The Prayer For Unity

E. Russell King

After John selectively chose seven miraculous signs out of the many Jesus performed during His approximately 3-1/2 years of public ministry, signs that fully verified that He was the Son of God, he then chose to record, in chapter 17, a most significant prayer of Jesus. Of the fifteen or more prayers of our Lord recorded in the Gospel records, none is as long or more passionate than this prayer that often is called His “high priestly prayer.” Why is it a most significant prayer?

Having finished the arduous task of giving to the apostles the word of God and standing in the shadow of the cross, Jesus was already feeling the weight of the terrible ordeal to be endured in the next few hours, at the conclusion of which He could say, “It is finished” (19:30). Jesus fervently raised His voice to the Father in behalf of Himself (v 1-5), in behalf of His apostles (v 6-19), and in behalf of all future believers (v 20-26), that the intent of His mission would be realized in the God-designed, God-ordained UNITY that was to characterize the Messianic Realm. That is the realm in which God chose “... to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10 ESV). If every accountable human being would visualize and feel what resided in the prayer-burdened heart of Jesus, how differently and more reverently would be the moral and spiritual approach to Jehovah God in our day!

Jesus prayed for the apostles to be sanctified, i.e., set apart by the truth for the unified administration of the truth, and then He included all believers to be equally joined together in a unified reception and practice of the truth. Hear that earnest plea: “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” (John 17:20-21 ESV). “That they may be {one} in us” calls for a unity (an agreement) among the disciples of Christ like unto the agreement between the Father and the Son. That unity was the Father’s intent when He chose “to unite all things in him (Christ)” (Ephesians 1:10) and when Jesus endured the cross that He “might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16). Can we humans even begin to perceive the displeasure of the Father in the present moral and spiritual disunity characterizing our present society, or the Lord’s disappointment in the lack of appreciation for what He endured in order for all men to be one in Him? What can (must) be done to undo this terrible sin?

First, we note that the unity of the Father and the Son was maintained by the Son’s speaking (and doing) only the will of the Father (5:30). Second, we note that this unity was maintained by the apostles who spoke (and did) the will of Jesus who gave to them the commandments of God given by the Spirit (16:13-15). Third, we note that all the faithful disciples joined in that unity by believing in Jesus through the apostles’ words, becoming of “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32). We must, therefore, conclude that unity was then and is now attained when every believer receives and responds unerringly to the will of the Father as delivered through Jesus and His apostles.

What was spoken by the apostles was vouchsafed for us by the Holy Spirit who guided the apostles into all truth (16:13), and it all was confirmed by God Himself through “signs and wonders, with various miracles, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:4).

Any failure to attain the unity for which Jesus prayed is not the result of insufficient instructions. Division results from either a lack of knowledge of God’s word, or a misunderstanding of God’s word, or an unwillingness to accept God’s word. All things that pertain to life and godliness have been given to us (2 Peter 1:3).

In any case, when two or more are at variance relative to what constitutes God’s will, great diligence should be exercised to determine the cause and then correct it. The unity for which Jesus prayed is not attained in an “agreement to disagree.” That is not being of “one heart and one soul.”

Our Lord’s prayer for unity offers no consolation for the advocates of pluralism. Great and urgent should be the concern of all who are in or hold to that “politically correct” position because it is totally outside the will and grace of Almighty God. –Rt 5 Box 310-A, Keyser, WV 26726.

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