It was Jesus’ prayer to the Father for those who belong to Him to be one (John 17:21), that is, to be one in spirit and purpose. This will be the case if those who belong to Him allow the Word to control their lives and the way things are done relative to religious matters. Unfortunately, one can look around and see those who call themselves Christians are hardly one in spirit and purpose. They are not one in name (Baptist Church, Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, etc.) and neither are they one in doctrine (saved by faith alone, not saved by faith alone, once saved always saved, one can lose their salvation, women preacher and elders, no women preachers nor elders, etc.).
Did Jesus’ prayer fail? No, it did not fail, and neither will it fail when those who abide in His word (John 8:31-32) do things in Bible ways and call things by Bible names. This cliché is a powerful one. While some denigrate it, they do so because they have failed to understand and appreciate its influential drawing power. Back in 1982-83, this phrase took me from a man-made institution and started me on my path to study the Scripture in order to be sure I am on the Lord’s path. I don’t want to be on a path set in place by man.
There were consequences (or a fallout) to my decision; I made many, far too many, mistakes in my learning and walking with the Lord. Still, I stayed the course. I was convinced of its rightness then, and no less so today. I desired conversation with any and all in matters pertaining to wisdom of the approach, would even debate any who challenged it. I now have nearly 40 years of experience.
In John 18:38, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” This, too, is a powerful expression. What is truth? From the words of Jesus, His words are truth. That means, in matters pertaining to God, anything that comes from man is not the truth of God. Such things that come from man that are not connected to the truth of God are 1) a person is saved by faith alone. This is not a teaching of the New Testament (James 2:24). Try as one might, it won’t be found. What will be found is one is saved by faith. The two expressions are not the same. If one is saved by faith alone, that means God’s essential command of repentance is not required. Who will argue for this? Some, in reply, say faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Really? It was John who said this is not so when he said some believed but would not repent (John 12:42-43). 2) Some will say, in religious matters, there is nothing in a name. What they mean is this: there is nothing in the name of a religious group of people who call themselves by a name not found in the Bible. As far as they are concerned, all roads (in Protestant Christianity) lead to heaven. Is that true, however? Think along this line. You are a male/husband/father, would you want your wife to take the name of another man when she is married to you? In Ephesians 5, the Lord’s apostle said as the husband is the head of the wife, so Christ is the head of the church (5:23), the church is presented to Himself as a people unblemished (5:26). There is no chance the Lord is going to accept a name He does not recognize. A name denotes identification, possession, even doctrine. Do you think I am wrong? 3) Related to the previous point, in the New Testament, the local church is set up, organized after God’s pattern. In Philippians 1:1, Paul addressed his letter to the elders, deacons and the congregation. Elders? This word corresponds to other English words such as bishop, overseer, pastor and presbyter. In the New Testament, these men are married and with children, but not just children, faithful children. In fact, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to set up the church appointing elders and deacons in every church. Yet, in today’s Protestant churches, we hardly have this. We have “pastor” who is the preacher, married or not, children or not; male or not. Does any of this matter? To the Lord it does.
The above long paragraph is to illustrate the importance of staying with the Lord’s way, doing Bible things in Bible ways and calling Bible things by Bible names. Some may dismiss it for any number of reasons, but if one’s heart is loyal to the Lord, obedient to the Lord and His way, if one listens and obeys the Lord’s prayer of John 17, this is what he and she will do. RT