Jesus' Prayer For His Church

W. Terry Varner
February 9, 2014

The third part of Jesus prayer in John 17 is found in John 17:20-26. In the final part of His prayer, Jesus prays for the time the church is established (Acts 2) until He returns again. This should be of interest to those who are Christians. There are two parts to the prayer: (1) our unity (John 17:20-23) and (2) our eternal glory (John 17:24-26).

Jesus prays for our unity. In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays for Christian unity in the church. It is two-fold: First, the basis of our unity is that we “believe on Me [Christ] through their [apostles] word” (John 17:20). “Their word” is the apostle’s word in the sense of what they proclaimed. Peter reminds us to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets and of the commandment of the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2).

The words of the apostles were the words of God. Their teaching had already been settled in heaven. Jesus said to His apostles, “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). With the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostles teaching was what God had bound and permitted. It was settled in heaven before they received it and what they taught was the inerrant, infallible, and authoritative word of God.

Second, Jesus prays that those who composed the church; i.e. Christians, All may be one; as You Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21-23). The unity of the church (Christians) is based on our abiding in the doctrine of the word of God (cf. 2 John 9). Our “unity” enables and empowers us to “all be one ..

. that they may be one in Us” (John 17:21).

The purpose of “unity” is twofold. First, “that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:21, 23). A house or a kingdom, and or the church, divided against itself cannot stand will be brought to nothing (Matthew 12:25). Milligan reasons that unity is “a moral demonstration that the Christian religion is not of men, but of God” (Analysis of the New Testament 268). Division makes for infidelity and unrighteousness.

Second, unity of the church shows that God “has loved them [Christians], as You have loved me” (John 17:23). Jesus prayed for unity not union. Thomas B. Warren states the importance of Christian unity: “In the prayer of Jesus which is recorded in John 17, He made clear that unity is a matter of great importance (17:20-23). To deny the cruciality of unity is to deny Jesus and His teaching. To strive for unity is a matter of obligation which God has laid upon us. We are to give diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3)” (Christians Onlyand Only Christians 83).

Jesus prays for our eternal glory. In John 17:24-26, Jesus prayed that Christians would eventually enjoy three things: (1) “be with Me where I am” (John 17:24). (2) That Christians “may behold My glory” (John 17:24). (3) He prayed “that the love wherewith You have loved Me may be in them” (John 17:26).

Paul reminds us, “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we still were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:5-6).