Jesus Christ Reveals the Name of God (2): Comments on John 17:6-11

Mr. Linke is an elder in the Confessing Protestant Reformed Congregation of Giessen, Germany. The article appeared first in Bekenende Kirche. Translated by Mr. Peter VanDerSchaaf.
Previous article in this series, September 1, 2013, p. 474.

The promises are fulfilled in Christ

When Jesus says in His prayer that He reveals the name of God, He is proclaiming the truth that God faithfully fulfills His promises. But Christ has done still more. He has not only proclaimed. He has not only pointed to a treasure chest. Much more, He has opened this treasure chest, the container with the treasures of salvation, and shared the treasure. That Jesus reveals the name of God means that He has revealed Himself as the promised Redeemer of His people.

The fulfillment of the promises of God stands or falls with Jesus Christ. In His person the promises come together and become reality. He is the incarnate fulfill­ment of the promised Word of God. For that the Savior immediately adds, “Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me” (John 17:7-8).

Christ was sent by the Father so that the Father’s promises would be efficacious. Christ had given the words to His disciples that He had received from His Father so that they would receive them. That means that Christ communicated Himself to His disciples in a way that made the promises of God effective in them. This truth the apostle John proclaimed in his first epistle in this way: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:1-3).

John denotes Christ as the “eternal life.” Not only does Christ proclaim eternal life. Not only does He work eternal life. No, He is Himself eternal life. Some few verses later in the same epistle the apostle explains what this has to do with us: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12).

Christ is the fulfillment of the promise. He is that eternal life. But how do we come into possession of this treasure? In that we receive this very Christ. “He that hath the Son hath life.”

In order for us to possess Jesus Christ, He had first to reveal the name of God to us. One could say, He must communicate Himself to us. That Christ communicates Himself to us means not only that He reveals His being and work to us, but also that He makes us partakers of His being and work. That is the decisive thing. For only when Christ reveals Himself to us so that we lay hold on Him and take Him for our own by faith, do we have eternal life.

The revelation is directed to the church

Again, in John 17:6: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” And in verse 9: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”

Here we encounter a sharp boundary line. On one side stands “the world,” and on the other side those “men…, whom thou hast given me out of the world.” The concept of “the world” has various meanings in the Bible. In this text, “world” refers to mankind in its entirety. Christ has received certain men “out of the world.” In other words, out of the entire mass of human beings, a specific number of men have been given to Him. God has taken out of all humanity a few men and “given” them to Christ—at a given time, for a specific reason, and to a given purpose. Which men are meant here? In verse twelve of the high-priestly prayer, we read, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

Clearly the reference here is to the disciples of Jesus, with special reference to the traitor, Judas Iscariot. The disciples were given to Christ. To them He had revealed God’s name; and for them He prayed. That is quite straight forward. But does everything that is said above have to do only with the eleven disciples? When we look more closely, especially at verse 20, we see that the Lord becomes more concrete. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word….”

The disciples will carry the Word of God into all the earth. God will reveal His name to other men also. When God reveals His name to men (in other words, when He effectually reveals Jesus Christ to them), they receive Christ in faith, and, with Him, all the blessings of salvation. This has to do not only with the eleven dis­ciples, but with all men who possess Christ in faith. Of them Christ says, “thine they were, and thou gavest them me” (John 17:6).

The church is chosen in Christ

The text is a testimony to the doctrine of election. The apostle Paul teaches about election in Ephesians 1:4-6: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foun­dation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, ac­cording to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

God has chosen certain men in Christ before the foun­dation of the world. That means that He elected Christ and gave them to Christ. For that reason they belong to Him. “And all mine are thine, and thine are mine” (John 17:10). That is true from eternity. For that reason the prophet Jeremiah speaks to the people under the Old Covenant, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3).

That God draws men to Himself and receives them into His fellowship is a fulfillment of His promises and, for that reason, is His revelation as the true “I AM THAT I AM.” For that reason Christ can confess in His prayer that He has revealed the name of God to all those who have been given Him out of the world, and to no one else.

The world that stands outside of Christ has no use for Christ. The Lord does not know them and has never known them (cf. Matt. 7:23). The Father has not given these men to the Son. They do not hear Him. Why is that so? Why has God chosen a part of mankind and taken them to Himself as His own, as His special trea­sure, while the other part is passed over in this election, reprobated? What grounds did He find in the elect? None! What was different in them than in the others? Nothing! Did they do something that differentiated them from the rest? No! The ground for election does not rest with men. For all men without exception are, as sinners, enemies of God who stand under His wrath.

The doctrine of election is not especially popular. It is no wonder, for that doctrine takes away from man every (even the smallest) bit of self glorification. That is not something that one likes to hear. Nonetheless, the Bible speaks very clearly and in many texts of predestination. Christ declares in His prayer that certain men belonged to God. “They were thine.” The verse from Jeremiah 31 speaks of an “eternal love” of God. The following texts proclaim the same message. “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deut. 7:6-8).

The only ground of election is God’s love and faithful­ness to His people; and in this, Jesus Christ is the focal point. So, when we speak of election, it is not to pat ourselves on the back or to exalt ourselves over others. For Christ is “the beloved.” We are chosen “in Him.” And certainly not because we were holy and blameless but specifically “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (see Eph. 1:4-6). For this purpose the Father gave us to His Son. With this purpose the Son revealed to us the name of the Father. With this purpose He is our High Priest and goes to the Father in prayer on our behalf.

… to be concluded.