Storeroom Sermons of David Chadwell

Unity: The Meaning of Oneness (Part 2)

Unity is not a simple subject to discuss. I am surely aware of that. I sincerely request that you be aware of it also. I also sincerely request that each of you be aware of my objective. I am NOT trying to get you to agree with my concept or with me as a person. (I surely acknowledge that I have much to learn about unity.) I AM seeking to get you to think. It is so easy to assume that we have the answer that we stop searching scripture, stop seeing what we already are sure we "know", and stop thinking about matters we are certain we have figured out. If we stop searching scripture, stop seeing, and stop thinking, we make ourselves ideal subjects for self-deception.

Were I to ask you about God's concept of Christian unity, where would you begin in order to explain God's concept to me? What do you think should be the first scripture I should understand if I am to grasp God's concept of Christian unity? What scripture exists regarding God's concept of Christian unity I must know to have the foundation concept of Christian unity?

I would guess the scripture many would cite is John 17:11-23. This is part of one of Jesus' last prayers. In John 17, Jesus approached God the Father with this prayer shortly before he went with eleven of the twelve disciples (who were his apostles) to Gethsemane to pray and to be arrested.

There are three basic subjects Jesus prayed about in John 17. First, Jesus prayed about himself, and particularly his relationship with God. Second, Jesus prayed about the eleven, and particularly their future. Third, Jesus prayed about everyone who believed in him as a result of his teachings and the teachings of these men. In Jesus' prayer, he particularly prayed for the oneness of those who believed, which we understand to be a prayer for the unity of Christian believers.

Most Christians regard this prayer to be the foundation of God's concept of Christian unity. Please read with me or listen carefully as I read from the gospel of John, chapter 17, verses 11 through 23. I am reading from the New American Standard translation.

I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even 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 sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

In this section of the prayer, Jesus prayed for the twelve and for all who would believe Jesus is the Christ.

  1. Let me summarize the reading we just read in this way.
    1. Follow me carefully:
      1. I am dying and leaving this physical existence.
        1. In my physical absence, I ask You to keep the twelve as You have preserved me.
        2. May the twelve be one as You and I are currently one.
      2. In my physical ministry, I kept the twelve in Your name.
        1. I guarded the twelve, and none of the twelve were destroyed.
        2. The only exception is the person who is to betray me.
      3. I come to You before I die asking that they will understand Your purpose in my death so that these men (my twelve disciples) will have my joy.
        1. I have given the twelve Your word.
        2. The result is that people devoted to the physical world hate them because they are not devoted to physical existence.
        3. They are like me, not like people devoted to physical existence.
      4. I am not asking that You take them from physical existence.
        1. I am asking You to preserve them from Satan (the devil).
        2. I am asking You to make them holy (sanctified) by Your truth.
        3. Your truth is reflected by Your word.
      5. I am sending the twelve to people devoted to physical existence just like You sent me to people devoted to physical existence.
        1. One of the reasons for me living a sanctified existence was to encourage them to live a sanctified existence.
        2. A way for the twelve to know they are sanctified is by realizing they are like me.
      6. However, my concern goes beyond these men.
        1. My concern also includes their message concerning me and my teachings.
        2. I want believers in what You are doing through me to be one in the same way the twelve are one and in the same way you and I are one.
        3. It is only by believers being one in You and I that people devoted to physical existence will understand that You sent me.
        4. The glory You gave me I have given to believers that they may be one in the same sense that You and I are one.
      7. It is by me being in believers and You being in me that believers can be made mature (perfect) in unity (literally, into a unit).
        1. When that happens, people devoted to physical existence will understand that You sent me.
        2. People devoted to physical existence will also then understand that You love them in the same manner that You always loved me.
        3. (Explain that even though Jesus was about to be tortured and painfully executed, this did not mean that God did not love Jesus. That is what people devoted to physical existence would think. Even today, experiencing preventable pain is considered to be the absence of love.)
      8. Would you agree that this is an appropriate presentation of John 17:11-23?
        1. If you need to read that scripture and think about it, please do so.
        2. You are not being asked to accept these thoughts even if you disagree with the thoughts.
        3. However, it is not enough for you to disagree--you must also come to an understanding of what Jesus said in this prayer.
    2. The prayer affirms these things are possible.
      1. The prayer affirms God and Jesus were and always have been one.
      2. The prayer affirms that the twelve can be one in the same sense that God and Jesus are one.
      3. The prayer affirms that anyone who believes that Jesus was God's Messiah or Christ could be one.
      4. The prayer affirms that the key to believers being one is their being in the Messiah or Christ.
  2. May I now ask you to think about something you may or may not have noticed or considered before.
    1. When Jesus prayed this prayer, he and God at that moment were one, but they were not alike.
      1. Oneness did not mean identical alikeness.
      2. Not even in the relationship between God and Jesus did oneness (or unity) mean identical alikeness.
      3. If your basic concept and definition of oneness or unity means identical alikeness, you need to think.
        1. You need to consider that your concept and definition of oneness or unity may not be God's concept and definition of oneness or unity.
        2. You need to discover God's concept and definition.
        3. You need to realize your concept and definition of unity may be based on a human assumption rather than revelation from scripture.
    2. "What do you mean that God and Jesus' concept and definition of oneness or unity are different? In what way were Jesus and God different when Jesus prayed John 17?"
      1. Jesus could be tempted; God could not be tempted.
      2. Jesus could suffer physical pain; God could not suffer physical pain.
      3. Jesus' will and God's will were not the same (consider Matthew 26:39, 42, 44), though God the Father's will was supreme and unquestioned by Jesus.
      4. Jesus could be physically resurrected; God the Father never needed to be resurrected.
      5. These things are called to your attention in order to make this statement: in all the ways the physical existence of a godly human is unlike the spiritual existence of God the Father, Jesus was unlike God the Father.
      6. Yet, though Jesus and God the Father were NOT identical, Jesus and God the Father were one.
    3. If God the Father's definition and concept of unity begins with the concept of alikeness, unity never is a possibility in this physical world.
      1. Consider these things:
        1. If you read each of the four gospels, it becomes quite evident that each of these writers who were inspired by God retained their individuality.
        2. Though Acts 10:10-16, 10:19, 20, 10:28 and 10:34, 35 make it clear that Peter understood that God accepted gentiles, Peter could yield to the temptation to reject gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). [Read and set in context if there is time].
        3. There are enormous differences in the practices of Jewish Christians as compared to gentile Christians, yet they all were one in Jesus Christ.
      2. Unity exists, NOT because all in Christ agree on all personal preferences religious or otherwise, but because of what God does for all those who are in Jesus Christ.
      3. The basis of unity is what God did in the torture, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus--NOT in the human achievement of alikeness.
    4. The failure of Christians to understand this has produced the consequences Jesus said it would in John 17:21.
      1. Those who are not in Jesus Christ do not take what we say seriously because of the way we treat each other when we disagree.
        1. No one can be meaner or more lacking in compassion than Christians can be when they disagree with other Christians.
        2. If you want to conduct an interesting experiment, ask a group of Christians to share the worst case of division among Christians they ever heard about--most everyone will recall an incident of incredible pettiness.
        3. Then have the same group discuss the best reconciliation among disagreeing Christians they ever heard about.
          1. There will be some.
          2. However, there will be far fewer examples of reconciliation than of division.
      2. We are experts at destroying each other because we disagree!
      3. Then we wonder why so many people refuse to take us seriously.
      4. Reconciliation when we disagree should be natural to those who belong to Jesus, not division.
    5. What is oneness in Jesus Christ and God?
      1. It is confidence in what God did in Jesus at Jesus' death and resurrection.
      2. It is the understanding that the basis of forgiveness is an act of God.
      3. It is the understanding that the basis of acceptance is an act of God.
      4. It is the conviction that a divine act makes those who place their confidence in Jesus one--even when there are differences in culture and opinion.
      5. It is the awareness that sanctification is a divine act, not a human achievement.
Christians need to understand in context 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31:

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."

It is not about us and our achievements, but it is about Jesus Christ and God's achievement in him.

David's Home Page Return to the Storeroom Next Sermon

Link to other Writings of David Chadwell