John 17:21
That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) That they all may be onei.e., both “these” (the Apostles) and “them also which shall believe on Me through their word” (the whole body of believers in all times and places). He expresses in this grand thought of the unity of the whole Church the fulness of the purpose of His prayer.

As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.—The insertion of “art,” which, as the italics show, is not in the original text, weakens the sense. It is better, therefore, to omit it. The word “one,” in the second clause, is of doubtful authority, and has the appearance of a gloss. The probable reading, therefore, is, That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; and the meaning is that the union of the Church may be of the same essential nature as that between the Father and the Son; yea, that the union of the Church may result from the union of individual members with the Father through the Son. (Comp. John 14:23; John 15:4-10, et al.) The Father in the Son and the Son in the Father; both Father and Son taking up their abode in the believer, and the believer, therefore, in the Father and the Son. This is the ideal of the unity of the Church of Christ; and if this union with God is realised by each individual, it necessarily follows that all the individuals will be one with each other. (Comp. Notes on Ephesians 4:4 et seq.)

That the world may believe that thou hast sent me.—The result of the union of believers with God, and therefore with each other, will be that the world will see in it a proof of the divine origin of Christianity, and will believe that the Father sent the Son into the world. As this will be the result, it is thought of as the purpose of the prayer for the whole body of believers. Instances of this result crowd involuntarily upon the mind. The brotherhood of Christians has ever been the witness to their common Fatherhood in God. The divisions of Christendom have ever been the weakness of the Church and the proof to the world that, in that they are divided, they cannot be of God. (Comp. Note on John 13:35.)

17:20-23 Our Lord especially prayed, that all believers might be as one body under one head, animated by one soul, by their union with Christ and the Father in him, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. The more they dispute about lesser things, the more they throw doubts upon Christianity. Let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, praying that all believers may be more and more united in one mind and one judgment. Thus shall we convince the world of the truth and excellence of our religion, and find more sweet communion with God and his saints.Neither pray I for these alone ... - Not for the apostles only, but for all who shall be converted under the preaching of the gospel. They will all need similar grace and be exposed to similar trials. It is a matter of unspeakable joy that each Christian, however humble or unknown to men however poor, unlearned, or despised, can reflect that he was remembered in prayer by "him whom God heareth always." We value the prayers of pious friends. How much more should we value this petition of the Son of God! To that single prayer we who are Christians owe infinitely more real benefits than the world can ever bestow; and in the midst of any trials we may remember that the Son of God prayed for us, and that the prayer was assuredly heard, and will be answered in reference to all who truly believe.

All may be one - May be united as brethren. Christians are all redeemed by the same blood, and are going to the same heaven. They have the same wants, the same enemies, the same joys. Though they are divided into different denominations, yet they will meet at last in the same homes of glory. Hence they should feel that they belong to the same family, and are children of the same God and Father. There are no ties so tender as those which bind us in the gospel. There is no friendship so pure and enduring as that which results from having the same attachment to the Lord Jesus. Hence, Christians, in the New Testament, are represented as being indissolubly united - parts of the same body, and members of the same family, Acts 4:32-35; 1Co. 12:4-31; Ephesians 2:20-22; Romans 12:5. On the ground of this union they are exhorted to love one another, to bear one another's burdens, and to study the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another, Ephesians 4:3; Romans 12:5-16.

As thou, Father, art in me - See John 14:10. This does not affirm that the union between Christians should be in all respects like that between the Father and the Son, but only in the points in which they are capable of being compared. It is not the union of nature which is referred to, but the union of plan, of counsel, of purpose seeking the same objects, and manifesting attachment to the same things, and a desire to promote the same ends.

That they also may be one in us - To be in God and in Christ is to be united to God and Christ. The expression is common in the New Testament. The phrase used here denotes a union among all Christians founded on and resulting from a union to the same God and Saviour.

That the world may believe ... - That the world, so full of animosities and fightings, may see the power of Christian principle in overcoming the sources of contention and producing love, and may thus see that a religion that could produce this must be from heaven. See the notes at John 13:34. This was done. Such was the attachment of the early Christians to each other, that a pagan was constrained to say, "See how these Christians love one another!"

21. that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us—The indwelling Spirit of the Father and the Son is the one perfect bond of union, knitting up into a living unity, first all believers amongst themselves; next, this unity into one still higher, with the Father and the Son. (Observe, that Christ never mixes Himself up with His disciples as He associates Himself with the Father, but says I in THEM and THEY in US).

that the world may believe that thou hast sent me—sentest me. So the grand impression upon the world at large, that the mission of Christ is divine, is to be made by the unity of His disciples. Of course, then, it must be something that shall be visible or perceptible to the world. What is it, then? Not certainly a merely formal, mechanical unity of ecclesiastical machinery. For as that may, and to a large extent does, exist in both the Western and Eastern churches, with little of the Spirit of Christ, yea much, much with which the Spirit of Christ cannot dwell so instead of convincing the world beyond its own pale of the divinity of the Gospel, it generates infidelity to a large extent within its own bosom. But the Spirit of Christ, illuminating, transforming, and reigning in the hearts of the genuine disciples of Christ, drawing them to each other as members of one family, and prompting them to loving co-operation for the good of the world—this is what, when sufficiently glowing and extended, shall force conviction upon the world that Christianity is divine. Doubtless, the more that differences among Christians disappear—the more they can agree even in minor matters—the impression upon the world may be expected to be greater. But it is not dependent upon this; for living and loving oneness in Christ is sometimes more touchingly seen even amidst and in spite of minor differences, than where no such differences exist to try the strength of their deeper unity. Yet till this living brotherhood in Christ shall show itself strong enough to destroy the sectarianism, selfishness, carnality, and apathy that eat out the heart of Christianity in all the visible sections of it, in vain shall we expect the world to be overawed by it. It is when "the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high," as a Spirit of truth and love, and upon all parts of the Christian territory alike, melting down differences and heart burnings, kindling astonishment and shame at past unfruitfulness, drawing forth longings of catholic affection, and yearnings over a world lying in wickedness, embodying themselves in palpable forms and active measures—it is then that we may expect the effect here announced to be produced, and then it will be irresistible. Should not Christians ponder these things? Should not the same mind be in them which was also in Christ Jesus about this matter? Should not His prayer be theirs?

Our Saviour here prays on the behalf of such as should believe on him, that they might be one in faith, and one in brotherly love. Whoso considereth this as a piece of Christ’s prayer for believers, and that St. Paul hardly wrote one epistle to the primitive apostolical churches in which he did not press this by most potent argument, cannot but nourish some hopes, (how improbable soever it appears at present), that all the sincere disciples of Christ shall one day arrive at the keeping of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and likewise look upon themselves in point of duty obliged to endeavour it. To which pitch of perfection possibly Christians might soon arrive, if superiors would, after the example of the apostle, Acts 15:28, lay upon their inferiors no more than necessary things; and equals would learn to contend for truth in love, and to walk with their brethren so far as they have attained; and as to other things, to forbear one another in love; and wherein any of their brethren are otherwise minded, then they are to wait till God shall reveal it to them, Philippians 3:15. But this is not all the union which Christ prays for; he also prays that they might be one in the Father and the Son; that is, that they might believe; for faith is that grace by which we are united to, and made one with, God and Christ; though others interpret it of obedience, or such things wherein God the Father and Christ are one, &c. For although so many as are ordained to life shall believe, yet that they might believe is matter of prayer: this our Saviour prays for, for the further glory of God, which is that which he meaneth by the world’s believing that God had sent him; there being no greater evidence that Christ is the true Messiah, than the general acceptance of the doctrine of the gospel, which he brought throughout the world; for who can imagine, that a new doctrine brought into the world by one of no greater reputation than Christ had in the world, and propagated by persons of no greater quality than the apostles were, should obtain in the greatest part of the world, if he that first introduced it had not been first sent by God into the world, and the apostles had not been extraordinarily influenced and assisted by God as to the propagation of it, after Christ was ascended into heaven? That they all may be one,.... Among themselves. This may regard their unity in faith, and in the knowledge of Christ; for there is but one faith which all truly experienced souls agree in: they are converted by the same Spirit, and have the same work of grace wrought in them; and though they have not the same degree of light, and measure of spiritual knowledge, yet they agree in the main point of the Gospel, salvation alone by the Lord Jesus Christ; and such an agreement in the doctrine of faith, and the grand articles of it, respecting the person and offices of Christ, is absolutely necessary to their comfortably walking together in church fellowship, and the more honourable carrying on the worship of God together; and which will be more manifest in the latter day, when saints shall see eye to eye: likewise an unity in affection may be here designed, a being knit together in love to each other; which is the bond of perfectness, the evidence of regeneration, the badge of the Christian profession, the beauty of church communion, and the barrier and security from the common enemy; and without which, social worship and mutual service will be either neglected or coldly performed. Moreover, this petition may have respect to the gathering together all the saints at the last day, as one body united together in faith and love; as one general assembly and church of the firstborn; as one fold of which Christ is the head, Saviour, and shepherd:

as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee. There is a mutual in being of the Father and the Son, who are one in nature and essence, in power and will, and in understanding and affection; which union, though it infinitely transcends any kind of union among men, or that can be conceived of by men, yet is the exemplar of the saints' union one with another, and to the divine persons; and which must be understood not of an equality, but a likeness:

that they also may be one in us: there is an union of all the elect to God and Christ, which is already complete, and not to be prayed for; they are all loved by God with an everlasting love, by which they are inseparably one with him; they are all chosen in Christ, as members in their head, and are federally united to him, as their Mediator, surety, and representative; in consequence of which he has assumed their nature, stood in their place and stead, and brought them nigh to God. There is a manifestation of union in conversion, when persons openly appear to be in Christ; and as a fruit and effect of everlasting love, are with loving kindness drawn unto him; and which will be more gloriously seen, when all the elect shall be brought in, and God shall be all in all, and is what Christ here prays for:

that the world may believe that thou hast sent me; either the rest of God's chosen people in the world, not yet called; or rather the wicked and reprobate part of the world, particularly Jews and Deists: they shall see the concord and agreement of the saints in doctrine, worship, and affection in the latter day; and when all the elect shall be gathered together, and not only their union to each other, but to the divine persons, shall clearly appear; they will then believe, ant be obliged to own, that Jesus is the true Messiah, was sent of God, and is no imposter.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 17:21. For those who through their preaching believe on Him He prays that they may be one. Naturally the extension of the Church imperils its unity, the ἑνότης τοῦ πνεύματος, Ephesians 4:3. “This unity is infinitely more than mere unanimity, since it rests upon unity of spirit and life.” Tholuck. This unity of all believers finds its ideal in the unity of the Father and the Son: καθὼς σὺ, πάτερ κ. τ. λ., and not only its ideal but its unifying principle and element, ἐν ἡμῖν. This unity of all believers is to result in the universal belief in Christ’s mission, ἵνα ὁ κόσμοςἀπέστειλας.21. That they all may be one] This is the purpose rather than the purport of the prayer: Christ prays for blessings for His Church with this end in view,—that all may be one.

as] Or, even as. The unity of believers is like the unity of the Father with the Son (John 10:30), not a merely moral unity of disposition and purpose, but a vital unity, in which the members share the life of one and the same organism (see on Romans 12:4-5). A mere agreement in opinion and aim would not convince the world. See on John 17:11. Omit ‘art,’ which is an insertion of our translators.

may be one in us] The balance of authority is against ‘one,’ which may be an explanatory gloss. In John 6:56 and John 15:4-5 Christ’s followers are said to abide in Him: this is to abide in His Father also.

hast sent] Better, didst send (comp. John 17:18). The eternal unity of believers with one another will produce such external results (‘see how these Christians love one another’), that the world will be induced to believe. Christian unity and love (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31; 1 Corinthians 13) is a moral miracle, a conquest of the resisting will of man, and therefore more convincing than a physical miracle, which is a conquest of unresisting nature. Hence the divisions and animosities of Christians are a perpetual stumbling-block to the world.John 17:21. Ἵνα πάντες, that they all) So, ἵνα ὦσιν, that they may be, in John 17:22-23.—πάντες, all) who believe through the word of the apostles. [Those being included in the meaning, who were led to the faith not by the ministry of those Twelve; for instance, Paul, and the multitude won over by him.—V. g.] The same blessedness is obtained for all believers as was for the apostles.—ἵνα καὶ, that also) ἵνα, that, is here repeated, as if after a parenthesis, from the beginning of the verse.—ἐν ἡμῖν ἕν, one in us) The words ἐν ἡμῖν, in us, add emphasis to that ἕν, one, repeated: and those words, ἐν ἡμῖν, in us, are deduced from καθὼς, even as, etc.—ὁ κόσμος) the whole world at last.—πιστεύσῃ, may believe) when it shall see believers full of us [filled with the abiding Spirit of the Father and the Son]. There follows by gradation, γινώσκῃ may know, in John 17:23. Comp. John 17:8, “They have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed.” With the world, the first stamina (groundwork) of faith precede the further and fuller knowledge, which follow. With actual believers, full faith follows close upon solid knowledge.Verse 21. - That they all may be one. My prayer is that the many may become one, form one living glorious unity; - every part of which spiritual organism, while living a separate and differentiated life, is yet a part of a whole. In the natural sphere, as the parts of a whole organism are mere and more developed, and increasingly resemble individualities in their separation, they are in the same proportion dependent on the whole for the life that is in them. Even in a highly organized community, as the separate individuals have more and more personal consciousness of special function, they become the more dependent on the whole, and in one sense lost in the unity to which they belong. The branches in the vine form together one vine; the members of a body, being many, are one body and members of one another. It is open to discussion whether the καθὼς clause, which here follows, characterizes the above statement, as Meyer and many others urge, or whether, with Godet, the sentence, "That they all may be one," should not be taken as a general statement, to be followed by the καθὼς clause, which characterizes the following words. The first method is a more rational interpretation, nor does the sentence drag. According as thou, Father, (art) in me, and I (am) in thee; i.e. the relation between the Father and Son, the manner in which the Father lives in the Son, as in his organ or instrument of manifestation and object of supreme affection, and as the Son is in the Father, abiding ever in the light of his glory, in the power of his Name, and as these two are thus One in being, so, or similarly, the believers are to live in and for each other, becoming a unity, just as the Father and Son are unity. In order that they themselves also may be [one] in us. This ἵνα does not offer a parallel sentence in apposition with the former, nor is the "that" to be inverted, with Godet, who translates, "that according as thou.., they also may be one in us;" but it is the climax of the whole unifying process, after the likeness of the union between the Father and the Son, viz. that they themselves may be included in this unity. Though they are thus to be lost in God, yet they do not lose their own individuality. Nay, in proportion to their organic relation to the fullness of the Godhead and the completeness of their own spiritual fellowship with one another, will this personal consciousness of theirs become more and more pronounced. There is yet a further process contemplated, viz. in order that the world may believe (πιστεύῃ, as in the next verse; γινώσκῃ, in the present subjunctive, rather than the aorist) that thou didst send me. The spiritual life and unity of the Church will produce an impression on the world which now rejects the Christ and does not appreciate his Divine commission. The union which springs from the blended life of the various and even contradictory elements in the Church will prove the reality of its origin. The world will believe, - this is the final purpose of the intercession concerning the disciples; so though above he did not pray for the world as the then immediate object of his intercession, the poor world is in his heart, and the saving of the world the end of his incarnation. If the union between the Father and the Son is the sublime type of the union between those who shall believe, it is not the union of a great society in accordance with certain invincible rules of affiliation and government. The union between the Father and Son is not a visible manifestation, but a spiritual inference. The common indwelling in the Father and Son, the identity of the spiritual emotion and purpose in all who have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, will convince the world by producing a similar inference. Alford: "This unity is not mere outward uniformity, nor can such uniformity produce it. At the same time, its effects are to be real and visible, such that the world may see them." One

Omit.

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