Through the Bible in One Year

Day 169

John 17:20-26

So far we have seen Jesus pray to be glorified and we have seen him pray for his disciples.  And now today we are going to see Jesus pray for all those who will ever be his disciples.  And what we are going to see Jesus focusing on in this prayer for all of his future disciples is unity, because he knew that the devil was going to try and derail the mission of the church by sowing seeds of disunity.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”—17:20-26

Jesus’ final words of prayer of focus on future believers.  He prayed for their unity and future destiny.  He wanted them to experience the depth of unity that exists between him and the Father.  Jesus desires that his people be committed to his mission and that they love one another as he has loved them.  He does not want believers fighting with one another or competing with one another.  One reason Jesus wants a unified people of God is so that the world may be convinced by the church’s witness that the Father sent Jesus.  The church’s unity is a divine mandate.  This unity is to imitate, to a lesser degree, the unity of the Godhead.  Jesus concluded the prayer by requesting that future believers know the indwelling love of the Father and the manifest presence of the Son.  The Father’s love is the same love he has for the Son.  This thought is incomprehensible to the human mind, which may be why the apostle Paul prayed that believers would be able to comprehend that which is truly incomprehensible: God’s love for them.

Now let’s wrap this up by talking about the phrase found in verse 21 that says, “that all of them may be one.”  This phrase expresses one of Christ’s deepest desires for his people as a whole.  He mentions this four times in his prayer (vv. 11 and 21-23) because unity is a primary factor in accomplishing God’s purposes and confirming the truth of the message about Christ (vv. 21 and 23).  The unity that Jesus prayed for was not organizational unity but spiritual unity based on the following: true spiritual salvation and a personal relationship with Christ (v. 23); knowing and experiencing the love of the Father and the companionship of Christ (v. 26); separation from the evil ways of the world (vv. 14-16); growth in their knowledge of truth and devotion to God’s purposes (vv. 17 and 19); receiving, believing and obeying the truth of God’s Word (vv. 6, 8 and 17); and the desire to bring Christ’s message of forgiveness and spiritual salvation to those who do not yet have a personal relationship with Christ (vv. 21 and 23).  When any one of these factors is missing, complete unity among Jesus’ followers cannot exist as he desires.  Now let’s look four things that we should learn about Christian unity in this last section of Jesus’ prayer.

  1. Jesus does not pray for his followers to “become one,” but rather that they may “be one.”  The present subjunctive phrasing used here means that action is ongoing, meaning “continually be one.”  This type of unity is based on our common relationship to the Father and the Son and on having the same basic attitude toward the world, the Word and the need to reach out to those who are spiritual lost—those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.
  2. Attempting to create what looks like unity by having meetings, conferences or complex organization can result in tension and frustration.  What Jesus had in mind is much more than unified gatherings or the appearance of togetherness.  It is spiritual unity of heart, mind and purpose among those who are fully devoted to Christ and his Word.
  3. This does not mean that God’s people must agree or have the same perspective on all issues, but they must maintain a unified and uncompromising commitment to honoring Christ, staying true to his Word and leading others into a personal relationship with God.
  4. One of the primary reasons for this sort of unity is that people will know that Jesus was sent by the Father to bring them back into a relationship with God—that “may believe that you have sent me.”  Christ’s followers will not be able to effectively accomplish their purpose of leading others to Christ unless they are living in unity.  In other words, without unity, our testimony lacks credibility and few people in the world will give serious thought to following Christ and becoming part of his church.

And we will pick up from here tomorrow, when we see Jesus’ arrest, which takes us into John chapter 18.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

2 Kings 1-2, Acts 13:42-14:7, Psalm 139:1-24 and Proverbs 17:19-21

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