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A Unity Worth Dying For

A Unity Worth Dying For

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Published by e4unity
An article in which I express my deep convictions regarding the priority of unity among the disciples of Christ that He sends into the hostile world to preach the Gospel of His Kingdom.
An article in which I express my deep convictions regarding the priority of unity among the disciples of Christ that He sends into the hostile world to preach the Gospel of His Kingdom.

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Published by: e4unity on Apr 27, 2009
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a unity worth dying for 
By John Paul ToddAs Christ comes to the decisive hour of his mission in the world, he prays for hisown in John’s gospel, chapter 17. It seems obvious that to him the battle against thespiritual wickedness he came to defeat has been won. For how else could he tell hisFather he had finished his work on earth. Or was it ?Besides the priority that Christ has for the glory of God, his passion in this prayer centers in his concern for his disciples who though “not of the world” are being leftin the world and in fact “sent unto it” just as he himself was sent unto the world bythe Father. It would seem then that if we are to fully understand his petition-especially the part about “that they may be one”, we must take a serious look at thestated purpose for this request: “that the world may believe that you sent me.”
 What exactly is this world which is so prominent in this prayer and in John’sgospel as a whole - the world from which Christ is so intent on obtaining this belief and knowledge ? It has been pointed out that the noun ‘world’ is found morefrequently in John’s gospel (77 times) than in any other New Testament documentand found in chapter 17 more frequently than in any other chapter of the Bible (18times). Such facts seem to “warrant the judgment that this concept is at the center of the Apostle’s thinking in a way which is not true of any other New Testamentwriting”, according to Paul Minear. If one makes a diligent study of the majority of contexts where the term appears, a very significant doctrine begins to emergewhich suggests a rich and complex reality that John wanted his readers to grasp inits fullness.Yet the contrasts one discovers are startling : “God so loved the world”, and sendsHis only begotten Son into it to die, but the Son now says specifically, “I do not pray for the world”. He prays “that the world may know that You sent me”, but hasalready told his disciples that “the world neither sees nor knows him”.As it turns out the world God so loves is also hostile, rebellious, and apparentlyunrepentant even to the point of murdering His beloved son and is itself under therule of Satan, the Prince of darkness. Yet God did not send His son into the worldto condemn it, but in order that the world through the son might be reconciled. 
Evidently the essential connotations found in the Lord’s prayer are in factdynamically linked to most of the narratives of our Lord in John’s gospel and areinseparable from his God given mission as the redeemer of the world.These same texts also have a direct bearing on what is to be the continuing role of his disciples once He returns to His Father. This link becomes dominant early inthe introduction to the Passion narrative, even as that narrative seems to betriggered on the one hand by the crisis perceived by the Pharisees following theraising of Lazarus, “ …ye prevail nothing. Behold, the world is gone after him”,and on the other, the desire of certain Greeks at the feast who approached thedisciples with “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Whereupon Jesus then answers with thetheme of this entire last section:“ The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I sayunto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: butif it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he thathateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal…Father, glorify thyname…Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”This theme is dominant well into chapter 16, where the promise of the Comforter,the Spirit of truth, concludes with His mission, through the disciples, to the sameworld : “ He will reprove the world of sin…because they believe not on me…”; hewill reprove the world “of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see meno more”; he will reprove the world “of judgment because the prince of this worldis judged”. Finally, in 16:33, the disciples are described as existing simultaneouslyin two locations (they are “in me” and “in the world”) which are qualitativelyopposite in their effects on the disciples : in one they will have peace, in the other tribulation. It is of enormous importance that we note well these two realms andtheir distinguishing contrary effects upon disciples of the victorious Christ.The declaration in the above verse that Jesus has conquered the world also helps usrecognize its essential nature since it constitutes his single wartime adversary; theoccasion of his own tribulation and thereby the occasion of the definitive victorythrough which he has won peace for those who belong to him whom he chose outof the world. As Minear points out here, “ Any concept of ‘kosmos’ that excludesthis wartime (hostile) imagery will distort John’s thought.” And then he adds whatsurely is crystal clear by now: “ Jesus’ struggle with the world is the very meansthrough which he saves men and women whom God has given him out of that

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