Sermon: Christian Unity John 17:20-26

Christian Unity

John 17:20-26

Jesus prays that those whom the Father gave Him will be one just as He and the Father are one.

Introduction

As we begin, we catch the third thing Jesus is not praying for.  If you remember, He said he was not praying for the world of people in general but those whom the Father gave Him.  We saw that in verse 9.  Then He prayed that the Father would not remove His disciples from the world.  That’s found in verse 15.  Now He prays not just for these immediate disciples only but He prays for all future followers from every era.  Here’s where Jesus appropriates all His promises to us.  The answers to His prayers are for us not just His first followers.

Human Need

In this world, we must fight for truth.  In doing so we study the Bible which is God’s truth given to His followers.  Our great need that this passage helps us with is our need to learn and believe what the Bible teaches.

Father, You have Gathered Your people that You may let us hear Your words, so that we may learn to fear You all the days that we live on the earth, and that we may also teach our children…amen

John 17:20–26 (ESV)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

  1. Jesus Prays for All His Followers

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

Our Lord knows exactly who are His.  He knows exactly who the Father has given Him.  He knows all of us by name.  He knows everything about us.

As we read verse 20 with care, we discover something that we dare not miss.  It’s here in verse 20 that our Lord includes us in His prayer.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,

What Jesus prays for is that everyone who would also believe down through the centuries.  As the original disciples preached and taught and God saved folks those people are also included.  As they shared the Gospel and God saved others they too are included in the prayer, generation after generation right up to us.  The wonderful thing is that our children who are believers are also included and if the Lord tarries so will their children.  So, all that to say Jesus is praying for all future believers.
How could Jesus do this?  Well, we know that our Lord is God the Son and has all the divine attributes God the Father has.  He is well aware of all future events.  We realize that it is much more than that.  It is true that Jesus knows who would believe.  But He also has them written in the Lambs book of life as all those the Father gave Him.  So, for all eternity the Son has loved us in a special way.  His affection for us did not start at our birth but we were in His eternal and divine thoughts from eternity past.  When did Jesus love us?  He has always loved us.

Revelation 13:8 (ESV)

and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Our Lord prayed for all whose names have been written in the Lambs Book of Life.  Can we make this abundantly clear today?  When we heard the Gospel and believed our names were not then written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  They were already written down.  We are saved because our names are written in the Book.  They were written before the foundation of the world.  We were in God’s mind and on His heart before the world was made.  Before God said Let there be light we were already on His heart.

One other thing to note before we move on is that on the surface it might seem like our Lord was just praying for His first disciples and then the second generation, those who will believe in me through their word, but we must realize that’s not the case.  The first disciples were called Apostles.  They would be the ones who would write God’s Word, the Bible.  We understand that it is true that everyone who is truly born again is birthed through the Word of God.  Guess who wrote the NT?  The first followers.  So, Jesus prayed for everyone who would believe through their words or what they wrote down.  All of us who are believers today came to faith because of the word of the Apostles…So, Jesus’ prayer has been answered over and over again.

So, we’ve seen who it is Jesus is praying for, now let’s look together at what Jesus prays for…

  1. Jesus Prays that All His Followers Would be in Perfect Unity

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Our Lord prays for true and perfect unity.  Now, we all know that there are literally hundreds of denominations and various groups calling themselves Christian.  Contained within these groups who call themselves Christians are beliefs that oppose each other or that are the opposite of each other proving that both can’t be right.
The reality is this: Jesus prays that the Word of God would unite all His true followers.  He already said that those are who He’s praying for, those who would believe through their Words which we’ve established as the Bible.  Now this gets a little scary and a little challenging.  No matter what someone calls themselves or what a group calls themselves they are not Christians unless they are in unity on the teachings of the Apostles.  Why do I say that?  Well, Jesus just said He was praying for all the Father gave Him and praying for all who would believe based on their words or based on what the Bible teaches.  He telling us that only true Christians are those that believe everything the Bible teaches.  True and perfect unity can only happen when we are united on the foundation of God’s Word.
Romans 12:5 (ESV)

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Unity is found when we adhere to the teachings of the Bible (the words of the Apostles).  The unity Jesus prays for is the unity that His followers (those the Father gave Him) to be in literally, spirit and truth.  So, unity is only found when we examine the teachings of the Bible and we all agree wholeheartedly with all it teaches.

The unity for which Christ prayed is not achieved by hunting enthusiastically for the lowest common theological denominator, but by common adherence to the apostolic gospel, by love that is joyfully self-sacrificing, by undaunted commitment to the shared goals of the mission with which Jesus’ followers have been charged.[1]

There is only one faith.  There is only one body of truth or doctrine that has been handed down by the Apostles that comes down through the centuries to us.
Jude 3 (ESV)

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Our job is to keep this faith pure that has been handed down to us so that our children can also believe it.

So, the Christian unity Jesus describes is based on the unity experienced within the Godhead.  They are One in being, truth, and purpose.
I think we can make three observations here…
Christian unity requires us to believe what the Bible says.  Removing truth from unity tears down unity and does not build it up.  Next, Christian unity requires that we do not add to the Bible.  Third, unity in truth requires us to discern what the nonnegotiable truths are.

The New Testament explicitly identifies what they are…
Deity of Jesus-

John 5:24 (ESV)

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Jesus Christ is the world’s only Savior-

1 John 2:22 (ESV)

22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as a substitutionary atonement-
1 Corinthians 15:3 (ESV)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection-
1 Corinthians 15:4 (ESV)

that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Justification by faith alone-

Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Galatians 1:8 (ESV)

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

If there is to be unity we must at least agree on these things.  If a group calls themselves Christian but denies one of these they are not Christian and we cannot be in unity with them.

  1. Jesus Prays that All His Followers Would be With Him in a Perfect Place

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.

The unity the true church has in Christ based on the one faith will manifest itself in our love and longing for Christ.  Here Jesus prays that all true believers will be with Him in heaven.  His request is granted by the Father.

One missionary who visited the former Soviet Union made the comment after living with these folks that they were extremely poor and had to literally almost eat scraps to stay alive.  As this missionary taught them about heaven they were overcome with joy and wept as they learned about the place where Jesus is.

Here in America heaven is often viewed as some place to go only after you’ve seen all there is to see in this life.  It’s as if, for many in America, heaven would be an intrusion into busy schedules an interruption of career goals or vacation plans.

Hebrews 13:14 (ESV)

14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Hebrews 11:13 (ESV)

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Philippians 3:20 (ESV)

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

We must resist being worldly-minded and in thinking this is our true home.  Do you long for heaven?  Do you love for the place where Christ dwells?

The Apostle John gives us more words of warning…
1 John 2:15–17 (ESV)

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

  1. Jesus Prays that All His Followers Would Share in Perfect Love

26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus knows the Father perfectly.  He is the only One who can make the Father perfectly known to us.  Jesus has also made the Father’s name known to us.  We can know the character and nature of the Father because Jesus shows us in His Word.  Over and over Jesus makes this statement is some form or other…so that they would know You have sent Me.  In this statement we see the love and character of the Father.  Jesus did not just come to save us but He was sent by the Father to save us.

Matthew 11:27 (ESV)

27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

John 15:15 (ESV)

15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

There is a wonderful principle given to us by Christ here in this passage.  To know the character of God the Father will result in our loving Him.  We love Christ and He wants us to know something…His coming to earth to save us did not originate with Him but with His Father.

Conclusion-
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer His requests can be summed up by using seven words.
Preservation-

John 17:11 (ESV)

11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Joy-

John 17:13 (ESV)

13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

Protection-

John 17:15 (ESV)

15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Sanctification-

John 17:17 (ESV)

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Unity-

John 17:21 (ESV)

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Heaven-
John 17:24 (ESV)

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Glorification-

John 17:24 (ESV)

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

All these things are given to all who belong to Christ.  The promises of Jesus found in John 5 reverberate through this passage.
John 5:24 (ESV)

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Commentaries used…
Reformed Expository Commentary on John

John Macarthur’s Commentary on John

[1] D A Carson, The Pillar Commentary: John 568

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