I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
These are the Words of Christ just before He goes to the cross. This is a prayer from God the Son to God the Father.
This is my favorite verse in my favorite Gospel in the NT.
These are, in my opinion, the most important Words spoken by Christ during His earthly ministry in all of Scripture.
And there are two reasons I have for believing this.
1) First of all, the fact that He speaks these words to His Father just before He goes to the cross is amazing to me. It is amazing because He has not yet done the final work He was sent by the Father to do, to die on the cross.
2) And that is the second thing that amazes me about this text. He uses the past tense verb of "having accomplished" the work. Yet on the cross we know that He says, "It is finished!" (John 19:30).
Jesus had not even gone to the cross yet, and still He says to the Father, "I glorified You on the earth (during His earthly ministry) having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do."
The question I find myself asking here is how can Jesus say that He has accomplished the work that the Father sent Him to do and yet He has not even physically died on the cross yet?
The answer I come to sends me into a glory-filled song of praise.
We cannot simply read isolated verses and have an accurate view of their meaning. We must read all Scripture in the context in which God placed it. Therefore John 17:4 is in a chapter of the Bible where Jesus is praying to His Father about the very specific work that He sent Jesus to do. And when Jesus does that work, God the Father is glorified.
The question is, what is the work which God the Father sent God the Son to accomplish? The answer allows us to see how He can say here that He has both accomplished the work and yet still says on the cross, "It is finished."
I believe that work is expressed best in John 17:12
While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.
Christ came to keep and guard those men which God the Father gave to Him. Look at how well He kept and guarded them.
"Not one of them perished."
And He only adds the "son of perdition" (the son of hell, Judas Iscariot) here because it was ordained for Christ to choose Judas to betray Him.
In other words, Christ kept all of those who were meant to be kept. He guarded all of those who were meant to be guarded. Not one person who God the Father elected for salvation perished under the watchful care of Jesus Christ. Not one.
In John 17:12 Jesus was only speaking about the eleven disciples, but those are not the only ones Christ was sent to keep and to guard and to pray for.
John 17:20 is proof of that fact:
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their Word;
Let me make something very clear here, "their word" is referring to the Word of God itself. The disciples were the first men commissioned by Christ to preach the true Gospel and many of them even wrote Scripture itself. Their Words were the Words that began the process of bringing salvation to men who would believe on Christ and be joined to the church.
Acts 2:41-43 is the first and most powerful example of that fact
So then, those who had received his word (the Word of God through the mouth of the Apostle Peter) were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
Added to what? Added to the first local church there in Jerusalem.
Back to John 17. Christ not only prayed for those eleven disciples before He went to the cross, but He also prayed for all the rest of those who would be saved and follow Him. He was praying at that moment for all of the elect children of God around the world who would ever come to faith in Him.
They will have the same care over them as the disciples had - the care of Christ. The result of that care will be the same as the disciples: "Not one of them will perish."
Here is where we come to the greatest truth in all of Scripture and why I love the Word of Jesus in John 17:4 so much.
None of the elect will perish because He was sent by God the Father to die for them, to substitute His life for theirs beneath the wrath of God, and He would send the Word of God to them.
When they hear the Word of God their hearts will be regenerated, they will believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and spend their entire life serving Him in their local church.
This is the beauty of the Doctrines of Grace. They hinge on one glorious fact - substitutionary atonement. All who God the Father sent Christ to die for, will come to Him and all who come to Him, He will not cast out and they will never perish!
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out...this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
This is the foundation of the Doctrines of Grace...A completely victorious Savior...why would we not glory in Him? He will have victory as the one who accomplished everything the Father sent Him to accomplish...He already has.
All that is left now is for Him to return and claim His prize!
In my next post I will summarize what the rest of the Doctrines of Grace teach and how the church is reformed by them.