OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew


            Jesus prayed often.  One of His most notable prayers is recorded in John 17.  Some refer to His words as “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.”  In the prayer, Jesus definitely intercedes on behalf of His apostles.  In verses 20-23, He opens his prayer to include all believers in ages to come.  His desire for His followers was that they be one.  Let’s listen to the words of the Savior.


                        Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through                                                       their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they                                       also may be one in us:  that the world may believe that thou has sent me.  And the                                                         glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they also may be one, even as we                                           are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; that the                                                 world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.


Oneness is definitely the theme of these words.  Four times our Lord emphasizes this theme:  1)  “that they may be one;” 2) “that they also may be one in us;” 3) “that they also may be one, even as we are one;” and 4) “that they may be made perfect in one.”

            Oneness involves unity.  It involves likemindedness in beliefs, words, and practice.  This writer often thinks of a marching band when contemplating unity.  A marching band has many people playing many different instruments.  However, the entire band marches and plays in complete unison.  Their instruments play one song.  Their movements form one pattern.  This is what the Lord desires of His followers.  When God’s people are united, something truly wonderful exists.  The psalmist wrote, saying:  “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).

            For some reason, the religious world has not properly received Jesus’ words found in John 17:20-23.  This is evidenced by the divided state of the religious world.  We are not one.  We do not march together in unison as a championship marching band.  When we remind individuals of Jesus’ words, we get all kinds of reactions.        

            One reaction that some have to Jesus’ words is that it is impossible to be done.  The definition of impossible is “unable to be, exist, or happen.”  Dear readers, do we honestly think that Jesus would pray for something that cannot come to pass?  Why would Jesus pray for the impossible?  If Jesus prayed this prayer in faith, then it was possible.  Matthew 21:22 tells us:  “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

            Another response that some have toward Jesus’ words involves manipulating the meaning of oneness.  They would have us to believe that Jesus never intended complete likeness in name, beliefs, words, and practices.  They would have us to believe that Jesus was simply meaning union.  In essence, Jesus was praying that all would come together to agree to disagree.  In the context of Jesus’s prayer, this is NOT what He said.  He desired that His followers be one, even as He and the Father were one.  “…that they all may be one, even as we are one” (v. 22).  Is the Godhead divided in their thinking and in their conclusions?  Do they teach different things concerning the Word of God?  Are they fractured and fragmented one from another because of their beliefs?  Absolutely not!  They are one.  They are absolutely, perfectly one.  No division exists between them.  This is the unity Jesus desired for His people.  Jesus did not pray for unity-in-diversity.  The very term is a contradiction.

            There is a positive reaction that some have to Jesus’ words.  They desire the oneness for which He prayed and are willing to seek to bring it to pass.  There are many steps that they take to this end.  First, they are willing to give up man-made names that separate us religiously.  They realize that man-made names divide instead of unite.  We should unite upon the name of Christ.  The term “Christian” should satisfy all who desire unity.  Second, they are willing to discard every man-made creed, manual, discipline, and catechism.  These books also keep the religious world fragmented.  We have a book of teaching, the Bible, that can unite us all.  Third, they admit that the Bible can be understood alike by everyone.  If there are disagreements, they are willing to keep studying until there is agreement.  To do this, they are willing to set two things aside, pride and prejudice.  Sometimes minds have been prejudiced by man-made traditions and false teachings.  These things hinder an honest evaluation of the truth.  Pride also gets in the way of understanding God’s Word.  Sometimes, individuals have to admit that they are wrong.  They may have to give up long held beliefs.  Pride doesn’t always want to do this.  Fourth, they are willing to implement the truth in their lives, and teach it to the next generation.  One untaught generation can lead to apostasy and division for years and years to come.

            Our Lord prayed for something huge when he prayed for the oneness of His people.  However, this unity happened when the church was first established.  In Acts 2:46, we read;  “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.”  In Acts 4:32, we are told:  “And the multitude was them that believed were of one heart and one soul…”  In Acts 5:12, these words are recorded:  “…and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.”  Oneness was not a pipe dream.  It certainly was not an impossibility.  The early church had it.  It can be obtained again today when men will do the will of God.  Our prayer and practice should be to see that Jesus’ prayer is fulfilled in our generation.