The Disciples in the World
John 17:15
I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.

I. THE WORLD. The world is a globe some eight thousand miles through and three times eight thousand miles round. It is one of the lesser members of a family of worlds. The whole universe, within the telescopic horizon, is composed of gigantic continents of suns, the dim lines of which shimmer in the ethereal depths. Yet our planet, relatively so small, is a vast world. What moral interests centre in it I It was not the first theatre of intelligence and responsibility. When the progenitors of our race received their being, there were mighty tides of good and evil, bliss and misery, sweeping from an unknown past into the unfathomable gulfs of the endless future. When but one pair of human beings was alone amidst the otherwise unpeopled solitude, they were caught and borne along by the evil current. Murder broke out in the first family; and sin has been in every household since. What a world is ours at the present moment! Call before you its heathenisms and its inadequate reception of the gospel in what are called Christian lands. Portray to your imagination its wars, vices, diseases, sufferings. Barbarism conceals none of its iniquities; civilization is often as guilty behind its decorous exterior. Poverty brings temptation, and riches are full of snares. Ignorance surrounds our path with danger; and learning is commonly only a variation of peril. Deformity makes life sordid; and beauty as frequently ministers to luxury. Idleness breeds mischief, and occupation tends to nurture ambition and greed. Disappointment chills and sours not a few; and success destroys many more. The seeming goodness of one droops in hours of ease; another falls in the time of conflict. And oh l of what delusions and perils the best men are conscious! The godly feel their evil and see their dangers as no others can.


1. How differently our Lord regarded human life from many whose history inspired men have handed down to us! Jesus never desired for Himself or His followers an unhonoured escape from the tests of this mortal career. When the patient Job was overwhelmed with affliction, he longed for the hour of death. So did the Psalmist (Psalm 55:5); Elijah (1 Kings 19:4); Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:2); and Jonah (Jonah 4:3). Oh! how transcendently unlike all this is the bearing of Jesus! "Thy will be done" is His lifelong prayer.

2. Jesus surpassed all others in His lofty estimate of the possibilities of a human life in this world of mystery, sin, and death.

(1) He would not have become incarnate in this world of temptation and suffering, if it had been utterly unfit for the trial and development of a Godlike life. His assumption of our humanity not only illustrates the greatness of our nature and destination; but it also guarantees the wisdom and endorses the goodness of the Providence which rules the earth.

(2) He knew all the worst of Satanic and human evil. He saw it as we never can. No man ever beheld the actual sinfulness of his own spirit. If you could have before you the evil of every soul in a large city, your reason would reel. Jesus looked on the unveiled reality, but yet said, "I pray not," &c.

(3) Christ loves His disciples, yet His affection did not prompt, but forbade, the supplication, "Father, take them out of the world."(4) Jesus knew human life by experience. He trod the depths of its temptations, and drank the cup of its sorrows to the dregs. His hands were hard with labour, His frame was wearied by fatigue. Yet, while He passed through all, and more than all, our trials and griefs, though without sin, He said, "I pray not," &c.

(5) Our Saviour was now penetrating the deepest shadows of His incarnate life. To-morrow all the harrowing scenes are enacted that end in the cross. Yet, when the Lord's experience of a human probation was awful beyond conception, and while He was aware that His disciples were to share His Cross in many lands, He did not pray, "Father, take them away from a world so terrible, where their faith will be tried by flame and their foes will shed their blood."(6) Christ could have taken His disciples out of the world in an instant if it had been the best for them. He could have commanded ministering spirits to bear His followers along the starry pathway to the mansions of the blest (Matthew 26:53). But He did not even pray that they might be taken out of the world.

(7) Jesus must have set a high value on a soul tempered in the fires of trial and suffering in this fallen planet. A soul that bears the test of life, and comes out of the process confirmed in loyalty and love to God and righteousness, must be destined for some sublime vocation in coming worlds. "Kings and priests unto God" are not empty titles. Contemplating the unfading crown to which His faithful disciples were advancing, Jesus said, "I pray not," &c.

(8) Jesus wished His disciples to be like Himself. He desired them to yearn over this sinning and suffering world with a compassion like His own. To share His joy, they must be equally willing to live, and toil, and suffer. To ask that believers might be taken out of the world, without nobly living and working in it, would be to beseech that His kingdom might fail.


1. Our Lord knew that the end of a life like ours cannot be attained except through a probation like ours. He did not cry, therefore, "Father, stay the direful ordeal, and rearrange the lot of man." But He prayed, "Father, keep these from evil."

2. He knew that the life of God in the soul was endowed with all the properties necessary to its triumph. The one thing that represses, hinders, and overthrows, is sin. Keep this deadly influence away, and there will be progress and victory. Hence Jesus stretched the bright shield of His intercession over the heads of His disciples, saying, "I pray," &c.Conclusion:

1. A Christian has every reason to cultivate a temper contented, jubilant, as he surveys this mysterious scene. The adamant of a Saviour's intercession is stretched over every soul that confides in His redeeming grace.

2. The great end of life is not ease and comfort. The great concern is, to be preserved from evil. The terrible tests of life are not to be lowered. We are to bear them (James 1:12).

3. How sad is the contrast of multitudes, to whom the gospel is preached, and who seek no deliverance and preservation from evil!

(H. Batchelor.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.

WEB: I pray not that you would take them from the world, but that you would keep them from the evil one.

The Christian in the World
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