The Expository Files




In the World, But Not Of the World

John 17:15-21



"I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.” (John 17:15-21). 

The verb  “sanctify” means to “set aside for a special, holy purpose.”  A noun we get from this word is the term “saint” which refers to one who is sanctified. In the Bible, a saint is a person who has determined and acted so as to give himself to fulfilling God's purpose and is dedicated to the cause of Christ. He is “set apart” for this task. 

The word “consecrate” means the same thing as “sanctify.”  It is necessary to be sanctified, or to be a saint, in order to be pleasing to God. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). So, if you are accustomed to thinking of the term “saint” as only referring to a special class of believer, put that thinking away, and replace it with what the Bible actually teaches about sainthood. 

Discipleship calls for dedication and zeal. If I take my responsibilities lightly, then I will also lack what is necessary to see God in heaven. 

Note with me what Jesus said about sanctification in John 17:15-21.


“In” But Not “Of” The World

The saint, or disciple, or Christian lives “in the world,” but is not to be “of the world.” (John 17:15,16). The idea is to live our lives in the world by a higher standard, that is, a heavenly one. There are several things that will assist us in doing this. I wrote down the following observations that I had once read, but forgot to note where. I do think they hit the mark. 

First, we should keep the church pure within (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). This does not mean breaking off all contact with the world, but it does mean not allowing sin to go unanswered among the members of the body. 

Secondly, we must be willing to put behind us forever things that are contrary to the Lord's will (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We are sanctified as we separate ourselves from further practicing unrighteousness. 

Third, we must never compromise when it involves agreeing with or sharing in things contrary to the Lord's will (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 7:1). 

Fourth, it may help to understand that our lives are not about conforming to the world, but about transforming into the persons God's Book tells us to be (Romans 12:1,2). This recognition will go a long way in helping us to see that “everybody's doing it” is of no consequence at all as to whether a thing is right or wrong. 

Fifth, we must understand that we are not abandoning those in the world. Far from it, we want to encourage them to also pursue this sanctification without which no one can see God (Matthew 5:13-16). 

Sixth, and finally, we want to recognize that this world is not our home. We must not seek to make it so (Philippians 1:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9).


Sanctification's Purpose

There is a reason we are to remain in the world, but as sanctified new creatures born of God's grace (John 17:17-18). First Jesus sanctified His apostles, and then He sent them into the world to be His representatives. Today, we have the role of Jesus' representatives. Jesus said He requested this sanctification not only for His apostles, but also for those who would believe through the apostles' words. 

Today, a disciple who is sanctified will demonstrate to the world the love, patience, joy, mercy and peace of Christ (1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Peter 2:11,12,15). Now, it is obvious that if we are neglectful in these areas, we will portray a dismally poor picture of what Jesus is all about. Much damage has been done by people who would claim to be Christians, but had never set themselves apart from the vile things of the world and unto the beauty of Christ. A lying cheat who goes to church is repugnant to Jesus. In fact, Jesus said just being lukewarm is also distasteful to Him (Revelation 3:15,16).


Continuing Sanctification

Sanctification occurs when one, by faith, obeys the gospel. It happens on several levels. First, the person is making a conscious and visible choice to put away sin in his life. That “putting away” is sanctification. He is also making the decision Otto serve the Lord, intending to add virtuous acts of righteousness to his life. This “adding to” is also sanctification. The Holy Spirit calls us unto sanctification through the gospel, and we answer by obeying it from the heart. 

God, also set us apart from our past sins by His grace and adds us to His church. This, too, is sanctification. 

We are to abound and excel more and more in sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). We are to continue to pursue the accumulation of the knowledge of God and His will, applying it to our lives and growing in it (1 Peter 3:15).  This is how Jesus' prayer is answered, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” It is in God's word that we are truly sanctified. 

Perhaps the plainest discussion of practical day by day application of these things is found in Ephesians. The life to be lived as a child of God is not haphazard. It has been skillfully planned out by God. It is dynamic, challenging, joyful, and worth every effort. “This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:17-27). 


  By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 22.8; August 2015