“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me.” John 17:23
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
I believe in God the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Crucified, dead and buried;
He descended into hell. The third day He rose from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;
The communion of saints;
In this post we look into the Apostle’s Creed and consider the “communion of saints.” We must first establish what we mean by “communion.” Many have considered this to be the act of Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, as it is indeed one of the Holy Sacraments of the church. Jesus Christ established this Sacrament during the Last Supper, just prior to His death. He commanded the taking of wine (or juice as modern churches do) to remind us of His blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. The breaking of the bread is also a reminder of the cruel breaking of our Savior’s body as He bled and died for you and me. The observance of this Remembrance is a sacred privilege, and one that we should follow with solemnness and gratitude.
But in the context of the Apostle’s Creed, the “communion of saints” is speaking about the fellowship we share as the Body of Christ, and the unity that Jesus prayed we might have. John 17 is the recording of Jesus’ prayer just prior to His arrest and the countdown to His death, in this passage Jesus prays for Himself as He faces the cross and for His disciples who will both endure much persecution and carry the Gospel of Christ to the world. And He also prays for “those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20-26). Friend, that is you and me. Jesus’ prayer is for a very specific thing: Unity. He prays “that all of them may be one” (v. 21), and that our oneness will be a reflection of the oneness that he enjoys with the Father. Why is this oneness, or unity so important? Look at His words in verse 23: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me.” Couple that with His words in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you much love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Emphasis added)
Jesus is expressing what should be the character of the church: mutual love and unity – for only these will reveal to the world that Jesus is our Lord.
A lot is being said these days about “unity.” We are told we must be in harmony with one another, all in agreement over the issues we face. We lock arms and sing songs of unity, hold rallies and offer compromises – all in the name of “unity.” And unity is a wonderful concept, but as long as there is both chocolate and vanilla ice cream, we will always have differences of opinion.
Jesus’ desire was that we would be in harmony and agreement with one another. He said the world will believe in Him because His followers are united. So then, should we be in unity in humanitarian relief? These good works are going on all around the world, in the poorest places, but they are not always done in the name of Jesus. Are we to be united around social causes? Not as long as we so strongly disagree on the issues of the day. The deep schisms between people who call themselves Christians does more harm to the name of Christ that it does any good.
The original Greek word for unity means to be one, single, alike, the same. I don’t see a lot of this kind of unity in the Christian community. We are so fractured and fragmented over our issues, interpretations, worship styles and what is right or wrong.
The question comes then, what is to be the unifying focus of those who call themselves “children of God.”
The answer is found in the words of the Old Testament prophet, “I will give them singleness of heart…so that they will always fear me.” (Jeremiah 32:39) The one unifying focus for all Christians is awe and reverence – fear – of the Lord.
When God’s people walked in reverence, they were united under His banner. (Exodus 17:15) No enemy could defeat them. No challenge threatened them. And all the nations around them knew “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11) That is what we are to be about; making the most of God, so the world will know and believe.
And that is why Satan, the enemy of God and of God’s people, keeps the focus on the issues that divide us. When we are in disagreement about those minor issues, we take the focus off the greatness of God, and all the world sees is our squabbling. Let’s drop our petty weapons of preference and join our hands in nothing less than honoring God before the world. All the other things will disappear in the brilliance of His glory.
Holy Father, we want to tell the world that You are God, that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and that there is hope for everlasting life – but Father, we cannot even agree on the color of the carpet in our sanctuaries. Lord, please take the blinders off our eyes and let us see that the only thing that truly matters is You. Then, and only then, will the world know and believe. Amen