Third Avenue Baptist Church
Sunday School — The Gospel of John Series
April 18, 2021
Now we have seen that this is the high priestly prayer of Jesus. The word priest is a perplexity to some people because this is the most intimate prayer of Jesus. It's this long prayer. Jesus is praying to his father, of course the word priest doesn't appear in it. Why do we call this the high priestly prayer of Jesus? As we shall see, in its quintessence this morning in this text, this is a reminder of one of the three offices of Christ. Thinking about the doctrine of the person and work of Christ, we think historically of how the Bible has identified Christ to hold three offices. He is prophet and priest and king. Now, of course, if you look to the Old Testament, you see all three of those roles, those roles are not held by one person. The king cannot be a priest, the priest cannot be a king, and neither the king nor the priest is a prophet. But Jesus, as God in human flesh, and as the fulfillment of all the scriptures, and as the agent of our redemption, is infinitely prophet and priest and king, every single moment of our lives, not just at different aspects of our own experience of salvation—at every moment of our lives, we live only because he is prophet and priest and king as king. As king, he rules overall, and his kingdom shall know no end. It is as citizens of his kingdom that we have our ultimate identity, as we are United to him. His role as prophet is underlined by the fact that he is the teacher, and thus he came not only to die on the cross and to be raised on the third day; he came in order to teach. He came and ordered to instruct he left his, his church with his words. And as we saw in the gospel of John in our earlier study, he said, if you believe me, if you follow me, if you love me, keep my commandments.
He is the continuing prophet of the church through the preaching of the word of God. Christ continues to instruct his church. The priestly role is Christ’s mediatorial role. That is the role of priest. And again, a lot of people, even who have been Christians for a long time, they think of a priest as someone who fulfills ministrations and has a sacred role when sacred right. Yet people fail to understand that the priest--in essence--is a mediator. The priest is a representative. The priest goes before God on behalf of the people. Now let's back up a minute. That's why we do not have I have one. That’s why we do not employ one. This church has no priest, we refer to no one as father, and we understand no priestly or sacred total ministry. We believe that such a ministry is unnecessary, and, if unnecessary, then Fundamentally wrong—misleading—because Christ is our priest. He's the only priest that we need. We need no other intercessor. Christ’s mediatorial role is now fulfilled in his session. That's a Latin word for seeding. You say a session of the legislature, that’s when they sit down and get to work. Christ is seated at the right hand of God, the father almighty right now, and he ever intercedes for us, says scripture.
So we have a priest, and that is Jesus. But Jesus was priest even when he was with the disciples on earth. Jesus was to use a term that is archaic, but it was a real term. Jesus was “priest-ing” in the entirety of his earthly ministry. He was representing us before the father and representing the father to us in the entirety of his ministry, and he now does that. He does so from heaven, and he does so infinitely. If he did not do so, we would be destroyed, because he, even now, intercedes for us.
So today, we arrive in the last few verses of John 17 in the high priestly prayer. In particular, we're looking at verses 20 and following. Jesus prays this: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one just as you, father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may see that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me, I have given to them that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may be perfectly one so the world may know that you sent me and loved them, even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me may be with me—to see my glory that you have given me, because you love me before the foundation of the world. Oh, righteous father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I've made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved may be in them, and I in them.”
Now, remember that the last verses that we considered found their greatest thrust in verses 17-19, when Christ prayed, “sanctify them in truth—your word is truth. As you sent me into the world. So I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself, that they may also be sanctified in truth.” The hinge that comes in verse 20 is after Jesus has prayed that his church would be united and it would be consecrated in truth, that we will be bound together in truth—sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth. Again, it is a reminder of the fact that our unity is in Christ, and that unity operates through a scriptural unity. We are United in the truth. This is not a false unity. It's not an institutional unity. It's not an ecumenical unity. It's not some kind of lowest common denominator, theological unity. We are unified in the fullness of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. We are sanctified in the truth.
But Jesus, at this point is very clearly just as we think about the proximate picture. He's praying. He's about to be arrested. The sequence of the events that lead to his crucifixion are about to happen. So when Jesus prays for his own, who have they been? They were his own. They were his disciples, and the larger band of those who believed in him. He described them as his flock. He is the good shepherd. But the great change that comes—and this is something so important to us, brothers and sisters. This is where we find ourselves in this passage. We look at verse 20, and Jesus then makes clear to the father: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” So Jesus is praying this high priestly prayer for all of those who will be his. We're right here in this prayer in this agonizing prayer, and the intimacy of this prayer of the father, Jesus is not just praying for his disciples and followers as he knew them then. He is praying for us, and that's just astoundingly good news. Have you thought about the fact that Jesus, as he is here betrayed and about to be handed over to the authorities, as Jesus is soon to be crucified, that as he prayed for his own, he was praying for us. And just as much as he knew those disciples, then he knew us. He knew we were coming.
Now, it's important that you recognize that he has told this before. He's spoken this way before. Look at John chapter 10. In chapter 10, Jesus described himself as the good shepherd. And you remember he said that my sheep hear my voice. They know me and they follow me. They obey me. But look at verse 16. “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” So now we can look in retrospect and understand what John what Jesus was talking about here in John chapter 10:16. Even as Jesus was describing himself as the good shepherd, it was describing his own as his flock. He said, there are others in my flock who aren’t here yet, and I will gather them all together. They're not going to be able to different flock. They're going to get the same flock. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. Now, as we have been thinking about John chapter 17, the issue of the unity of the church comes, up and it will come up again even before we conclude this passage this morning. The unity of the church here is affirmed once again, as a spiritual unity in Christ. It's a true unity in Christ, and there's one shepherd—that's it. There's just one shepherd, and there's just one flock. Now, no matter how many different labels may be put on, no matter how many different languages, how many different countries, no matter how many different centuries and generations, it doesn't matter. Christ’s church is one. If it's true—if we’re really brought into Christ—we belonged to his church, and there is only one flock.
Well, this is a great reassurance, because we understand that the ultimate fulfillment of that one flock is eschatological. We’re all going to be before the thrown together. Just to speak of the current picture that people wonder about, all who are truly United in Christ will be there in that one flock. There won't be Methodists, and Presbyterians, and Baptists; there will just be Christ, but it's also through time.
When I wrote a book on the Apostle’s Creed, there are some who will get thrown off when first confronted with be this historic creed, the, the most universal of all Christian creeds. And they get to that, that phrase, “I believe in the holy catholic church.” And I do believe in the holy catholic church, this is one Southern Baptist who emphatically believes in the holy Catholic church. And I'm not going to give the church that calls itself Catholic, the use of the word catholic. it's a “little c”, but it's a very important word. The word catholic means universal. And, and people say that that's affirming the fact that there's one church, and wherever it's found, any true church, all true Christians are a part of that true church. It’s everywhere. But the word catholic is very important in this sense, and the word Catholic—capital C—church. It understands this claim. It is not only across space, but it's across time. So it's one church made up of all those who've ever become one with Christ from the beginning of his ministry until now and will be the ultimate eschatological fulfillment. But I love the language of John chapter 10, Jesus describing himself as the good shepherd, and the fact that there are sheep that belong to him, but he doesn't have them yet in the fold. Some of them haven't been born yet. Some of them haven't heard the gospel yet. And just as a shepherd goes and gathers a sheep, as we see in the famous cycle of parables in Luke chapter 15—the shepherd has 100, but he's lost one of them. What does he do? He goes and searches until he finds it. When he finds it, he celebrates. In that same sense, Jesus is not going to rest until all of his sheep are his and are a part of one flock and one shepherd.
Look at chapter 11, verse 52, just one chapter over. In verse 51, we're told “he did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation. And not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on, they made plans to put him to death.” Notice what's going on here. This is when the plot to kill Jesus is just beginning. And, and as you understand, the Jewish authorities were deciding that Jesus was going to have to go. But the problem was that even as they were in the cycle of the old Testament text, the old Testament text was speaking of the fact that there will be an in-gathering from the nations. And Jesus was clearly speaking of himself as the one who was going to do that, The agent of bringing all of God's people—the elect—together, not only for the nation, but also for the world.
Well, you'll notice that language. And you'll notice in this case that it's actually coming from those who are the enemies of Jesus. And that's the context of John chapter 11. It's desperation on the part of the Jewish leaders. Why was Jesus being adored by so many? Why was Jesus being followed by the disciples, this, this Jesus who could even raise people from the dead? But now we're in John chapter 17, and now in these final verses of the high priestly prayer, Jesus, having already spoken of this mission that would unite all of us, people in one sheep with one shepherd, he now is praying. In his mediatorial priestly work, he makes very clear that all who will ever be his are included in this prayer. That is just phenomenally helpful. It's it should be of enormous unspeakable assurance. When we think about Christ for us, we're thinking about Christ for us as prophet, priest, and king, and here is Christ for us as priest. Years ago, I was a doing an installation of a service of a church in Georgia. This is when I was editor of the Christian index, and the actual preacher of the session with Dr. W.A. Criswell who was pastor of the first Baptist church of Dallas and Titanic figure in Baptist life. And I had another role in the service, and there was a giant choir. By giant choir, I mean the way Southern Baptist used to do giant choirs; it was about 300 people, full orchestra. It was big, it was glorious, it was loud, and they sang a song I had not heard before.
I'm just curious, how many of you know, the name Stamps Baxter? … Well, this is fewer than I thought. Mary knows the name Stamps Baxter. Obviously, we're going to have to work at this convection. In the history of evangelical music with the rise of the Bible conference movement in the late 19th and early 20th century, you'd have these mass gatherings. And of course you think of Billy Graham coming much later, but think about the rise of these mass gatherings and evangelist efforts, some of them came out of the second great awakening, and some of them just came out of the evangelical revivals of the 19th and early 20th centuries. And out of that came what was known as gospel music and the original gospel music. In church, they were called Sunday school songs. Now, it's very interesting that in our morning worship here at Third Avenue Baptist church, we sing songs that we call hymns, yet some of them actually aren't hymns. I don't let you know, it's a dirty secret. I know it's horrible. Uh, but some of those are not. I say that because the musicologists among us would point out that a hymn has a particular metric structure. Most of the songs we sing and call hymns are actually hymns. You see them in stanzas, and there's a certain metrical structure. Okay, that's a hymn. Now your conscience is settled, but there are some other songs we sing that are wonderful Christian songs. But back in older evangelical eras, there was a distinction between hymns and then Sunday school songs, and Sunday school songs with Sunday school being largely and evangelistic assembly in the early years, Sunday school songs didn't have to have the metric structure of the hymns. And so some of the songs we sing aren’t that good.
As a matter of fact, a song like “in the garden, I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses” is not a great hymn. It's not actually even a hymn. It doesn't have the metric structure. It's just a Sunday school song. There, there are a lot of books in the hymnal. We don't use that either, but there are a lot of books in the hymnal that are those old Sunday school songs. Well, Stamps Baxter wrote a lot of those old Sunday school songs. And it would they would be sometimes a little more upbeat than hymns. They sometimes be a little more maudlin than hymns, or they tended to be testimony songs about Jesus as our friend, about how I came to know Jesus, like the song, “oh, how I love Jesus.” That's the Sunday school song. Not a hymn. “There is a name I love to hear.” … Okay, if you don't know that song, I excommunicate you.
But nonetheless, that was a Sunday school song, just to give an example. So Stamps Baxter wrote lots on Sundays school songs, and he taught people how to sing them with the stamps Baxter quartet. A lot of our gospel music as we know it came out of that, but the choir sang at this the service at Anthem that was made out of a stamps Baxter song, and that stamps Baxter song was both entitled and took as it’s major theme these words: “when he was on the cross, I was on his mind.”
Now I have to tell you that, as young man, when I heard that song the first time, I thought, “I don't think we should sing it that way.” It’s a long debate in worship language. I was wrong in thinking that. That’s actually one of the most precious truths. I know that when he was on the cross, I was on his mind. The “I” is not so much important. We were on his mind. That's a better way to put it. When he was on the cross, we were on his mind. He knew us. And matter of fact, one line in that song is “he knew me, yet he loved me.” And expanding that from just the singular—he knew us, yet he loved us when he was on the cross. Let's just say we were on his mind. That's exactly what we have here in Christ’s Priestley mediatorial role. He already was thinking of us. We were included in this.
Even without this text, maybe we would have been assured we're included in this because of the totality of the New Testament revelation, but how precious is it to be told right here that we were on his mind? “I do not ask for these visible only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” Through whose word? The disciples will preach, and people will hear, and in a succession of preaching and hearing, there'll be many who believe, and, believing, they will be saved. They will be united to Christ. They will be his. This is how the sheep hear his voice. This is beautiful, isn't it? So how do the sheep hear Jesus’s voice? It's through the preaching of the word of God, the taking of the gospel. Every time the word of God is preached, the sheep, hear his voice. And hearing his voice, we are drawn into this one flock of the one shepherd. So it’s not just, “I'm thinking now of all those who will believe in me, but believe in me through the disciples’ word, that they may all be one just as you father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Now, this is unity language that only makes sense because of the opening of the high priestly prayer. Just to remember going back to how Jesus opened the prayer, When he said in verse four, “I glorified you on earth. Having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” And again, before the world existed comes up again in this last climactic section of the high priestly prayer.
This is a prayer for unity. This is the true unity. And you'll notice it's not institutional. It's not the modern ecumenical movement, a lowest common denominator. It's not non-theological. It's inherently theological. It's essentially theological, and it's in the truth that we may be one, but notice the intimacy here: “just as you, father, are in me, and I in you.” “that day,” meaning, all those past present and future who are Christ. “That they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” So our identity is now as believers in Christ, and Christ’s identity is in the father. And so you understand what it means for Christ to be the door, for Christ to be our priest and intercessor, for Christ to be the first born of many brethren, for us to be joint heirs with Christ as Paul will tell us. It means that the unity, the Trinitarian, the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is extended to include us. “As we are united to Christ” does not mean we're in the Godhead. It doesn’t mean we're in the Trinity. It means that by the miracle of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we share in the Trinitarian unity and in the Trinitarian love of the one, true God. And if that doesn't blow your intellectual fuses, what would? How dare we think that it might be possible that we would be partakers of the Trinitarian love of God? but that's exactly what Jesus is declaring here and is praying for us.
He continues in verse 22, “the glory that you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one. The glory that you gave me, I've given to them.” Well, where is it? What is that glory? Well, this is a transformation of values. It's a redefinition of terms. Martin Luther would speak of this. When he warned of a theology of visible glory, visible glory is what we want. We're glory-mongers. We want to see visible glory. We love spectacle. We love for our eyes to see glory, and sometimes we see glimpses of glory. You think of the realities of heaven, and a new Jerusalem, and a new earth. And then you see a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Do you see a vision of just how glorious such a thing may be? Trying to recreate that glory, or trying to imagine and speculate that glory, and trying to make that the context of Christian worship turns out to go badly.
And again, I'm turning back to the reformation, and it has everything to do with what we're looking at here. Jesus said that the glory of the father had given him, he's given to his church… and I was looking at you guys this morning. You don't look too glorious. No insult intended, but I look at you, I just don't see a lot of glory. We don't look a whole lot more glorious, and this building, you know, I’m thankful for it, but it’s not exactly glorious. What am I contrasting it to? There are buildings that declared glory, and I love to go in them, by the way. In church history, I love to step into those spaces and know also other things they represent, but in so far as they try to impress you with glory, that's the problem. Luther reminds us that the church is a Mouth-house, not an eye-house. “Moot house,” as Luther said. In other words, the church is a building, but it is a building where the word can be preached, and Christ’s people can worship and sing together. It's all about mouths. It's not mostly about eyes. For 500th anniversary of the reformation, I had the honor of preaching from the high pulpit in Wittenberg where he preached, and that building is pretty glorious to a Southern Baptist. It looks stunningly glorious. The parish church where Luther preached thousands of times is pretty glorious in contrast with third avenue Baptist church. But in contrast with the Roman Catholic church, it was very clearly a preaching place. The center was the pulpit, and the acoustics of the building were either built for or changed for the hearing of the spoken word. And by the way, that was a big thing, because a lot of these churches were made for the mass, and the acoustics were not made for people to hear the preaching of the words. And a lot of these churches’ acoustics had to be changed so that the preaching of the word could, could happen.
When I take people to a city like London, and we're just trying to see the history of the Christian Church, I'll take them to, a church like a fairly small Christopher Wren church off Piccadilly circus. It's been there for centuries, and when you walk in, the sanctuary is very stunning. It’s beautiful, but the most amazing thing about it is that it has these very tall, clear windows, and it's filled with light. And this is one of the churches that Wren built on the ruins of a former church burned in the great fire of London. So it's after the reformation. And I said, “you'll notice they built the church back pretty much like it would have been except for one thing, these giant windows, why these giant windows? well it's because the church has become a mouth-house. It's become a place for the study and declaration of the preaching of the word. And people come with a Bible now. And so they need to be able to read it. And the, the old dark churches of times past where the priests were up there doing the mass people didn't need to see anything only the priest needed to see, but now people have the word and with the word you need windows and you need light. It's a sign. The reformation has come.”
All that to say, there’s an infinite glory in this building, because Christ’s people are in it. There is an infinite glory in the preaching of the word. This is what we're doing right now and studying God's word. There's will be an infinite glory when we gather for formal worship in just a short amount of time. That's Jesus's point—the glory was there with the disciples because they were his, he glory is there because they have the gospel. And this gets back to what you see in the opening to the gospel of John. I think it will be the most famous verse in John chapter one as John, 1:14, “we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.” But remember, you're talking about the glory that was of an infant. That was a hidden glory. Those who knew who he was saw the glory. If he didn't know who he was, you didn't see the glory. Unlike Renaissance art, he didn't glow in the dark. He was a baby. So here's another just wonderful reminder to us that we're surrounded by glory. CS Lewis famously said, you'll never meet a mere mortal. That's true, because every single human being is made in the image of God. You'll never go to an ordinary worship service. Now I know even the reformers called it ordinary worship, which meant not a festival day. Again, background of need for reformation, not a festival day, not a feast day. It's an ordinary worship. I remember when I was a kid, seeing the top of it, it said “the service of ordinary worship.” I was thinking, “well, Hey, let's set our let's set our standards low,” but the surface of ordinary worship meant this is Christian worship. And, uh, there are some prayer books that were called the ordinary. In other words, it's not that it's just, it's just non festival. This is just the way the Christian Church praise. But the glory that Christ has given us is the glory that the father gave
him. And that means it's the glory of the gospel. It’s the glory of the truth. It's the glory of salvation. It's a hidden glory. Let's look at it. It makes you look better this morning. It makes me feel better about myself this morning. I don't have to look glorious to be glorious in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ for God's people. -- than the plural. We're experiencing glory together. There's glory given to us, the father gave Christ this glory, and he has given his church this glory. Now, hold on, just to remember that in the Ordo Salutis, the order of salvation, we shall be glorified. There is something yet to come. Christ’s church will be glorified. An infinite, visible glory is coming, but it's in the fullness of the kingdom, which is not yet. So after verse 22, you'll see, again, as that verse ends, it comes back to unity “that they may be one, even as we are one.” And then in verse 23, that unity is further explained in the Trinitarian reality. “I am them and you and me, that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” This is, this is a further exploration exposition. Now the unity has made very clear, the trinitarian reality, I in them and you and me, but that's the unity that they may become perfectly one. So, you know what, here's the other good thing about the unity of the church? Number one, it isn't institutional. It isn't thus ecumenical. It isn't a human invention. The lowest common denominator of theology we can put together to call people. A unity of the church is already accomplished in the truest sense because it is, we are unity in Christ and Christ is in the father. And so in that sense, the disunity of the church becomes impossible. That is to say, there will never be eschatologically churches, but only Christ’s church. In this, in this age, we need to do lean into the visibility of the unity of the church that Christ talks about, but there's going to be a limited visibility. I mean, we know we're in communion with so many other congregations are preaching the gospel and loving God's word. We helped to plant some of those churches. We encourage those churches. We were in fellowship with thousands of churches through the Southern Baptist convention that is a further sign of our unity together. And we believe that all those who are true evangelicals, even if they're in wrongly ordered belief nonetheless, if they believe the gospel and preach the gospel, they are a part of Christ’s church. And even though we're not the same congregation with them over that issue, we still believe we're in the same church with them. And again, it's historical past, present and future. That means we're in the same church with Charles and John Wesley. I means we're in the, we're in the same church with Jonathan Edwards and we're in the same church with people. My great grandfathers were in the same church with, I pray, my great, great grandchildren. I pray they come to know Christ, and that that's a great reassurance, but the unity is not even just the unity of those who believe in Christ.
Once we've been united to Christ, it is Christ in the Father, the Father in the son, the demonstration of this is before the world is something we need not just to skip over that. The world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. So, in so far as we show our unity in Christ, we're showing the world the unity of Christ with the father, and the fact that the father sent the son. Verse 24. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me may be with me, where I am to see my glory that you have given me, because you love me before the foundation of the world.” Now, just to remember again, go back to verse five. “and now, father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world started.” So when Jesus says where I am, he is speaking of himself with the father, he is speaking of his completed work on earth. He's speaking of himself, present with the father. And as we shall know, seated at the right hand of God, the father almighty, and he's already prayed for the restoration of the glory that he had with the father before the world was created. So before the first spec of cosmic dust, when he was with the father in their shared glory, he's returning to that. Then this is a part of his condescension and coming here as a part of the incarnation.
This is a part of what the apostle Paul is talking about in Philippians chapter two—he thought it not robbery. He humbled himself well, even as he's humbling himself now in extreme as even to the cross, he is looking to the other side of his obedience when he is now with the father again. And he is praying for his, for the day when we in him with him will see the glory that he had with the father before the foundation of the world. How was that is what Christ desires for us. What Christ will make certain for us is that we will know him. But when we see him, we will see him not as the disciples saw him in the incarnation. We will not see him as he was visible in the incarnation would be the same body and a resurrection body. It's a continuity. The point is that when we see him, we will see him in the glory that he had with the father before the creation of the world.
Now, when people talk about yearning for heaven, I think often we have people yearning for heaven that they I'd want to be free of these pains and cares. I want to be in a place of God's perfect reign. I want to be in that place where every eye is dry and every tear is wiped away. I want to be in that place that reflects God's perfect righteousness, justice, holiness, peace, but actually we should long to be in that place where we behold the glory of the son of God and the glory that he had with the father before the creation of the world. And Christ is longing for that for his own people. You’ll notice the love. It's not just the glory that he had is the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world, the inner Trinitarian love, which is perhaps the sweetest reality, human ears can never hear.
Verse 25, “Oh righteous Father, even though the world does not know you. I know you and these that you have sent me, these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them. And I am them.” So it's interesting in verse 25, when he prays to the father, in this case, he says, oh, righteous father. Now think of the background to that. Oh, righteous father. Why would righteous become so crucial? His prayer is coming to an end. What's happening right after this? It is betrayal and the arrest of Jesus. Now, in some sense, the betrayal is already underway because Jesus told Judas to go away. And what he must do, do quickly, but the manifestation of that betrayal is coming right away. And then, then the arrest and all the events will lead up to his crucifixion and the horror of his substitutionary atonement. Why now at this point, does Jesus say, oh, righteous father? It is because what is about to take place is going to be the demonstration of the righteousness of God. Paul makes that clear in a passage, such as Romans three, verses 21. And following what is all this about? It is about demonstrating the righteousness of the father. And so as Jesus prays to him, even right now, he praised him, oh, righteous father. I'm just going to turn to that text.
Romans chapter 3:21, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law though the law, and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe. For there's no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness because in his divine forbearance, he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just, and the justified of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
And this gets back to the evangelicals, Sunday school songs, and stamps Baxter, whom you did not know. If you think about so much evangelicalism, sentimentality, it's not wrong when we say that the cross reveals the love of God. And again, that's a part of the apostolic preaching, but it's a minor key in the apistolic preaching. In the apostolic preaching, we are told more than anything else that what the cross of Christ shows us is the righteousness of God. Now, you don't say one at the expense of the other, because the new Testament it's rich with descriptions of the cross is love. “Greater love has no man than he laid down his life for his friends.” “And this is love.” “For God So loved the world.” And that's in the apostolic preaching as well. But just notice that when the cross is raised in this context such as Romans chapter three, what we are told is that, and in that passage five times that the cross reveals the righteousness of God. And as the prayer comes to a conclusion, Jesus refers to his own father as the righteous father, even though the world does not know you. And again, that is very similar to refrain of
John chapter one in the very opening about Christ himself. He came into his own, and his own believed him not. There are those who just deny all the evidence of the existence, even of a creator God.
“But even though the world doesn't know you, I know you, and I know you have sent me. I made known to them your name.” And again, there's more here than just a name. This is the truth about the father. “And I’ll continue to make it known that the love with which you love me may be in them.
And I in them.” And the prayer concludes. But notice how the prayer concludes that those who are his, will be known by the love with which the father loved the son, that that love may be in them. And I in them. I'm not a big country music fan. I recognize the historical importance of country music and supposedly operatic qualities of country music. I also understand the honesty of country music. Johnny Cash, years ago sang a song, “your own personal Jesus.” I've never known exactly what to do with it. When it appeared that at least implicit in the song is the understanding that something's wrong with the spirituality in which we have our own personal Jesus. We have a personal relationship with Christ, but you'll notice that what we see here is that it is true. If anything of the gospel is true, it is that Christ is in us. It's not that we have our own personal Jesus. It’s that Jesus has his own personal disciples and that's who we are.
And what more powerful demonstration of the love of God could there be? It's been a privilege to look through this prayer together with you. Ever since we began our study, I've been looking forward to John chapter 17, and here we are. I just want to leave us with one thought. And that is the thought that verse 24 is itself just a perfect illustration, not only of the gospel, but of the entirety of God's redemptive purpose. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me may be with me where I am to see my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” This explains all of biblical theology, everything from Genesis one until the end of the book of Revelation. It is about God redeeming a people through the blood of his son who will know his glory and who will exalt in that glory everlastingly. And so that there will be no explanation for why any creature knows that glory, but for Christ and what he did in obedience to the father. And that's just about the perfect summary, not only of the gospel, but of the Bible
Father, We're thankful for this time together. We pray that you will use this time and you will use this word to conform us to the image of Christ. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.