Here in John 17, we get the most sacred privilege of listening in on a beautiful and powerful conversation between God the Son and God the Father. It is most certainly the “holy of holies” of the gospels, and a passage that has major impact on us as followers of Jesus Christ. Though we are focusing in on the last part of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, I strongly encourage you to read all of John 17 and meditate on His words with careful reverence and awe! This is our Savior, praying to our Father, first for Himself, then for His disciples, and finally for all believers for all time. What a gift to us as it so beautifully displays the heart of Jesus toward those He loves!
In our focus scriptures for today we get to see our Savior’s heart for His body to be one! How I long to truly experience the reality of this! As I picture God in His three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, all completely one, in perfect unity, perfect communion, I stand in awe that we would be invited into that circle. And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus is asking the Father to do.
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us
He is asking that we might be there, included in that circle of perfect communion as the family of God. One with God and with one another.
In Ephesians 4, we find Paul’s exhortation for unity in the body of Christ, and more specifically, the difference between unity of Spirit and unity of faith. These differentiations can help us as we process what it means to be one.
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit. ~Ephesians 4:3
The fact that Paul says we must keep ourselves united in the Spirit indicates that we already have unity of the Spirit. We, as believers in Jesus, have the same Spirit of God living in each one of us – the same glory, as Jesus stated in John 17: 22 ~
The glory that you have given me I have given to them
We believe in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and the glorious hope for the future – all the core doctrines that make us Christians. This unity is something that is given to us as we enter the family of God, I believe. And this is what we must make every effort to keep. We are a family!
Jumping down to verse 12 (after Paul describes the 5-fold ministry given by Christ to the church):
Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Unity of the Spirit has to do with what we are all given at salvation, as we enter into the body of Christ, as we become part of the family of believers. Unity of the faith has to do with the end result of what we are all learning as we grow in our knowledge of God and our experiences with Him. I believe that the body of Christ suffers because we elevate the importance of unity of faith above unity of the Spirit – oneness in Christ. We should love each other above all else, bind ourselves together in peace, protect one another, and celebrate the fact that we are one body.
If we disagree on issues of faith, it should not bring division, but rather should drive each of us to seek God more deeply and to trust the Holy Spirit working in each other as we all grow to maturity. We can and should serve the Lord together, even if we don’t agree on every facet of doctrine. Because we are family, we love and protect each other despite our differences. This is the body of Christ.
“Christians may belong to different fellowships, but they all belong to the Lord and to each other. Christian harmony is not based on the externals of the flesh but the internals and eternals of the Spirit in the inner person. We must look beyond the elements of our first birth – race, color, abilities, etc., – and build our fellowship on the essentials of our new birth.” ~ Warren W. Wiersbe
that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. ~John 17:23
The purpose of unity is not solely for our own sense of communion, but ultimately, we are one so that the world may know Jesus, and through Him, know the Father. As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus – the means by which all of this relationship is possible – let us also reflect on how God is inviting us to pursue greater unity as part of His body here on earth!
Live Free. Live Loved.