In Ephesians 4:1-6, the apostle Paul says this:
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.”
In this passage, Paul is beginning his practical application of the teachings that he has put forth in the first 3 chapters of this letter to the Ephesians. In the first sentence, he calls the Ephesians to walk in a manner that is consistent with their calling to be who they are in Christ, and to do this — first of all — by exercising humility, gentleness, and patience, while showing tolerance for one another in love. He finishes this exhortation by saying that the goal of all of this is to “keep [or preserve] the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”.
It’s the second sentence that I want to study in this article:
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.”
In this sentence, since it immediately follows the previous one, and it’s obviously not another exhortation, it’s clear from reading it that Paul is here giving the Ephesians reasons to be diligent to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. In doing so, he’s explaining what the unity of the Spirit is, and emphasizing the magnitude of what’s at stake if this unity isn’t maintained.
So, what’s the first reason?
“There is one body . . .”
What does he mean by “body” here? Well, he means the same thing that he has meant in the places he has already used the word in this letter. The first is in verses 22 and 23 of chapter 1:
“. . . he [God the Father] put all things in subjection under his [Christ’s] feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
For our purposes, I want to focus on what this passage says about the church being Christ’s body, and him being the Head. In the New Testament, the idea of Christ being the Head of the church has more to it than Him simply having control of it. Paul goes on to describe the church as Christ’s body. That has more meaning to it than control. It means that Christ cares for the church like a man would care for his body — he feeds it, clothes it, and protects it. It also means that Christ uses the church like a man would use his body; He accomplishes His purposes on earth primarily through the church.
But Paul further explains what he means when he says that the church is Christ’s body by calling it “the fulness of him that filleth all in all”. What does this mean? The church, the body of Christ, is Christ’s fullness. To put it another way, the fullness of Christ is in the church. Everything about Christ is in the church, and the church, as Christ’s body, manifests who He is, and what He does. Spiritually, all that is true of Christ as a human being is true of all the members of the church.
The last place, before our passage, that Paul calls the church a “body” is verses 14 to 16 of chapter 2:
“. . . he is our peace, who made both [Jewish and Gentile believers] one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby . . .”
Here, Paul simply points out the fact that the church, as a body, has been reconciled to God through the cross, which put the hostility between Jewish and Gentile believers to death.
So, how does the fact that there’s one body of Christ show that the Ephesians ought to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit? Because they are all members of one body — they are part of the same exact body of Christ.
The second reason Paul gives for the preservation of unity is that there is “one Spirit”. What does this mean? Obviously, Paul is referring to the same Spirit to whom he refers in the previous sentence — God the Holy Spirit, the One who united the Ephesians in one body.
So, why is this an argument for unity? Because, according to Ephesians 1:13, the Ephesians were all sealed, or stamped, with the Spirit, and in verse 18 of chapter 2, Paul says that they all have their access to their heavenly Father through the Spirit. In other words, the one Spirit lives inside each one of them, and the unity that they share comes from Him. Thus, there must be no division among those who share the life of the same Spirit.
Third, Paul tells them that, in the same way that there is one body, and one Spirit, “ye were called in one hope of your calling . . .”
What does this mean? First, he tells them that they were “called”. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Paul describes this calling:
“But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, for . . . God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: [to which] he called you through our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, to what did God call the Thessalonians through the gospel? To salvation in, or through, sanctification from the Spirit and belief in the truth. So, what does this mean? Did God just tell them the gospel, and tell them to be saved, and to believe the truth? No, since Paul says that God chose them unto salvation, or chose them to be saved “from the beginning” of time, and that He called them to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, or to obtain it. That is, there was no possibility that they wouldn’t be saved, nor believe in the truth, nor obtain the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because God’s choosing and calling are all-powerful acts that accomplish exactly what He intends for them to accomplish. Thus, the Thessalonians were saved and believed the truth because they were called through the gospel. There’s simply no other way to consistently and logically understand these verses.
In the same way, the Ephesians were called through the gospel to believe it, and to become children of God. So, what does Paul mean when he says that they were “called in one hope of [their] calling”? The word “in” would be better translated “to”, since that’s clearly what Paul has in mind here. He’s saying that the Ephesians were called to have one hope.
But what is this hope? The Greek word that’s translated “hope” literally means “a confident expectation”, so this is nothing uncertain, but a certain expectation of something future. Paul tells us what it is in verses 13 to 14 of chapter 1:
“. . . in whom [Christ] ye also [obtained an inheritance], having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession . . .”
Paul highlights this hope when he says that the Holy Spirit is “an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God’s own possession”. By “earnest”, he means a “pledge”, or a “down payment”. That is, the Spirit is the proof that what God has promised will be given. And what has been promised? “Our inheritance.” What is this inheritance?
The apostle John tells us in Revelation 21:1-7a:
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away. And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall INHERIT THESE THINGS . . .”
But what is “the redemption of God’s own possession”? It is the final deliverance of the church — God’s possession — from sin, Satan, and the world. And when will this happen? Paul tells us in Titus 2:13-14:
“. . . looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.”
The hope that all believers have is the appearing, or coming, of their God and Savior Jesus Christ, when He will redeem them from all iniquity, and purify them from all sin.
The fourth reason for unity that Paul gives is that there is “one Lord”. The word “Lord” literally means “supreme in authority”, and calls attention to Christ’s supreme authority over the entire universe, and in this case, His authority over the church.
We saw earlier that God “gave Him as Head over all things to the church”. What does it mean that God gave Christ to be head over all things? Well, first we have to think about what it means for Christ “to be head”. What does Paul mean by this metaphor? First, if Christ is the head over all things, then it follows that all things have some relationship to Christ that is similar to the relationship that a head has to the rest of the body. What function does the head serve for the body? Well, it is the control center of the body, since it contains the brain. Thus, what Paul is saying is that Christ has control over all things. And what are these things? They aren’t just the things of the church, since Paul says so in Colossians 2:9-10:
” . . . for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full, who is the head OF ALL PRINCIPALITY AND POWER . . .”
Nevertheless, Paul doesn’t say that God gave Christ as head “to all things”, but “to be head over all things TO THE CHURCH”. What does this mean? It means that Christ isn’t the head of all things just to be the head of all things, but so He can be the head of the church. In other words, Paul is saying that the reason Christ has control of all things is so He can have control of the church.
But what is the church’s relationship to Christ as the Lord? Obviously, it is one of submission, obedience, and service. Hence, Paul is saying that unity ought to be preserved because all the members of the body have the same Lord.
Fifth, Paul tells the Ephesians that there is “one faith”. What is this faith? It refers mainly to “the faith” of the gospel, but it has to imply “the faith” that is in the gospel as well, since all believers both profess the gospel, and trust in the gospel. Paul uses the word “faith” in a similar way in Ephesians 4:11-13:
“And he [Christ] gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . .”
Further, Paul gives us an idea of what he means by the “one faith” in verse 15 of chapter 1:
“For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which ye show toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers . . .”
This “faith in the Lord Jesus” is intimately connected with the Ephesians’ faith in the gospel, since Paul says this in verse 13 of the same chapter:
“. . . in whom [Christ] ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,—in whom, having also believed [it], ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . .”
Thus, the “faith” that Paul is talking about in our passage is both the faith of the gospel, and the believers’ faith in the gospel. Since the Ephesians all share the same faith in the same gospel, they ought to be diligent to preserve unity.
Sixth, Paul tells the Ephesians that there is “one baptism”. This logically follows from “one faith”, since in the New Testament, being baptized always immediately follows the act of believing the gospel. In fact, the apostle Peter implies this in 1 Peter 3:18-21:
“Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that aforetime were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was . . . preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which [event] also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the [appeal] of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .”
Here, Peter goes so far as to say that baptism “doth now save you . . . not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the [appeal] of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. He’s not saying that being immersed in water actually saves you, but that the appeal to God for a good conscience which leads you to be baptized saves you, since “an appeal to God” is another way of saying faith in Christ for a good conscience in God’s sight — a clean conscience that knows that its owner has been forgiven by God because of faith in Christ.
But why is baptism an argument for unity? Because, in the early church, it showed that people believed the gospel. This is clear from Acts 2:38:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for [because of] the remission [forgiveness] of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Two of the most important aspects of this baptism here are:
- It is the act of being baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ”. This means “for the sake of, and by the authority of, Jesus Christ”. That means the people are to be baptized because they trust in Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection, for God’s forgiveness of their sins.
- They are to be baptized “because of the remission of sins”. That is, they are to be baptized because they know that God has forgiven their sins because of Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection.
This is the one baptism that Paul speaks of in our passage in Ephesians. However, having covered the essentials of this one baptism, let’s look at Paul’s own teaching on it.
First, Romans 6:3-4:
“Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.”
Having looked at the reason and motivation for the one baptism of the church, we see in this passage the manner of the baptism that was practiced in the early church. First, notice that Paul says “we . . . were baptized into Christ Jesus”. If “baptism” refers to sprinkling, then how can Paul say that believers were “baptized [sprinkled] into Christ Jesus”? That really doesn’t make much sense. Further, Paul goes on to say that believers were “buried . . . with him through baptism”. How could sprinkling show that believers were buried with Christ? It must be that the baptism that Paul is referring to was baptism by submersion or immersion. This is the only type of baptism that shows the believer being buried with Christ. Finally, Paul says that the reason for believers’ burial in baptism is so that “like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life”. There seems to be the implication here that the act of coming out of the water in baptism shows that the believer is identifying with the resurrection of Christ. This can’t be done with sprinkling.
To make it still clearer, Paul again teaches on the relationship between resurrection and baptism in Colossians 2:12:
“. . . having been buried with him [Christ] in baptism, wherein [in which] ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
In this verse, Paul explicitly says that believers were “raised with him” in, or through, baptism.
Therefore, when Paul uses the church’s “one baptism” as an argument for preserving church unity, the essential argument is that this baptism is one that is done in the name of Jesus Christ, and because of the forgiveness of sins. However, we can go further and say the significance of the unity doesn’t stop there if we practice baptism by immersion, since this type of baptism also is a picture of the “one faith” — the gospel — that believers believe.
The seventh reason that Paul gives for the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit is that there is “one God and Father of all”. First, who is the “all” he’s speaking of? It must be the members of the “one body” that he’s talking about in this entire sentence.
In this phrase, Paul’s first argument for unity is that there is “one God” of all the members. Does this mean that there’s “one Creator” of all the members? If that was the case, wouldn’t that be an argument for unity with every human being, since they all have the same Creator? No, Paul must be referring to a different sense in which all the members of the body have “one God”. In fact, he hints at it in the very beginning of this letter, in verse 3a of chapter 1:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .”
Now, obviously, Paul can’t be saying that God is the Creator of the Lord Jesus Christ, since He is uncreated. So what does he mean when he says that God is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ? It must mean that God is His God in the sense that, in His humanness, He reveres, honors, and serves Him as His God. This is the sense in which Paul says that all the members of the body have “one God”. They all, in contrast to unbelievers, worship, revere, honor, and serve the true God as their God. The members of the one body are the only people in the universe that do this. Thus, this is something that unites them.
Second, Paul says that there is one “Father” of all. Obviously, the Father here is the same Person that he calls “God” just before, since the phrase “God and Father” is quantified by “one” just before it. In other words, this one Father is the one God.
But what does Paul mean when he says that all believers have one Father? It’s simple — just as a human father is the “producer” or “begetter” of his children, and also the caretaker and unique lover of his children, so also God the Father is the Begetter and Caretaker of His children — all the members of the body. The implication is every believer belongs to the same family as every other believer, since they all share the same heavenly Father. Thus, Paul implies, they ought to be diligent to preserve unity.
The eighth reason for unity is that the “one God and Father of all . . . is over all”. Another way of translating this would be that He is “above all”. Now, we must remember that Paul is speaking here of God as the Object of worship of believers, and as their Father, so that’s the reference that he’s using when he says that God’s “over all” the members.
Hence, Paul is saying that God is over all believers as their Object of worship, and as their Father. So, what does this imply? That God is over all believers in terms of authority and control. As God and Father of believers, He is the ultimate authority over them, and determines everything about them, as well as commands them how to live.
Tenth, Paul says that believers’ God and Father manifests Himself “through all” of them. That is, He works through them to bring His Son, and Himself, glory by putting Himself on display in their behavior and lives.
Finally, Paul concludes his reasons for the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit by saying that their God and Father is “in all” of them. This refers to His indwelling presence in them through His Spirit, who also indwells them. The Lord Jesus Christ promises this indwelling in John 14:23:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
The word “abode” means “home” here, so Jesus is saying that both He and the Father will live inside of the one who loves Him. What does this mean? That believers know God, and are made like Him morally, as the apostle John says in 1 John 4:12b-13:
“. . . if we love one another, God abideth in us, and his love is perfected in us: hereby we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
Thus, Paul’s last argument for unity in our passage is that the God and Father of all believers lives inside all of them, and makes them like Him.
So, if you have one hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, treat Him as your Lord, trust in the good news of His death and resurrection, have been baptized or are going to be, and have one God and heavenly Father, how does this passage apply to you?
- You are a member of one body of Christ, and every true Christian is another member of that same body. That body doesn’t function without all of us.
- The Holy Spirit lives inside of you and is at work in you, as He is inside of every other believer. The body of Christ only has one Spirit, or Source of its life, and every member shares that same Spirit.
- You have one hope from being called — the perfection of your body and mind, and the possession of your inheritance of the new earth when our Lord comes again. And this is the only hope that all believers have in common.
- You have one Lord, or Master, Jesus Christ, and so does every other believer.
- You have one faith that you share in common with all believers — faith in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, His resurrection from the dead, and promise of the forgiveness of sins through a change of mind and trust in Him.
- You and every other believer have one initial way of expressing your faith in the Lord — baptism, which is a profession of faith to the body of Christ that you believe that your sins have been cleansed by the death and resurrection of Christ.
- You have one God who you worship, and so does every other believer.
- You have one heavenly Father, and so does every other believer.
- He is over us all.
- He works through us all.
- He lives inside of us all.
- Therefore, “. . . walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
If you aren’t trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, and resurrection as the only grounds for God’s forgiveness of your sins, then you aren’t part of Christ’s body, you don’t have the Spirit, you have no hope, you are disobedience to the Lord Jesus, you are faithless, you’re still dead in your sins, you are hostile toward your Creator, and He is angry with you as His enemy. But He sent His divine Son to earth to become a man, Jesus of Nazareth, to punish Him while on a cross as payment for our crimes against Him, to raise Him from the dead, and to seat Him at His right hand as the Lord of the universe. He is now commanding you to change your mind and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for our sins, and His resurrection as the only terms of peace with Him and His forgiveness of your sins because He will send His Son again to earth to judge people like you, and to condemn them to eternity in hell for their sins against Him. Please change your mind about God, Christ, yourself, and your sins, and trust in Christ, His death, and resurrection as the only way for God to forgive you and be your Father. He promises that all who will repent and trust in Christ will be forgiven.