Friday, May 05, 2017
"Be One" Sermon: John 17:20-26
April 30, 2017, Second Reformed Church
As we continue to look at the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, we saw last week that Jesus prays that the Eleven – and, in fact, all believers, as we will see today – would be kept by God the Father – that believers would be secure in their eternal salvation – knowing that we belong to the Father and the Son – and the Holy Spirit – and nothing can ever change that.
Jesus also asks the Father to sanctify believers – not merely to make them holy – but to set them apart from the world, so, while we live in the world – we oppose all that which is sinful in the world and in opposition to God.
And He asks that believers would be one with the Triune God and in the manner of the Triune God and amongst each other, especially because the world hates us and the evil one is plotting against us.
As Jesus concludes His prayer, He returns to the theme of “being one.” And as He does so, He widens His prayer to every believer throughout time and space:
And we see, first, Jesus prays for all believers.
“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. “
Jesus expands His prayer – praying not only for the Eleven, but for everyone who believes due to the witness of the Eleven, and those believers who proclaim the Gospel, and those believers who proclaim the Gospel, and so on and so on and so on, until Jesus returns. Jesus prays for those believers who are alive as His prays this pray and all those who will come to believe throughout time and space.
And Jesus prays that we will be one with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and with every believer. Jesus prays that we will be united in agreement in the Gospel – the essence of the Gospel – in the mind and effort and purpose of the Godhead.
The result of which will be that every believer – no matter where you are from, no matter what your experience, not matter what your denomination, no matter what your sex, not matter what your family or financial situation, not matter what your language, no matter what temptations you find most difficult to reject – each and every believer can stand together and work together and proclaim the Gospel together. In glorious agreement, we can all say, God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, lived a perfect life, paid the debt for all of our sins, died, physically rose, and ascended back to the Father, securing for each one who believes – the people that God the Father gave to the Son.
We are one – first and foremost – and, perhaps in some case – only – in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – but that belief unites us in a way that nothing else ever could. As we have seen earlier in John’s Gospel, we are called to a sacrificial love like Jesus’ for one another – we are a scandal to the world as we are willing to stand together and die for each other for the sake of the Gospel.
Jesus also prays that as the world sees us one with one another and our God, the world will be convicted of their sin, even as they believe that Jesus was sent by the Father and despise that truth.
Second, Jesus gives believers His Glory.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
How does Jesus give believers His Glory?
We are helped in understanding this, as Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, ESV).
Jesus gives His Glory to believers by indwelling us with God the Holy Spirit, Who transforms us into the Image and Glory of Christ – which will be complete on the last day. We are beginning to show the Glory of Christ because the Holy Spirit indwells us, and we continue to bear and show the Glory of Christ as the Holy Spirit works to make us holy, as Jesus is Holy.
As Jesus said, He is in those who believe in Him – that is, He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us, and God the Father indwells Jesus – as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the same One God.
And, for all those who believe – all those who have God indwelling them – sanctifying them, Jesus prays that they would all be one – as He has already said, and – perfectly one – or, perfected into one.
Remember, we looked at Jesus’ description of Himself and those who believe in Him as the Vine in Whom we are the branches. His is the root and the life and we are grafted into the Vine so we have life and find ourselves grounded by the root. In the way that a vine and its branches are one – perfectly one – perfected into one – Jesus prays that all those who ever believe savingly in Him would be one.
We’ve said this is based on the reception and proclamation of the same Gospel of Jesus Christ and from being of the same love – one for another – as the Godhead has for Themselves. Yet, this seems to be one of those things that we can only take so far in our understanding:
Yes, we ought to all agree on the specifics of the Gospel and love each other sacrificially as those who are saved by God and indwelled by Him. But, how, exactly, do we receive life up from the root into we the branches? How does the Holy Spirit cause us to become holy? How are we being made into the Image of Christ?
One commentator says that this oneness is “infinite, unsearchable, and mysterious” (Charles Ross, Inner Sanctuary, 255).
But, Jesus does ask for one result of this oneness – Jesus wants the world to know that Jesus loves believers in the same way that the Father loves Jesus.
This is remarkable for at least two reasons:
First, again, Jesus wants the world to see this – to be convicted by this – He wants the world – all those who never believe in Him – to see the love the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit) have for believers. This is part of God convicting of the world of their sin and unbelief.
Secondly, it makes it abundantly clear that God the Father is not some hot-headed monster that has to be pleaded with by His Son to save a people – no, we see from the beginning of the Gospel that God the Father so loved us that He sent His Only Begotten Son.
And so the Glory of God becomes more clear through our being one and our growing in the Glory of God. As we become more of who God created us to be and show to the world Who this God is Who loved enough to sacrifice His Son to beings engaged in cosmic rebellion against Him – to make us His – to make us right with Him – that He would be all the more magnified for Who He is and what He has done to save some of His creatures. That’s what ought to happen when people look at you and me – when people see us – their response ought to be, “What an amazing and loving God!”
Third, Jesus tells the Father that He desires believers to be with Him.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Jesus, Who is the Son of God Incarnate, tells the Father that He wants His people to be able to see the Glory of the Son – which is His – the Glory that the Son had before anything was created – that the God-Man now has.
God the Son was glorified before the Creation, and He is glorified as the God-Man – God the Son, permanently enfleshed in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth bears the Glory of the Son of God – which proves that human beings can bear the Glory of God – since Jesus is completely human as well as being completely Divine – which means we will have these physical bodies – but perfected – in the Kingdom, just as Jesus has His physical body, though perfected, where He is now.
We will continue to have God the Holy Spirit living in us in the Kingdom and we will be in our perfected and glorified human – physical – bodies – just as Jesus is now. And on that final day, we will be with Him and we will mutually see the Glory of God in our physical bodies.
John symbolically described we believers like this:
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
“12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
“12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
“12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
“12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
“12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
“12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
“12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
“12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
“12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
“12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
“12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
“12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’
“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:1-17, ESV).
What – exactly – does that look like? We’ll know when we get there.
For now, be assured – the Father loves the Son – the Father loves believers – the Son loves believers – and the Son asks His Father – perfectly knowing the Mind of God, so the answer will be “yes” – Jesus asks His Father to glorify Him, to glorify His people, to keep His people and cause them to see His Glory and be with Him forever.
The only way this could possibly go wrong for those of us who believe – is if the Father stops loving the Son – which cannot happen. So rejoice, have hope, and prepare to be received into the Kingdom, glorified, and with Jesus forever.
Jesus ends His prayer making three promises before the Father:
“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
First, Jesus states that even though the world does not know God and His salvation, Jesus made God and His salvation known to the people God gave Him – everyone who has ever believed and will ever believe in Jesus savingly has been convicted by God, given faith by God, and been saved by God through the work of Jesus. And Jesus, through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, promises to remind us and teach us and confirm in us the truths of the Gospel as we continue to grow in faith and obedience.
Second, Jesus promises – again through the working of God the Holy Spirit in us – to grow that love we have been given by the Father and the Son – and which we are to have for one another. The Holy Spirit will continue to impress upon us the truth and the reality of the love God has for us and the love we ought to have for one another – and He grows us in all things into holiness.
Third, Jesus promises to be with us forever. In fact, He indwells us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Let us remember, there is Only One God, so if God indwells us, God indwells us. Still, God is Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – and He is the Holy Spirit Who indwells us. It’s an important distinction to keep in mind so we don’t drift into false teaching.
Taken all together, Jesus prays for and promises that everyone who ever believes savingly in Him will be kept and sanctified and glorified by God – and shall be with God in the flesh for all of eternity. Our future is secure.
Paul puts it this way:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30, ESV).
If it was God’s intention from before the Creation for you to be with Him in and for eternity, we will be saved, we will be one, we will glorify Him.
Paul says if we were foreknown – if we were loved by God before we existed – and we see in this prayer that God loves all of us who believe, then He has predestined us to be conformed and transformed into the Image of His Son, then we have been called and justified and we are being glorified and we will be glorified on the last day – to the eternal glory of our God and Savior!
We are one in Christ. Let us be one together in love and faith and obedience as we have been called and as we shall be glorified.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You that You loved us before the foundation of the world and You planned to save us and keep us and sanctify us and glorify us. We ask that You would continually draw us to the Gospel found in the whole of Your Word that we would grow and be all the more one with one another. And may You be glorified as You surely make us into the Image of Your Son. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.