Praying for the Church (John 17:20)
“Yet, I am not asking for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their words.”
It is funny how sometimes we take things said to others in the Bible and freely apply them to ourselves irrespective of the context. For example, God spoke these words to the prophet, Jeremiah:
“Even before I formed you in the womb, I knew you;
Even before you had come out of the womb, I had made you holy.
I committed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Now, while it is certainly true that some of this can be applied to us as we recognize God’s ordination of all things according to his own purposes (Ephesians 1:11) and given God’s omniscience, there is nothing that God does not know, this statement was made specifically to Jeremiah, not universally to all people. In turn, it is not proper to simply claim the text as our own without qualifying these things. There are other texts that we sometimes do the same thing with and similarly go back and forth debating on whether or not something can legitimately be applied to us in our lives. Yet, Jesus graciously removes any confusion from us as to this question—he plainly says that this prayer is not only for the Apostles that he has surrounding him, but it is also for all who will come to faith through the preaching of the Gospel through them. Friends, that is speaking of you and of me—all of us who trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and have done so through the revelation of God’s word and the proclamation of the Gospel—he is speaking of us in this prayer! And these final verses, in particular, will reveal our Lord’s heart for his church.
And what are the themes of this final section of his prayer—what petition is on our Lord’s heart first and foremost? He prays for unity amongst believers and love as he has loved. Ouch. How far we have strayed as a church from those two petitions of our Lord. How greatly we allow sin to cause division and we allow our lack of love to cause us to be self-centered and prideful both individually and corporately.
Loved ones, we are making a mess of this in many ways and we need to repent of our sins in this area especially. Yet, simply saying, “I’m sorry” is not enough if we are going to be faithful, we also need to change our ways and work to restore that which has been broken. Now, that being said, am I suggesting that we throw away the truth of the Gospel and just embrace everyone regardless of what they believe and of what they have compromised? No, that is not quite it, for Jesus is speaking of those who will believe in him because of the word of the Apostles—the Scriptures. We cannot throw away the authority and Truth of the Bible and retain any semblance of Christianity. That being said, I believe that the key is to concentrate on living out the sacrificial love that Christ modeled. I think that if we begin to get the love part right, the unity part will follow in a way that honors the Father. Yet, that is still a tall order. For before we can actually love those around us, we have to start loving God more than we love ourselves. When this happens, you are ready to love sacrificially and serve with your whole being—holding nothing back as Jesus held nothing back. A small group of believers, ones willing to do just this, turned the world on its head—what would happen if the church got with the same program? I believe that God would bring genuine revival once again.
We praise Thee, O God!
For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus Who died,
And is now gone above.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Revive us again.