The opening verses of Ephesians chapter 4 are profoundly important. They provide a transition in the book of Ephesians, a book some consider to be the high-water mark of Christian literature. The book of Ephesians delivers perhaps the best big picture overview of God’s redemptive work in creation and the correspondingly appropriate lifestyle of those who are in Christ.
Ephesians basically has two parts. The first part (chapters 1-3) describes the meta-narrative of God’s work on earth through Christ. The second part (chapters 4-6) zooms in to very practical matters pertaining to living in Christ. Each part has its own thesis statement.
Likewise, the book of Romans can be split into two primary sections, and each has its own thesis statement. “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) is the thesis statement that Paul expounds upon through the next 10½ chapters, ending with a doxology (Rom. 11:33-36). Then Paul presents his thesis statement for the remainder of the letter that pertains to practical living: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1).
Ephesians begins with the beautiful passage of God’s redeeming work in creation (1:3-14), from which flows the rest of the first three chapters. We can narrow that down to the thesis statement of being blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3).
After ending the first section with another doxology (Eph. 3:20-21), just like Romans, Paul then transitions to matters of practical living, also just like Romans. Here is where we find the thesis statement for the rest of Ephesians: “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (4:1). The first three chapters describe the calling, the last three chapters describe living according to that calling.
Paul follows up his thesis statement in 4:1 with an overview of how to walk in a manner worthy of the calling (4:2-3), and then why to walk in a manner worthy of the calling (4:4-6). He lists five traits as how to walk in a manner worthy of the calling:
- Bearing with one another in love
- Eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace
We have been called to walk in humility. And gentleness. With patience. “Bearing with one another in love” indicates that it won’t be easy, and we will need to endure and stand strong with and for fellow believers.
The fifth and final point leads directly into the why portion. And it is about unity. What kind of unity? Unity of the spirit. What are we to do with this unity of the spirit? Maintain it. How do we maintain the unity of the spirit? In the bond of peace.
Anything else? Yes, be eager, diligent, making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. To be eager, diligent, make every effort to do something takes a proactive and purposeful approach. It’s not passively sitting back and allowing the unity of the spirit to be maintained. It’s not ‘as long as I don’t do something that breeds disunity.’ It’s ‘I am going to see to it that I maintain this unity and do not let it slip away.’
Consider the ways that humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love are prerequisites for eagerly maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Without humility, unity will not be maintained. Pride will divide.
Without gentleness, harshness will split us apart. Without patience, we’ll get frustrated and give up on one another. Without bearing with one another in love, we’ll selfishly go our own way because we lack the endurance to walk alongside someone else to see them through their weaknesses. Sometimes it hurts to love, and if we’re not willing to endure suffering for the benefit of others our unity will be crippled.
Why is unity so important? Well, this is where Paul follows up the five-pronged how with a seven-pronged why consisting of seven “ones.”
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one body.
Many members comprise one body; the body of Christ. There are not multiple bodies. One body (1 Cor. 10:17; Col. 3:15).
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5 ESV)
The concept of “one body” is sprinkled throughout the letter to the Ephesians. Jew and Gentile are brought together into one body (2:16; 3:6). Believers are members of the same body (4:25; 5:30). Growth of the singular body by the plurality of its members is emphasized (4:12, 16).
Observe these excerpts from 1 Corinthians 12:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all (immersed) into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20, 25-27 ESV)
There is a popular system of theology that teaches that there are two distinct bodies: Israel and the church, and God has a different plan for each body. This teaching must be rejected because there is only one body. Believing Jew and believing Gentile are reconciled in one body in Christ (Eph. 2:11-16; 1 Cor. 12:13). God no longer regards a distinction between Jew & Gentile.
It’s also common for each congregation to view itself as a distinct body; a body on virtually every street corner. Viewing each congregation as a separate body is terribly divisive of the singular body of Christ. There is one body! Lord, help us!
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one Spirit.
There is one Spirit, and the Spirit unites us all with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17). Look more closely at this passage in Ephesians chapter 2:
…(Jesus will) reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. … For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:16, 18 ESV)
“One body” and “one Spirit” addressed in the same context (see also 1 Cor. 12:13).
The same Spirit makes all believers alive and distributes varying gifts to each of us. We aren’t gifted by a variety of Spirits, the one Spirit indwells each unique member of the one body.
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one hope.
That hope is Jesus Christ as we await his return to earth, when he will put all things in their rightful position. Paul mentioned hope previously in the letter when he prayed that his readers “may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18).
For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. (Galatians 5:5 ESV)
All believers share the same hope that comes from the gospel (see Col. 1:5, 23, 27). We have the one and same hope.
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one Lord.
There is only one Lord and Master, Jesus the Anointed (1 Cor. 8:6; Acts 2:36). There is no other Lord by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12):
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 ESV)
Jesus has been given reign of God’s kingdom, and there are no valid challengers. He is the only Lord.
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one faith.
There is truly only one faith. We have many belief systems and differing doctrines; but there is only one true faith. And this might sound odd, but the one true faith is the faithfulness of Jesus and the good news in him (Phil. 1:27).
There is so much more that could be addressed here, but the true faith is the faithfulness of Jesus who was faithful to say and do all that he saw the Father doing, faithful even unto death. Believers have been united with Christ and have been given a measure of his faith. And we are to be built up so that “we all attain to the unity of the faith” (Eph. 4:13).
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one immersion.
All who are united with Christ have been immersed into him (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21). This is what is meant by what is often translated “one baptism.” Immersion is the better translation. The translation of baptism automatically brings to mind a ceremony involving water, and serves as a distraction to the fact that believers have truly been immersed into Christ. And there is one immersion, by the one Spirit, into Christ.
We addressed 1 Cor. 12:13 regarding “one body” and “one Spirit”; the same verse can be addressed yet again concerning immersion.
We’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we were called and be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit because…there is one God and Father of all.
ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL
God is one (Deut. 6:4; Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:20; James 2:19). Likewise, there is one God (Mal. 2:15; 1 Tim. 2:5). Also, there is one Father of all (Mal. 2:10; Matt. 23:9).
yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV)
Brothers and sisters, may we be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, because:
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one immersion, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 HNV)
Oneness is an essential part of gospel living.