2005 header for issue 32

CHAPEL NOTES

Jesus’ Main concern as reflected in

The High Priestly Prayer

John chp 17

Mrs Katherine Yip on 12 Oct 2005

 

The speaker’s favourite chapter in the entire NT is John 17. It is filled with drama; there is an air of finality as seen in the very first words of Jesus: Father, the hour has come. There is also reference to treachery and betrayal that was soon to take place, alongside honour and glory which the Son would bring to the Father. Poignancy is also reflected in the depth and intensity of the prayer: But now I come to Thee…, I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world…, I do not ask in behalf of these alone. Then there is a sense of triumph as the reader, upon reaching the end of the prayer, realizes that this prayer was uttered by the same Man Who is today the believer’s Great High Priest, and Who most certainly continues praying for them.

  After reading through the entire prayer, the speaker focused on the last 7 verses [vs. 20-26]. In the space of 6 verses, reference was made five times to the notion of ‘oneness’ [unity]. When something is important, and we don’t want it to be forgotten, the natural thing to do is to repeat it [an action/an instruction/a caution, etc.]. >From the frequency of mention, we conclude that the idea of oneness was of great importance to Jesus, and He did not want believers to simply accord it intellectual assent, rather it was to be actualized in their lives as living proof that the Father had sent Him. Hence, unity or oneness was to be the believer’s trademark.

 The question was asked why, in His final prayer, did Jesus make such an urgent appeal to the Father for oneness amongst believers, and between believers and Him and the Father. Jesus could have asked the Father for a great harvest of souls, for great evangelists and teachers to emerge from amongst the disciples, or for believers to perform great signs and wonders so that many will come to Christ. There were many things He could have asked. However, He chose to focus on unity. Why?

 One possible explanation is that anointed teachers, evangelists, and great harvest of souls is the result of the Holy Spirit enabling believers who are given these tasks to undertake, and the Holy Spirit can be relied upon to do His job; however, unity depends on us, and we are quite an unpredictable lot!! Hence His urgent prayer that believers will remain one in Him.

Another possible explanation is that Jesus knew that the greatest threat to being an effective witness for Him is disunity, or the lack of oneness: ‘That they also may be one and that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me’ [v.21, 23]. Without unity it will be hard to convince the world that God sent His Son. Even while He was with the disciples, He had heard the arguments and seen the conflicts, what more will take place, after He leaves them?  In fact, Jesus knew that one in that inner circle will break away to be a betrayer. Jesus also knew that the enemy’s weapon was already poised for attack on future believers, that’s us!

 

Two principles can be highlighted:

  1. The world will believe that God sent Jesus if believers [we] are one, if we show oneness to the world. John 17:21

  2. We are sent by Jesus into the world to tell the world that God sent Jesus through our most important trademark, our ‘oneness’/UNITY.  John 17:17, 21

Some observations

  1. The enemy will attack using the heavy assault weapon with multiple warheads – dissension or disunity, the breakup of oneness.  Disunity is a weapon with multiple warheads because a single weapon attacks several targets: families, church leadership, ministries, church-related projects, Christian witness, and so on.

  2. The enemy strikes believers [the Body of Christ] right at the very theological foundation of the church, that Jesus and the Father are one, and that believers are one with the Father through Jesus. When Christians are not united, it says to the world that this Gospel does not work; it also undermines the truth that Christians are one in Christ. It is obvious that when the enemy destroys unity, the enemy is striking hard at what Jesus desired most - that believers will be one in Him.  Why do you think the enemy uses the weapon of disunity again and again? Because when there is no unity, the love of Christ is not evident, AND THE WORLD WILL NOT SEE, ‘will not believe that the Father has sent [Jesus]. If, with one single weapon, the Christian’s witness to the world can be demolished, why bother using other weapons? In fact, there is no need to!

WHAT IS AT STAKE IF UNITY IS TORN APART? [ADAPTED from D A Carson: Jesus and His Friends].

· The expanding unity through the expanding body of believers [the church]; this unity is to grow and be perfected. Indeed Jesus prayed: ‘May they be brought to complete unity’ [v.23]. This oneness is simultaneously something already achieved and something that needs

    perfecting. Sadly, sometimes Christians cherish the divisive things. ‘At the level of praxis, at the level of attitude, at the level of love, at the level of a growing grasp of true doctrine – at all levels the Christian church needs to be perfected in unity. For this Jesus prays…’  We see now why the enemy is so bent on destroying this loving unity – AND JESUS knew and saw this coming, hence this earnest prayer was delivered up to the Father.

· The multiplying witness. The unity which Jesus prays has a further end in view. He prays for this unity ‘so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ [v.21]. The expanding unity generates a multiplying witness and that is how the church grows. The multiplying witness of the church has two elements to it, according to this passage. The first is proclamation of the message [v.20] which is to be believed; the second is the public demonstration of the unity for which Jesus prays [v.21]. Both are essential. ‘The truth of the Gospel, announced without the demonstration of the power of the gospel in transformed and loving lives, is arid. On the other hand, the demonstration of love within a believing community does not by itself proclaim the source or cause of that love. Attractive as it may be, such love does not call forth disciplined obedience or informed belief, and cannot of itself call others to true faith. The multiplying witness Jesus has in mind is both propositional and exemplary, both confessional and demonstrative. It is a witness of word and of love.

· The revealed Christ. At the center of the expanding unity, as the subject-matter of the multiplying witness, Jesus is being unveiled to a lost world. He is the content of the message to be revealed; and his is the glory that is given to the disciples. Above all, He is the revelation of the Father, so that, if the disciples witness as they should, what the world comes to know [Jesus tells His Father] is ‘that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me’ [v.23]. The disciples’ unity in love is so unearthly that only the truth of Christ is adequate to explain it. This unity testifies of the divine love that is supremely set forth in the sending of Christ. Christ stands at the center and it is Christ who is revealed in the church’s witness. This unity functions as a witness before the watching world - it is the characteristic mark of the believing community [what I had earlier termed as ‘trademark’ of true believers].

· Lastly, if some believers should be left behind through disunity or a damaged witness, they may miss the ultimate reward – to see His glory in the triune Godhead, what theologians have called the visio Dei.

 

Final comments

  1. Christians must mobilize and stay united as one in Christ in order for the world to believe that Jesus has been sent by God; the enemy will launch his attack where it really matters – destroy the unity, strike at the foundation of the church, obliterate the truth that these people believe in, attack what is most dear to the heart of their Lord and Savior, abort the great commission to be His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth. 

  2. Unity is our shield, but when cracks appear, the shield becomes porous which then allows undesirable elements to seep in, and desirable elements to leak out. We have heard of churches which have lost good members as a result of arguments, partisan conflicts, doctrinal differences, etc.

  3. WHO WILL WIN THE VICTORY? WILL THE VICTORY BELONG TO YOU? The victory can be ours because of 2 very strong reasons: first, Jesus has already defeated the enemy, Satan, and secondly, Jesus is all the time praying to the Father on our behalf.

  4. When one day Jesus asks: “Who do you play for?” what will the answer be? The bottom-line is in Colossians 3:24, "You serve the Lord Christ."  He's the only one worth doing it for.

Charles Spurgeon:

Have you been born into the family?

Are you alive ... as God dwells in you?

Never mind our thousand differences.

We cannot be two, we must be one.

 

Chapel speaker on 26 Oct will be Mr Li Geng Fu.

NEWS BITS

BGST Lunchtime Talks. Dr Eileen Poh, Lecturer in New Testament at Discipleship Training Centre, continues with the series of talks on  “Christians in a Non-Christian World” on Oct 21 & 28. Speakers for November will be :

·         Nov 4 - Dr Ng Peh Cheng : “Influences in a    Child’s Concept of God’

·         Nov 11 - Mr Song Cheng Hock : “Understanding Adolescents”

·         Nov 18 & 25 - Rev John Ting of Discipleship Training Centre : “Marriage & Family”

A Blessed Birthday to…

 

Mr Peter Soh  24/10

Mr Andy Aw  24/10

Rev Ian Heng  25/10

Dr Lee Chien Earn  25/10

Mr Michael Teoh  26/10

Mrs Katherine Yip  28/10

Ms Amilia Chai  28/10

Mr Matthias Chin  28/10

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Last update : 24 Oct 2005. 
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