John Chapter Seventeen is the Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ. As with all who are about to die, He wanted to make His will absolutely clear for all generations to come. If Jesus had a tombstone, He would want John Seventeen written upon it. And just as those who love a family member or friend that has passed away want to honor their dying wish, so do those who love Jesus want to honor His. At least one would think so. Jesus prayed to His Father that His followers be united, be one (vv. 11, 21-23). Because He wants to save a lost world, our unity is the evidence of God's truth in us, our "credentials." "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). It proclaims emphatically that God sent His Son (17:21), and that He loves those who were created to be in His image and likeness as much as He loves Jesus (17:23). It is so obvious. He traded Jesus for us. If I thought it possible, I might even say He loved us more.
Unity is essential for another reason. God also wants to reach His people, Israel. In Deuteronomy 32:21, God told Moses that He would take those who did not exist as a people, fools (those who believe in their heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1), and make them into a nation to provoke Israel to jealousy. 1 Peter 2:9 identifies that nation; it is a people known as the Church, the Body of Christ. Just as the lost Gentile world was to recognize us by our unity, Israel would observe the Spirit working in the Church and long for the closeness they once had with God. But unfortunately, neither the lost world in general, nor the people of Israel have had an opportunity to witness our oneness. Still, God has managed to save millions in spite of us.
Finally, it is of the utmost importance that the Church does everything possible to maintain unity so that it can function as Christ intended. In Ephesians 4:1-16, Paul provides the formula for our successfully fulfilling His mission for us. He begins by emphasizing the characteristics of those worthy of being used of God: those who are the lowly, the meek, the long-suffering, and who forbear one another in love. Their peaceful unity will be directed by the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-3). The Holy Spirit always produces fruit that unifies the Church! Oneness is seen in seven-fold description of the Church (vv. 4-6). God has provided, as a gift to His Church, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers for the specific purpose of developing disciples for the work of ministry, that is, enlarging and the building up His children (vv. 7-12). The next verse is crucial; it tells how long His design for growth will continue. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature, complete, unified) man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (v. 13). This provides sound doctrine and insures that every believer recognizes the role he or she is to play in the one body (vv. 4; 14-16).
Want to please God? Want to win the lost to Christ? Want the Church to grow numerically and spiritually? Allow the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, to guide your thoughts, words, and actions. The result will change you, and it will change the world.