One of the priorities of our God for those in His Kingdom is found in John 17:21-23 “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who 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 sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me.”
The words in this prayer are stunning in both import and impact. He is talking with His Father of the mutual union between the Father, Himself…and you and me. Jesus identifies the relationship with our God is one of intimate union, as “I in them and You in Me.” Our union with Christ is the very same union He has with His heavenly Father.
We find later in the New Testament that it is by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are joined into one Spirit with the Godhead (as in 1 Corinthian 6:17). This intimacy with with the three-in-one God by the Holy Spirit within us will result in a daily, intimate conversational communion with our God. It is what is called by Jesus, “abiding in Him,” and by Paul the apostle, “walking by the Spirit.”
One result of this union will be unity among all true disciples, which is the fruit of the same Spirit of Christ living in all of us. True Christian unity is not found in any of our religious institutions, our doctrinal purity or agreement, or in similarity in worship or practice. These are mere human efforts born of the flesh. They can never lead to agreement, much less unity.
His love for us and our love for Him is the foundation for both obedience and unity. His Spirit and life in us will continue obedience and unity among us. Yielding to the Holy Spirit, to the life of Christ and the love of our God, are the expressions of union with Him and the basis for true unity.
Is doctrine important? Yes, but it is not the source of unity; it is merely the fruit of true spiritual oneness. So are holiness, love for the brethren, and our positive impact for the Kingdom of God in the world. “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who 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 sent Me.”
Our attempts to force unity by doctrinal agreement are not going to build unity. One need only check out the innumerable video blogs on which Christians tear apart the doctrinal errors of others by name, deepening discord, division and mistrust . Don’t think that either our Lord or the world does not notice this.
How do we begin to experience this union, the abiding in conversational communion in the life of Christ? I have found that we begin the way Jesus told us to begin. We enter the Kingdom of our God upon repentance. Repentance from all the “selfs” of self-living, efficacy, determination, protection, and the rest of the self-life. Remember, the opposite and enemy of love is self. We deny all the self so that we might come to love our God with our entire being.
Our God waits for us to initiate the repentance of all self, in faith and out of love for Him. The losing of our life to gain His in its place is something He will complete in us. As He lives the crucified life of the Christ in us, He will bring us to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). The full experience of our union with Him and unity among those who are in Him will be the result.
John 14:18-21 “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. After a little while, the world no longer is going to see Me, but you are going to see Me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I in you. The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”
Image via author, Cloud Peak Wilderness, Bighorn Range, WY.