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On Unity and Glory

By Timothy King

Introduction: A Look at Jesus’ Priestly Prayer for Our Unity

What I want to do here is to give you some of the findings from our studies and encourage you to continue to meditate on them. I find that the insight we gained on the subject of “glory” was powerful and much-needed in order to understand our standing before the Father and our unity with one another. Just to refresh your memory (and to bring you pilgrims up to snuff), we were in John 7 about the divided opinions of the crowd. Then we went to John 17:20-24 and noted Jesus’ prayer for His people to be one as He and the Father are one. I give commentary with the passage:

 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;This shows that the following request is not just for the first century believers, but for all generations to come, thus making it applicable to us.

 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us,The point here is that the model of unity is the relational unity that takes place between the Father and the Son. We too often look at denominational standards of unity that usually have to do with the signing of doctrinal statements or church covenants or agreement with certain doctrinal systems. Certainly the Father and the Son were in agreement doctrinally – though I doubt they would call their doctrinal position “Calvinism” or “Arminianism” or any millennial position – but the relationship they had with one another had more to do with the “glory” they gave to one another than it did with agreement in a written form. More on “glory” later.

 so that the world may believe that You sent Me. So, if there is not the oneness between believers as there is between the Father and the Son, can we be surprised at the world’s skepticism about Jesus’ identity? Ought we not to consider this as an explanation of the anemia that plagues evangelism and missions today?

 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I think this is powerful! Jesus plainly states that the glory that the Father gave to Him, He was going to give to His own – that would be us – and as a result, there was to be a oneness among His people that was comparative to the oneness between Jesus and the Father.

 I think the key to understanding this is to grasp the nature of that “glory” that Jesus was to pass on to believers. We have often associated the concept of “glory” with that visual magnificence, the cloud that would fill the temple, the glowing of Jesus’ face at the Mount of Transfiguration, or the splendor of the heavenly realms in the afterlife. We consider our “glorification” to be some form of material transformation of what we are now bodily into something more ethereal.

 We also use the phrase in revival meetings, “The glory fell,” or “The glory came down,” to describe extraordinary events, anything from corporate repentance to numerous “decisions” made. I think the common denominators here are that “glory” is associated with something that we do not possess now and something that comes intermittently. It is something future and it is usually something for which we have to strive, wait or work.

“Glory” as the Foundation of Unity

 However, I think that in considering “glory” in this manner, we have robbed ourselves of a powerful foundation for unity among Christians today. In the text, the tense of the verb denotes an event in the past already in possession. Jesus was in possession of the glory from God and He had already passed that on to His disciples.

 It was not a glory that made Him shine, nor was it a glory that caused Him to do extraordinary things. I believe that it was simply the concept of glory that referred to “honor” and the bestowal of nobility to a person. Vine’s Dictionary of Old Testament Words offers some helpful commentary on the Old Testament concept of “glory” (Hebrew, kabod).

 When used in the sense of “honor” or “importance” (cf. Genesis 45:13) there are two nuances of the word. First, kabod can emphasize the position of an individual within the sphere in which he lives (Proverbs 11:16). This “honor” can be lost through wrong actions or attitudes (Proverbs 26:1, 8) and evidenced in proper actions (Proverbs 20:3; 25:2). This emphasis then is on a relationship between personalities. Second, there is a suggestion of nobility in many uses of the word, such as “honor” that belongs to a royal family (1 Kings 3:13). Thus, kabod can be used of the social distinction and position of respect enjoyed by nobility.

 In this sense, “glory” is not manifested in some physical display or material transformation. It is descriptive of a person’s position or relationship with others. Others would view the one with kabod or “glory” as a person of honor, nobility, blessing and wealth.  This is a kind of “glory” that God could bestow on someone, or it’s also something that one person can bestow upon another.

 The person with “glory” is a person set apart from others as loftier in reputation and privilege. It was certainly true that the Father granted this to Jesus. Did He then turn around and grant this exact, same “glory” to those who would believe in Him? I believe He did.

Jesus Bestows this Royal Honor on His People

 We are meant to understand that the way the Father views His own Son Jesus is identical with the way in which He views those who believe in Him. That is the meaning of the “glory” that Jesus passed on to His disciples and that was to be the foundation for gospel unity.

 Let me make one more comment on an event mentioned above – the Mount of Transfiguration. We have that event mentioned a couple of times in the gospels, but we also have commentary on that even in 2 Peter 1:16-18.

 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”– and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

 I find it interesting that when Peter comments on the bestowal of “honor and glory from God the Father,” he did not mention the shining radiance that was physically manifested to Peter and the other two disciples. Instead, in the context of the “honor and glory,” he focuses on the “utterance.”

 That is, the honor and glory was not describing the visual appearance of Jesus, shining like the sun. Instead, the honor and glory was demonstrated in the utterance that affirmed that the Father was well-pleased with His beloved Son. I believe that this ought to be our understanding of the glory given to Jesus and passed on to us.

Unity: Bestowing God’s Glory to Us upon Others

 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Again, Jesus connects the perfection of unity (literally, “completion into one”) with the love-relationship between the Father and His people, and the Father and Jesus. I don’t think that we can hope for unity in the body of Christ unless we understand that each and every believer in Jesus as Messiah has had this bestowal of glory by Jesus. That is, that the Father views each believer as nobility in His sight. Each believer is precious and spiritually wealthy beyond imagination (Ephesians 1:3; 3:8)!

 So, how is this understanding supposed to promote unity among believers?

 First, it causes us to face the question of what we are truly like in the sight of the Father. Are we given “glory” and seen as nobility by Him, or are we, as some traditions teach, to consider ourselves worms before Him? Have you noticed that in both Catholic and Protestant traditions, we are to approach God harboring a sense of self-loathing toward ourselves?

 So, if I profess that I am a rotten, loathsome, despicable worm in the sight of God, what then must I think of others? Legalists-by-nature that we are, we still tend to think of ourselves as a little better than the “other guy.” So if I am a loathsome, despicable worm in the sight of God, then what does that make you?  How can I be “one” with someone as loathsome as you?

You can see how this might quench unity of the body.  Unity is achieved by transforming our understanding of those who are “in Christ,” including our understanding of ourselves.  “In Christ,” we are the objects of God’s unbounded grace, love, mercy, patience, kindness, etc.  I can be “one” with another who is “in Christ” because he or she is a recipient of the identical love, grace and so forth.  There is no distinction between us!

 Second, if I come to see that you – my brothers and sisters in Christ – are nobility in His sight; and if I love my heavenly Father, longing to be one with Him, loving what He loves, and honoring what He honors; does it not follow that what is noble and glorious to Him will be noble and glorious to me? If you are well-pleasing in the sight of my heavenly Father, shouldn’t you be well-pleasing to me?

 I think this is the concept behind Christ in the Father, the Father in Christ and us in them statement in vs. 23 & 26. The body of Christ is fractured for the most part because we fail to see other Christians in the same light as the heavenly Father. We are conditioned in the modern, American church to view one another through the lens of our particular institution, theological system, church- growth methodology or religious background. This, too, has hampered true gospel unity.

 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

 What does Jesus mean when He prays that “they may see My glory?” I think we follow the same line of thinking as we have been. Seeing Jesus’ glory is not to observe some visual aberration from the human standpoint such as shining countenance or such as that. To “see” the glory of Jesus is to see that He was unmistakably the object of the Father’s love and honor. This could be seen in contrast to the Jews of His day who had violated the Old Covenant and were under the covenantal curse until the advent of Yahweh’s Messiah.

 This makes sense of John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 If the “glory” that the disciples saw in that day was some visual display of radiance or something, why didn’t everyone see that? How come some claimed that they saw Jesus’ glory while others of that day seemed to be totally oblivious to it?

 I believe it was because, rather than the glory being a visual display, it was the observation that Jesus was the object of honor and nobility by the Father. His followers saw that Jesus was honored by the Father while others saw Him as a blasphemer. That is how some could see His glory and others could not.

 In all, being one with the Father means to love what He loves and honor what He honors. Until we begin to see the magnificence of grace and that through Jesus the Father bestows lavish love and honor upon sinners – the unfathomable riches of Christ – we will not learn the power for unity among one another.

 Unity is not the same as “uniformity.” When we seek corporate cohesion through institutional or doctrinal conformity, we have only a semblance of unity, not the true gospel oneness. The institutional means of conformity (such as signing the confession of faith or getting on the rolls of the organization) cannot guarantee love among the brethren.

 Further, they do more to build walls of exclusion (“you cannot be a part of us since you don’t conform to our institution/doctrinal system/methodology”) than to tear down the walls of division that Jesus came to accomplish (Ephesians 2:14). We are in desperate need of a paradigm shift where the bestowed “glory” from the Father to every believer is the foundation that promotes unity.

 Well, brethren, think about these things. May the riches of Christ be yours in abundance!

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