This wonderful portion of Scripture is a prayer Jesus prayed just after explaining once again about his leaving the disciples, his authority over the world, the coming Holy Spirit, and just before his death on a cross.
There are many wonderful truths here that are often overlooked. I want to share my understanding of a few of them.
There is only one method, one plan for world evangelism.
As Jesus was praying he said
“they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:8b-9)
God so loved the “world“. Christ died for the sins of the “world“. And yet, in one of his last prayers on earth Jesus plainly stated
“I am not praying for the world..”
Without question he loves the people of the world so why would he not pray for them, and even say it in such a public way that today it remains a record of the sacred Text?
This is why,
“I am praying for them (those who had believed), “those you have given me, for they are yours.”
God has but one plan to reach the whole world with the good news. It is the church. It is those who have believed who will spread the message to every tribe and tongue. In Matthew 28 when Jesus gave the great commission he said
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18b-19a)
Here we can ask “What is the therefore there for?” Christians can go into a hostile world, right in the midst of Satan’s stronghold, and make disciples because Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth“. And he has passed on that authority through the agency of the Holy Spirit in and upon the believer’s life.
Just before his ascension into heaven Jesus told his followers
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
When the Holy Spirit anointing comes there is a transfer of power and authority to the one who has believed and waited on the Lord. God has no other plan, it is up to you and me and our brothers and sisters of every age who have put our trust in Jesus. But not really. I am not that dependable and neither are you, but God is faithful! Jesus said “I will build my church…” and the devil and hell can’t stop Him.
Nothing will thwart God’s plan to reach the world with the gospel. Those who have not yet heard are in good hands. God uses an inspired and all-powerful message (the gospel) given by the mouths of imperfect saints who are empowered by the Holy Spirit and out of the listeners those whom God has chosen will believe.
Jesus prayed for those who belonged to God, to Him. He did not pray for the world. Their salvation is complete because of His perfect obedience and sacrifice. They can have life because He ever lives. They only need to know it.
I suggest we get in on God’s plan and chunk our own upon the heap of human failure. The focus is never on a plan or a program. It is always about an empowered people. So, may I suggest then that we too pray for the church, for our brothers and sisters, at least more than we do for the lost. God’s way is always best.