That the World May Believe
Don’t you love it when someone says, "I’ve been praying for you"? Well, Jesus Christ prayed for you -- it’s recorded in God’s Word -- and He had a specific purpose.
John 17 is a chapter that is rich with meaning and hope for us as Christians, and I encourage you to delve into it. But let me point you toward a couple of verses in particular. Jesus has been praying for the disciples, and then he switches gears. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21).
Now, who is Jesus praying for here? It’s us, of course -- you and me. Jesus is praying for the church. And why? "That the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me" (v. 23). Jesus is praying for unity among Christians, based upon love and truth.
Unity in the church doesn't mean that we will develop one ecumenical super-church where we all agree on everything. Even the apostles had disagreements: Paul and Peter had arguments about the Law in Galatia, the Jerusalem council was divided over the issue of grace and salvation, etc. And it doesn't mean uniformity, either -- like carrying the same version of the Bible or voting the same way or having the same outlook on the rapture.
What does Jesus mean when He prays that we would all be one? Look back to verse 8: "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me." So, our unity is to be based on the revelation of who Jesus Christ is to us. We are Christians because our faith is in the one God sent, Jesus Christ. We don't agree on all things, but as Saint Augustine said, "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; but in all things, charity."
Our unity proves the truth of the Gospel. When the world sees a divided church, it thinks, "I don't want to be a part of that." But when they see a church that loves and is devoted to each other, they are drawn to it. In John 13:34, Jesus commanded his disciples to "love one another, as I have loved you." As we love one another, and pray for one another, the world will see Christ in us.
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