We cannot be perfect apart from others. The Bible links perfection with human relationships. Christ urges us to be as perfect as our Father in heaven and ties the process to how we treat each other. The Kingdom of God is about eternal, peaceful relationships. We cannot withdraw from people and still develop the necessary relationship skills, just as God never leaves us but continues to work with us. Life would be easier for Him if He ignored us, but He works on, helping us develop our relationships with Him. He is the One who works perfection in us.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Going On to Perfection
Notice how many time He says "may be." The English word "may" implies possibilities—permission for a thing to occur, not its certainty.
In other words, Jesus' prayer shows that those in a covenant with God will have to desire unity in the same way that God does. It is a possibility that we can have it. We have permission to have it, but it is not certain yet. That unity hangs in the balance, depending on the way that we react within the relationship. Thus, He is praying that it will happen, but it is a "maybe."
The reason we need to desire unity in the same way God does is so that we can prepare for it by doing God's will, by exercising faith. Then we will be prepared to live in the same way that He does for all eternity with Him.
A husband and wife cannot be one unless they are both prepared to live the same way as the other and to make any sacrifices that might be necessary to blend the lives together. So when they marry, their union is a "maybe." The possibility exists if the two will make the efforts to make the "maybe" absolute. As Christians, we must desire this unity enough to make the right choices and sacrifices to marry Jesus Christ in His Kingdom. It is not a "done deal" yet!
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part Three)
Consider for a moment how much God must love Jesus Christ. After all, they have been working together side-by-side for literally countless years—all eternity—in perfect harmony.
Relatively few couples are blessed with outstanding marriages that last fifty years or more. After so long, the depth of their relationship must be close and intimate. If that happens between two human beings in fifty years, what would it be like after a few billion? It would be intimate beyond our comprehension. Such is the depth of God's love for Christ—far beyond our comprehension.
In this verse, Jesus is asking God to reveal two things to the world: that God sent Him and that God loves us as much as He loves Jesus Christ.
Understanding the full impact of this verse hinges on a little, two-letter word "as." One definition is "to the same extent or degree; equally." Equally implies no more, no less. This definition makes Jesus' request staggering in its implications! It means we can truthfully say that there is not a being in the universe—including Jesus Christ—whom God loves more than us. Each individual whom God has called can say the same thing. God loves us all at the same incredible, beyond-our-comprehension level.
This statement also shows Christ's unbelievable love for us. He has been with God forever, yet the Son feels no animosity that our Father loves us just as much, unlike the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, in His prayer Christ is asking God to broadcast this fact to the world! Christ is preeminent in position and responsibility—but not in the Father's love. As the perfect Parent, He does not love any one child more than the others.
To underscore this equality of love, notice how other Bible translations handle the word "as." They use words like "even as," "just as," "in the same way," "with the same love as," "as much as," and "just as much as." All emphasize the equality of the Father's love.
On the authority of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus who has been with God forever, we know the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus—no more, no less. If we consider how much He must love Christ after spending billions of years working together in perfect harmony, that is exactly how much He loves us. The true depth of that love is definitely beyond our comprehension. It takes faith to believe this simple statement of fact.
Faith to Face Our Trials
As believers, we have been personally called by God, which is a great honor. However, are we aware that God loves no one in the universe more than us—no one, including Jesus Christ? By what authority is that claim made? How about Jesus Christ Himself?
In His last prayer just before His arrest, Christ prays for “those who will believe in Me through their [the disciples'] word” (John 17:20). That includes each of us who believe in Christ because of the words His disciples wrote in the Bible. Referring to these believers in verse 23, He asks God to reveal to the world “that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
Understanding the full impact of this verse hinges on the little, two-letter word “as.” One definition is “to the same extent or degree; equally.” “Equally” means no more, no less. This definition makes Jesus' request staggering in its implications! It means we can truthfully say that there is not a being in the universe—including Jesus Christ—whom God loves more than us. Every individual whom God has called can say the same thing. God loves us all at the same incredible, beyond-our-comprehension level.
This verse also shows Christ's unbelievable love for us. He has been with God forever, yet the Son feels no animosity that our Father loves us Johnny-come-latelies just as much, unlike the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, in His prayer Jesus is asking God to broadcast this truth to the world! Our Savior is preeminent in position and responsibility—but not in the Father's love. As the perfect Parent, God does not love any one child more than the others.
Yet, in the midst of our trials, do we believe Jesus Christ? Is there any bit of knowledge more important to have deeply embedded in our minds as we face life's many problems and challenges? We have the assurance of the depth of God's love for us from Christ Himself. That could be the most important single piece of information about God's love that we can know, and God packed it into one, two-letter word: "as."
Are we to be careful to live by every word, not to overlook even one of them, no matter how small? That question deserves a resounding, “Yes!”
Christ's request refers to a oneness in unity, as a unit, of agreement. This same principle is found in Philippians 2:5, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus"—to be one in mind, one in heart, one in spirit.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim
In Galatians 3:27, Paul says we "put on" Christ at our baptism. If we sink into water, it surrounds us. If we put on a coat, it surrounds us. We are in the water or in the coat. If we put on Christ, we are in Christ.
Yet, in Colossians 1:27, Paul says Christ is in us. God reiterates this truth several times in the New Testament.
» John 17:23: Christ Himself prays to His Father: "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one."
» Romans 8:10: Paul tells us, "If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin."
» Galatians 2:20: Paul speaks of himself and all true Christians: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."
» Ephesians 3:17-18: Referring to the "inner man," Paul mentions that he prays "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
» I John 3:24: John writes: "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us."
Is this contradictory? Is it impossible? Can Christ be in us and we in Christ at the same time?
God's Word—His very Logos—answers those questions for us in John 14:20. He tells His disciples that, at His resurrection, they "will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Christ is not describing an impossible situation. He is describing perfect, total unity!
To understand this type of unity, a couple of analogies will help.
1. We can say two bricks are united when they are attached one to another with mortar, but this is not the kind of unity of which Christ speaks. Bricks "united" in this way are distinguishable from each other even by a child. True, we could say they are united, but it is better to say they are connected, attached, or adjacent.
2. Christ speaks of a more thoroughgoing unity. Picture water from bucket A being poured into water in bucket B. The waters completely intermingle; one cannot distinguish water from bucket A from that of bucket B after they are mixed.
While no analogy is perfect, these two do serve to point out the sort of unity that exists between God and the true Christian. It is a thorough commingling of minds. Ideally—and none of us is there yet—it should be impossible to distinguish our mind from Christ's. They should be that much alike! Paul urges us toward the ideal: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).
When we put on the new man, we put on Christ. We are in Him and He in us. Our goal should be to nourish that new man by renewing our minds through submission to Him, until our mind and His are indistinguishable. Now, that is unity!
Choosing the New Man (Part Three)
It is a measure of how important "being one" with the Father and Son is that, in this most important prayer delivered on the last night of Jesus' life, Jesus requested of the Father that we be "one with them" four times! In that sense, it is the most important request in this prayer that we become one with them.
Will a human being sacrifice for a good and moral purpose? Yes, we will if we believe God, and believe that He loves us. That last element is not easy, as it takes a lot of experience with Him to know that He loves us, and that He loves us every bit as much as He loves Jesus Christ. Notice what verse 23 says: "You . . . have loved them as You have loved Me." As means "equal to"! We have no trouble believing that God exists, but we have a great deal of trouble believing that God loves us. Yet, it is necessary for becoming one with Him, and returning that love back to Him. Human beings will sacrifice if they can get a good handle on their lives, believing God, and believing that He loves them.
Becoming one with the Father and the Son is accomplished through a number of factors, but none is more important for us right now than beginning to live as they live in preparation for being with them. No other way of life is acceptable to them, because no other way of life is in harmony with the way that they live.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 17:23: