This Week's Focus Passage

John 17:23 ‘Thou didst send me, and lovedst them, even as thou lovedst me.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: John 17:23

‘Thou didst send me, and lovedst them, even as thou lovedst me.’


    Wow! Allow me to state that once again for your reading pleasure. Jesus here informed His disciples in the midst of what is frequently referred to as, His ‘High Priestly Prayer,’ in John 17. The sentence has its beginning in verse 22, and flows into, and includes, verse 23, which constitutes our focus verse for this week’s consideration, and I trust, for our ongoing contemplation. Here are verses 22 & 23: 

And the glory which thou hast given me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that thou didst  send me, and lovedst them, even as thou lovedst me.

Can we truly claim to comprehend the enormity of these statements, these promises? How marvelously stupendous this is, when it is affirmed by the words of the Living One, Who Himself spoke them to His disciples in that final gathering before His death. Amazing love; how can it be, that Christ my God, should die for me? wrote one of the most passionate of hymn-writers to ever bless the pages of any hymnal. Charles Wesley is among the most beloved of hymn-writers. He was arguably overshadowed by his elder brother, John Wesley, who wrote only a few hymns himself. In fairness, it must be confessed that the best known hymn commonly attributed to John Wesley was actually written by the Moravian, Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, in 1739, and subsequently translated by John Wesley from the German of Zinzendorf, into the English of Wesley and his countrymen, in 1740. But John’s younger brother Charles, had the true heart of the Christian hymn-writer. There is a depth of meaning and sincerity in every one of his many efforts. ‘And can  it be that I should gain,’ is, without question, one of his best, and best known, hymns. A fine biography of Charles Wesley is that written by Arnold Dallimore, with the title being a reference to this very hymn, A Heart Set Free. A Heart Set Free is an undoubted reference to the fourth verse of the above-mentioned hymn. That fourth verse is certainly expressive of the spiritual pilgrimage of Charles Wesley, and many among converted sinners; converted to the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Sovereign Grace of our Triune God; provided by the Father; ratified by the blood of the Lamb of God at Golgotha; and applied to elect sinners by God the Holy Spirit at the specifically foreordained moment in time to the individual. He wrote the verse:

    “Lone my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.

    My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

    Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou my God, shouldst die for me?”

    Surely, this speaks of that love to which our Lord referred in our focus passage this week, ‘that Thou lovedst them, even as Thou lovedst Me.’ Abundantly clear it is that this is an ‘Amazing Love.’ It is, moreover, a Sovereign Love; and an Eternal Love; a love applied to sinners, purchased by the Lamb of God at Golgotha.

Eternity will not exhaust the search for understanding of any reason for Almighty God to love us in particular; mystery great. Christ Himself is the mystery of Whom Paul speaks many times; especially that well-known passage in 1st Timothy 3:16:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

As marvelous and wonderfully true of Him who is, Himself, the Truth, and a mystery beyond the grasp of everything but God-given faith; still greater, we believe, is the ‘mystery’ behind that Grand Mystery, that is, the Love of God that sent His Son to die. Indeed, Great is the Mystery of godliness; greater still the love John speaks of: For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

    Well do we remember an account given in a seminary class; an account regarding a highly respected conservative (Calvinistic) theologian and author. He was asked of one of the students at a lecture on systematic theology, if he could give them a concise confession of his faith in the gospel. He responded almost immediately with a recitation of a very well-known children’s hymn; ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ The gospel is a deep, is it not? And yet, it has shallows. Even as we are reminded of the children’s hymn above, so we are also reminded of a rather old expression, attributed by some to Gregory the Great, which speaks of depths and heights, stating the proposition that, ‘Scripture is like a river……broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.’ We need to ask God to teach us when it is necessary for us to have on our waders, and when to be making use of our snorkles. 

    That children’s hymn speaks of a lovely truth. Yet there may be concerns. Kenneth W. Osbeck (1924-2017), author of 101 Hymn Stories, speaks favorably of this little hymn for little people, when he made the following observations, saying:

    ‘Without doubt the hymn that has influenced children for Christ more than any other is this simple stated one, written in 1860 by Anna Bartlett Warner. Miss Warner wrote this text in collaboration with her sister Susan as a part of one of the best-selling novels of that day, a novel written by Susan entitled Say and Seal. Today few remember the plot of that novel, which stirred the hearts of many readers. But the simple poem spoken by one of the characters, Mr. Linden, as he comforts Johnny Fax, a dying child, still remains the favorite hymn of children around the world to this day.’

    ‘Jesus loves me,’ is a wonderful truth for believers. But on the lips of many preachers that have distorted the blessed truth into an altar call by telling hearers that ‘Jesus loves you, and has a wonderful plan for your life’ is a sad fallacy that has bid many to ‘go down an aisle’ that often leads to a ‘comfortable pew’ that is fit only for nominal Christians, i.e. ‘make-believers.’ There is no need for us to water down the truth as it is in Christ; to attempt to make it palatable for hearers; to entice them to make some sort of ‘decision for Christ.’ The ‘whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth,’ is the blessed means that our Father in heaven has given the church to proclaim Christ, the only Mediator between God and men, and to follow the example of Christ, and His disciples, such as Peter when he responded to the inquiry after his Pentecostal sermon, ‘what shall we do?’ His response to them was simple, and to the point, ‘Repent, and be baptized,’ or ‘Repent and believe.’ Upon following this advice men will be gathered into the body of Christ, and will come to learn to a greater degree the truth of Christ’s statement for this week, that ‘Thou lovedst them, even as Thou lovedst me.’

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Chuch  


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