John 17:20-21, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
John chapter 17 records what would be accurately called the Lord’s Prayer. Many use that phrase to refer the example prayer in Matthew 6 when the Lord taught His disciples to pray. However, John 17 is a prayer that the Lord Himself prayed. In Jesus’ prayer He prayed for believers everywhere. He says that He does not pray just for the apostles, but for all who will believe their word. Jesus prays for unity of those that believe on Him through the apostle’s word. We ask the question “Is Unity Possible”? Did Jesus pray for something that is not even possible?
One need only to look around and see we live in a greatly divided religious world. It has been estimated there are over 1,000 denominations in the world today. Some say this is a good thing. Many are they in the sectarian world today who express their thanks for the many religious denominations and urging people to “join the church of their choice.” Again, we ask, did Jesus pray for something that is not possible, or, is it possible to be religiously acceptable to God and not be part of all this sectarianism and denominationalism?
I submit to you that the Lord’s Prayer has been answered and has been since that great day of Pentecost when 3,000 were added to the Lord’s kingdom, the church. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Best explanation of unity I’ve found anywhere.
We see this unity illustrated in the early church beginning at Pentecost. Notice the descriptions of the 1st century church: Acts 2:44, “And all that believed were together”; Acts 2:46, “with one accord”; Acts 4:32, “of one heart and soul”; Acts 5:12, “all with one accord”. We see from Scripture, in the church there was unity. Not agreeing to disagree, not you do your thing I’ll do mine. They were of the same mind and the same judgment.
Jesus prayed that believers may all be one, vs. 21, “as thou Father, art in me and I in thee.” That is, that we may be one in purpose, in spirit, in action, in goal, in doctrine. Someone may ask, How can one accomplish this kind of unity, what is to be the basis for “being one”?
The Bible is the standard by which to judge “unity” and it is the means by which unity can be achieved. Jesus prayed for those who would believe on Him because of the apostles’ word. When we follow God’s Word we have fellowship with each other, fellowship with the apostles, fellowship with the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. The psalmist said in Psalm 133:1-2. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments” And Amos 3:3 teaches, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
When people unite upon the basis of God’s Word, by obeying the Gospel to have their sins forgiven, then following that Gospel throughout their Christian lives, there is unity within the local congregation. There is also fellowship with congregations that are following God’s Word all the world over, be it in Huntington, Flatwoods, Prestonsburg, Thailand, Russia, or Gambia (a place in Africa with 250 Christians in 3 churches).
So I ask, do you wish to have fellowship with God, with His Son Jesus Christ, with the apostles, with Christians at this congregation and congregations all over the world? You must be obedient to God’s commands.
-Jerry D. Sturgill