in Christian Living & Fellowship

Perfect Unity

The Subjects, Nature, Means and Purposes of it.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 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. ” (John 17:20–23, ESV)

People come to church for a variety of reasons. Some people wish to bring some sort of spirituality to an otherwise secular and wordly lifestyle. Others desire to be fed with spiritual truths and experience a closeness to God. Some seek religious experiences and the excitement of worship in a charismatic setting. Some people desire a private religion in the comfort of their own home, keeping their relationship with God a personal and private matter. Others simply come because they think it’s the right thing to do, even though they do no believe a word of what they hear.

Fortunately, we can turn to the Scriptures to find out what Jesus would want of his believers who gather. In this section of Scripture, Jesus makes known his primary concern and desire that we be in perfect unity.

Background

Let’s look at John 17, Jesus High Priestly Prayer. I will read the entire prayer, but we are going to focus on verses 20-23 today. Keep in mind, that prior to this prayer, Jesus was preparing his disciples to face the reality that Jesus was no longer going to be with them. These are, in a sense, Jesus final petitions before God.

Read all of John 17. We’ll Focus on John 17:20-26.

Jesus starts with prayers conerning himself (John 17:1–5); then prayers concerning the disciples or apostles (John 17:6–19):; then with prayers concerning future believers (v20–23); and in v24–26 Jesus returns to the disciples. There are many ways in which the prayers to the disciples or apostles also apply to all believers, but we will focus on the final group—future believer—in verses 20-23.

Future Believers

It’s valuable to note the means by which Jesus expected people to become believers.

“By Their Word”. In verse 20 Jesus describes believers as “those who will believe in me through their word”. Jesus expects that people will come to belief in him through “their word”. When Jesus says, “their word” we can take that to mean several things:

The spoken word of the apostles. The apostles where going out and preaching the Gospel, and it was their spoken word that would explain, defend, and proclaim what Jesus death and resurrection, what it means, and call people to respond.

The written word of the New Testament. The written word in our Bibles functions in the same way as the apostles written word: explaining, defending, proclaiming Jesus death and resurrection and calling people to respond in faith.

The spoken word of all disciples. Today, as we go out and make disciples, we are making believers through our word as we explain what Jesus did on the cross, it’s meaning and calling people to respond in faith.

Qualities of Oneness or Unity.

Let’s turn to look at some of the qualities of the unity that we should have as the body of Christ.

Jesus in Us

Jesus used some very mystical sounding language that speaks of the Father in Jesus and Jesus in us. Jesus talks in this manner more than once.

In verse 21 Jesus says “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you”. Here, Jesus explains his desire for our oneness to be like the oneness that exists between the Father and the Son. 

In verse 23 he prays for “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one”. Jesus explains that the Father will be in Jesus, and Jesus in us, so that we may be perfectly one. Our oneness depends on Jesus being in us.

We can take up an entire sermon exploring the various Scriptures that speak of Christ in us, but I will leave that for another time, or perhaps you can explore it for yourself.

Exists in God

Anoher quality of this unity is that it exists in the Trinity. In verse 21 Jesus starts out describing this unity as a unity that existed between Jesus and the Father. “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you”. This is the triune unity that has existed since eternity! It is steadfast, unchangeable, glorious, lovely, loving, harmonious, unsurpassed and perfect. Jesus wants this unity to exist in us!

Perfect

It may seem as if Jesus overlooked the sinful fallen nature of his followers when he asks for us to be in perfect unity. How can this be? How can we, people who continually fall short into sin; people who display acts of selfishness; people who at times live hypocritically to the very things we profess to desire; how can Jesus expect us to obtain perfect unity?

I will go over this later when we talk about application, but for now, let’s just recognize the challenge and the glorious call that God has put on our lives to be in perfect unity. God does not desire for us to be a church of bickering brats; He doesn’t want a partial unity that displays itself only on Sunday or during group meetings. He doesn’t want a unity on the surface, as we exchange polite conversation in public and reveal secrets in the dark. He wants us to be in perfect unity that permeates every fiber of our being.

Purpose of Unity

Now let us look at the purpose of this unity. We can tend to think of spiritual exercises and disciplines as solely for the purpose of improving our own spiritual character. There is truth to that, but the end of our quest for spiritual growth is not to be compared to the popular pursuit of spirituality that we see today. The focus of spirituality we see today is largely for the improvement of the self; in contrast, the focus of Jesus’s prayer is for the glorification of God through Jesus Christ.

Authenticates Christ

In the end of verse 21 Jesus says that the purpose of our unity is “so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. The unity that we share as a community is an evidence that Jesus was indeed sent by God. Community is broken and ineffective if it doesn’t have a unity that displays itself as evidence for the truthfullness of Jesus.

Authenticates Community

At the end of verse 23, Jesus adds, “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 unity authenticates the reality that the same love God has for Christ, He has for us.

Means of Unity

So what are the ways in which Jesus accomplishes this unity in us? In a practical sense, there are many ways that we can accomplish unity. However, in this text; in Jesus final request for unity, Jesus describes unity as being accomplished primarily through ongoing interaction with revelation from God.

In verses 25-26 we read, “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 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.”

We do not have the same privilege of the real physical presence of Christ as our teacher, and we do not have the same privieledge as the apostles, who received the inerrant Word of God through the divine work of the Holy Spirit. We do have the promised helper, the Holy Spirit, and the written word of God in the Scriptures.

The primary means of achieving this unity, is through continual contact with revelation from God. The studying of God’s Word in the Scriptures is our all-sufficient source of God’s truth. And with the help of the Holy Spirit, as we learn these truths, we can teach and encourage each other with these truths in our daily activities. In this way, we have continually interaction with revelation from God. Our lives can become saturated with God so that the same love that God has for Jesus, will be in us.

Application

Challenges

What are some of the challenges we face in creating unity?

Unity is are challenged by individualism. Modern culture has made individualism a virtue. A little child rejects the help of their parents, demanding to do it on their own. Or perhaps the child rejects the parents guidance, preferring to do it under his or her own judgements. People don’t see this as sin, but recognize it as a strength. Certainly it is good to learn skills, work and be productive in society. But it is a deception to think that our ability to accomplish things on our own is a godly character. Jesus never accomplished anything apart from the will of the Father. Individualism is in opposition to godly unity.

Unity is challenged by consumerism. The consumer mindset considers everything in life as a product, with features, and benefits that can be added to ones life. We rate products, read or listen to each others review, and determine the value of these products for our lives. The consumer stands in judgement over the product.

We cannot use this consumeristic paradigm of thinking with the church. The church is the “ekklesia” or the elect people of God. If you are truly a child of God, it is God who chose you and the other people in this church. He has now called us to unity.

Some church leaders have made the mistake of basing their ministry models to cater to consumerism. The Willow Creek model is one such example, where the leaders went into the community and ask the general public, unbelievers and believers alike, what kind of church the people want. This model starts off on the wrong foot by making the church a product that can be rated and reviewed according to the consumeristic mindset.

Willow Creek tried this for three decades starting in 1975. They recently did research on their effectiveness and published the results in Reveal and discovered that it wasn’t working. The Christians in their congregation that would describe themselves as Christ-centered or “close-to-Christ” were spiritually stalled and disattisfied with the role of the church in their spiritual growth and 63 percent of these were contemplating leaving the church. This certainly is not good for the long-term unity of the church and since 2008 Willow Creek has shifted their focus of Sunday services to mature believers seeking to grow in their faith.

Unity is challenged by choices. Coupled with the consumeristic mindset, choices are destructive to unity in the church. We are accustomed to having many choices. We can drive to the church of our choice. If we begin to dislike the church product, we can choose another brand of church on the other side of town.

We certainly need to make wise choices, but we should be aware that sometimes the best choices are orchestrated and chosen by God. Think of Jonah, running away from his calling to the people of Ninevah. Sometimes God calls people to do things that they would otherwise never choose.

Unity is challenged by lack of committment. The thought of committing to a church means reducing our choices; and reducing our choices is like reducing our freedom. We live in a country that extols freedom as a virtue; but the unity that Jesus speaks of requires commitment to the body of Christ. This type of commitment cannot be accomplished by hopping churches. We cannot create a unity with people who are not committed.

Resist the desire to freely go wherever you please. Commit to the unity of God’s people.

Unity is challenged by sin. Aside from the sinful nature from the previously mentioned challenges. Even though we may conquer all these challenges, we still have our sins that destroy unity. Gossip and slander destroy unity as people destroy the character of one-another. The sin of partiality, preferring one type of person over another, draws imaginary lines, breaking the unity of the body of Christ.

We must be diligent to recognize our sin, repent of it, be forgiven, and reconcilled to our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we can have this unity.

Wanting of Unity

Wanting of unity is an old way of saying “lack of unity”. It is the state of falling short of having unity; of being in need of unity: wanting of unity. Consider unity to be the standard, and if you fall short of the standard, you are in want of unity.

Consider it Sin. We should consider our wanting of unity, as sin.

Do not be indifferent to unity. We should not gloss over problems in unity as if they are minor and of no significant consequence. We should be prepared to giving or receive a loving rebuke for the sake of unity. We should be dilligent to seek resolution to problems in unity. We should be sensitive to be aware of our own hearts and repent when we see that we are the cause of disunity. We should be quick to forgive our brothers when they do things that break unity.

Some people have a craving of seperation. Some people want to be by themselves. We label people as introverts and consider it to be part of their character to be by themselves. There is, of course, truth to these qualities, but an overt desire to be left-alone to live life separated from the body of Christ, is nothing short of rebellion and sin against God.

We should, rather, desire to have lives that are more integrated into the body of Christ. Perhaps the extrovert is active in a more vocal, and social manner, but even the introvert can have a introverted life, fully integrated into the life of the Church.

No privatization of faith. The laws of the land provide people the right to privacy, and many people sign-on to the sentiment that their faith is a private matter, not open to public opinion. You’ve probably heard people say that their faith is between them and God.

This is totally foreign to the God of the Bible. In the Old Testament we see that God has chosen a “people” and in the New Testament he has again called a people to live in unity for the purpose of declaring the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. We have the very opposite of a privatized faith; we have an internationally declared faith!

Necessary Community

We must recognize that community is simply necessary for unity. We cannot create unity as individuals. We must gather in order to have the opportunity for unity.

Scripture for Unity in the Truth of God

As we gather, we should make God’s word the primary means of our unity in the truths that God has revealed. Do not rely on your own opinions, or the opinions of psychiatrists, socialogists, scientists, politicians, or other popular figures for your source of truth. Of course, all of these can be sources of insight and truth into the world and the people around us.

However, we must be careful to apply discernment and discover where they differ with the truths that God has revealed in Scripture. There are many intelligent men of this world that have come up with ideas that are appealing at first glance, but foolish according to the Word of God. Be dilligent to measure the finite wisdom of the world against the infinite wisdom of God’s Word.

Submission to leadership for Unity

In the business world, we all recognize that good leadership is often the difference between success and failure. God has provided the church leadership as a means of promoting unity.

In a previous church I attended, they were following the consumeristic model of church and I could not submit myself to their leadership. So I sought to find a church that I can submit to their leadership. If we do not follow the direction of our leadership, we cannot be unified. The leadership of the church provides unity in ministry and the activities of the church and it is essential to the unity of the church that the members of the church follow their leadership.

Unity for Evangelism

Evanglism is often considered a one-on-one activity, where one person explains the gospel, teaches and defends the truth-claims of Christianity, and invites the person to church.

Evanglism is also dependent on our unity. In verse 21 Jesus said that the unity is “so that the world may believe that you have sent me. ” And again in verse 23 Jesus says the unity is “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

There certainly are people who are gifted in evangelism, but Jesus intends for the community to be a powerful confirmation of the gospel which is preached and defended by the evanglist.

The evangelist or the layperson shares and defends the gospel, invites people to community, they experience the unity, and experience the confirmation through our unity.

Rewards for Unity

In closing, all our struggles for unity are not without rewards. Although we shouldn’t be selfish in our pursuit of unity, it is encouraging and motivating to know that there are rewards to unity.

There will be deeper friendships. Everyone wants friends who truly care about them. Our quest for unity means that we will truly care for our brother’s and sister’s in Christ. The self-sacrificial love the Jesus had for us is the same love that he wants us to have for one-another. This is immensely rewarding.

There will be spiritual growth. Our interest in unity will result in an interest in investing in each other’s lives. That means that we will experience spiritual growth as we find opportunities to develop godly character in each other.

There will likely be church growth. Other people will recognize that there is something special and unique going on when we seek unity.

There will be authentic witness. Hypocrisy will be at record lows in places where unity is at its greatest. If we are truly in unity with one another, no-one can accuse us of being hypocrits.

God will be glorified. The Westminster confession defines the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. When we have perfect unity, God will be glorified and we will certainly enjoy Him through our unity.

 

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Comments

  1. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Very encouraging concept! Jesus makes known his primary concern and desire that we be in perfect unity. I hope people will become honest to keep unity strong with each other. security camera systems Thanks

  2. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) says:

    Very encouraging concept! Jesus makes known his primary concern and desire that we be in perfect unity. I hope people will become honest to keep unity strong with each other. security camera systems Thanks
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