Part 2 Chapter 3

Section 3—John 17:9.

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

The death of Christ, which was the oblation of himself as a sacrifice, and his intercession, are the two principal parts of his priestly office; and relate to the same persons. Those for whom he died, for them he also maketh intercession;and for whom he is the propitiation,for them he is an advocate with the Father;and for whom he sanctified,or sacrificed himself, for them he prays (Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1, 2; John 17:9, 19). Now, such who have an interest in his prayers, are a special people, opposed to the world,and distinguished from them by the peculiar character of being given to Christ by the Father; and therefore those for whom he died, being the same persons, must be a special and peculiar people. It follows then that Christ died not for every individual of mankind, since he does not intercede for every one. But,

1. This is said[1] “to be contrary both to reason and the Holy Scripture: to reason; for can it rationally be imagined that he, who was perfect in charity, should be wanting in this highest act of charity? that the beloved Son of God should charge this upon us as our duty, to pray for our enemies, and he himself neglect it? Moreover how often doth he say of the Jews, Ye are of the world;and yet says to them, eij e]gnwv, How do I wish that thou hadst known in this thy day the things which do belong to thy peace!And hanging on the cross, he said, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do:thus did he make intercession for the transgressors.Now, this prayer implies a possibility of their receiving forgiveness, and that, a disposition in God to grant it; and consequently a satisfaction provided, such as will be acceptable, if they do their parts towards the obtaining of it.” To which I reply, that it is certain Christ was perfect in charity; nor was he wanting in this highest instance of it, praying for his enemies; and yet did not pray for every individual man; and though he charges it on us to pray for our enemies, yet not for every particular person: there are some we are not to pray for (1 John 5:16). Nor do the instances produced prove, that Christ prayed for all the individuals of human nature. The passage in Luke 19:42, regards only the Jews, and is no prayer at all, much less for their eternal salvation: since it only concerns their civil and temporal, not their spiritual and eternal peace; and is only an instance of Christ's human compassion towards a people whose condition was irretrievable by prayer or other ways. His prayer on the cross was heard and answered, being made, not for all his enemies, but for such who were afterwards converted, as three thousand of them were under one sermon; and their number after that was increased; which prayer not only implied a possibility, but a certainty of their receiving forgiveness of sins upon the foot of a satisfaction; which was acceptable and available, not for anything done by them towards the obtaining of it, it being perfect in itself; but because of the dignity of Christ's person, and the virtue of his blood and sacrifice. find thus indeed he made intercession for transgressors.But then these were no other than his own people,for whose transgressions he was stricken, wounded,and bruised;the many whose sins he bore, and whom he justified,(Isa. 53:5, 8, 11, 12).

2. It is urged,[2] that “our Lord says not this absolutely, but only in respect to that very prayer he was then offering up for his apostles; in which he was asking those things which could agree to them alone.” But it is absolutely said, I pray not for the world; nor is this prayer Christ was then offering up, peculiar to the apostles. In the beginning of it he takes notice, that his Father had given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as he had given him,(v. 2). Now were the eleven apostles the many, and the only ones the Father had given to Christ, and to whom he gives eternal life? Did Christ only manifest his Father's name, glory, and gospel, to them? Are they the only persons opposed unto and distinguished from the world? Yea, does not Christ say of the persons he is praying for, All mine are thine, and thine are mine,(v. 10), which manifestly includes and designs the whole election of grace? And, as if it was observed on purpose to obviate such an objection, he says (v. 20),  Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.Besides, the things he asks for are such as were not peculiar to them as apostles, but common to them with other saints; such as preservation from the evil of the world (vv. 11,15); sanctification through the truth (vv. 17, 19); perfect union (vv. 21, 23), and eternal glory (v. 24).

3. It is observed,[3] that this very prayer in which he saith, I pray not for the world, was made for the sake of the world, and with respect to their saving faith (vv. 21, 23). And out of that affection to the world, and with design that the preaching of the apostle to them might be more effectual for their conversion and salvation.” But it should also be observed, that the word world is an ambiguous one, and is used in various senses in this prayer; and in the passages referred to does not intend such who were opposed unto, and distinguished from those who were given by the Father to Christ, as it does in the text under consideration; but the elect of God in an unconverted state, who should be brought under the ministry of the apostles, and other preachers of the Gospel, to believe on Christ, to own him whom the Father had sent, and to know and partake of that love and favor which God bears to his own people.


[1] Whitby, p. 129; ed. 2.126.

[2] Whitby, p. 129; ed. 2.126.

[3] Ibid. p. 130; ed. 2.127; Limborch, p. 326.

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