John 17:9, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”
In John chapter 17 we read the words the Savior prayed in the hearing of His disciples. These precious words were spoken by the Son of God before He crossed Cedron into Gethsemane and have been a tremendous comfort and blessing to the children of God throughout the generations. The words declare His perfect humility; His love for His children; and ultimate purpose of His coming into this world.
In our study verse we read how the Son of God prayed not for the “world, but for them which thou hast given me.” (It might be interesting and profitable to note that the word “world” is found no less than nineteen times in this chapter of the Gospel of John). When reading this verse, our minds are drawn to the Old Testament and the Levitical laws and ordinances. The events which took place in Exodus through Deuteronomy (specifically in Leviticus) are filled with times when the Priests of Israel would make intercessions and offerings. But it should be noted that in each occurrence the offering, whether it be a lamb, goat, bullock or turtle dove, etc., would be made for the same people for whom that priest would make intercessions. In Leviticus chapters 1-6, it was for the people of Israel who had sinned and trespassed; in Leviticus chapter 14, it was a leper; in Leviticus chapter 16 it was for the congregation of Israel. There is one example of this principal found in Numbers 16:47 that I would ask the reader to consider. In this chapter, through the ambitious counsel of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, many of the children of Israel sinned against the Lord. After the Lord judged the sin, the people which remained began to murmur and blame Moses for wrong rather than confess that their own brothers in Israel had committed a sin against the Lord (Numbers 16:41). When the people gathered together and came against Moses and Aaron, the Lord’s glory appeared and covered the tabernacle. The Lord’s anger was manifested against the sins of this people as a plague went out to consume them. In verses 46-48 we read: “And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.” Please notice that the “atonement” was made for the same people for whom Aaron “put on incense”. Not a different group, but the same, and it was the same who were saved from the plague of judgement.
In conclusion, when we read John 17:9, we should easily notice the Lord did not pray for the “world”. Since the Lord did not make intercession for the “world’, it must needs be interpreted that He did not make a sacrifice for the entire “world” the next day on the cross. By us backing up to John 17:2, we can quickly reference the people the Savior would make atonement for on the cross, which is not the entire world, but “to as many as thou hast given him.” The Lord’s prayer/intercession and His sacrifice are for a common people, the elect (Ephesians 1:4); the predestinated (Romans 8:29-30); the covenant children of God (Psalms 111:9) and these three are the same. Amen!