God’s Name and God’s People – John 17:6-8

God’s Name and God’s People

Nick Esch, 7/29/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

John 17:6-8

Remember our context: Jesus is praying to the Father just a few hours before He will go to the cross. He began His prayer praying for glory; that He would be glorified in and through His death, resurrection, and ascension… And now He shifts from praying for Himself to praying for His disciples. First and foremost He’s praying for His eleven disciples there with Him, but what He prays applies not only to them, but to every true disciple since them… We can see this based off what He says in verse 20, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me…” The content of Jesus’ prayer in our passage today applies to every true believer…

Now, as Jesus begins His shift from praying for glory for Himself to praying for His people, He gives a grounds, or a purpose for why God should answer His prayers for His people… And that’s where our passage begins… Jesus says in the beginning of verse 6, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” So, the grounds for His coming prayer is the fact that He has manifested God’s name to His people… And if you know your Bible well, there might be some verses that immediately come to your mind when you hear that…

Psalm 22 is one of the clearest Messianic Psalms there is, telling of Jesus’ death for His people… He even quotes this Psalm on the cross when He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Well, in verse 22 of this Psalm it says, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you…” And that’s the idea here: Jesus manifests God’s name, He tells us of it, He reveals it, declares it, displays it, and makes it known… Now, to a Jewish audience, the name that would’ve immediately came to mind when they heard Jesus refer to the name of God, would’ve been Yahweh… Now the name Yahweh was typically never spoken out loud, except by the High Priest once a year… The original Hebrew text doesn’t have vowels, so originally it would’ve been spelled more like YHWH. But later on vowels came into the language, and Scribes took the vowels from the word Adonai, which means Lord, and put them together with YHWH, making it Yahweh; however, in Hebrew it isn’t quite as easy to pronounce… Actually, the goal when the scribes did this was to make it hard to say, so that it would not be uttered lightly… Most people in fact just said Adonai instead of Yahweh when they read the name of the Lord… But over the years, in an attempt to pronounce the word as written, Christians came up with the name Jehovah… But, most scholars agree that the name should be pronounced Yahweh…

So, some of you have heard the names Jehovah-Jireh, which means the Lord will provide; or, Jehovah-Rapha, which means the Lord heals; or like what Martin Luther wrote in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God: Lord Sabaoth, or Jehovah-Sabaoth, which means the Lord of hosts… Well, biblically you should say Yahweh-Yireh, or Yahweh-Rapha, or Yahweh-Sabaoth… Yahweh is the name that God gives Himself when Moses asks Him what His name is… He is the great I Am, He is Yahweh, He has always been and will always be… In Genesis 1:1, we’re told that in the beginning God created everything… The Hebrew word for God there is Elohim, referring to God as creator and ruler… But this is likewise brought out in the name Yahweh, especially as it is mixed with the vowels from the Hebrew word Adonai… When this word was translated into Greek they used the word κύριος, which means Lord… Because that’s whoGod is… And that’s who Jesus is… I mean, that’s the first thing John tells us in his Gospel; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14)… He is God, He is the Lord of creation: that’s the great name that Jesus manifests to us…

In the ancient world, the idea behind making someone’s name known was making their character and nature known… And Jesus did that in every way… He lived the perfect God-glorifying life, He was holy in every way, and He was also powerful over creation: life, death, sickness, health, animals, even the wind and sea obeyed Him… He had, He has power over them all… And as He exercised His authority over all with love and compassion, and justice and honor He displayed God’s character to the watching world… But, here He says that He manifested God’s name particularly to His people… What He’s referring to here is manifesting God’s name in a saving manner in and through the gospel… We see that He’s referring to this by a couple of things: 1) it’s only His people who see Him this way, and 2) He says in verse eight that His people have come to know the truth that He came from the Father… The idea being like what we read earlier in 1 Timothy 1:15, that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” In other words, Jesus has manifested the nature and character of God to His people in a special way, because we who have eyes to see, have seen the beauty of God’s infinite glory shine out in a mesmerizing way in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ… In Him, at the cross, God’s love and hatred meet, His mercy and wrath meet, His grace and His justice meet… At the cross, for God’s glory, and our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

In and through the person and work of Jesus we see the truth about who we are: sinners in desperate need of a Savior; and more importantly we see the truth about who God is: holy, righteous, and just, and loving, merciful, and gracious… We see that He’s infinitely glorious and infinitely lovely in every way… And if we really see that we see that He is why we exist, and that He is who our hearts truly desire… That’s what Jesus manifests to His people… In and through the power of the Holy Spirit, the, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [shines] in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6)… And when we see that light we flee the darkness and cling to Christ…

So this is what Jesus is getting at when He says that He has manifested God’s name to His people… Jesus has lived, died, rose again, and ascended on high so that the people whom the Father has given Him would come to know Him, love Him, and live for Him… This is why we read in Philippians that after Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross, God highly exalted Him, “and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11)… Lord—Adonai—Yahweh is the great name of Jesus that God has bestowed on Him… Why? Because of the gospel… Because of who Jesus is and what He has done to save His people and magnify the glory of God…

Well, who are these people whom Jesus manifests the name of God to? First we see that it’s people whom the Father gave to Jesus… But, in verse six Jesus says they were given out of the world. So these people were once a part of the world… In the Gospel according to John the world is often referred to as sinful broken people, who are by nature hostile to God… And that’s true here as well… And that’s true of all of us as well… We were born into this world wanting nothing to do with God… We were lost sinners heading down a path towards God’s eternal wrath… And that’s the same path that everyone who is not a Christian is still on…

Now look at what Jesus says next though; in the second sentence of verse six He says, “Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” So even though these people were once a part of the world, in some sense they still belonged to God… He says they were the Father’s… In one sense we know that everything and everyone belongs to God because He created us; He has sovereign Creator rights over us… He made us, therefore we should be living for Him… But we don’t… We are by nature a part of the world… We rebel against Him… And so, though we belong to Him we run from Him… What’s more, we actually try to dethrone Him and take His place in our lives… But this is why Jesus came; to save us from ourselves and our sin; to redeem us and to bring us back to God…

There’s an old illustration that I’m sure you’ve heard before that gets at the heart of this… There was a boy who really wanted a toy boat… He wanted it so badly that he worked hard, earned money, saved it up, bought the supplies he needed, and built himself one piece by piece. When he finished it he painted it just right, and even put his own special mark on it so he’d know it was his… Well, one day when a good rain came, he took it outside to play with it for the first time… He found a good spot on the side of the road where the water was flowing nicely and he let his boat go… And it went… It soared across the water… But it went so fast that it got away from him, and before he knew it his boat was lost… He searched and searched, but he never found it… Some days went by, and one day he walked past the window of a local hobby shop, and there in the window was his toy boat… His heart began to leap with joy as he ran inside and told the owner that the boat in the window actually belonged to him… He explained about his special mark he had put on the boat, but even so, the owner told him that the boat wasn’t free to him; he had purchased it, and if the boy wanted it he would have to buy it from him… So the boy went and work and earned and saved again, until he had enough to buy back his boat. When he picked up the boat from the store he brought it in close to him and said, now you’re twice mine… Once because I made you, and twice because I bought you… And beloved, this is the same truth being displayed to us here… We belonged to God, but we were lost at the fall… But God bought us with the blood of Jesus… And what’s more, here we’re told that we’re actually three times God’s because we were His before He even created us… We were His before the foundation of the world…

When Jesus says, “Yours they were, and you gave them to me,” He’s referring to the doctrine of election… That before the foundation of the world, God chose not only to create you, but knowing that you would rebel against Him, He chose to save you, all because He chose to love you… He looked at you in love in eternity past and said, “Even though they will sin against me, even though they will run from me, I will do everything necessary to bring them back to myself because I love them that much… I want them with me, I want them in my family that much, that I will even send my own Son to die for them…” And indeed He does… And this is why we also now know God by the name Father… For those who God has given to Jesus, Jesus not only manifests the name of Yahweh, but also the name Father… As John said in 1:18, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Jesus makes Him known, He manifests the Father to us… But not only that, but as 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” Jesus lives, dies, and rises again to bring us back into right relationship with the Father who has known us and loved us before the world existed… Because of Jesus people from every nation and generation, people from all over the world who were once a part of the world now know God as Father, instead of just Judge… The people whom God has given to Jesus, the people for whom Christ died are a definite people chosen in love out of the world before the foundation of the world… God knows those whom He gives to His Son…

But how do we know who these people are? How do we know if we are one of these people? Well, again, notice that Jesus said that the Father gave these people to Jesus out of the world; they have beheld the glory of God displayed in the person and work of Christ, and they have been called out of the world…. They are the called out ones, set apart for God to live for His glory… They have come to realize that Jesus came into the world to save people out of the world that they might live lives set apart from the world… Jesus, who is not of this world, came to the world to make those of this world other worldly… They are to be holy… God’s people follow Christ… That’s the key mark of the Christian… And we get further insight into what it looks like to follow Christ with what Jesus says next; He says, “they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” So, God’s people have beheld God’s name displayed by Christ, they have been called out of the world to live holy lives, and that means knowing God’s Word, receiving God’s Word, believing God’s Word, and keeping God’s Word… So let’s think about these last four for a bit…

What does Jesus mean when He says that God’s people know His Word? Well, the word know here means to recognize, understand, and is sometimes used to refer to someone knowing another intimately… And all of that is true of how God’s people know God’s Word. God has revealed Himself to us in and through Jesus, the incarnate Word, and the Bible, God’s written Word… And Christians know both… Now, we don’t have to be Bible scholars to be Christians, but, as God’s Word says, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)… Or as Peter puts it, Christians, “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23)… To become a Christian a person must encounter God’s Word, especially the gospel that it lays out… A Christian may not know everything, but they know the truth about who Jesus is and what He’s done…

When Christ first saved me, I had read very little of the Bible, and what I did read I barely understood; but what I knew for sure was that Jesus was real and that He was mighty to save… And I loved to tell as many people as I could that great truth… That Jesus saves sinners… And that if He can save me He can save anyone… This is one of the first great truths that every true believer comes to know… And this is at the heart of what the Bible is all about; God’s grand plan of redemption—the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ… Do you know this Word?

Now there are many who know this, but they do not receive it… They may be familiar with the gospel; perhaps they grew up going to church, or perhaps someone shared it with them at one time… This is likewise part of my story… I can think back to many different people at different times telling me that Jesus saves, but I thought they were fools… I did not receive what they were saying… I didn’t receive God’s Word… I heard it, but I didn’t hear it… I didn’t yet have ears to hear, until one day God broke my heart over my sin, and suddenly the gospel was the sweetest news that my sinful ears had ever heard… You see, it’s not enough just to know some facts, you have to be willing to embrace the gospel… You have to be willing to receive the message…

My family and I were once on the way to a friend’s house… I was following GPS, and it told me to go down a road I had never been down. We turned down this dirt road, and at the front of the road was a sign that said, “Road closed if it has rained recently…” Well, I saw that, but I didn’t receive it… You see, it had rained recently, but I kept on driving… It wasn’t until we were good and stuck in the mud that I began to receive the message… And that’s typically how it is with us and the gospel… It isn’t until we are deep in the mud and mire of our sin that we realize we need a Savior… Friends, don’t go there… Hear me now, Jesus saves… Trust Him now… Receive the good news of the gospel… That’s what all of God’s people do…

And to really receive God’s Word, we have to believe God’s Word… In fact, at this point, if a person has come to know and to receive God’s Word they are being transformed into a believer of God’s Word… That’s why we call Christians believers… It’s who we are… Our nature is so transformed by the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel, that we are now by nature believers… We believe the things of God. We believe God’s Word… We may not always understand it, we may not always like it, but we take Him at His Word nonetheless… And the type of belief that Jesus is speaking of here is a belief that goes down to the core of our being… We become people of conviction, not just people who believe some facts… The gospel message takes a hold of us and turns our life upside down…

True belief is what we call faith; and true faith is always accompanied by repentance… Repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart; it’s turning your back on your sin and turning your face to Jesus… It’s seeking to put sin to death and to pursue holiness all day, each and every day… It’s a way of life; it’s the Christian way of life… And we can see this in the last mark of God’s people here. God’s people know God’s Word, receive God’s Word, believe God’s Word, and (Jesus says) they keep God’s Word… Again, in the last part of verse 6, Jesus says, “Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” Notice that word is singular… When Jesus speaks of God’s teaching and commands He often describes them as His words, but when He says Word (singular) He’s typically referring to the great message of God’s Word: the gospel…

In the Greek it’s just one word that’s here being translated as they have kept… The idea is to keep watch, to guard, to store up, or to keep, or observe… And that’s the theme here—to keep in step with the gospel… To observe the gospel, and to keep watch over our lives and make sure they are in line with the gospel…  In Galatians Paul talks about having to rebuke Peter because his actions were not in step with the gospel… I love this because this is not in any way suggesting that our lives (in this age) are going to be perfect… Again, our lives should be marked by repentance… Repentance implies that we have sin in our life that we need to put to death… So this tells us that Christians are sinners… But, they are repentant sinners who are seeking to keep in step with the gospel… We keep God’s Word by seeking to conform to it more and more; by submitting our lives to it; and when we get out of line we repent… So, to keep God’s Word is speaking of obedience, but not perfection; it’s obedience to the gospel… And the whole reason the gospel is good news is because it’s for imperfect people… It’s the good news that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom we all are the foremost…

Conclusion

So, how do we know who God’s people are? Well, in one sense we don’t… We don’t know who God has chosen out of the world… We do know that Jesus died to ransom people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and generation… But, we don’t know who those people are… But we do know those people will see Jesus for who He is, and they will know God’s Word, receive God’s Word, believe God’s Word, and keep God’s Word: they will live holy lives… So, the way you can tell if you are a Christian, if you are one of the ones whom the Father has given to Jesus, is to see how your life lines up with God’s Word… It doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect, but it does mean that everything you are will be banking on everything Jesus is and has done… You will know Jesus as Lord and God as Father, and everything in your life will proclaim to the world around you, that you stand on Christ the solid Rock, and all other ground is seeking sand… Is that who you are?