John 17:20

Human selfishness, narrowness, and hopelessness may well be rebuked by the breadth and brightness of this prayer. The High Priest pleads for his people, and in so doing sweeps the horizon of time, sounds the depths of human need, and grasps the invisible aim of the universe, the yet unrealized purpose of God himself.

I. THE EXTENSIVE RANGE OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. At the very time when those nearest to him were about to be exposed to great danger, the Lord Jesus, without forgetting these, directed the gaze of his mind over a wide field of vision, and included in his comprehensive intercession all who in coming ages should believe on him through his apostles' witness. This marvelous sweep of high-priestly regard and interest is testimony to:

1. Christ's Divine foresight. He beheld in prophetic vision the martyrs and confessors, the missionaries and bishops, the scholars and preachers, the pure and lowly in private life, who should attach themselves to his doctrine and to his Church. As in an instant and at a glance, Christ summoned before his eyes and his heart the vast multitude who should constitute the Church militant through long millenniums to come; and he prayed for all.

2. Christ's Divine claim. In realizing the objects of his intercession, the High Priest regarded all as personally related to himself. Those for whom he pleaded were those who should believe on him. This fact is implicit witness to his high claims. Who but he could so rank mankind?

3. Christ's wide sympathy and benevolence. That such a Leader and Master should plead for his adherents, his friends, and the promulgators of his faith seems natural; common affection seems to account for this. But how vast was the love apparent in this prayer, which included within its scope the myriads who were yet to come into existence! But his whole Church was dear to his Divine and tender heart.

II. THE CONCENTRATED PURPORT OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. Doubtless the same prayer which was offered for the twelve was offered for all subsequent disciples, that all might be kept in the Name of the Father, and that all might be sanctified by the truth. But the expressed request here presented on their behalf should receive attention. It was for their unity. Not for their uniformity, in outward organization, in rite and ceremony, in uttered creed and liturgy; but for their spiritual unity, as is apparent from the petition that it might resemble that of the Father and the Son. A unity of life is here intended, like that of the branches in a vine rather than that of a bundle of staves. The Master desired for his disciples that they might have the same faith in himself, the same brotherly love one towards another, the same benevolent disposition towards the world. The value which Christ thus set upon true unity is a standard to which we are called to conform. That which Jesus made the object of his desire and prayer must be beautiful in God's view, and is worthy of our appreciation, our best endeavors for its promotion.

III. THE GLORIOUS AND ULTIMATE AIM OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION. HOW magnificent the end which our Lord sought, not only by his prayer, but also by his toils, his sacrifice, his death! Nothing short of the world's belief in his mission, and adhesion to himself! We cannot understand by our Lord's words merely that he looked forward to the world's assent to a great fact, or to the world's forced acknowledgment upon the judgment-day. He desired that the world should come to believe both in the sending and in the sent One. However appearances may be against such an expectation being realized, faith apprehends the prevalence of the Redeemer's kingdom in the world. The influence and ministry of the Church, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, is intended to promote the world's salvation. When it appears to us difficult to cherish hopes such as those which are justified by the declarations of Scripture, it will be well for us to check our despondency by remembering the prayer of the High Priest. That for which the beloved Son of God has pleaded, and ever pleads, will surely come to pass. And thus faith shall be rewarded, and Divine love shall have full and eternal gratification. - T.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for those also which shall believe on Me through their word.

1. In the very passage of this prayer, in which He designs expressly to set forth the wide exercise of His mediation, He yet, in most positive terms, confines it within this limitation. Nor was this the first or the only occasion in which He stated and maintained the same truth. To Nicodemus, to Martha, to the Jews, and in the commission which He gave to His apostles He strongly asserted this fundamental principle. In fact this is the universal language of Scripture on this subject.

2. And the same language, which is thus used in respect to salvation in general, is equally used in respect to every blessing of the gospel. Is it pardon? "Through His name whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins." Is it justification? "By Him, all that believe are justified from all things." Is it adoption? "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." Is it sanctification? Saints are "sanctified in Christ Jesus." Is it spiritual support and strength? "He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." Is it spiritual light and knowledge? "I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me, should not abide in darkness." Is it spiritual peace and joy? "Now the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing."


1. They are the foundation on which it is built. "Faith the substance of things hoped for," &c. But it is evident that such a belief supposes a certain degree of previous information. To believe then in Jesus Christ, and in the efficacy of His mediation, implies that we have a certain degree of previous knowledge on these subjects. And where is this knowledge to be obtained but from the Scriptures? Here only are we taught the way of salvation.

2. They are the instrument by which it is wrought in the heart. Faith is itself the gift and operation of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. But the great instrument by which He works and operates is the written Word, which is, therefore, emphatically styled "the Sword of the Spirit."Conclusion:

1. Has Christ limited the benefits of His mediation to those who believe on Him? How strikingly does this truth show the importance of faith! How clearly does it point out the wide distinction between believers and unbelievers!

2. Do those who believe on Jesus Christ believe through the Word? Then how invaluable are the Scriptures!(1) Are they the foundation of faith? Then how thankful should we be to God for this inestimable gift, how diligent should we be in the perusal of it, how widely should we disseminate it!(2) Are they the instrument by which it is wrought? How powerfully should this consideration operate on our minds and conduct! Let us remember, when we read or hear the Word of God, that though we thus attain to a knowledge of the truths to be believed, yet the actual believing of them must be the effect of a Divine operation on our hearts.

(E. Cooper.)

Observe —

I. HIS REALIZATION OF THEIR ACTUAL EXISTENCE. The only disciples then living were the eleven, but He prays for them who should hereafter believe, &c. And how many have believed through their word, and will yet — a great multitude which no man can number. And yet all these seem present to Christ. His great soul realized each in His distinctive personality, and for them He prays. To a soul in vital fellowship with God, and inspired with the spirit of omniscience, time and space are of little account. The prophets threw their glance into the distant centuries, but none of them saw the future as the Incarnate Word. A Being who thus knows the future can never be disappointed.


1. They must believe on Him, not on what men say about Him and not on priesthoods, but on Him. This is the only way of becoming a disciple.

2. They must believe on Him "through their word," i.e., their testimony of Him. It is a witnessing word. "How can they believe on Him of whom they have not heard, &c. That is the method. Do not expect, any other.


1. That they should be united on earth. Observe —(1) The nature of this unity.(a) It is very vital. One living in another. "I in them," &c. There is nothing uncommon in this idea. The object we love most lives in us as a living force. Friend lives in friend; the parent in the loving child. Love brings the distant object near, and enshrines it in the heart. Thus those who love Christ have Christ in them; and those whom Christ loves are in Him; and as Christ and His disciples both love the infinite Father, He is in them, and He loves them that are in Him.(b) It is a unity of the Infinite with the finite, of the Creator and the creature. An attraction links the smallest atom to the highest orb of immensity, love links the humblest disciples to the great heart of the Infinite, and He to them.(2) A reason for this unity — "That the world," &c. No argument could be formulated so mighty as the thorough soul union of Christ's disciples.

2. That they should dwell with Him in heaven (ver. 24).(1) With Him in person as well as in sympathy.(2) We behold His glory.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

That they all may be one.
I. THE UNITY DESIRE. These words of the Saviour have been mischievously perverted. Ecclesiastics have dreamed of a great confederation, presided over by a number of ministers, these again governed by superior officers, and these again by others, and these topped at last by a supreme visible head, who must be either a person or a council: and what is worse, they turned the dream into a reality, and the time was when, from the centre at the Vatican, one united body covered all Europe. And what was the result? Did the world believe that God had sent Christ? The world believed the very opposite, that God had nothing to do with that great crushing, superstitious thing; and thinking men became infidels. Yet people dream that dream still.

1. What were the elements of this unity which Christ so anxiously desired? The unity was to be composed of the people who are here called "they." Who are they?(1) Persons specially given to Jesus by the Father (ver. 2). Not then of all men who happen to dwell in any particular district, or city, but a unity of persons who have received, not common life, as all have, but life eternal.(2) Persons to whom God's name has been manifested (ver. 6) — chosen men, not the mass, not kingdoms.(3) Persons who have been schooled, and have learned unusual lessons (ver. 7), and they have learned their lesson well. "They have kept Thy word."(4) Persons prayed for by Christ, in a sense in which He never prays for the world (ver. 9).(5) People in whom God is glorified (ver. 10). The one Church of God, is it composed of the Church of England, the Congregational Union, the Wesleyan Conference, and the Baptist body? No. Is not then the Church of England a part of the Church of Christ, and the Baptist denomination a part? No; but there are believers in all denominations of Christians, aye! and many in no visible Church at all, who are in Christ Jesus, and consequently in the great unity.

2. What is the bond which keeps these united ones together?(1) They have the same origin. Every person who is a partaker of the life of God, has sprung from the same Divine Father.(2) They are supported by f he same strength. The life which makes vital the prayer of a believer to-day is the same life which quickened the cry of a believer two thousand years ago.(3) They have the same aim and object. The inward spirit is forcing its way to the same perfection of holiness, and is meanwhile seeking to glorify God.(4) Above all, the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every believer, is the true fount of oneness. I meet an Englishman anywhere the wide world over, and I recognize in him some likeness to myself; and so I meet a Christian five hundred years back in the midst of Romanism and darkness, but his speech bewrayeth him; if my soul shall traverse space in one hundred years to come, although Christianity may have assumed another outward garb and fashion, I shall still recognize the Christian. This is a very different bond from that which men try to impose upon each other. They put straps round the outside, they tie us together with many knots, and we feel uneasy; but God puts a Divine life inside of us, and then we wear the sacred bonds of love with ease.

3. There are tokens which evidence this union, and prove that the people of God are one. We hear much moaning over our divisions. There may be some that are to be deplored among ecclesiastical confederacies, but in the spiritual church I am at a loss to discover the divisions which are so loudly proclaimed. There is a union —(1) In judgment upon all vital matters. I converse with a spiritual man, and no matter what he calls himself, when we talk of sin, pardon, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and such like themes, we are agreed.(2) In experimental points.(3) In heart. Where the Spirit of God is there must be love. How is it that I cannot help loving George Herbert and George Fox, who are in some things complete opposites? Because they both loved the Master.(4) In prayer. Well-taught believers address the throne of Greece in the same style, whatever may be the particular form which their Church organization may have assumed.(5) In praise. Our music goes up with sweet accord to the throne of grace.(6) In action. True Christians anywhere are all doing the same work.

4. You say, "But I cannot see this unity." Why? Perhaps —(1) Because of your want of information. I saw a large building the other day being erected, and puzzled myself to make out how that would make a complete structure; it seemed to me that the gables would come in so very awkwardly. But I dare say if I had seen a plan there might have been some central tower or some combination by which the wings, one of which appeared to be longer than the other, might have been brought into harmony, for the architect doubtless had a unity in his mind which I had not in mine. So you and I have not the necessary information as to what the Church is to be. The plan is not worked out yet. Shall the Master show you His plan? Not so; wait a while and you will find that all these diversities among spiritually-minded men, when the master-plan comes to be wrought out, are different parts of the grand whole. I go into a great factory: there is a wheel spinning away in that way perfectly careless of every ether wheel; there is another going in an opposite direction, and I say, "What an extraordinary muddle this all seems!" I do not understand the machinery. So when I go into the great visible Church of God, if I look with the eyes of my spirit I can see the inner harmony, but if with these eyes I look upon the great outward Church I cannot see it.(2) Because of the present roughness of the material? See yonder a number of stones — here, a number of trees; I cannot see the unity. Of course not. When these trees are all cut into planks, when these stones are all squared, then you may begin to see them as a whole.(3) Because you cannot see anything. Do not suppose that the unity of the Church is a thing that is to be seen by these eyes of ours. Never! Everything spiritual is spiritually discerned. You must get spiritual eyes before you can see it.

II. THE WORK THAT IS TO BE DONE BEFORE THIS UNITY CAN BE COMPLETE. There are many chosen ones who have not yet believed in Christ, and the Church cannot be one till these are saved. These chosen ones are to believe — that is a work of grace, but they are to believe through our word. If you would promote the unity of Christ's Church, look after His lost sheep. If you ask what is to be your word, the answer is in the text — it is to be concerning Christ. They are to believe in Him. Every soul that believes in Christ is built into the great gospel unity in its measure.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

There be two false peaces or unities: the one when the peace is grounded but upon an implicit ignorance; for all colours will agree in the dark; the other when it is pieced up upon a direct admission of contraries in fundamental points. For truth and falsehood in such things are like the iron and clay in the toes of Nebu chadnezzar's image: they may cleave, but they will not incorporate.

(Lord Bacon.)

I. WHAT IS THE ONENESS? There is a widespread tendency to confound it with uniformity. But there may be unity without uniformity, and there may be uniformity without unity. In the planks of a timber yard, sawn of equal length, breadth, and thickness, there is uniformity, but it is the uniformity of death without unity. In the trees of the wood or forest there is unity of life and general structure, with great diversity of form, fibre, and foliage. The very absence of uniformity adds to the impressiveness of the unity which responds in every trunk and branch and leaf to the quickening influences of the spring and the calm decay of autumn. The uniformity of a Church or society may be like the uniformity of a graveyard in which all the tombs, monuments, and headstones are of one pattern: but unity can be found only amongst the living. The oneness which the Saviour sought was Divine —

1. In its model: "As Thou, leather," &c. These words remind us of "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." This is a unity —(1) Of life (John 5:26). Believers are begotten through the same word of truth, born by the grace of the same Spirit, pervaded by the same principle of spiritual life, partakers of the same Divine nature, and adopted into the same family. How diversified soever they may be in age, or station, or attainment, they possess a life in common.(2) Of character. Jesus is "the image of the invisible God." The oneness of all Christian disciples is after this model. In so far as they are after the pattern of Christ, they see alike, feel alike, act alike on all moral questions. They must all have the Spirit of Christ, hate sin, live by faith.(3) Of enjoyment. The joy of the Father was the delight of the incarnate Son; in blessedness they are one. So with the happiness of all His disciples. All drink of the water of that river which makes glad the city of God, and their purest joy is centred in things heavenly and Divine.

2. In its sphere — "in us." It is obvious that Christ Jesus here claims for Himself equality with God. No mere man, without blasphemy, could use such language as this. The only sphere in which Christian unity can be realized, is in the reconciling Father and the redeeming Son. Very different are the thoughts of men on this great matter.(1) The world says, "Let nations be one in the reciprocities of commerce; let free trade bind human tribes together with the bonds of its golden girdle; let brotherhood be realized in the mysteries of freemasonry; let unity become a fact for mankind through the sceptre and shield of a universal monarchy." But the disruption and discord made by sin defy all such efforts at unification.(2) Even the Church has said, "Let us make oneness by the bonds of the same ecclesiastical polity and by the use of the same liturgical service; let us compel men to oneness of creed and worship by the force of law, or allure them at least to the appearance of it by the power of state patronage and worldly pomp." Christ says to the Father, "Let them be one in us." Nowhere else, and in no other way, can this oneness become a spiritual fact.

II. THE GRAND PURPOSE CONTEMPLATED IN THE REALIZATION OF THIS ONENESS: That the world may believe," &c. One of the greatest obstacles to the triumphs of the gospel is in the contentions and separations which have prevailed in the Church of Christ. But when the world sees the Church, in all its sections, drawn and knit together, not to profess the same polity, and in spite of intellectual differences to show its oneness in Christ the living Head, then will the world believe that Jesus Christ has come as the sent of God for the cure of its ills and the relief of all its woes. It is not difficult to see how this spirit would operate in convincing the world. Would it not be a triumph of Christian love? "God is love," but where is the evidence of this amidst the jealousy, sectarianism, and contentions of the disciples of Christ? In the first age of the Church the evidence was often impressive, and the heathen around them were led to exclaim, "See how these Christians love each other." So it should be still.

(J. Spence, D. D.)


1. That there is a oneness between believers in Christ. The very essence of unity is that it proceeds from within, and is not impressed from without, that there is a common living spirit pervading and inter-penetrating all that mass, which but for it would be a multitude of separate parts. To fulfil, then, the words of our Lord's prayer, His people must be all dwelt in by one and the same living Spirit, which so pervades every one of them that it gathers them up into a living body, communicating to them hereby a hidden principle of common life, which makes them one together, how many soever they be, and which, by the deep real separation of a distinct life, separates them from all others, how near soever such may seem to draw to them in outward things.

2. That this one life of the saints is the consequence of their union with Him (1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:3; Romans 8:9).

3. That this unity is a thing hidden, as are all the principles of life, but yet outwardly developed, as are all the forms of derived life in a visible body (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 12:13, 20; Colossians 1:18). From this it follows that the growth and development of this body, its form and shape, its acting and character, are all the putting forth of the powers of this indwelling Spirit of life.(1) For this is the very first principle of organization as connected with life, even down to the lowest acting. That this will act according to its own laws; shaping to itself its own external development, casting itself forth now in massive branches, or in robust limbs, and then weaving for itself the most delicate tracery of the finest leaf or fibre; or gushing out, as in animal life, into the infinite subdivision of hair and plumage, even to the fine down upon the wing of the insect. And yet being truly in all of these the life from within, in its outward acting, and not any impress from without. So that unity may exist where the eye of man cannot trace even connection. For not apparent outward coherence but community of inner spirit is the formal and constituting essence of unity; and where this exists not, the impress of outward things cannot produce unity. For it is another part of the very law of life that external impressions can but interfere with, and mar the perfectness which it shapes for itself. That external impressions produce what we term monstrous or imperfect shapes. And still further, the interference of these external impressions may cause that life to withdraw itself from the immediate outward part, which is subjected to them, so that it dies and falls off, as some decaying branch or diseased limb, thereby cutting off at the same time its principle of unity, so that in a little while it is evidently severed from the body of which it once, but now no longer, forms a part. And further, we see that such separations from its frame cannot be effected without some injury to the very body itself; the health and soundness of which, even in its centre of being and action, depend in a marvellous way upon the just and equal development of these its remotest extremities.(2) All which laws apply also to this body, of which Christ is the head.(a) It is weaving forth for itself its own external increase (Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 12:6). And this it is doing in ten thousand ways; in the great limbs of Church polity and succession; in the hands wherewith at any moment the Church is ready to do her Master's work; in the societies she puts forth; the new combinations she forms; the new phases under which she shows herself; and so also in the details of every Christian man's character and conduct, for there is nothing so great that this life does not take it up into itself, and as it were reproduce it, nothing so small into which it cannot transfuse its own living energy, until it can fill and glorify all the minutest details of daily conduct, social intercourse, and natural affection.(b) Then again, while outward things cannot perfect the working of this life, they may interfere with it, mar, and even extinguish it. The branch in this vine may wither, the inner life may draw itself back, until that outward part in which it once acted may be "cut off" from the life and unity of the stock. The spirit may be quenched. The individual Christian may be broken off from the living body of which he was a part. A whole branch of the Church may be withered and die. Nor can this be without grievous injury to all the body; for if "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it;" so that a time of much disunion cannot be a healthful and flourishing time of the Church any more than in a tree loaded with dead boughs there can be a healthful, vigorous vegetation.


1. We must strive really to believe it.(1) Because it is of such importance; for without a real faith in this —(a) We strip the Church of Christ of all its glory. It is in this mystery of the hidden life that the very blessedness of our redeemed state consists. It is this which binds in one the broken links of humanity. In refusing to believe it, we rob of all its lustre the marvellous dispensation in which God's mercy has placed us. We bring it down again to a mere Jewish level.(b) And the evil follows us into the furthest details of our own spiritual life. There are blessed secrets of strength which come out daily for Him who, with a purged eye, sees ever round Him this communion of the saints, which must be lost by him who lowers it into an empty form of speech.(2) Because it is one which we do not readily receive or keep. It is a great mystery; it needs a strong faith to hold it firmly.(a) To hold that the declaration of the oneness of Christians with each other is but a strong way of saying that we ought to be kind to each other when we can, is far easier than to believe that, from Christ our Head, there has gone forth a true life, holding in its wonderful unity all of His together, which we are to cherish and guard in ten thousand secret instances of self-denial, and faith, and purity, and hard service, borne for each other cheerfully, because we are in very deed members one of another.(b) Nor is this all. It is difficult to read this mysterious unity under the coarse features of common life; to believe in it, in spite of the world's mockery, and the unfaithfulness of the better sort, and the multitude of divisions, and the weakness of our own hearts.(c) But it is not impossible; and therefore we must strive after its attainment. And God does graciously give many aids to those who do so strive. Is it not, for instance, an assistance to us, if we will use it, whenever God withdraws behind the veil those whom in the Lord we have fondly loved here, do we not then feel that there is an inner life binding us to them, which common death cannot part?

2. But specially may our faith in this mystery be increased by diligence in performing the second duty, i.e., beginning to act upon it. God has gifted action with a wonderful power over us; and if we will begin to act sincerely in little things, as if this were true, He will work in us a power of trusting to its truth. And here is, indeed, a wide field before us. We may begin by striving with our own selfish and indolent tempers in our intercourse with those around us.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

I. FOR WHOM IT IS DESIRED. 1, Not for men as men, citizens, subjects, persons allied in trade, politics, &c.

2. But for men as believers (ver. 20). Christ takes in the grand total, a temple in which each of these shall find a place and bear a part. Cf. Paul's vision of a unified Church (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:21), and Peter's picture of a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4, 5).

II. IN WHAT IT CONSISTS. Generally in a oneness resembling that between the Father and the Son (vers. 21,22), and particularly in a oneness —

1. Of life or community of nature (John 5:26; John 10:30; cf. 1 Corinthians 41:13; Ephesians 4:4-6).

2. Of love, or community of affection (John 3:35; John 5:20; John 14:31; cf. 13:34; 15:12, 17).

3. Of faith or community of sentiment. As the words of the Son were the Father's, so the union of the saints should reveal itself in steadfast adherence to the Father's word given by Christ.

4. Of action or community of labour. As the Son can do nothing but what He seeth the Father do (John 5:19), and the Father in Him doeth the works (John 14:10), so should Christians harmoniously co-operate (Philippians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 3 John 1:8; Hebrews 10:24).

III. BY WHAT MEANS IT MAY BE REALIZED? By believers doing three things.

1. Remaining in union with the Father and the Son (ver. 21).

2. Participating in the glory Christ has received from the Father (ver. 22).

3. Pressing forward towards moral perfection (ver. 23).

IV. TO WHAT RESULT IT SHOULD LEAD. It should awaken in the world —

1. Faith in the Divine mission of Jesus (ver. 21),

2. Knowledge that the Divine mission of Jesus was a fact (ver. 23). Lessons:(1) The mission assigned to the Church — that of gathering a people out of the world and unto Christ by the preaching of the Word.(2) The aim Christ has in thus collecting a people from the world, that they all may be perfected in one body in Him.(3) The certainty that this aim will be realized, since Christ has both empowered His Church to do the work, and prayed for its successful execution.(4) The obstruction offered to the realization of this aim by the disunited condition and imperfect character of the Church.(5) The means of hastening the world's conversion to Christ, the Church striving to attain the complete sanctification and unity.(6) The destiny awaiting the world when the Church shall have reached its proper manhood, that of being brought to a saving knowledge of the truth.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The Church is one, not in the monarchial sense, as Romanists believe; not in the sense of historical descent of an external organization as Prelatists teach, but in the sense of a mystical body united to Christ, their common head. The consequences of the union with Christ are —

I. OUR JUSTIFICATION. We become partakers of Christ's righteousness, because it was wrought out in the name and on the behalf of His people.

II. OUR SANCTIFICATION. We become partakers of the Divine life, and this life is sustained and developed.

1. By the nourishment derived from the Word and ordinances.

2. By fellowship with Christ.

3. By the inter-communion of the saints. As one member of the body is sustained and grows in virtue of the ministration of all the other members, so it is with the mystical body of Christ.

4. This supposes organic unity and diversity of gifts; some apostles, some teachers; some have one gift, some another. With regard to these Paul teaches —(1) That unity is essential.(2) That the position of each member is assigned by God, and not by himself or by the body. Hence we infer —

(a)That each should be content.

(b)That all should sympathize, the one with the others.

(c)That all should cordially co-operate.It is thus that the work of sanctification is carried on, not in the isolated individual, but in the soul as partaker of a common life and a member of an organic whole. So in regard to the State: What would individual gifts and attainment be to a man isolated in an uninhabited land.

III. OUR SECURITY. No man can pluck them out of the hand of Christ. The gates of hell shall not prevail.

IV. OUR GLORIFICATION. Conclusion: Duties flowing from this union — love, assistance, joy in success, abstaining from envy.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

I. WHAT IT IS NOT. Our Lord did not mean —

1. A system of perfect equality with no official distinctions — anything like universal identity of endowment and function. This cannot be drawn from "As Thou, Father," &c., inasmuch as God the Father and God the Son in the economy of redemption sustain distinct offices. Absolute equality is absurd and impossible and inconsistent with Romans 12.; 1 Corinthians 12., and Ephesians 4., which show that the unity of the Church may consist with the greatest diversity of gifts and offices.

2. The opposite of this — a vast and visible society, its base diffused throughout all nations, its officers innumerable, distinguished by all gradations of authority, and terminating in an infallible head. That our Lord did not mean a unity like this we gather from the fact that His apostles never attempted to realize it. Wherever they went they formed separate churches, not parts of one connected community. They did not join the Church of one country with that of another; they did not make their churches churches of nations and provinces, but of villages and towns. There might be more than one in each place. Each Church — however in faith and feeling connected with others — was a distinct society.

3. Uniformity in constitution and ceremonies. This is obvious from the facts —(1) That so little is enjoined on these subjects. Here is the distinction between Moses and Christ. With the first, everything is minutely particularized and strictly commanded; with the second, everything is general, and to be learned from facts rather than precepts: for the one dispensation was intended to separate a nation from the rest of the world; the other was meant to unite all nations in a common faith and family, and therefore avoided multiplied ordinances.(2) That although in every apostolic Church there was a recognition of great common principles, yet there were local peculiarities. There were diffused the two great bodies of the circumcision and the uncircumcision, and a Church consisting exclusively of converted Jews and another of Gentiles would be sure to differ in particulars. St. James advised Paul in Jerusalem to condescend to the ceremonial predilections of the brethren there; but he advised very differently in the case of the Gentile Church at Antioch.

4. Perfect coincidence of opinion. This is evident from what has been said, as a Church may differ from others without forfeiting its character, so a Christian. To aver the reverse would contradict the constitution of nature and the arrangements of providence. In Romans 14. Paul distinctly refers to two classes there who held opposite opinions, but instead of interposing his own opinion, he approves the conscientiousness with which the two parties were actuated, and only denounces their want of charity. Philippians 3., too, is demonstrative of the prevalence of diversity of sentiment.


1. Its foundation must be laid in an agreement in fundamental truth. We cannot do better than take our stand where Paul stood. For the sake of usefulness and peace he could become all things unto all men. He could shave his head, circumcise Timothy, &c., and yet write against "beggarly elements." Paul, who in fellowship and affection was the yielding universalist when prejudice was in question, was firm as a rock when principle was assailed. If ever he referred to what was fundamental he did so in Galatians 1:9. Whatever that gospel was, it is obvious that no man or Church that rejects it can properly be a Christian; and the whole tenor of the Epistle shows it to be the doctrine of justification on the exclusive ground of faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God. If a society denies this doctrine, whatever it may have or have not, it has abandoned the faith for another gospel. This grand fundamental involves Christ's Divinity, and the necessity of renewal and sanctification by the Spirit; but it does not involve either Calvinism or Arminianism, or Church polity, and may be held in connection with great variety of opinion on subordinate points.

2. It ought to be manifested by the recognition of each other, by Christians and Churches thus harmonizing. Every individual who "holds the Head" ought to be cheerfully recognized as a Christian by every other who does the same, and ought to share in that family affection which is peculiar to the spirit of the gospel. This feeling will produce a readiness to co-operate in all benevolent confederacies. But the text is to be realized not merely by the recognition of Christian by Christian, but of Church by Church. Every Church ought to possess the power of accepting the services of the ministers of every other. Differences of disciples ought not to be a barrier. All who expect to unite in the services of heaven, ought to endeavour to unite in the services of earth. Nothing should be a term of union but a term of salvation.

3. If this union were practised little would be wanting to the fulfilment of the prayer or the accomplishment of the result connected. Separate denominations would soon lose their hold of whatever partakes of the nature of sectarian attachments, would imbibe an enlarged and accommodating, spirit; would mutually cease to contend for trifles, and would come perhaps in the end, fused and melted by the fire of love, to take some new form, as one great consolidated community. In relation to the world, the annihilation of party distinctions, the drying up of the wells of jealousy, &c., and the taking into the garden of the Lord of every enclosure would be such a palpable demonstration of the presence and power of truth and love that the world would gaze, admire, and believe.


1. This prayer is fulfilled to a greater extent than would at first sight be supposed. The existence of separate churches, and the want of uniformity between them, do not militate against actual agreement in fundamentals, or fraternal feeling. The great saving truths are urged with equal zeal by ministers of various denominations, and members of different churches work side by side in philanthropic enterprises.

2. The prayer will never be fully accomplished but by the removal of all that interferes with the communion of churches. If Christians wait until every Church is modelled according to any supposed apostolic pattern, till some community has drawn and absorbed all others into itself, they will have to wait far longer than any of them calculate. This consummation is much more likely to follow the practice of universal communion than to precede it; but whether it ever come or not, the obligation remains the some. The one is an unquestionable duty, the other a dream.

3. We learn how to possess our souls in peace amid the alarm and agitation of the present times, It becomes us to keep our eye and heart steadily on the prayer of Christ; to engage in every religious movement which the present position of the Church may demand to promote its accomplishment. This will at once sanctify uncongenial duties, and sustain under the injustice of calumny and insult.

(T. Binney.)

I. THE LORD IS TO BE RECOGNIZED AS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. His name is the only true bond of union.


III. THE HONEST RECOGNITION OF ONE ANOTHER AS BRETHREN IN CHRIST, whether within or without the various churches.

IV. THE DETERMINATION TO BE FORBEARING one toward another, and to maintain the body of Christ, provided the faith be maintained by the members in heart and life.

(H. Varley.)

According to the present scientific theory, all of the planets came out of the sun. That central orb sent off ring after ring, and these consolidated into planets, and then, moving within the influence of their common origin, they swing without collision round the grand common centre of the sun itself. So should not the denominational planets also swing without collision around their common origin and centre, Jesus Christ? Plutarch tells us of a golden tripod that was fished from the bottom of the sea. There was a great contention about the possession of it; and, when the conflict waxed quite ferocious, it was settled that neither of the contending parties should have it, but that it should be given to the wisest man. They sent it first of all to Thales. He said, "I am not the wisest man; take it to Bias." Bias, on being approached, said, "Don't bring it here. I am not the wisest man in Greece. I won't have it." And so they sent it from one to another through a circle of the seven wisest men, with a like reception, until at last it was settled that the fair tripod should be given to Apollo. Now, they all had the modesty of true wisdom; and if all the denominations had only that modesty or real wisdom displayed by these sages never to make any claim of exclusiveness or superiority, there would be unbroken peace among them all.

(H. M. Scudder.)

During a visit of the King of Italy to Naples, the nine Protestant ministers of that city begged the favour of an interview. The young monarch granted their request, and received them with marked courtesy. He was surprised, however, when one was presented to him as a Methodist, and another as a Baptist, the third as a Presbyterian, the fourth as a Waldensian, &c. "I do not understand," said the king, "how you can all be ministers of the same gospel, and yet have so many distinctions. Perhaps one of you will be good enough to explain this to me." The Waldensian minister promptly replied, "In your majesty's army there are many regiments wearing different uniforms and called by different names; nevertheless they are under one commanderin-chief, and follow one flag. In like manner we Protestants are divided into various denominations, but we know only one Chief — Jesus Christ; and we follow but one banner, viz., that of the gospel of our crucified and risen Lord." The king listened attentively, and then said, "I thank you for this clear explanation. You wish me to understand that while there are differences among you on minor matters, there is unity in essentials."

(W. Baxendale.)

I was walking, some weeks since, in a beautiful grove. The trees were some distance apart, and the trunks were straight and rugged. But as they ascended higher the branches came closer together, and still higher the twigs and branches interlaced and formed a beautiful canopy. I said to myself, our Churches resemble these trees. The trunks near the earth stand stiffly and widely apart. The more nearly towards heaven they ascend, the closer and closer they come together, until they form one beautiful canopy, under which the sons of men enjoy both shelter and happiness. Then I thought of that beautiful prayer of the Saviour, "That they all may be one," &c.

(Bp. M. Simpson.)

I was once permitted to unite in celebrating the Lord's Supper in an upper room in Jerusalem. There were fourteen present, the most of whom, I had good reason to believe, knew and loved the Lord Jesus Christ. Several were godly Episcopalians; two were converted Jews — one a Christian from Nazareth, converted under American missionaries. The bread and wine were dispensed in the Episcopal manner, and most were kneeling as they received them. We felt it to be sweet fellowship with Christ, and with the brethren; and, as we left the upper room and looked out upon the Mount of Olives, we remembered with calm joy the prayer from our Lord that ascended from one of the shady ravines after the first Lord's Supper — "That they all may be one."

(R. M. M'Cheyne.)

I recollect, on one occasion, conversing with a marine, who gave me a good deal of his history. He told me that the most terrible engagement he had ever been in was one between the ship to which he belonged and another English vessel, when, on meeting in the night they mistook each other for enemies. Several persons were wounded, and both vessels were much damaged by the firing. When the day broke, great and painful was the surprise to find the English flag hoisted from both ships. They saluted each other, and wept bitterly together over their mistake. Christians, sometimes, commit the same error. One denomination mistakes another for an enemy; it is night, and they do not recognize one another. What will be their surprise when they see each other in heaven's light I How will they salute each other when better known and understood!

(W. Williams.)

Jesus, Disciples
Alone, Behalf, Believe, Believing, Demand, Faith, Message, Prayer, Regard, Request, Teaching, Trust
1. Jesus prays to his Father.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
John 17:20

     2306   Christ, high priest
     8025   faith, origins of

John 17:1-26

     2360   Christ, prayers of
     8603   prayer, relationship with God

John 17:6-26

     8611   prayer, for others

John 17:10-22

     5308   equality

John 17:11-23

     7622   disciples, characteristics

John 17:20-23

     6718   reconciliation, believers

John 17:20-24

     7142   people of God, NT

John 17:20-26

     2212   Christ, head of church
     6755   union with Christ, nature of

October 10 Evening
After this manner . . . pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven.--MATT. 6:9. Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father.--My Father, and your Father. Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.--Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

August 10 Morning
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but thou shouldest keep them from the evil.--JOHN 17:15. Blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.--Ye are the salt of the earth, . . . the light of the world.--Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is heaven. I also withheld thee from sinning against me. The Lord is faithful,
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

July 20 Morning
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.--JOHN 17:16. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.--In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.--That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. Jesus of Nazareth . . . went about doing good, and
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

February 21 Morning
I am the Lord which sanctify you.--LEV. 20:8. I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. Sanctified by God the Father.--Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.--The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus . . . that he might
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

November 16 Morning
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.--JOHN 17:17. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.--Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul: discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

November 27 Morning
The glory which thou gavest me I have given them.--JOHN 17:22. I saw . . . the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.--These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.--Upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness . . . of a man above upon it. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

November 13 Evening
Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.--EPH. 2:18. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

January 1 Morning
This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,. . . I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.--PHI. 3:13,14. Father, I will that they . . . whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.--I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.--He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

May 4 Evening
I have glorified thee on the earth.--JOHN 17:4. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.--I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.--This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

January 25 Evening
The spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.--ROM. 8:15. Jesus . . . lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, . . . Holy Father, . . . O righteous Father.--He said, Abba, Father.--Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.--For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God. Doubtless thou
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

February 12 Morning
They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.--MAL. 3:17. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am: that
Anonymous—Daily Light on the Daily Path

December 31. "I Pray not that Thou Shouldst Take them Out of the World, but that Thou Shouldst Keep them from the Evil" (John xvii. 15).
"I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil" (John xvii. 15). He wants us here for some higher purpose than mere existence. That purpose is nothing else than to represent Him to the world, to be the messengers of His Gospel and His will to men, and by our lives to exhibit to them the true life, and teach them how to live it themselves. He is representing us yonder, and our one business is to represent Him here. We are just as truly sent
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

November 5. "I in Them, and Thou in Me" (John xvii. 23).
"I in them, and Thou in Me" (John xvii. 23). If we would be enlarged to the full measure of God's purpose, let us endeavor to realize something of our own capacities for His filling. We little know the size of a human soul and spirit. Never, until He renews, cleanses and enters the heart can we have any adequate conception of the possibilities of the being whom God made in His very image, and whom He now renews after the pattern of the Lord Jesus Himself. We know, however, that God has made the human
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

December 11. "I Pray not for the World, but for Them" (John xvii. 9).
"I pray not for the world, but for them" (John xvii. 9). How often we say we would like to get some strong spirit to pray for us, and feel so helped when we think they are carrying us in their faith. But there is One whose prayers never fail to be fulfilled and who is more willing to give them to us than any human friend. His one business at God's right hand is to make intercession for His people, and we are simply coming in the line of His own appointment and His own definite promise and provision,
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

The Folded Flock
I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory.'--JOHN xvii. 24. This wonderful prayer is (a) for Jesus Himself, (b) for the Apostles, (c) for the whole Church on earth and in heaven. I. The prayer. 'I will' has a strange ring of authority. It is the expression of His love to men, and of His longing for their presence with Him in His glory. Not till they are with Him there, shall He 'see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.' We
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. John Chaps. XV to XXI

Christ's Summary of his Work
'I have declared onto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.'--JOHN xvii. 26. This is the solemn and calm close of Christ's great High-priestly prayer; the very last words that He spoke before Gethsemane and His passion. In it He sums up both the purpose of His life and the petitions of His prayer, and presents the perfect fulfilment of the former as the ground on which He asks the fulfilment of the latter. There is a singular
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. John Chaps. XV to XXI

The Intercessor
'These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. John Chaps. XV to XXI

'The Lord Thee Keeps'
...They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.'--JOHN xvii. 14-16. We have here a petition imbedded in a reiterated statement of the disciples' isolated position when left in a hostile world without Christ's sheltering presence. We cannot fathom the depth of the mystery of the praying Christ, but we may be sure of this,
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. John Chaps. XV to XXI

The High Priest's Prayer
'Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou givest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture: St. John Chaps. XV to XXI

Sixteenth Day. Holiness and Truth.
Make them holy in the Truth: Thy word is Truth.'--John xvii. 17. 'God chose you unto salvation in sanctification and belief of the Truth.'--2 Thess. ii. 12. The chief means of sanctification that God uses is His word. And yet how much there is of reading and studying, of teaching and preaching the word, that has almost no effect in making men holy. It is not the word that sanctifies; it is God Himself who alone can sanctify. Nor is it simply through the word that God does it, but through
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ

Seventeenth Day. Holiness and Crucifixion.
For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.'--John xvii. 19. 'He said, Lo, I am come to do Thy will. In which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.'--Heb. x. 9, 10, 14. It was in His High-priestly prayer, on His way to Gethsemane and Calvary, that Jesus thus spake to the Father: 'I sanctify myself.' He had not long before spoken
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ

The Plenary Inspiration of Every Part of the Bible, vindicated and Explained. --Nature of Inspiration. --The Text of Scripture.
Thy Word is Truth. I THANKFULLY avail myself of the opportunity which, unexpected and unsolicited, so soon presents itself, to proceed with the subject which was engaging our attention when I last occupied this place. Let me remind you of the nature of the present inquiry, and of the progress which we have already made. Taking Holy Scripture for our subject, and urging, as best we knew how, its paramount claims on the daily attention of the younger men,--who at present are our hope and ornament;
John William Burgon—Inspiration and Interpretation

August the Twenty-Fourth the Lord's Body
"I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." --JOHN xvii. 1-11. This quiet confession is in itself a token of our Lord's divinity. The serenity in which He makes His claims is as stupendous as the claims themselves. "Finished," perfected in the utmost refinement, to the last, remotest detail! Nothing scamped, nothing overlooked, nothing forgotten! Everything which concerns thy redemption and my redemption has been accomplished. "It is finished!" "And now ... I come to Thee." The visible
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

The Cure of Evil-Speaking
"If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he will not hear them, tell it to the Church. But if he does not hear the church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican." Matt. 18:15-17 1. "Speak evil of no man," says the great Apostle: -- As plain a
John Wesley—Sermons on Several Occasions

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