faith’s first exercise; confidence in God as a Father is established as we pass through this world of care and temptation. 2. To prove the sincerity of their love. We are in a state of probation. Our profession of love must be tested. Thus it was with Peter: “Lovest thou Me?”—then go and give tangible proof thereof. Saints are sent into the gospel vineyard, and in the next world the Great Proprietor will say to the faithful, “Well done,” &c. 3. For their progressive sanctification. High situations are attained by degrees; health promoted by exercise. Strength and skill are obtained by conflict. Storms clear the atmosphere. Thus with the book of “truth” as our guide and help, we struggle onward and upward, gathering strength as we go, and rejoicing in anticipation of that world where sin has never found an abode. Let the saint and the sinner, respectively, inquire, Am I improving the period of my earthly existence? (Congregational Pulpit.)
Kept from the evil:—
I. From what believers shall be kept. 1. Negatively; not—(1) An absolute freedom from all afflictions, which are either the consequences of sin or corrections of God (Psa. 89:28; Heb. 12:6–10; 1 Cor. 11:32). (2) All suffering for righteousness sake (chap. 15:19; 16:33). (3) A full discharge from Satan’s temptation (Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 12:7). 2. Positively. They shall be kept—(1) From all damning error and delusion (Psa. 16:11; 17:4; 1 John 2:20; John 16:13). (2) From the tyranny of Satan (chap. 8:36). (3) From all temptations superior to their strength, or have more strength given them, answerable to their trials (1 Cor. 10:13). (4) From sinking under the burden of affliction (Isa. 43:1, 2). (5) From the power and reign of sin (Dan. 7:12). (6) From the curse and condemnation of the law (Rom. 8:1). (7) From the slavish fear of death (1 Cor. 15:55, &c.).
II. What assurance there is that believers shall thus be kept from the evil, though not taken out of the world. Note the following considerations:—1. That of the Person praying; the beloved, in whom the Father is always well pleased, and who He always hears. 2. That of what He asks for, and on what ground. His request is for the preservation of His people, in order to their eternal happiness, which is most agreeable to the will of God, and the end for which He was sent by Him into the world (chap. 6:39). 3. That of Him to whom His request is directed, viz., the God who “spared not His own Son,” &c. 4. That of the persons for whom He intercedes—His children and chosen, such as He has a special interest in and bears a peculiar love unto. Application: 1. Hence learn the greatness and constancy of Christ’s love to His people, and of His desire of their eternal blessedness with Him. 2. What a powerful argument should it be with all to come to Him unfeignedly. Who would live a day in the world without an interest in this prayer of His, of being kept from the evil? 3. It may greatly strengthen the faith of true Christians in their daily prayers for deliverance from evil. 4. How much is the world mistaken as to Christ’s servants, as if they were the most miserable persons in it, when their Lord hath provided so fully for their safety and happiness. 5. How inexcusable must it be to forsake Christ and His service for fear of suffering. He that would save his life by running from the Lord of life takes the direct way to lose it. 6. Let this encourage us cheerfully to follow the Captain of our salvation whilst we live, and to commit our souls unto Him when we die. (D. Wilcox.)
The Christian in society (Text in connection with Rom. 12:2):—
I. There is nothing in the Christian religion, rightly understood, which requires its disciples to abjure society. 1. This might be inferred from the consideration of human nature. Man is a social being. He was never intended to spend his life in solitude. The heaviest punishment is that of prolonged solitary confinement. Our villages and cities all proclaim that man was intended for society. 2. Almost the first appearance of the Saviour in His public ministry was at a social entertainment, and oftener than once He accepted an invitation to a feast, and availed Himself of the opportunity which it afforded to illustrate and enforce the great things of His kingdom. The grand distinction between Him and the Baptist was that the latter sought the wilderness, but Jesus mingled with the people. Thereby He taught that His design was not to turn men into anchorites. 3. In perfect harmony with this view of the case is the petition in the prayer. It would not be good for the Christian to withdraw from social intercourse, for though solitude is occasionally beneficial, yet it would be extremely injurious to a man to have for a series of months no other companion than himself. The supreme happiness of life is in going out of self for the benefit of others. It is, therefore, quite a false idea, that there is more of holiness and happiness in seclusion than in society. I do not say that no true spiritually-minded ones have preserved their holiness in such a place: the story of Port Royal proves the opposite. But I do affirm that those are most truly walking in the footsteps of our Divine Master who are seeking in daily life to serve their God. There is a manliness and an energy about the piety of such men which we look for in vain even among the most saintly of secluded ones. The hothouse may be indispensable for tropical shrubs, but it would render delicate the Alpine tree. Even so the Christian religion was designed by its Founder to stand the winter of the world; and to nurse it within the artificial protection of the monastery will weaken its vitality. 4. But neither would it be good for the world if the Christian should abjure his intercourse with society, for how then would the prophecy of its conversion be fulfilled? Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye are the light of the world,” but how shall they dissipate its darkness unless they penetrate its atmosphere? He said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” but if the salt come not into contact with that which is to be preserved, how shall its antiseptic qualities begin to work upon it?
II. Though moving among other men, the Christian should be different from them. Here we come to the second text. 1. The root of the Christian’s nonconformity is his regeneration. The peculiarity about him is that he works from an inward principle that is different from that of other men. By the renewing of his mind he has come to see things in a new light, and so when he acts differently from other men, it is not because he is under the iron law of a superior, but because he chooses so to act, and finds his happiness in taking such a course. 2. What, then, is this inward principle? It is a regard to the will of God. Thus Peter and John said, “Whether it be right in the sight of God,” &c.; and Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” So every genuine child of God takes the will of his Father to be the rule of his life. Other men ask, “Will it pay?” Others consult their ease or custom; but the Christian regulates himself by the Word of God. 3. In what way will this inward principle develop itself in the outward conduct? (1) It will keep him from everything that is positively sinful. No man can be a Christian and deliberately do what God has declared to be wrong. “He that is begotten of God sinneth not.” So far all is plain; but I may see the form of evil where others may see none, and others where I see none; hence, differing in our application of the principle to individual cases, we shall differ from each other in our conduct regarding them. Thus one asks, should a Christian play cards? another, should he go to the theatre? another, should he go to public balls? Now, if these were personal questions, and I were asked what I ought to do regarding them, I should say at once that considering the evil repute in which these things are held, the evil surroundings from which they have been inseparable, and the pain that would be given to tender consciences, the course for me is clear. But then I am not the director of another man’s conscience. The great difference between the New Testament and the Old lies just there. The Old gave minute directions for all possible contingencies; the New gives principles, and lets each man follow these for himself. (2) Furthermore, in settling such questions we should have regard, not to the fashion of our circle or the gratification of our own curiosity, but to the glory of God: “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink,” &c. Raise the question above all temporary considerations.
III. On all purely indifferent matters, and where his conformity will not be misunderstood, but will contribute to the spiritual benefit of other men, the Christian should be as they are: “I am made all things to all men,” &c. Paul did not become like other men in their sinful pursuits, but he cultivated that spirit by which he was enabled to suit himself to the people among whom he moved. He did not needlessly offend prejudice. 1. In order to benefit men, the believer should be courteous, gentlemanly, polite, in his intercourse with men. Some think that their Christianity gives them a right to set all social distinctions at defiance, and by way of asserting their equality to all they treat all with contempt. Under pretence of being faithful, and of asserting their brotherhood, they are only impertinent; while, again, there are those in the wealthier circles who cannot endure the poorer, and treat them with disdain. Now, all that conduct is utterly inconsistent with Christian principle. 2. But in taking thought of the courtesy, do not forget the great end which as Christians you ought to have in view. You are in society to benefit it. But even in seeking that, you must be upon your guard against repelling where you desire to attract. Do not drag religion into your talk so as to make it distasteful. Cultivate the art of incidental allusion, and if you make a transition in the conversation, make it naturally, so that your companions may not be jolted into silence. Find out what your friends are interested in, and, descending to their level, you will be able to lift them. A friend went one evening into the room where his son was taking lessons in singing, and found his tutor urging him to sound a certain note. Each time the lad made the attempt, however, he fell short, and the teacher kept on saying, “Higher! higher!” But it was all to no purpose, until, descending to the tone which the boy was sounding, the musician accompanied him with his own voice, and led him gradually up to that which he wanted him to sing, and then he sounded it with ease. So let us do in conversation with those whom we meet in society, and we may become very skilful in winning souls to Christ. (W. M. Taylor, D.D.) Christians one with the world and yet distinct from it:—Nature never builds fences. The mountain slopes down to meet the valley, the day fades and darkens into night, the shore shelves off into the sea, but the exact point at which the one merges in the other is undetermined. Is there, then, no distinction between them? Is the daytime as the night because no eye can fix the instant when the gates unclose to let the morning through? Is the separation between land and sea unreal because between them lies a narrow strip over which they alternately hold sway? The Christian life must slope downward to meet the world and mingle with it. In business partnerships, in political interests, in social matters, in hundreds of affairs, the Christian and unchristian man must meet on neutral ground. Is the distinction between them therefore lost, even for an instant? Because they have great interests in common, because in many things they act alike, is the one in all essentials like the other? No more than the day is as the night. Narrow is the border-land on which the two men meet. As regards all the great realities the one is in the shadowy valley and the other on the sunlit heights; both touch the twilight’s border-land, but one never passes over it into the day, nor the other beyond it into the night.
15. I ask not that thou shouldest take them out of the world. He shows in what the safety of believers consists; not that they are free from every annoyance, and live in luxury and at their ease, but that, in the midst of dangers, they continue to be safe through the assistance of God. For he does not admonish the Father of what is proper to be done, but rather makes provision for their weakness, that, by the method which he prescribes, they may restrain their desires, which are apt to go beyond all bounds. In short, he promises to his disciples the grace of the Father; not to relieve them from all anxiety and toil, but to furnish them with invincible strength against their enemies, and not to suffer them to be overwhelmed by the heavy burden of contests which they will have to endure. If, therefore, we wish to be kept according to the rule which Christ has laid down, we must not desire exemption from evils, or pray to God to convey us immediately into a state of blessed rest, but must rest satisfied with the certain assurance of victory, and, in the meantime, resist courageously all the evils, from which Christ prayed to his Father that we might have a happy issue. In short, God does not take his people out of the world, because he does not wish them to be effeminate and slothful; but he delivers them from evil, that they may not be overwhelmed; for he wishes them to fight, but does not suffer them to be mortally wounded. 15 Since they are not “of the world” it might be thought that the prayer would be made that they should be removed from the world. But Jesus now makes it plain that he has nothing of the sort in mind. Their place is still in the world. It would be bad for them and disastrous for the world if they were taken out of the world. Moses and Elijah and Jonah all prayed that they be taken out of the world (Num. 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; Jon. 4:3, 8), but in no case was the request granted. The place for the people of God is in the world, though, of course, not of the world. The church has often sought to contract out, to become a kind of holy club. But this is not the prayer of the Master. Rather he prays that they would be kept from evil, or perhaps better, “from the evil one.” With our background we should expect here a general reference to evil (Lagrange takes this view), but the thought is probably akin to that in 1 John 5:19, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Jesus recognizes the power of Satan and prays for his own to be kept from him (cf. 1 John 5:18, and for other significant references to the devil, 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1 John 2:13–14; 3:12). They are to be “in” Christ (16:33; 1 John 5:20) and therefore “out of” the evil one. They have a task to do in the world, so it is important that they should be in the world. But it is equally important that they should be kept from evil, for evil is fatal to the discharge of their task. 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.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Jn 17:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1546). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Jn 17:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1557). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Utley, R. J. (1999). The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John (Vol. Volume 4, pp. 156–157). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.