“…so that the world may believe/know…” (John 17:20, 23)
A “church” may have all kinds of external evidences of “success” but if there is no true spiritual unity such is but an outward façade.
Jesus’ intention for his body (in which are unified both Jews and Gentiles) is that, by virtue of their unity and the ministry that each member renders as a result of that unity,the world would believe in Christ with repentance and faith.
Note what Jesus prays here in the upper room on the night in which he was betrayed (John 17:20–26)
What does this unity of believers look like? A: the one Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13), the household of God (Eph 2:19).
- The pattern of this unity is in the Godhead—three persons but one God. So also in the Body of Christ there are many members but a unity of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:12–13). The Spirit formed a spiritual “body” of many different members.
- The members, though different in appearance and function, function in harmony (1 Cor 12:14–20)
- The members depend on each other, respect one another, and care for each other (1 Cor 12:21–31)
- There is no distinction between believers—Jew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free, poor or rich, strong or weak (Gal 3:27–28; Eph 2:19). This does not mean that there are no differences in roles or responsibilities. Rather, there are no differences of spiritual position because of your race, status, or gender.
This is not a prayer for an outward unity seen in a large church organization. The unity is a unity in the Father and the Son—“that they also may be in Us” (John 17:21).
No program or “ministry” can accomplish these things because these are strictly spiritual in nature, not material!
When this “body” was formed on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) Jesus’ prayer was answered!
How does the unity of believers in the body of Christ accomplish/result in unbelievers’ salvation?A: exercise of spiritual gifts (Eph 4:3–16) and believers’ prayers (Rom 15:30–31; 2 Cor 1:11)
- There is no other way to “explain” the oneness and unity among such different peoples other than it is something God has done.
- Each member of the body is given at least one spiritual gift (Rom 12:3–8; 1 Cor 12:7; Eph 3:7; 1 Pet 4:11)
- Each member is to use his gift for the unity, maturity, protection, and growth of the body (Eph 4:11–16)
- Each member can pray “with” other members though separated from one another (Rom 15:30–31; 2 Cor 1:11)
- Each member must love each other (1 John 4:11–13, 20). People “see” God’s love when God’s people love one another.
When the lost see this body, raised up by the simple gospel message, wonderfully put together and ordered, they cannot deny that such is the work of God. NOTE: The emphasis is on the work that God has done through his people!
Can disunity in a church body hinder evangelism? Yes! If there is bitterness, internal strife, and an unwillingness to seek and grant forgiveness your focus is on you,rather than others, and this is the opposite of love!