The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand
17

The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:21-23

17

John 17:21 – 23 “…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.”

In this third main section of Jesus’ great prayer, as he now prays for us and all future Christians  who will come to faith through the testimony of that first group of disciples, Jesus prays two things.

First, in verses 21-23 he prays for our SPIRITUAL UNITY, and then in verse 24 he prays for our ETERNAL GLORY.

SPIRITUAL UNITY (17:21-23)

This is not the first time in this prayer that Jesus has prayed for the unity of believers.  Look back at verse 11 where he was praying specifically for the disciples who were with him.

We need to acknowledge two things about these verses.

First, we need to acknowledge the COMPLEXITY of these verses.   The structure of these verses is quite complicated, but as we carefully unpick the sentences and phrases we discover the truth

First – the PRAYER – prayed in both 21 and then again in 22-23

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”

22-23:    “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one”

Second – the PURPOSE of the PRAYER – stated in both 21 and 23

21:       “so that the world may believe that you have sent me”

23:       “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me

Sandwiched in middle – in v22 – the POWER of the PRAYER – “the glory that you have given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one”.

So, in this study we will look at the PRAYER FOR UNITY; next time, God willing, at the POWER FOR THAT UNITY, and then lastly at the PURPOSE OF THAT UNITY.

So, we need to acknowledge the COMPLEXITY of these verses

Second, we need to acknowledge the ENORMITY of what Jesus is praying for.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote,

Here we have what is undoubtedly one of the most exalted statements to be found anywhere in the whole of the Scriptures. [1]

Let’s consider a few aspects of this unity that Jesus prays for.

1.    It is an EXISTING unity

Notice, Jesus does not pray that they may become one, but that they may be one.  And the reason for that is that all true believers are already one; one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28 reads, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Literally, that verse says, “You are all one person in Christ Jesus.”  As John Stott puts it,

In Christ we belong not only to God (as His sons) but to each other (as brothers and sisters). [2]

2.    It is an IMPERFECT unity

That’s why he prays, in v23, “..that they may become perfectly one”.  There is still much work to do.  This side of glory, the body of Christ, as we know all too well, is marked by divisions and disunity and we need to pray, with the Head of the Church, for the increasing unity of the body, even while still here on earth.

We also need to share Christ’s passion and jealousy for the unity of the church and so refrain from any action or attitude that would jeopardise that unity.  We need to repent of, and put right, any action or attitude that threatens to, or actually does, harm the unity of the body of Christ.

Next time, as we look at the fact this unity is a SUPERNATURAL unity, we will see what this unity is not and how there is a tendency towards a false unity, but it also has to be said that a lack of unity among those who are genuinely the Lord’s people, is an offence to the Saviour who prays for our unity.   For example, how do you think the Lord feels – in the light of this prayer – about the fact that there are more than 22,000 Protestant denominations in the world today.

Bruce Milne wrote,

Where the Holy Spirit has created the common life of the body of Christ among us, and agreement on the fundamentals of the revelation given through Jesus is present, it is unthinkable to pursue the mission of Jesus in isolation from, and even in competition with, those who are as truly the beloved objects of Jesus’ prayer as we are. [3]

[1] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1968). The Basis of Christian Unity: An Exposition of John 17 and Ephesians 4. London: IVP. p12

[2] Stott, J. R. (1986). The Message of Galatians: Only One Way. Leicester: IVP. p99

[3] Milne, B. (1993). The message of John: here is your king. Leicester: IVP. p249

Previous post in this series

Next post in this series

0 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *