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Home > Fathers of the Church > Tractates on the Gospel of John (Augustine) > Tractate 110

Tractate 110 (John 17:21-23)

1. After the Lord Jesus had prayed for His disciples whom He had with Him at the time, and had conjoined with them others who were also His own, by saying, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe in me through their word, as if we were inquiring what or wherefore He prayed for them, He straightway subjoined, That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us. And a little above, while still praying for the disciples alone who were then with Him, He said, Holy Father, keep in Your own name those whom You have given me, that they may be one, as we are John 17:11. It is the same thing, therefore, that He now also prayed for in our behalf, as He did at that time in theirs, namely, that all— to wit, both we and they— may be one. And here we must take particular notice that the Lord did not say that we all may be one, but, that they all may be one; as Thou Father, in me, and I in You (where is to be understood are one, as is more clearly expressed afterwards); because He had also said before of the disciples who were with Him, That they may be one, as we are. The Father, therefore, is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, in such a way as to be one, because they are of one substance; but while we may indeed be in them, we cannot be one with them; for they and we are not of one substance, in as far as the Son is God along with the Father. But in as far as He is man, He is of the same substance as we are. But at present He wished rather to call attention to that other statement which He made use of in another place, I and the Father are one, where He intimated that His own nature was the same with that of the Father. And accordingly, though the Father and Son, or even the Holy Spirit, are in us, we must not suppose that they are of one nature with ourselves. And hence they are in us, or we are in them, in this sense, that they are one in their own nature, and we are one in ours. For they are in us, as God in His temple; but we are in them, as the creature in its Creator.

2. But then after saying, That they also may be one in us, He added, That the world may believe that You have sent me. What does He mean by this? Is it that the world will then be brought to the faith, when we shall all be one in the Father and Son? Is not such a state the everlasting peace, and the reward of faith, rather than faith itself? For we shall be one not in order to our believing, but because we have believed. But although in this life, because of the common faith itself, all who believe in one are one according to the words of the apostle, For you are all one in Christ Jesus; Galatians 3:28 even thus we are one, not in order to our believing, but because we do believe. What, then, is meant by the words, That they all may be one, that the world may believe? This, doubtless, that the all are themselves the believing world. For those who shall be one are not of one class, and the world that is thereafter to believe in this very ground that these shall be one, of another; since it is perfectly certain that He says, That they all may be one, of those of whom He had said before, Neither pray I for these alone, but for those also who shall believe in me through their word, immediately adding as He does, That they all may be one. And this all, what is it but the world; not certainly that which is hostile, but that which is believing? For you see here that He who had said, I pray not for the world, now prays for the world that it may believe. For there is a world whereof it is written, That we might not be condemned with this world. 1 Corinthians 11:32 For that world He prays not, for He is fully aware to what it is predestinated. And there is a world whereof it is written, For the Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved; and hence the apostle also says, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19 For this world it is that He prays, in saying, That the world may believe that You have sent me. For through this faith the world is reconciled unto God when it believes in the Christ whom God has sent. How, then, are we to understand Him when He says, That they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You have sent me, but just in this way, that He did not assign the cause of the world believing to the fact that those others are one, as if it believed on the ground that it saw them to be one; for the world itself here consists of all who by their own believing become one; but in His prayer He said, That the world may believe, just as in His prayer He also said, That they all may be one; and still further in the same prayer, That they also may be one in us. For the words, they all may be one, are equivalent to the world may believe, since it is by believing that they become one, perfectly one; that is, those who, although one by nature, had ceased to be so by their mutual dissensions. In fine, if the verb which He uses, I pray, be understood in the third clause, or rather, to make the whole fuller, be everywhere supplied, the explanation of this sentence will be all the clearer: I pray that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, in me, and I in You; I pray that they also may be one in us; I pray that the world may believe that You have sent me. And, mark, He added the words in us in order that we may know that our being made one in that love of unchanging faithfulness is to be attributed to the grace of God, and not to ourselves: just as the apostle, after saying, For you were at one time darkness, but now are you light, that none might attribute the doing of this to themselves, added, in the Lord. Ephesians 5:8

3. Furthermore, our Saviour in thus praying to the Father showed Himself to be man; while He now also shows that He Himself, as being God along with the Father, does that which He prays for, when He says, And the glory which You gave me, I have given them. And what was that glory but immortality, which human nature was henceforth to receive in Him? For not even He Himself had as yet received it, but in His own customary way, on account of the absolute fixedness of predestination, He intimates what is future in verbs of the past tense, because being now on the point of being glorified, or in other words, raised up again by the Father, He Himself is going to raise us up to the same glory in the end. What we have here is similar to what He says elsewhere, As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. And whom, but just the same as the Father? For what things soever the Father does, not other things, but these also does the Son, not in a different way, but in like manner. And in this way He also raised up even His own self. For to this effect he said, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again. Accordingly the glory of immortality, which He says had been given Him by the Father, He must be also understood as having bestowed upon Himself, although He does not say it. For on this very account He more frequently says that the Father alone does, what He Himself also does along with the Father, that everything whatever He may attribute to Him of whom He is. But sometimes also He is silent about the Father, and says that He Himself does what He only does along with the Father: that we may thereby understand that the Son is not to be separated from the working of the Father, when He is silent about Himself, and ascribes some work or other to the Father; as, on the other hand, the Father is not separated from the working of the Son, when the Son is said, without any mention being made of [the Father] Himself, to be doing some work in which nevertheless both are equally engaged. When, therefore, in some work of the Father, the Son says nothing of His own working, He commends humility, that He may become the source of sounder health to us; but when, in turn, in the case of some work of His own, He says nothing of the working of the Father, He commends His own equality, that we may not suppose Him to be inferior. In this way, then, and in this passage, He neither estranges Himself from the Father's working, although He has said, The glory which You gave me; for He also gave it to Himself: nor does He estrange the Father from His own working, although saying, I have given to them; for the Father also gave it to them. For the works not only of the Father and the Son, but also of the Holy Spirit, are inseparable. But just as, because of His praying the Father in behalf of all His people, it was His own pleasure that this should be done, that they all may be one; so also on the ground of His own beneficence, as expressed in the words, The glory which You gave me, I have given them, the doing of that was none the less His pleasure; for He immediately added, That they may be one, as we also are one.

4. And then He added: I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one. Here He briefly intimated Himself as the Mediator between God and men. Nor was this said in any such way as if the Father were not in us, or we were not in the Father; since He had also said in another place, We will come unto him, and make our abode with him; and a little before in this present passage He had not said, I in them and You in me, as He said now; or, They in me, and I in You; but, Thou in me, and I in You, and they in us. Accordingly, when He now says, I in them, and You in me, the words take this form in reference to the person of the Mediator, like that other expression used by the apostle, You are Christ's, and Christ is God's. 1 Corinthians 3:23 But in adding, That they may be made perfect in one, He showed that the reconciliation, which is effected by the Mediator, is carried to the very length of bringing us to the enjoyment of that perfect blessedness, which is thenceforth incapable of further addition. Hence the words that follow, That the world may know that You have sent me, are not, I think, to be taken as if He had again said, That the world may believe; for sometimes, to know, is also used in the same sense as to believe, as it is in the words He uttered some time before: And they have known truly that I came out from You, and they have believed that You sent me. He expressed the same thing by the later words, they have believed, as He had done by the earlier, they have known. But inasmuch as He here speaks of the consummation, the knowledge must be taken for such, as it shall then be by sight, and not, as it now is, by faith. For an order seems to have been preserved in reference to what He said a little before, that the world may believe; while here it is, that the world may know. For although He said there, that they all may be one, and may be one in us, yet He did not say, they may be made perfect in one, and so subjoined the words, that the world may believe that You have sent me; but here He said, That they may be made perfect in one, and then added, not, that the world may believe, but, that the world may know that You have sent me. For so long as we believe what we do not see, we are not yet made perfect, as we shall be when we have merited the sight of that which we believe. Most correctly, therefore, did He say in that previous place, That the world may believe, and here That the world may know; yet both there and here, that You have sent me; that we may know, so far as belongs to the inseparable love of the Father and the Son, that at present we only believe what we are on the way, by believing, to know. And had He said, That they may know that You have sent me, it would be just of the same force as what He actually does say, that the world may know. For they are the world that abides not in enmity, as does the world that is foreordained to damnation; but one that out of an enemy has been transformed into a friend, and on whose account God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Therefore said He, I in them, and You in me; as if He had said, I in those to whom You have sent me; and You in me, reconciling the world unto Yourself through me.

5. In close relation to these come also His further words: And You have loved them as you have loved me. That is to say, in the Son the Father loves us, because in Him He has chosen us before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 For He who loves the Only-begotten, certainly loves also His members which, through His in strumentality, He engrafted into Him by adoption. But we are not on this account equal to the only-begotten Son, by whom we have been created and re-created, that it is said, You have loved them as [You have] also [loved] me. For one does not always intimate equality when he says, As this, so also that other; but sometimes only, Because this is, so also is the other; or, That the one is, in order that the other may be also. For who could say that the apostles were sent by Christ into the world in exactly the same way as He Himself was sent by the Father? For, to say nothing of other differences, which it would be tedious to mention, they at all events were sent when they were already men; but He was sent in order that He might be man; and yet He said above, As You have sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world; as if He had said, Because You have sent me, I have sent them. So also in the passage before us He says, You have loved them, as You have loved me; which is nothing else than this, You have loved them because that You have also loved me. For He could not but love the members of the Son, seeing that He loves the Son Himself; nor is there any other reason for loving His members, save that He loves Himself. But He loves the Son as regards His Godhead, because He begot Him equal with Himself; He loves Him also in regard to what He is as man, because the Only-begotten Word was Himself made flesh, and on account of the Word is the flesh of the Word dear to Him; but He loves us, inasmuch as we are the members of Him whom He loves; and in order that we might be so, He loved us on this account before we existed.

6. The love, therefore, wherewith God loves, is incomprehensible and immutable. For it was not from the time that we were reconciled unto Him by the blood of His Son that He began to love us; but He did so before the foundation of the world, that we also might be His sons along with His Only-begotten, before as yet we had any existence of our own. Let not the fact, then, of our having been reconciled unto God through the death of His Son be so listened to or so understood, as if the Son reconciled us to Him in this respect, that He now began to love those whom He formerly hated, in the same way as enemy is reconciled to enemy, so that thereafter they become friends, and mutual love takes the place of their mutual hatred; but we were reconciled unto Him who already loved us, but with whom we were at enmity because of our sin. Whether I say the truth on this, let the apostle testify, when he says: God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8-9 He, therefore, had love toward us even when we were practising enmity against Him and working iniquity; and yet to Him it is said with perfect truth, Thou hatest, O Lord, all workers of iniquity. Accordingly, in a wonderful and divine manner, even when He hated us, He loved us; for He hated us, in so far as we were not what He Himself had made; and because our own iniquity had not in every part consumed His work, He knew at once both how, in each of us, to hate what we had done, and to love what He had done. And this, indeed, may be understood in the case of all regarding Him to whom it is truly said, Thou hatest nothing that You have made. Wisdom 11:25 For He would never have wished anything that He hated to exist, nor would anything that the Omnipotent had not wished exist at all, were it not that in what He hated there was also something that He loved. For He justly hates and reprobates vice as utterly repugnant to the principle of His procedure, yet He loves even in the persons of the vitiated what is susceptible either of His own beneficence through healing, or of His judgment by condemnation. In this way God at the same time hates nothing of what He has made; for as the Creator of natures, and not of vices, it was not He who made the evil that He hates; and of these same evils, all is good that He really does, either by mercifully healing them, or by judicially regulating them. Seeing, then, that He hates nothing that He has made, who can worthily describe how much He loves the members of His Only-begotten, and how much more the Only-begotten Himself, in whom are hid all things visible and invisible, which were ordained in their various classes, and which He loves in fullest harmony with such ordination? For the members of His Only-begotten He is leading on by the liberality of His grace to an equality with the holy angels; while the Only-begotten Himself, being Lord of all, is doubtless Lord of angels, being by nature, as God, the equal not of angels, but rather of the Father Himself; while through grace, in respect of which He is man, how can He otherwise than surpass all angelic excellence, seeing that in Him human flesh and the Word constitute but one personality?

7. Nevertheless there are not wanting some who place us likewise before the angels; because, they say, Christ died for us and not for angels. But what else is such a notion than the desire to glory over our very impiety? For Christ, as the apostle says, in due time died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 Where it is not any desert of ours, but the mercy of God, that is commended. For what can be the character of the man who wishes himself to be lauded, because he has become so abominably diseased through his own wickedness, that he can only be healed by the death of his physician? That surely is not the glory of our deserts, but the medicine of our diseases. Or do we prefer ourselves to the angels on this account, that, while there are angels also who have sinned, there has been no such labor expended on their healing? As if something that was at least small in amount had been undertaken for them, and what was greater for us. But had even such been the case, it might still be a subject of inquiry whether it was so because we had once stood in a position of superior excellence, or because we were now lying in a more desperate condition. But knowing as we do that the Creator of all good has imparted no grace for the reparation of angelic evils, why do we not rather draw the inference that their fault was judged all the more damnable, that the nature of those who committed it was of a loftier sublimity? For to the same extent as they less than we ought to have fallen into sin, were they superior in nature to us. But now in offending against the Creator they became all the more detestably ungrateful for His beneficence, that they were created capable of exercising the greater beneficence; nor was it enough for them to become deserters from Him, but they must also become our deceivers. This, therefore, is the great goodness of which we are to be made the subjects by Him, who has loved us even as He has loved Christ, that, for His sake, whose members He wished us to be, we may be equal to the holy angels, Luke 20:36 to whom we were created with an inferiority of nature, and have by our sin fallen into such greater depths of unworthiness, as to make it incumbent that we should be in some sort their associates.

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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. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1701110.htm>.

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