Archive for the ‘John 17:9’ Category


Nathaniel Holmes (1599-1678) on John 17:9

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


And therefore when men urge that argument out of John 17:9. Christ “PRAYED not for the world,” therefore he PAID not for the world; there are many considerable things may be replied unto.

For the consequence may be excepted against upon many good reasons. For though Christ did not pray for the world, yet he might pay for the world. Because this paying is a more general or common act, of satisfaction; his praying a more special and choice act of intercession: so that though both acts agree in this, that they be acts of Christ’s Priesthood, yet in other respects are widely distinguishable. 1. Paying, that is, giving satisfaction, does properly give content to God’s Justice (as hath been shown) Praying, that is, intercession, doth solicit God’s mercy. 2. This paying satisfaction contains a preparation of the plaster of potion necessary for man’s salvation; But praying by way of intercession, is the means of application of that remedy to the malady. 3. The paying satisfaction belongs to the common nature of mankind which Christ assumes: when as praying intercession is a special privilege vouchsafed to such particular persons only as the Father hath given to his Son Christ.

And therefore I think we may safely conclude from all these premises, That the Lamb of God offering up himself (clothed with human nature) a sacrifice for the sins of the world, intended by giving satisfaction sufficiently to God’s Justice, to make the nature of man (which he assumed) saveable, a fit subject for mercy, and to prepare a sovereign medicine for the sins of the whole world, which should be denied to none that mind to take the benefit thereof; howsoever he intended not, by applying this all-sufficient sacrifice, or satisfaction to every one in particular, to make it effectual unto the salvation of all, or to procure thereby, at the hands of the Father, actual pardon for the sins of the whole world. He applies this only effectually to them who making claim to the satisfaction, by promise, suing for the spirit and faith upon other promises, in prayer waiting for a gracious return until they have it. So that in one respect Christ may be said to die for all; and in another respect, not to die for all. Yet so as in respect of his merit, he may be accounted a kind of universal cause of the restoring of our nature, as Adam was the depraving of it.

Nathanael Homes, “Christ’s offering himself to all Sinners, and Answering all their Objection,” in The Works of Dr. Nathanael Homes (London: Printed for the Author, 1651), 15. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]


1Holmes’ name was sometimes spelled Homes, as on the title page of this work. For our purposes here, I will refer to the normal spelling of his name, but for citation purposes adhere to the variant spelling on the title page.


Harold Dekker (1918-2006) on John 17:9

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


A word should be said about Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Some correspondents5 have cited verse 9, where Jesus says, “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me; for they are thine,” to prove that Christ loved only the elect and not the world. But does it? Whom did Jesus designate by the words "those whom thou hast given me"? The elect? This is forced exegesis. The entire context, beginning with verse 4, makes it clear that those to whom Jesus referred in verse 9 are those who had come to believe in Him at that time, the actual persons whom the Father had given to Jesus in His earthly ministry up to that point, the ones of whom He said in verse 9. that they had received and believed His words. This interpretation is also supported by verse 20, where Jesus says, “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word.” Evidently right within the same prayer Jesus prayed not only for the limited number who were in view in verse 8, but also for the many who later would come through their word to share their faith.

What, then, did Jesus mean when He said, "I pray not for the world?" In the light of the foregoing, the explanation seems obvious. Surely Jesus did not mean that He did not love the world and under no circumstances would pray for it. We must observe that it was a certain prayer, with specific petitions, which He offered for those whom the Father had given Him, and which He declared He did not offer for the world. What were these specific petitions which He prayed? Chiefly that those who had come to believe in Him would be faithful, joyful, kept from the evil one, sanctified in the truth, and unified with those who would later come to believe through them. Would there have been any point in Jesus praying these things for the unconverted world? Certainly not. That He did not do so proves nothing about His disposition to the world, not even at that moment. He was simply praying in terms of the unique relationship which existed between Himself and His disciples, a relationship which the world did not share. Neither, therefore, could the world share in Jesus’ prayer for the development and fruition of this particular relationship. However, in verses 21 and 23, part of the same prayer, Jesus did indeed pray for the world, He prayed the very thing which was alone appropriate to the world. He prayed that the world might believe–the same world about which John 3:16 teaches us that God loved it with a redemptive love, nothing less than the world of all men. To use the high-priestly prayer of Christ in John 17 as an argument for limitation in divine redemptive love is, it seems to me, clearly to misuse it.

Harold Dekker, “God’s Love to Sinners–One or Two?,” Reformed Journal 13 (March 1963), 14-15. [Footnote value and content original, and underlining mine.]

Credit to Tony for the find.


5See Mr. Jack Arens’s letter in the January Reformed Journal and Rev. P. DeJong’s in this issue.


Ralph Wardlaw (1779-1853) on John 17:9

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


[2.] Inconsistency and absurdity are introduced into the statements of the sacred writers by the very means intended to explain and harmonize them. The proposed supplement, in some cases, produces neither more nor less than sheer nonsense. And yet I have heard such texts cited with the supplement, with all the tones of devout orthodoxy, without the least apparent consciousness of the insult thus put upon the Spirit of truth. To give you an example or two. I have heard the words quoted:–"God so loved an elect world," etc.1 Now surely by no one possessing even ordinary understanding will it be questioned that in the sentence the word "whosoever " (pas ho, every one who) has less extent of meaning than the more comprehensive word "the world" which precedes it. It restricts and limits the comprehensive term, signifying evidently "whosoever of the world." Suppose, then, the supplement admitted, and the world to mean the world of the elect, or, more briefly and simply, "the elect," see what kind of statement we have got: "God so loved the elect, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever" (of the elect) "believes on Him," etc. This is absurdity.

The same may be said of another passage:2"I pray not for the world," etc.; yet, in the latter, Arminians allege He does pray for the world: "That they all may be one," etc.; "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Now, without taking up at present the object of the Arminians in this, I wish it to be considered what some Calvinists have said in reply. They have actually understood "the world," in this last occurrence of it, as meaning the elect, God’s chosen people of all nations; and the petition as a prayer that they might all of them, in successive generations, be brought to the knowledge and faith of His name! In this way, it is alleged, the two verses are at once reconciled. And so, it must be admitted, they are. But the reconciliation is effected even still more than in the preceding case, at the expense of all fair and sound criticism, by making the same term express first one thing, repeatedly and in direct and specific distinction from another; and then, all at once, and without warning, to mean the very thing from which it had been distinguished, and that not only in remote parts of the prayer, but in the very same sentence! "The world" is used in express discrimination from the people of God;3 and in the very verse in question the distinction is marked: "That they also may be one in us, that the world may believe," etc. And that "they all" does not mean the proportion of the elect then, or at any time, existing, as the means, by their union, of bringing the remainder in succession to the belief of the truth, is evident from the preceding verse, where the Redeemer expresses the comprehensiveness of His petition as including all His people prospectively to the end of time:–"Neither pray I for these alone," etc. Thus the world is clearly distinguished from them all. So that this extraordinary principle of interpretation makes those whose union was to be the means of conviction, and the world who were to be convinced by it, one and the same.

But there is not the least occasion for having recourse to a process so anomalous. The principle of interpretation is simple. In the explanation just given, and others of a similar character, it is assumed that the phrase, "that the world may believe," can have no other sense than that every individual in the world should be brought, in actual result, to true and saving faith. But the meaning seems sufficiently simple. The prayer is for the unity of His disciples. Things are spoken of according to their proper tendencies. And this unity is sought, as an evidence to the world of His divine mission. That is all. The tendency of all evidence is to produce conviction. And in all cases, the general design of every person by whom evidence is presented, must be the same; corresponding with the tendency. It must be to convince. Such is the tendency, and such we are warranted to consider as the design, of all the evidence of the Gospel, or of the divine mission of Jesus and the truth of His doctrines. The petition under consideration is framed, in the expression of it, upon this simple principle; signifying no more than that in the union and mutual love of His disciples, the world might have evidence of the truth, such as, whether the effect actually resulted or not, should tend to the production of faith, that is, to the conviction of His having come from God. And there are other cases in which the application of the same simple principle is necessary, as the key of interpretation.4 No one ever imagines that in these words an absolute purpose is expressed, that by what He was then saying all who heard Him should be brought to actual salvation. He only expresses the proper tendency, and the general design of the various descriptions of evidence, to which, in the context, He makes His appeal.5 The same principle must be applied to John i. 7. The words express the tendency and design of the Baptist’s commission and testimony. Who ever fancied that "all," or "all men," here means the elect?

Ralph Wardlaw, Systematic Theology, (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1857), 2:462-464. [Some spelling modernized, footnote values modified and reformatted; and underlining mine.]


1John iii. 16. Happening to turn up Cruden for texts in which the word ‘ world’ is used for the mass of mankind, in distinction from the people of God, I found the following:–After citing John xv. 18 correctly, as an instance in which the word is used for "the wicked in the world, unregenerated, unrenewed persons," we have two passages cited in proof of its being also used for "God’s chosen people, whether Jews or Gentiles." Of these, the second is this very text: "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son to die in their stead, and give satisfaction for their sins. Believers are called the world, both because they are taken from among Jews and Gentiles, and do participate in the corruption of the world." Strange! As if the army should be called the nation, because the soldiers have been taken from among the nation; or the general’s body guard the army, because chosen from the ranks. Nay, still more incongruous, as if those who "come out from the world and are separate," and by their very separation have a distinctive character, "not touching the unclean thing," should be called the world still, as a designation of distinction from the world!

2John xvii. 9, 21.

3John xvii. 9, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25.

4John v. 34.

5Vs. 31-37.


Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) on John 17:9

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism

Musculus (by way of Marlorate):

“I praye for them, I praye not for the world: but for them which thou haste giuen mee, for they are thine.”

…[Calvin] So that he plainly affirms that he prays not for the world: because he cared for his own flock only, which he had received of his Father’s hand, notwithstanding this might seem very absurd.

For there cannot be a better Rule of prayer devised, then if we follow Christ our Captain and master. But we are commanded to pray for all men, yea even for our enemies [Math. 5.4., 1. Tim. 2.1., Luk. 13.34.]. C. [Calvin] Furthermore Christ himself prayed after this Indifferently for all men saying, “Father forgive them: for they [know not] wotte not what they do.”

[Musculus] Moreover it is the office of a Mediator not only to pray but also to offer. And he offered himself upon the Cross for all men. For (as says Paul) “Christ died for all men.Finally Saint John says that he is the “propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” How then says he that he prays not for the world seeing he died for all men, and was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world? C. [Calvin] this may be briefly answered, that these prayers which seem to be made for all men are notwithstanding restrained to the elect of God.

We ought to wish this and that man be saved and so to comprehend all mankind because yet we cannot distinguish the elect from the Reprobate yet notwithstanding we pray withal for the coming of God’s kingdom, wishing that he would destroy his enemies.

This is even as much as to pray for the salvation of all men whom we know to be created after the Image of GOD, and which are of the same nature we are of, and do leave their destruction to Judgment of GOD whom he knows to be reprobate. There was another certain special cause of this prayer, which ought not to be drawn into example. For Christ’s prayer proceeded not only from the bare sense of faith and love, but also from the feeling of his Father’s secret Judgments which are hidden from us, so long as we walk through faith.

M. [Musculus] Therefore because we know not who they are which so appertain unto the world that they can never be drawn away from the same, it is meet that we wish well unto all men, and to declare our good-will by prayer. C. [Calvin] Furthermore by these words we gather, that they whom it pleases, God to love out of this world shall be heirs of eternal life: and that this difference depended no upon man’s merits but upon the mere good-will and grace of God.

For the which place the cause of election in men must first begin with faith.

Christ plainly pronounces that they were the Father’s which were given unto him.

Augustine Marlorate, A Catholike and Ecclesiasticall exposition of the holy Gospel after S. Iohn, trans., Thomas Timme (Imprinted at London by Thomas Marshe, Anno Domini, 1575), John 17:9; pp., 560-561. [Pagination irregular; stated pagination cited here; and underlining mine.]


William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894) on John 17:9

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William G.T. Shedd:

Again, in his sacerdotal prayer (John 17:2), our Lord represents the whole result of his mediatorial work as dependent upon election: “Thou hast given thy Son power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” He also emphasizes the discrimination between the elect and non-elect, by saying (John 17:9): “I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” The Redeemer does not say that he never prayed for the whole sinful world of mankind; for he did this whenever he uttered the supplication, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven;” but on that particular occasion he confines his supplications to a part of the world, namely, the elect.

W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3:420-421.