Sanctification is one of those technical words in the bible that can be difficult to apply to our lives in everyday terms. Jesus in these verses throws light on it in his prayer for his disciples to God the Father. The ESV global study bible sums up sanctification in this way, “The sanctification of Christians is a lifelong process. It involves separation from evil and growth in moral purity in attitudes, thoughts, and actions.” From this definition we can see that it remains an incomplete process this side of heaven. Jesus himself is the only person to have lived a life entirely free of sin, he therefore is our example. His prayer though shows an understanding of human frailty and now he seeks God the Father’s intervention to protect his disciples from the pressure of sin in the world and from Satan or the evil one. What is also clear is that Jesus expects his disciples to dedicate themselves to their personal sanctification and not use the inevitability of imperfection as an excuse for conforming to the pattern of the world.
Jesus emphasizes the joy of having Christ in their lives and sharing in his relationship with God the Father. The system of slavishly obeying rules is a failed system. God does not want grudging obedience, his desire is that we live the Christian life filled with the joy that Jesus had. ‘But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.’ v13 The world may try to convince us that God’s righteousness is dull, boring, limits our freedom, crushes our identity, whereas in truth the opposite applies. Living a life full of the Spirit, dedicated to love, peace, kindness, forgiveness and faithfulness is a joy filled life in close relationship with God the Father. The disciples have learnt this from words Jesus has spoken.
Jesus’ words caused a marked demarcation between those who were receptive to them and the wider world. Underlying this is the spiritual battle that was taking place. Jesus’ words caused extreme opposition about to culminate in his arrest, trial and crucifixion. Jesus was praying for his disciples because this battle was not going to end with his resurrection even though that struck the victory blow. When Jesus prayed, ‘that you keep them from the evil one,’ v15 he was praying for their continued sanctification despite temptation. He was also praying for their continuing mission in taking his word to the wider world.
The disciples were not to be miraculously taken out of the world and neither are we. We are to live in the world for the sake of others and the gospel. They were to be sanctified by his word and take the word to others. ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. vv 17-18 Jesus continues to be the High Priest before God praying for the church’s growth in holiness and effectiveness in taking the gospel to others making disciples.
Does it encourage you to pray that Jesus prayed for himself?
How might you pray in the light of this passage?
REVIVAL ANTHEM – Rend Collective