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The Persecuted Church


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 The Prayer of Unity

John 17:21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Based on Jesus’ prayer in John 17 of our becoming one Ecumenists present the idea that the body has need to be organizationally united. That we must become visibly united. But Jesus is not asking for unity to be made by us. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus prays for the oneness of the church. John 17:9 makes this clear: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours,” and “for those who will believe in Me through their word” (v.20); v.11: “that they may be one as We are.” This is a spiritual unity that is further explained in v.21. Jesus prayed for this unity and this prayer has already been answered or we could not be part of his body. We have already become united (sometimes visibly).

There is an attempt by many to bring people together organizationally on the basis of Jesus' statement. Watch out for those that use this verse as the cure all of what they present as disunity. To accomplish this unity; which often includes interfaith, not just ecumenism, we are to compromise. We are told to accept those who are Christian in name and not in doctrine or practice. To do this we must diminish and even deny what we believe to accept others non-Biblical teaching. It has become more important to show unity than to have actual spiritual unity in the truth. We need to read this prayer as a whole not in piecemeal. Jesus prayed prior to this in John 17:17 “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.”

The intent to have the visible church look and act united ignores the fact that all born-again Christians are already one. The true “body of Christ” (all believers of every age) is already “one,” joined to the one Head. But its unity is not visible, even as the Head is not visible. Just as Jesus’ deity, who he really is was not seen but known only to those who revealed himself to, similarly the church knows the unity but the world may only have glimpses as it is not revealed to them (John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

The “unity” we are to have is a spiritual unity found in Ephesians 4, it is a “unity of the Spirit” (v.3); it is a “unity of faith” (v.13) with “one Lord,” that is based on Christ’s doctrine, which is the truth. There is a spiritual union and harmony in this unity because the Spirit who indwells all believers is also the one who has delivered the doctrine to us by Scripture. No true spiritual unity can exist without doctrinal unity, which is based on the person of Christ as the head. Paul wrote the Philippians “that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). True unity is by the Spirit, who resides in the genuine Church, which is made up of individuals. We are never told to make unity, but to “keep the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3); this is something we already have been given in Christ. Christ prayed for this unity, and His prayer was answered (John 17) when the Spirit was given and a new house was built, a temple of the Spirit. We don’t have to strive for it; it is something given to us all by God’s grace. The Holy Spirit makes this unity with those who are truly born of the Spirit. Each one of us is brought into this organic spiritual unity by faith when we are incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The same Spirit of truth has convicted all of sin; saved us all; and teaches us all. We are in him and He is in us. This is what makes us one; all of us have the same Spirit.

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