Jesus prayed for His disciples “that they may be one” (John 17:11). What did Jesus mean that they would be one?
Jesus is praying for His nearest disciples here (see John 17:6-8, 12), those with whom He invested the previous 3½ years.
None of Jesus’ disciples chose each other. Each one chose to follow Jesus; others happened to join alongside to also follow Jesus, but they weren’t forming their own club. Perhaps certain disciples didn’t get along with certain others (especially a tax collector and a zealot?), but they tolerated each other because they were following Jesus. Their focus was on establishing and maintaining a relationship with Jesus. They didn’t choose each other, yet Jesus brought them together and prayed that they would be one.
How would this work? How would several men who didn’t deliberately have interest to spend time with each other even have any desire to be one? What did Jesus mean by their being one? They would be one how?
Jesus prayed that the disciples would be one to the same extent that Jesus and the Father are one:
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:11b)
“…even as we are one.”
To what extent are Jesus and the Father one? They are one in divine essence, one in perfect fellowship, perfect love, perfect agreement. Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus. Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
Jesus and the Father are one in such a way that if we want to see God, we look upon Jesus who is the visible image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature (Hebrews 1:3a)
Looking upon Jesus will allow us to see the Father:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? … Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me… (John 14:8-11)
Jesus is the physical image of God. If we want to see the Father, we look upon Jesus.
Also, to not neglect the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth “proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26). Father, Son, and Spirit are one. The Father “begets” the Son (John 1:14) and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. All are of one source. One divine source. God is one! A perfect union.
The oneness of Father, Son and Spirit is something that is unfathomable to our finite thinking. Their oneness is an infinite, perfect oneness. We can’t comprehend the oneness of three divine Persons.
And yet, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one in the same way that God is one. Remarkable!
Later in the same prayer, Jesus prayed for those who would follow Him as a result of the disciples’ message…
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word (John 17:20)
…see? Told ya.
Jesus prayed for all those who are His from the First Century A.D. until now. Jesus prayed for those who believe in Him today! And Jesus prayed for those who may yet believe in Him in the years ahead.
THAT THEY MAY BE IN US
What does Jesus pray concerning us?
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us (John 17:21a)
Jesus prayed that we who believe in Him would be one. Again, to what extent? To the same extent that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father.
Jesus prayed that we, brothers and sisters, would be one! And just as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father in mutual perfect fellowship, Jesus prayed “that they also may be in us.” “In us”!
Wow! Holy smokes! Jesus prayed that we would be in the same perfect divine union of fellowship as Father, Son, and Spirit! We can’t even understand or describe what that perfect union of fellowship looks like, yet Jesus prayed that we would join it, that we would be in it. More accurately, that we would be in them!
Earlier the same evening prior to Jesus’ prayer, He said:
Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:19-20)
We are in Jesus. And, by His Spirit, Jesus is in us.
Just a few verses later, Jesus said “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
Make. Our. Home. With. Him.
God is invisible. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. But, according to the good purpose of God’s plans, He desires to express Himself through more than just one visible Person (Jesus). He is pleased to express Himself through a plurality of persons, a great multitude of persons, persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
God wants to express Himself in creation through a many-membered dwelling place. God is pleased to make his home with us.
Jesus is the exact expression of God. God is also pleased to express Himself through people who will be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). Jesus is the true image of God, those in whom God makes His home will be transformed into that image (the image of God’s Son).
Note that Jesus spoke of a plural indwelling: “We will make our home with him.” Father and Son will make their home (dwelling place on earth) in us. Father and Son make their home in us by the Spirit.
Paul writing to the Ephesians:
In him (Jesus) you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
God is pleased to dwell on the earth. And He does so by making His dwelling place on earth in His people!
Not only would God be in us, Jesus also said that we would be in Him.
PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE
God makes us partakers of His divine nature.
Had I heard the previous statement in a vacuum, I would be appalled. How atrocious! How hideous it is that people would think that they partake in the divine nature!
I imagine that I’m driving my car, listening on the radio to a random unknown preacher. As soon as the preacher states that God has made us partakers of the divine nature, my skin would curl, I would get a shiver down my spine, and the hair on the back of my neck (a.k.a. my neck fur) would stand straight up. I would immediately flip off the station thinking ‘I can’t believe the awful, heinous things that are taught these days, and pass as Christian. False teachers!’
Yet that’s exactly what Peter wrote:
…he (God) has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)
Had Peter not written it, I wouldn’t believe it. God has made us partakers of the divine nature!
The Greek word translated “partakers” is koinonos, which is closely associated with the Greek word koinonia. Koinonia is often translated in the New Testament as “fellowship.” Whereas koinonia is the act of fellowship, koinonos is the person who engages in the act of fellowship.
Who performs the act of plumbing? A plumber. Who performs the act of welding? A welder. Who performs the act of teaching? A teacher.
Who performs the act of koinonia? The koinonos. The koinonos engages in the act of koinonia.
Peter says that we are fellowshippers in the divine nature. We partake in the fellowship of the divine!
Jesus prayed “that they may be in us”, meaning that we would be in the Father and the Son. This happens by the Spirit. Therefore, Jesus said that we would be one with the Godhead.
So, what did Jesus mean that believers would be one even as God is one? God is one in Father, Son, and Spirit. A perfect divine fellowship. God is union of three in one. God brings believers into oneness with God’s perfect fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit.
Therefore, believers are brought into oneness with each other because we are each brought into the same fellowship of God. Because God is a union of three in one, and believers are brought into union with the God who is three in one, believers are brought into union with each other.
It’s all part of the same union! It’s all the same fellowship! The fellowship believers have with one another is founded in our mutual union with God. It’s not that Believer A agrees with Believer B, or vice versa. It’s that Believer A and Believer B share in the fellowship of the divine together!
THAT YOU MAY HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH US
John shared the reason he wrote his epistle:
that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
John said he is proclaiming what he saw and heard from Jesus so that his readers would have fellowship with him. And John didn’t merely refer to himself singularly, but also all those with whom John is in fellowship: “that which we have seen…we proclaim to you…so you may have fellowship with us.”
How does John describe their fellowship? “Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” For John, it’s all the same fellowship. Fellowship with his brothers, fellowship with God: the same fellowship!
Observe John’s connection of our mutual fellowship with each other and with God just a few verses later:
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:6-7a)
John states that if you think you have fellowship with God but walk in darkness, you really don’t have fellowship with God. Then, he adds that if you walk in the light you have fellowship with one another.
After stating that a person who walks in darkness does not have fellowship with God, we might fully expect the next thing John would say to be that if you walk in the light you do have fellowship with God. That is true, but it’s not what he states: “if we walk in the light…we have fellowship with one another.”
John does not distinguish between fellowship with God and fellowship with one another. They are interconnected to him!
EAGER TO MAINTAIN THE UNITY
It’s easy for us to look around our church culture and snicker at the thought of Christians truly functioning and acting as one. But the beauty of it is that we don’t need to effort or work toward making ourselves one; we already are one! The problem is that we have not maintained the oneness we have already been brought into.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
Our unity in the Spirit is already a reality. We, as a church culture, have done a miserable job maintaining that unity. Not only should we maintain the unity of the Spirit, we need to be eager to maintain that unity. And abiding in a state of mutual peace would be the bond that maintains our unity.
Father in heaven, may You help us to realize our oneness. Make us to celebrate our union with You through Your Son by the Spirit. And may it make us appreciate that all who believe have been brought into the same union. That we would be one, God, just as You are one!
Part 2 of 3: One in Christ, So That the World…
Part 3 of 3: One in Christ, in His Glory
This insightful message, based on the Scripture references included, gives me food for thought and understanding how good God is to have given us Jesus.