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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Jesus' Prayer for Unity

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
I.  Introduction.
    A.  Jesus' prayer for unity.
        1.  His pre-incarnate glory (John 17:5).
            a.  The pre-existence of Jesus is stressed in the New 
            b.  Jesus speaks of himself has having been born only one 
                time, and then adds "and for this cause came I into 
                the world" (John 18:37).
            c.  Jesus is eternal and is deity (John 1:1-14).
            d.  Jesus was aware of his divinity.
        2.  His concern for his disciples (John 17:6-10).
            a.  Jesus prayed for the apostles, especially. 
            b.  Their work was critical and their importance is shown 
                in having their names written on the twelve 
                foundations of the wall of the heavenly city 
                (Revelation 21:14).
            c.  They sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes 
                of Israel (Matthew 19:28).
        3.  He puts emphasis on the word of revelation (John 17:6-8).
            a.  The apostles to be given a spirit of truth to guide 
                them into all the truth (John 16:13).
            b.  The Spirit of truth would speak the apostles' words 
                that he would hear (John 16:13).
            c.  He would hear the words from Jesus and speak those 
                words to the apostles (John 16:13).  What the apostles 
                spoke and wrote, and authorized to be spoken and 
                written, are the words of Jesus.  Their words are 
                redletter words.
            d.  "He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and 
                shall declare it unto you" (John 16:14).
            e.  Jesus gave to his apostles the Father's word (John 
            f.  Jesus wanted his apostles to be "one" (John 17:11).
    B.  The apostles were dear to Jesus and their work was very 
        1.  He prayed that his Father would keep them in the world.
        2.  He did not want them taken from the world because they had 
            a necessary work to do in the world (John 17:15-16).
II.  Jesus Prayed For the Unity of All Believers.
     A.  "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that 
         believe on me through their word; 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.  And the glory which thou hast given 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; 
         that the world may know that thou didst send me, and lovedst 
         them, even as thou lovedst me" (John 17:20-23).
     B.  Let us examine Jesus prayer for unity.
         1.  He prayed for those who believe on him as a result of the 
             words of the apostles (John 17:20).
             a.  The apostles words came from Jesus and are therefore 
                 the words of Jesus.
             b.  Jesus spoke not his own mind but the eternal wisdom 
                 of deity (John 8:38).
             c.  The words of the apostles are preserved in the New 
             d.  Faith comes from hearing the word of God about Christ 
                 (Romans 10:17).
         2.  Those who believe on Jesus because of the words of the 
             apostles are obedient to the gospel.
             a.  "By whom [Christ Jesus] we [the apostles] have 
                 received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the 
                 faith among all nations, for his name" (Romans 1:5).
                 (1)  Harper's Bible Dictionary says on the word 
                      "obedience" here: "obedience, submitting to the 
                      will or authority of another.  The Old Testament 
                      has no separate word meaning 'obey.'  'Obey' 
                      translates the Hebrew 'to hear' (Gen. 22:18; 
                      Isa. 42:24).  The concept is also expressed as 
                      'keeping' or 'observing' the commandments (Exod. 
                      16:28; 34:11) and 'walking' in God's ways 
                      (1 Kings 11:33).  God punishes disobedience by 
                      exile, e.g., from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:22-
                      24) or from the Promised Land (Deut. 4:25-28), 
                      but God forgives and restores (Deut. 30:1-5).  
                      In the New Testament Christ is obedient to God 
                      (Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8), and Christians 
                      are called to obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 
                      16:26), obedience to Christ (John 3:36; Heb. 
                      5:9), and obedience to the gospel (Rom. 10:16; 
                      1 Pet. 4:17).  The New Testament also reflects 
                      Roman social-political order in calling for 
                      obedience to the state (Rom. 13:1-7) and, in 
                      later writings, obedience of slaves, children, 
                      and wives within the household (Eph. 5:21-6:9; 
                      1 Pet. 2:13-3:7).  See also commandment; law."
                 (2)  No one can be a believer who does not obey Jesus 
                      as absolute ruler--King of kings and Lord of 
             b.  Romans 1:5 teaches that "grace and apostleship," 
                 which includes their being guided into a full 
                 knowledge of salvation truth as promised to them by 
                 Jesus, would bring people to a condition of belief 
                 (John 17:20), which includes obedience.
             c.  No one is called a believer who is not obedient.
             d.  James shows the necessary connection between faith 
                 and works (James 2:14-26).
             e.  Paul says Jesus will punish with everlasting 
                 destruction those "who know not God and obey not the 
                 gospel of our Lord."
                 (1)  There is a connection here between knowing God 
                      and obeying Jesus.
                 (2)  The apostles were to reveal a more perfect 
                      knowledge of God to the world. 
                 (3)  This knowledge of God would lead to perfecting 
                      the believer through obedience (Hebrews 5:7-8). 
                      Note:  Jesus is the author of eternal salvation 
                             to them that obey him (Hebrews 5:8).
             f.  Believers, therefore, are those who trust God, accept 
                 the Lordship of Jesus, and obey all of his commands.  
                 No one else can be called a believer.
         3.  Jesus prayed for unity among believers (John 17:20).
             a.  Believers are those who have obeyed the commands to 
                 repent, confess, and be baptized for the remission of 
             b.  Only those who spirits have been born of the water of 
                 baptism are born again.
             c.  Since Jesus prayed for unity among believers, and
                 since believers are those born from above, therefore, 
                 only members of the one church about which we read in 
                 the New Testament are the subjects of this prayer for 
         4.  To apply Jesus' prayer for unity to those in 
             denominations is to misunderstand and misrepresent the 
     C.  Only members of the church -- the one body of Jesus -- are 
         included in the Lord's request that believers be united.
         1.  Jesus prayed for his true followers, "That they all may be 
             one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they 
             also may be one in us:  that the world may believe that 
             thou hast sent me" (John 17:21).
             a.  To apply this to denominations is to misunderstand 
                 the passage.
             b.  To apply this to denominations is to deny the oneness 
                 of the true church of Christ, which is the one body 
                 of Jesus.
         2.  "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord 
             Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that 
             there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly 
             joined together in the same mind and in the same 
             judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).  This is what God wants 
             for the church.
         3.  "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that 
             ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 
             With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, 
             forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the 
             unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one 
             body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope 
             of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One 
             God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, 
             and in you all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).
             a.  The one faith is for those who have experienced the 
                 one baptism to be members of the one body according 
                 to the instructions of the one Spirit given by the 
                 one Lord for the glory of the one God and to insure 
                 the one hope.
             b.  This answers the Lord prayer that they may all be one 
                 -- nothing else matters.

H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email: [email protected]
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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