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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 29, 2001
Jesus Prays for His Own
This morning we come to the end of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer recorded in John 17. This prayer is the conclusion of Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse in which He gives His final teachings to His disciples just prior to His arrest, trial and crucifixion. As we have already seen in our previous studies in this passage, this prayer reveals the relationship between the Father and the Son and the eternal purpose of mankind. It forces us to take a step back to see the big picture. Too often the tendency in Bible study is to have a narrow focus on whatever particular lessons might come from the specific text being examined. Unless caution is taken, it is easy to become so myopic that the point of the passage is missed. Every text must be set into its proper context within the passage, the chapter, section, book and whole of Scripture. Jesus’ prayer here has very specific requests that warrant our attention, but it also has broad themes and insights into the workings of the triune Godhead that force us to come to grip with God’s nature and larger plan.
Jesus prays for His glory in the first part of the prayer, and we see His longing to return to the glory that He had with the Father prior to the creation of the world (vs. 5). (See: Jesus Prays for His Glory). Jesus also prays for His disciples for He will soon leave them in this evil world and He desires the Father to guard and keep them that they might be with Him in eternity. He also asks that they be sanctified in truth so that they can carry out the mission for which they have been sent into the world. (See: Jesus Prays for His Disciples). In this last section of this prayer, we will see Jesus’ prayer for the unity of those who have believed in Him through the testimony of His disciples. That includes us. But in the midst of all of these particular requests is the grand theme of the love between the Father and the Son which is extended to us who have been redeemed by Jesus. We are included in an eternal plan of the demonstration of love between the Father and the Son. That not only gives us a glimpse into the incomprehensible nature of our triune God, but it also makes us humble by reminding us that He created for His purposes. We are not autonomous. Life and the universe revolve around our infinite and gracious Creator and not us.
Turn to John 17:20-26. Jesus concludes His prayer, “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, [art] in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me. 22 “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me. 24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world. 25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known Thee, yet I have known Thee; and these have known that Thou didst send Me; 26 and I have made Thy name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Jesus Prays for Us – John 17:20
The first thing to note in verse 20 is that Jesus is now expanding His prayer beyond His disciples who are in the room with Him to those who will believe in Him “through their word.” There would be those that would believe in Jesus Christ through the testimony of His disciples. That would include all of us in this day and age that believe because we have the revelation of God, the Holy Scriptures, given to us through His apostles and prophets. Jesus is including us in some of the elements that He had prayed on behalf of His disciples.
Note as well that Jesus uses a present participle here to expresses His confidence about what would happen in the future. It is future that others would believe through the testimony of Jesus’ disciples, but He speaks of it as already present. This would be a great comfort to His disciples later when they remembered this prayer. They would be able to carry out the mission Jesus gave to them to bear witness of Him, and that witness would be effective in bringing people to also believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It would be through their word that these people would come to believe. It is through what they wrote down as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) that we came to believe in Jesus Christ.
The same truths are still the basis of our work today. We do not proclaim Jesus to others on the basis of our ability to persuade or win an argument. We do not bring people to Jesus based on marketing skills in presenting His kingdom program to others. Our ability to “win” others to Christ is based simply and only on repeating what we have received from the disciples of Jesus. The Father had given Jesus His Word, and the disciples received that word from Jesus and later through the Holy Spirit. The disciples in turn passed that to us through what they wrote down in the Bible. The power of the Bible is that it is the Word of God and not the religious philosophical musings of men. We are foolish to think that we can somehow improve it through marketing techniques and psychology. The tragedy of the efforts to improve the gospel through such things is that the message gets diluted and changed. Sometimes it is relatively minor and it only robs the person from experiencing a true walk of faith with Christ, for to the degree a person depends on man’s wisdom instead of God is the degree to which they are not trusting God. Infinitely much worse are changes made to the gospel itself resulting in people professing to believe in Jesus without turning from their sin to righteousness in Christ. They have received a false gospel and therefore a false hope. The fire insurance they have been given, their “get out of Hell free” policy, is invalid. They remain condemned in their sin until they receive forgiveness and cleansing from Jesus. Salvation is from sin unto righteousness which brings about the consequence of escaping Hell and being promised Heaven as your eternal home. If there is no imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the sinner by God’s grace through faith in Him, then there is no salvation. They will hear at their judgment, “I never knew you, Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
Jesus’ prayer here is a present comfort to us knowing that Jesus prayed for us long before we were even born. God has an eternal plan and time simply reveals it unfolding. Notice that in verse 24 believers are referred to as “they also, whom Thou hast given Me.” That is the same language that was used for the disciples back in verses 6 & 9. We are also a gift from the Father to the Son as were His first disciples. Therefore we are also not of this world even as Jesus is not of this world (v. 14). And being those who are not of this world, we are also to be sanctified in truth just as were the disciples.
The purpose of Jesus’ prayer is explained starting in verse 21.
United in One Another: Father, Son and Believers
Jesus wants us to be one even as the Father and the Son are unified that we might be in them. This is the same language that Jesus had used regarding the disciples back in verse 11. Jesus repeats this theme in regard to us who have followed the disciples in verses 21, 22, 23, & 26. When you see a theme repeated in a passage, you can be sure that it is important. This theme of unity of the Father and the Son which then extends outward is repeated throughout this prayer. Unity that reflects the oneness of the Father and the Son is important to Jesus.
The Basis of Unity: The basis of unity with one another is the unity of the Father with the Son. It is out of our individual unity with our God that we can become unified with one another. There is no other way to have true unity. You may be able to achieve conformity through the exercise of power, but that is not the unity that exists between the Father and the Son.
For example, any military unit demands conformity in the ranks and severely disciplines anyone stepping outside the bounds of the rules of that conformity. This is true in even in simple things. Anyone who has been in the military knows they would be in trouble if they came to inspection in their fatigues when the uniform for the day was Class A dress. The Father does not coerce the Son into unity.
You can also achieve a coalition by concentrating on key points of agreement and ignoring the key points of disagreement. That is the effort of the ecumenical movement which calls for all churches that “call on the name of Jesus” to unite on that basis. But how can that be done when the “Jesus” some of these churches call on is not the Jesus described in the Bible. Supposed unity without doctrinal agreement is only a weak coalition. The Father and the Son are unified and that unity is strong because they do agree on every point of doctrine for Jesus repeatedly said He taught only what the Father gave Him.
The Essence of Unity. The essence of unity among believers must arise from and reflect the unity that exists between the Father and the Son. There is of course a unity they have in being together in the triune relationship of the Godhead, but we cannot understand the fulness of that unity for we cannot understand how three individual persons can also be one essence that is the eternal God. However, we can understand quite a bit of the unity between the Father and the Son because they are of the same mind, love and spirit and are intent on the same purpose. That is the same thing that the Apostle Paul calls us to in Philippians 2:2. It is not hard to see how this essence of unity would be produced within the church as we became individually unified with God according to Jesus’ prayer here.
If our minds are being renewed as stated in Romans 12:2, we will be transformed from what we were when living according to our sinful nature into new creatures who are living according to righteousness. We will see the world from God’s perspective and act accordingly. As each of us has our very thoughts taken captive to obedience to Christ as 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us we should, we will all share the same ideas and thoughts.
If each of us yields ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit as we are commanded to in Ephesians 5:16, (and let me quickly remind you that the idea of being filled with the Spirit is to yield yourself to His control over your life), then we will all be directed in unity. That does not mean we will all do the same things, but as 1 Corinthians 12 describes, the Spirit will use each of us with our different gifts, abilities and ministries in harmony with one another to make up a unified body of Christ. In order to submit to the Spirit we must be humble, and humility brings about the harmony needed for unity.
As each of us pursues the same love of the Father and Jesus, then there can be true unity. Remember that Jesus defined the proof of this love for Him in John 14:21 as being obedient to Him. I think we can all understand that if every single one of us was truly obedient to Jesus in all things we would be unified with one another. Our love for one another is not a fuzzy warm feeling of affection, though you may also have that for your family members and close friends, but it is carrying out of Jesus’ command to love one another as He has loved us. We give of ourselves sacrificially for the best interest of the other person. That is exactly what Philippians 2:3-4 tells us we should be doing. It is this kind of love for one another that will prove us to be disciples of Jesus.
If these previous three are true and we have the same love, mind and spirit, then we will also have the same purpose for we will submit our selfish desires to the will of God. We will still be different in many ways with varying gifts, abilities, ministries and preferences, but we would have the same purpose of glorifying God in all things.
The Good Love Triangle
Most of us have heard about love triangles and associate them with something bad. Jesus presents a love triangle here that is good. The unity that exists between the Father and the Son that extends to us flows out of this love triangle. It is spoken of throughout this section of the prayer.
The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father and Jesus prays that we may in Them (vs. 21). The glory which Jesus received from the Father He gives to us that we might be one as They are one (vs. 22). Jesus is in Us and He is in the Father that we might be perfected in unity and by that let the world know that the Father sent the Son and loves us even as He loves the Son (vs. 23). Jesus has made the Father’s name known to us so that the love the Father has for the Son might be also in us and He in us and from that comes His request to have us with Him in heaven (vs. 24-26). Believers are a gift from the Father to the Son and then back from the Son to the Father.
This is a good and holy love triangle. The three points on it are the Father, the Son, and believers. The love between each works both ways. The Father loves the Son who loves believers who then love the Father. At the same time, the Father loves believers who love His Son Who loves Him. It is an amazing truth to note that the love the Father has for the Son is the love which He also has for us. The end of verse 23 makes that clear, “and didst love them, them even as Thou didst love Me.” At the end of verse 26 this is the love that Jesus prays would be in us, “that the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them.”
The Purpose of Unity
Now this love between the Father, Son and believers has a purpose that was forged in eternity past. I have already pointed out in past sermons and briefly today that the redeemed are a love gift from the Father to the Son and that Son then purchases their redemption through His sacrifice of Himself on the cross as the substitute sacrifice for our sins. The Father then glorifies the Son for this with a name above every name and the Son returns the redeemed to the Father that they might glorify Him forever. But there is also a temporal purpose to all of this that is explained in this passage.
Witness to the World
Unity with one another is a reflection of the unity of the Father and the Son. This in turn is a witness to the world.
To Believe. Jesus prayed in verse 21 that “that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, [art] in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.“ The unity that exists between the Father, Son and believers would be a means that would bring some in the world to believe that Jesus was sent by God resulting in them coming to faith that Jesus is the Christ.
True unity in the church is a marvelous witness of Jesus Christ. It is not that hard to get people from the same economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds to work together in a group. They already share a similar heritage and values. But the church is made up of people from all sorts of different backgrounds who hold to different values. How do you get such a diverse group together and work in harmony with one another on a voluntary basis? That can only happen if they do share something in common with each other which is greater than the differences between them.
All the individuals who believe in Jesus can work in harmony with one another because each individual shares the belief that Jesus is who He claims to be and submits to Him. Their common belief and commitment to follow Jesus is greater than their differences. That is why unity in the Church is a testimony to the identity and nature of Jesus. The shared faith of believers brings about a unity which is an encouragement to others to also believe that Jesus is from God.
To Know. In verse 23 Jesus says something very similar. “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.” In this verse Jesus states that this unity would bring some in the world to know that He was sent by God and that God loves those who believe in Him.
The word for “know” here is experiential knowledge, but even so there is a difference between believing something and knowing something. I may know something by experience and still not believe it is something I should be involved with. If I went to watch people bungee jump, I would know by the experience of watching them that they did not die and even seemed to have enjoyed their experience. At the same time, I would still not believe that I should be involved in that activity.
In a similar way, the unity of believers can lead people in the world to the logical conclusion that Jesus was sent from God and that God loves His people, but they might still withhold their own trust in those facts for their own salvation. They might still hold to beliefs that keep that knowledge from making any practical difference in their own lives. Perhaps they believe in other gods and look to them as superior. Perhaps they simply don’t understand the full message of the gospel and how it could apply to them personally. Perhaps they do understand, but still insist on doing things their own way regardless. I have done enough counseling with people to know that they often go against what they even acknowledge to be true to still try and do things their own way. And as foolish as it sounds, they will sometimes even acknowledge that the consequences I warn them about will probably occur, but they are still going to pursue their own way.
Unity within the followers of Jesus Christ bears testimony that He is from the Father and that the Father also loves them regardless of whether others respond in faith themselves or just acknowledge those facts. As I already pointed out, the unity of believers in Jesus demonstrates that Jesus is from God because of our mutual submission to Him and placing all our differences as secondary to that. This unity also demonstrates the Father’s love for us, for in attesting that Jesus is from God, we are also attesting that God loves to such a degree that He sent His son to redeem us. Jesus Christ is the proof of the Father’s love. Paul stated this directly in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The unity of believers is, therefore, very important. How does that unity come about and how can we maintain it?
Becoming Unified in the Church
As I have already pointed out, our unity as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is based upon our individual unity with the Father and the Son. t is our mutual humble submission to God that allows us to work in harmony with one another. As our vertical relationship with God is aligned properly and we are following Him as we should, then we can easily become properly aligned in our horizontal relationships with other believers and work according to God’s commands with one another. We still have our differences, but all those become secondary to the unity we have in Jesus. As Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:4-6, we are of “one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” This unity causes us to also strive to be of “the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in Spirit and intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).
The unity we are to have starts with our individual unity with God and then extends to one another. We are to set aside our pride and selfishness and strive to be humble and considerate of others. We endeavor to have the same attitude that was in Jesus who submitted Himself to the Father’s will and left the glories of heaven to become a man and pay the price of our sin. He gave up Himself for us. We are to follow the commands in Philippians 2:3-4 – “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
In doing this we must be careful to understand that unity is not uniformity. We do not have to have the same tastes and opinions on all things to be unified. Our unity is not based in dressing alike, being involved in the same hobbies, sharing the same political opinions, or liking the same kind of music. Our unity is based in what Jesus states in John 17:25-26. Jesus Christ has revealed the Father to us and we have believed Him. His love is now in us. We are in Him and He in us. Our unity is not a forced uniformity, but an inward spiritual reality which produces an outward cooperation and harmony.
In order to maintain that unity we must make sure that we agree on the essentials and extend grace in the non-essentials. We must also understand the difference between what is essential and what is not. When there are disagreements, unity is maintained when all parties involved seek the Lord first and foremost. We must place His kingdom and righteousness above all personal desires and preferences. We then work through problems, including personality conflicts, in order to bring praise to our Savior’s name.
When people will not work through problems there are only two possibilities. The first is the most serious. It may be a demonstration that they are not true followers of Christ, for as 1 John 2:19 states it, “They went out from us, but they were not [really] of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but [they went out,] in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” History reveals that it has not been uncommon for professions of faith to be revealed to be deficient when something occurs later. Jesus warned about this in some of His parables. Some succumb to the enticements of the world which are more important to them than truth. Others depart when the worries of the world cause them to search for worldly solutions instead of trusting God. Professions based on incomplete knowledge of the truth may be rejected when more is learned about Jesus and what it means to be His follower. In all cases, there is a rejection of the truth of God and trusting Him for some alternative such as humanistic philosophies, false religions, cults, or perverse forms of Christianity which do not follow the Jesus of the Bible. Such people were never true believers in Christ for their faith was in some false version of Him, and they rejected the Biblical Jesus when they found out the truth. I have seen this over and over again in my own experience in gospel ministry.
The other possibility is that they are just demonstrating their great immaturity. They are living in selfishness and empty conceit instead of the humility of mind that was in Jesus and should be in His followers. I have also seen this over and over again in my life time in both the years before becoming a Pastor and much more since taking on the responsibility of being a leader in the church. And as much it grieves me to see people walk away from the fellowship of the saints that exists here, what is much, much worse is that I know that it grieves our Lord when the reasons are contrary to His commands to us contained in the Scriptures.
Lest I be accused of being proud and thinking this is the only good church in our area, let me say directly that there are other gospel preaching churches in our area, and I do recommend them to people who live closer to them or that are looking for a church that holds to the same faith as we do but has different views on secondary issues or follow different traditions. In fact, when someone visits and indicates that they are looking for a church home, I send them a couple of articles about what to look for in a church and state up front that my desire is to see them in the place where God would want them to be in growing in their knowledge of Him and serving Him. While I would naturally want them to join with us here at Grace Bible Church, the priority is that they are growing and serving the Lord whether that is here or elsewhere. That is still my view even for those that come here for awhile and then decide to go somewhere else. Get involved, grow and serve Christ!
I will also state up front that beyond pragmatic causes such as moving out of the area or marriage to someone who is a member of a different church, there are several legitimate reasons to leave a church fellowship including the following: 1) Heretical teaching or unbiblical practices which the church leaders refuse to correct. 2) Leadership that does not meet the Biblical qualifications and will not strive to meet those standards. 3) Being excluded without Biblical justification from being able to participate in church ministry. 4) Start a new sister church in a neighboring area.
However, most people do not leave their church for such reasons. It is usually over issues of pride, selfishness, petty disputes, personal conflict, grudges and unforgiveness. There is also often some accusation against the church leaders for not doing things as they desire as if the leaders were supposed to please them instead of Christ as determined by those leaders. All of these things are contrary to Jesus’ commands to us and the unity that is supposed to exist because of our mutual belief and submission to Him. Such disunity demonstrates spiritual immaturity, compromises our Christian witness and brings shame on the name of Christ. Those who are guilty of such things should take to heart the warnings in the Scriptures about disrespect and disobedience to Christ.
I mentioned this some weeks ago, but it bears repeating. Others will know that we are Christians by our true, sacrificial love for one another. You cannot control others, but you can control your own actions. We are commanded to be at peace with all men so far as it depends on us (Romans 12:18). Therefore, for the sake of Christ’s name, do all that you can to righteously reconcile with other professing believers. Make sure that the conflicts, strained and broken relationships in your life are not due to your own disobedience to Jesus or a lack of love on your part. Let it be based on either a lack of love on their part, or their rejection of Jesus Christ living in you.
Jesus prayed for us, so pursue sanctification in truth and rejoice in the loving relationship you can have with the Father and the Son. Carry out the mission for which Jesus created you and put you on this earth to fulfill. In all humility, strive to be unified with fellow followers of Jesus Christ and be the example of Jesus’ love dwelling in you by loving them as He has loved you. And rejoice in looking forward to the day you will be with Jesus forever and behold His glory.
Sermon Notes – 5/19/2019
Jesus Prays for His Own – John 17:20-26
Jesus’ High Priestly prayer gives insight into His relationship with the ________& desires for His followers
Jesus prays for His own __________(vs. 1-5), His disciples (vs. 6-19), and us (vs. 20-26)
Jesus Prays for Us – John 17:20
Jesus __________His prayer beyond His disciples to those who would believe “through their word.”
The present participle expresses His confidence about the ___________of what would happen in the future
The same truths are still the basis of our work today of proclaiming __________ and His gospel
The power of the Bible is that it is the _______________and not the religious philosophical musings of men
Changing the gospel will either weaken it or ___________its message leaving people ignorantly condemned
Jesus prayed for us before we were born for God has an _________plan and time simply reveals it unfolding
United in One Another: Father, Son and Believers
The theme of unity of the Father & the Son extending outward to Jesus’ followers is _______multiple times
The Basis of Unity is the unity of the Father with the Son
It is out of our ______________unity with our God that we can become unified with one another
This is neither _______________produced by coercion nor a coalition produced by compromise
The Essence of Unity arises from and reflects the unity that exists between the _________and the Son
Unity of mind, love, spirit and purpose (Phil. 2:2) arises from a _______mind (Rom. 12:2) captive to Christ
The ________required in being filled (submissive) to the Spirit also produces the harmony needed for unity
Love for Christ demonstrated by _____________(John 14:21) will result in unity with others doing the same
Unity of purpose in submitting to and glorifying God produces _____________of differences that unifies
The Good Love Triangle – John 17:21,22, 23, 24-26
The __________and love that exist between the Father and the Son extends to us that we may be in Them
The Purpose of Unity
The purpose of the love between the Father, Son and believers was forged in eternity __________
The redeemed are a love ________from the Father to the Son given back to the Father that both are glorified
Witness to the World – our unity reflects the unity of the Father & the Son which is a ________to the world
To Believe – John 17:21 – the unity of the Father & the Son and Believers will cause some to ___________
The common belief and commitment to Jesus enable Christians to be unified despite their great __________
To Know – John 17:23 – this unity proclaims the truth that God sent Jesus and He __________His followers
Knowledge is necessary for belief but does not necessarily _________ in belief
Contrary beliefs and desires will often cause people to __________even what they have come to know
Becoming Unified in the Church
Mutual __________ submission to God allows us to work in harmony with one another and be unified
Our differences become ____________to unity in Jesus – Eph. 4:4-6; Phil. 2:2-3
The starting place is individual unity with _________which then extends to unity with other believers
Unity is an inward spiritual _____producing outward harmony and not uniformity – we are still very diverse
Unity is based on & maintained by __________on the essentials of faith & grace extended on non-essentials
People who will not resolve problems may have ___________professions of faith – 1 John 2:19
People who will not resolve problems may just be very _____________
There are legitimate reasons to leave a church, but most do so because of their own _________ issues
Disunity demonstrates spiritual immaturity, compromises Christian witness & _________the name of Christ
Others know we are Christians by our sacrificial _____for each other, so strive for to the best of your ability
For the sake of Christ’s name, righteously __________with other believers – don’t be the cause of disunity
We can be confident in pursuing all that Jesus __________for us about
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “unity” is used 2) Talk with your parents about how people in church can be unified. What can you do to help?
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of John 17:20-26? Who is Jesus praying for and why? How would this have encouraged the disciples who heard Him praying? How does this comfort us? On what basis should we proclaim the gospel? What is the relationship between the Father, the Son and believers? How is unity different from conformity or a coalition? Why can’t there be unity with “all who call on the name of Jesus?” What is the essence of unity between believers? How is unity achieved in the Church? How do you match those characteristics? What is the “Good love triangle?” What is the relationship between the Father’s love for the Son and His love for us? What is the purpose of unity among believers? How does unity among believers help others to know and believe that Jesus was sent by the Father and are loved by Him? What is the theological basis of unity in the Church? What is the practical basis of unity in the Church? How should Christians deal with the differences that exist between them? How do you deal with those differences? When a person will not work out a problem with a believer, what two possible realities do they demonstrate about themselves? What are legitimate reasons to leave a church? What are some of the common illegitimate reasons people leave a church? What would change that?
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