"THE GOSPEL OF JOHN" That The World May Know (17:20-23) INTRODUCTION 1. Shortly before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father... a. For Himself - Jn 17:1-5 b. For His disciples - Jn 17:6-19 c. For all His future believers - Jn 17:20-26 2. His prayer is truly remarkable... a. It has been called "The Lord's High Priestly Prayer" b. It is truly "The Lord's Prayer", a title normally given to the sample prayer found in Mt 6:9-13; Lk 11:2-4 3. We learn what weighed heavily on our Lord's mind, knowing that "the hour has come"... a. He sought to be glorified by His Father b. He was concerned for the well-being of His disciples c. He wanted His followers to be one, even as He and the Father were one - Jn 17:20-23 4. It is our Lord's concern for unity that I want us to examine in this study... a. Why was unity so important to Jesus? b. What has Jesus done that it might be accomplished? c. In our religiously divided world today, how can we maintain unity among those who believe in Jesus? [As we look closer at our text (Jn 17:20-23), we are immediately impressed with...] I. THE IMPORTANCE OF UNITY A. "THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE" - Jn 17:21 1. Without unity, it is difficult to persuade unbelievers that Jesus came from God a. Those in the world care little about doctrine and theological distinctions b. But in a world with racial, ethnic and cultural divisions, unity can capture their attention! 2. This is not to say that doctrine is not important! a. Jesus had already emphasized the importance of abiding in His word - Jn 8:31 b. But the proclamation of truth must be accompanied by unity 3. When we are united in Christ, it gives credence to our claims a. That Jesus was sent from God b. That as the Son of God who rose from the dead... 1) He lives in our hearts 2) He has transformed our lives by the power of His resurrected life! -- Which is why some have referred to unity as "The Final Apologetic" (Schaeffer) B. "THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW" - Jn 17:23 1. Jesus again emphasizes the power of unity among His disciples to convince an unbelieving world! 2. Not only that they may know God sent Jesus... a. But that God has also loved them! - Jn 3:16; 1Jn 4:9-10 b. Indeed, even as God loves His only begotten Son ("as You have loved Me")! 3. What a powerful message we have to share with the world! a. God loves them even as He loves His Son! b. But to convince the world of such love, unity among disciples is imperative! [In light of Jesus' prayer for unity, no true disciple can be content with religious division as it exists today (cf. 1Co 1:10). Paramount in our discipleship should be efforts to eliminate any kind of religious division that is contrary to the will of Christ! But how can we be one, even as the Father and the Son are one?
Here are some thoughts on...] II. THE ATTAINMENT OF UNITY A. JESUS HAS PROVIDED "GLORY" FOR US TO BE ONE... 1. "Glory" which He had received from the Father - Jn 17:22 a. Which He had given to His disciples b. Which enabled them to be one just as He and the Father were one! 2. What is this "glory" to which Jesus refers? a. It may involve the idea of Jesus abiding in us 1) I.e., the glory of Jesus abiding in us even as the Father abides in the Son 2) Through such abiding, we may be made perfect in one - Jn 17:23 b. Certainly without abiding in Jesus, we can do nothing - cf. Jn 15:4-5 [Whatever the "glory" refers to, we should note that true unity comes from Jesus Himself; with this in mind, note the following...] B. JESUS ATTAINED UNITY THROUGH HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS... 1. As Paul expounded in Ep 2:14-16 a. The division between Jew and Gentile ended at the cross b. Jesus died to make it possible for us to be one body! - Ep 4:4 2. When we come to Christ through obedience to His gospel, we are united with all believers in His one body! a. We are baptized into one body - 1Co 12:13 b. Thus we begin the Christian life united with all believers in Christ! [When it comes to "attaining" unity, Jesus accomplished the unity for which He prayed! Our challenge is "maintaining" this unity if we wish to honor Jesus' prayer...] III. THE MAINTENANCE OF UNITY A. REQUIRES THAT WE OBEY THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST... 1. Unity is impossible without adherence to the same standard a. Unless there were standards regarding weights and measures, confusion and division would result every time we went to the store b. Religious division occurs because people accept different standards of authority 1) Some accept the authority of a pope, presbytery, prophet, or preacher 2) We cannot maintain the unity for which Jesus died unless we can agree on the same standard 2. For Christians our standard of authority must be that which... a. Originated from Christ - cf. Jn 8:31; Mt 28:18 b. Was delegated to His apostles - cf. Jn 13:20; Mt 28:20; Ac 2:42 c. Was proclaimed and written by His apostles - cf. 1Th 2:13; 1Co 14:37 3. Taught by His apostles, we must be careful to... a. Observe ALL that He has commanded - Mt 28:20 b. Not allow traditions of men to make void the commandments of God - Mt 15:3-6 c. Not teach as doctrine the commandments of (uninspired) men - Mt 15:9 -- The "apostles' doctrine" (i.e., the New Testament) must be our standard of authority, even as Jesus acknowledged when He prayed "for those who will believe in Me through their word" (i.e., the apostles' teaching) - Jn 17:20 B. REQUIRES THAT WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST... 1. As Paul instructed the Philippians - Php 2:2-5 a. There is no place for selfish ambition or conceit b. We must esteem others highly, and look out for their interests 2. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians - Ep 4:1-3 a. We must manifest lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, forbearance in love b. With such diligence, we "keep" (maintain) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace -- Without this "mind" of Christ, we will misuse the word of God and destroy the unity Jesus attained through His death on the cross! [With His doctrine before us, His mind in us, we can maintain the unity Jesus attained. With lives transformed by His teachings and His attitude, we provide visible proof to the world that Jesus did come from God and that the Father loves them also. Finally, some thoughts about a providing a "visible" unity
("That The World May Know")...] IV. THE DEMONSTRATION OF UNITY A. MUST BE MANIFESTED IN THE LOCAL CHURCH... 1. It is in the context of the local congregation that unity will be most evident a. For that is where interaction of Christians most often occurs b. Note that the warnings against division were often addressed in the context of the local church
- e.g., 1Co 1:10-13; 3:3-4; 11:18 2. Therefore unity truly begins "at home" a. We may rightly deplore the religious division elsewhere b. But our first concern must be preserving unity in our own congregation! c. How sad when those who condemn religious division in the denominations can't even preserve unity in their own congregation! B. PRECLUDES ORGANIZATION ABOVE THE LOCAL CHURCH... 1. In the New Testament, each congregation was self-governing and independent a. Governed by a plurality of elders (bishops, pastors) whose authority was limited to the flock of God among them - cf. Ac 14:23; 20:28; 1Pe 5:1-2 b. There was no authority above the local congregation other than that of Christ and His apostles 2. It was only after the apostles died that things soon changed a. "During the second century A.D. churches came to have a single bishop, and then that bishop came to exercise oversight over nearby rural churches as well as the city church so that his ecclesiastical territory became known as a "diocese" or "see" ("eparchy" in the East). Bishops of churches that had been founded by apostles were said to be in succession to the apostles, and hence their teaching was held to be authentic and their authority collegial. By 400 A.D. in the West, the bishop of Rome began to assume extraordinary authority above other bishops." (Holman Bible Dictionary) b. "Ignatius shows that in the early second century the office of bishop over the elders had developed, but Lightfoot has shown that it was not so in the first century." (Word Pictures, A. T. Robinson) 3. Such changes were not only unscriptural, but set the stage for denominational division a. Churches were expected to line up under one bishop, patriarch, or council b. Rather than let the Lord Himself judge each church (cf. Re 2-3),
religious hierarchies began determining which churches were faithful c. This has led to the denominational division so rampant today, and which presents a religiously divided picture to the world! -- As long as the denominational practice of organizing churches under some hierarchy above the local church continues, religious division will remain! CONCLUSION 1. No true disciple of Jesus should treat religious division with nonchalance... a. It is contrary to our Lord's prayer for unity - Jn 17:20-23 b. It is condemned by Paul as a manifestation of carnality - 1Co 3:3-4 2. Unity among disciples of Christ must be a primary concern, for Jesus... a. Died on the cross to attain unity b. Believed it to be "The Final Apologetic" to convince the world that He came from God 3. Since Jesus attained unity through His death, our task is to maintain it by... a. Following the doctrine of Christ as communicated through His apostles b. Displaying the mind of Christ as we interact with one another in our local churches c. Honoring the New Testament pattern of church organization, which is designed to slow the growth of religious division whenever it occurs It is not always possible to avoid religious division (cf. 1Co 11:19), but may we do all we can to preserve the unity we enjoy in Christ!