John 17:9–19 includes petitions explicitly related to Christ’s disciples. John 17:6–8 includes some of the grounds or rationale as to why the Father should grant the petitions. Christ has “manifested your [Father’s] name to the people whom you gave me” (v. 6), and they “have believed that you sent me” (v. 8). There is a progression: “Yours [Father’s] they [the disciples] were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (v. 6). That is, the election of the disciples was by the Father; the disciples were given to the Son; and the disciples properly responded. Therefore, part of the agreement was that the Father would give the Son a people and the Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) would ensure that they believed.
As mentioned above, John 17:1–8 contains aspects of an agreement between the Father and the Son related to the salvation of the elect. We see in other places in John that the agreement also involves the Holy Spirit (e.g., 3:34; 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–15). This agreement goes by various names. Reformed theologians have primarily used covenant of redemption, counsel of peace (Zech. 6:13), or pactum salutis to refer to this agreement.
In brief, considering the implications of the whole Bible, the covenant of redemption is an intra-Trinitarian agreement made in eternity past to save the elect. This agreement includes promises, things being given, work that is to be accomplished, senders (Father and Son), and Ones being sent (Son and Holy Spirit), Christ’s agreeing to be incarnate and represent the elect, mutual glorification, etc. Although made in eternity past, the agreement is related to Christ in His mediatorial role as the God-man.
This covenant of redemption is then closely related to the covenant of grace. The covenant of grace is an agreement in time between the triune God and the elect. Some Reformed theologians, however, have preferred not to see two conceptually separate agreements/covenants but one. They consider aspects of the covenant of redemption to be included within the covenant of grace. For the most part, the differences between these two views is semantic.
What do we learn about the intra-Trinitarian agreement from John 17:1–8? The Father gave several things to Christ. They include preeminently the elect (17:2, 6; see also 6:39; 10:29). The Father also has given Him “authority over all flesh” (17:2) and “words” to give to the elect (v. 8; see 3:34). Finally, the Father gave Christ the “work,” which summarizes all Christ had to do “on earth” (17:4; see 4:34; 5:36–37). In addition to giving things to Christ, the Father “sent” Christ (17:3, 8) and promised to glorify Him (v. 1; see 8:54).
In John 17:1–8, Christ receives the elect and properly takes care of them. He also “gives.” He gives the elect “eternal life” (17:2; see also 6:40; 10:28), and He gives them the Father’s “words” (17:6; see 1:1; 3:34). He ensures, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, that the elect will “keep your [the Father’s] word,” “know the truth,” and “believe that you [the Father] sent me [the Christ]” (17:6, 8). As to His specific priestly functions for the elect, Christ’s work included enduring the humiliation of the crucifixion (“the hour has come”; 17:1) and His praying for them (vv. 6–9). Given that Christ must represent the elect as a man and die for them, part of the agreement includes His becoming incarnate. Finally and more directly related to the Father, Christ “glorified” the Father by “having accomplished the work” that the Father gave Him (v. 4; see 9:4) and Christ “manifested your [the Father’s] name” to the elect (17:6; see 10:25).
Jesus Christ, Whom You Have Sent
In the High Priestly Prayer, Christ refers to Himself as “Jesus Christ, whom you [the Father] have sent” (17:3). In John’s gospel, the verb “to send” is used a significant number of times—fifty-eight, to be exact. (Behind the English “to send” are actually two Greek words, pemp [thirty-one times] and apostell [twenty-seven times]. They are virtually synonymous in John.) “To send” is used numerous times among the persons of the Trinity. The Father sends Christ (3:17; 5:36; 7:28; see 1 John 4:9) and the Holy Spirit (14:26; 15:26). Christ, the sent One, also sends the Holy Spirit (15:26; 16:7; cf. Rev. 5:6). If this were not enough, believers are also part of this sending activity. “As the Father has sent me [Christ], even so I am sending you” (20:21; see 13:20; 17:18).
To further drive this home, Christ often gives the epithet to the Father as “him who sent me” (e.g., 5:23–24; 6:38, 44; 8:16; 12:45; 14:24; 16:5). Similarly, Christ four times gives Himself the epithet of the One whom the Father has sent (3:34; 5:38; 6:29; 17:3).