John Piper, photo by Joe Carter, Flickr Creative Commons


Jan 15, 2018 by Alyssa Duvall

John Piper: "Before You Believed, You Belonged"

For Pastor John Piper, nothing would please him more than if we would be like Mary and "treasure up" the things we learn in Scripture and "ponder them" in our hearts (Luke 2:19). "But oh," Piper exclaims, "how few people do this when they read the Gospel of John and find stupendous statements about God’s sovereignty in our salvation!" In yesterday's Desiring God blog post, Pastor John looks to draw your attention to some of these statements, for "they are no less important than the message of the angels when Jesus was born."

Yours They Were

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me. . . . I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:6, 9)

Beginning with Jesus' own prayer in John 17, Pastor John describes two "stupendous" statements: "One is that God gave the disciples to Jesus. The other is that before he gave them to Jesus, they were already his. Store that in a safe place for a moment."

Elsewhere in John, we see clear examples of people belonging to the Father before the Father gives them to Christ:

  • “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep”(John 10:26).
  • “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:47).
  • “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).

Each of these three phrases — “of my sheep,” “of God,” and “of the truth” — describes people before the Father gives them to Jesus.

  • People are “of my sheep” or not, before they believe, because Jesus says that not being “of his sheep” is why they “do not believe” (John 10:26).
  • People are “of God” before they truly “hear the words of God,” because Jesus says that not being “of God” is why people do not hear (John 8:47).
  • And people are “of the truth” before they “listen to my voice,” because Jesus says that being “of the truth” is why they listen (John 18:37).

Jesus Was Praying For Every Believer

"In John 17:8, Jesus was praying for those who believed on him, and for those 'who will believe in me through their word' (John 17:20)," Pastor John explains. "In other words, he was praying for all of us who have become Christians."

Christian, Jesus is talking about you here! Take this personally!

So, how exactly did you end up in Christ? In verses 6 and 9, we see that it is by the Father giving you to him "because you already belonged to the Father." Jesus says, "You, Father, have given them to me, 'for they are yours.'” 

Don't All People Belong To The Father?

What does it mean to "belong to the Father" before you become a Christian? "Does it mean simply that God possesses all humans, including you? You belonged to the Father because everybody belongs to the Father? Probably not," Pastor John says, "because those who belong to the Father would be those who are 'of God,' and Jesus says in John 8:47 that there are those who are 'not of God.'"

Logically, it follows that "being of God" can’t include all humans. Who does it include, then? Why does it include you?

"Was it because you had some quality, and God saw this and chose you to be in the group that he would give to Jesus," Piper continues, "Did he see that you were willing to come to Jesus or willing to believe on Jesus, and for that reason counted you to be part of those who were his?"

Not at all. In John 6:44, Jesus clearly tells us that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Pastor John explains, "being willing to come to Jesus was not something God saw in you, but something God worked in you. No one is willing to come to Jesus on his own. Only those who are drawn by the Father can come. "

In Spite Of Disqualification

Again, Pastor John encourages you to ask, "Why were you among those who first belonged to God before he gave you to Jesus?" It was not because you were willing to believe or because you chose to believe. Jesus tells us it was simply because God was willing to grant or allow you to believe, to draw you to Jesus.

"In other words," Pastor John concludes, "God chose you freely to belong to him. By an act of free grace. You did not qualify for God’s choice. Nor did I! It was in spite of disqualification. We were unwilling to come. We loved darkness and hated light and would not come to the light (John 3:19–20). In spite of knowing this about us, God chose some darkness-lovers to be his. And then, to save us from our rebellion and guilt, he gave us to Jesus. 'Yours they were, and you gave them to me (John 17:6).'"

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