SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (EGW)

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Chapter 17

Illustration of Jesus’ Intercession in Heavenly Sanctuary—This chapter contains the intercessory prayer offered by Christ to His Father just before His trial and crucifixion. This prayer is a lesson regarding the intercession that the Saviour would carry on within the veil, when His great sacrifice in behalf of men, the offering of Himself, should have been completed. Our Mediator gave His disciples this illustration of His ministration in the heavenly sanctuary in behalf of all who will come to Him in meekness and humility, emptied of all selfishness, and believing in His power to save (Manuscript 29, 1906). 5BC 1145.8

1-6. The Prayer Before Gethsemane—[John 17:1-6 quoted.] ... This was Christ's last prayer with His disciples. It was offered just before He went into the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was to be betrayed and taken. When He reached Gethsemane, He fell prostrate upon the ground, in an agony of distress. What caused His agony? The weight of the sins of the whole world was resting upon His soul. As we study this prayer, let us remember that it was just before this experience and just before His betrayal and trial, that these words were uttered (Manuscript 52, 1904). 5BC 1145.9

2, 3. Relation of Father and Son—The seventeenth chapter of John speaks plainly regarding the personality of God and of Christ, and of their relation to each other. “Father, the hour is come,” Christ said: “glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” [John 17:23, 3, 5-11 quoted.] Here is personality, and individuality (Manuscript 124, 1903). 5BC 1145.10

3 (see EGW on ch. 1:4; Romans 11:33). To Know Christ Is to Practice His Words—[John 17:3 quoted.] These words mean much. It is only by knowing Christ that we can know God. The Sent of God calls upon all to listen to these words. They are the words of God, and all should give heed to them; for by them they will be judged. To know Christ savingly is to be vitalized by spiritual knowledge, to practice His words. Without this, all else is valueless (The Signs of the Times, January 27, 1898). 5BC 1145.11

4-10. Glorified in Those Who Believe—In the intercessory prayer of Jesus with His Father, He claimed that He had fulfilled the conditions which made it obligatory upon the Father to fulfill His part of the contract made in heaven, with regard to fallen man. He prayed: “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. [That is, He had wrought out a righteous character on earth as an example for men to follow.] And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” In this prayer He further goes on to state what is comprehended by the work which He has accomplished, and which has given Him all those who believe on His name. He values this recompense so highly that He forgets the anguish it has cost Him to redeem fallen man. He declares Himself glorified in those who believe on Him. The church, in His name, is to carry to glorious perfection the work which He has commenced; and when that church shall be finally ransomed in the Paradise of God, He will look upon the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Through all eternity the ransomed host will be His chief glory (The Spirit of Prophecy 3:260, 261). 5BC 1146.1

5. Let the Veil Be Removed—[John 17:1-5 quoted.] Christ is not praying for the manifestation of the glory of human nature; for that human nature never had an existence in His pre-existence. He is praying to His Father in regard to a glory possessed in His oneness with God. His prayer is that of a mediator; the favor He entreats in the manifestation of that divine glory which was possessed by Him when He was one with God. Let the veil be removed, He says, and let My glory shine forth—the glory which I had with Thee before the world was (The Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899). 5BC 1146.2

5, 24 (Hebrews 1:6; 1 John 2:1; see EGW on John 20:16, 17; Hebrews 3:1-3). Public Reinstatement of Christ in Heaven—The prayer of Christ was answered. He was glorified with the glory which He had with His Father before the world was. But amid this glory, Christ does not lose sight of His toiling, struggling ones upon earth. He has a request to make of His Father. He waves back the heavenly host until He is in the direct presence of Jehovah, and then He presents His petition in behalf of His chosen ones. 5BC 1146.3

“Father,” He says, “I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am.” And then the Father declares, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” The heavenly host prostrate themselves before Him, and raise their song of triumph and joy. Glory encircles the King of heaven, and was beheld by all the heavenly intelligences. No words can describe the scene which took place as the Son of God was publicly reinstated in the place of honor and glory which He voluntarily left when He became a man. 5BC 1146.4

And today Christ, glorified, and yet our brother, is our Advocate in the courts of heaven (The Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899). 5BC 1146.5

6. A Great Honor—What a glorious commendation—“They have kept thy word.” To have these words said of us would be a great honor. But too often self comes in; self strives for the mastery (Manuscript 52, 1904). 5BC 1146.6

17. Self-satisfaction Is Not Sanctification—“Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” A pleasant, self-satisfied feeling is not an evidence of sanctification. A faithful record is kept of all the acts of the children of men. Nothing can be concealed from the eye of the High and Holy One, who inhabiteth eternity. Some make Christ ashamed by their course of devising, planning, scheming. God does not approve of their conduct; for the Lord Jesus is not honored by their spirit and their works. They forget the words of the apostle: “We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men” (Manuscript 159, 1903). 5BC 1146.7

Adam's Test Brought to All—The law of God is the one great standard that will measure every man's character in the day of God. The prayer of Christ was, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Therefore the sanctification of the Spirit of God upon the heart, leads men to walk in the way of God's commandments. The very test that God brought upon Adam in Eden, will be brought upon every member of the human family. Obedience to God was required of Adam, and we stand in the same position that he did to have a second trial, to see whether we will listen to the voice of Satan and disobey God, or to the Word of God and obey (The Review and Herald, June 10, 1890). 5BC 1146.8

(1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Timothy 3:16.) The Textbook of Sanctification—The Bible is the standard by which to test the claims of all who profess sanctification. Jesus prayed that His disciples might be sanctified through the truth, and He says, “Thy word is truth;” while the psalmist declares, “Thy law is the truth.” All whom God is leading will manifest a high regard for the Scriptures in which His voice is heard. The Bible will be to them “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” We need no other evidence in order to judge of men's sanctification; if they are fearful lest they shall not obey the whole will of God, if they are listening diligently to His voice, trusting in His wisdom, and making His Word the man of their counsel, then, while they make no boasts of superior goodness, we may be sure that they are seeking to attain to perfection of Christian character. But if the claimants of holiness even intimate that they are no longer required to search the Scriptures, we need not hesitate to pronounce their sanctification spurious. They are leaning to their own understanding, instead of conforming to the will of God (The Review and Herald, October 5, 1886). 5BC 1147.1

Obey God's Requirements—The truth as it is in Jesus is obedience to every precept of Jehovah. It is heart work. Bible sanctification is not the spurious sanctification of today, which will not search the Scriptures, but trusts to good feelings and impulses rather than to the seeking for truth as for hidden treasure. Bible sanctification is to know the requirements of God and to obey them. There is a pure and holy heaven in store for those who keep God's commandments. It is worth lifelong, persevering, untiring effort. Satan is on your right hand and on your left; he is before and behind; he has a dish of fables cooked up for every soul who is not cherishing the truth as it is in Jesus. The destroyer is upon you to palsy your every effort. But there is a crown of life to be won, a life that measures with the life of God (Manuscript 58, 1897). 5BC 1147.2

The truth if received is capable of constant expansion and new developments. It will increase in brightness as we behold it, and grow in height and depth as we aspire to grasp it. Thus it will elevate us to the standard of perfection, and give us faith and trust in God as our strength for the work before us (Manuscript 153, 1898). 5BC 1147.3

(Hebrews 4:12.) No Soft Tread—The truth is the truth. It is not to be wrapped up in beautiful adornings, that the outside appearance may be admired. The teacher is to make the truth clear and forcible to the understanding and to the conscience. The word is a two-edged sword, that cuts both ways. It does not tread as with soft, slippered feet. 5BC 1147.4

There are many cases where men who have defended Christianity against skeptics have afterward lost their own souls in the mazes of skepticism. They caught the malaria, and died spiritually. They had strong arguments for the truth, and much outside evidence, but they did not have an abiding faith in Christ. O, there are thousands upon thousands of professed Christians who never study the Bible! Study the sacred Word prayerfully, for your own soul's benefit. When you hear the word of the living preacher, if he has a living connection with God, you will find that the Spirit and the word agree. 5BC 1147.5

The Old and New Testaments are linked together by the golden clasp of God. We need to become familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. The unchangeableness of God should be clearly seen; the similarity of His dealings with His people of the past dispensation and of the present, should be studied.... 5BC 1147.6

By the work of the Holy Spirit the truth is riveted in the mind and printed in the heart of the diligent, God-fearing student. And not only is he blessed by this kind of labor; the souls to whom he communicates truth, and for whom he must one day give an account, are also greatly blessed. Those who make God their counselor reap the most precious harvest as they gather the golden grains of truth from His Word; for the heavenly Instructor is close by their side. He who obtains his qualification for the ministry in this way will be entitled to the blessing promised to him who turns many to righteousness (The Review and Herald, April 20, 1897). 5BC 1147.7

20, 21 (Matthew 25:14, 15; Mark 13:34). Unity in Diversity—[John 17:20, 21 quoted.] What kind of unity is spoken of in these words?—Unity in diversity. Our minds do not all run in the same channel, and we have not all been given the same work. God has given to every man his work according to his several ability. There are different kinds of work to be done, and workers of varied capabilities are needed. If our hearts are humble, if we have learned in the school of Christ to be meek and lowly, we may all press together in the narrow path marked out for us (Manuscript 52, 1904). 5BC 1148.1

20-23. No Destruction of Personality—Christ is one with the Father, but Christ and God are two distinct personages. Read the prayer of Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will find this point clearly brought out. How earnestly the Saviour prayed that His disciples might be one with Him as He is one with the Father. But the unity that is to exist between Christ and His followers does not destroy the personality of either. They are to be one with Him as He is one with the Father (The Review and Herald, June 1, 1905). 5BC 1148.2

[John 17:20-23 quoted.] What a wonderful statement! The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. In mind, in purpose, in character, they are one, but not in person. By partaking of the Spirit of God, conforming to the law of God, man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ brings His disciples into a living union with Himself and with the Father. Through the working of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind, man is made complete in Christ Jesus. Unity with Christ establishes a bond of unity with one another. This unity is the most convincing proof to the world of the majesty and virtue of Christ, and of His power to take away sin (Manuscript 111, 1903). 5BC 1148.3

24 (see EGW on ch. 20:16, 17). According to Covenant Promise—O, how the divine Head longed to have His church with Him! They had fellowship with Him in His suffering and humiliation, and it is His highest joy to have them with Him to be partakers of His glory. Christ claims the privilege of having His church with Him. “I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” To have them with Him is according to covenant promise and agreement with His Father (The Review and Herald, October 17, 1893). 5BC 1148.4