I love the 17th Chapter of John. It is truly the Lord’s payer. In this chapter, we are allowed to sit close to Jesus and hear His words as he makes requests from our Father concerning himself, his disciples, and finally, believers who will believe the testimony of the disciples throughout the ages to come. Let’s read this part of John 17:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Jesus is praying first of all for the disciples, but also those who would believe their eyewitness account of Jesus short teaching time (3 1/2 years)
The new testament tells us about the eyewitness account of the disciples and their Jesus journey, but we also know that Jesus is found in the Old Testament as well:
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself
Jesus gave a long Bible study to disappointed disciples the day after His crucifixion as they walked to Emmaus sad and dejected. For His Bible study, Jesus used what we call the Old Testament. The topic? Jesus!
A disciple named Philip once helped an Ethiopian understand about Jesus by teaching him Scripture. What scripture?
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
What was the Scripture? Was it the New Testament? No! What we call as the New Testament had not been assembled and parts of it had not been written. The scripture about Jesus came from the Old Testament! Philip explained to the Ethiopian this passage:
“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
And who will declare His generation?
For His life is taken from the earth.
Isaiah 53: 7,8
Because of this, we should not be shy about learning from the Old Testament. To neglect the teachings of the Old Testament is to be only partly equipped for your Jesus Journey.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2 Timothy 3:16
This passage was not about the New Testament. It was not finished and assembled. It meant the scripture we call the Old Testament. But, it certainly refers to the New Testament that we have now.
So Jesus’ prayer is for believers like you and me who believe in God’s word. What was his prayer for the disciples and us who believe in God’s word?
…that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me
John 17 21
Jesus is praying for us to be one, but it is one in Jesus as he is one with the Father. The purpose of this is for evangelism. To help non-believers, believe.
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
John 17: 22
Notice that he has given the disciples glory that came from the Father through Jesus. This glory is given that we may be one just as Jesus and the Father are one! That is powerful and so people will know about the love of God the Father and Jesus! Here is how I see the unity Jesus desires in His prayer:
Let’s fast forward to 2017.
The Christian church is the largest of all religions, but it is divided into two major sections: Catholic and Protestant. Both are split into some 30,000 different denominations.
Lately, it has been suggested by the Pope and Tony Palmer (now deceased) that the divisions within the Christian church happened when the Protestants “protested” and broke away from the Catholic church.
Martin Luther a priest of the Catholic church found a Bible chained to a monastery wall written in Latin. As he read, he discovered the theme of righteousness by faith. The church was promoting salvation by works.
As Martin Luther read the Bible and compared it with the Roman Catholics’ teaching, he developed 95 thesis that he was prepared to defend. In 1517, he took this document and nailed it to the door of the Wittenberg church. The document started off with these words:
Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate (make it clear, explain it), the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
The Reverend Father Martin Luther saw a conflict between the practices of the church and the words of the disciples and the words of the prophets.
He was ready to defend the truth either orally in person or by letter!
Tony Palmer made a statement in front of a large congregation of Protestants that Luther’s protest was over…finished… because the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church had signed an agreement about the theme of righteousness by faith.
But there we 94 more disagreements and many more men involved in the Protestant Reformation. Men such as John Calvin, John Wycliffe, Jon Huss, Peter Waldo and many others. Many were burned at the stake for not giving alliance to the Roman Catholic church during what we call as the dark ages.
Tony proclaimed that the children should come home to the church at Rome.
So there is a big move toward unity between the Catholic church and many of the Protestant churches as I write this. What is the basis for this unity? Tony said that it is the Spirit that we can work out all our difference on doctrine “when we are upstairs.” That seems to be saying that the teachings of Jesus are not as important as unity. His teaching and the teaching of all the prophets are doctrines are they not?
‘Truth and doctrine of God’s word cannot be compromised. Why? Because the doctrine is the revealed will of God. It is teachings of Christ and of God. Can we compromise any truth? Which ones do we throw out for the sake of unity?
Divisions within the church started long before the 16th century
Let’s look at a few instances from the Bible:
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Many of the believers were lining up behind men and their teachings that they liked. It was like a popularity contest. Does this sound familiar? Paul was pleading that they all come together and speak the same thing and that there are no divisions! He wanted them to line up behind Jesus, who is not divided. Paul placed the importance on Christ and not himself when he asked, in 55 AD “Was Paul crucified for you?”
Making a commitment to Jesus can cause divisions:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Matthew 10: 34-39
No doubt we are to love and care for our family, but making Jesus #1 in your life can be tested if you have to choose family over following Jesus. We often hear people say that their priorities in life are:
God then family then job.
This is sometimes tested.
Paul knew that when he left a town he had evangelized, that men would come in and draw them away from the simple teachings of the gospel and Jesus:
For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
What protects the new believer from these wolves? The new believer is like a small seedling just starting to sprout. It must be fed, watered and pampered until it is rooted and grounded. Let us never forget this.
Also, grumblers and complainers in the church can cause divisions:
These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Jude 1: 16-19
Notice the type of person they are: sensual who cause divisions and they don’t have the Spirit of God in them. They will use flattery to gain an advantage. With their mouth, they will use “swelling words” to influence.
How often do people decide truth by the appearance of the person rather than by comparing their teaching with the word of God? During Paul’s time, there were a people who were very careful to compare Paul’s teaching with the word of God. We must be like them!
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Notice they were excited about receiving the words of Paul, but they searched the scriptures every day to see if Paul was telling the truth. How many people in a church can do this or even want to do it?
The word of God should never be compromised for the sake of unity. The word is what is a light unto our path. There is no light in someone who teaches against God’s word:
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
So the question is did Jesus’ prayer fail? No! If you are in Christ.
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Our unity is found IN Christ. We are members of the same body if we are IN Christ!
Many are at different points in their Jesus Journey, but if we are IN Christ we are IN the father and are one! Some have much light from God’s word and some have little but we can be one IN Christ.
The term “IN CHRIST” appears 76 times in the New Testament. Notice that right after the phrase is the way to be “IN CHRIST”
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are IN Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified IN Christ Jesus, called to be saints.”
1 Corinthians 1:2
Church is not a membership, it is a calling! We are sanctified IN Christ and called to do His will!
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called”
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;
What is this calling?
It is to follow in his steps to live a life IN Christ following His example.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
1 Peter 2:21
Here is how to be IN Christ:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For
“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers
1 Peter 3: 8-12
By doing these things, you are doing the things you were called to do!
So we are brought into unity as individuals who are IN Christ. When we believe and follow His words as given by his disciples (eye witnesses) and the prophets who were carried away in vision we become one.
We might be different by sex, nationality, race but if we are In Christ we are one:
For you are all sons of God through faith IN Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one IN Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:26, 28
If we are truly in Christ, His word will not be compromised in our experience with Him. Those “in Christ” will be eager to know His will and follow the simple word of God, not worrying about mother, father, son, or daughter, or church denomination. Unity is about individuals who have a personal experience with the Lord and not necessarily, about organizations, His word will bring division, but it is for the purpose of separating truth from false; real from unreal; sincere from insincere; saved from lost so that His church might accurately reflect His character and love for people.