That We Would Be One
Why hasn’t Jesus returned?
It’s because it isn’t time.
Why isn’t it time for Jesus to return?
It’s because the last person to be born again has not yet been saved.
Why haven’t more people come to Jesus?
It’s because the glory of Jesus is not seen on the earth.
What IS seen on the earth is the vastly inferior “glory” of the various non-cooperative, autonomous SEPARATE pieces-parts of the Body of Christ on the earth.
Jesus was talking with His Father and said this to Him:
“I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.” (John 17:11)
He said this a little while later:
“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even 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 have given to them, 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 loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:18-23)
Then He explained His hope in all Christians being ONE in Him:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
Jesus wanted for the world to see HIS glory through us, presenting ourselves to the world as ONE….in unity….NOT in division.
See what He said to Father God in John 17:22 –
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them,” (John 17:22a)
Jesus said something amazing here: that He had given to us…to us (!!!) HIS glory.
What an amazing gift and privilege!
And why did He give us this?
“…that they may be one just as We are one.” (John 17:22b)
He gave His glory to us to be the mechanism through which we would become unified as ONE body just like the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE – working in union with one another.
Later, after the Lord ascended back to heaven, the Apostle Paul wrote this:
“…let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
In the parallel letter to the Ephesians Paul went in to more depth about this:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Just reading the word “one” that Paul used repeatedly in this passage reveals that he was emphasizing that there is only ONE Church in true Christianity – not multiple, separated, autonomous church organizations as the Church has been presented in this day.
Now, what I am about to say is addressed to all Christians which applies to all of us no matter if we worship in an institutional, congregational organization style or in a house church style. If we approach the idea of Church in any manner that stresses our differences in how we gather physically instead of our being one in Christ, we divide the Body of Christ – and that is outside the will of God for us and, therefore, is sin.
Let the Bible speak for itself. Do a search someday (in the Bible – NOT on the internet) for the term “church family”. You’ll find that this idea and practice is not in the Word of God anywhere. Yet, Christians have been trained by earthly, man-made systems to use it as part of their vocabulary to promote the idea of a subset of the family of God that is sufficient apart from the rest of the family of God (the entire Church on the earth.)
Paul experienced this human phenomenon that flows right out of our flesh and addressed it in his letter to the Corinthians.
“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
Why do you think Paul started out his first letter to his brothers and sisters in Corinth by attacking this idea? It is because this is a DANGEROUS concept and he wanted them to repent of it.
This dangerous practice pretty much characterizes the Body of Christ today in most of the world. It’s how we do business as the Church.
The word “divisions” in verse 10 is a Greek word that means “tears.” The Body of Christ today is divided…it is TORN.
The word “contentions” in verse 11 means “quarrels”. When the Body of Christ breaks itself into competing, separated organizations it begins to, by nature, quarrel. This is because, in essence, the parts no longer see themselves as being ONE with the other parts (even if leaders say they are one); instead, they set themselves AGAINST their brothers and sisters and unwittingly begin to compete with them for “members”.
Think about this.
How often have we found ourselves saying the term “my church”?
Again, let the Bible speak for itself. Do a search in God’s Word for the term “my church”. You’ll find that this idea and practice IS in the Word of God. However, it is only used by one Person: Jesus (in Matthew 16:18).
You and I are not Jesus. We don’t own a church – He does. Yet, Christians have been trained by earthly, man-made systems to use the idea of “my church” as part of their vocabulary to promote the division of the Church Jesus built and is building.
Brothers and sisters, satan has played us for fools for centuries and it is so that the glory of Christ will not be seen on the earth through us. Instead, we promote our own puny subsets of the Body of Christ as if that one little piece is the only place on earth where Jesus meets with people.
When we say “my church” when referring to a group of people that gather regularly we are saying that all the other gatherings of the Body of Christ are NOT “our church.” This divisiveness is no different than the Corinthians saying “I am of Cephas”.
Please hear me: this is not about the FORM of how we gather as the Body of Christ. This is about a mentality that has saturated most forms of gathering as the Church which renders us all but spiritually impotent in the world.
The glory of God is being hidden by our divisions. This is tragic.
What I am writing today is a first century plea for unity in Christ by Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul that is desperately needed in this day.
Paul revisits this divisiveness in Chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians (v. 2-8) and attributes it to the carnality of those who practice it. Yes, he is saying that this disunity flows from our fleshly desires to do something that is only God’s to do. In verse 3 he says this:
“….For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?”
I can’t read that and not pick up on Paul’s grief. He is grieved that when we do this we aren’t living like spiritual beings. Instead we are “living like mere men.”
That is the thought of one who recognizes the amazing work God does to lift us up out of the mess that we were prior to being saved by Jesus.
I don’t know about you but I no longer want to live as a mere man – broadcasting whatever paltry “glory” a mere man (or mere man-made system) produces.
I want to live like the eternal spiritual being God has made me to be; I want to let shine the glory JESUS gave me when He made me one with Him….and with YOU when we were all placed into Jesus.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
For this to fully unfold in our lives we MUST learn to see ourselves as being God’s person and not see ourselves as belonging to any subset of the Church Jesus built.
“For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)
So, what if you’re reading this and the Lord does with you what He has done with me? What do you do if He convicts you with the realization that you have been seeing yourself as a part of a PIECE of the Church and not the actual Church of Jesus?
Our temptation will be, as always it has been, to fix ourselves. I pray that we will always resist that temptation.
If we were capable of fixing ourselves Jesus never would have had to come to the earth in the first place.
We must repent – which means a LOT more than just turning around. To repent means to admit that our mentality about things is incorrect but that God’s is not.
If we see our need to repent about any ideas presented in this article let’s resolve to say that aloud to someone we trust. It’s good to confess our sins to one another.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Next, let’s present ourselves to Jesus and invite Him to renew our minds about these ideas so they will reflect His thoughts on how HIS Church was designed to operate.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”(Romans 12:1-2)
Part of His will for us, as we have seen, is that we glorify His Son….and not ourselves…or our man-made things and organizations.
We can invite Holy Spirit to guide us if/when we inadvertently slip back into our old ways of seeing ourselves primarily as members of a subset of the Body of Christ rather as belonging to Christ alone.
"Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; cause me to understand wherein I have erred.” (Job 6:24)
The desire Jesus expressed in John 17 has not changed