Can Christians Agree? (John 17)

Introduction:

I was recently talking with someone about the pro-football Hall of Fame. He told me that when he talks with the Hall of Famers what they miss the most is… what do you think they miss?

It is not the money.

It is not the fame.

It is not the fame.

It is the locker room. They miss the camaraderie amongst the players. They miss the unity.

So, if you think about it, with a sport, a team can’t win when they are divided. They must be united to move the ball down the field. If the frontline want the spotlight they won’t protect the quarterback, right?

But who really cares about football? Big deal, this is just a 10 billion dollar business. Seriously, I thought it was 9 billion and then I was running with someone and he told me it is more like 10 billion, wow! But I enjoy it.

But if the football teams can be united for a common cause, can’t we? We have the Gospel of eternal life. I would tell anyone that the denominations are a stain on the church. One can drive down State Street and see First Baptist and then Alliance Friends, turn the corner and see Union Ave United Methodist and keep driving and see other churches in a matter of minutes.

Let’s read John 17:20-21:

John 17:20-21:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Theme: Christians have disagreed on much but there are core beliefs that bind us together.

  1. In John 17, Jesus prayed for us, in verses 20-21 Jesus prayed that we would be one.
    1. I find this very important.
    2. Here is Jesus, almost ready to be crucified, and in His prayer, He considers it important that we will be one.
    3. He prays for the current disciples and all those who will believe.
    4. The Moody Bible commentary points out The prayer is answered foremost through Spirit baptism in which every believer is placed into the one body of Christ (cf. 10:16; 1Co 12:13; Rm 12:5; Gl 3:28; Eph 4:4).
    5. On a broader scale, Jesus’ whole prayer is about Unity. Eugene Peterson, the author of the Message Bible writes in Tell it Slant:
    6. 45 references (“they,” “these,” “their,” “them,” “those) to the 11 disciples who are in the room with Jesus including those still to become disciples over the centuries
    7. 6 times to be united: vs 11, 20-21, 21, 22, 23, 26
    8. Peterson writes as an application: “If we stay in the room with Jesus as He prays for us, we will acquire a readiness to embrace all the baptized as brothers and sisters. It may be slow in coming, but Jesus’ prayer will have its way with us. We will no longer define other Christians as competitors or rivals. Jesus doesn’t evaluate or grade His followers as He prays. He does not lay out plans to settle the controversies that he knows will arise. He is praying us into easy camaraderie. The longer we stay in Jesus’ praying presence the more we will understand that our impulses toward schism and sectarianism, our rivalries and denunciations, have no place in the room while Jesus is praying for “us to be one.” (page 225)
    9. Jesus compared the church being one to the Trinity. The Father and Son are united as one.
  2. We agree more than we disagree.
    1. So, I am beginning a sermon series going way back to the early church. In the early church there were many church councils and at these councils the codified certain beliefs. These beliefs are Biblical and they still unite us today.
    2. Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (Nicene Creed AD 325 edited at the Council of Constantinople in 381)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.[1]

  1. These are our core Christian beliefs. There are other things that Christians have argued about for centuries, but we are united at the core.
  2. We have the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit within us.
  3. We have the same God. Listen to:
  4. 1 Cor. 12:25-31

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

  1. Listen to: Ephesians 4:1-5:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

  1. We are called to be united.
  2. What binds us together is stronger than what drives us apart.
  • How do we apply this?
    1. Realize that we are united at the core.
    2. Realize that our divisions may stand out, but through church history we have been united in certain core doctrines.
    3. Please, please don’t emphasize Baptist above Christian.
    4. Please, please let’s act like we are united.
    5. God is the master card shuffler. What do I mean by that? If God sends a family out of our church to another church, let’s pray they can serve God and be served by that church. Pray for them and celebrate. Sometimes God will also send us people from another church or area. Let’s not get upset, or blame another church for taking our people. We are on the same team.
    6. Let’s work together as much as we can.
    7. Let’s emphasize our unite more than our disunity.

Close:

When I was in Cincinnati I was good friends with a Methodist pastor. He told me he used to connect with a Catholic Priest and the priest was in his church library and picked up a book on the denominations and said something like, “You split and you just kept splitting.” That is true. The reformation happened and now we have all these denominations. BUT we do agree on more than we realize. What binds us together is more than what drives us apart.

Please join me for the rest of this series as we emphasize the core Christian beliefs that unite us:

The Bible

The Universal Church and its importance

Salvation through Jesus

The Holy Trinity:

God the Father

God the Son

God the Holy Spirit

In the early creeds, we also see an emphasis on the Virgin birth and certainly the resurrection.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

[1]  Elliot Ritzema, “Nicene Creed,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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