What does John 17:21 mean?
ESV: that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me.
NIV: that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
NASB: that they may all be one; just 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.
CSB: May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me.
NLT: I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one — as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
KJV: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Verse Commentary:
Scripture often emphasizes how unity and love reflect a person's commitment to Christ (John 13:34–35; 1 John 4:20). It's noteworthy that when Jesus transitions from praying for Himself (John 17:1–5), to praying for the disciples (John 17:6–19), to praying for all Christians (John 17:20), the first thing He refers to is unity (Psalm 133:1).

Christian "love" is meant to distinguish believers from non-believers. The unbelieving world cannot see or experience the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). All they can see is how self-professed believers speak and act (Matthew 5:13–16). In this verse, Jesus points out this is how "the world" (John 17:16–18) is meant to be introduced to faith in Christ.

This is why those who say they are Christians must behave accordingly (1 Peter 2:12) and held accountable by other Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11). The need for unity does not mean tolerating blatant sin or false teaching (Galatians 1:8–9; 2 Timothy 3:16). However, the Bible is clear that those who love God will obey God (John 14:15), and the primary demonstration of that is a unifying love for other believers (John 17:23).

Jesus makes other comments implying that He is God and shares the divine nature with God the Father (John 5:22; 10:30; 14:9). In this specific context, His reference is to unity of purpose and intent. Jesus' actions, consistent with the words of God and the will of God, were proof that He was sent by God (John 14:11, 31). The same is meant to be true of Christian believers: that their actions and attitudes reflect a commitment to their Creator (Colossians 3:14).
Verse Context:
John 17:20–26 completes the High Priestly Prayer offered by Jesus just before He goes to Gethsemane, where He will be captured by His enemies. His prayer has included requests on behalf of Himself and His closest disciples. Now, Christ begins to pray for those who will come to faith in Him through the writings and teachings of those apostles. A major theme of this prayer is for love and unity.
Chapter Summary:
In this passage, known as the High Priestly Prayer, Jesus speaks to God about three main topics. First is Christ Himself, asking God the Father to glorify Him so He can glorify the Father. Next, Jesus prays for the faith and courage in His closest disciples. Finally, He prays for those who will come to faith because of the apostles' writing and teaching. This moment occurs before Jesus enters Gethsemane, where the other Gospels will record His final anguished prayers before being arrested (Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46).
Chapter Context:
Over the last several chapters (John 13—16), Jesus has been giving last-minute instruction to His closest disciples. These lessons composed a large part of the Last Supper. Among those teachings were several warnings about persecution, with the encouragement of knowing the Holy Spirit would come. In chapter 17, we read Jesus' High Priestly Prayer, making requests on behalf of Himself, the apostles, and future believers. After this, Jesus will go into Gethsemane where Judas will turn Him over for arrest and His eventual execution.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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