The Inter-Trinitarian Counsel (John 17)
"...glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life...6"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. ...9"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; ..."While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (excerpts from John 17)(also see John 6:37, 39, 44, 63-65)
What do these texts mean? In His great condescension, infinite mercy and affectionate love... God, in Christ, from all eternity has chosen, set apart and marked a people for Himself. This is foundational to the Bible and we must not neglect to consider our salvation from this God's-eye view that He has so graciously given us in the pages of Holy Scripture. His elect have been set apart for sonship, privilege and honor as they are united to Christ by His Holy Spirit. "...they were Yours and You gave them to Me." (vs, 6)
We should never avoid passages such as these, though for various reason we often do so. But God has given these texts to us for a reason. Jesus wanted His people to read this conversation, this inter-Trinitarian prayer. This is high doctrine but it is most beautiful and glorious. We should fall on our face in wonder as we absorb and consider that He has, in this holy conversation, given this glimpse of truth to us. We all need to listen ... too much of contemporary spirituality is a horizontal conversation, but we need to be silent and let God speak to us here vertically. Jesus lets us in on his communications with the eternal Father. Is there anything so glorious that He has let his children in on such a conversation and that He is even speaking of us. He is telling us what He has decided about us as individuals before the foundation of the world. The Son and the Father speak of previously decided upon covenants before the world was made. Incredible! Behold, before you were created, before the world and matter and time and space was created you were affectionately in the mind of God and He gave the surety of your redemption into the hands of the Eternal Son who would leave His infinite glory and become as nothing, taking on flesh to make certain that you would not be lost. If God gave you to the Son, then your salvation is sure because He infallibly accomplishes that which He sets out to do. "His word does not return unto Him void".
When we are considering this prayer that is uttered from the beautiful lips of our Savior it should make us stagger and we should yield to God's infinite greatness and wonder at his condescension to us. We are nothing...less than nothing, sinners and rebels and have brought this world into rebellion and utter confusion through our sin. A world that God could rightly and justly sweep aside in judgment, not sparing any. Nevertheless, God has separated a people unto Himself, that they might believe and be revealed as sons. This was not done with any reference to conditions you have met such as faith or good works, but was done entirely out of God's good pleasure and affection for you and all those He has given to the Son as a bride. This was of grace and grace alone, in spite of ourselves and our stiffnecked pride and unbelief. He had you in mind knowing what you were like and He still humbled Himself that he might bring you into fellowship with Himself. But it is His nature to be both high and lifted up above all and yet is not far from of the lowly and despised like us.
Why does He choose some and not others? First, the answer is not because of something He found in us. Not because we were, by nature, more spiritually sensitive, wise or humble than others and so believed.. No. This would be grounds for boasting. Instead, all glory goes to God alone, because of Christ alone, that we even have the desire, humility, will, affection and faith in Jesus Christ. The unspiritual cannot be spiritual. He must first be made spiritual to have spiritual thoughts. But even if you cannot understand or fathom such high truth, yield to it, believe in it, for this is the plain language of Scripture to us, meant for us to be understood in one way, and not the other. Though we were self-willed, autonomous and gloried in ourselves as a direct result of who we were by nature, God mercifully placed in us new hearts which had affection for Christ (an act which is impossible for the unspiritual). The eternal counsel of the Trinity determined and marked you out for salvation. This election itself did not save you but was the blueprint for what the Son was to accomplish on your behalf on the cross. God not only chose you before the foundation of the world but chose you in Christ. He gave you to the Son, the text says, and all that He gives to the Son He gives eternal life. Not some, but all (the text affirms). The reason God gave them to the Son is so that Jesus might make you and I a people fit for God. God is holy and infinitely just and therefore must pour His wrath out on the least of sin so that justice will be carried out in this universe. Therefore, you and I could not be His people in the wretched state we were in. Nothing we could do would change that - we could never make up for the debt we owed, for the rebellion and evil we have done. But God could do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He loved us and so chose us as the objects of His affection in Christ who was to become flesh that He might sanctify us redeem a people for God's own possession and in whom He delights.
That is the purpose of the incarnation. Everything Jesus did was for the people of God that He might glorify Himself in them. He made us holy and fit for God's presence that we might have eternal communion and fellowship with Himself. The New Covenant in Christ's blood "reminds God" not to treat us as our sins deserve. Jesus is not securing God's love for us. He already loved us from eternity. Rather, He is making us fit to be recipients of His love. God the Father is the one who gave us to Christ. The Trinity is in complete harmony and agreement and He accomplishes the redemption of the elect. He says " I will be their God, and they will be my people." "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself." (2 Cor 5:19).
Meditate on these texts and let the love of God for you overwhelm you in them. As we consider Christ we are transformed into his likeness from glory to glory.
J. W. Hendryx