1+1+1=1

It’s important to understand not just the fact but the impact of our spiritual identity.

Like a mirage shimmering in our peripheral vision, the mystery of the Trinity defies definition. Yet, if Jesus’ identity can’t be understood apart from the Father and Holy Spirit, then neither can we grasp our own identity in Christ without exploring the Trinity. That’s why our triune God invites us into this shrouded embrace—not for comprehension, but for communion.

 

Read

To get the most out of this Bible study, read John 14-17. Before you read, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in this passage. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. And above all else, trust the Lord. He’s the best teacher.

Key Passage: John 14:17-20; John 16:12-15; John 17:20-26

 

Background

One purpose of Jesus’ early ministry was to bring the Jewish leadership to a decision about His messiahship. By attributing to Satan a miracle done through the Holy Spirit’s power (Matt. 12:24), the Pharisees expressed their verdict of rejection. From that point on, the Lord focused on training the disciples to continue His work in His absence. This culminated in Jesus’ farewell address (John 14-17), which was directed not only to the participants of the Last Supper but also to all future disciples—namely, the church. In it, Jesus spoke about the Christian’s spiritual identity.

 

Reflect

The key to understanding our identity in Christ is two-fold. First, by putting on flesh and walking among us, Jesus identified with humanity before we ever thought to identify with Him. Second, though He’s a distinct person, Jesus is part of the Trinity; His own identity can’t be understood apart from His Father and the Holy Spirit. And so it is with us—we may identify with Jesus on a personal level, but our union with Him is an inherently communal, rather than individual, experience.

  • In John 14:18, Jesus comforts the disciples by telling them He will not leave them as orphans. Considering the definition of orphan, how do you think Jesus sees Himself in relation to His followers?

  • Write “disciples,” “Jesus,” and “Father” in one line on a piece of paper. Now, reread John 14:20 to see how Jesus describes their relationship. At first glance, it may seem akin to Russian nesting dolls, with one entity resting inside another inside another. But on closer inspection, that image falls apart. Draw lines connecting the words, based on Jesus’ explanation. Describe how the three parties are interrelated.

  • Jesus identified with humanity before we ever thought to identify with Him.

  • In Their unbroken unity, the triune Godhead practices perfect mutual submission, agency, and dependency on one another. How does each member of the Trinity interact with the others, according to John 14:10 and John 16:12-15?

 

Continuing the Story

As Jesus continues speaking to His disciples, the conversation delves more deeply into the interdependence that’s tied in to identifying with Him.

  • In the John 15 passage on the vine and the branches, one of the most repeated words is abide, or remain. The Greek word is menó; among its meanings, according to Strong’s Concordance, are “to continue to be present, to remain as one, not to perish, not to become another or different, not to depart.” Usually we think of “remaining” as a passive state, but here it’s pictured as an active resistance against an external force. What things are pulling you away from the Vine? If you’re remaining fully present in Him, in what ways does that imply your absence elsewhere?

  • Look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Which of the two sisters remained with Jesus, not allowing herself to be swept away by the tide of chores and preparations? Now, consider that the other sister was simply fulfilling the cultural responsibility of hospitality. In light of this, what expectations and responsibilities in your life might be siphoning your attention and presence away from Jesus? Would choosing to resist the pull of such obligations incur complaints of neglectfulness or irresponsibility?

 

Reflect

At the end of John 17, Jesus transitions into praying for “those also who believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20), which includes every person throughout history who trusts Him as Savior.

Here “remaining” is pictured as an active resistance against an external force.

  • In John 17:23, Jesus prays that we “may be perfected in unity.” Have you ever experienced perfect unity with a group of believers? How would you characterize such unity?

  • In what ways does identifying with Jesus position us for unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ? In your own life, is unity within your community of believers the norm or the exception? Considering yourself as part of a whole, what might be preventing you from becoming one with God and His church?

REMEMBER Identity unifies.

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

From identity flows unity, but why does unity even matter? Obviously, working together makes achieving a goal much faster and simpler. Take, for instance, the Tower of Babel: With one purpose and one language, the people began to build something that merited God’s intervention. That’s an astounding level of cooperation, but even they had to stack the bricks one by one—the sum of their unity was not greater than its individual contributors. In contrast, Jesus prayed for us to experience a supernatural unity, the kind that produces something far beyond the sum of its contributors’ will and purpose.

  • Reread John 17:20-26, paying particular attention to verse 23. What effects does “perfect unity” produce on a global scale?

  • In Acts 2:42-47, how is the account of the early church a picture of this kind of unity? How did believers’ communion with one another mimic the interdependent, mutually submissive relationship of the Trinity?

  • Eleven times throughout chapters 14-17 of John’s gospel, we find versions of the word glory. Look specifically at John 17:4-5, John 17:10, John 17:22, and John 17:24. What role does glory play in Jesus’ relationship with His Father? With His disciples and us? How does knowing that Jesus has given us His glory (v. 22) affect how you think about yourself and fellow believers? In this passage, glory flows back and forth between members of the Trinity and us—it’s a reciprocal experience. Imagine light bouncing off multiple mirrors; is the light muted or magnified?

  • God’s very nature is communal and inclusive. Through Jesus, He invites us in to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), identifying ourselves with the God who first identified Himself with us. And in that way, His love is revealed to a suffering world.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

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17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.

20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

20 I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

23 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.

24 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.

25 O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me;

26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.

12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.

39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word.

40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me."

41 But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;

42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

23 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.

42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;

45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.

46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.

5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them.

22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

24 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.

4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

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