“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”
(John 17:17 NKJV)
Only God’s word is absolute truth
The rules that govern the study of any document require the reader to know the subject, what the subject is doing, why he is doing it, and other pertinent facts. Applying these rules to John 17:17 yields powerful and edifying conclusions.
- The subject is Jesus—the lofty theme of John’s book. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
- The action is prayer. Jesus Himself is praying. This is one of many passages showing His exalted view of prayer.
- Each of the Lord’s prayers is edifying; this prayer is especially so. It reveals His chief concerns just hours before He goes to His crucifixion. If you were about to die, how would you pray? What would you ask for? Undoubtedly, your chief concern would include salvation, both your own and that of your loved ones.
- Jesus prays for salvation—not for Himself, for He was without sin—but for His disciples. They would experience a potentially faith-shaking tragedy as they watched their Lord die on a cross. He prays that they will weather this storm and succeed in the great commission He will give them.
- And, remarkably, He prays for us: “those who will believe on Him through their word,” v.20. “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me” (Cheyne). “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Our lives reveal how much this great blessing means to us.
- Jesus concludes this verse with the illuminating statement, “Your word is truth.” John has previously revealed that grace and truth come through Jesus (John 1:17). But what is truth? People answer in a variety of ways: truth is what we think, what society says, what the majority believes, or what church scholars teach. Many search for truth in dreams, visions, or personal experiences. All such subjective, contradictory opinions cannot rise above their source: mere man himself. Jesus denies each of these counterfeits when He proclaims, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). The Lord warns His listeners against blindly following the blind (15:14). It does matter what we believe.
- Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When He says, “Your word is truth” (17:17), He reveals the source of truth once and for all. God’s word alone can set us free from sin. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32). Only God’s word is absolute truth, and as such, it is the only way to salvation and sanctification.
– Rick Duggin