Just before His crucifixion, Jesus lifted His eyes toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son,
that Your Son also may glorify You.”
Then He prayed for His disciples and His followers:
“Sanctify them by Your truth.”
“I do not pray for these alone,
but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;
that they all may be one, as You, Father, in Me, and I in You;
that they also may be one in Us,
that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:17,20-21).
In the beginning, Jesus’ Church was united in one Spirit, and followed His commandments of baptism, the washing of feet, and the breaking of bread, according to the example He set for them.
But churches began developing their own traditions. And eventually these traditions became doctrines, and churches were separated by the teachings of men.
In recent years, believers all over the world have been praying for unity. But the complete unity Jesus prayed for is still to come.
Why should we believe Jesus’ prayer for complete unity is possible? Because we know that just before Jesus prayed, He told us, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23). So most certainly, He knew that His own prayer would be fulfilled, in order to make that statement.
Through the Spirit, Jesus is leading His followers into complete unity.
The unity of Jews and Gentiles – “One New Man”
Jesus’ prayer for the complete unity of believers includes both Jews and Gentiles.
But the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers is difficult to see, when we read the short history of the New Testament. After Jesus’ resurrection, Jewish believers continued to observe the Laws of Moses. The Gentiles kept only the teachings of Jesus. Many Jewish believers thought the Gentiles should also keep the Laws of Moses.
In Jerusalem, the Apostles met to resolve the issue, which we can read about in Acts 15. The council in Jerusalem, moved by the Holy Spirit, reached the following conclusion: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well” (Acts 15:28-29).
When we read the letters of Paul to the churches in the Gentile cities, we see that he is repeatedly telling the Gentile believers they need not keep the Law of Moses. But we must realize Paul’s philosophical arguments are for the ears of all believers.
For the Apostle Paul, and Peter lived as Gentiles, after they came to Christ, as Paul tells us in Galatians 2:14.
Paul’s effort to bring about the unity of Jews and Gentiles is found in His letter to the Ephesians:
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.“ (Ephesians 2:11-16)
Paul’s meaning was that the Law of Moses was no longer required for the Gentiles, or the Jews, that Christ wanted to make “one new man from the two.”
So most definitely, Jesus’ prayer is for all believers!