POWER OVER ALL FLESH
‘As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him” John 17:2.
This verse contains an argument drawn by our Lord Jesus Christ from the nature and character of the commission with which His Father had entrusted Him. He had prayed, “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee”: the Father was to be glorified by the Son through His accepting, undertaking, and fulfilling the office of Mediator, “that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him”; and the Son was to be glorified by the Father commissioning, sustaining, enabling, and qualifying Him to discharge the trust committed to Him. To bestow eternal life on lost sinners is the glory of the Father; and to be the means and channel for the bestowal of that eternal life on lost sinners is the glory of the Son. The blessed Saviour here acknowledges this, and pleads it as the motive and object His Father had in view when the Father and the Son entered into mutual covenant engagements for the salvation of the Church. Oh, for God’s own light to enable us to apprehend God’s precious truth!
Our Lord is speaking in an official character. He appears before the Father here as the Mediator; as God He could not pray, as God He could not receive any power that did not belong to Him essentially. On the other hand, as the God-man Mediator, all He possessed was bestowed upon Him-His office appointed to Him in the everlasting covenant between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; His work assigned to Him; His qualifications supplied to Him; His ability bestowed upon Him. Thus the Father was glorified in calling, appointing, and qualifying the Son to be the Saviour of sinners; and the Son was glorified in undertaking, discharging, and accomplishing the blessed trust. How it should cheer our hearts, establish our faith, and kindle our hope and love, to know that Christ’s office of Mediator-which is our security for the possession of eternal life-is founded on the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. “Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
Let us dwell upon three subjects presented to our consideration in the text:
I. The extent of the power committed to Christ-“power over all flesh.”
II. The avowed object of the Father in committing that power to Him-“that he might give eternal life.”
III. The persons on whom this eternal life is to be bestowed-“as many as thou hast given him.”
I. The power-“power over all flesh.” Righteously did the blessed Mediator obtain this power. The Son of God was born of a woman! “Forasmuch … as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14). The Word which was with God, and was God, and without whom nothing was made that was made, “was made flesh.” Christ suffered in the flesh, the Just for the unjust, to bring sinners to God. Sin was judged and condemned “in the flesh”; that is, in the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the rent veil of His flesh He opened a new and living way of access to God; and in that flesh He abolished the enmity. And having given His flesh for the life of the world, He rose from dead, and gave His flesh to be life to the world. Righteously, then, did He obtain the power which He here asserts He had received.
Sometimes by the expression “all flesh,” the Spirit of God teaches us to understand all mankind: “God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:12). Again: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6), either to bless Him for the grace that led them into the enjoyment of it, or to learn what a grievous thing it was to reject God’s gift. Here, then, Christ asserts that He has had committed to Him “power over all flesh”-all mankind-to rule, to control, to subdue, to restrain, to remove, to convert, to convict, and finally to judge them. “Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isa. 51:12,13).
We need not fear what man can do unto us; for “Thou hast given him power over all flesh.”
But oftentimes by the flesh is meant the corrupt principles and depraved faculties of our fallen nature. “In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20).
Child of God, you have no reason to fear the flesh, that corrupt thing you carry about with you, and under the pressure of which you groan. It may be you cannot overcome it; it may be there are risings and swellings in that corrupt heart you cannot restrain; but our glorious Christ can: “Thou hast given him power over all flesh.” Neither the flesh without, though in league with “principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places,” against which we wrestle; nor the power of the flesh within, though grievous and present, and often apparently set on fire of hell-neither the power without, nor the hidden depths within, can “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” He has power over all flesh. He can subdue it, though we cannot. He can control it, though we cannot. He can bind or loose it, acquit, forgive, judge it; and finally, He can and will ‘change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil. 3:21). He can deliver from the bondage of the flesh, and He will exercise His prerogative; for ‘Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.”
Observe further, He says: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”-a power He possesses and exercises by virtue of His sufferings, and the victory He achieved in that flesh which He took on Him, that “through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14,15). And this power was “wrought in Christ, when God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20,21). Thus our glorious Christ has power over everything that is named, or can be named in heaven, or earth-in this world, or in that which is to come. “To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9).
How delightful it is to dwell upon the royal attributes of our blessed Christ! What encouragement faith finds in the contemplation; what ground of hope and blissful expectation! All power in heaven and in earth-His! All power over the enemies of our souls-His! All power over that which is within us and contrary to us-His! All power over that which is without us and opposed to us-His! All at His absolute disposal and control, and bestowed upon Him for this very end and object, that nothing might be able to hinder Him, or even interfere with Him in the discharge of His office, but “that he should give eternal life to as many as God hath given him.” The realms of nature, the boundless stores of grace, the fulness of glory, and power over all flesh, are all lodged in the mediatorial hands of God’s Christ; no wonder the apostle says: “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:38,39). And for this simple reason, they are all in His hands, all at the absolute disposal of Christ; to this end-that “He should give eternal life to as many as God hath given him.”
II. The avowed object of the Father, as acknowledged by the Son, in giving Him all this power-“that he should give eternal life.” We really know but little what eternal life is; but we know what the Scripture says about it, and by attending to this our minds will be enlightened. We find eternal life to be nothing less than Christ himself: in the opening of 1 John it is so stated, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested unto us;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3). This, then, is eternal life- fellowship with the Father, union and communion with His Son Jesus Christ!
“That thou shouldest give eternal life”-including the present possession and all-sufficiency for the ultimate fruition of it. This involves the removal of every obstacle in the way to the glory to be revealed, the setting aside of every hindrance, even though all the powers in earth and hell were united to oppose us. Children of God, if the possession of all power in heaven and earth is sufficient to carry us safely through the wilderness, and finally to make us more than conquerors through Him that loved us-then truly no weapon formed against us shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against us in judgment shall be condemned. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord”: “for thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him.”
But further: it is not enough that the hindrances be taken out of the way; we must be qualified to enjoy eternal life. I must have a nature given me suitable to that life -eyes and ears, affections and understanding-else would it be thrown away upon me; but He who gives eternal life, as Mediator, supplies the qualification for the enjoyment of it, putting away sin, renewing the soul, healing its diseases, conquering death, obliterating blindness, undoing and slaying the enmity, and finally subduing even the flesh itself, till ‘death is swallowed up of life.” “This is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25). “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). The promise is Himself- His salvation; His crowns-the crowns of life; His kingdom-the kingdom of God; fellowship with Himself-the power of His resurrection; a new creation answerable to the great love of God in giving His Christ; an inheritance answerable to the great grace of Christ in giving Himself to obtain it; a nature answerable to the glory of the Father, the glory of the Son, and the glory of the Holy Ghost, and the infinite desire of the Godhead, that the people given to Christ should be filled with all the fullness of God.
Who can speak of eternal life? A life spent in the favour of God, in the presence of God, in the image of God, and in the power of God eternally; a life that will satisfy the love of the Father, the love of the Son, the love of the Holy Ghost, and the immortality of man. Just as eternal death is the sum of all misery, so eternal life is the sum of all bliss. Now the avowed object of the Father, in giving all power to Christ, was that He might give eternal life to His people.
III. The persons given to Him-even “to as many as thou hast given him.” So, then. God has given a people to Christ; and “all things are for your sakes.” This is the truth which, next to the
revelation of Christ Himself, shines out most fully in Scripture. For your sakes Christ was incarnate; for your sakes the office of Mediator was appointed; for your sakes Christ died, and rose, and revived; for your sakes all power is committed to Him; and for your sakes all power is exercised by Him. Read God’s Word and see if these things be not so. Now remark here:
(1) A fact-a people given to Christ! To take charge of, to undertake for, to wash in His blood, to clothe in His righteousness, to feed as their Shepherd, to espouse as their Husband, to lead triumphantly as the Captain of their salvation, to subdue their corruptions, to put down their foes, to bruise Satan under their feet, to communicate to them His own life, to endow them with His own fulness, to acknowledge them as His own brethren, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” He knows them, though they do not know themselves; and though the discoveries they make of themselves day by day ofttimes startle them, yet their heavenly Saviour knew it all before. He values them-oh, who can tell at what a price! He gave Himself for them; He gives Himself to them; He rules heaven and earth for their interests; He is their appointed Head, and it will be the triumph of His grace “to present them without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”; “to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”
(2) His delight in them; how He dwells on and acknowledges His portion in them again and again-“as many as thou hast given me.” The language in the original is very peculiar: “thou hast given him power over all flesh, that to all that thou hast given him he should give eternal life to them.” “All that!” You have the same language exactly in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me”-“all that.” The idea is as if He were looking over His portion, thinking how much it was, how rich it was, how delightful it was-“all that I have, all this!” There is nothing more calculated to bring out the delight the Lord Jesus has in the possession of this gift to Him, than by noticing how frequently He alludes to it in this prayer. In seven different places He speaks of His Father’s gift of His people to Him; in verse 2, “as many as thou hast given him”; in verse 6, “I have manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me”; and again, “thine they were, and thou gavest them me”; in verse 9, “I pray … for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Why were they so precious? Apparently for another reason than His own delight in them-His Father’s delight in them. “They are thine; and thou gavest them to me.” In verse 11, “keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” In verse 12, “those that thou gavest me I have kept”-and finally, for the seventh time, in verse 24, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.”
(3) The Lord declares that the salvation of those given to Him is an object of the Father’s glory, and of His own glory; for, in order that He might be enabled to give them the eternal life He was commissioned to bestow, He prays, “Father, glorify thy Son, that in he accomplishing of this thy Son also may glorify thee.”
(4) Those who are given to Christ have assured safety. They will lack nothing for time, nor for eternity; if the fulness of divine grace can satisfy them, they shall be satisfied; if the fulness of divine glory can crown them, they shall be crowned; if the Mediator on high can save them, they shall be saved; if God is to be glorified, they shall be glorified. Who are they? We have a description of them (6:37), “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” They believe on Jesus, they come to Jesus. I cannot read the Book of Life to see if my name be there; but I can read my name in this Book of God, which is the copy of the Book of Life, and I can know assuredly for the comfort of my own soul that my name is written in the Book of Life above. I have come to Christ, I have believed on Christ; this is the description of those whom the Father has given to Him.
Again, we learn from verse 6, that they are those to whom Jehovah manifests Himself. Have we seen the beauty of Jesus? Have we admired the love of the Father in giving Him? Have we learned His name? “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty …” (Exodus 34.7), making “him . . . who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”? Another is-“I have manifested thy name unto them.”
Again: “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” Here is he Lord’s own account of the people given to Him-is it a description of ourselves? Have we received His Word? Have we known surely that He came forth from God? Have we believed that the Father did send Him? Have we believed that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), and that such an one is of the number given by the Father to Christ, that Christ might give him eternal life? and for the accomplishing of which end all power in heaven and earth has been given to Christ, that nothing might let or hinder Him in bestowing, or them in obtaining it? How He pleads for them! He pleads His covenant engagements; He pleads His own relationship; He pleads the favour bestowed upon Him, the gifts supplied to Him, the avowed object of their salvation-the mutual glory of the Father and the Son.
O pleading Saviour, to whom the Father hath given power over all flesh, overcome our flesh; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts; bring down within us all that is contrary to Thy Father and to Thee; kindle our faith; brighten our hope; deepen our love; make us more than conquerors in Thyself; whilst we hear Thee say that Thou hast received power over all flesh to give lost sinners who come to Thee, and to the Father by Thee, eternal life!
Taken from. Our Lord Prays for His own; Thoughts on John 17. Chapter 3.