Ephesians XIII: Sevenfold Unity - Ephesians 4:4-6

The main theme of Ephesians is how God is uniting all things in Christ, and so the very first thing Paul tells the Ephesians to do is to walk in unity. But unless the source and scope of that unity is spelled out, we run the risk of pursuing the wrong sort of unity, being united by the wrong things or in the wrong ways. The Bible doesn’t teach that any and all unity is good. So in order to walk in unity, the question we need to ask is this: What unity are we talking about? And that’s exactly what Paul answers in Ephesians 4:4-6, by giving us seven touchstones that form the basis for the Church’s unity. Christians can disagree about all sorts of issues, as long as we remain united around the seven “ones” in these three verses.

First, Paul says, there is one body. As we’ve seen in Ephesians 2, that primarily means not two bodies, one Jewish, one Gentile, but rather one new body. Also, as Paul will apply it just a few verses, it means working together and valuing each member properly. When the Church wrongfully amputates part of her body by refusing to acknowledge another Christian or group of Christians, that’s the sin of schism, an evil attack on the body of Christ, a denial of the oneness of the body.

Second, there is one Spirit. When the early Church was trying to come to grips with including Gentiles, this is what sealed the deal: the apostles reported that God had filled the Gentiles with the same Spirit that He had given them. That was the basis of their unity, and to deny it was not just an offense against the body, but an offense against the Holy Spirit. Also, when the Church chases after the spirit of the age, allowing herself to be shaped by the culture rather than God’s Word, or the spirit of disobedience, tolerating sin in her midst, these behaviors threaten the Church’s unity because the true Church only knows one Spirit.

Third, we were called to one hope. That hope is not found in personal peace and affluence, political success, national dominance, or any other such thing. We are united by our one eternal hope for Christ’s kingdom, not our temporary hopes for any earthly kingdom. The Christian hope is new creation life with Jesus, which starts now, but will only be fully realized when He returns on the great day of resurrection. All lesser hopes can come and go; this is our great hope.

The fourth touchstone, one Lord, recognizes that Christian believe that Jesus has been given all rule and authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus is in charge of everything! This statement carries both the negative implication that Caesar, Artemis, and all other gods and heroes are not the Church’s Lord, and it positively states that Jesus is that one Lord, a powerful statement that identifies Him with Israel’s one God (see Deut. 6:4, John 10:30, and Rom. 10:9). Christians are most fundamentally united by our common confession that Jesus is our one Lord.

Fifth, we share one faith. Scoffers like to point to the many doctrinal disagreements and different statements of faith as evidence of the Church’s lack of unity, but the reality is that there is a common body of truth that can be recognized as “the Christian faith,” and it is found throughout history and all over the world. Our congregation, along with millions of others, expresses the unity of our faith by confessing the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds as faithful summaries of the one faith that all Christians share.

Our Communion of churches has also united around a book of confessions, rather than just one, which allows us to welcome both credobaptists and paedobaptists into our Communion, so that we can honestly say that we have one baptism, the sixth mark here in Eph. 4. If you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, then we recognize our spiritual union with you as a fellow Christian. Receiving Trinitarian baptism is necessary for unity. Agreeing with each other about all the details isn’t!

V. 6 brings the list to a close by affirming that believers share one God and Father of all. Ultimately, we are called to be one and to live as one because there is one God. This one God is the Father of all Christians, which makes us brothers and sisters to each other, members of God’s one family. This is the sevenfold unity that God has called us to in Christ, and this is the unity that Jesus urges you to walk in as He speaks to you through His Word today.

Posted on Thursday, August 08, 2019 by CJ Bowen