In John’s Gospel chapter 17 we hear Jesus’ prayer for His disciples as well as future disciples clearly: unity! Unity with one another and each and all with Father, Son, Spirit. There is nearly zero debate from scholars and others about this.
20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
KJV renders the phrase in verse 23 “that they may be made perfect in one”, NASB- “that they may be perfected in unity”, AMP- “that they may be perfected and completed into one”
Here, the concept of “perfect” means to make perfect, complete, to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end, to complete (perfect), add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full, to be found perfect, to bring to the end (goal) proposed, to accomplish, bring to a close or fulfillment by event of the prophecies of the scriptures
God clearly calls followers of Jesus to unity NOW and yet there is the sense this will not be completely fulfilled until Jesus returns and folds the world up “like a scroll”.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4: v. 3 “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” and again in verse 13 he uses the same Greek word (translated to English – “unity”): “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”
The entire chapter is about unity of the Spirit including his list of various callings, what are often called “offices” the Spirit gives to servant-leaders as part of -how- unity happens. Note also the word “until”. That term does not absolutely speak contextually in such a way that we are assured such unity will happen while we are on earth before Jesus returns nor is it explicit that we we as a body of believers only reach it in our new glorified bodies when the kingdom of God will put an end to all earthly kingdoms.
“Unity”: oneness, i.e. (figuratively) unanimity:—unity.
So we see what unity looks like very quickly in the New Testament according to Jesus and Paul.
“Uniformity” from the term “uniform” = having always the same form, manner, or degree : not varying or variable, uniform procedures, consistent in conduct, or opinion, uniform interpretation of laws, of the same form with others : conforming to one rule or mode, presenting an unvaried appearance of surface, pattern, or color
Since when have all in the local, larger Church, denominational, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox or fully independent traditional or house churches all shared uniformity? As I’ve often stated, for good and bad reasons (there are actually quite a few on both ends of the spectrum in my own opinion!) unity is one thing, uniformity is another and at times we truly do not want one, the other or both -if we’re brutally honest with ourselves.
Note that Jesus in his John 17 prayer highlights TRUTH, not only oneness of believers. When we take personal exits from truth, from our own consciences as to what God in His Book continually calls, even commands us to: love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, compassion, kindness and the like -is there any wonder why our own self-built kingdom/s conflict with the King, the principles of the Kingdom of God and yes, one another? No mystery really. Guess whose kingdom will end and Who’s will continue in eternity?
Were and –are– there differences of theology, doctrine, methodology among followers of Jesus? Yes. It would be ignorant to say there were/are not. And yet the -call- of God, the desire of our Lord Jesus and the work of the Spirit is to make us one with Him as well as with one another.
I suggest as the Word of God seems to say that during our lifetime on this earth it is a journey rather than absolute destination. One day YES, complete fulfillment of unity with no sin, no unforgiveness, self-righteousness, petty judging, control freak issues, distances due to our own imperfections and indeed lousy attitudes often based on the kingdom of self! The kingdom of God WILL prevail. But as Paul states in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians chapter 13… now is not then.
Still, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is what we must work toward.
How each of us approaches this in light of our many differences and varied desires, also regarding justice for ALL and not merely “my/our way” takes prayer, Bible study and application in our relationships. It requires repentance, forgiveness often. It certainly must be sourced from and in God’s love as well as practical help offered and shared with “the least of these” -not only outside the churches but within them.
God help us!
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn