John A. Broadus
Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23, 24
The text is a part of our Saviour's last
discourse to his disciples. In order to understand it one should read Chapters 14, 15, and
16 of John.
These words present four topics of reflection on prayer in Christ's name.
I. Up to this time men had not asked in Christ's name. "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name." Our Saviour's mediatorical character had not been fully understood and recognized. Disciples had come to him with requests, and some of them were requests which only the divine Being could grant, such as "Increase our faith." It was difficult, perhaps impossible, for them fully to understand the Saviour's relation to prayer and to salvation, while he was yet with them. It was difficult for them to realize his divinity, to think of him as being everywhere present. Moreover, the especial ground of his mediator-ship was his atoning death, and this they never understood till after it occurred. While Christ's mediatorship, which is always the ground on which prayer is really heard, was not yet recognized, now they were taught to "ask the father in My name."
II.What is implied in asking in Christ's name?
1. It implies acknowledgment of personal unworthiness. It says that a man does not expect to be heard in his own name. Men who reject doctrine of mediation often say that they are magnifying God's mercy; but is it not magnifying man's merit? Here lies the greatest cause of dislike to the doctrine of atonement. You find such men always cherish high opinion of human excellence.
It is this conceit of personal merit, actual or attainable, that keeps men away from reliance on Christ. Self-reliance, it cannot too often be urged, is the great obstacle to salvation. Now to ask in the name of Christ is to cast this away, to acknowledge personal unworthiness.
2. It implies acquiescence in the divine provision for our acceptance. This cannot be said to require any particular degree of acquiescence with the nature of this provision. Many who just recognize the bare fact that we are heard for Jesus' sake and not for our own, this they accept upon declaration of God's Word. But Scriptures do teach much concerning its nature. Christ the mediator is both God and man-and therefore appropriate that through him man should draw near to God. But to consider more narrowly, take the saying of John, "Adversary with the Father." Observe that the man conscious of sin, thinks of his Adversary as righteous-and more, as the propitiation for our sins. Again, take the view presented in Hebrews, to my mind the clearest and most attractive in the Scriptures. We have a great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God-he has passed into the heavens, has offered in the true sanctuary the everlasting sacrifice, which needs not to be repeated, and so he is able to save those who come unto God by him. But not only is he able to save; he has compassion on us, "touched with a feeling of our infirmities," etc. Now notice the apostle's conclusion from these two great facts, that we have a High Priest who is able to save and desires to save-"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace," etc. Observe, it is the throne of grace, and we have come to obtain mercy, yet we come with confidence because we have such a mediator.
This precious promise is sometimes misunderstood or caricatured, as if the Supreme Sovereign were vindictive, disposed to treat nien harshly, and only brought into a different mind by the pleadings of his Son. Observe verses 26 and 27. All that believe in Christ, that ask in his name, are loved of the Father. And more-it was God's love that led to this provision. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." And thus he "commendeth his love to us." At the same time, he is angry with the wicked, and must punish, while pitying and desiring that they might turn and live. There is a difference between love of complacency and a love of compassion.
III. Encouragement to ask in Christ's name. "Whatsoever ye shall ask," etc.
Of course, this must be taken with certain limitations. This is true of many general statements of Scripture; we need not be surprised at this, for the same thing is constantly done in all use of human language. However, we are not left to our own judgment concerning the limitations. We are taught by the same inspired apostle who recorded the text. "If we ask anything according to his [e.g., Christ's] will," I John 5:14, 15. Now we know that some things we may ask, may not be always God's will to bestow, such as temporal blessings. But spiritual blessings are always asked according to his will. Do we ask conversion? "He is not willing that any should perish." Do we ask progress in piety? "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." Final salvation? "Even so it is not the will of our Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones [viz., those who believe in him] should perish" (Matt. 18:14).
Then be encouraged to ask in Christ's name. My hearers, why do you not all pray? Are you ashamed to pray? Are you afraid to pray? A man may well be afraid, but there is the mediator-ask in his name. Is there nothing you need, which can be obtained only by prayer? Then pray!
IV. The result of asking in Christ's name. "That your joy may be full."
Here is a promise of joyful joy, even though the disciples were sorrowful. All through this discourse, he was directing their thoughts to the future, declaring that their sorrow should be turned into joy. How fully this came to pass, even by the very event which now caused them bitter sorrow. It became the especial source of joy to them and to all mankind. This is a peculiar case-yet often God causes gladness to spring up from the midst of grief. To many affliction has proved to be a blessing, often leading to conversion or new consecration. The gay shrink from religion, imagining that all joy would be gone; the pious cling to religion, knowing that it can gild the clouds of life's inevitable sorrows with a heaven sent joy. Yes, piety brings joy.
But more narrowly, "Ask, etc. that your joy may be full." What is the relation of prayer to joy? We might say that the very fact of communion with God is joy. Confidence of acceptance through the mediator is a source of delight.
But it is by the answer to our prayers that our joy may be full. (1) Ask for clearer practical views of justification by faith. Lack of this produces the gloom of many Christians. Ask those who have been brought out of such seasons into joy and peace. (2) Ask for sanctifying influences of God's Spirit, that you may be drawn near to God and kept near, filled with all the fullness of those blessings which God bestows. "Keep yourselves in the love of God, praying in the Holy Ghost."
Ask most of all things for these, and your joy may be full. Whatever be your lot, you shall have joy in believing. Brethren, it is clear that we "have not, because We ask not"? "Ask etc. that your joy may be full." And though from weak faith and feeble petitions we should come short of joy complete on earth, yet "in thy presence is fullness of joy," etc.
Behold the high privileges of the Christian to ask in the name of Christ and to know this joy.
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