Striving For Unity

Robert F. Turner

The Lord’s Prayer (John 17) is widely quoted - in part - to emphasize the need for unity among God’s people. I challenge you to study the chapter carefully, looking for the means of attaining and maintaining that unity.

There are three parts to be considered: Christ’s prayer for Himself, for the Apostles, and for those who “believe on me through their word.” In Christ’s prayer for Himself (vs 1-5) he says he came to earth to give eternal life, and he identifies this with “knowing” the Father and Son. His work on earth glorified the Father, and as this is finished (in the crucifixion) he asks to be returned to His original glory with the Father.

As the Father was glorified in the Son, so Christ is glorified in His Apostles (v 10). Also, in the second part of His prayer Christ says He has manifested God’s name (v 6) and given them the Father’s Word (vs 6,8,14) to the end they may “know” God (receiving, believing, and keeping that word - vs 6,8; see 1 Jn 2:3-5). Being so “kept” the Apostles are “one, even as we are” (vs 11). They are set apart, sanctified, through truth (vs 17-19).

Finally, Christ prays for all whom the Apostles teach. The “glory which thou hast given unto me I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one...” (vs 22-23). These too have “known” God (v 25), as a result of having received the declared truth.

Is it asking too much to expect a discerning reader to notice certain recurring thoughts? First, there is divine GLORY, in which the Father and Son are ONE. Then there is DECLARATION of that Glory (via manifestation and teaching of God’s word); and a SHARING in that Glory, as the taught come to KNOW God. It is in this way that those other than deity, come to be ONE with deity.

The oneness of believers for which Jesus prayed was the common quality to be found among all who partake of the divine image. Unity exists because they are one. The divine plan is not some organizational or creedal mold that forces heterogeneous people into the same society; it changes the people, in very essence as respects their spiritual life, so that they are now homogeneous, and therefore ONE. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one.” The ideal (and it is indeed an ideal) is God-like people; having the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5), in word and deed doing all in His name (Col 3:17), transformed from glory to glory into His image (2 Cor 3:18), and all this to the glory of God (1 Pet 4:11).

The ideal nature of this unity is no different from being holy as God is Holy (1 Pet 1:16), pure as he is pure (1 Jn 3:3), etc. It is not attained in the absolute sense; but its principles are accepted, it is our constant goal, the mark toward which we press. If we fail to recognize the ideal aspect of this unity, we may consider the level of our attainment as the standard, and begin to measure others by ourselves.

Article taken from “Plain Talk”, Volume 18, Number 11, January 1982