I love what Jesus asks God to do for His disciples in John 17:11: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” What does He mean? Keep them where? From what? The passage itself gives several hints.
He locates the keeping “in your name” (v11). God’s name represents His whole person (cf. v6). In other words Jesus is asking that they be kept connected to the Father. What connects people to God? Faith in the gospel. “Keep them” means, then, “Keep them believing the gospel, persevering in faith.”
In the next verse, He reminds the Father: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction” (v12). Obviously, the keeping He’s talking about is keeping in the faith, keeping them from abandoning their loyalty to Jesus and meeting destruction like Judas. Jesus says this is a duty He performed while He was with them. But now He’s leaving, and they must face the hostility of the world without the immediate help of His physical presence. So He releases them to the Father’s care.
He reiterates the same point in verse 15: “Keep them from the evil one.” This time, Jesus puts it in terms of preventing His followers from coming under Satan’s dominion, as happened to Judas. Same point: keep them faithful to Jesus, believing in Jesus. Essentially, He’s asking God to make sure all His brothers and sisters make it home. None abandon the faith. None are overtaken by the evil one.
Notice how well this request fits the rationale Jesus gave earlier. Earlier He appealed to God: “These are the people you gave me.” Now He prays: “So keep them.” Jesus grounds His request that God will keep on the fact that God has given. That’s how salvation works. God gives, and God keeps from start to finish.
God’s salvation really does save! It doesn’t just give people a strong likelihood, a fighting chance. It secures people for all eternity. What truth will reassure you when you doubt that God could really save a sinner like you? This: the Father gave you to the Son, and the Son has done everything necessary to be sure you are kept. The reason you are going to believe tomorrow is because God Himself is keeping you.