“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will 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 have sent me.”
A central message of Jesus to the church is unity. John 17 records what is often referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, during which the Lord prays specifically for the unity of the church, the oneness that should be found among true Christians.
Francis Schaeffer offers this commentary on John 17: “Jesus goes on to say something that always causes me to cringe. If as Christians we do not cringe, it seems to me we are not very sensitive or very honest, because Jesus here gives us the final apologetic. ‘That they may be one … that the world may believe that thou has sent me.’ This is the final apologetic.
In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to conclude that he is not a Christian. That does not necessarily mean the unloving person is not a Christian (might be, might not be … only God knows); rather, it means the unloving person lacks spiritual credibility because he fails to display the mark of a Christian.”
Jesus adds unity to the test of spiritual authenticity: We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.
Dr. Schaeffer drives home the point that love and unity within the fellowship of the church is the distinctive mark of authentic Christianity. He calls it the final apologetic because it is the way Christians are to display the reality of Jesus to a watching world. If a person or group of people profess faith in Jesus, but fail to demonstrate observable love and unity toward other Christians, the authenticity of their profession is undermined.
In other words, profession without practice lacks credibility.
Schaeffer again: “Without true Christians loving one another, Christ says the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. But after we have done our best to communicate truth to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.”
Again: When Jesus calls us to himself, he also calls into relationship with each other. The Christian faith is deeply and profoundly relational. Authentic Christianity demonstrates observable love and unity.
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” (Psalm 133.1)
The Lord is calling.