In His opening statement in John 17, Christ acknowledged His mission to reunite the human race once more with God. The authority that soon would be granted Him would allow Him to bring peace to those who had so long been separated from their Maker. In Adam, humanity had been broken. Our representative in Eden chose self over a relationship with God and brought ungodliness—separation from God—upon humankind. From him, this unnatural state was passed on to us, his children. Jesus saw that if He took all of humanity’s sin upon Himself and became an alternative representative of humankind, a second Adam, that humanity’s selfish nature, both corporately and individually, could die with Him on the cross. It was this reality that Paul saw when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20, RSV).
The gospel has this power to unite all humanity.
If we believe that Christ allowed our selfish nature to fall on Him, then we can know that it has also died on the cross with Him. We have been justified, declared righteous, despite our flaws. It was Christ who took all of humanity upon Himself corporately in one righteous act, not on a case-by-case basis. Every man, woman, and child can lay claim to the Cross because it was their sin that was represented in Him. He became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).
The perfect life of Christ then saves us and works in us to make us holy in our daily living. The sanctification that Christ purposed for Himself led to His life being taken. In the same way, Jesus knew that His followers would grow day by day into a closer relationship with Him to the point that, if needed, they would surrender even their own lives.
This gospel teaches us that we are able to be with Christ where He is. This togetherness is available not only in a future sense of the Second Coming but also to us today. As Christ is in us, we are also in Him; and as we trust that He lives out His perfect life in us, we get to experience eternal life with Him. There’s no reason to doubt our own assurance, because if we believe we are in Him, then we are experiencing heaven here and now, for we “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev. 14:4, NKJV).
Through His resurrection, Christ knew this supreme act would have the power to unite all of humanity forever through His own eternal life. That which Christ obtained for humans was a reconciliation to God the Father. Jesus would represent an imperfect people perfected in Him by His own selfless life and death—a people no longer void of holiness and unfit to stand before the Father but, rather, a people united with the Spirit of God. All those who accept this gift become children of God, connected as closely in relationship to the Father as is the Son.
Christ was totally faithful throughout His life in representing God’s glory and name, His character. But Jesus foresaw that His followers would be persecuted for their simple faith in Heaven’s gift by a world unable to see past its own selfishness. Our Savior asks that our joy would be full, that the truth of His gospel would resonate so deeply in our hearts and minds that we are overcome with gratitude, so completely entrenched in its peace that nothing in this world is able to shake our faith in Him. To be kept from the evil one is not implying that we will never face trials—or even failures. Jesus would keep us from a life of self-condemnation precipitated by the work of Satan’s accusing agencies. Satan is ever tempting us to turn our eyes from Jesus and back to ourselves. Many fall prey to their own guilt and shame, believing that their sin disqualifies them from a relationship with God, but this is not the case, for “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
The gospel has this power to unite all humanity. All who come to acknowledge their justification in Christ will be humbled and recognize that every human heart, the rich person to the beggar, is equal in its selfishness. In Christ all souls are equally valued and sought after. He yearns to unite all in His death and raise them into His life so that the human experience would mirror that of the Son and Father. With this intensity of love and insight, Jesus asks that we all may be one.
Just as Jesus had displayed the compassion of our heavenly Father to His followers, His disciples were, in turn, empowered by the Spirit to share this good news with Judea and then the world through lives submitted to God rather than human desire, proving that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Promised One from heaven. As they preached, new believers were to experience the same joy and thus be united in the work of redemption.
Therefore, it is Christ’s purpose that His glory—His selfless character— would be revealed not just to this dying world but also to heavenly agencies that are waiting to see the conclusion of the great controversy. Our Lord desires that “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10, NKJV). Manifold here means “many-angled,” and it is through a diverse but unified body that God knows His love will be displayed. The church exists for no other purpose than to reveal the name of Jesus.
1. How does Christ’s death and resurrection achieve unity?
2. What is the church, and what is its purpose?
3. What changes do you need to make to be in harmony with God’s plan for unity? What changes does your local church need to make?