Home   e-Library       中文 
e-Library Home |  Browse By Category |  Study the Bible    
 (Manna 69: One True Church)
The Lord’s Parting Prayer for His Disciples—the True Church
TOC | Previous | Next

The Lord's Parting Prayer for His Disciples—the True Church

Vincent Yeung—Cambridge, UK

Churches are carrying too much baggage of outdated ideas, say the critics. They believe that the church has to change to survive. To this end, these critics recommend that the modern church be all-encompassing and accept all views unconditionally, even if these views contradict the basic tenets of Christian beliefs. Although not new, such comments came to the fore again when the UK government proposed to legalize gay marriages, and the Church of England stated its opposition to these plans.

Besides societal issues, the True Jesus Church (TJC) also has had to counter attacks on its views on Christian ecumenism. Fellow Christians have long been critical of the TJC stance that the gospel of salvation can only be found in the true church. To them, TJC should join the one big happy Christian family and become more tolerant and accepting of the teachings of other denominations.

These quick snapshots reflect prevailing human expectations of the church. But as Christians – followers of Christ – that should be the least of our concerns. The Greek word ekklesia for church means that which is called out. Just as God called the Israelites out of many nations, Jesus has called Christians to follow Him in His ministry. Hence, our main consideration, in fact the only consideration, should be what Jesus expectations of His church are.

Although the Lord Himself only mentions the term church twice in the Gospels (Mt 16:18, 18:17), in His parting prayer during the last supper (Jn 17:6–26), Jesus clearly spelled out His expectations regarding the nature, purpose, and characteristics of His believers, which collectively constitute the church.

The True Church is of God

"I pray for them for they are Yours. (Jn 17:9)

The theme of belonging to God runs throughout the entire prayer: They are Yours (Jn 17:6,9), all mine are Yours (Jn 17:10), keep them in Your name (Jn 17:11,12), keep them from the evil one (Jn 17:15). Believers who constitute the church belong to God for they have been purchased by the blood of God. This is why the church is called the church of God (Act 20:28).

The believers do not belong to the world (Jn 17:14) and they have been kept from the evil one in Jesus name (Jn 17:11,12,15). Only Gods power enables the church to free herself from the influence of this world and the control of the evil one.

However, God is not an object on which humans can lay claim at their own whim and fancy. We may say that God is mine and we are Gods children, but it is God who ultimately decides who belongs to Him. We did not choose Jesus. Instead, He chose us (Jn 15:16). The fundamental relationship between God and the believers is built entirely on Gods calling and our unconditional submission to Gods word. Jesus said, If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love (Jn 15:10, cf. 14:20). Keeping the commandments is certainly not a mere intellectual pursuit where the word of God is painstakingly studied, analyzed, theorized and rationalized. While serious and dedicated study is essential, just as critically, we need to carry out these commandments.

Moreover, the church is not a social organization compelled to accept all the diverse and divergent views of modern society. Instead, the church belongs to God and must therefore practice Gods unchanging word. Any view of society that conflicts with the word of God must be robustly and steadfastly rejected, no matter how great the pressure we face from society (Jn 15:18-19).

The True Church must have the truth and practiCe it

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (Jn 17:17)

Man cannot discover God through his own initiative or effort. We know Him only because of His gracious self-revelation. The adoption, the covenant, and the giving of the Law were completely Gods own initiative. Similarly, Gods name could only be revealed through His own volition. Hence, when Moses asked for Gods name, God told him to tell His people that He was I AM. In the New Testament, God revealed Himself and His name through Jesus: I have manifested Your name (Jn 17:6) and I have declared to them Your name (Jn 17:26).

Today, those who believe in God have been given the word of God (Jn 17:8,14). On their parts, they have received, believed (Jn 17:8), and kept it (Jn 17:6). Such commitment to Gods word forms the basis of our relationship with Him. We need to receive wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and trustingly. Accepting Gods word entails keeping Gods commandments—which encompasses everything from accepting the gospel of salvation to practicing His word in our daily lives. What we believe and practice must be the complete word of God. The church is not a cafeteria, a place where we can pick and choose what we like; hearing and applying what appeals to us and blithely ignoring what we do not like.

The true church of the living God is the foundation and pillar of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). A church can only be called a true church when it encompasses and embraces all the teachings in the Bible, presents the gospel of salvation in its fullness, and is able to bring people completely before God.

As God is holy, the true church must also be holy (Lev 11:44-45). We are sanctified by practicing Gods word, because His word is the truth (Jn 17:17,19). Keeping His word will also lead us away from the world (Jn 17:16,14). As believers, we should be acutely aware of Jesus uncompromising stance and the importance of demarcating ourselves from the influence of the world (Jas 4:4).

The True Church must preach the gospel and glorify God

I also have sent them into the world. (Jn 17:18)

Separate from the world does not mean that the true church has been called to self-satisfied isolation. The church has been chosen for a reason—to glorify God. Jesus said, I am glorified in them (Jn 17:10). As a separate people, we are in the world, but we are not influenced by the evil one (Jn 17:14–15). So we do not live as passive hermits but as messengers sent into the world (Jn 17:18). We live to glorify God just as Jesus did by completing the work that God entrusted to Him (Jn 17:4). Jesus has given the church the word of God (Jn 17:8) that she may know God. In turn, the church must spread the same word, so that others can come to believe in Jesus (Jn 17:20) and receive eternal life through knowing God (Jn 17:3).

God has been glorified through Jesus (Jn 17:4); Jesus is glorified because of the task He accomplished on earth (Jn 17:5; cf. 13:31–32). In the same way, the church has been given the glory that Jesus had received (Jn 17:22). Therefore, the church will and should do greater work than Jesus did (Jn 14:12). Today, the church has truly grown and spread to every corner in this world, reaching out to different nations, tongues, and races. The once close-knit circle of the Lord Jesus has now become spatially and culturally diverse.

The True Church must be united

That they may be one just as We are one. (Jn 17:22)

The multiplicity of todays environment far exceeds the divisions noted by Paul between Greek, Jews, and the barbarians, yet the diversity in the church should not be a barrier for true fellowship in Jesus. As members of the true church – the one body of Christ – we should be vigilant against consciously or unconsciously dividing our churches on the basis of location, nationality, and ethnicity. The oneness of God and Jesus is inextricably linked to the expectation that the church be one (Jn 17:11,21,22). A closer look into the church in the apostolic time, however, reveals that she was plagued by divisions. The Epistles of Paul, Peter, John and James clearly evinced that conflicts in the church were inevitable, ranging from high profile divisions in Corinth to lower level discord between individual workers in Philippi (Phil 4:2).

No wonder Jesus kept on reminding us of the need for unity in His parting prayer! We are easily influenced by our personal prejudices, strong will, jealousy, pride, and self-interest. These drive huge wedges among brethren, resulting in a lack of unity, which stunts church growth and hinders her from achieving perfection and from fully glorifying God (Jn 17:23). The world will not believe that a church in disarray and riven by in-fighting is the true church sent by God (Jn 17:21). Without unity, the church is not able to manifest Gods love (Jn 17:23). And without Gods love amongst the members, the church cannot spread His love to the world (Jn 17:26). If the truth is not complemented by love, it is empty—like sound bites with little substance.


Jesus parting prayer is our source of consolation as well as a last reminder to live up to Gods expectations. We were born again through the washing of His blood and of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:5). This fundamental relationship makes us special because we are separated from the world. However, this status comes with obligations—we need to glorify Him by following His commandments.

The church is the body of Christ (Eph 1:22–23); there is only one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all (Eph 4:3–6). The true church cannot have diverse and opposing views on her basic beliefs. Just as Christ can only have one body, there can only be one true church that is called by God, sanctified by practicing His word that He has given to her. As members of the church, we do not belong to the world, and therefore we need to glorify Him through unity, loving one another and preaching His word. Through this, the world can see that God is in us, we are of God, and that His love is perfected in our unity.

PDF Download

Author: Vincent Yeung