Christian Unity: Community

John 17:6-26

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

6″I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13″I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify[b] them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20″My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24″Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25″Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Complete commentary can be found on

Jesus seems to suggest that the actual outworking of the believers’ oneness with one another in the Father through the Son is a process that will take some time, for he adds, may they be brought to complete unity (v. 23). More literally, he says, “may they have been perfected into one.” The perfect tense is used, suggesting once again Jesus’ eternal perspective as he prays. He is speaking, in part, about the oneness that is further perfected as the “other sheep” (10:16) and the “scattered children of God” (11:52) are gathered in. But this oneness must also refer to the oneness that is present throughout the life of the community as the community makes “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3), for it is something that the world can notice. So this is a spiritual oneness that comes from God, but it has to do with how the community of believers lives in the world.

Thus, the disciples are sent on mission just as Jesus was sent (v. 18), and the very purpose of their life together is to bear witness to the Father and the Son. This oneness flows from a common life that is characterized chiefly by love, and thus the world will see that the Father has loved the disciples as he has loved the Son (v. 23). In other words, the amazing transcendent love evident between the Father and the Son is not an exclusive glory that humans must be content only to admire from afar. The love the Father has for Jesus is the same love he has for believers, indeed for the whole world (3:16). For “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16), and “there is only one love of God” (Brown 1970:772). The believers are to embody this love and thereby provide living proof of God’s gracious character, which is his mercy, love and truth. They will be an advertisement, inviting people to join in this union with God. The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel–the community of disciples, indwelt with God’s life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done.

He whose will is one with God’s will now expresses that will when he says I want. What he wants is this community of individuals to be with him where he is. So those who are “in” him are also to be “with” him, again recognizing the distinction of persons. Union with God is not homogenization. Jesus’ request that they be with him raises interesting questions, since as divine Son he is present everywhere (cf. Augustine In John 111.2). But the connection with Jesus’ earlier teaching about returning to take them to be with him where he is (14:1-3) suggests strongly he is referring to heaven. This being the case, his prayer takes in the whole span of the believers’ life, from then on into eternity. Specifically, he wants them to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. We have already seen his glory (v. 22; 1:14; cf. 2 Cor 3:18; 4:6), but there is a yet more complete vision of his glory awaiting believers. John later says that at his coming “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn 3:2; cf. Col 3:4). What begins at his second coming will continue on, for Jesus is talking not about his coming itself but about that which takes place afterwards. He has promised Peter, and, through him, his other disciples that they will follow him later (13:36), and here is what they will meet, the glory of the Lord–the glory that comes from the Father, who is the source of all, and that is a gift of love. That which Jesus has revealed in his earthly ministry is a mere glimpse of an eternal reality that existed before creation. In his prayer, Jesus has been speaking of the future from an eternal perspective. Here in his final petition he looks on ahead to the ultimate future.Jesus Concludes His Prayer with a Summary and a Pledge (17:25-26) Having looked ahead to the glory of heaven, Jesus returns to the present situation, though he sees it from his eternal perspective. Jesus summarizes the results of his ministry thus far: both his rejection by the world and his acceptance by the disciples. All the verbs in verse 25 are in the aorist tense, which, in the form used here, usually refers to the past.

The purpose of Jesus’ making God’s name known to them is not that they would have information about God, but that they would have intimacy in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them (v. 26). In his ministry he revealed the Father’s love for them (v. 23), and in the future he will continue to help his disciples actually receive this love within each of them and amongst them as a community. But again, he himself is the point of contact. It is precisely by his being in them that they will receive the love of the Father, for it is the Father’s love for the Son that they are enabled to share. The Son’s coming to earth brought the presence of God’s love, and his coming into the lives of believers also brings that love, for God is love. Our relationship with the Father will always be mediated through the Son, even in eternity. Meditation on such truths begins to give us a faint glimpse of the Father’s glorifying the Son and the Son’s glorifying the Father (v. 1). It also helps us understand why, in this final section of the prayer, Jesus addresses his Father as righteous (v. 25). All that Jesus has done and all that he will continue to do are in response to God’s righteous will. He is righteous because he is truth itself and does only what is right. His purposes are perfect, reflecting his own characteristic life and light and love.

God bless you & may the Holy Spirit lead you
Rev. W. R. Martin Jr.
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11 Responses to “Christian Unity: Community”
  1. Me says:

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?


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