In the opening verses of
Ephesians chapter four the apostle Paul is stressing
the unity of the church. He will then tell us the
purpose of the church and our responsibility as
The seven-fold foundation
for church unity is described in Ephesians 4:4-6.
The church is one because
it is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one
faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
In the first three verses
he has stressed keeping or preserving the unity.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in
the bond of peace. Characteristics of church unity
are Christian humility, gentleness, patience and
putting up with one another.
Obviously, Paul did not
want us to miss this oneness or unity in the body of
There is one body, not
Paul has already
discussed the work of our Lord Jesus removing
barriers, and the hostilities between the Jewish and
Gentile believers in Christ. He has made both groups
into one. "He did this to create in himself one new
man out of two thus making peace, and to reconcile
them both in one body to God through the cross, by
which the hostility has been killed" (Ephesians
2:15-16 NET). This Jesus accomplished through his
atoning sacrifice at Calvary.
There is only one
mystical spiritual body of Christ. It is a growing
organism sometimes referred to as a body, at other
times in Scriptures as a temple, or building, and
the dwelling place of God in the Spirit (2:19-22).
All true believers are
"in Christ" and united in the spiritual body of
"Now the church is his
body, the fullness of him who fills all in all"
(1:23 NET). The church is his body and he fills his
church entirely with his presence and power. Paul
writes in Colossians 1:18 that Christ "is the head
of the body, the church."
This is the fulfillment
of Jesus’ prayer just before he went to the cross
the next morning. He prayed for believers
everywhere, including you and me. He prayed, "That
they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me
and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so
that the world will believe that you sent me. The
glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they
may be one just as we are one—I in them and you in
me—that they may be completely one, so that the
world will know that you sent me, and you have loved
them just as you have loved me" (John 17:21-23 NET).
In Romans 12:4-5 Paul is
reflecting on the many members of the one body and
how their gifts are to be used within the body. "For
just as in one body we have many members, and not
all the members serve same function, so we who are
many are one body in Christ, and individually we are
members who belong to one another" (NET). The Holy
Spirit brought about this unity when he placed us in
the body. He knows the gifts he has chosen for us
and how he wants us to function within the body of
Christ. "We who are many are one body" (1 Cor. 10:17
NET). In the context Paul is referring to the body
A little further Paul
continues his discussion about many members serving
in one body. "For just as the body is one and yet
has many members, all the members of the body—though
many—are one body, so too is Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12
NET). How did this come about? "Now you are Christ’s
body, and each of you is a member of it" (v. 27
The emphasis in all of
these passages is on the unity of the body of
Christ. We are many members and we have many gifts,
not all the same, but we are one in the body.
There was a lot of
commotion going on in the church at Corinth and Paul
urges that there should be no division in the body,
but that they should all care for one another (v.
25). Don’t let these gifts become a distraction in
the body (vv. 28-31).
Only the Holy Spirit can
produce this body and its unity. It is not an
organization of many churches or denominations. It
is a unity of the Spirit enjoyed by true believers
bound together in a common bond of God’s saving
grace in Christ Jesus.
We have unity in the
church because there is one body which is sustained
by one Spirit.
"For in one Spirit we
were all baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:13a
NET). This is the baptism by the Holy Spirit. "We
were all made to drink of the one Spirit" (v. 13c
NET). He has placed all believers into a vital union
with Christ. We are made a member of the body of
which Christ is the living head.
At the same time the Holy
Spirit regenerated us, adopted us, became the down
payment and took up residence in us. These were all
different actions, but nevertheless took place at
the same moment in time when we believed on Christ
as our savior.
The Holy Spirit dwells in
all believers in Christ. People will sometimes ask,
"Do you have the Holy Spirit?" That is like asking,
"Have you been born again?" or "Do you know Christ
as your personal savior?" It is impossible for
anyone to be a child and not have the Holy Spirit
dwelling within him or her. "Now if anyone does not
have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not
belong to him" (Romans 8:9b NET). The Spirit of God,
the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Christ all refer
to the same person, the third person of the Holy
Trinity. This is the one who lives in you. "Moreover
if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the
dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from
the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive
through his Spirit who lives in you" (v. 11 NET).
Paul is referring to the
church in 1 Corinthians 3:16 when he says, "Do you
not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s
Spirit lives in you" (NET). Moreover, in 6:19 he
uses the same imagery to refer to the individual
believer. "Or do you not know that your body is the
temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you
have from God, and you are not your own?" (NET).
Christ purchased you with his own blood. We have
access through Christ Jesus "in one Spirit to the
Father" (Ephesians 2:18).
No wonder the apostle
Paul admonishes the church to be very careful how we
treat the Holy Spirit. We must watch our attitude
and behavior so we do not grieve him (Eph. 4:30).
"You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger,
wrath, quarreling, and evil slanderous talk" (v. 31
NET). Since those actions grieve the Spirit, we can
promote unity by being "kind to one another,
compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in
Christ Jesus also forgave us" (v. 32 NET). This is
how we "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16-18, 25). How
tragic when Christians act in such a way that the
work of the Holy Spirit is quenched when he is
dealing with the souls of unbelievers (1 Thess.
Therefore, let us be
careful how we live our lives and make sure we are
"filled by the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). We are to be
filled by means of the Spirit, i.e. under his
God does his work in, by
and through his Spirit (Zech. 4:6).
The church is one because
of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the body of
Christ. There is one body of Christ, one Spirit of
God who created it and sustains it, and one hope of
There is unity in the
church because you "were called to the one hope of
your calling" (Eph. 4:4 NET).
Because of the inward
effectual call of God by the Spirit, we believed on
Christ and received the free gift of eternal life.
This was an act of God’s grace. The Holy Spirit
illuminated our spiritual eyes so we could perceive
and understand "what is the hope of his calling,
what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in
the saints" (Eph. 1:18 NET).
The effectual working of
the Holy Spirit caused us to repent and believe on
Christ. It was the "exercise of his immense
strength" that changed our hearts and placed us in
the body of Christ. The effectual call is always an
action which issues in the desired goal or eternal
purpose of God in the individual. This divine
activity was seen in the resurrection of Christ
(Eph. 1:20) and in our lives when we heard the
gospel truth and believed on Christ. In that moment
the Holy Spirit took up residence within us as the
"down payment of our inheritance, until the
redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of
his glory" (Eph. 1:14 NET).
That was the beginning of
something grand. We live in expectation of the
blessed hope and soon appearing of our great God and
Savior Jesus Christ. Because of that blessed hope,
our glorification with Christ will take place. We
will be like Christ when he returns.
"We wait for the happy
fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of
our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13
NET). This blessed hope is the appearing of the
glory of our Savior when he returns again. The Lord
Jesus is our great God and Savior. "God and Savior"
are referring to the same person, Jesus Christ. He
is coming again.
We do not know when
Christ is coming back to this earth, but we can have
confidence that "whenever it is revealed we will be
like him, because we will see him just as he is" (1
John 3:2 NET).
What a joy to know that
we are now the children of God, and when Christ
Jesus appears we shall be like him, because we shall
see him just as he is. When Christ comes we will at
last attain God’s eternal purpose for us.
The church has a
confident expectation that the best is yet to come.
This unites us in the hope set before us as an
anchor for the soul.
We are one in the body of
Christ, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord . . . .
Christians believe in one
God, not three. The apostle Paul was clear about
this when he wrote, "There is no God, but one." "For
us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all
things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus
Christ, through whom are all things and through whom
we live" (1 Corinthians 8:6 NET).
No one can say, "Jesus
Christ is Lord" except by illumination of the Holy
Spirit. When we declare, "Jesus Christ is my Lord"
we are saying he is the rightful owner, absolute
Lord of my life for time and eternity.
The word "Lord" (Kurios)
signifies having power and authority. It is the idea
of Lord, Master, owner, and can refer to the
absolute title of deity as in the representation
word for the Hebrew Yahweh. The full significance
rests upon the resurrection of Christ Jesus (Acts
2:36; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 12:9; 14:9; Acts 4:12; Phil.
2:11). The readers of the New Testament understood
the name "Lord" to be the great august title of the
God of Israel. The apostle used it equivalent to
Yahweh. "Jesus is Lord," means "Jesus is Yahweh."
Christ Jesus is Master, Owner, and Lord in the most
absolute sense of the word (Phil. 2:11). He is God.
He is the second person of the Godhead.
As Lord, Jesus Christ has
sovereign rights as the absolute owner of my life.
He obtained those rights when he died and paid in
full our payment for sin. He redeemed us and is now
our owner. He purchased us (1 Cor. 6:20). The
apostle Peter wrote: "You know that from your empty
way of life inherited from your ancestors you were
ransomed—not by perishable things like silver or
gold, but by precious blood like that of an
unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ" (1
Peter 1:18-19 NET).
Now I belong to Jesus
Christ. He is my Master. I am his bondslave.
Only God can make such
demands on a person’s life. Indeed, Jesus Christ is
the Son of God the second person of the Godhead.
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is
no other name under heaven given among people by
which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 NET).
Jesus made it equally
clear when he said, "I am the way, and the truth,
and the life. No one comes to the Father except
through me" (John 14:6 NET).
The great climax to the
gospel of John comes when the disciple Thomas sees
the risen Christ and declares, "My Lord and my God"
All true believers in
Christ Jesus confess him as Lord and God. In fact,
you cannot be a Christian without believing in your
heart and confessing him to be so. "If you confess
with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in
your heart that God raised him from the dead, you
will be saved" (Romans 10:9 NET).
"I want you to understand
that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says,
‘Jesus is cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is
Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3 NET).
There is only one Lord
and he is the basis of unity in the church. He alone
has sovereign rights over his church.
We have unity in the
church because there is "one body, and one Spirit,
just as you too were called to one hope of your
calling, one Lord, one faith . . ."
There is only one
historical Jesus, and he is the one in whom we have
put our faith and trust.
"God exalted him and gave
him the name that is above every name, so that at
the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and
on earth and under the earth—and every tongue
confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of
God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11 NET).
All true Christians have
made that confession and are resting in him alone
for eternal life (Acts 16:31).
There are certain truths
that must be held in order to be a Christian. Jesus
Christ is Lord.
We are justified by
personal faith in Christ Jesus. We accept the
revealed fact that we are sinners and the penalty
for sin is death. We also accept the truth that
Jesus died as our substitute and paid our debt in
full (Romans 5:6, 8). We accept God’s word when it
says the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus
Christ is for all who believe. We are "justified
freely by his grace through the redemption that is
in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24 NET).
Jesus Christ is the
atoning sacrifice that covers all our sins. He is
the "mercy seat" or place where the propitiation was
accomplished. His atoning death turns away the wrath
of God that we truly deserve. On Jesus Christ was
laid all of our sins and the wrath of God toward sin
was fully satisfied.
How precious is God’s
promise to all who come to him. "For God so loved
the world, that he gave his only one and only Son,
that whosoever believes in him should not perish but
have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
"The one who believes in
the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the
Son will not see life, but the wrath remains on him"
(John 3:36 NET).
Is your faith resting on
him alone? He is the only one who can save you. All
other names will take you to a place called Hell.
We have church unity
because we have one faith in one Savior and one
Which baptism is Paul
referring to here? Is it a wet or a dry baptism? Is
it immersion in water or the baptism by the Holy
Immersion in water saves
no one. Water baptism is an outward sign of the
inward work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s
heart. It is our personal testimony that we have
been identified with Jesus Christ. The ordinance of
water baptism symbolizes what the Holy Spirit has
already done in our hearts.
The Bible does not teach
baptismal regeneration. We are justified by faith in
Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16). "For in Christ Jesus you
are all sons of God through faith" (Galatians 3:26
The "one baptism" that is
part of this seven-fold basis for church unity is
the work of the Holy Spirit. There is only one
baptism by the Holy Spirit in the life of every
believer, and that takes place at the moment of
conversion. The baptism takes place at the moment of
salvation. The water baptism symbolizes Spirit
The baptism by the Holy
Spirit is when the Holy Spirit places the believer
in the body of Christ. You do not experience it, or
feel it. However, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one
body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we
were all made to drink of the one Spirit" (1
Corinthians 12:13 NET).
This once for all placing
in the body occurred potentially at Pentecost. It is
not a baptism with the Spirit, but by the Spirit. He
is the sole agent. The Spirit is not the element
into which we are baptized. This action does not
bring the Holy Spirit into us. It is not for power
because nothing is applied to us. The baptism by the
Holy Spirit is the action whereby the believer is
placed into Christ. We become a member of the body
of Christ. This same "baptism" is referred to in
Colossians 3:27. "For all of you who were baptized
into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ"
(NET). It took place at regeneration and was by the
Holy Spirit, not water. Only the Holy Spirit can
bring about this identification with Christ.
Romans 6:3f teaches we
were "baptized into his death." We were made one
with Christ. We were united with him in a vital
union in all the value of his death, resurrection
"Or do you not know that
as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were
baptized into his death? Therefore we have been
buried with him through baptism into death, in order
that just as Christ was raised from the dead through
the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new
life. For if we have become united with him in the
likeness of his death, we will certainly also be
united in the likeness of his resurrection" (Romans
The baptism by the Spirit
does the work and water symbolizes or pictures what
We are to preserve the
church unity because we have been made members of
the body by the work of the Holy Spirit, and we can
call God our Father.
ONE GOD AND FATHER OF
We have unity in the
church because there is "one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all in all" (Ephesians
God is Father of all true
believers. He is our Father by spiritual
regeneration. I am a child of God because of
spiritual birth, not because I have been baptized or
because my parents were Christians. I have been born
spiritually into his family. We are all children of
God through faith in Jesus Christ. "For you are all
sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus"
(Galatians 3:26). That is the only way you can
become a legitimate child of God and a member of his
family. There is simply no other way.
The Bible is very clear
about how we become a member of God’s family. It is
not because we were created by God or born
physically. "But to all who have received him—those
who believe in his name—he has given the right to
become God’s children—children not born by human
parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision,
but by God" (John 1:12-13 NET). We become members of
God’s family by personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Here are seven statements
that form the solid foundation for church unity. The
true church is God’s dwelling place; He lives in
every believer. Let’s be constantly on our guard to
not allow any attitude, disposition, behavior,
life-style, etc. to disrupt that unity.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. When we realize we are
members of "one body" in Christ we can treat one
another with the same love Christ ha for his body.
2. When we worship the
Triune God we give honor and glory to one Lord, one
Spirit, and one God and Father of all true
believers. The doctrine of the Trinity is woven
throughout this letter of the apostle Paul.
3. When we understand the
biblical teaching on the baptism by the Holy Spirit
we want him to have full control over our lives so
we can preserve the unity of his church.