Sermon – October 25, 2020

John 17:20-26 – Jesus’ Prayer for Our Unity (mp3)

Unity and togetherness are concepts that occupy much of the world’s attention. That our country, indeed our world, is fragmented, and that such a fragmentation is a bad thing, is readily understood. The church should be a place for unity and harmony. None of these things is widely debated. But how ought the church strive for that unity? Should we pursue it by removing obstacles? Ought we be less concerned with “truth” and more with relationships? Should we strive for a unity in name, if not in doctrine? Today, we hear of Jesus’ prayers for our unity, as we get insight into what our unity ought to be.

1. Our unity is propositional
The Lord prays for all those who would believe, not just through his words, but the words of the apostles. These same apostles left us with a record of what we ought to, and need to, believe. The full incarnation of the Son of God (1 John 4:2-3); the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), the justification by faith of all believers (Acts 15 and Galatians). The church has always held that doctrine is important – and therefore so must we. Our unity cannot be built outside of agreeing on what we actually believe!

2. Our unity is personal
At the same time, our unity cannot be just propositional. It must also be personal. As Jesus prays that we are unified even as he and the Father are, we are instantly reminded that such unity seems well nigh impossible. How is this to be accomplished? We cannot share the divinity of the Father and Son, but the Spirit can live with and in us. This personal interaction of the Spirit allows for us to be united to the Trinity, and through that, united to one another. We do not just check off the boxes of belief, but are changed by the person and work of Jesus through the presence of the Spirit.

3. Our unity is purposeful
Jesus marks out a purpose of such unity: the world will know him. Certainly, our common confession helps with this. At the same time, our unity being in Jesus is best demonstrated when it has no other explanation than Jesus. Our affiliations, our affections, our commonalities are all fine, but ought not be the reason why we gather. When people of different stripes, thoughts, concerns, histories all come together, it is clear that only Jesus has brought them there. And even the world will notice.

4. Our unity is glorious
Jesus gives glory to us, as we reflect his glory. This is the result of our unity together and in him. We see the glory of Jesus working in one another, not just in our lives. But to get there we must be patient, carrying others’ burdens, forgiving them, sharpening them, encouraging them, praying for them, loving them. And watching, over years, as the Spirit of Christ shows the glory of Jesus in their life.

5. Our unity is love-filled
Jesus gives another result, one that is even more amazing than the first – the world will not just know him, but know that the Father loves us with the same love with which he loves the Son. It is inconceivable that the Father, whose love for the Son is so powerful, would love such inconsequential people with the same ferocity. But, found as we are in Christ, such is our lot! How good is our God and how worthy of praise!