Today's Devotions

Showcase: Assorted Treats

  • Transforming this World: The Hope of Glory by NT Wright +

    Wright confronts the perspective that this world doesn’t matter, and that we live only to be in heaven. He shows Read More
  • Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire +

    It is doubtful if, in 1972, those attending one of Jim Cymbala's worship services in a run-down Brooklyn church imagined Read More
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Don  Carson

2 Chronicles 32; Revelation 18; Zechariah 14; John 17

FROM TIME TO TIME IN THESE two volumes I have drawn attention to the fact that the way a biblical writer uses a word may not be the same way we use it. The serious reader of the Bible will then want to take special pains to avoid reading into the Bible what it does not say.

On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus prayed for his followers in these terms: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:17-19). Observe:

First, this side of the Reformation “sanctification” usually refers to the gradual growth in grace that flows out of conversion. In justification God declares us to be just, on account of the sacrifice that his Son has offered up on our behalf; in sanctification, God continues to work in us to make us more and more holy, “sanctified,” maturing into conformity with Jesus Christ. There is nothing wrong with talking like that: in the domain of systematic theology, the categories are reasonably clear. And after all, whether or not the word “sanctification” is used, there are plenty of passages that depict this sort of growth in grace (e.g., Phil. 3:10ff.).

Second, that sort of use of “sanctification” makes little sense of John 17:19. When Jesus says that for the sake of his disciples “I sanctify myself,” he does not mean that for their sakes he becomes more holy than he was, a little more mature and consistent perhaps. Rather, in the light of John’s closing chapters, he means that he totally devotes himself to his Father’s will—and God’s will is that Jesus go to the cross. Jesus is entirely reserved for what the Father wants; he sanctifies himself.

Third, Jesus’ purpose in such obedience is that his disciples “may be truly sanctified” (John 17:19). Because of Jesus’ self-sanctification he goes to the cross and dies for his own; in consequence of this cross-work, his disciples are truly “sanctified,” i.e., set aside for God. This sounds like what systematicians call “positional sanctification”: the focus is not on growing conformity to God, but on the transformation of one’s position before God owing to Jesus’ decisive atonement.

Fourth, what Jesus asks for in his prayer is that his Father “sanctify” his disciples by the truth, i.e., by his word which is truth (John 17:17). He may simply be asking that they be decisively “sanctified” by the truth of the Gospel. But if an experiential, long-term dimension is also in view, this passage tells us how to become more “sanctified”—in line with Psalm 1:2119:109111.

Reflections to Consider

  • Corporate Spirituality

    Encouragement, Accountability, and Worship Solitude, community and ministry are three areas requiring balance and integration in the Christian walk. The Read More
  • Companion of the Souls

    When the two disciples recognised Jesus as he broke the bread for them in their house in Emmaus, he "vanished Read More
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Publications

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Music

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Audio & Video

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Favorites

  • Transforming this World: The Hope of Glory by NT Wright +

    Wright confronts the perspective that this world doesn’t matter, and that we live only to be in heaven. He shows Read More
  • What is Good in a World that Defies Hope: a talk by NT Wright +

    This is the second part of three talks by NT Wright at Harvard University in November, 2008 on the topic Read More
  • The Stream, the Lake and the River: NT Wright +

      Acts 2.1-21; John 7.37-39; a sermon at the Eucharist on the Feast of Pentecost, 11 May 2008, by the Read More
  • Jesus in the Perfect Storm by NT Wright +

    Zechariah 9.9-17; Luke 19.28-48; A sermon for Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011, In the University Chapel of St Salvator, St Read More
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Hidden Blessings

  • Warfare Spirituality +

    The Trinity function as farmers of our souls, actively caring for God’s creation: an ongoing, radical reclamation of His creation. Read More
  • You are free +

    The Jesus who calmed a sea of deadly, stormy waves, whose arrival sent thousands of demons cringing and cowering to Read More
  • Deliver us from Evil +

    Spiritual warfare is something that few Christians, regardless of their denomination, are accustomed to thinking about, let alone engaging in. Read More
  • Baby, you're a rich man! +

    The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is Read More
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