Books of Bible
Jesus' Prayer for Unity
By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
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
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
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
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
b. To apply this to denominations is to deny the oneness
of the true church of Christ, which is the one body
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.