Jesus prayed that His nearest disciples would be one, even as He and the Father are one (John 17:11). He also prayed that all of His disciples in subsequent generations would be one just as the Father is in Him and He is in the Father (John 17:21). Then He added the request that we would be in them, meaning “in” the divine fellowship. (See the previous installment for further discussion on these points.)
This current installment will proceed to the next phrase of verse 21 that wasn’t at all mentioned in the previous installment: the “so that” portion.
God has purpose for His believers being one and being “in” the divine fellowship. His purpose is to provide a testimony of Himself. This testimony is to be a display for the world to observe.
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)
Jesus’ purpose for our oneness by partaking in the divine fellowship is to provide a “so that”.
In fact, Jesus prayed for our oneness three times, once each in three consecutive verses (vs. 21-23). His redundancy shows the importance of our oneness. It is crucial to Jesus. And if it is important and crucial enough to Jesus for Him to repeat His request multiple times, should it not also be a priority for us?!?
In Jesus’ three mentions of our oneness, two of the three are followed by a “so that”, and both times the “so that” is about providing a testimony to the world:
- “so that the world may believe” (17:21)
- “so that the world may know” (17:23)
Our oneness is crucial to provide a testimony to the world. So that the world may believe. So that the world may know.
SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE
What is it that the world would believe by the testimony of our oneness? That the Father sent the Son (v. 21). Our oneness would provide a testimony to the world that God sent Jesus. The result would be that the world would believe.
I do not suspect that this means that the entire world would believe, but just that a portion of the world would believe. In other words, as a result of our oneness many would observe our singular-purposed lifestyle and be intrigued enough to at least inquire or even to join us.
The world would see that we have something to live for. The world would see that we have something to die for. The world would see that we have a singular purpose in common, a unique brotherhood, a special fellowship.
This was the case with the first collection of disciples in Jerusalem:
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47, emphasis mine)
All those who believed:
- Were together
- Had all things in common
- Sold their possessions and belongings and distributed to any as had need
- Gathered daily in the temple
- Gathered daily in their homes, sharing meals
What was the result? Members of the world entered in on the fellowship of God every…single…day.
The believers were one. As a result, the world believed that the Father sent His Son.
SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW
I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:23)
“I in them and you in me…”
The Father is in the Son. It is the Father being in the Son and the Son being in the Father that is the source of their oneness. Or is it the other way around? Their union is the cause of the Father being in the Son and the Son being in the Father? …It’s probably both!
God is one. God is perfect union such that the Members of the Godhead are in each other.
The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in us! “I in them and you in me…”
The perfect union of God is the source of our union with Him! We are made one with God to reflect that God is one in Himself. And our union with God is what makes believers one.
Jesus is in us, based on the strength that the Father is in Jesus. The result is that each of us in whom Jesus dwells “may become perfectly one.” Our union as believers is rooted in our union with Christ which is rooted in Jesus’ union with the Father.
Believer, you and I are one because God is one and He has welcomed us into the union of the Godhead!
The union of God leads to our union with Christ which leads to our union with one another. And our union with one another leads to a (you guessed it!) “so that.”
“…so that the world may know…”
The purpose of our union is to provide a testimony to the world that God is a God of union.
What is it that the world would know?
- That the Father sent the Son
- That the Father loves us the same way He loves His Son
If the world saw that believers were in union (“perfectly one”), the world would know that God sent Jesus. The world would know that Jesus is the truth of God. If we walked in unity, the world would know that we have something special, something real, something heavenly, something supernatural. They would know. And some of them would want in on it. The rest would be jealous and remain jealous in their stubbornness. But they would know.
If we walked in unity, the world would know that God loves us. They would observe our lives, our love for one another, and they would think ‘God must really love them!’’
The world would know that Jesus is the truth of God and that God’s love for His people is a reflection of God Himself.
How much does God the Father love God the Son? Try to describe that love. How much does God love God? With a perfect, infinite, divine love.
God the Father loves God the Son with a perfect, infinite, divine love. God loves us with the same perfect, infinite, divine love as the love He has for Jesus. God loves us as much as God loves Himself. Ponder that: God loves us with the same love He has for Himself!
The world would see. And the world would know.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU
Earlier the same evening, Jesus gave a new commandment. It’s the only commandment of Jesus that He explicitly stated was a commandment. This commandment wasn’t new. But it came with a new impetus.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)
The command to love one another was not new. Just two days prior, Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment in the law. He famously answered with this two-fold response:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)
Christians today often overstate the value of the love described here. This love is a love based on human strength, human effort. Love the Lord with all you’ve got! With all your heart! With all your soul and all your mind.
We can effort to love with this love all we want. But we will only find our love to be insufficient. The law was given based on the effort of humans, to prove that human effort is insufficient.
This is why Jesus provided a new commandment of love. With a new source. A new motivation. A new context.
Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another how exactly? “…as I have loved you.” Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another with the same love with which Jesus loved them.
Jesus repeated Himself later the same evening, recorded two chapters later:
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Now that seems unfair. There is no way we could love with the same love that Jesus loves. According to our human effort, that is.
Jesus loved with what kind of love? Just a couple statements prior, Jesus told His disciples that He loved them with the same love the Father has for Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (John 15:9).
We’re back to this question again: how much does the Father love the Son?
It is an indescribable, unfathomable, infinite, divine love.
Let’s connect the dots. The Father loves the Son with a perfect, infinite, divine love that we can’t adequately describe. Jesus said He loved His disciples with that same indescribable love that the Father has for Him. And then Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another with that same indescribable love!
In the words of the great Ralph Wiggum: “that’s unpossible!”
How in the world can we ever love one another with a love that we can’t even comprehend? It certainly won’t come by human effort.
This is why we overvalue Jesus’ response to the greatest commandments of the law and undervalue Jesus’ new commandment. Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is all out of human effort. The source of such love is a human heart, a human soul, a human mind, and human strength. This love is a finite love. It is not a perfect, divine love.
Jesus commanded His disciples, and us by extension, to love each other with a perfect, infinite, divine love that we can’t adequately describe. We can only ever fail at such a task. According to our human effort.
But get this! Jesus has equipped us to love with a divine love! These are the closing words of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:
I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26, emphasis mine)
Jesus prayed that the love the Father has for the Son is “in us!” The source of this divine love placed within us is Jesus Himself! “…and I in them.”
We have been equipped to love one another with the perfect, infinite, divine love of God! Because God has placed it within us, and has done so by placing Jesus, by His Spirit, within us.
This is what makes Jesus’ commandment to love one another new. It’s His love. It’s love from a divine source, not merely out of human effort.
Let’s go back to Jesus’ initial mention of a new commandment for the disciples to love one another with the same love Jesus had for them. Look at the next verse:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
“All people will know.” A “so that.”
The unity and mutual love believers have with and for one another will provide a testimony to the world that Jesus was truly sent from God. And the world would also know that God loves us as much as He loves His Son.
‘My, how God loves them!’
Part 3 of 3: One in Christ, in His Glory