John 17:16
Notice -

I. THE NEGATIVE PART OF THIS PRAYER. "I pray not," etc.

1. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the material world. Although he was about to leave it, by an ignominious death, yet his death did not make theirs necessary. Their death would neither decrease nor increase his agonies. Some think that because they die that all should follow. But Christ was so far from being selfish, that he was willing to die that his disciples might live and remain.

(1) Christianity does not in itself shorten life, but rather lengthens it. It has been the occasion of death, but never its direct cause. It has a direct tendency to increase life in length, and invariably in breadth and depth; sometimes in sum, always in value; sometimes in days and years, as in the case of Hezekiah; always in usefulness and influence, as in the case of Jesus. Heaven is not jealous of her children's physical and material enjoyment on earth. The tenant shall remain as long as the house stands, and when it crumbles, Heaven will receive him into her mansions.

(2) Christianity does not incapacitate man to enjoy the material world. On the contrary, it tunes the harp of physical life, sweetens the music of nature, paints its landscape in diviner hues, beautifies its sceneries and renders them all sublime and enchanting. The material world to man is what his inward and spiritual nature makes it. Christianity fills the world with joy; embroiders its clouds with love, tinges even its winters with goodness; makes the thunder rattle kindness as well as power, and the storm to speak of mercy as well as majesty. It fills the world with sunshine, and makes it, not a dreadful prison, haunts of demons, but the thoroughfare of angels, the nursery of happiness, the temple of God and the gate of heaven.

2. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the social world, but that they should remain in it. Sociality was one of his own characteristics. Christianity opens and not shuts the door of society, and brings man into closer union with his fellow. Bigotry, priestcraft, and religious prejudice have banished many from society, and imprisoned many a Bunyan; but pure Christianity, never. Its direct tendency is to sanctify and bless all the relationships of life, and refine and inspire our social interests. Christ said, "Let your light shine," not on the mountain-top, in the lonely wilderness, not in the secluded cloister or nunnery, but "before men" -in the fair and in the market, in the busy exchange and behind the counter, among the throngs of men.

3. It was not his wish that they should be taken out of the troublesome and wicked world. This world was then, and is now, "a world of great tribulation." Still it was not his wish to take-his disciples from even this. Not that he took any pleasure in their pain - far from it; he bore as much of it as he possibly could - but because he had greater regard for their eternal good even than for their temporal comforts. Tribulation is the only way to life. This he had himself; and the servant is not greater than his Lord, but must enter life in the same way.

4. Christ recognizes the Father's right to take them hence when he pleased. They were his, and their lives absolutely at his disposal. The world cannot drive the Christian hence when it pleases, but when the Father pleases. When it appears to do so, it is only a servant, and acts by permission. The believer's life is not at the mercy of the world, but at the mercy of the Father.

5. While recognizing his right to take them hence, still it was not his wish that they should be taken then. And why?

(1) Because Christ had much to do on and in them in the world. They were not yet ready to depart. They had not yet completed their earthly education. They had not yet been in the school of the "Comforter." They had made some progress, but very far from perfection. Much had to be done with regard to their spiritual life which could not be so well done in any other state. This world was a furnace to purify them, and the great Refiner and Purifier saw that they were not fit to be taken out.

(2) Because they had much to do for Christ and the world. The Father had given them to Jesus for a special work - to be witnesses of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and to publish the story of his love and the facts of his earthly history to the ends of the earth. This must be done before they could be honorably taken home. They could serve the Master and their generation better here than elsewhere.

(3) The new earth and its King could not afford to lose them yet. The wicked world wished to drive them hence; but it knew not what was best for its good, and it was under the control of infinite benevolence. The farmer, in disposing of his corn, must take care of some for seed. Heaven must not take the disciples away; else what will the world do for seed, Jesus for laborers, the gospel for tongues to publish it, and the Gentiles for salvation? They were more needed now on earth than in heaven. Heaven could do for some time without them. The golden harps could afford to wait; but the world could not afford to wait long for the water of life. The earth could not afford more than to give Jesus back at once, and he could do more good there through his Spirit than here; could send supplies down from above to his friends, and open fire from the heavenly batteries on the foe. The disciples could better attack him from this side, so as to place him between two fires, etc.; cause him to surrender his captives by the thousands. Not one of them could now be missed. Each one had a special duty, and was specially trained for it, and the departure of even one would be a loss to the world and to Jesus.

II. THE AFFIRMATIVE PART OF THE PRAYER. "That thou shouldest keep," etc.

1. The evil which is in the world is recognized. "Keep them from the evil" -the evil one. There are in this world many wicked men and wicked spirits, but there is one standing alone in wickedness, and in opposition to goodness, to God and man. He has succeeded to attract a large following of the same character as himself; but he keeps ahead of them all in wickedness, and the eye of Christ could single him out among the black throng, and point to him as the evil one, or the evil thing. As there is an evil one, there is an evil thing, an evil principle, power, and influence. The evil assumes many forms. The form in which it was most dangerous to the disciples now was apostasy from Christ, and this is the only form in which it can really conquer. It is fully recognized and revealed by Christ in all its forms, magnitude, and danger.

2. A distinction is made between the world and the evil. It is not the world as such is evil, but evil is in the world. The world does not make men evil, but men make the world. There is in the world an evil one and an evil thing, which prostitute its holy and good laws and forces to answer their ends. No one had the fever of sin by contact with the objects of nature. No one was morally contaminated by fellowship with the sun anti stars. No one was corrupted by listening to the blackbird's song or the nightingale's warble. The world as such is in sympathy with good and against evil. "For the whole creation groaneth," etc.

3. To keep the disciples in the world from the evil is preferable to taking them at once out of it.

(1) This plan recognizes the advantage of this world as a sphere of moral government and discipline. The highest training for a soldier is on the battle-field. The best training for a mariner is on the ocean, and in an occasional storm; he cannot attain this on dry land. The best sphere of moral discipline is in a world where there is good and evil. In hell there is only evil without any good. In heaven there is only good without any evil. In this world there are both, and it is specially advantageous to choose the one and reject the other. Christianity keeps a man from sin, and not sin from him; eradicates from his heart the love of it, and implants in its stead the love of purity. A change of world would not in itself change character. The elements of sin in the soul would break out in heaven itself.

(2) This plan is more in harmony with the ordinary arrangements of Providence. It is an original arrangement of Providence that this world should be populated, and that each man should live a certain number of years - the allotted period of time. Christ does not wish to interfere with this arrangement with regard to his followers, but let them live the lease of life out, to do battle with sin, as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The wheels of providence and grace fit into each other and revolve in perfect harmony. There is no special warrant wanted to take them hence, no special train required to take them home.

(3) This plan demonstrates more clearly the courage of Jesus. Although he knew that earth and hell were getting madder and madder against them, and would be madder still, yet he had no wish that they should be taken hence. He remained in the world to the last till he finished his work, and he had sufficient confidence that his followers would do the same. He is willing that they should undergo the same test. This is Divine heroism worthy of the Captain of our salvation. To keep them from the evil by their removal from the world would appear somewhat like beating a retreat; but the word "retreat" was not in his vocabulary.

(4) This plan more fully demonstrates the wisdom and moral power of Christianity. To make them victorious in the fight, and reach the desired haven in spite of the severest storms. Great power would be manifested in keeping the Babylonian youths from the fire, but a far greater power was manifested in keeping them in the fire from being injured by the flames. To take the disciples Out of the world miraculously would manifest Divine power, but to keep them in the world from the evil manifested a miracle of grace and of the moral power of Christianity. The one would be the skill of a clever retreat, but the other the glory of a moral victory.

(5) This plan involves a completer and more glorious personal victory over evil and the evil one. Jesus was very desirous that his disciples should be personally victorious, and conquer as he conquered. This must be done in the world in personal combat with the evil. There is no real and ultimate advantage in a mechanical or artificial diminution of evil, and strategic victory over the evil one. He will only gather his forces and rush out with greater vehemence and success. The policy of our great General was to let him have fair play - let him appear in full size, in his own field, and have full swing, as in the case of Job; then let him be conquered under these circumstances. The victory is final, complete, and most glorious.

4. To keep the disciples from the evil was now Jesus chief concern. This was the struggle of his life and death, and the burden of his parting prayer. "That thou shouldest keep," etc. As if he were to say, "Let them be poor and persecuted, tempest-tossed and homeless; let them be allied to want and wedded to death; but let them be kept from the evil. Not from hell, but from the evil; there is no hell but in the evil." How many there are who are more anxious to be kept from every evil than from the evil - from complete apostasy from the truth, and backsliding from Christ! This was his chief concern for his followers, and should be the chief concern of his followers for themselves and for those under their care.

5. In order to be kept from the evil, the disciples must be within the mediatory prayer of Christ and the safe custody of the Father. In order to be saved from a contagious disease, we must keep from it or have a powerful disinfectant. The world is full of the fever of sin, and we have to do continually with the patients; we live in the same house. And there is but one disinfectant which can save us, i.e. the mediation of Jesus and the Father's loving care. Jesus knew the danger in which his disciples were - how weak and helpless they were in themselves, how prone and exposed to the evil. The evil one, "the roaring lion," watched for the departure of their Master in order to rush on them; but as a tender mother, in going from home, leaves her children in the care of some trustworthy one, charging such to keep them from danger, especially from the fire; so our blessed Lord, before he left the world, left his disciples in good custody and safe hands, those of the Father, praying him to take care of them, especially to keep them from the evil. Before the great departure at Jerusalem, he insured all his most valuable property in the office of his Father's eternal love, of which he was the chief Agent; and insured it so not only as to have compensation in case of loss, but against any loss at all. "Holy Father, keep," etc. The house was insured before, and was safe, and there was no need of a rush out of it; but now he insures the tenants. The premium he had paid on the cross. This is the only safe insurance from evil. We wonder often how we have escaped from the evil in many a dark hour; but the insurance was the secret. - B.T.







They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
This does not mean —

1. That He cared nothing for the world. There are men so utterly selfish, and absorbed with their own concerns that in a sense they may be said to be "not of the world." They care nothing for it. But Christ was intensely interested in the men about Him. "He went about doing good."

2. That He did not appreciate the natural blessings of the world. There are austere souls who are "not of the world" in this sense: its innocent amusements they regard with a pietistic horror; they have a superstitious fear of eating and drinking lest they should give their body an advantage over their soul. But Christ came "eating and drinking." What is the world? It is —

I. PRACTICALLY ATHEISTIC. It is "without God." Not theoretically, for the laws of the mind render Atheism as a conviction an impossibility. But practically men have been "without God" ever since the Fall, His presence is not acknowledged, nor His will consulted, practically, and were it assured to-day that no God existed, its life would remain unaltered. Christ was intensely theistic. The Father filled His own horizon, and was never out of His mind. The moment the soul feels God to be in the world, the world assumes a new form.

II. PRACTICALLY MATERIALISTIC. Men ever since the Fall "judge," "walk," "live" after the flesh. Christ was intensely spiritual. Men are carnally minded.

1. Their pleasures are material. "What shall we eat, what shall we drink?" Christ's pleasures were spiritual," I have meat to eat that ye know not of."

2. Their honours are material. The highest honour is an earthly crown; the highest victories those of the sword. Christ's kingdom was not of this world. He did not war after the flesh; His empire was Spirit; His weapons truth; His legions saints and angels.

III. PRACTICALLY SELFISH. Every man seeks His own. There are as many interests in the world as men; hence the collisions, domestic, social, ecclesiastical, natural. Christ was love, and pleased not Himself. Conclusion: The subject furnishes —

1. A test of genuine Christianity. A true Christian is like Christ.

2. A guide to man's grand interest — which is to get out of the moral spirit of the world, which is the Babylon of the soul. "Arise ye, and depart," &c.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

This text teaches us —

I. THAT CHRIST IS NOT OF THE WORLD.

1. Christ came down from a higher world into this. He was not the product of the age in which He lived. Some say that He was.(1) Now it is no doubt true that every age has men who are very much like their contemporaries, but endowed with a larger nature and a better gift of utterance, so that they can express better than anybody what everybody thinks and feels. When they speak, you say "How clever! That's just what I've thought all my life long, but never could express it." The representative men of an age are always popular. People are charmed to hear that which chimes in so well with their own sentiments. Representative men make a great noise in their own time, but the echoes wax feebler and feebler, and at length die out.(2) Was Christ simply the representative man of His age? What was that age? A period of decay. In Judaea there was no political and very little religious life. The Jews paid tribute to the Romans. The Pharisees had long since degenerated. The Sadducees had sunk into practical scepticism. In place of the "open vision" of prophecy there were tradition and the authority of doctors. The Messianic ideas were not what we might have expected from such a generation. What the nation really needed was the transfusion of new blood, the breathing of fresh life, what it looked for was a Messiah-king, who would transform it into a great and victorious nation. Was Christ the representative man of that age? There is no theory further from the truth.

(a)Christ was full of fresh life, whilst the age was dead.

(b)Christ was spiritual, whilst the age was formal.

(c)In a time in which "the oracles were dumb," Christ spoke forth that which men felt to be the word of God.

(d)In an age of artificiality, He was real.If Christ had been the creation of His age, He would have perished with it. Christ was crucified by the Jews, because He did not answer their expectation of a political Messiah.

2. If all this is true, we might naturally expect that Christ would be unworldly. Anything which puts a man before his time tends to make him so, because it withdraws him from the influences which are at work around him into a higher sphere. I understand by a worldly man, one who does not seek to raise the standard of his generation, but who conforms to it. The worldly standard differs in different ages. In the last century it was favourable to duelling and drinking. In the present day, it is against all outward breaches of decorum, but it is strongly in favour of the worship of wealth and outward success. The worldly spirit is the utter antipodes of the spirit of Christ. All Christ's teaching was unworldly. He praised the very virtues which worldly men do not praise. He did not look upon either things, or men, or women, or cities as the worldly man looks upon them. He did not regard the distinctions of society, but looked below them all.

II. THAT CHRIST'S DISCIPLES ARE NOT OF THE WORLD.

1. It has not been always expected that disciples should have the same disposition or lead the same life as their Teacher. It has been enough if they received His system. But no adherence to a system will make us disciples of Christ. "If we have not the spirit of Christ, we are none of His." Not that a disciple is perfectly like Christ: he may be very imperfect, as were the first disciples. A disciple is a learner, and you do not expect a learner to be perfect. But in the very act of entering Christ's school His disciples turn their backs upon the world and deny themselves its vanities. Hence Christ said, "If any man will be My disciple, let him take up his cross and follow Me."

2. If you will be Christ's disciples —(1) You must have a high standard; you must not be content with that of people around you.(2) You will love not the artificialities of the world, but that which is simple and natural.(3) You will not be carried away by the bustle of business or the flutter of gaiety, you will have your thoughts raised to the city of God.(4) You will not be mere cyphers in the world's great sum; you will feel always the worth of your own individual soul.

3. The history of the struggle between the Christian life and the spirit of the world may be divided into two periods.(1) During the first three centuries Christianity had to struggle with the brute force of the world, as embodied in the Roman Empire. Imperialism was not merely a political thing, it was also a religion. The Emperor was worshipped. The Christians never objected to fulfil any duty binding on them as citizens; but they would not worship brute force. And he who admires force more than goodness, who sticks to legal right in preference to moral right, is no true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.(2) The main struggle since then has been with the corruptions of the world. The history of those corruptions may be divided into three periods.(a) The world corrupted the Church with heathenism. All the true Christian life in the Middle Ages had to struggle up towards the light shining through any loop-holes which there might be in that dense system of superstition.(b) The world corrupted the Church with her vices. Superstition, in the long run, leads to vice. All the institutions of the Church gradually degenerated till indulgences became a regular source of income to the Pope. It was these indulgences which roused the spirit of Luther, and led to his crusade against the Papacy.(c) The world has in our day corrupted the Church with her indifference. There never was an age in which there was more organization for doing good, but the life to animate it is wanting.

III. THAT THOUGH THE CHRISTIAN IS TO BE UNWORLDLY, HE IS NOT TO SEPARATE HIMSELF (ver. 16). We are not to desire to be taken out of —

1. The world of nature. It is a beautiful world. It is full of emblems of that which is spiritual and Divine. Talk about it being a "waste howling wilderness," it is our souls which are wildernesses.

2. The world of humanity. Our Lord did not estrange Himself from this world. He ate and drank with publicans and sinners. Is He not our example? While saying this, I do not forget that there is such a virtue as Christian prudence. Some are spiritually strong, others weak. But the Church cannot influence humanity, if she estranges herself from it. We ought not to frown on any pure human joys. We need not pull long faces, or wear a peculiar garb. The true Christian, like his Lord, loves to see the fully developed man in his prime of manhood; the woman with her womanly beauty; the child with its fresh grace and innocent ways.

3. The little world in which we are cast in the order of God's Providence. It is better for us not to desire to go out of that but rather to shape it after "the patterns in the heavens."

IV. THAT WE ARE TO PRAY GOD TO KEEP US FROM THE EVIL IN THE WORLD (vers. 16). I have been speaking about the bright side of things, but these words remind us that there is a dark side. There is a dark side both to nature and humanity. There are volcanoes, earthquakes, inundations. There has been perpetual struggle and competition. There are disease and death. Sin has been the great curse of the world — the curse of all our lives. But there is One who came down from a higher world, in order to redeem us from captivity to evil. Through His grace many millions have walked through this world's miry ways, and have kept their souls unstained. There were great differences of race, age, temperament, belief among them; but there was one thing in which they were all alike — they all had unwordly, simple, childlike hearts.

(R. Abercrombie, M. A.)

Worldliness is the spirit of childhood carried into manhood. The child lives in the present hour: to-day to him is everything. The holiday promised at a distant interval is no holiday at all: it must be either now or never. Natural in the child, and therefore pardonable, this spirit, when carried on into manhood, of course is worldliness. The most distinct illustration given us of this is the case of Esau. Esau came from the hunting-field worn and hungry: the only means of procuring the tempting mess of his brother's pottage was the sacrifice of his father's blessing, which, in those ages, carried with it a substantial advantage. But that birthright could be enjoyed only after years; the pottage was present, near and certain: therefore he sacrificed a future and higher blessing for a present and lower pleasure. For this reason, Esau is the Bible type of worldliness: he is called in Scripture a profane, that is, not distinctly a vicious, but a secular or worldly person — an overgrown child, impetuous, inconsistent; not without gleams of generosity and kindliness, but over-accustomed to immediate gratification.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Nearly all can recall that favourite fiction of their childhood, the voyage of Sindbad the sailor into the Indian Sea. They will remember that magnetic rock that rose from the surface of the placid waters. Silently Sindbad's vessel was attracted towards it; silently the bolts were drawn out of the ship's side, one by one, through the subtle attraction of that magnetic rock. And when the fated vessel drew so near that every bolt and clamp was unloosed, the whole structure of bulwark, mast, and spars tumbled into ruin on the sea, and the sleeping sailors awoke to their drowning agonies. So stands the magnetic rock of worldliness athwart the Christian's path. Its attraction is subtle, silent, slow, but fearfully powerful on every soul that floats within its range. Under its enchanting spell bolt after bolt of good resolution, clamp after clamp of Christian obligation, are stealthily drawn out. What matters it how long or how fair has been the man's profession of religion, or how flauntingly the flag of his orthodoxy floats from the masthead? Let sudden temptation smite the unbolted professor, and in an hour he is a wreck. He cannot hold together in a tempest of trial, he cannot go out on any cruise of Christian service, because he is no longer held together by a Divine principle within. It has been drawn out of him by that mighty loadstone of attraction, a sinful, godless, self-pampering, Christ-rejecting world.

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

In this verse Christ repeats the argument used in ver. 14. This repetition is not idle. The reason may be conceived either with respect to the disciples, for whom He prayed, and so it is to inculcate their duty; or with respect to God, the Person to whom He prayed, and so He urgeth their danger.

I. REPETITIONS OF THE SAME POINT ARE SOMETIMES NECESSARY (Philippians 3:1).

1. They may be tedious to nature —(1) Out of an itch of novelty. Most men love truth while it is new and fresh; there is a satiety that groweth by acquaintedness; the Israelites grew weary of manna, though angels' food.(2) Out of the impatience of guilt; frequency of reproof and admonition is like the rubbing of a sore, grievous to a galled conscience (John 21:17).

2. But it is profitable to grace.(1) To cure weakness.(a) Our knowledge is little. Narrow-mouthed vessels take in liquor by drops, so do we Divine truths, and therefore you have need to hear the same things often, that your understandings may grow familiar with them (Isaiah 28:10).(b) Our attention is small. We do consider it when we understand it. Study findeth out a truth, meditation improveth it.(c) Our memories are weak. A man needeth no remembrancer to put him in mind of worldly gain, and to revenge injuries; but as to good things, our memories are as a bag with holes, or as a grate that retaineth the mud, and lets the running water go (Hebrews 2:1).(d) Our wills are slow and averse (2 Peter 1:12, 13; 1 John 2:21).(2) To help duties.(a) Meditation. The mind works freely upon such objects to which it is accustomed; in things rare and seldom heard of there is more need of study than meditation, to search them out.(b) Application. We hear to do and practise, not only to know. We do not hear to store the head with notions, but that the life and heart might be bettered.

II. THE REASONS OF THIS REPETITION.

1. As regards their constitution and temper of mind. Christ repeats it again; and so learn that we need to be cautioned often and often against the world.(1) Because of our proneness to it. The love of the world is natural to us.(a) It is a part of original sin. It is hard for any to say they are not tempted to covetousness; it is their nature.(b) We are daily conversant about the things of the world; our affections receive taint from the objects with which we usually converse.(c) It is of a present enjoyment; we have the world in hand and heaven in hope, and think heaven a fancy and the world substance.(d) It is a sin applauded by men (Psalm 10:3).(e) It is a cloaked sin. It is hard to discover it and find it out, there are so many evasions of necessity and provision. It is a great part of religion to "keep ourselves unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).(2) Because of the heinousness and danger of it. It is called —

(a)Adultery (James 4:4).

(b)Idolatry (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).

(c)Enmity with God (James 4:4).(3) Because of the unsuitableness of it to the Divine nature.

(a)To the new nature (1 John 5:4).

(b)To our hopes. God has provided heaven to draw us off from the world.

(c)To the aim of Christ (Hebrews 11:16).(4) Let us then beware the more of worldliness.(a) Consider our condition — "strangers and pilgrims."(b) We are called to better things (1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12). It is not for princes to embrace the dunghill.(c) Take the Apostle's argument (1 Timothy 6:7). A man's wealth does not follow him, but his works do. In our birth we are contented with a little cradle, at death with a little grave.(d) Consider how hard it is to have Christ and heaven and the world (Matthew 16:26).(e) Thou art as thy love is. If thou lovest this world thou art worldly; if thou lovest God thou art godly. Take a glass, put it to,yards heaven, there you shall see the figure of heaven; put it towards the earth, and you see the figure of the earth, trees, meadows, fruits: thou receivest a figure from the objects to which thou appliest thy heart, earthly things or heavenly.(5) But you will say, Is it a fault to enjoy the world? No; but to have a worldly spirit. Be not of a worldly spirit —(a) When thou wantest the world. Be not over-careful; use the means God hath ordained, trust God with the issue and event of all (Luke 12:22).(b) When thou hast the world. A godly man may be a rich man; but do not trust in riches, &c., for they are vain; nor delight in them, for they are snares; nor be proud of them, they do not make us better; we do not value a horse by the trappings, but by his spirit and courage.(c) Be not over-sorrowful when thou losest them.

2. As regards the outward condition of the disciples: "They are not of the world, i.e., not respected by it, left out of the world's tale and count.(1) It is a hard thing to digest the world's neglect and disrespect. We had need be urged again and again; because every one would be somebody in the world.(a) Let them alone; look after better things (Psalm 17:14).(b) Remember by whose providence it falleth out. Many times God raises bad men to high places, not because they deserve it, but because the age deserves no better.(c) If you are favoured by God, why should you trouble yourselves about the world's respects? Thou hast the testimony of God's Spirit, and many now in hell have had much of the world's respects. Their disrespect cannot hurt thee; It may profit thee.(2) An excellent means to digest the world's neglect is to consider the example of Christ.(a) It is our duty. In His example we have a taste of His Spirit: "I am not of the world," saith Christ; and we should "imitate Christ as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1).

3. It will be your comfort. It is a sweet comfort in all conditions to remember the similitude of condition between Christ and us (Colossians 1:24).

4. It will be for our profit. First suffer, then enter into glory; winter is before the spring (Romans 8:17).

(T. Manton, D. D.)

I once saw a picture of an artist sitting on a rock in the ocean, which had been left bare by the retreating tide. There he sat, sketching on his canvas the beautiful scenery around him, sky and wave and sea, all unconscious that the tide had turned, had cut him off from the shore, and was rapidly covering the rock on which he sat. The tempest, the waves, the rising sea were forgotten, so absorbed was he in his picture; nor did he hear his friends calling to him from the shore.

(W. Baxendale.)

I. NEGATIVELY. The text does not imply —

1. That they have no connection with the men of the world. Grace does not dissolve the union between man and man.(1) The righteous and the wicked may be nearly allied, as Abel and Cain, and the young Abijah to the wicked Jeroboam.(2) Much business may also be lawfully and even necessarily transacted between men of widely different characters (1 Corinthians 5:10).

2. That they are to be wholly disengaged from the things of the world. They have their farms and their merchandise as well as others, and it is not requisite that under a pretence of religion they should sequester themselves from all secular concerns. They may be as much in their duty while in their worldly callings as in the closet. An idle Christian is no good character: for if we do not find ourselves some employment, Satan will. "Not slothful in business" (1 Corinthians 7:24; Acts 20:34).

3. That even the best of men are entirely divested of a worldly spirit, though they are not of the world. Those whose affections are set on things above, and whose conversation is in heaven, have frequent occasion to say, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken Thou me accordingly to Thy word." After the fullest conviction of the emptiness and vanity of creatures, we shall still find our hearts strongly attracted by them.

II. POSITIVELY.

1. They are in a considerable degree mortified to the things of this life, so as not to have "the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God." They are in the world, but not of it: it is their residence, but not their portion. Real Christians are neither terrified by the frowns nor allured by the smiles of the world. The possession of the good things of this life does not excite immoderate joy, nor the want of them occasion inordinate grief. The world, notwithstanding all his endeavours to drive it out, may occupy some corner of the Christian's heart, but the uppermost room and principal seat are reserved for his Lord and Master. His motto is, "In one Jesus I have all."

2. They possess different tempers and dispositions from the men of the world. "Old things are passed away, and all things become new." The bias of the soul receives another direction: it has a new taste, new appetites, and new enjoyments. Their treasure being in heaven, their hearts are there also. They "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The spirit of the world is hateful, sensual, discontented, overwhelming men with ignorance, guilt and misery; but the spirit which is of God is humble, teachable, contrite, benevolent and submissive, active in doing good, and patient in suffering.

3. They speak a different language from the rest of the world. It may be said to the Christian as it was said to Peter, "Thy speech betrayeth thee." And so it may be said of the opposite character: "He that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth." The world is placed in their heart, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. But God's promise to His people is, that He will turn to them a pure language, so that they shall speak the truth without hypocrisy, address Him without formality, and talk of Divine things with holy freedom. Flattery will be as much avoided by them as detraction, and equivocation as a known lie. Their common discourse will be seasoned with salt, ministering grace unto the hearers; and they will be ready to give to every one a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. The talk of a carnal man will be about the world through which he is passing; that of a good man about the world to which he is going.

4. They are neither influenced by the maxims of the world, nor do they imitate its customs. The real Christian is the world's nonconformist; not in an affected singularity of speech or dress, in the shape of his coat or form of his hat, but in the whole tenor of his life and conversation.

5. They do not take up their rest in this world. They are born from heaven, and are bound to heaven. Their language is, "Arise, let us depart hence: this is not our rest, because it is polluted."

III. TO ILLUSTRATE THIS CHARACTER, CHRIST HAS GIVEN US HIS OWN (1 John 4:17). Conclusion: From this view of the subject we may learn —

1. What judgment we are to form of those about us.

2. What is duty with respect to ourselves.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

We shall take our text and look at it.

I. DOCTRINALLY. It is not so much that they are not of the world, as that they are "not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world." This is an important distinction, for there are people who are not of the world, and yet they are not Christians. Amongst these I would mention sentimentalists. Their spirits are so refined, that they cannot attend to ordinary business. They live in the air of romance; would like continually to live in a cottage near a wood, or to inhabit some quiet cave, where they could read "Zimmerman on Solitude" for ever. I heard of one young lady, who thought herself so spiritually-minded that she could not work. A wise minister said to her, "That is quite amusing! very well, you are so spiritually-minded that you shall not eat unless you do." These people are "not of the world," truly; but the world does not want them, and the world would not miss them much, if they were gone. There are others, too, so like monks, who are not of the world. They are so awfully good, that they cannot live with us sinful creatures; or if they condescend to do so, they must be distinguished from us in many ways. They could not be expected to wear worldly coats and waistcoats. They must wear nondescript dresses, that none may confound them with ordinary men. We have also in our Protestant Churches certain men who think themselves so eminently sanctified that it would be wrong to indulge in anything like sensible pronunciation. Such persons are, however, reminded, that it is not being "not of the world," so much as being "not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world."

1. Christ was not of the world in nature.(1) In one point of view His nature was Divine; and as Divine, it was perfect and spotless, and therefore He could not descend to things of earthliness. In another sense He was human; and His human nature was begotten of the Holy Ghost, and therefore was so pure that in it rested nothing that was worldly. We are are all born with worldliness in our hearts. But Christ was not so. His nature was essentially different from that of every one else, although He sat down and talked with men. He stood side by side with a Pharisee; but every one could see He was not of his world. He sat by a Samaritan woman, but who fails to see that He was not of her world? He ate with Publicans and sinners; but you could see that He was not of their world. Nay, not even John, though he partook very much of his Lord's spirit, was exactly of Christ's world: for even he said, "Let us call down fire from heaven," &c.(2) In some sense, the Christian is not of the world in nature. Many persons think that the difference between a Christian and a worldling is, that one goes to chapel another does not; one of them takes the sacrament, the other does not, &c. But, that does not make a Christian. The distinction is internal. A Christian is a twice-born man; in his veins runs the blood of the royal family of the universe.

2. In office —(1) Christ's office had nothing to do with worldly things. To Him it might be said, "Art Thou a king, then?" Yes, but My kingdom is not of this world. "Art Thou a priest?" Yes; but My priesthood is not one which shall be discontinued, as that of others has been. "Art Thou a teacher?" Yes; but My doctrine cometh down from heaven. He had no aim which was in the least carnal. He did not seek applause, His own fame, His own honour.(2) Believer! what is thy office? Thou art a king and priest unto God, &c. Whether yours be the office of minister, or deacon, or church member, ye are not of this world.

3. In character. Look at Jesus' character; how different from every other man's — pure, perfect, spotless, even such should be the life of the believer.

II. EXPERIMENTALLY. Every Christian will feel that he is not of the world.

1. When he gets into very deep trouble. You have had at times deep sorrows. Did you break under them? If you did, methinks you are no Christian; but if there was a rising up, it was a testing moment, and it proved that you were "not of the world," because you could master affliction.

2. When he is prosperous. Some of God's people have been more tried by prosperity than by adversity. Do you feel that these comforts are nothing but the leaves of the tree, and not the fruit, and that you can not live upon mere leaves? Or do you say, "Now, soul, take thine ease," &c.

3. When he is in solitude and in company.

III. PRACTICALLY.

1. Thou who art of the world, whose maxims, habits, feelings, are worldly, listen to this. It is God's solemn truth. Thou art none of His. With all your profession thou art "in the gall of bitterness."

2. You who are children of God. Have we not often been too much like the world?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In the 14th verse this separation of the disciples from the world is assigned as the reason of the world's hatred to them; and here it is made the reason for special intercession on their behalf. There can be no difficulty in understanding what is meant by "the world," though the phrase is used with considerable latitude of signification in the Scriptures. But here the meaning is unquestionably moral and spiritual, and the expression marks off all other than godly people. Now, it is of considerable importance that we should know how we are to understand this statement — what precisely is its significance.

I. NEGATIVELY.

1. Well-meaning, though certainly not over-wise, people there are, who seem to think their godliness calls for harsh views and depreciating language concerning the earth on which God has placed us. It is the proper thing with them, and evidences their other-worldliness, to regard this world as a place which by its wretchedness serves chiefly as a foil to the better land above. It is a sort of dark background, bringing the other world into relief. It is to them a "desert," a "vale of tears," a "waste, howling wilderness." Such a state of mind, where it is not the result of ignorance, tells at once of unhealthiness and perversion. Such people appear to forget that it is God's world of which they thus speak, made by Him to be the fitting abode of men.

2. Nor must we look for this unworldliness in a lack of interest in the world's affairs — in its government, for instance. If politics have reproach attached to them, no little Of the blame lies at the door of those who could have done better, but have culpably stood aloof and allowed so vast a power and so solemn a trust to fall into unscrupulous hands. No man can deal thus with divlnely-entrusted responsibilities and be blameless. The proper government of our country, the just settlement of national and international questions, profoundly concerns us all, and each has a responsibility here of which he cannot divest himself.

3. Neither, again, must we look for this unworldliness along the line of abstention from all the social pleasures and amenities of life. For that means a strained and unnatural kind of piety, and there was nothing forced about the life of Jesus, who is our Exemplar here as elsewhere. He was no ascetic. We must seek elsewhere than in such particulars for the lines of demarcation. Where are those lines, then?

II. POSITIVELY.

1. Christians form, and were by our Lord intended to form, a community distinct and separate from the world. All through the Scriptures this idea of separatedness runs. The Jews were in the most literal and extreme sense a people set apart. By geographical limits, by mode of government, by peculiarity of laws and customs, as well as by religion, they were marked off from all other nations. Christians are in the truest and highest sense a separated people. Jesus set up His Church in the world with the intention that all who avowed themselves His disciples should form part of an organized community. This is the body of which He is the Head; the household of which He is the Master.

2. But especially are we to look for this unworldliness of Christians in their spirit and in their principles of action. This is the great dividing line. The spirit of the world is distinctly and essentially irreligious; there is no right apprehension or estimate of spiritual things; godless maxims, and fashions, and laws rule — that is the nature of a worldly spirit. The Spirit of Christ is just the opposite. And it is along the line of spirituality of character and conduct that our unworldliness as disciples of Jesus is to be manifested. But now, lest the practical significance of this should be overlooked, note a few details in which this spirit will show itself.(1) In our associations and friendships. Like is drawn to like. The voluntary companionship follows the personal preference. "This people shall be My people" follows upon "their God shall be my God." Let young disciples beware how they affect worldly society, and ever seek their friendships among those who love God. This for two reasons:

(a)For their own safety;

(b)as a visible declaration of the side on which they are.(2) Our recreations. There are amusements which, by association, by inevitable tendency, and by common consent, are worldly. They lie, by general admission, within territory forbidden to Christians; and in such cases, all the special pleading in the world about their being innocent in themselves can have no weight with those who would act worthily and wisely. Remember, we cannot afford, as disciples of Jesus, to see how near the line we can go without overstepping it.

3. Our Home and Business-Life. In the former, in such matters as(1) the education of our children; the character of the schools and teachers we select for them;(2) the choice of their calling in life;(3) their marriage; many parents have sown the wind here and reaped the whirlwind. In the business-life our unworldliness will be seen in the high principles that govern us. Gain will not be our only or chief consideration. We shall show that we can afford to be poor, but cannot afford to have a stained conscience.CONCLUSION.

1. If such be our character, let us not be surprised if we are misunderstood by the world. It was so with Jesus.

2. Expect to be hindered by the world in your religious life. It has no sympathy with your views, and oft deems your piety fanaticism, and your religious scruples a nuisance.

3. Do not be afraid of a needful singularity. Avoid needless difference, but have the courage of your convictions.

4. Guard against the subtle encroachments of a worldly spirit. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

5. Walk prudently to them that are without. Take ears less by a worldly conduct you give the lie to an unworlldy profession.

6. Do not forget we have a mission to the world. "As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world."

7. Keep your final home in view. Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour.

(R. M. Spoor.)

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