Christian Unity
John 17:20-23
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;…

Notice it -


1. Believers are to be in unity. Many and yet one, one and yet many. Many members, but one body; many bodies, but one Spirit; many believers, but one spiritual community. They are to be one with each other, with Christ, and with the Father.

2. Their union is to be universal. "Tidal they all may be one." There is to be no exception. It is not optional, but the universal rule of the society and law of its great Head. They are to be one:

(1) In spite of time. Believers are separated by time. Some are of the present, some are of the past, and some of the future; but all are included in this great union. "Those who believe opt me through," etc. Not merely the fathers of the faith are to be in it, but their children to the last generation, and to the last one of that generation.

(2) In spite of space. Believers are separated by place and distance. They inhabit different countries and climes. There are large multitudes on earth, larger multitudes still in heaven, but they are all in this union; its laws are binding and operative in spite of space and distance.

(3) In spite of differences. Believers are separated by physical, mental, social, spiritual, and circumstantial differences; but these are not to prevent their union, but they are to be one in spite of them.

3. The union is to be perfect. They are to be perfected into one. It is not a sham union, but a real one; and perfection is its goal, although gradually attained. Something like this is the import, scope, and ideal of this grand union, of which Christ is the Author, President, and Inspiration.


1. Its model is Divine. "As thou, Father, art," etc. Its model is the union of the Father and the Son. What union was this?

(1) Union of nature, essence, and life. Believers are partakers of the Divine nature, and the new nature and life are the same in all.

(2) Unity of mind. Believers are to strive for unity of faith, and to mind the same things.

(3) Unity of heart. Believers are to be one in heart, sympathies, and love - the bond of perfectness.

(4) Unity of will and purpose.

(5) Unity of character. The Divine union is the model of the Christian, and it is high and perfect. And is not the past history of the Church a record of a great intellectual and spiritual struggle for this, and is she not pressing on still towards it?

2. Its basis is Divine. "That they may be in us, and one in us."

(1) Christian unity is based upon the Divine. The idea is Divine. It would be impossible for an inharmonious being, however powerful, to conceive the idea of an harmonious society, much less to produce it. The Divine unity is the foundation and origin of the human.

(2) Christian unity is the creation of the Divine, and is supported by it. In connection with the Divine it is alone possible, and in this connection it is a glorious fact. "One in us." Apart from this there would be no unity at all - no unity of atoms, of worlds, of systems, in the material universe; and no unity of mind, spirit, and heart among intelligent beings. In the Divine unity all the material worlds are united, and all the moral world is being and to be united. It is not only the model, but the basis and support of Christian union. Christian union is the outgrowth of the Divine. "One in us."

(3) Christian unity is the expression of the Divine. Christ is the Expression of the Father, and believers are the expression of Christ, hence in a degree the expression and incarnation of the Divine unity.

III. IN ITS PRACTICAL AND EFFICIENT MEANS. How does the Divine go forth and effect the unity of the human? What are the means used?

1. The union of believers with Christ by faith, and his union with them. Faith brings Christ to the soul, and Christ brings that soul to the Father and to all in him. "I in them, and thou in me, that they may," etc. These are the efficient means used and the order of their operation. Thus faith unites believers to him, to the Father, and to each other. As the sun is the center of union in the solar system, so Christ is in the Christian system.

2. The endowment of the Divine glory. "The glory which," etc. What glory was given to Christ which he also gave to his disciples?

(1) The glory of the Divine unity. This he gave in word and deed.

(2) The glory of the Divine recognition. He knew the Father, and introduced him to them.

(3) The glory of the Divine character. It was reflected on him even in human nature, and he reflected it upon them.

(4) The glory of self-sacrificing love. This he gave them, not merely in its vicarious and Divine results, but as an example, inspiration, and the master principle of the new life.

(5) This glory is one. The glory of the Son is that of the Father, and the glory of believers is that of the Son. He imparted to his disciples the same glory, and, as far as he was concerned, in equal degree; and the participation of believers of the same Divine glory through Christ unites them with one another and with the Divine nature, the ultimate result of which must be perfect oneness.

3. The prayer of Jesus on their behalf.

(1) The prayer of Jesus is effective and successful. It contained all he did. His life was a prayer, and his death was a prayer, and his life in heaven is a continuous and all-effective prayer.

(2) The burden of his prayer was the perfect and universal union of believers. And his prayers are all ultimately answered.


1. The perfection of each individual believer. Perfect unity of all can only effect the perfection of each one. Not one believer can be perfected till all believers are. No member of the body can be absolutely free from rain until every member is. Believers must be perfected into one ere one can be absolutely perfect.

2. The conversion of the world.

(1) Its realization of Christ's Divine mission. "That the world may believe and know," etc.

(2) Its realization of the Divine love to believers as well as to Christ. "And lovedst them, as thou," etc.

(3) The world's realization of Divine love is most effective in the production of saving faith and knowledge. The world must be convinced of Divine love through love. It must be convinced of the intensity of the Father's love; and its impartiality to all, on the same and the fairest conditions - to each individual believer in Christ whom he sent, as well as to Christ himself. Let the world realize this, then it will believe and know.

(4) The perfect unity of believers will produce this realization. A large degree of it will produce faith. Perfection will produce knowledge. Union is strength, disunion is weakness. The first disciples, whatever may be their failings, were strong in loving unity, reflected the glory of their Christianity and of the Divine nature, and, few as they were, effected almost unparalleled success in the conversion of the world, and eliciting the admiration of infidels: "See how they love one another!" And let the Church become proportionately united, and it will bring such evidence of Divine love and truth to bear upon the world as will be simply irresistible, like the rays of the sun or the united drops of the ocean.


1. Christian union is of supreme importance. It is the goal of Christian life and the perfection of Christian character, and essential to individual and social sanctification. It is the central idea of Jesus and the burden of his prayer, and with regard to Christian character. With this his great prayer ends.

2. The Christian Church lacks in nothing so much as in this. It is essentially imperfect in the present state, especially taken as a whole; but no virtue today is so absent from it as real spiritual union.

3. This should be diligently and prayerfully cultivated. All hindrances to it should be excluded - which, in a few words, are selfishness, self-seeking, and pride, with their injurious progeny. Let these be driven out, and let the Church make the same efforts for inward and spiritual union as it makes for outward reforms; then it will shine with the true glory of the Lord, with the true light of its mission, and with convincing effects upon the world.

4. To attain this let Christ occupy his proper position in each believer, and in the Church as a whole. Let him be the sole Prophet, Priest, and King. Let his self-sacrificing life and love be the center, example, and inspiration of every believing heart; then we shall soon have a true Church of Christ on earth. - B.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

WEB: Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word,

Christian Unity
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