“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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23).
John 17:20 marks a significant transition in the content and intent of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. While initially His prayer was specifically directed to His disciples who were present with Him in the upper room, and by implication to all future disciples, in John 17:20 Jesus specifically refers to all those who would believe in Him. This implicates all those converted by the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel, since the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). It includes you and me.
Jesus’ request to God the Father, on behalf of all future disciples, was the same as it was for those present with Him on the night in which He prayed His prayer. That we would also be sanctified by the word unto personal holiness and a commitment to share the Gospel thus fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
There has been some confusion over the meaning of the phrase “that they may be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.” It is most frequently used as a plea for church unity in practice when it should be understood as a prayer for the historical unity we all share in the Holy Spirit in principle by virtue of the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
All true believers in Christ are in union with Christ. As such, they are not only in union with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, but also with every other true believer in Christ. This is one of the evidences for the truth of biblical Christianity that people from all walks of life, social-economic strata, or political persuasions, are one in Christ.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “All believers belong to the one body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and their spiritual unity is to be manifest in the way they live. The unity Christ desires for His church is the same kind of unity the Son has with the Father: just as You are in Me and I am in You (cf. John 10:38; 17:11, 23). The Father did His works through the Son and the Son always did what pleased the Father (5:30; 8:29). This spiritual unity is to be patterned in the church.”
The glory which Christ gives all true believers is the substantive character of God now indwelt within them by the Holy Spirit and by a corresponding new nature in Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
John Calvin writes, “Our happiness lies in having the image of God restored and formed anew in us, which was defaced by sin. Christ is not only the lively image of God, in so far as He is the eternal Word of God, but even on His human nature, which He has in common with us, the likeness of the glory of the Father has been engraved so as to form His members to the resemblance of it.”
May the glory of God, His substantive character, be seen in each of us who call Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!