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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 108

Tractate 108 (John 17:14-19)

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1. While the Lord is still speaking to the Father, and praying for His disciples, He says: I have given them Your saying; and the world has hated them. That hatred they had not yet experienced in those sufferings of their own, which afterwards overtook them; but He speaks thus in His usual way, foretelling the future in words of the past tense. And then, subjoining the reason of their being hated by the world, He says, Because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. This was conferred on them by regeneration; for by generation they were of the world, as He had already said to them, I have chosen you out of the world. It was therefore a gracious privilege bestowed upon them, that they, like Himself, should not be of the world, through the deliverance which He was giving them from the world. He, however, was never of the world; for even in respect of His servant-form He was born of that Holy Spirit of whom they were born again. For if on that account they were no more of the world, because born again of the Holy Spirit; on the same account He was never of the world, because born of the Holy Spirit.

2. I pray not, He adds, that you should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. For they still accounted it necessary to be in the world, although they were no longer of it. Then He repeats the same statement: They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth. For so are they kept from the evil, as He had previously prayed that they might be. But it may be inquired how they were no more of the world, if they were not yet sanctified in the truth; or, if they already were, why He requests that they should be so. Is it not because even those who are sanctified still continue to make progress in the same sanctification, and grow in holiness; and do not so without the aid of God's grace, but by His sanctifying of their progress, even as He sanctified their outset? And hence the apostle likewise says: He who has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 The heirs therefore of the New Testament are sanctified in that truth which was adumbrated in the purifications of the Old Testament; and when they are sanctified in the truth, they are in other words sanctified in Christ, who said in truth, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. As also when He said, The truth shall make you free, in explanation of His words, He added soon after, If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed; in order to show that what He had previously called the truth, He a minute afterwards denominates the Son. And what else did He mean by the words before us, Sanctify them in the truth, but, Sanctify them in me?

3. Finally, He proceeds, and doing so fails not to suggest the same with increasing clearness: Your speech (sermo) is truth. What else did He mean than I am the truth? For the Greek Gospel has λόγος, which is also the word that is found in the passage where it is said, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And that Word at least we know to be the only begotten Son of God, which was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Hence also there might have been put here as it actually has been put in certain copies, Your Word is truth; just as in some copies that other passage is written, In the beginning was the speech. But in the Greek without any variation it is λόγος in both cases. The Father therefore sanctifies in the truth, that is, in His own Word, in His Only begotten, His own heirs and His (the Son's) co-heirs.

4. But now He still goes on to speak of the apostles, for He proceeds to add, As You have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. Whom did He so send but His apostles? For even the very name of apostles, which is a Greek word, signifies in Latin nothing more than, those that are sent. God, therefore, sent His Son, not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh; Romans 8:3 and His Son sent those who, born themselves in sinful flesh, were sanctified by Him from the defilement of sin.

5. But since, on the ground that the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, has become Head of the Church, they are His members; therefore He says in the words that follow, And for their sakes I sanctify myself. For what means He by the words, And for their sakes I sanctify myself, but I sanctify them in myself, since they also are [part of] myself? For those of whom He so speaks are, as I have said, His members; and the head and body are one Christ, as the apostle teaches when he says of the seed of Abraham, And if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, after having said before, He says not, And to seeds, as in many, but as in one, And to your seed, which is Christ. If, then, the seed of Abraham is Christ, what else is declared to those to whom he says, Then are you Abraham's seed, but then are you Christ? Of the same character is what this very apostle said in another place: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh. Colossians 1:24 He said not, of my afflictions, but of Christ's; for he was a member of Christ, and in his persecutions, such as it behooved Christ to suffer in the whole of His body, he also was filling up his own share of His afflictions. And to be assured of the certainty of this in the present passage, give heed to what follows. For after saying, And for their sakes I sanctify myself, to let us understand that He thereby meant that He would sanctify them in Himself, He immediately added, That they also may be sanctified in the truth. And what else is this but in me, in accordance with the fact that the truth is that Word in the beginning which is God? In whom also the Son of man was Himself sanctified from the beginning of His creation, when the Word was made flesh, for the Word and the man became one person. Then accordingly He sanctified Himself in Himself, that is, Himself the man in Himself the Word; for the Word and the man is one Christ, who sanctifies the manhood in the Word. But in behalf of His members He says, And for their sakes I,— that is, that the benefit may be also theirs, for they too are [included in the] I, just as it benefited me in myself, because I am man apart from them — I sanctify myself, that is, I sanctify them as if it were my own self in me, since in me they also are I. That they also may be sanctified in the truth. For what else mean the words they also, but [they] in the same way as I; in the truth, and that truth am I? After this He now begins to speak not only of the apostles, but also of the rest of His members, which we shall treat of, as grace may be granted us, in another discourse.

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Source. Translated by John Gibb. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1888.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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