There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:4-6
I should first comment that I was not actually looking forward to studying this passage. I mean, it reads like "blah blah one blah one blah one blah one all all all." It didn't really seem like it was that significant. However, after digging in, I found that I learned a "passel pot-load" (as a former boss of mine used to say) of stuff. I can now say that this passage would get me at least seven and more probably ten or eleven different sermons, if I were a homilist.
Here's the outline:
- One body. Unity in through the Church.
- One Spirit. Unity in the Holy Spirit.
- One hope. Unity in the inheritance to come.
- One Lord. Unity in Jesus Christ.
- One faith. Unity through faith according to truth.
- One baptism. Unity through the works of the Holy Spirit.
- One God and Father. Unity through the Father and full Godhead.
- Of all. God is the Father of...
- Over all. God is completely sovereign.
- Through all. God's sovereignty operates through creation.
- In all. God's work within His children.
I think that would be a really great series that can be taken from this tiny little passage. There is a lot more here than meets the eye because one has to search to determine what each of these "ones" and each of these "alls" is getting at.
In summary, each of the "ones" describes a gift to God's children that "unbelievers" do not possess. Each presents something that separates Jesus' followers and makes us distinct from the world while also presenting a commonality that we should use to gravitate towards unity within the Church. That is, we have unity with other believers, but not with the world. This is the whole "be in the world, but not of it" distinction that Christians frequently discuss. This is especially apparent given the fact that Paul spends the previous half of this letter describing doctrines that set Christians apart from the world. Therefore, while the major thrust is unity, the underlying implication is always that unity is exclusively with Christians not with everyone. (Romans 16:17-20, 2 John 6-11, James 3:17, Ephesians 4:15)
One body. It's interesting to note that almost each of these "ones" seems to tie back to this "one" and one particular passage Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 2:12-13) This passage goes in depth to describe the nature of the Church through the analogy of a human body. (By the way, by a common convention I use the capitalized "Church" to refer to the whole body of Christian believers in all diverse forms and "church" to mean local groups that gather together.)
I think Paul's words are better than mine on this subject,
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensible, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestore the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:14-27
Paul says that we are, figuratively, Christ's hands and feet and eyes and ears and intestines. This has lots of implications. For the individual, it means that God has a prepared a place for you in his Church. You weren't redeemed just to wander around and hope that you can do something for God. He's actually created you for the purpose of becoming redeemed and taking part in the works in the Church in a specific place. He has a plan. He is in control.
For the body as a whole, it becomes improper for any one believer to say to any other, "Nope, your gifts aren't needed." False. Untrue. God has a place for every believer with all ranges of skills, personalities, and abilities. I was a bit offended today when someone told me, "You become a janitor when you can't be anything else." That's hubris of a fairly nasty kind. What would the world be if there were no janitors? I shudder at the thought. Janitors and trash men and police officers and firefighters and ambulance workers and soldiers all have there place even if most of us don't want their jobs are can't comprehend the impulse that takes a person there.
The same can be said in the Church, just because you don't understand why a person is gifted in a certain way, doesn't mean that gift isn't needed. You might be surprised to find out it is when you give that person a place to exercise it.
Application: Unity means working together to serve God in whatever capacity God has gifted you and those around you. Unity means trying to make sure everyone else is best able to do the job they've been called to while they support you. This may mean helping each other learn our gifts and to become better at using them to work in God's kingdom. This might mean giving up something we want to make sure God's work happens for another. Unity through this gift from God is making sure we recognize other members of the Body and help them fulfill their potential.
One Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift to Christians that modern Christians don't often claim and aren't often comfortable with. The origins of this gift are in the Old Testament, but the promise is given most clearly in Acts 1:5, where Jesus said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." Then, in Acts 2, the arrival of the Holy Spirit is described, "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they [Jesus' Twelve Disciples] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." The story continues when they went out and preached in the streets and each person on the street heard them preaching in their own native language.
In a day and age when "science" is the defacto religion, where observable and repeatable evidence is required to believe something, the Holy Spirit is an uncomfortable ally. As such, modern (and post-modern) Christian's tend to understate the importance of this gift. We're all guilty of quenching the Spirit by merely ignore Him and pretending that we can do the work of God somehow on our own.
However, we should remember that it is by the Spirit we gain access to God the Father. (Ephesians 2:18) It is into the name of the Spirit (along with the Father and the Son) to which we are baptized with water. It is the Spirit from whom all the power of the spiritual gifts of the Christian life are delivered. (1 Corinthians 12:14)
The Spirit is a gift especially unique to believers. An unbeliever can enter the church and have the illusion of belonging to the body, but an unbeliever cannot have the Spirit.
Application: I believe the application of this point is that we need to remember the Spirit. We need to realize that we are powerless to do God's works without the Spirit. He may not settle on our heads with tongues of fire, but He is the source of power to become obedient to Christ. He is the one that does the real work of touching the lives of others and saving them. Unity comes by relying on the power of the Spirit to work out our differences and to give up our own desires and will to yield to the will of the Spirit.
One hope. This is the longest clause in the passage, "just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call." It is also interesting because when I look for the "one hope" I find many hopes. I think this is "one hope" as in these are the hopes that all Christian's share.
First, the "call" is another one of those mystical things that a lot of Christian's squirm over. I think Neo put it well during the famous Red-Pill-Blue-Pill scene of The Matrix (my paraphrase):
Morpheus: "Do you believe in fate, Neo?"
Morpheus: "Why not?"
Neo: "Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control."
Morpheus: "I know exactly what you mean."
The "call" is a thing similar to destiny in that God, not we, control it. It is that compulsion that God brings about in the life of a redeemed person to "call" him to Himself. The best picture I know of for this calling is in John 10:2-5, "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenhe has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and teh sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." Language such as this is the very reason I am a Calvinist. I don't believe that I could have come to Christ unless I already belonged to him, but my name had not yet been called.
The calling is yet another thing that Christians possess that unbelievers do not. Either the unbeliever has not yet been called or they will not be called, yet this is not the "one" Paul mentions in Ephesians. Rather he mentions the "hope" given to us through our call. I believe this hope to be the assurance we have of our calling. This assurance is the hope for a changed life and the yearning hope of the hasty return of Christ.
The believer looks forward to being united with Christ and forgetting the world's woes. We will, at that time, taste the fullness of eternal life spent in the glory of our God that we desire to know with ever greater fervor. This hope is given to us through our call and we can be assured of our call because we hope for these things. We know our hope is not in vain because Christ Himself goes before us through His resurrection and He's promised to prepare a place just for us in the New World.
This is in stark contrast to the hope of the world. A worldly man says, "No, I want to bathe in the lust of this world just a little longer." I regenerate man might feel that same temptation and even indulge in that same sin, but he ever returns to the hope that God will take him home soon.
Application: We should share this hope with one another constantly! This is a truly wonderful gift that God has granted us. We didn't deserve the salvation we received, but God gave it to us anyway. Let's rejoice in that we look forward to one day receiving that compliment above all compliments, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
To be continued... Okay, I'm running out of time to continue tonight. I'm going to post this and try and finish this in a few days.