This Week's Focus Passage

John 17:9 ‘I pray not for the world.’

     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. These words of John 3:16 are among the most well-known words of the Bible. It may also be said, or at least suggested, that the chapter and verse, John 3:16, are far better known than the words themselves which are found in that verse. This is a great sadness but it must be confessed that it is quite likely to be very true. Many have ‘John 3:16’ stickers on their vehicles or refrigerators; others even have ‘John 3:16’ tattoos here and there on their bodies. It has been for quite some time now that a large segment of professing Christendom has popularized this sort of ‘evangelizing.’ To a great number of folk, this is even seen as some sort of grand and bold profession of the Christian faith. Yet, it is to be feared that many of these people do not possess a truly biblical understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, and many may not even know the Lord Jesus Christ. They have only been convinced somewhere, somehow, that John 3:16 is ‘the gospel in a nutshell.’ Is that a true statement? Is John 3:16 truly ‘the gospel in a nutshell’? Sinful men—that is, every one of us—are so prone to buy into anything that seems even somewhat reasonable if it at the same time promises them eternal life without godliness. There are unnumbered forms of easy-believism to be found, but not in the Word of God. And sadly—most sadly—they are to be found in churches professing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether it be the best-known, and most recognizable Arminianism of the fundamentalist Baptist, or the less recognizable Arminianism of the Church of Rome, if the foundation is exposed it will be seen to be based upon the individual’s works. Whether it be going down the aisle or going to confession, it is still dependence upon something done by the sinner rather than, or perhaps alongside of, the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

     Men wrest the scriptures to their own destruction rather than bowing the knee to Christ. If it were not so sad, it would be laughable the lengths that men will go in their attempt to deny the true gospel. Some claiming to embrace the Word of God yet are somehow unable to see the reality of sin, and the need of repentance. Others, like the Pharisees, imagine that they can attain a righteousness through the law and are ‘making themselves fit for the kingdom.’ Then there are some that seem to believe that because ‘God is love’ that He will allow of none going to perdition. One particular author has discovered—to his own satisfaction anyway—that John Calvin was such a Universalist, and that the Puritans were Arminians. Again, if it were not so sad, it would be laughable. Commenting upon the famous John 3:16, John Calvin has written,

“Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith.”

‘Faith is not common to all.’ Such a simple statement of truth, yet how manifestly important to grasp. Those, and those only, whose eyes God has opened, as Calvin says, may seek him by faith. The seeing eye and the hearing ear, given along with faith and repentance, are each gifts of God given through regeneration, that regeneration which is provided when the Spirit, like the wind, blows where He will. (John 3:8)

     To turn our attention to the focus passage from John 17:9, the question must surely be registered, ‘if Christ died for the whole world’ as Universalism maintains, how is it that Christ does not pray for the whole world? It is more than interesting to reflect on the fact that this ‘upper room discourse’ of Jesus begins in John 13:1 with the evangelist’s words;

Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

If ‘having loved his own that were in the world’ means anything, it means that He has a people ‘in the world’ that He refers to as ‘His own.’ Why would He not have said—on the assumption that Universalism is correct—‘having loved the world, He loved it unto the end’? Not at all, but He has a people—those whom the Father has given Him from before the foundation of the world—and these are the ones whom He loves; these are the ones for whom He prays; not for the world. These are the ones He came to seek and save. These are the ones that the angel of the Lord spoke of to Joseph in a dream—Matthew 1:21—saying:

And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.

He shall save His people—not the whole world—but His people out of the whole world, from their sins. For these He prays the Father to keep them in the world. He sends God the Holy Spirit to be another Comforter, for He must leave them in the world. They are in the world, but they are not of the world.

     How blessed is it that God has commanded His people; the body of Christ; His church, to preach the gospel unto all the world. Multitudes have heard the gospel and rejected it; but they cannot say that they have not heard it. Judas Iscariot not only heard the gospel from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he also himself preached the gospel to others. How thought-provoking is that to meditate upon? But it does remind us that not only is it ‘not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul,’ it is ‘no other work, save thine, no other blood will do,’ (Horatio Bonar), yea, it is equally not the person that preaches the gospel. If the Word of God is proclaimed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit, the human mouthpiece is irrelevant. It is He that brings the new birth with faith that enables the sinner to hear the Truth;
they for whom Christ has died and for whom He prays, not for the world.

David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church


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