“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
The unity of the Body of Christ is the greatest miracle proclaimed by and prayed for by Jesus. Proclaimed and prayed for, but not yet performed and realized. Jesus never “created unity” before our eyes as a miracle but He said it was THE most powerful witness to His identity and mission. Why did He not miraculously make this happen in the same way He opened the eyes of the blind or raised the dead?
And not only did He fail to perform this miracle of unity but He went so far as to say that He “did not come to bring peace but a sword”. And did He ever! Think of all the fighting and disruption Jesus caused. Ironically however, He did create a type of unity: the single desire to see Him crucified. This unified the diametrically opposed Jews and Romans! He actually “united” enemies and that unification brought Him death!
But what was Jesus thinking when He prayed for the unity of His Church?
I believe it was “the greater things” that He predicted we will do:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12
And when are these greater works going to take place? With God you have to always consider timing. We have seen down through the ages how the power of the Church when truly loving one another has caused an irresistible attraction to the Author of that love. But these instances have been relatively small and rare. But I believe that this miracle of Jesus is still on schedule to be performed, through us, His Body. It has to be; because Jesus prayed and, I think He gets what He prays for.
The unity of the Body of Christ will be THE greater work that is to come.
It is something God will sovereignly orchestrate within us when He decides to open our eyes so that “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea” and for the “complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus said that unity is THE ticket to proving that Jesus came in the flesh and is the Savior of the world.
“Greater works than these.” But what could be greater than Jesus raising the dead or for that matter raising Himself from the dead? Jesus said, “even if someone is raised from the dead they still will not believe” but He did say that if you are one, the world will know and believe!
Of course nothing can be intrinsically greater than the Son of the Living God being raised from death to life for our salvation but what He is saying is that the fruit of His life, death and resurrection, which He has given to us to carry out, will be “greater” than all His works on this earth! The meaning of the word “great” is used here as in “complete” or “perfect” and “consummate.” The outworking of the Spirit of the Gospel in the Body of Christ making us “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” is the beautiful miracle that will save the world. (Phil 2:2)
As believers in Ultimate Restoration we have come to see the current Church not as a landscape of irreconcilable beliefs systems but as ONE Body whose parts have been isolated and scattered creating a distorted and disfigured picture of Christ’s Body. But now we have vision for ONE Body with ONE purpose.
Again to illustrate the quote, “We do not have it all together but together we have it all,” we implore the Church to consider how as a Body we are converging into ONE Body with the following ONE Story of God:
“God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross…making all things new.” (2 Cor 5:19; Col 1:19; Rev 21:5)
This is seen only when embracing all the vital parts of the Body together… Arminian and Calvinist; Missional, Social-Justice focused, Charismatic and Baptist:
God loves all His creation and is The Savior of the World not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He is also sovereign in His power accomplishing all that He purposes to do. No desire of His can be thwarted and His word shall not return to Him empty.
He will draw all men unto Himself with every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. God’s purpose of election is to bless us to be a blessing to every nation on earth. Therefore He is a missionary God who is pursuing His creation with relentless love and compassion in order to bless them through His Body.
He is a God of justice which means we are to be about works of mercy and setting things to rights. His justice is restorative and therefore we are to set about doing justice not getting justice.
The “last word” of our God is that of resurrection and life not the cross and of death. Our God is a God of restoration whose purpose is to destroy the works of the devil, conquer the last enemy of Death, reconcile all things to Himself, making all things new in order to be all in all.
(Psa 145; 1 Jn 4:14; 2 Pet 3:9; Isa 46:10; Job 42:2; Isa 55:11; Jn 12:32; Phil 2:10; Gen 12:2; Jonah; Micah 6:8; 1 Cor 15:26; 1 Jn 3:8; Col 1:19; Rev 21:5; 1 Cor 15:28)
This is the message from the Body when heard together…at the same time… and it is the good news of the Gospel; it is objective news and it is indeed good! This complete Gospel will bring the unity that Jesus prayed for, died for, and guaranteed. It is the “greater” miracle that will complete the purpose of Christ and Him crucified:
“…making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Eph 1:9,10
“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:11.12
When the world finally witnesses a group of very diverse people “dancing together to the same music” they will realize that it isn’t something just in someone’s head but must actually be coming from somewhere else in the universe. Just as when they witness a bunch of birds flying in the same direction they will assume a wind or if they see fish swept in the same direction they will believe there is a current. Even so the world will believe there is a Wind, a Spirit, a Song that is behind the dance we call the Gospel…if we are indeed dancing together.