What does John 17:15 mean?
ESV: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
NIV: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
NASB: I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from the evil one.
CSB: I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
NLT: I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.
KJV: I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
Verse Commentary:
Among the more challenging aspects of biblical faith is that God does not promise to take believers out of persecution or hardship. Rather, merely obeying Christ (John 14:15) can be enough to earn hatred from the unbelieving world (John 17:14; 1 Peter 4:4). God assures us He will be with believers in their hardship (John 16:33), and what they experience is part of their preparation for something greater (Romans 8:18, 28).

In keeping with that theme, Jesus reiterates that His prayer is not for God to remove Christians from the world (1 Corinthians 5:9–10). Rather, He prays for the durability of their faith (Hebrews 3:6; John 16:1–4). The only way for believers to reach others with the gospel (Matthew 28:19) is to demonstrate Christian truth in our own lives (Matthew 5:13–16; 1 Peter 3:15). This part of Jesus' High Priestly Prayer is most immediately about His closest disciples (Matthew 10:1–4); other than Judas (John 17:12), these men will carry on the teachings of Jesus after His death and resurrection. However, modern Christians (John 17:20) are also "in the world," yet commanded not to be "of the world" (John 17:14).
Verse Context:
John 17:6–19 continues the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, prior to crossing into the garden of Gethsemane. After asking God the Father to glorify Him, so He may glorify the Father, Jesus now prays for His disciples. Earlier passages included Jesus' warnings about persecution (John 16:1–4). His plea, here, is for the apostles' continued faith in the face of that hardship. While this passage has application for all Christians, the immediate subject is Jesus' immediate circle of closest disciples. After this, Jesus' prayer will continue with an emphasis on all future believers.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, known as the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus speaks to God about three main topics. First is Christ Himself, asking God the Father to glorify Him so He can glorify the Father. Next, Jesus prays for the faith and courage in His closest disciples. Finally, He prays for those who will come to faith because of the apostles' writing and teaching. This moment occurs before Jesus enters Gethsemane, where the other Gospels will record His final anguished prayers before being arrested (Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46).
Chapter Context:
Over the last several chapters (John 13—16), Jesus has been giving last-minute instruction to His closest disciples. These lessons composed a large part of the Last Supper. Among those teachings were several warnings about persecution, with the encouragement of knowing the Holy Spirit would come. In chapter 17, we read Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, making requests on behalf of Himself, the apostles, and future believers. After this, Jesus will go into Gethsemane where Judas will turn Him over for arrest and His eventual execution.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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