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John 17:9

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”

Reformed theology is frequently summarized under what are called the five points of Calvinism. Although Reformed theology includes much more than the five points, these five points encapsulate essential Reformed beliefs regarding our salvation. They affirm such truths as our deadness in sin, God’s gracious choice of some to be His people, the surety that the saving grace of God will save all to whom it is given, and the permanence of salvation for all who truly believe.

Of the five points of Calvinism, perhaps none is more controversial than the one commonly referred to as limited atonement or particular redemption. This point says that in the atonement, the triune God intended to pay for the sins of only some people—the elect. Christ did not die to make salvation possible for all people. Because Jesus died to atone only for His chosen, His work on the cross guarantees the salvation of all those for whom He died. Jesus did not die to save every individual; He died to save His people.

Space prevents us from getting into all the reasons why the doctrine of particular redemption is debated and rejected. What we can say is that today’s passage is powerful evidence for particular redemption because it speaks of the work of Christ with reference to a select group of people—His disciples. Jesus makes it very clear in His High Priestly Prayer that He is praying not for the world but for those the Father has given Him out of the world (John 17:9). The primary focus in verse 9 is on His first disciples, but Jesus later extends the prayer to cover all who believe through the witness of the disciples (v. 20). Jesus, in other words, has a special work of intercession only for Christians—both those who already believe and for those who have been chosen by God and have not yet come to saving faith (but will surely come to believe).

What does Jesus pray for the elect? That they will be preserved from Satan, that they will be sanctified, that they will be one, and that they will see His glory (vv. 10–26). These are all benefits of salvation, and Jesus therefore prays that the benefits of salvation come only to the elect. That supports the idea that He died to purchase salvation only for the elect, and when we couple this with the close connection between Jesus’ work of intercession and the atonement in the book of Hebrews, we have powerful proof that everything Christ does to save, He does to save only His people.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Right now, if you are a believer, Jesus is praying for you. Few truths could be more encouraging. After all, Jesus prays only perfect prayers. He knows exactly what we need and what to ask the Father to give us in order to ensure that we continue in salvation. Be comforted this day by the knowledge that Jesus is praying for you and, indeed, is watching over all things for the good of your redemption.

For Further Study
  • Isaiah 53:12
  • Luke 22:31–32
  • Romans 8:26–27
  • Hebrews 7:25

What the Disciples Knew

The Efficacious Prayers of Christ

Keep Reading Perfectionism and Control

From the October 2018 Issue
Oct 2018 Issue