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John 17:21-26 Study Guide: Loved by God

Community Group Study Guide — Loved by God 
John 17:21-26

Study Information:
Do you ever take for granted that someone loves you? There are certain people we come to expect love from whether it is friends, family or a spouse and when we come to take it for granted we forget that love is a gift. Do you take it for granted that God loves you? Or do you find it hard to believe? There are a few places in scripture where the prayer is that we’d KNOW the love of God. Paul prayed this in Ephesians 3:14-19 and Jesus prayed for it at the end of John 17. Even mature believers in Jesus can struggle to understand the depths of God’s love for us and that we can sometimes believe that he has to love us or simply tolerates us. Yet the Bible teaches us that the quality of love we receive from God is the same kind of love God the Father has for God the Son and this is because we are “in Christ.” Jesus prayed that we’d realize this because it is hard to believe and would change our life if we truly grasped it. 

Union in Christ
John 17:21-23
Jesus’ prayer that we’d know the love of God and be one even as he and the Father were one is based on our union in Christ. In John 17:23 Jesus prayed to God the Father using the words “I in them and you in me” which is a great statement of what it means to be “in Christ.” Being in Christ means that we receive a new identity individually as new creations and collectively as a new people redeemed by the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross. To be “in Christ” means that our life is hidden in Christ and the mystery of the gospel is that Christ is in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27, 3:3). This is not an eradication of our identity but a security of our life and salvation in Jesus and that all the spiritual blessings we have come from this union in Christ. 

Since we have union in Christ, Jesus prayed for our unity as his followers. Jesus prayed that “they'd be one, even as we are one.” There are many things that will try to create division and disunity in the church. In a previous study guide we talked about some of those distinctions related to differences in our socio-economic standing, culture, political attitudes, life experiences and various likes and dislikes we have. Those things all divide up the world and create distinction and partiality. Jesus prayed that we’d be one even as the Triune God is one. This means fellowship and unity unhindered by sin. As the church gathers to worship, we are a group of “differents” who are at the same time united in Christ and made one. Jesus told his disciples in John 13:33-34 that people would know that we follow him because of our love for one another and here in John 17 he prayed that our unity would be a testimony to the world of God’s love (John 17:23). 

A Love Before the Foundation of the World
John 17:23-26
The kind of love we are meant to have for other believers and the kind of love we receive from God is not of this world. Jesus’ statements about the kind of love we receive from God are astounding. Three times our attention is drawn to the nature of God’s love; in verse 23, 24 and 26 Jesus prayed that love that God the Father has for us is the same kind of love he shares with God the Son. God’s love is not worldly, temporary or limited. His love for his followers is not generic or off-brand in quality, it is the real deal. Do you believe that God loves you with the same kind of love he shares with the Son? Do you realize you’re invited into real fellowship with God and you can share in this eternal love that he has?  The reason we can know this is true is because of our union in Christ, that God has adopted us into a new family and given us a new identity and that we are counted in Christ and therefore get to share in the love that God has eternally known, or as Jesus prayed, the love he shared before the foundation of the world. 

If you ever wondered what God was doing before he created the universe this passage gives us a window into that question. God has eternally existed, in a relationship marked by love, and had no need. God did not create so that he could love, he created because he loves. God has been and always will be entirely self sufficient, full of love and fellowship. By contrast the devil is proud, insecure, needy and empty. In Christ, we are invited to experience the love that the Son of God has always known. This is a present reality that is true of you in Christ this very moment, and as you grow in Christ you will become more and more aware of this truth in your life. 

There are certainly times in our lives where we doubt this reality. When you go through troubles and trials or believe the enemies lies you’re likely to doubt the goodness and love of God. Yet, God keeps us. He is patient with us in our anxieties, sins and our doubts. Jesus prays this prayer not because we’ve already overcome the world but because we need his help. If you’re in Christ, God is for his glory and our good, and overtime he is faithful to keep you with the end goal in mind that we would be with Christ, enjoying God and sharing in his love.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 17:21-26

How does this passage describe the kind of love that God has for followers of Jesus? How would you compare or contrast that with the love people often experience in this world?

Define “Union in Christ” and how do we see that in this passage?

What are some reasons that union in Christ impacts our unity with other believers and what does God want the world to see through our Christian unity?

Looking back over the entire high priestly prayer of John 17, what part of the prayer has impacted your faith the most? What do you struggle to believe? Have there been any life changes based on reading and studying this section of scripture, if so what are they?