In John 17, Jesus has just observed the Passover meal with His disciples. Having broken the unleavened bread and shared the wine, thus instituting the Lord’s supper, Jesus spent the next few moments preparing the disciples for what would come next. From John 13-16, He prepared His disciples for His arrest, trials, and crucifixion.
As He discussed these things with His disciples, He reminded them of God’s eternal plan through all of it, and how it would all work to their redemption. Still, things weighed heavy on the heart of our Lord, and on the hearts of the disciples.
So, in John 17, Jesus lifted up His prayer to God. In that prayer, He prayed for His own glorification, for the protection of the disciples, and then He brings the prayer to its glorious conclusion in verses 20-26 as He prayed for the unity and glorification of His disciples.
You read that right… the unity, and the glorification of His disciples.
Christ prayed that His disciples would be one, that they would be unified. Since verse 20 shows that Christ not only prayed for His disciples, but also for all future believers, we can conclude that He prayed for our unity as well.
This unity that Christ prayed for was not a generic hope that we would all be able to get along. Unity can only come from being centered around a central idea, theme, ethic or cause. There has to be a basis for unity.
In His prayer, the Lord prayed that we would be one in God. The basis for our unity is the Lord Jesus, and our Heavenly Father. In a broader sense, the basis of our unity would be in what Christ was about to accomplish on the cross.
Unity among believers can only happen if we are centered upon the Gospel. If we lose our focus on the Gospel, we will find ourselves preoccupied with different things, and those different things will divide us. Therefore, we must continually focus and refocus ourselves on the Gospel.
As Alastair Begg once preached, we must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily to prevent ourselves from drifting from the Lord, and placing our trust in ourselves and our own understanding.
Indeed, once we lose focus on the Gospel, we become more focused on the menial things of this world, and such drift more toward selfishness. This is the cause for most church divisions.
Show me a church that is divided over worship style, and I’ll show you a church that has lost its focus on the Gospel. Show me a church divided over carpet color, sanctuary decor, and programs, and I will show you a church that has lost its Gospel.
Show me a church building that has been placed on the market as the congregation it once housed disbanded, and I will show you a church that forgot the reason for its existence.
When we lose the Gospel, we lose unity, we lose purpose, we lose everything.
Jesus prayed that we would be one. That we would be united in will and understanding, that we would hold the same mission. That can only be accomplished through our unified focus on the Gospel.
Jesus then prayed that we would be glorified. Specifically, in His prayer He mentioned that the glory that was given to Him was also given to His disciples. This “glory” is translated from the Greek, Doxa, from which we get the title of the song, Doxology, which means to make renown, or to be well thought of.
Christ not only made His name great in the Earth by completing the Gospel, He lifted up the names of His disciples, too. This was done so that the disciples could turn around and glorify the Lord.
There are aspects to our transformation in the Gospel that make us stand out in this world. The purpose behind our standing out is to direct people to the Gospel.
The purpose of all of this is to effectively proclaim the Gospel and lead others to salvation. Is that a purpose we live by? Or do we get in the way with our earthly and selfish desires? To ensure that we do the former, and not the latter, we must be Gospel-focused.