Paul has urged us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. As we have noticed in our study of Ephesians, the calling was our identity that Paul described in the first three chapters. We are chosen, adopted, heirs, saved, and reconciled. As Ephesians 3:21 summarizes, we exist to glorify God. Because we exist to glorify God, then we must live a certain way. We cannot continue to live to follow the desires of the mind and body. God has condemned that life for living that way made us children of wrath and made us dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Paul tells us that walking worthy of the calling begins with the need for unity. In our last lesson we noticed that we are to maintain the unity of the Spirit by having proper attitudes toward one another. We are to practice humility, gentleness, as patience as we bear with one another. There cannot be unity if we are not practicing these characteristics. But these things alone will not bring us to unity. While we must have these characteristics to be united we must also have a basis for unity. Paul teaches us this basis in verses 4-6.
Introducing The Seven “Ones”
In the first three verses the exhortation to unity focused on the loving deference we must have for one another. In verses 4-6 you will notice that the exhortation to unity is based on seven unalterable, absolute truths. Now I want us to consider something very important. I want to consider how this passage is one of the most violated passages in Christianity. Within Christianity (and I am referring to people that claim to be followers of Christ from all denominations and non-denominations), everyone agrees on only three of these statements. The three that are agreed upon are one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father. The others are not and this is a great problem.
If you ask someone if there is one faith, people will respond that we can have all kinds of different beliefs and actions toward God. In fact, there is why there are so many different groups under the loosely defined umbrella of Christianity. Everyone believes and practices different things. Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and on and on believe different things. Yet some will try to say that we are all the same and it does not matter what you believe or practice. But Paul said that there is only one faith.
Ask someone if there is only one body. Some will say that there is one body, but it consists of all these different religions or denominations. Some will say that there are many ways to God. Some will say that it does not matter what you believe or what faith you have, as long as you are seeking, you are going to find God. But the scripture teaches that there is only one group of believers, not many bodies.
Once again ask someone if there is one baptism. Again many will say that there are all kinds of baptisms. In fact, baptism is not important at all and the form does not matter. But the scripture teaches there is one baptism. We cannot have one Spirit who directly revealed the mind and the will of God and have multiple faiths, multiple bodies, and multiple actions. We cannot have one Lord and still have diverse faiths, diverse bodies, and diverse practices. We cannot have one God and Father of all and have all the different things that we see in the religious world today. These seven ones are the basis for unity. They are absolute and cannot be altered. These seven “ones” depend on one another. Either there are seven “ones,” these absolute truths to be believed in or there are none of these. One God gave one faith. The one Spirit revealed the one hope. One Lord created one body. One Lord gave one baptism. We cannot have unity at any price. Paul gives us these seven “ones” that are the ground for unity. They are our doctrinal undergirding that cannot be changed or altered in anyway. We are joined by these “ones.” This is to be our common ground and foundation.
It is easy to forget that this is a picture. We read the term that we belong to the body of Christ and forget what this implies. If you belong to the body, then you do what the head (which is Christ) says. You obey him. You function under his control and will. One body means that there is one group of saved people who belong to Jesus and those people are those who are walking worthy of the calling. They are listening to the head, which is Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). There cannot be multiple bodies, just as your head cannot have multiple bodies. Those who belong to Jesus, were purchased by Jesus, and listen to Jesus are the body. Thus we want to identify ourselves with other people who are doing the same thing. All local churches are not created equal and it does matter where you go because you want to work with people that are listening to and doing what Jesus instructed.
Further, this reminds us that look beyond ourselves. The body does not consist merely of Christians in West Palm Beach. The body consists of Christians all over the world, in every city. This means that we have a concern and show support for others who are faithful to the Lord. Our vision is not only here in West Palm Beach. Our vision is for the kingdom of the Lord across the globe. I cannot simply focus my attention only here and be blind to the needs of the Lord’s kingdom in other places. We must have a vision of the work of the kingdom of the Lord. We have moved too far into hyper-isolation. Too often we have no contact and no care for other Christians in other places. There was a time when Christians had this vision. When another church had a gospel meeting, many Christians would attend to support that meeting. But you see today that few come to our lectureship from other places and, to be fair, few from here go to support others. The apostle Peter commands us to “love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17). When we read the book of Acts, we certainly see church autonomy. But we certainly see relationships that extended beyond the local church and a care and action for Christians in those other cities across the Roman Empire. We are not in competition with other sound local churches like the Christians who meet at Savona Blvd in Port St. Lucie or the Christians who meet at Harding Street in Hollywood. Our concern is fighting Satan and bringing souls to Jesus.
Our unity is based on the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit revealed the will of the Lord. The Holy Spirit showed us the way we are to go. There are not multiple directions to God. Remember what Paul taught about the Spirit in Ephesians 3:3-5 that the one Spirit revealed the mystery of God to the apostles and prophets so that all who read what they wrote can understand and have the same insight as them. The work of the Spirit is what works on our hearts and transforms our lives.
It is no surprise that the one Spirit leads us into the one hope. This is what the Spirit was promising over and over again. The Spirit would be poured out when the Christ came which would bring about renewed hearts, the restoration of the blessings of God upon his people, the restored kingdom of God offered to all who would enter, and the restoration of God’s covenant in which people come receive forgiveness of sins. We are joined together in this one hope because we stand on these restored blessings and privileges. Through these restored blessings we can belong to the Father and spend our eternity with him in worship and praise. We have one hope. That one hope is not to make more money. That one hope is not to live a long life. That one hope is not be healthy, wealthy, and wise. That one hope is not about anything in this life in terms of a physical pursuit. Our one hope is to be in continued fellowship with the Lord forever. We cannot have unity if we all do not have this same hope.
The concept is very simple. Jesus is in charge. Jesus is the Lord. When I do what I want, then I am saying that there are two lords: Jesus and myself. When we choose to not do exactly what Jesus said, then Jesus is no longer the Lord. Then we have problem because God said there is one Lord and it is not you or me. Unity does not come by ignoring our differences with other Christians or other local churches. Unity is found when everyone submits to the one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This leads us to the one faith. This means that there is one body of truth that has been revealed by God through the Spirit. We cannot believe whatever we want to believe and still have one faith. There is one faith. There is one set of revealed teachings from God. So we cannot follow our heart. We cannot follow what we think is right. We are commanded to come to unity of that faith. We conform ourselves to that one teaching.
Now, in our world today this is where people start having a problem. People will say that it is arrogance to declare that there is only one faith. That is intolerant. Declaring one Lord is already under attack. But now you have crossed the line when you say that there is only one faith. There is only one way to live your life. There is only one standard that is revealed by the one Lord. How arrogant to say that there is one way! How arrogant to say that there is one faith!
But let’s consider this argument for a moment. Is there an answer to 2+2? You may say that the answer is 4. Are you being arrogant for declaring that there is only one answer to 2+2? Are you being intolerant in your response? How dare you suggest that there is only one way! I believe in my heart that 2+2 equals 7. That is what I like, that is what I want to believe, and you cannot tell me otherwise. Are being narrow-minded for rejecting my answer? Are you being short-sighted and intolerant for rejecting the notion that 2+2 equals 7. Absolutely not. Truth is not arrogance. Truth is not intolerance. Truth is truth. There are things in life that are absolute. We have to get over this false notion that nothing is absolute. In fact, the statement itself, “Nothing is absolute” is an absolute statement that by definition must be rejected! Of course there is truth. Of course there is knowledge. Of course there are absolutes. The problem is that we like to get the things of God pulled this nonsense. There is one faith. We act like having humility is to be wishy-washy and not stand for the one faith. Paul commanded humility in this context (4:2) while declaring unity that is built only on these seven truths.
Let me go one step further. Is it intolerant for a doctor to never consider prescribing poison to you? I have never been outraged that my doctor has never prescribed me poison for medication. Should I call my doctor “narrow-minded?” Guess what? I want him to be narrow-minded. I don’t want him thinking about giving me poison. Why? Because there are absolutes. There is one truth. This is true when it comes to God because he said so. There is one faith. There is one way.
There is one meaning to baptism. The apostle Peter makes the meaning clear. First Peter 3:21 says that this is how we appeal to God for a clean conscience. We cannot try to skip around or dance around the clear reading of these texts. Baptism is not a sacrament. Baptism shows a faithful response by the person to God, requesting forgiveness, a cleansing of the conscience. Baptism is not a mere sign, seal, or symbol. The scriptures never describe baptism that way, though many try to frame baptism that way.
Further, there is only one form of baptism and that is immersion. We never read of any other form. Everyone went down into the water. Jesus did. Throughout the book of Acts we see immersion, like Acts 8:38. Paul said that we were “buried with Christ in baptism” (Romans 6:4). There was not sprinkling or pouring of water in the New Testament as baptism. All examples of baptism are immersion in water. Immersion is the picture of the one baptism.
But we must note that baptism is necessary. If baptism is not necessary, why is this included in the list? These seven “ones” are the basis for unity. Baptism is listed as one of the seven unalterable, absolute truths. If baptism is not necessary, then why would this belong on this list? Nothing else on this list is optional. You cannot decide not to believe in one Lord, one faith, or one hope. Nor can we reject one baptism. There is one way to ask God for grace. There is one way to enter into the relationship with the Father. This is what the scriptures repeatedly describe. Romans 6 teaches that this is how we are joined with Christ. Acts 2 tells us that this when sins are forgiven. Colossians 2 says that baptism is when the sins of the flesh are cut off. If baptism is not necessary, why were twelve disciples of John commanded to be baptized in Acts 19?
I don’t know why so many are uncomfortable with baptism. I really don’t understand. Let no one ever think that. But baptism is certainly not irrelevant or unnecessary. Paul says it is the basis for our unity in Christ. Again,
One God and Father
There is only one Father. There is not Allah or some other conjured up god or idol. There is not some “big man in the sky” or some vague “greater power.” There is one God and no other.
This is the one family in Christ with our shared Father, sharing the same hope, on the same basis of faith and grace. Peace comes by recognizing that we share the same identity, the same testimony, and same Father. Unity depends on proper attitudes (4:1-3) and proper beliefs (4:4-6). These seven truths stand whether we like them or not. You can not like that 2+2=4 but it is still the truth. It is still unchanging and absolute.