St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Christ Prays For His Church Of Believers

Sermon on John 17:20-26

Text: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Have you ever noticed how many people have “I” trouble? I’m not talking about the fact that many of us need some sort of corrective lens to help us see better. I’m talking about the person who thinks the whole world revolves around them. They rarely, if ever, think about others. What they want, what’s best for them, is all that they can think about. After a while, it becomes difficult to listen to or be around such people. How refreshing it is to find someone who is not self-absorbed. Jesus gives us a beautiful example of this in our text. Jesus was about to enter the most difficult hours of his life, as he would suffer and die. Yet, as he prays to his heavenly Father, he remembers others in his prayer. First of all, he prayed for the disciples who were there that evening. Then, Jesus continued by offering a prayer on behalf of future believers. Today we are going to look at a portion of that prayer. CHRIST PRAYS FOR HIS CHURCH OF BELIEVERS 1. For Faithfulness To The Word Of The Apostles, 2. For Growth In Oneness Of Faith, 3. For A Clear Witness To The World and 4. For Glory Both Now And Forever.

Jesus prayed in verse 20, “My prayer is not for them (namely, the disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” Here Jesus is praying for the Holy Christian Church, that is, all people throughout the world who believe in Jesus as their Savior. The way to become a member of the Holy Christian Church is by faith in Jesus as your Savior. It means an acknowledgment of the fact that you are sinful and deserve God’s wrath for all eternity. It also means that you believe that Jesus Christ came to the earth to be your Savior. You believe that by his perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection, Jesus has paid for all of your sins. Only believers are members of this Holy Christian Church. Since only God can see into the heart, only he knows who is a member of the Holy Christian Church because only he can see if there is faith in the heart.

Jesus spoke of “their message.” Here Jesus is giving a blessing on what the apostles would teach regarding him. We have these teachings preserved for us in God’s Holy Word. What Peter, John, Paul, and the others wrote is blessed by Jesus. Jesus, indirectly, speaks of verbal inspiration, that is the fact that the Holy Spirit gave these men the very words that they were to use. That is why we say that the Bible is God’s Word, even though it had human writers such as Moses, John and Paul. The Bible is God’s Word.

This sounds like such a basic statement, one that we all should agree upon. Unfortunately, so many have changed or added to God’s Word. You might think of some examples, such as the “Book of Mormon.” However, there are those who claim to be Bible believing Christians who are willing to say things like, ‘The Bible contains God’s Word.’ At first, that sounds pretty good, until you really listen to what they are saying. By using the word, “contains,” they are also implying that the Bible contains other things, as well. It’s up to us to figure out exactly what is God’s Word and what was added later on.

However, the entire Bible is God’s Word. From the opening verses of Genesis to the closing verses of Revelation, it is all God’s Word. If we are going to be faithful to the apostles’ teaching, it means that we believe that it is all God’s Word. Even if the teaching is hard to understand, we simply let God’s Word stand, without trying to explain it away or disregard it. God, help us to always be faithful to your Word!

Jesus continues his prayer for the Church by saying, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” He adds in verse 23, “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity.” Jesus prays for a unity of faith. Indeed, in the Holy Christian Church, there is a unity of faith, for that is what makes them members of the Holy Christian Church. This unity is as perfect as the union that exists between the Father and the Son.

This idea of unity is very appealing. We live in an ecumenical age, which wants to combine all of the church bodies into one great church body. The proponents of this movement will point to a passage such as this one to prove their point. However, they fail to realize that Jesus is speaking about a spiritual body, in which there will only be believers. In the visible church, there will be hypocrites, who say and do all of the right things, but do not believe. In addition, Jesus is speaking of a perfect union that only God can achieve. Thirdly, it is a perfect union based on the Word. Ecumenicalism tends to overlook doctrinal differences and only stresses the outward organization. The proponents of ecumenicalism will agree to disagree on some points of doctrine, as long as they can join together and work together.

However, that is not unity, at all. It is a blinking at the fact that they are not united. Before there can be any working together or worshiping together, there must be a complete unity of faith and doctrine. This doctrine is the reason, for example, why we commune only those who believe as we do. This doctrine of fellowship is the reason that we do not partake in joint worship services with those who do not believe as we do. Jesus, keep us united in our faith with you!

Jesus, also, tells us what the purpose of the Holy Christian Church is to be. He prays in verse 21, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Later, Jesus reiterates this thought, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” What is the purpose of the church? “So that the world may believe that you have sent me.” That is what the church is to be busy doing. It is to tell others about Jesus Christ and what he has done for them. How sad it is when churches, that call themselves “Christian” become involved in all sorts of things – politics, social and economic reform, etc. – whereby the gospel message is clouded. This is not to say that we, as Christians, are not to be concerned with those who are less fortunate than we are. As Christians, we want to help those in need. Indeed, Jesus praises such actions in Matthew 25. However, this is not to be done at the expense of clear Bible teaching. As Christians, we care about a person’s life here on this earth and we want to help out where we can. Yet, we are to be far more concerned about their spiritual welfare and eternal destiny. As Christian citizens of our country, we do what we can to help shape our country’s politics. As a Christian church, however, we exist for one purpose and that is, quite simply, to tell others about Jesus. God, help us remain true to our mission!

There is one other element of Jesus’ prayer that we want to focus on. Jesus prayed in verse 22, “I have given them the glory that you gave me.” Later, in verse 24, he prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory.” Jesus speaks about glory, both present and future. Jesus tells us that he has given us glory now. What is this glory that we have now? It is the fact that we are God’s children. Because of Jesus’ saving work and because the Holy Spirit has created faith in our hearts, we have been adopted into God’s family. John spoke about this in his first epistle (3:1), “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” You are a child of God right now. Because of this, we have great privileges that only God’s children have. We have God’s promise that we can come to him in prayer, that he will hear that prayer and he will always do what is best for us. We have God’s promise that whatever may come our way, it will always work out for our benefit. This is the glory that we have right now.

John continues in his first epistle, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” John looks ahead to the glory that will be ours when we reach heaven. Then we will be free from all of the evil in the world that is here as a result of Adam’s sin. We will be free from al of the pain, sorrows and troubles that plague our lives. We will have glorified bodies that are free from all of the effects of sin. We will also be free from our sinful natures and be able to serve God perfectly. As Jesus prays for us, he prays for glory both now and forever in heaven to be ours.

When you pray, who is usually the subject of your prayers? Isn’t it often you? It’s easy to do that. The things we face every single day are on our minds and hearts. God has told us, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.” Yet, we also want to pray for others, both for the bad times they may be experiencing, as well as thanking God for his blessings upon them. God, help us to remember others in our prayers! We thank Jesus for his prayer for us, as is recorded in John 17. He has what is best for us in that prayer. Jesus prayed for faithfulness to the words of the apostles, for growth in oneness of faith, for a clear witness to the world, and for glory both now and forever. To his prayer, we add a simple, “Amen.”