Let’s Talk Sanctification—The Big Rub (John 17)

My purpose in this devotion is to discuss one section of our Lord’s amazing prayer for His disciples, verses 14-21. These verses are central to the whole prayer.

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.


Just before Jesus stood before His accusers, He spent some time with His Father. His purpose: to pray for God’s protection of His apostles (17:14-19) and for all those in the future who come to faith and follow His example (17:20-21). Please protect my followers from “the evil one.” Though the Greek word can be taken as a neuter (from evil), or masculine (the evil one), I am of the opinion that the word should be taken as masculine—the evil one. Anyone who has lived faithfully before unbelievers knows that it is impossible to be kept safe from evil in general; however, each believer can be kept safe from the wilds of Satan himself. He and his cronies in evil may get their hands on our bodies, but God will never give our souls back to him.

This fact is immediately revealed to us in the crucifixion of our Lord. Though they spat upon Him, beat Him, starved Him, struck Him, nailed Him to a cross, mocked Him, and killed Him, He remained in the care and protection of His Father. No plan of God was in the least bit disrupted at the hands of human mockery, mistreatment, and murder. His apostles were also ill-treated, all of whom were physically abused with only one not succumbing to death. No matter what Satan does to thwart God in his utter ignorance, he and the duped, despite their arrogance and ignorance, utterly fail. Today, around the world, Christians are being mocked, demeaned, persecuted, and martyred in great numbers. Anti-Semitism, even after the Holocaust from 1938-1945, continues. Why? Because both groups are linked to the one true God, Jehovah. Although the Jews have rejected their true Messiah, they are still associated with the Jehovah of Scripture. They will one day (we hope soon) recognize their Messiah and secure the promises that God granted to them through His unconditional covenant made to their father, Abraham (Genesis 12). Jesus’ prayer will be answered in full no matter the efforts of those set against Him. In other words, the destiny of Jewish believers and Christians are directly associated with God and His word, which is the truth![i]

Set My Disciple Apart with the Truth

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” God continues to answer this prayer. He sanctifies us (i.e., sets us apart) by giving us access to the Word of God. What makes believers unique isn’t a denomination, national origin, or constitutional protections. God’s children are unique because their lives are shaped by the truth; a truth that is completely at odds with humanly constructed religions, governments, and morality. We are odd, peculiar, and troublesome to many of our detractors because we are not of this world (17:16), but are reflections of the mind and will of our heavenly and divine Creator, Who is above all things. We are wonderfully different because we are God’s true children. It does not matter what good we do, how moral we are, how efficient or productive we are. Like Christ, we naturally rub people the wrong way because we choose to live His way, His life, and in His truth. And, as history clearly teaches, the more the geographical location in which we live rejects Christ, the more unbelievers are threatened by us. Our very presence, our natural love for God and others and our moral integrity, irritates and undermines the direction those around us want to pursue. Being set apart to God simply rubs people the wrong way. When Christians are sanctified by the truth of God, we can live as a majority (as we have in America for centuries) or as a minority and not harm people who differ from us—this is our hope. We simply want to be a light; however, a light uncovers the evil that wants to remain active in the shadows. In this world, truth and, therefore, God has never been popular, unless of course, we, unfortunately, make Him in our image so that He reflects our sorry state of being. The gods of this world promote human intellect, self-grandeur, and self-satisfaction. The God of truth promotes truth, which defines love, peace, gentleness, patience, comfort, joy, salvation, sacrifice, purpose, patience, hope, and all that ends in good. In our natural sinful state (without God), we detest these gifts that cultivate personal integrity and morality.

Unify My Disciples with the Truth

The goal that Jesus requests of God for each and every believer is “that they may all be one.” To reflect the truth, we all must know the truth, i.e., the same truth; not your truth or understanding or my truth or understanding, but God’s truth understood and lived in our daily lives before one another and the world. Three considerations for you to examine:

1) Don’t stay connected to a church that rejects the doctrine of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). If you are attending a church or denomination that rejects the inspiration of the Word of God, has any authority that claims the power to interpret Scripture for others, or that rejects the inspiration and authority of Scripture, you cannot become one with Christ and his fellow followers. You cannot come to a knowledge of the truth because you will not be taught the whole counsel of God. You will be taught only what that particular church wants you to know about God and society.

2) Don’t attend a church that teaches you that faith should make you rich or prosperous (Jesus and His disciples never became rich with the things of this world). Also, avoid healers and movies, which teach that great faith will save the life of your child or heal you. Though God does save some folks from death, it is not because one person’s faith is greater than the next person’s. The life and death of each person are in the hands of God and God alone. I pray for God’s will and the strength to accept it. We live in a fallen world; don’t behave as if we don’t have to suffer its ills (2 Timothy 3:12)[ii]. Pray your heart’s desire, but don’t pretend that some other person’s faith is less than yours because God didn’t save their child or protect them from some evil. I have been sexually molested twice, abused too often, threatened by people who have the power to kill me, seen more death than I thought sufferable, been betrayed by my denomination and too often by my brothers and sisters in Christ, and the list goes on. I have prayed for the strength to endure and for relief, which seldom came. Nonetheless, I love the Lord God more because of these trials. All of this turmoil opened the Word of God to me in ways that I never could have expected. The trials and the losses were the doors to truth.  

3) a. Find a church that truly loves the Word of God, not one that says it loves the Word of God.

 b. The church doesn’t separate the men from the women—they study the Word of God together in small mixed groups. Men and women are not so different that they need to study with their own gender.[iii]

c. The pastor in these churches teaches biblical theology and the doctrines of the faith; he doesn’t simply teach things that make you feel good or loved all the time. Living in the real world means that you will NOT be loved all the time. Outside of the church, few people genuinely care about your feelings. The pastor and elders do not talk about their accomplishments, but rather those of the Lord.

d. Husbands and wives are encouraged to study the Scriptures and pray together.

e. Life groups should deal with biblical issues; they don’t suggest that tolerating the sin of others is love (yes, I saw this happen, and was scolded when I suggested that compromise for the love of the lost is not love at all). Too often books used in small groups are not evaluated by the elders before being used. Also, I suggest that the members of each life group come from the same geographical area so that they provide ministry to the people who live in proximity to them.

f. Attend churches that pray not only for the sick to be healed, but they also ask how they can be involved in the visitation and care of the sick; they pray that each person involved in the struggle would learn everything God wants them to learn from illness and death. This world is NOT our home. Praying for the dying is not as loving as doing something for the family and friends of the dying.

g. Missions to the area around the church you attend are more important than foreign missions.  Acts 1:8 is firstly directed to Jesus’s 12 disciples; they fulfilled this command. Secondly, it is also a command to the Church Universal. The passage is not an exhortation to the local churches, which are planted throughout the world. Though local churches can support overseas missions, their first priority is to the people outside the windows of the local church. Clearly stated, if your local church has a $5000.00 annual budget for the youth and local outreach, but it has a $120,000 annual budget for overseas missions, leave that church and find one that is committed to the souls in the neighborhoods around the local church. These people live in our “Jerusalem” and are, therefore, our primary outreach.


Being united in Christ means that over time, the individual believers gradually believe the same things and share similar thoughts about God (1 Corinthians 1:10).[iv] Truth requires this result. The Church of Christ should be a united front that is devoted to knowing the truth and making it known. After all, is this not what our Savior asked the Father to accomplish in His disciples? “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth, …, that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You.” Our united front might rub people in an unpleasant way, but it takes sound rubbing to cleanse a muddy soul. As I said earlier, the truth makes people uncomfortable, edgy, and sometimes angry, but the truth is the cleansing agent for a dying soul. A good rub with the truth (thank the Lord) provides the means to the sanctification of a soul, which is made possible by the belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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[i] Though both the Jewish people and Christians have often allowed themselves to be seduced by power and corrupted by secular attractions of all kinds, God has continued to separate and preserve His chosen throughout history (Romans 8:18-39). No act of man can separate God from His plans.

[ii]Indeed, all those who desire to live godly in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.”

[iii] From the scientific book, “Brain Sex” came the popularized book, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.” From this point, a separation between the sexes began to take place, especially as these ideas entered the Church of Christ. My personal belief is these differences were used to create the vast amount of female Bible teachers and studies that we have today. This has divided the church into genders, which is thoroughly unbiblical and destructive to sound biblical teaching and unity. My fear is that this “gender split” has been entrenched in the church for far too long to put a stop to it. I pray that we can; God’s love of unity is at stake! I challenge you to bring this concern to the women’s ministry team at your local church. Good luck.

[iv] 10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

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I am a published author, co-author and editor of 13 books, written numerous articles, taught online at Liberty University and Grace College (Indiana), and appeared on numerous radio and TV programs. I am a theologian, bioethicist and retired veteran.

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