Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.
I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.

The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one–I in them and you in me–that they may be completely one, so that the world may know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, even if the world does not know you, I know you, and these men know that you sent me.

 I made known your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them, and I may be in them.” (John 17:17-26)

These wonderful verses form a fitting conclusion of the most wonderful prayer that was ever prayed on earth–the last Lord’s prayer after the first Lord’s Supper. They contain three most important petitions which our Lord offered up in behalf of His disciples. On these three petitions let us fix our attention.

Passing by all other things in the passage, let us look steadily at these three points[; here we focus on the first]. We should mark, first, how Jesus prays that His people may be sanctified. “Sanctify them,” He says, “through your truth–Your word is truth.” We need not doubt that, in this place at any rate, the word “sanctify” means “make holy.”

It is a prayer that the Father would make His people more holy, more spiritual, more pure, more saintly in thought and word and deed, in life and character. Grace had done something for the disciples already–called, converted, renewed, and changed them. The great Head of the Church prays that the work of grace may be carried higher and further, and that His people may be more thoroughly sanctified and made holy in body, soul, and spirit–in fact more like Himself.

Surely we need not say much to show the matchless wisdom of this prayer. More holiness is the very thing to be desired for all servants of Christ. Holy living is the great proof of the reality of Christianity. Men may refuse to see the truth of our arguments, but they cannot evade the evidence of a godly life.

Such a life adorns religion and makes it beautiful, and sometimes wins those who are not “won by the Word.” Holy living trains Christians for heaven. The nearer we live to God while we live, the more ready shall we be to dwell forever in His presence when we die. Our entrance into heaven will be entirely by grace, and not of works; but heaven itself would be no heaven to us if we entered it with an unsanctified character.

Our hearts must be in tune for heaven if we are to enjoy it. There must be a moral “fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light,” as well as a title. Christ’s blood alone can give us a title to enter the inheritance. Sanctification must give us a capacity to enjoy it. Who, in the face of such facts as these, need wonder that increased sanctification should be the first thing that Jesus asks for His people?

Who that is really taught of God can fail to know that holiness is happiness, and that those who walk with God most closely, are always those who walk with Him most comfortably? Let no man deceive us with vain words in this matter. He who despises holiness and neglects good works, under the vain pretense of giving honor to justification by faith, shows plainly that he has not the mind of Christ.[1]

J. C. Ryle

End notes:

[1] J. C. Ryle. Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (Kindle Locations 34239-34268). Monergism Books.

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