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To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

A Key to Oneness in the Church!

gospel-of-john.jpgLocated in John’s account of the gospel is a key to one of the greatest dilemmas in Christianity. Futher exaserbating the problem is that there appears to be an instance in which a prayer of Jesus has NOT been answered. For some time I have been puzzling over a portion of the High Priestly prayer of Jesus found in John 17:20-23. The particular petitions that seem somewhat problematic are those which call for each believer to be at one with every other believer with the result being an evangelistic revelation to an unbelieving world.

Only the Lord knows how many times I have heard this passage preached and exposited. I, too, have taken my shot at interpreting this sacred prayer but each time, whether I or someone else, the net result has always left me wanting. I suppose that could be by design but I just have trouble thinking that even Jesus has a prayer that still is not answered completely. (In a strange way it also gives me hope. I’ve got a few prayers unanswered as well).

Since Jesus prayed the prayer for oneness, His Church is now more divided than ever. According to the World Christiandivided-church.jpg Encyclopedia, and strictly speaking, there are now over 33,000 denominations of the Church in 238 Countries. Whew!Tongue out Just thinking about a number like that makes me tired. There is so much division…so much variety of doctrinaire positions. How will Jesus’ prayer ever be answered? Let me say that I am fully aware of the interpretation which says that we are ‘one’ through our mutual accepting of Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. As vital an answer as that is…well, pardon me, but it just ain’t enough. When Jesus spoke of oneness, he spoke in terms of ‘…just as you, Father, are in me and I in you…’ It seems to me the answer to the question of oneness must be much deeper.

I have been meditating on the uniqueness of Christ. I have often wondered what it was like for him to realize there was ‘someone’ living inside of him. boy-jesus-at-temple.jpgI have also thought of what it would be like to be the parent of such a child. The Bible indicates he was obedient to his parents (Luke 2:50). In fact, he was obedient before his Barmitzvah and after it as well. The only time we find him doing something that was contrary to his parents’ will was when they found him in the temple at age 12 asking amazing questions of the religious leaders. There was a time when Jesus realized there was someone inside him who was leading him. In fact, Jesus began to realize there was never a time in his life when he was without that inner Presence. There was also a time when his life-submission had to be transferred from his earthly parents to his heavenly Father. His allegiance was and always would be to the Father. His submission was always to Him. Remember the wedding at Cana of Gallilee? Mary was a hostess of sorts at the wedding. Possibly it was a family member who was being married. While they reclined at the table she whispered to Jesus, ‘they have no wine’. Since Mary had been depending on Jesus after the death of Joseph, she fully expected him to take care of the situation. He startled her by letting her know that he could no longer do for her just because she asked. Now he must adhere to One of greater authority.

In John 7 there is additional evidence. There was a passover feast. Jesus’ whole family was going. He was asked to go along with them and promote his ministry. He refused to go. He could not go with them because the Spirit had not led him. Because his family was led by human thoughts, ideas and rituals he told them, ‘your time is always here’. ‘I go not up…’ He could not bend to the desires of loved ones…why? He was committed to following Another.

mockers-at-cross.jpgFinally, think of Jesus hanging on the Roman cross. The religious leaders standing nearby challenged him to come down from the cross. They said, ‘others he could save but himself he cannot save’. Often we challenge those words by saying he could have called 12 legions of angels to deliver him. The evening before he had rebuked Peter for drawing the sword on Malchus. He said, ‘…Do you not know that I could APPEAL To my Father…’? Notice the word, APPEAL. Unfortunately, while hanging on the cross, Jesus had no one to whom he could appeal. He said, “I only do what I see my Father doing…I only speak what I hear my Father saying. But now the Father was GONE. He couldn’t see or hear him. For the first time Jesus had no one to guide him. His submission was so complete so utterly complete that he literally could NOT save himself. To have come off the cross without a word from the Father would have changed the character of God. He had to go with the last word he had from the Father, which was to go to the cross.

What does all this have to do with oneness? It gives us the key. Our interpretation of scripture may be somewhat different. When baptizing, you may sprinkle and I may immerse. While partaking of the Lord’s Supper you may use one cup and one loaf and I may use individualized ‘throw away’ cups and little white pieces of stuff that tastes like styrofoam. I may use instruments in worship and you do not. Whatever our differences, the key to our unity is our submission to the will of God. Christians must make knowing God a priority. Intimacy must be our watchword. Unlike Jesus we know all too well what it is like to make decisions without the guidance of the Spirit. Let us repent of our self-centered existence. Let us lay down our lives even as he did and let us not arbitrarily make decisons, personal or corporate without the seeking of His will. Yes, we are very different. Our cultures, governments and ecclesiastical heirarchy vary…But we can be one. We can submit as the Father and Son mutually submitted to one another. Jesus obeyed and so can we. In that we can be one as He is One. Maybe then Jesus’ prayer can be truly answered.

 

October 25th, 2007 Posted by | Church, Prayer | one comment

One Response to “A Key to Oneness in the Church!”

  1. Dave: Would you believe this very subject (scripture) came up in conversation this past week (in Bible Study)–to which one in our congregation quickly said “It (oneness)will never be, this side of heaven.” That comment disturbed me and it has been “there” in the recesses of my spirit, but I haven’t taken time to meditate on it. Thanks for helping me get to a meditative state and to tackle it…it is very hard for my heart to think that Jesus’ prayer wouldn’t be answered…so I’ll keep meditating. Keep on sharing…good stuff…Joy