“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” – John 17:20-21
For Charles Spurgeon, Christ’s prayer for the unity of his people was not only his “most tender and touching prayer,” but it also “[opened] up to us his inmost heart.” It was significant that Christ “in his last moments not only desire the salvation of all his people, but should plead for the unity of the saved ones.”
Indeed, Christ would not be satisfied that each of his “members…be saved as the result of his death,” rather “he must have to members fashioned into a glorious body.”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon reflected at length “Upon the Unity Desired.” First, he noted that unfortunately, “these words of the Saviour have been perverted to the doing of a world of mischief.” Here Spurgeon spoke against the “Ecclesiastics” who had “fallen asleep” and subsequently dreamed up contorted church structures.
According to Spurgeon, these “Ecclesiastics” had dreamed up a “great confederation” of unbiblical offices and imposed them upon the Scriptures. Spurgeon lamented that this Vatican complex had become “so powerful as to work upon states, influence politics, to guide councils, and even to gather and to move armies.”
But, for Spurgeon the question was “what was the result?” “Did the world believe that God had sent Christ?” No, rather “the world believed the very opposite.” Indeed, “the world had nothing to do with that great, crushing, tyrannous, superstitious, ignorant thing which called itself Christianity.”
Rather, Spurgeon believed that the unity intended by Christ was composed of “persons specially given to Jesus by the Father.” They were the ones to whom God had “manifested his name,” those who had placed their faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God.
Indeed, addressing the issue of the “one Church” Spurgeon flatly denied that any denomination, whether Anglican, Wesleyan, or even Baptist, composed the “one Church.” Rather, the “one Church” was composed of all “who are in Christ Jesus.” It was a deeper spiritual unity which transcended denominational boundaries.
For Spurgeon the Holy Spirit himself was “bond which keeps these united ones together.” Since the “Spirit of God has quickened all the faithful alike” they had one source, not many. Indeed, it was this same Spirit who supplied the believers with the “same strength” and directed them towards the “same aim” of glorifying the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
In fact, this unity created by the Spirit was so strong that Spurgeon said, “If I come across a man in whom there is the Spirit of Christ, I must love him, and if I did not I should prove I was not in the unity at all.”
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon examined “The work that is to be done before this unity can be complete.” Here Spurgeon reminded his congregation that “there are many chosen ones who have not yet believed in Jesus Christ,” and “unless these be saved, the Church is not perfect.” Thus, the Church was to seek the fullness of its promised unity through evangelism, by “[holding] up Christ before the eyes of men.” Indeed, only then shall the Church “be built up and made one.”
In the third section of his sermon, Spurgeon noted that “Here is prayer offered.” Here Spurgeon told his congregation that “we do not attach enough importance to the power of Christ’s prayer, I fear.” He believed that “Christ’s prayer for his people is the great motive force by which the Spirit of God is sent to us,” and since Christ’s prayer was sure to be answered it was a secure source of hope.
In the fourth section of his sermon, Spurgeon commented on “The result anticipated from the whole.” Here he carefully reminded his congregation that the goal of Christ’s prayer was “the unity of the Church,” and that this unity would serve as a testimony to “the divinity of Christ’s mission.”
In the fifth, and final, section of his sermon, Spurgeon bluntly asked “Are we parts of that great unity?” Here he warned his hearers not look to denominational identity, but to look to Christ, for only Christ could save.
Why you should take up and read:
Spurgeon was right when he said, “Do not be looking for all saints in one room, but in Christ.” Indeed, Christians’ “spiritual union” carried weighty implications. Accordingly, Spurgeon cried, “Let us love each other with a pure heart fervently.” “Let us help each other’s spiritual growth,” and “Let us aid each other as far as possible in every holy, spiritual enterprise.” For those wanting to further understand and dwell on believers’ unity in Christ please take up and read.
Here is the Link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/unity-in-christ#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.