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From the Editor: "I sanctify myself ..." (Jn 17.19)

P Coulson

The most recent former Editor of Believer's Magazine, John Grant, drew up the original chart on which this month's centre spread is based. In describing the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Pharaoh's bondage, and applying it to the Christian today, he wrote "It should be noted that the Israelites were separated from Egypt completely. Their hopes did not lie there, their future was not to be found there, and their interests were not to be pursued there." As a description of practical sanctification in the life of a believer, that statement could hardly be improved upon. Sanctification is the will of God for every Christian (1 Thess 4.3), and the great Exemplar is the Lord Jesus Himself.

The act of sanctifying a person or an object can mean 'to make holy' (Ex 19.10; 30.29). Clearly though, when the Lord Jesus said "I sanctify myself", that definition is not applicable: He is essentially pure, sinless and holy. Rather, the thought is 'to be entirely set apart', and so He was; willingly and completely, unto God. It is interesting to note that the Lord's references to "myself" are recorded only in John's Gospel, and there are 15 such instances, including the expression "I can of mine own self do nothing" (5.30). (The Lord's reference to "myself" in Luke 24 is a different word in the Greek text: His emphasis there was on the fact that He was 'the same'.) In referring to "myself", the Lord Jesus was calling attention to the character of the Man who was the Son of God made flesh.

It is very touching to read that the purpose of the Lord Jesus in devoting Himself (setting Himself apart) utterly to the will of the Father was "that they also might be sanctified" (Jn 17.19). "They" are identified earlier as "those whom thou hast given me" (v 11). "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world" (v 18) describes the physical sphere of His disciples' service, but "sanctified through [in] the truth" (v 19) speaks of the spiritual sphere they would occupy. Occasionally we hear the complaint that British politicians live 'in the Westminster bubble', meaning that they are disconnected from the real world in which their constituents live. Those whom the Father has given to His Son "out of the world" (v 6), and who are physically "in the world" (v 11), are nevertheless "not of the world" (v 16). It is necessary, therefore, when they are sent "into the world" (v 18) in service, that they be in a protective 'bubble', "sanctified through [in] the truth" (v 19).

Reading through John's Gospel, it is good to note the many occasions on which the Lord Jesus explained aspects of His sanctification. Some of those occasions are: concerning His Strength, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (4.34); concerning His Submission, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (6.38); concerning His Salvation, "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (6.39-40); concerning His Sayings, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (7.16); concerning His Service, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (9.4). Notice that, in all these quotations, the Lord Jesus speaks of having been "sent"; a word He uses of Himself more than 30 times in John's Gospel. As the shadow of the cross loomed over Him, He prayed for those whom He had sent, and would send, into the world. His sanctification was the pattern for theirs, and His prayer was the ground for His words to them in resurrection, "Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (20.21).


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