John 17:22 – That they may be one?“That they may be one” is THE driving text of the ecumenical movement. It is the driving force of the Roman Catholic goal of ONE World Religion, under Rome.
It’s very sad to see how this text is currently being abused even in our Seventh Day Adventist Church in relation to “cooperating with others” especially in Europe, and by that it is being ripped out of its context and robbed of its power, having it said exactly the opposite of what Jesus meant. We seldom hear sermons any more about the latter rain, come out of her, My people or the loud cry, but instead our ears are ringing with papal jargon, such as unity, bridge building, going together. Always makes me ask myself then: what unity, which bridge, to where?
What is it that Jesus wants to tell us in John 17?
The church of Jesus Christ was on the verge of being formed, but first the young members would decent into gloom valleys of darkness. Their Master would be betrayed in a most cruel way and be taken away from them, and feelings of severe despair would hit them flat in the face.
Jesus knew this very well and prayed the most powerful corporate prayer that we find in the New Testament (we find THE corporate prayer of the Old Testament in 2 Chronicles 6, repeated almost literally in Daniel 9!).
Jesus prayed the prayer every church board should pray in every church board meeting, every elder or minister should daily pray for their sheep, realizing that they stand as the anointed ones in the position as God’s representatives before HIS people; as servants and the lesser of the least, even as Christ came as a servant and not as a domineering ruler (Luke 22:26,27).
“That they may be one” are but five words in verse 22, part of a complete piece of scripture of 108 words in the verses 20 to 23 (in KJV). All those 108 words express one key thought of Christ: “That the world may believe and acknowledge that I have proceeded from God and did those things because I was sent on a holy mission.”
The emphases of Jesus prayer was therefore not on the manner, but on the outcome!
What is it that the world must believe? What is it that the world must know? What is the commission then that Jesus gave to His disciples, His true followers, us?
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 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. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 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 me.
That the world believe …
What must the world believe? How is it that one comes to believe? Jesus says in verse 20: “neither for these alone, but for them also which shall (begin to) believe on me through their word.”
In Romans 10:17 it is written: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The words that the disciples should let the world hear, “their words,” is the gospel of Jesus Christ - the good news of salvation through “the way, truth and life,” the only gate to heaven, the Son of God - and no one else! No Pope, Mary or saints.
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth” (John 17:17; Psalms 119:160).
We cannot proclaim another gospel than this everlasting gospel (Rev 14:6) of Jesus Christ. Everyone who put someone else before Christ, proclaims another gospel and is therefore cursed (Gal 1:8,9).
In other words the desire of Christ for unity, referred to in verse 22, is the desire of a unity that comes through the preaching of the true word of God, even as Jesus did nothing else than the true word of His Father (John 4:34). “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). We have no other commission!
The corporate prayer of Jesus in the entire chapter of John 17 is an unity. We cannot hand pick 5 words, emphasize them in bold script and forget about the rest of the chapter, for we find the essence of the message in exactly those other words.
“For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me”(John 17:8).
So the prayer begins with the stipulation of the essence. We can read and understand it for ourselves; we don’t need any theological of ecumenical explanation. It is written clear enough. The unity for which Jesus is praying is directly linked to the proclaiming of the truth about the Christ.
What Jesus is praying for His followers here, the disciples and those, who will become true followers of Christ through their words, is nothing else than the example He gave them! It’s no unity of a conglomerate of all kinds of religions and ideologies, because someone wants to be a self appointed head of them all. It’s an unity of faith in and the acknowledgment of, the truth of Christ and God, and salvation only through HIM.
Jesus knew that the little and trembling band would need power to stand in the coming trials and adversities, and persecutions would take a toll on their courage to keep on proclaiming the pure truth; but power would be added to their words only if they would show forth the delivering power unto oneness, that comes from believing the gospel.
That unity, unisonous oneness, will not come, but through the power of prayer. And that’s why Jesus began with corporate prayer. And in that prayer He gave a powerful example, that would stand the test of time! And His disciples followed that example, and behold, what this manner of prayer unto togetherness wrought in the period of ten days between Ascension and Pentecost!
But, although that unity might well come through corporate prayer, it will not be lasting if it is not accompanied by the efforts to proclaim the gospel. Only when believers are united when they go out to do God’s work, unity will be strengthened. The one stone will fortify the next and so the whole spiritual building will be strong, “framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. .. built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesus 2:20-22, emphasis applied).
But that fortification is based upon truth, because error and doubt have never brought about the unity of God. So yes, is we want to have unity with each other, but not without truth!
In the world we find a kind of unity, but that unity is based on another foundation - the reckless denial of God and His claims over them: “God is dead, and I am god in myself.” Or the boastful false religious denial of the salvation through Christ by putting Marys, Saints, and popes up front.
No, the only true, visible unity, that will bring faith into the hearts of the hearers of the Word, is the unity of believers, who maintain in Christ, as Christ maintains to be one in God (see John 17:21). This is the key issue of the whole prayer unto believe in Christ in John 17.
That the world may know…
What must the world know? How is life eternal, linked to knowing the Son?
Jesus begins His corporate prayer for unity by explaining how the knowledge of Him is linked to our eternal hope: “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). No need for theological or ecumenical explanations. It’s clear enough! What is it then that we need to know?
“Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.." "And the glory [greatness] which thou gavest me I have given them.” “That thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John 17:1, 22,23, I insert).
Whose power? “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life” (John 17:2). No pope or saint proclaim eternity over us. Only Jesus!
Whose glory? God hath made Christ great in the eyes of the worlds and Christ hath made God great in the eyes of the worlds.
How? God had appointed Christ to be the only One by whom we should have eternal life. Moreover, Christ hath made God great, hath revealed His name, by doing the work that He gave Him to do (see verses 4,6).
What is God’s name?God’s name is what He does: Creator, Redeemer, Everlasting Father, Immanuel and a whole lot more.
God’s name is who He is, I AM, His character: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” and “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Gal 5:22; Ex 34:6). And His character is His glory, His goodness and His greatness (Ex 33:18). Many popes have come and gone. God is ALWAYS I AM!
We see the adverse power and driving force behind the ecumenical movement, claiming to himself, with great words of blasphemy, the attributes of the Great Almighty I AM. And only few seem to be alarmed.
Jesus prays in this short prayer we are contemplating, that the world may come to acknowledge that God’s children “are made perfect in one ...”
What Jesus mend by perfectness, He explained in length to them three and a half years earlier in His teachings: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mat 5:48). He had held before them the mirror of true Christian attitude – therefore: The Be Attitudes – how to be in a Christian attitude in the world, while not being of the world (see Mat 5:1-16). In this To be-mirror we see time and time again: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time…, but I say unto you..”(Mat 5:17-47).
With this preaching about perfectness we can never miss the mark, because it is utterly practical Christianity!
Such a Christian attitude of being – Be Attitude – makes our preaching of the three angels message highly practical and relevant, without joining a sacrilegious movement!
The message of Christ is: “You have heard that the world strives for an unity in error, but I say unto you … don’t join them, but be you perfect in the teaching of the gospel, that thou had received from me, that I had received from My Father, and proclaim that truth to others, that they may hear. As I was send by Him, so send I you. Then the world will believe and know that I was send by the Father and that He loves you and them, as He loves Me.”
In other words, by such a steadfast attitude in God’s children, God’s corporate true church is being framed together to a solid, strong unity in togetherness, unisonous and willingness and their message shall ring loud and be heard by the whole world and the world will believe that Christ was indeed sent by God unto salvation of souls, and the world will know that God is indeed great (is glorified) in name and deeds and that His people is perfect in the truth of His Word.
The unity Jesus is praying about in John 17:20-23 is an unity of the -
(1) Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ;
(2) Glory, the greatness of God and
(3) Perfectness, which God gives to us; that God works in and through His Church through the merits of Jesus Christ.
THIS is the only unity that is of God; and… “whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4).
This is not at all the unity that the ecumenical movement is trying to lure us into (as it seems with great success in the Protestant world!). Let no one fool us, even if he comes with much eloquence!
God’s Church, the Church that Christ pictured when He prayed this mighty prayer, is a Church that is an example to the world, of unity, greatness and perfectness in Truth unto salvation! People shall refer to that Church, as the bringer of the message unto believe and acknowledgment that God had indeed sent Christ, and them!
So, the prayer of Christ to His Father is: As Thou hath sent Me, to proclaim Your unity of greatness and perfectness with Me and the Spirit, and to reveal it in the smallest sacred details, please Father, send them it too, that the world may hear, and believe, and know.
The Ecumenical Unity
The ultimate goal of the Ecumenical Movement cannot be denied by anyone who is honest and right in his own mind:
”The ecumenical movement does not move in vain. It is a movement on its way to a goal. The World Council of Churches (WCC) sets the goal of the ecumenical movement to be in the first place a visible unity. And that unity must be visible in three elements: Baptism, Eucharist and Mission. All denominations present in the WCC have made it their duty to make these elements of unity visible in their respective churches” (Dutch RC Bishop A.H.C. van Eijk, October 20, 2005).
“The ultimate goal of the ecumenical movement, as Catholics see it, is unity in faith and worship and the acknowledgement of the highest authority of the Bishop of Rome” (Priest J. Cornell).
“It is God’s will that we too should have the reality of unity: “that they may be one, as we are one” (John 17:22). The Church is a sign and the instrument of this unity” (Pope Benedictus XVI, Encyclical Caritas et Veritate, July 7, 2009).
”… let us pray to the Lord that He unites us all. Come on, we are brothers. Let’s give each other a spiritual hug and let God complete the work that he has begun. And this is a miracle; the miracle of unity has begun.” (Pope Francis, video speech at Kenneth Copeland's Evangelical conference, February 24, 2014)
See how the Lord rebuked the king of Judah for calling the king of Israel his brother! (2 Chron 19:2)
“When my wife saw that she could be Catholic, and Charismatic, and Evangelical, and Pentecostal, and it was absolutely accepted in the Catholic Church, she said that she would like to reconnect her roots with the Catholic culture. So she did. Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over. Is yours?” (Anglican Episcopal Bishop Tony Palmer, the Pope called him his friend, before a group of cheering followers at Kenneth Copeland's Evangelical conference, February 24, 2014, emphasis mine).
No, Protestants are not protesting anymore. Luther is declared a liar. We Seventh Day Adventists had foreknowledge that it would come to this.
Way back in 1888 E.G. White foretold us in the name of the Lord,
“Romanism is now regarded by Protestants with far greater favor than in former years. In those countries where Catholicism is not in the ascendancy, and the papists are taking a conciliatory course in order to gain influence, there is an increasing indifference concerning the doctrines that separate the reformed churches from the papal hierarchy; the opinion is gaining ground that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome. …
The defenders of the papacy declare that the church has been maligned, and the Protestant world are inclined to accept the statement. …
But Romanism as a system is no more in harmony with the gospel of Christ now than at any former period in her history. The Protestant churches are in great darkness, or they would discern the signs of the times. The Roman Church is far-reaching in her plans and modes of operation. She is employing every device to extend her influence and increase her power in preparation for a fierce and determined conflict to regain control of the world, to re-establish persecution, and to undo all that Protestantism has done. Catholicism is gaining ground upon every side. …
The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged….
It is not without reason that the claim has been put forth in Protestant countries that Catholicism differs less widely from Protestantism than in former times. There has been a change; but the change is not in the papacy. Catholicism indeed resembles much of the Protestantism that now exists, because Protestantism has so greatly degenerated since the days of the Reformers...
As the Protestant churches have been seeking the favor of the world, false charity has blinded their eyes. They do not see but that it is right to believe good of all evil, and as the inevitable result they will finally believe evil of all good….
The Roman Catholic Church, with all its ramifications throughout the world, forms one vast organization under the control, and designed to serve the interests, of the papal see….
God's word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is." (Great Controversy, chapter 35 - Liberty of Conscience Threatened, First publ. 1888).
The RCC is coming into the open now. And time has come to boldly present her claims. The present Protestant world is totally in confusion. We Seventh Day Adventists knew it would come to this and said –almost – nothing! Are we at large confused too?
How in the world did the General Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church got it in their sane minds to join the WCC in 1965, even if it is as “observers” with or without partially voting rights? What are we observing there? Things we do not know already?
How in the world did the Union of Seventh Day Adventist Church in The Netherlands signed the Ecumenical Charter in 2002, over the heads of the believers, wherein the Lord of Heavens is being mocked on twelve points, even if it comes to us as an innocent pledge for social justice, based on Christian ethics?
How in the world have we by that signature agreed to the mandate to tone down óur exclusive proclamation, that the much needed encouragement for unity and togetherness among us is being swept away from under us and truth gets replaced by error?
How in the world have we by that signature agreed to the fatal errors of a system that insults God in every doctrine, and does so with a mouth full of great words and blasphemy “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Tess 2:3,4)?
It is a system that presents to the world another mediator – Mary: a mere human pleading for men – that makes of no effect the sacrifice of Christ, because of its pretence to forgive sins; that makes of no effect the authority of God, by enforcing its own day of rest and then dares to declare: It’s the sign of my authority in religious matters and a sign of Creation.”
How in the world can we participate in the celebration of the ecumenical weeks of prayer? What are we praying for, in whose name and to whom? “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord…” (Mat 7:21).
That the world may hear...
What gospel are we proclaiming? The clear cut everlasting Gospel of Revelation 14:6-12 and Revelation 18 is almost not heard anymore. Not here in the Netherlands, anyway. We are incarcerated to preach the first angel’s message; the second, third and fourth have become too embarrassing. For by signing the Charter we obliged ourselves to put our gospel efforts under scrutiny of the Dutch Council of Churches, and have agreed not to commit the sin of emphasizing differences, for that is 'false competition' (source: Chartha Ecumenica, article 2: Proclaiming the gospel together).
Shall our proclamation be unto salvation of souls or unto adding of numbers? Shall people hear, believe and know, or will our message be a tasteless bite of the lukewarm of the same?
Please, think twice!
Believing and acknowledging is not for the honor of any Church; the proclaiming of the truth should always lead to faith in God and acknowledgement of His glory and greatness, and His claims over us. By our efforts we can make God great, or we can make Him small. What shall be our goal?
Without the proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ, all striving for unity is but a hollow sound from the post modernistic confused Tower of Babel; an image of Tammuz in the temple (Ezek 8:14). The ecumenical unity is a striving that has no relation whatsoever to those five words in John 17:22 – that they may be one -, and it’s a striving that brings great dishonor to the name of God, by which we are called.
Is that the service we want to render unto Him for the privilege and insights He gave His last Church to bring His last messages of warning with power?
Even unto the present day people of God is the warning, as to them in those deep dark days of the First Church and the Reformation: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. … Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (Rev 2:7 and 3:3).
"When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country [America] shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near." --5T 451 (1885)
With great respect for the multitude of sincere but deceived and mislead Roman Catholic and Protestant children of God, let’s give the trumpets of the second, third and fourth angel a decisive sound – “Babylon is fallen ..., Don't drink of her wine ..., Come out of her, My people!” (Rev 14:8,10; 18:4), for the LORD of Lords is coming! Be prepared!
IA Wijngaarde, Feb 14, 2010. Revised Feb 26, 2014