One as the Father and Son are One…?
“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”
– John 17:11
One of the central themes of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is the “oneness” of His disciples. This is not simply a prayer for unity or synergy because He goes on describe the desired oneness as one that reflects the unity of the Trinity (“that they may be one, even as we are one”). Today I want to share some in-process thoughts about what that oneness may be.
“keep them in your name…that they may be one.”
Notice the purpose statement here. Jesus asks that His disciples would be kept in the Father’s name so that they would be one. Oneness flows from being kept in the Name of the Father which He gave to the Son. Great, but what does that mean? Let’s keep examining…
First, we should recognize that “Name” here is a term that is synonymous with character or nature, it is the essence of who someone is. Also, it’s important to note that, for God, His Name is the same as His Glory, since His glory is simply Himself communicated. We see this in Exodus 33:18-19. In this passage Moses asks to be shown God’s glory and God responds by telling Moses His Name (Ex.34:6-7). The glory of God is Himself made known, and the Name of God is a declaration of who He is, therefore we are justified in reading “Name” and “Glory” and “Self-Communication” as more or less synonymous terms.
“…which you have given me…”
So, with “Name” defined as the glory or nature or self-communication of God, we can now understand a bit better what Jesus means by saying that the Father has given this Name to Him. The Man Christ Jesus is the one in whom the Name (character, nature, glory, self-communication) of God is made known. He is the one who communicates God to creation (John 1:18). In this sense the Name of God has been given to and is seen in the Man Christ Jesus, who is Himself God.
In John’s gospel, the Name of God is made known through Christ in at least two ways. First, it is made known through His life and teaching (John 17:6), but secondly, it is made known in His death. As Christ goes to the cross He prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify the Son that the Son may glorify you” (Jn 17:1). In other words, Jesus is asking that – as He is lifted up on the cross – the Name of God (remember that “name” and “glory” are synonymous), that the Name of God would be communicated. Christ’s entire life was a making known of God’s Name, however, the exaltation of God the Son on the cross is the climax and culmination of His communicative work. When Jesus is crucified, He proclaims with all of His infinite soul, “Behold your God!”
“Keep them in your name…”
Ok. If we are on the right track by saying that the Name of God is Himself made known, and that Christ has been given this Name in the sense that He is the one in whom God is made known, and if this Name is supremely made known at the cross – then what does it mean to be kept in that Name? Two assertions
- Being kept in this Name means receiving the Name of God communicated in Christ – especially at the cross – as the only true revelation of who God is. It means believing in Jesus Christ as the Son and Revealer of God, it means receiving God in Christ, given for us on Calvary, as our food and drink, as precious and life giving.
- Having received God in Christ, being kept in His Name means being conformed to the Name that we have seen. And this conformity is primarily manifest in our love, just as God’s Name is manifest in the love of Christ’s Incarnation and conquering Death.
So, receiving and emulating God in Christ crucified and risen is what being kept in the Name means.
“…that they may be one…”
Now we come to it. If the Name of God is God communicated, and if this communication comes to us in Christ, and if to be kept in this Name means to receive and emulate the One we see in Christ, then how does all of that result in our Trinity-imaging Oneness?
Here I have to once again turn to Jonathan Edwards and his concept of the Trinity. For Edwards the Trinity is God known in the Son and loved in the Spirit….it is the Father beholding Himself in the Son and the Father and Son’s mutual love which is the Spirit. That “dance” of Lover, Beloved and Love is the Trinity and it is the Oneness of God to which I believe Jesus is referring.
If that is true, then the oneness that flows from being kept in the “Name,” the oneness that Christ is praying for His disciples to have is a manifestation of the Oneness of the Trinity. Consider: The Trinity is the Father seeing Himself in the Son and loving what He sees by the Spirit. And being kept in the “Name” is to see God in the Son and, having seen, to receive/believe/embrace (love) Him, which happens only by the Spirit (John 3:6). Perhaps this chart will help:
|The Oneness of the Trinity||The Oneness of the Church|
The Oneness that Christ prays for is nothing less than a creaturely manifestation of the Trinitarian life of God, namely, God known in the Son and loved in the Spirit.
Is This Practical?
So, if this is true, what are the implications for our daily life? I’m sure there are many, but let me mention one: Christian unity flows from knowing God in Christ, especially at the cross.
The Oneness of the Bride of Christ is not primarily a matter of doctrines or philosophies, it is not primarily a matter of Church government or tradition, it is not primarily a matter of political stances or worship preferences etc. etc. (though, do not misunderstand my point, doctrines etc. are necessary, just not primary), it is primarily a matter of seeing and knowing God in Christ crucified and risen. If there is division in a local Church, let Christ crucified in love be lifted up before their eyes…if two believers are experiencing broken relationship, let them look afresh at their God manifest in Christ at Calvary. If the global Church seems splintered and divergent, let the biblical Jesus Christ be ever more the focus of her meditation and pursuit.
I believe we will be made increasingly one just as the Father and Son are one as we set our eyes on the Crucified and Risen One in whom the Name of God is made manifest. The Church will be made one as she looks with awed and humbled and worship-filled gaze to the cross and meets her God mind-to-mind and heart-to heart as He pours Himself out under the fires of her hell so that she might know who it is who created and loves her.
Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is the gravity that unifies the scattered planets of Christianity into the unified solar system that is the Church of God, the Bride of Christ, redeemed humanity who – in knowing and loving God in Christ – have been and will be made one even as the Trinity is one.