THE PRAYER OF CHRIST FOR HIS CHURCH
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 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.” John 17:13-21 (NKJV)
The inclusiveness expressed in verse 20 reveals that, although He was referring to His disciples in particular in verses 13-19, He expanded His intercession to include all the church throughout time. It is with this understanding that we find great strength for our lives today.
CHRIST PRAYED THAT THE CHURCH MIGHT HAVE JOY
“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” John 17:13
“My joy” refers to a state of bliss or complete happiness that only Jesus can give. It includes the full and free pardon of sin now; the unfailing promise of His presence throughout our lives; and the assurance of a home in heaven hereafter!
The fulfillment of this joy is expressed in I Peter 1:3-9:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.”
CHRIST PRAYED THAT THE CHURCH MIGHT BE SANCTIFIED
"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” John 17:14-19 (NKJV)
Sanctify means “to set apart”. The Father “sets us apart” from the world of unbelief through His sovereign elective foreknowledge (Romans 8:29). Paul adds in II Thessalonians 2:13-14, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are to set ourselves apart from the world by living a godly and holy life. “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." II Corinthians 6:17.
Jesus said that this sanctification comes by “the truth” (God’s Word), Consider: "…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27 (NKJV)
CHRIST PRAYED THAT THE CHURCH MIGHT BE ONE
"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.” John 17:21 (NKJV)
Paul gives us the basis for this unity within the body of Christ. All conceivable barriers have been completely eradicated through faith in Christ Jesus. There is no “caste system” in Christianity!
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28 (NKJV)
Paul further expounds on this subject in writing to the church in Ephesus.
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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 (NKJV)
The one distinguishing characteristic of the Christian spirit is the ability to make allowance for the failures and shortcomings of our fellow believers, with “gentleness, longsuffering and bearing with one another in love.” A chief aim of this course of action is the maintenance of “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. Notice we are to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit”...not establish or develop it! The Spirit gives this unity but it is our responsibility to keep it.
The many breeches that have been made in Christian unity over the years, whether in the on-going formation of the Bride of Christ or in the local congregation, have been due, not so much with great indiscretions or vast and profound differences of opinions, but primarily with the lack of these simple, essential Christian graces without which our Lord’s desire that His church be “one” as He and the Father are “One” will be delayed.