JESUS' PRAYER OF INTERCESSION, PART 4
John 17:17-19 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
In Jesus' intercessory prayer for His apostles, He had previously prayed for their unity (Vs. 11), and for their protection from the evil one and the sinfulness that pervades the world (Vs. 15). Beginning with the lesson text, Jesus also prays that God will sanctify them through Thy truth. To be sanctified is to be consecrated and rendered holy; to be separated and removed from worldly sinfulness; having it replaced with the righteousness of God, and becoming a dedicated servant of God through the spiritual ministry of Christ Jesus. And, as noted here, spiritual sanctification can only be attained through God's truth. Worldly truth is anything that justifies and establishes statements and ideas by the presentation of the facts of reality. Included in worldly truth can be found, not only physical and metaphysical doctrines, but also the "religions," creeds, and dogmatic tenets that are originated, and fabricated, by human wisdom.
Spiritual sanctification, as used in the lesson text, cannot be found in "truths" established in the mind of mankind. It can only be found in God's truth - His word, the Bible, which is His Holy Spirit-inspired word penned by His chosen messengers. Sanctification, as noted here, is a gift of God, bestowed on those that consecrate themselves to Him, His Son, Christ Jesus, and to the cause for which He died on the cross of Calvary. It cannot be bestowed on any individual through the act of "canonization" by any prelate or other ecclesiastical leader, as some "religions of men" include in their human doctrines. Paul, referring to the Christians in Thessalonica and Corinth, told them that they were sanctified by the very God of peace, and in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (See 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Cor. 6:11). The sanctifying grace of God is not given once and for all time; one does not become sanctified and remain in that state without accepting, believing, and obeying God's truths, and by continually petitioning God to keep him or her safe from the worldly influences of Satan. Sanctification is an ongoing process; as our knowledge and faith increase, so the degree of our sanctification becomes stronger.
The reason for the sanctification of the apostles is now stated by Jesus: As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. Just as God sent His Son, Jesus Christ on His earthly mission to bring eternal salvation to sinful mankind, so now, with His departure, He is sending His apostles to continue and complete that mission which He established by His death, burial, resurrection, and return to heaven. These relationships between the sender and the one(s) sent, is that of an ambassador, agent, or emissary, whose sole duty is to carry out the will of the sender. Jesus was sent by God to do His will, and His apostles were sent by Jesus to carry out, and complete, His mission. His will, being carried out, is to teach the world God's truths, which were prophesied in the Old Testament and were to be established and carried out by His New Testament commandments. When one accepts God's truths, and by example, teaches them to others in word and deed, their sanctification is strengthened and grows through those scriptural truths.
Although Jesus was sinless, still we note in verse 19, that He too was sanctified. That is, He was set apart from the world in order to teach the world that redemption from sins and the hope of eternal salvation can only be found in the atoning blood He was about to shed on the cross of Calvary. This being His example for His apostles, they, too, would be sanctified through the truth, by continuing to preach the same gospel message that Jesus presented to them, and later as they were led by the Holy Spirit of God, whom Jesus would send to teach them God's truths, that would then be completely revealed.
As faithful Christians, we are also sanctified through God's word - His truths. The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, gave us a perfect example of sanctification of men and women laboring for the cause of Christ. He wrrote, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom. 12:1-2). When one is transformed from a life of worldliness into a life that is holy, acceptable unto God, and dedicated to serving Him, one becomes consecrated, holiness grows, and sanctification is the result.