John 17

Today we’re reading John 17.

This chapter records Jesus’s prayer for his disciples and the disciples who would believe through their witness (v. 20). The main subject of his prayer was unity (v. 11f, 21) and the standard for that unity was high: “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (v. 21a). It is hard to imagine any group of Christians being as tight as the Father, Son, and Spirit are, but that’s what Jesus prayed for.

Such unity would be powerful, too: “ that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (v. 23). The unity of believers in Christ would be a powerful witness to the truth of Christianity.

I have heard many people bemoan the lack of unity in the body of Christ, and I understand and sympathize with them at times. Usually, though, the prescription that is given for a lack of unity among Christians is to dumb down our faith to the common essential elements. It is like ordering a cheese pizza for 5 people because nobody can agree on anything more than that.

There is a place and a value to discussing what theologians have called the “irreducible minimum” that anyone must believe to be considered a Christian. But Jesus did not pray that we would unify around the irreducible minimum. His prescription for unity was not about finding the least common theological denominator; his prescription was for us disciples to know the truth.

Just before he prayed “that all of them may be one” (v. 21a), he prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (v. 17). What sets us apart and unifies us is truth--the revelation of God’s word. What we need as disciples to unify us is not to avoid disagreements but to press into the scriptures together to find the truth.

Evangelical Christians have a remarkable amount of unity when it comes to the doctrines of the faith, if you think about it. We may disagree about baptism or eschatology, but we fully agree on the inspiration and inerrancy of scripture, the Trinity, the humanity and divinity of Christ, the depravity of humanity and our absolute need for grace, the importance and significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, and other factors. This unity has been worked out over the past 2,000 years or so, not by avoiding issues of conflict but by studying, discussing and debating, and accepting the scripture’s teaching on these things.

I keep thinking of more to say about this, but that’s enough for now. God is answering Jesus’s prayer here in John 17 but we need to keep coming to the truth--the word of God--to find our unity there.

Exodus 38, John 17, Proverbs 14, Philippians 1

Happy resurrection Sunday! If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Exodus 38, John 17, Proverbs 14, Philippians 1. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read John 17.

In the next chapter Jesus was arrested and the events that led to his crucifixion and resurrection began. When it came to preaching, healing (except for Malchus’ ear), and discipling the apostles, Christ’s work is finished. This is the finality Jesus felt when he prayed here in John 17:4: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” Though the crucifixion and resurrection were also an essential part of his mission, those would be done to him rather than by him, so his active work is done. Now his request is that God would glorify him so that he may glorify God (v. 1b). The specific way which he would do this is explained in verse 2: “that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” Notice that the authority Jesus has is over all people (v. 2a) but eternal life only goes to those given him by the Father (v. 2b), namely those God has chosen. And what is this eternal life? Well, it’s less about a life that never ends than it is about knowing God who is eternal: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Anyone who is interested in the gospel as a free ticket to heaven but without any desire to know and follow God is not a believer. The work of salvation is primarily about reconciling us to God and beginning a relationship of worship and obedience to him as Lord. This is real life and the fact that it is eternal is a side effect of it being given by God. Everything God does is eternal so the life that we receive that causes us to know and follow him is also eternal. 

Easter Sunday always fills the chairs in our church; it is like this in almost every church in America. Many of these people are going to church out of tradition but would you pray with me that the Lord would send us some whom he is drawing to himself? Would you pray that they would find eternal life today in our church or at least begin attending our church so that they can start to understand God and all that he offers us by grace?

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.