4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6)
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Do we serve three Gods? Or One?
Well, we do serve only one God, but he exists in three persons–a Trinity.
I had a professor in seminary—graduate school for pastors—who, when he taught on the Trinity, liked to use the phrase, “The tri-unity of God.”
The Trinity is a tri-unity. There is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are three persons, but they are only one God.
That’s a difficult concept, but one that is basic to Christianity, and one that a lot of cults and sects stumble over: Jehovah witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and Mormons are just a few that do.
Jehovah Witnesses want to believe in one God so strongly, they make Jesus to be only a being created by God and the Spirit to be only a spiritual force from God.
Oneness Pentecostals believe in modalism. God has different modes, or titles: Father refers to God’s parental role. Son refers to God being flesh. Spirit refers to the activity of God. For them, God is one person with three titles, not three persons who is one God.
Mormonism believes that the Trinity means that there are three Gods: the Father, Son, and Spirit. There isn’t a unity at all.
Again, it’s important remember that biblical Christianity has a triune God. Three persons, but one God. How it is so is a mystery to us, because God has not revealed to us how it is so.
Many Christians, however, don’t think much about the Trinity. That’s too bad, because the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit affect our daily lives as Christians.
One way that the Tri-unity does affect our lives is by giving the Church our unity.
In Ephesians 4:4-6, each verse can be linked with a different member of the Trinity. Verse four refers to the Spirit; verse five, the Son; verse six, the Father.
What we’ll see is that each person of the Trinity has a different part to play in making the Church a unity. First, we see that we have:
I. UNITY FROM GOD THE SPIRIT
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
A. The Spirit Makes Us One Body
“There is one body”—This is a metaphor for the church that Paul fleshes out (pun intended) in 1 Corinthians 12—
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (1 Corinthians 12:13–18)
Notice that it’s the Spirit that puts us into the body of Christ and it is God that determines what part we play in the body—a hand, a foot, etc.
The body is a good metaphor when it comes to talking about unity. Imagine what would happen, as Paul imagines, if the parts of our physical bodies began to argue about their positions in the body.
Our bodies work best when their individual parts all do what they are supposed to do.
The same is true in the church: we need to each recognize that we are who we are in the body of Christ because the Spirit has placed us there.
We should never be jealous because someone else seems to have a better ministry.
Jealousy is dangerous not only because the harm it can do to our unity, but also because it’s a signal that you are discontent with what the ministry the Spirit has given you.
The Spirit makes us one body, and…
B. The Spirit Is Key To Our Oneness
Notice in your Bible that it says, “one Spirit” with a capital “S.” That’s important to note because if it was a little “s,” it would be referring to the human spirit.
That would mean something like this quote I found: “Only when we unite in spirit, can we truly cope with the challenges we face.” But that’s not what this is saying.
Paul is saying is that our unity is based on the fact that there is one Holy—not human—Spirit. What does the Spirit do to make us one?
(1) The Spirit convicts us of our sin.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8)
When we are unsaved, we are separate from Christ’s body. We are not one with him or with other Christians.
So the Holy Spirit will work to convict us of our sin; to awaken our hearts to our need to be saved.
Then, when we are ready to respond in faith…
(2) The Spirit makes us born again.
3 Jesus answered and said unto [Nicodemus], Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. (John 3:6–7)
When we are born again, we are baptized by the Spirit into the body. We are one in Christ and one with the body of Christ. But the Spirit has more work to do…
(3) The Spirit grows in us the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
Each of the fruits of the Spirit are virtues that can help in our relationships.
So as the Spirit grows his fruit of love and peace and meekness in us, we become more and more able to be united with one another, because we can better love one another and forgive one another for our faults.
So the Spirit makes us one body, and is really the key to our unity, and…
C. The Spirit Gives Us One Hope
“ye are called in one hope of your calling”—
(1) What Is Hope?
Randy Alcorn reported that:
Researchers conducted a study on stress with Israeli soldiers. They assured one group that the march would end at a certain point but kept the other group in the dark.
Although both groups marched an identical distance, those who didn’t know how long they would march registered a much higher level of stress.
Why? Because they had no hope, no tangible assurance that the forced march would end. They felt helpless, wondering when, or if, they could ever rest.
Hope is critical for life. If we have no hope, it makes for a tough haul. But having hope is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Having hope makes us able to endure a few bumps and trials along the way.
(2) Where Does A Christian’s Hope Come From?
The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us hope. Speaking of the Spirit, Ephesians 1:14 calls him…
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:14)
The word “earnest” means a down payment or a deposit. The Holy Spirit is the down payment. Because he indwells us, and helps us, we know that our inheritance is real and secure.
Christians are sometimes asked how they can believe Heaven is real. Can we prove it? We can’t give them a tangible answer, like we could if we were proving that Miles City was real.
It’s the Holy Spirit that encourages our spirit and keeps us believing that Heaven, our inheritance, is real and we’ll be there someday. In a word, he gives us hope.
(3) How Does Hope Unite Christians?
Every true Christian believes that Jesus Christ is coming back one day. We may disagree on the details—before the Millennium, after the Millennium, Pre-Trib, Post-Trib, etc.
But one thing that we have in common is that one day we will be with Jesus, and all the trials and troubles of this life will be over.
The Bible calls this a “blessed hope:”
13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:13)
In that day, all our disagreements will fade away in the light of the glory of the returning Christ.
That thought should influence how we look at our disagreements today. Are they really worth the time we pour into them? Are they really worth the misery that they cause us and others?
Perhaps we should let them fade away before we even get to Heaven.
The Spirit makes us one body, he is key in making us one, and he gives us hope that one day we will have perfect unity.
The next verse deals with how the Son of God gives us unity:
II. UNITY FROM GOD THE SON
Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
A. The Son Is Our One Lord
“One Lord”—There is only one Lord Jesus and he is revealed to us in the Bible. We need to beware of making up our own Lord Jesus.
We might say that we think that Jesus would do this or that, when in truth, we really haven’t read the Bible enough to know.
John T. MacNeil, a great Scottish preacher and evangelist…used to imagine a conversation that might have taken place between the man who had been born blind, whose story is told in John 9, and the other blind man who was healed by Jesus, whose story is told in Mark 8.
The difference between the two stories is that in John 9 Jesus healed the blind man by spitting on the ground and making clay, which he used to anoint the man’s eyes. This did not happen in the case of the man whose story is told in Mark.
MacNeil imagined these two getting together to discuss how Jesus healed them. The man who had been healed without the spittle would tell his story, and the man who had been healed with the spittle would tell his.
He would say to the other, “But you left out the part about Jesus spitting in the dust and making clay and placing the clay upon your eyes.”
“I don’t know anything about that,” the first would reply.
The man from John would answer, “It has to be that way, because that’s the way Jesus gives sight to people. You must have forgotten it. He spit on the ground; he made clay; he put it on your eyes, and he sent you to wash in the pool of Siloam.”
“Oh, no,” the man from Mark says, “he didn’t do that with me. He just spoke and I received my sight.”
The first man digs in his heels. “That isn’t right,” he says. “Jesus heals with clay! If you haven’t had that experience, I am beginning to doubt whether you can really see!”
Thus originated in the early church the denomination of the “Mudites” and the “Anti-Mudites,” two divisions.
(James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988], 130.)
It is critical for our unity to have our eyes all on the same Lord, even if we have minor differences about how he works in our lives. The Son is our one Lord and…
B. The Son Gives Us One Faith
“one faith”—You could understand “faith” here in one of two ways. It could be the faith or the trust that we have in Christ Jesus.
But it’s probably better to understand “faith” here as the teachings that make up Christianity—the Christian faith. What we could call the doctrines of Christianity.
Many people would claim that doctrine divides and so we should ignore doctrine.
That can be true if we start nitpicking on obscure points of doctrine. But when you look at the doctrines that comprise the Gospel, they are what unite true Christians.
- We believe that God the Father sent his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as a substitute for our sins.
- We believe that he rose again from the dead on the third day and is, right now, seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
- We believe that it is faith in this work that he did on the cross that brings us into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, not any of the good works that we do.
I am going to have disagreements with fellow Christians about numerous things, but if they believe with all their heart the basic doctrines of the Gospel faith, they are my brother and sister in Christ.
We may not be able to attend the same church because of our convictions, just as a biological family cannot spend every moment together, but they still will be my brother and sister because we have one faith.
The Son is our one Lord, and gives us one faith, and…
C. The Son Is Who We Identify With In One Baptism
“one baptism”—When you are baptized, you are making a public proclamation of your faith in Jesus Christ. You are identifying yourself with Christ!
When I was kid, we would play baseball during recess at school. The first step was to choose up teams. The team captains would alternate calling out our names until no more kids were left.
As our name was called, we would walk over and stand by our captain. We would identify ourselves with our team.
When you identify yourself with Christ, you are saying that you are on Christ’s team, as it were. And, although teammates may bicker, they are still on the same team. There’s a unity there.
So we have unity from the Spirit, and unity from the Son…who is left? We also have…
III. UNITY FROM GOD THE FATHER
Ephesians 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
A. The Father Above All Is In You All
The Spirit gives us unity because he lives in us and works to change us; the Son gives us unity because he died for us. The Father gives us unity because he is the Creator and Ruler of all Creation.
Paul says that the Father is “above all,” meaning that he rules and controls all events. But he is also “in you all,” (referring to Christians, not everyone), and so we have the great Creator and Ruler close to us.
What an assurance it is to have God the Father close by! No problem of ours is too great for him to handle!
And even if the problem is another Christian with whom we are have difficulties. We need to remember that they have the same Spirit, the same Lord Jesus, and the same Father.
B. Why Did Paul Get The Trinity Backwards?
Now, we’ve seen that each verse here focused on a different member of the Trinity. Verse four was the Holy Spirit. Then verse five was the Son. Finally verse six, the Father.
Do you notice something unusual about the order? It’s reverse of the way we normally consider the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why?
The best answer that I’ve found is that Paul starts on top and works down to the foundation.
First, the visible unity we have as Christians is because of the work of the Spirit inside us.
But why does the Spirit work inside us? Because the Son died on the cross for our sins.
Why did the Son die on the cross for us? Because God the Father has planned and orchestrated the plan of salvation since before the foundation of the world.
So our unity as Christians is from the Trinity: The Spirit presently working in us; the Christ who died for us; and the Father who planned it all.
How do we work to preserve and maintain the unity of the Spirit among us?
1) Remember that our unity comes from the Trinity–the Tri-Unity. Father, Son, and Spirit are all involved in creating the oneness that is the Christian church.
2) Consciously ask the Holy Spirit for help in maintaining unity. He’ll respond by helping you develop those attitudes that help unity, such as: humility, long-suffering, meekness, forbearing with one another.
3) Remember what Christ did to buy your salvation. He did the same for your opponent. You and your worst enemy in the church have the same Lord, the same faith, and the same baptism.