John 17: 6 – 19.
There are 26 verses in Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer but 21 of them focused on His disciples and their life in this world as He prepared to leave them (viz., the prayer would encompass every believer). The principal object of His prayer is found at the end of this segment (John 17: 17,19): our sanctification. In Scriptural parlance, to sanctify anything or anyone is to be set apart, or to be cut-off or separated from normal usage, as holy for Yahweh’s purposes. True spirituality is all about holiness, and its significance is characteristically modelled by Jesus’ earthly life. This farewell prayer possibly took place sometime between the Last Supper and His arrest, revealed His critical thinking hours before His crucifixion: to secure the holiness of those who believed in Him through His own sanctification (John 17:19; c.f., 1Peter 1:14-16). Holiness is synonymous with God, hence any fellowship with Him is inevitably on the basis of being holy in Christ (1Cor 1:30-31; John 14:6). Because spiritual holiness is so alien to earthly life, its palpable manifestation customarily attracts a negative repercussion that challenges its articulation in our world. In any case, sinfulness detests being reminded of God’s holiness and presence! (John 17:14).
Our spiritual position in Christ imputes righteousness to us. But we realise that living a righteous or holy life is a realistically dynamic process that confronts our fallen humanity every moment. Nevertheless, to be sanctified is to devote one’s life exclusively for a single purpose; just as Jesus did as He appeared in our world for the purpose of sacrificing Himself as the Lamb of God Who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29; John 3:16; 1John 4:10; Rom 8:1-11). Thus, to be holy is to obey God explicitly and unconditionally (John 17:6-12; Rom 12:1-2). In a sense, holiness is not totally about desisting from temptations and sins, but a recognition of our identity in Christ, and expressing it publicly. It is about unqualified obedience to God, as we belong to no one else, not even ourselves! (1Cor 6:17-20). Although the salvation of souls is predicated individually, in Jesus’ prayer, it is ultimately ‘the oneness’ within the worldwide church community that ideally testifies to Yahweh’s presence in His Body (John 17:11; Rom 12:5). The Lord is not referring to the ecumenical reunion of Christendom but something much more difficult, a unity of heart, mind and will; a new way of life in Christ that embraces all believers (c.f., 1Peter 2:9-10); “that they may be one even as We are.”
What does it mean when we are specifically a people devoted to holiness? Jesus prayed that we may be sanctified in the truth, that is, sanctified through the Word of God (John 17:17). It is Scripture that exposited for us what it means to be holy before God, as we do not possess any innate sense of holiness apart from God (Rom 3:23-24). With a sensitised conscience, our familiarisation with His Law, the perfect Ten Commandments, provoked us into realizing how utterly condemned we stood before a holy God and totally incapable of redeeming ourselves (Rom 3:20), and the only route to His forgiveness is through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. For our sakes, Jesus set Himself apart whole-heartedly as a sacrificial Lamb that we may also be set apart in reconciliation to God by believing in Him (John 17:19; c.f., John 14:16; Eph 2:8-9). To be sanctified is to inordinately appreciate the remarkable grace of God for laying His own life down for us in securing our salvation. God died for us that we may live a recognisable sanctified life in Christ! (c.f., Rev 21).