“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17
This passage is found in that glorious portion of the Scripture where Jesus prayed with and for His disciples just before His brutal and agonizing death on the cross. At this time, our Lord prayed about many things, including the disciples’ relationship with the world. Immediately prior to our text, He said, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15, 16). Jesus was concerned about His disciples and how they would be affected and influenced by the world. He did not pray that the Father would remove them from the world. God has a plan and a purpose for us. For now, it involves our being in this world. However, while we are in this world, Jesus wants to keep us separated from the evil influences of the world. We are to influence the world in a godly way, but Jesus does not want the world to have a huge influence on us.
We are to be in the world, but not of the world. Jesus prayed that we would not be worldly. The Bible describes Christians as “strangers and pilgrims” (I Peter 2:11). As the familiar hymn states, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” It is clear that we are not to be like the world that we live in, but what is it that separates us from the world? The answer to that question is found in this sentence of Jesus’ prayer: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” To sanctify means “to make holy, to purify, to consecrate, to set apart.” Jesus wanted His disciples to be separated from the world, to be a holy people for God.
The thing that sets us apart from the world is the Word of God. God’s Word is the truth. The truths about sin, love, marriage, and child training are found in the Bible. The truths about keeping ourselves honest and moral, about friendships, about our vocational lives, about keeping our words pure, and about proper appearance are in the Bible. If we will live according to the Word of God, we will live separate from the world. A person who does not respect the Bible, or desire to live according to it, will not understand Bible separation. However, a person who loves the Bible and wants to live by the precepts of the Scripture will be an answer to the prayer that Jesus prayed.