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Christian unity a fact

August 2012 | by John Thornbury

Christian unity a fact

John 17 records the prayer of our Lord Jesus before he went to the cross to die for our sins. This has sometimes been called ‘the high priestly prayer’ of the Saviour, because here he prays for all his followers.
He prays for their security (v.11), joy (v.13), protection from Satan (v.15), sanctification (v.17), and beatific vision (v.24). He also prays for their unity, ‘that they all may be one, as you, Father are in me, and I in you’ (v.21). The oneness he prays for is based on the unity he had with his heavenly Father.
Now, given the fact that Jesus was God’s Son, and that Jesus was always heard by his Father, I cannot imagine that Jesus’ prayer was not fully answered. The salvation and security of God’s people rests on the power, sovereignty and efficacy of Jesus’ death and intercessory ministry.
If God did not hear this prayer, what hope do we have that the goals of the Son of God will be realised? But if Jesus prayed that his people would be one, how is this true?

Mystical body

If we look in the world we do not see the followers of Jesus belonging to one single organised denomination. In fact Christians are divided into numerous camps, differing in many details of theology and worship and, in fact, sometimes vying with one another.
But we must not be confused about the kind of unity for which the Redeemer of men prays. Jesus Christ knew that there would be divisions and disagreements among his people. There were such problems even in the New Testament church. For example, the Corinthian church was painfully split into factions (see 1 Corinthians 3). But in spite of the various tears in the seamless garment of Jesus’ spiritual body, in God’s sight they are truly one.
All who believe in Jesus are members of his mystical body, the church. He is the solitary spiritual head of all true Christians, regardless of their denominations. They all believe he is the Son of God, and all trust him as Saviour and Lord.
This spiritual unity, which is an unalterable fact, of course, must be implemented in a practical way. We need more love, harmony and fellowship among all believers. But the unity for which Jesus prayed is a fact.
John Thornbury