Last lesson we heard Paul say that real unity in Christ’s church begins with love and right relationships. Today we see the second requirement for real unity in the church: unity in doctrine and belief. Paul makes it clear the right fundamental beliefs are essential. This passage is unique in the New Testament as it speaks of the “Ones” of Christian doctrine. We must believe in: one body (place for all the saved in Christ), one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.
“…Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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 4:3-6)
- The Christians in Ephesus had believed the good news about God’s Great Plan through the preaching of Paul and others. Both what they believed and how they lived had radically changed. We can read Paul’s speech to their elders in Acts 20:18-35 to hear about his ministry in Ephesus.
- So Paul is not writing to them something new, but rather giving them a concise and precise set of doctrines and lifestyle decisions which would continue to be a firm foundation for the future.
- What is necessary for the church – the whole body of believers in Christ Jesus everywhere – to do in order that God is glorified? Unity! Oneness! Unity and Oneness as it reflects the beauty of God in living out His Great Plan.
- It begins with love and our attitudes and actions toward each other – Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:1-5
- But the second part of unity is oneness in the core pillars of what we believe – that is what we will live for and will even die for!
THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT?
- It is interesting that Paul says “the unity of the Spirit” instead of just saying “unity.” Why the emphasis on the Holy Spirit of God?
- As we think about the phrase “unity of the Spirit,” what comes to mind? I think it means:
- The unity that belongs to the Spirit
- The unity created and maintained by the Spirit
- Notice what Paul has already told the Ephesians about the Spirit’s part in God’s Great Plan:
- 1:13 – every believer has been sealed (marked with ownership) by the one Holy Spirit
- 1:14 – every believer has Him as a guarantee of our future inheritance
- 2:18 – through Jesus both Jews and Gentiles have access in the one Spirit to the Father
- 2:22 – both Jewish and Gentile believers have become one temple in which God dwells through His Spirit
- 3:5 – God’s Great Plan was revealed to the apostles and prophets through the Spirit
- 3:16 – every believer is strengthened in their inner being through God’s Spirit
- Still to come in the epistle are other aspects of the Holy Spirit and the Church:
- 4:30 – we must not “grieve” the Holy Spirit by whom we were sealed
- 5:18 – every believer is to be “filled” (under the influence?) of the Spirit, not alcohol
- 6:17 – every believer is to take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God as our weapon against evil
- 6:18 – believers are to be praying at all times in the Spirit (some think this simply means “spirit” or “from the heart” though it seems out of context to me since Paul had just mentioned the Spirit in the verse just before this)
- If the Holy Spirit of God has not and is not doing all possible to create and maintain unity among God’s people, it would be hard to imagine what else He could do to accomplish this unity!
“THERE IS ONE…”
- The list of “ones” in Ephesians 4:3-6 is unique in all of Paul’s writings, indeed the entire New Testament!
- The believers needed to know, as we do today, that their enemy – the Ruler of This Present World – was and is using every “weapon of mass destruction” against them that he has in his vast arsenal. Paul lists some of those “weapons” in Romans 8:33-39.
- Friction, pride, self-interest, immorality
- Racial, cultural, and political prejudices
- False teachings and doctrines of men
- He is now going to emphasize that unity and glorifying God is not just the result of everyone being nice and getting along.
- He is NOT going to say that it doesn’t matter what you believe, or that everyone has a right to their own ideas and opinions on the key elements of God’s Great Plan. These will be pillars upon which the Church stands – the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets once the Chief Cornerstone (Christ Jesus) was laid down by the Father himself (Ephesians 2:20).
- There is one body – he has already identified this as the Church, the united Jewish and Gentile believers. There cannot be more than just one! It was not in God’s Great Plan!
- There is one Spirit – while there are “spirits many” (whether demonic or human), there is only one Holy Spirit of God which indwells and empowers every believer as well the whole Church.
- There is one hope you were called to – the assured hope of redemption and reconciliation with our Creator and God.
- There is one Lord – Jesus alone is Lord. He Himself said while on the earth that we cannot serve two masters.
- There is one faith – doctrines and teachings which denied the deity and saving work of Christ, which deviated from the wisdom of God revealed by the Spirit through the Lord, the Apostles and other spokesmen is not the Gospel nor the Faith delivered.
- There is one baptism – as part of the Great Commission and the participation in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, every believer had been baptized for remission of sins and to rise to walk a new life. Any other water ceremony was not part of the Plan of God!
- There is one God and Father of all – how important it was for the Ephesians to remember that Artemis, Apollo, Jupiter or any other god so-called was really no god at all.
CONCLUSION: Just as Paul struggled mightily with both words and actions to build and maintain the unity among believers which God’s Great Plan demanded, we should also struggle with all our might to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” among believers today.
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