John 17:6 (NASB)

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

Does anything about the disciples’ position with God change now that they are Christ’s and not just the Father’s? As a secondary question, what is the difference between the disciples being the Father’s versus Christ’s if the two share all things (verse 10)?

  • Can you please clarify this question? It seems like you meant to write another sentence where you define what you mean by "position change" and "now". What other scripture are you contrasting John 17.6 with and what do you mean by "position"?
    – Robert
    Sep 16 at 19:36
  • Good question 👍🏻 . There is also then the receiving of the Holy Spirt, in two distinct steps, which changes them as well (and us if we follow the Bible). But what more specifically is “position change” about?
    – Al Brown
    Sep 16 at 19:38
  • @Robert Thanks for the comment - I tried to clarify the question by adding "with God" - let me know if this makes more sense!
    – Gremosa
    Sep 16 at 20:38
  • @AlBrown thanks for the comment! I meant position with God (or relation to God) more broadly. Does that make sense?
    – Gremosa
    Sep 16 at 20:39

Not so much a change - more a 'moving on'. The belonging and the giving are a continuum - part of the act of the will of the Father decided before creation began, but awaiting a certain time in history, after the Son had carried out his part in history to establish the legal basis to secure those he had been given, in the Father's will. Some might call that a progression. Others might disagree and think of different stages. That is likely if they think from the point of view of one of those disciples, and not from the point of view of the Father. To elaborate:

God's word is eternally secured in the heavens.

"For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89).

"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11)

"I will praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Psalm 138:2).

Hindsight is a wonderful thing for the disciple who comes to understand the significance of God's choosing, and of Christ's presence. Perception is what changes with the disciple. But nothing has changed with God! And the only sense in which anything could be said to have changed in history is that, at Calvary, Christ secured the legal basis for claiming those whom God gave him from before creation began. The scope of this is so vast that in includes all people of faith from Genesis, through the whole of the Old and New Testaments, and right up till the time God's Day of Salvation closes, when the Day of Judgment starts.

Now, all of that was known in the Godhead before creation started. The Bible has abundant statements about that. So, if every single person whom God had chosen to be saved in Christ was decided upon before any humans came to exist and before the Son became the man, Jesus, and the Father and the Son also decided when those ones would be 'given' to Jesus, the position of those people never changes. What does change is that they find themselves alive at a certain point in time, and for those ones the truth of this scripture is experienced: "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

But that word was already decreed in eternity past; it's just that the individuals concerned could not experience their position of security in God, through Christ's indwelling, until the Holy Spirit granted them understanding. Now the disciples come to know God's word, so they keep it; God's words begin to 'enter in' and they are aware of their transforming power. That is a manifested sign to any who care to look, that a person really is a disciple of Christ - they keep those precious words of truth.

Strange as it may sound, they were alive to God even before they existed, but at some point after they started to exist physically, he brought them to life spiritually. That's where the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit combine to bring those chosen ones to spiritual birth for the first time. At that point, they are adopted into God's family and they begin to grow, spiritually. Their understanding increases, along with their appreciation.

However, just as to worship Christ is to worship God, so to belong to Christ is to belong to God. There could not be a time when 'only' the Father could say those yet-to-exist humans were his, and his alone, and later he would let them belong to the Son too. Why not? Because orthodox Christian doctrine shows that the Son is the Eternal Son. To belong to the Father is to belong to the Son, and vice versa. The Son was never created - he is the only-begotten, which does not mean a starting point in time, but shows his unique relationship with the Father.

It seems to me that the fundamental change once a person discovers that they now belong to the Son by faith, is that they should also discover that they likewise belong to the Father, and this constitutes the 'oneness' prayed about in John chapter 17.

From God's point-of-view, nothing has changed; that which was decreed has come to pass, with each individual concerned. But from the individual's point-of-view, everything has changed! And the change starts with their new-found relationship in belonging to Christ, which then grows to appreciating how that means they also belong to God. Yet, because in John chapter 17 we learn that the Father and the Son are 'one' in the same sense that they will bring the disciples into that one-ness of unity, the position of those who become disciples is as fixed (secure) at the decree - the word - of God before creation began, as it will be for their entire duration on earth.

  • Up-voted +1 but this needs scriptural support : they were alive to God even before they existed.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 17 at 19:48
  • @Nigel J Matthew 22:32 "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead but of the living." Further, several of God's prophets realised with hindsight that they had been known to God and chosen even before they were conceived. They were set apart, in his eternal will, to be born at a certain time, in a certain place, to certain forebears, for God's certain purposes.
    – Anne
    Sep 18 at 8:23

I think the disciples were "Christ's" when they started following him. Or, if you prefer, when the Father gave them to him out of this world. They did not become Christ's disciples when this prayer was made, rather this prayer is a prayer of thanks for what the Father has already given to the Son. Thus it does not mark any kind of change. But there is a change that happens when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost and gives the disciples the power of the Holy Spirit. That power allows them to truly understand their position and to bear fruit in a way that was impossible before.

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