Jesus asks the Father to keep us from the evil one

We have a question about the prayer of our Lord in John 17:15-16. The question is shared with us by Christservant:

Peace and Love of Christ be with you, dear brother!

(John 17:15-16) “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil {one.} They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

In the above verse, the Lord Jesus is asking God the Father to protect the believers from the evil one in this world. What did Jesus exactly mean by that? How can God protect the believers while they remain in this world? Does God protect them from persecutions, from temptations or from not falling? Sometimes, believers feel they are forced to compromise in order to survive in this world. Does God still protect them when they fall and compromise?

The Lord bless you,

Thank you for your question. You are a big encouragement for the saints with your love for God’s Word and your thirst for righteousness.

Well, these two verses that you quoted above are part of the prayer of the Lord in John 17. There, the Lord first asks the Father to glorify the Son who gives eternal life to the true believers, and then He prays for those true believers who are His disciples, whom He has sanctified from the world by the truth of His Word. So the main thing to keep in mind while studying this passage is that Jesus is not asking for the worldly people here, but for those who are separated from the world and sanctified to God by faith (see John 17:9).

Now, if we take the passage and clarify what the Lord is asking the Father, the answers to your questions will be clear. So let’s study in a brief way this passage which of course can be studied in more details in other posts, if the Lord wills. The Gospel according to John is a very rich Gospel Book, and we may learn all the truths that are in the Bible by studying it.

Let’s first take verses 2 and 3:

“as thou hast given him authority over all flesh, that [as to] all that thou hast given to him, he should give them life eternal. And this is the eternal life, that they should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:2-3)

Eternal life is the true knowledge of God. Those who are truly saved know God personally in Jesus Christ, and they do not only know about Him. This personal knowledge of God means that true believers have a true relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and that they walk in the light and in love:

” Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
(1 John 4:7-8)

Then the clear fact is that Jesus says that eternal life is this knowledge of God, i.e. being born of God. Only those who are born of God really know God personally. And this new nature that God gives in new birth is a nature of love, and whoever does not have this nature of love is not born of God and does not know God, even if he has studied theology and knows all the Christian doctrines very well. Without love, we are nothing, for God is love. This of course is the Love of God, and not the carnal emotions or affections that the world has in mind when using the word “love”.

So this is the new nature of love by which we become partakers of the divine Nature:

“As his divine power has given to us all things which relate to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us by glory and virtue, through which he has given to us the greatest and precious promises, that through these ye may become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

So the true knowledge of God implies life and godliness. This is the eternal life, that we may know God through the Son. And thus we are partakers of the divine Nature of love, as we are separated from the world and from its lust; we have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

You see how the Word of God explains itself. What I have quoted above is the explanation of what Jesus meant when He said that eternal life is to know God through the Son whom He sent. Jesus is speaking about a life of sanctification and holiness in love.

And then the Lord says in His prayer:

“I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world. They were thine, and thou gavest them me, and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things that thou hast given me are of thee; for the words which thou hast given me I have given them, and they have received [them], and have known truly that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou sentest me. I demand concerning them; I do not demand concerning the world, but concerning those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine, (and all that is mine is thine, and [all] that is thine mine,) and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:6-10)

You see in this passage that the true believers are given from the Father to the Son by faith in the truth, in His Word. This Word separates them from the world, as it is the seed by which we are born again:

“being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by [the] living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

And of course the Apostle relates this new birth with the truth and with love, just as His Lord did it in His prayer that we are studying:

“Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth to unfeigned brotherly love, love one another out of a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22)

And the Word of God is the Sword of truth that applies the blood of Christ on believers and thus separates them from all what is worldly by crucifying the world to them and by crucifying them to the world:

The Sword of truth: “Repent therefore: but if not, I come to thee quickly, and I will make war with them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)

Crucified to the world: “But far be it from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom [the] world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:26).

And the Lord our High Priest continues His prayer:

“And I am no longer in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name which thou hast given me, that they may be one as we.” (John 17:11)

And here, the Lord explains how the Father will keep His true disciples: that they may be one as the Father and the Son. The Father will keep us in unity, as one body, the body of Christ. And this is indeed what we have seen above. Let’s see how:

We are one body as children of God by the new birth: In John 17:11, the Lord asks the Father to keep us in His Name so that we may be one. The Name of God is His Nature. As we have seen above, we have become partakers of the divine Nature by sanctification and separation from the world. In this Name, the Father keeps us as one body, the Church of Christ. Whoever is not born of God is not part of this one body. Now, worldly nominal Christians who do not understand these things tell you to pray so that the Church may become one, as if the Church is not one. Satan has deceived them to think that the Father did not answer the prayer of our Lord in John 17… Satan deceived them by the apparent divisions in the visible Church, and they thought that these divisions are also true about the invisible body of Christ. The Lord Jesus is talking here about His invisible body, His Church that is formed of all those who are born of God and are separated from the world, as we have seen above. And this Church of Christ is one. It became one on the Day of Pentecost, just as the Lord prayed. On the Day of Pentecost, the Lord baptized the whole Church into one body with the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:13), and thus the prayer of our Lord was answered. This baptism with the Holy Spirit happened once for all on the Day of Pentecost, and now all those who are born of God become part of this one body of Christ by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (for more details about this, please click here). Now, if anyone is born of God and thus he’s a member of the body of Christ, the Father keeps him so that he may never fall from Grace and thus the body of Christ may never lose any of its members. Once again, I remind you that we’re talking about the invisible Church here. It is very important that we always think about believers as one body, and not as individuals, because God talks about them as one body. If any member is attacked by Satan the whole body is attacked. And as Jesus prayed that we may be kept as one body, so we have the promise that no true member of Christ will be lost, as the Father keeps all the members of this body against the attacks of the evil one. In other terms, those who are born of God will never fall in worldliness again. They may do errors and they may fall in sins, but they will not continue in sin and they will not fall from Grace. Their life will not be characterized by worldliness, as the Father keeps them in His Name, i.e. as partakers of the divine Nature through sanctification and separation from the world.

Love is the bond of this unity in Christ: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:14) We have seen above that this new nature is the nature of love. This love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us (see Galatians 5:22). And indeed, God has sealed us with the Spirit of promise when we were born again (see Ephesians 1:13, 4:30), and thus we are eternally secure in His love, so we know that He will give us to persevere in His Grace in faith until the end and thus inherit the promises. He has sealed us, and so we are His own, just as Jesus says in His prayer in John 17. The Father keeps us in this love, the Love of Christ, so that we may never fall from Grace. As we read above: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8) Thus we are kept in the Name of God, in love.

In brief, in John 17:11 the Lord asks the Father to keep us sanctified in His name in holiness to the end, so that we may persevere in faith and love to the end. Notice that He calls the Father “Holy Father” in this verse, as He is asking Him something that is related to sanctification and separation from the world in relation to His Name: the Nature of the Father is Holy, and He keeps us in this Name in sanctification and separation from the world.

You notice of course that the nominal Christians who think that the Church is not one think also that a true believer may fall from Grace and fail to persevere to the end. And actually, these two things are related, as we have seen above: If you don’t understand the nature of the unity of Christ’s body, how can you understand how the Father keeps us sanctified in this one body to the end?

And indeed the Lord clarifies these things in the next words of His prayer:

“When I was with them I kept them in thy name; those thou hast given me I have guarded, and not one of them has perished, but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)

After a few lines we will see a clear example of how Jesus keeps His true disciples so that none of them perishes. But let us first remark what he says about Judas Iscariot. He calls him “the son of perdition”. As he was the son of perdition, and so he was not a child of God, therefore he was lost. There is no promise that God will keep the unbelievers from the evil one, even if they claim to be believers. And indeed, we read that “Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve.” (Luke 22:3) Judas was not born of God, he was a son of perdition, and so he was not protected against the evil one. On the other hand, you see what happened to Peter. The Lord told him before he denied Him that he would deny Him, and He said: “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32) Oh, what a beautiful assurance! Just as He said in His prayer, the Lord kept His true disciples. As Peter was a true disciple, the Lord assured him that he will not fall away like Judas and that his faith will not fail. Those who never knew what living faith is think that we should not rely on the promises of God concerning the perseverance of true believers to the end, as they think this will encourage lawlessness and a life in sin. And yet, Jesus has something else to say: He promised Peter that he will not be lost even before he denied Him! And this promise made Peter persevere, as he kept believing in the Lord’s promise. How can you persevere if you don’t have the sure promise of the Lord on which you can rely by faith? And when the Jews came with soldiers to arrest Jesus, they were about to arrest the disciples also, and “Jesus answered, I told you that I am [he]: if therefore ye seek me, let these go away; that the word might be fulfilled which he spoke, [As to] those whom thou hast given me, I have not lost one of them. (John 18:8-9) We read this promise in John 17:12. He said that He would not lose any of those whom the Father has given Him. Here, the main fear was not that the disciples would be arrested and maybe killed. The fear was that they would even fall away from faith if they were arrested, as they were not prepared. We see them hiding after the death of Christ; we see them lacking faith in the resurrection; we see them spiritually weak. What would happen if they were arrested before they saw the risen Lord? The Lord didn’t allow that to happen. You see that Jesus is in control, even when we think He’s weak as He was being arrested! He didn’t allow them to arrest His disciples. But later when they were ready, He allowed that, and we see how they overcame by faith (see the Book of Acts, especially Acts 4:1-22 and 5:25-42). And the Father kept them, just as the Lord asked, and they were not lost (see for example Acts 12:1-12). We thank the Lord that He keeps us from all circumstances that would surely make our faith fail, and thus we persevere to the end. We have the sure promise for that (read the promises of perseverance in passages like John 10:27-30, Jude 24, etc.) Peter who has experienced very much the faithfulness of the Lord in this promise, especially when he denied the Lord, told us that we “are kept guarded by [the] power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in [the] last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) Satan does everything he can to deceive people, and even the elect children of God if it were possible (see Matthew 24:24), but it is not possible with the elect, as God promised to keep them in His Name. God even shortened the days of tribulation for the sake of the elect (see Matthew 24:22)! God warns us in the Bible against the attacks of Satan, and by these warnings themselves He keeps us against those attacks as we believe and obey (Read some of these warnings in 1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:10-20, Hebrews 6:4-8, Hebrews 10:26-31, etc.) True believers listen to these warnings and obey them carefully, and thus they work out their Salvation with fear and trembling, as it is God who is at work in them to will and to work for His good pleasure (see Philippians 2:12-13). While false believers are careless, and they are lost.

And the Lord continues in His prayer:

“And now I come to thee. And these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in them.” (John 17:13)

Before He goes, He gives us the promises by which we have His joy as we believe the promises. As the Lord was leaving His disciples to return to the Father, the disciples would fear to be left orphans (see John 14:18). The Lord assured them that the Father would continue to keep them even after He leaves them, and that the Father and He are one. This gives them joy, as it means that Jesus is the Omnipotent God who will overcome death and come back to them:

“And ye now therefore have grief; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one takes from you.” (John 16:22)

And then the Lord says:

“I have given them thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)

Once again, we see what we have studied above: By the seed of the Spirit, i.e. by the Word of God, we are born of God, and we are thus separated from the world, and we have become partakers of the divine Nature, which means that by nature we are not of the world anymore. We are children of God and by nature we have nothing in common with the sinful worldly system. Therefore the world hates us, as we are not of the world and we are the light of the Lord in this world (see Matthew 5:14), this light of holiness that the world hates:

“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:19)

Our walk in holiness is a conviction for the conscience of the worldly people, and so they hate us. As the world hates us, it will persecute us. And in this we should rejoice, as we have the promises of God for those who are in Christ:

“Blessed they who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are ye when they may reproach and persecute you, and say every wicked thing against you, lying, for my sake. Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens; for thus have they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

The children of God are persecuted on account of righteousness and for the sake of Jesus.

And the Lord continues and reaches the words that you quoted in your question:

“I do not demand that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them out of evil. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15-16)

As we have seen above, the Lord has separated us from the world and He has sanctified us to God by the truth of His Word. And by this same truth He sanctifies us more and more each day. This is what He says in the next verse: “Sanctify them by the truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) So we are not of the world anymore and by nature we have nothing in common with the world. On the contrary, the world hates us and persecutes us. But the Lord does not demand that we should be taken out of the world, as we are the light of this world and the salt of this earth, so we are to be the witnesses of the Lord and of His truth in this world by walking in the light and being separated from the world and the kingdom of darkness:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
(Matthew 5:13-16)

This earth is tasteless and needs salt, just as your meal needs salt, and the true believers are this salt. This world is so dark that it needs light, and the true believers are this light of the Lord in this world. Now, if the salt becomes tasteless, it is no longer good for anything. But true salt does not become tasteless. The Lord keeps true believers from worldliness so that they may not fall from Grace and thus become tasteless, as we have seen above. If the light is hidden, it is not good for anything, as men cannot see light and the darkness stays. But those who are truly children of light will continue in God’s light, and they will never fall from the Light, and they will thus shine before men and lead them to the truth.

So, as Jesus is leaving the world, He leaves here His people who are not of the world, just as He is not of the world. They are in the world, but not of the world. They are “a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9)

As  “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and as it hates us, so we will be persecuted and forced to deny the Lord and to walk in worldliness. “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you (1 Peter 4:4). But Jesus asked the Lord to keep us from the evil one, so we will never fall from Grace and we will never live in worldliness, and thus we will continue to shine in this world and to be the salt of this earth.

So the nature of true believers is exactly the opposite of the world. We are not of this world JUST AS Jesus is not. We are partakers of His divine Nature. So BY NATURE we hate to compromise with the world. A true believer will never consider sinning as an option when persecuted. If he does, he proves to be a false one. I quote something we have seen in our study of Hebrews 6:4-6:

Well, just like all the Christian communities, these Hebrews were persecuted. The true believers among them “both sympathised with prisoners and accepted with joy the plunder of” their “goods, knowing that” they “have for” themselves “a better substance, and an abiding one.” (Hebrews 10:34) For our Lord clearly said that no one can truly be His disciple if he doesn’t give up all his own possessions and is still attached to the world (read Luke 14:26-35). There were also others who were very well convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, and yet they were under the danger of denying Him under the pressure of persecution, as they had not really cut their attachment to the world and to the legalistic way of thinking. So in the case of persecution, you have two general possibilities: 1. Christians who stay firm, never denying the Lord and bearing all the heat of persecution with the joy of the Holy Spirit; 2. Other Christians who deny the Lord. In this second group, you may find Peters and Judases… In other terms, in this second group, there are people who in a moment of weakness and under the danger of death or big loss will deny the Lord, but their heart is still with Him, and they will quickly repent of what they did and sincerely ask the Lord to forgive them, relying only on His love revealed on the cross, just as Peter did. Others will deny Jesus as they already do not really have a saving faith in Him, and they will fall away and never really repent. The first question that may come to one’s mind would be: “Then why should I bear the persecution? I just deny the Lord under the pressure, and then repent like Peter, and the Lord will forgive me and all will be well with me!” The trap here is that as soon as one says this in his heart, he has fallen in the sin of apostasy and has denied faith, proving that he never really believed in Jesus with a saving faith. Why? Because a real child of God NEVER thinks like this. Sin and denial of the Lord are not possible options for a true Christian. If someone thinks sin is a possible option of escape for him, then his repentance is not true, and he will continue in denial and never really turn back to the Lord with true repentance; and this is what happened with Judas, as we all know. Indeed, this is the sin against the Holy Spirit, the sin of refusing to truly believe and repent, although we know with our mind for sure that this is the truth that the Holy Spirit is telling us!

In brief, a main topic of the Epistle to the Hebrews is: the perseverance of the true believers. In other terms, those who are real ones will surely persevere in faith until the end, or else they prove to be false ones and are never saved.

By nature we are not of this world. As we are dead to sin with Christ, then sin is not an option for us anymore, although we know that we are saved by Grace alone and that Jesus forgives sinning Peters (Please, read Romans 6). All is explained in the passage that I quoted above from our study of Hebrews 6:4-6. False believers ask “how much we can go close to sin and still be OK with God?” The answer is: “If you think like that, you’re still not OK with God!” A true child of God thinks like this: “How much I still need to go in righteousness, as I am God’s child and I love righteousness and I hate sin?” The answer is: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) You should seek holiness and righteousness like a hungry man seeks bread and like a thirsty man seeks water! If you do that you will be satisfied. If you don’t, then there is no promise that you will be satisfied and that you will be OK with God, but on the contrary there is a warning that the wrath of God will remain on you! So let each one of us examine himself to see if he is in Faith.

So, taking your question:

“Sometimes, believers feel they are forced to compromise in order to survive in this world. Does God still protect them when they fall and compromise?”

Answer: Yes and no. If they consider sin a light thing and an option when persecuted, then there is no forgiveness. But if they truly repent, they prove that they hate sin and are not of this world, just as was the case with Peter, and the Lord forgives them on the basis of what He did for them on the cross, and not on the basis of their righteousness. So let’s make sure not to consider sin a possible option for us when we are under the pressure of persecution or we are threatened with death if we don’t compromise. That’s why we pray: “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13) Those who are truly children of light truly pray this prayer, while false believers just pray it legalistically or formalistically.

The rest of the questions were answered in our study above, as you can see. We overcome the evil one by faith, as we are born of God by faith in the Name of Jesus Christ the Savior Lord (see 1 John 2:13-14 and 1 John 5:4 — Notice that he says “has overcome” and “have overcome”, as the victory is in the work of Christ that was finished on the cross and as the Lord is risen! I encourage you to read the whole First Epistle of John, as it explains in details what it means to be protected against the evil one and to overcome him by faith.)

We thank the Lord for keeping us in His Name. Amen.

Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ

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One Response to Jesus asks the Father to keep us from the evil one

  1. Dear brother,

    I thank the Lord for your reply who has helped a lot in understanding the deep meaning of that verse in its context.

    May the Lord keep blessing you in all the work you do in His field and may He continue to use this site for His glory and to bring more people to the Light.

    Thank you for your continuous support and willingness to preach and teach His Word with so much Love.

    In Christ’s Love,

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