God wants unity in the church. This article in the current Carolina Messenger by Eric Diaz examines much of what the Word of God says about unity and how to achieve it. It’s worth your time to read.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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 17:20-21 – Scripture of the Day (February 12, 2014)
Jesus only has a few hours left before he is nailed to the cross while he’s praying this prayer to his Father in heaven. He knows this. He knows his time left with his closest friends – his disciples, his apostles – is short. So he is praying for them because he cares for them. He is thanking his Father for blessing him with them.
But he’s not only praying for his apostles. He’s praying for us – all Christians – as well. How do I know this? Because he says that he’s praying not only for them, but “also for those who will believe in me through their word.” That tells us something about what it means to be a Christian, and how one becomes a Christian. The first members of the church “continued in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). The Spirit-inspired word of the apostles and prophets of the early church is found only in the New Testament (2 Pet. 1:19-21; Eph. 3:3-5). Do you want to be a Christian? Do you want to be one of “those who will believe in me through their word”? Follow the New Testament alone.
So many do not, you know. I teach at a preaching school, and I recently gave my students an assignment to interview the leader of a local denomination about their doctrine, and specifically why they believe what they do. Every single one of them gave more adherence to a man-made human creed than the Holy Word of God, and all of those creeds were different from the others. How is that fulfilling Jesus’ prayer that all who profess to be his followers “be one” in the same way that he and his Father are one? Read 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and Philippians 2:1-2 along with today’s scripture. Do you see that being fulfilled in the different churches and faiths of today?
This article by Brock Shanks was published in the July/August, 2013 issue of the Carolina Messenger, an issue that dealt with the theme of challenges which preachers face. This article brings out some very good points about what churches need to do in order to grow.