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The Basis for Church Unity

May 3, 2015 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 4:4-6

49-037

It's always a great privilege and pleasure for us to gather together on the Lord's day and to worship together in song and to worship together through the teaching of God's word and today we are coming to a tremendously wonderful passage in the book of Ephesians. I didn't realize, quite honestly, until I began preparing for this Sunday what a magnificent passage that we have in front of us to be able to enjoy and to be instructed from, from Ephesians 4:3-6 and I would invite you to turn there with a great sense of anticipation and a spirit of prayer even as you're turning the pages that the Lord would powerfully impact your heart through what we are about to see from God's holy word today. This is a passage that literally has an entire systematic theology built into it. You can teach a viable course on systematic theology simply by working through what these verses say.

In verse 3, we're going to pick it up in verse 3 just to set the context but verses 4 through 6 will actually be our text for this morning. Paul, in speaking to the church, speaking to believers says that we are to,

3 be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

This is a very compact passage. It is brief comparatively speaking in terms of the number of words that he uses but don't let its brevity, don't confuse, I should say, its brevity with its depth because there is a wonderful depth of truth in what's being said here. Paul is primarily giving us the reason or the basis upon which there can be unity in the church. Last week, we saw the responsibility that we have as believers to preserve the unity in the church. He says in verse 2, there he says, "show tolerance for one another in love, be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

So the theme of the passage that we're looking at here today is unity, harmony in the church and that is to be the mark of the people of God. When a church gathers together in the life of a body, there should be a spirit of harmony and unity and oneness that marks the life together in that body. To have a fractured church, a church that is arguing with one another and fighting with each other and splitting away from each other and endless seemingly permutations is an utter denial of the truth of the Gospel and everything that we hold dear. And Paul here in his desire to reinforce upon the people of God the priority of unity shows them the basis upon which there is unity in the church and helps us understand what we are standing on, the foundation upon which we stand, and what it is that we are building on as we seek to strive to live together in unity in our common life in Christ.

This is a magnificent passage and the question is this: why is it that we must be diligent to protect our unity? Why is that a priority of God? Why is it that it should be a priority in the mind and in the life of a local church? Well, what Paul does here is he shows how the realities of salvation – follow me closely because we're not used to talking this way and hearing these kinds of things and this is really rich, it's precious and it's something that we should treasure together: the realities of salvation, the salvation that we enjoy, are built on many fundamental unities about the character and work of God. We are one as a body in Christ because the work of salvation flows out of a tremendous unity in the purposes and person and character and work of God and so oneness, in other words, oneness gives birth to oneness. Unity in God's purpose, unity in God's plan, should give birth to unity in the church. The harmony that exists between the persons of the Trinity should be reflected in the harmony that exists in the life of a local body and in the church universal as we'll see as we go through.

So what Paul does here and there is a sentence break between verses 3 and 4 in most of your English texts, it says "be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of of peace." Look at verse 4 with me and in the NASB it says, "There is one body and one Spirit." Well, notice that the 2 words there at the front of verse 4, "There is," are in italics which means that they are not present there in the original text. It is supplied by the translators to help give a smoothness to the reading in English but what you need to see is that verse 4 flows right out of verse 3 without a break and Paul is elevated as he's talking about this concept of unity and he goes right into this rapid-fire statement of different elements of oneness that mark the reality of salvation so that as you're reading it in the original text, it sounds something like this: "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." What's the word that you hear coming out of that over and over again? One. A fundamental oneness marks this passage. Paul uses this word "one" 7 times in almost a machine gun like repetition in rapidity, in rapid succession, to impress upon us the priority that church unity should have for Christians.

Now, let's back up for a moment and just think about the way that you and I, most of us, have been introduced to the Christian faith in times gone by. It was presented to us, I'm going to speak in generalizations here, but salvation was presented to us in very individualistic terms. You can have your sins forgiven, "you" singular, and that's okay, a man needs to understand that he needs to personally respond to Christ if he would have the forgiveness of sins, but it's calculated to impress upon the importance of "you." Then some of you moved into seeker friendly churches that were designed to cater to your every desire and what you wanted was supreme just as long as you would keep coming. "We'll give you coffee. We'll give you doughnuts. What else do you want? We'll give it to you." So that we have this tendency to put ourselves at the center of the purpose of the church as if it was all about us and you gather together, a couple of hundred or in a big church, 2,000 or 7,000 people, who are gathered together thinking that they are at the center of the purpose of God and that it's all about what they want and they shape their lives accordingly. So you have 200 or 2,000 or 7,000 people coming together week by week, living in a body, saying, "What can I get out of this?" And it's not surprising that that ultimately leads to a lot of division and disharmony because people are pursuing the life of the church for their own self-centered ends. Well, what Paul is doing is he is turning all of that over. By the way, one last thing that I could say about this is in our American culture: that just reinforces it all the more in the marketing and in the political approach and everything is designed for us to elevate our own sense of self-importance and to think that it needs to be what pleases me. We're just conditioned that way in the realm of the church and in the realm of our culture.

So to come to a passage like this that diminishes the importance of one individual and lifts up the importance of one primary purpose and work of God is very counter cultural. I say all of this by way of introduction simply so that you could see and expect as we go through this that we're seeing something that is teaching us to think differently than what everything in life has conditioned you to think up until this point. This is a passage that swims magnificently and powerfully upstream against the forces that otherwise would shape our thinking and our approach to life and our approach to the church. Seven times the Apostle Paul says "one" and as we gather together as Christians in the body of Christ, this passage teaches us to think about what we share in common. What is it that we have together. What is the likeness. What is the sameness of what God has done for us as Christians. And what we see here is that across the whole breadth of theology and across, watch this, the whole breadth of your personal experiences as Christians, there is a commonality, a deep fundamental commonality that we share together as Christians that should powerfully move us toward unity in the church and that is what Paul is explaining here. He is explaining what we as Christians share together in common in the body of Christ. It is not about what makes us different that he's talking about here today. We're seeing what we share in common as Christians that should join us powerfully together like a very strong magnet, drawing together different strands of metal, pulling them all together into the same one place.

Now, as we study this together here this morning and I'm back to what I used to say in months gone by: this is like my favorite passage in all the Bible. It's because it's the passage that we have before us today but what we should see is the way that this is pulling us together. And there is one other thing about here that I want to say, that's the primary way that we're thinking about this is how it pulls us together, how it joins us together, that I've made clear, but what I also want you to see, I want there to be 2 tracks going on in your mind as you're listening to this text here today: primarily there is this sense of commonness that we share with all Christians everywhere since the day of Pentecost. At the same time, beloved, as we go through these 7 items here that Paul lays out for us, we're seeing what God has blessed you with individually. This should give you a large heart toward other Christians. It should give you a depth of gratitude and appreciation and a sense of profound worship that, "Wow! I as a sinner have been given a gift of grace like this," because what's true about us corporately as Christians is true about us individually. This is a tie that binds us together.

So we're going to see 7 aspects of salvation here this morning that join us together and motivate us to preserve and protect the unity of the body of Christ. These are things that have nothing to do with our individual desires and everything about us responding to the work of God in our salvation. They are 7 unities, you could say, that are the basis for peace in the church and for someone to inject disharmony, to set Christians against one another, to try to separate Christians and antagonize Christians toward one another is not just divisive on a human level, it is a great and profound sin against God. It is a profound sin to inject disunity into a local body and we're going to see why that's the case here in what we're about to study.

Now, with all of that introduction there, I want you to notice one thing in an overview fashion: this passage is Trinitarian by which we mean that each of the 3 persons of the singular Godhead are represented in this passage. Notice in verse 4 that there is one Spirit, a reference to the Holy Spirit. Verse 5, there is one Lord, a reference to the Son of God, the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and it comes to its climax in verse 6 with one God and Father. So you have Father, Son and Holy Spirit presented in reverse order as you enter into this passage. So the Father, the Son and the Spirit are united together in the Godhead. They share a common essence and what Paul is showing us is that the very unity of the church flows from the unity that is present in the Godhead and so to divide the church is no less than to try to inject division into the most holy and most blessed Trinity. You see how unthinkable it becomes.

Well, let's look at what Paul has to say here. The unity of the Godhead forms the unity of the church. He gives these things in rapid-fire succession without much explanation. We're going to do our best to do the same thing this morning so that we can get through the entire text. Well, what are the 7 aspects of salvation that promote harmony in the church? Point 1: there is one body. There is only one body and the Lord Jesus Christ has only one body. We're talking here not about his physical body but the spiritual organism of which he is the head. In other words, we're talking about the church. The body is a metaphor for the fact that there is only one church. Paul has made this plain earlier in his writing in the book of Ephesians.

Look back at chapter 1, verse 22 with me, if you would. As you're turning there, let me just say that really the interpretive key and it's shocking to me how many commentators utterly miss this, the interpretive key to this passage in verses 4 through 6 is the prior context of the book of Ephesians where Paul has laid out so much of what he said in detail, verses 4 through 6 just become a quick summary, a quick reference point to points that he has explained in depth earlier in the book of Ephesians. It's very clear and obvious that that's the case and it is surprising to me how many commentators miss this as they try to interpret the passage that is before us. Ephesians 1:22, Paul says, "He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him," that is he gave to Christ, God the Father gave to Christ, "as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." So Paul, early on in the book of Ephesians, uses the body as a metaphor to refer to the church. Look over at chapter 2, verse 16 where he says the same thing. He makes the same point. Where he's talking about having joined Jews and Gentiles together in the church, he says that, "He made them into one new man, thus establishing peace," that's in verse 15. You see, in chapter 2 and we looked at this for a long time, peace and harmony was at the core of what he was saying in chapter 2 and so he's just picking up on the theme as we see it again in chapter 4. But he says, "one new man, establishing peace," verse 16 now, and that he "might reconcile them both in one body to God." One body. Chapter 3, verse 6, "Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body," the body, one body that is present. So when we talk about the body, we're talking about the church.

Now, Scripture uses the word "church" in 2 different ways. We've talked about this in the past. There is a sense of the local church which is a group of believers who meet in a specific location under biblically qualified leadership to hear the teaching of God's word and to practice the church ordinances of baptism and communion and practice church discipline as well. Truth Community is a local church in that sense, in the truest and highest form of the way that that word can be taken. But that's really not Paul's emphasis here. There are implications for the local church but if you think about it, there are many local churches because there are many geographic places where believers gather together in order to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. So when the emphasis is on oneness, Paul obviously has a different focus that he's making here when he says that there is one body, he's referring to the universal church here in chapter 4, verse 4. He's talking about that body of believers that are known to God but are invisible to the eyes of men. True believers throughout the world since the day of Pentecost who have been born again by the Spirit of God and believe in Christ, they are all gathered up and you and I are included in this. It's majestic to think about that we are included in that one great universal people of God that belonged to Christ because he purchased them with his blood. Christ has only one people, those that have been born again and he reigns over them as the head of the body.

So Paul is speaking of the universal church here, the one true body of Christ, that spiritual organism which he purchased with his own blood. That promotes unity. Think with me now, remember, the whole key here is unity. If we are Christians, we've all been incorporated into that one true body. Jesus doesn't have 3 or 4 different bodies like some families have 3 or 4 cars and we use this one for this occasion or for this purpose or for something else. No, it's nothing like that at all. Christ has one body and every Christian belongs to that one body and therefore we understand that flowing from that should be a sense of unity and peace in the church because we all belong to the same body. You and I should not divide against each other when we are united in doctrine and we are walking in faithfulness to Christ. There is no reason and there is no excuse for disunity in the church. What injects disunity is ignorance, false doctrine. What can inject disunity is sin in individual members, things like that, and all of this just becomes a powerful motivation for us to know the truth and to pursue holy lives. You see, the deeper we know truth, the deeper we are pursuing holiness and living in obedience, the deeper our unity is going to be.

Now watch this, watch this, sorry to slap the thing like that but you've got to hear this and understand it. You've got to see what's going on around us. The way that most churches try to preserve a sense of unity is doing the exact opposite of what I just described. They minimize truth so that there can be the broadest umbrella possible, so that the rankest Arminians and they want to, they would exclude Calvinists, it doesn't matter, they just try to teach in the most general superficial ways possible so that as many people as possible think that they can fit in. In like manner and I've seen this so many times, they will not practice church discipline. They won't be serious about holiness to the point of saying, "You can't be here living in open sin," so that, again, they can accommodate as much as possible. That is the exact wrong way to pursue unity. Unity in Christ is pursued through a serious pursuit of truth and a serious pursuit of holiness. We don't diminish truth and sanctification just for the sake of getting as many people as possible under one roof and to minimize the offense. Listen, truth offends, holiness offends those who are of carnal or unregenerate mind. We're not trying to incorporate the most carnal, unregenerate people into the body. We're trying to be a pure body which is the one that Christ purchased and that's why we emphasize truth and holiness in our ministry here.

So we need to understand this, that this has massive implications for a philosophy of ministry and the way that we do things in the church. There is one body. Secondly, Paul goes on and says there is one Spirit. There is one body and there is one Spirit. Look at verse 4 with me again. He says, "one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling." Paul here is clearly referring to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Notice that what he's saying here in verse 4 flows right out of what he was saying in verse 3. At the end of verse 3, the Spirit of God is on his mind, "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, one body and one Spirit." So he's just linking together verses 3 and 4 in his mind and he starts discussing the Trinity in the reverse order from which we normally do it. Normally we think of Father, Son and Spirit and we express it that way. Paul here starts with the Spirit because that's what he was just talking about in verse 3.

Now, listen to me, not that you're not, but when I say things like that, listen to me, it's because I just feel the urgency of what I'm about to say, it's not because I think you're not paying attention. The Holy Spirit is a bond of unity for us as Christians because the Holy Spirit indwells every true Christian. Look at Ephesians 2:18 where he says, the Apostle Paul says that, "through Christ we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father." The Holy Spirit indwells every true Christian and it's through the Spirit of God based on the work of Christ that we have free access to the Father. That's true whether you're a Jewish believer or whether you're a Gentile believer. We are brought together in unity and harmony and the former national or racial distinctions have melted into insignificance because the Spirit of God has gathered us up, as it were, we are lifted into the presence of God, all of us individually in the same one way by the Spirit of God. So the Spirit, one Spirit, gives us the same access to God and that recognition causes us to say, "There is abundant ground for unity here. I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me because I am a true believer in Christ." Do you know what? If you're a Christian, you have the exact same Spirit of God dwelling in you as well. I don't have an elite membership. I don't have platinum membership as a Christian simply because I'm a pastor. We all share in the same Spirit and the same access that the Spirit gives to God from the newest, humblest, most simple believer to the most advanced saint sanctified after years of study and teaching; we all have the same access through the same Spirit of God.

So that causes us to be thankful to God. It causes us to view each other properly. We don't have a tiered system in the church where there are first level, second-level, third level Christians in differing degrees of advancement. No, we throw all of that out. The economic distinctions, the racial distinctions in the church don't matter. They are not important because they are swept up in this greater sharing of the Spirit that we all have together. So in the Holy Spirit, we have a common spiritual life. The Holy Spirit gives us common affections in our heart. We love the Scriptures. We love the fellowship with one another. We pursue after holiness and there is this great supernatural power working in each of our hearts that is directing us in the same way, all toward the same end.

Listen: when you share that much in common as Christians, it's no wonder that you enjoy being with each other. That explains why you can go to the other side of the globe, you can go to Asia or South America or Africa, people with completely different cultures in completely different situations but if you meet a true Christian there, you find that you immediately have a spark of commonality that enables you to engage in a relationship that culture and mere things of men cannot begin to explain. You're just animated over the same things. Why? Because you're one. Because there is a Spirit that dwells within you that you share together and that promotes a unity and a harmony that goes far beyond anything that could be explained by chronological involvement in a relationship over time.

You know, if you think about it, beloved, some of you are visiting here today, we're glad you're here, welcome. Some of you have only started visiting us and being with us since we started meeting in this building about 4 months ago, we're glad that you're here and I want you to know that this message is a statement of your entitlement and your belonging to our church even if you weren't with us when we were at the museum meeting over the prior 2 or 3 years. There is no waiting period in the body of Christ. You come in and you belong in the sense that you find a common life here and, in time, maybe some of you will pursue membership. But for those of us that have been here, I would just remind you that 3 1/2 years ago there was no Truth Community. It was nonexistent and now just 3 short years later, here we are unified together in membership, unified together around the word of God, unified in our affections for one another in a deep, profound way that goes far beyond what any human explanation could give. Why is that? It's because there is one body, there is one Spirit. The unity that we see and experience relationally with one another is a testimony to your heart this morning about the truth of what Scripture teaches. It's incredible. The one Spirit means we unite with each other rather than divide. We think about each other in commonality rather than in separation. We're joined together in a blessed way that flows from the person of the blessed Holy Spirit. It's profound. Sacred. It's holy. It's sanctified. It should be treated with respect and reverence and you see, given how holy it is, you see why Paul in joins us, "You be diligent to preserve that unity. You make sure that you're not the one who injects disunion into the body of Christ because there is something holy that precedes you that has brought this into place."

So we respect the unity of the church rather than easily separating ourselves or dividing within it, but there's more. It's not just that there is one body and just that there is one Spirit, point 3 here this morning: there is one hope. There is one hope. It's impossible to decide what's most precious about this. It's all precious but this third point that there is one hope is just particularly sweet in the depraved and wicked world in which we live. Together as Christians, we share a hope and in the Bible, hope doesn't mean a whimsical wish that something would come to pass, in the Bible, hope speaks of a certain expectation and as Christians, beloved, we share a certain expectation, a bound-to-occur anticipation about God's future blessing in our lives.

Look at verse 4 with me here. Paul says, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling." What is he saying here? What is he referring to? He's referring to the fact that you and I as Christians, we all anticipate the future return of Christ. We anticipate that as the greatest hope of our hearts, the realization of the eternal blessing that God has in store for those who are his people. We realize that we are just pilgrims passing through this life. We are sojourners and that this world is going to be filled with trials and sorrows and injustice and that sometimes those things will weigh heavily on our minds. But in the midst of all of it, you and I as Christians are looking beyond that and we own now an expectation of what will certainly occur in the future. And what will certainly occur in the future is that we will be joined together around the throne of Christ in the midst of God's eternal unchanging blessing, knowing peace, joy and uncalculable goodness, free from sin, free from the temptations of the devil, free from the mocking and the persecution of this world. We are going to be joined together in Christ and enjoy the surpassing riches of God forever and ever and ever amen. We share that together.

Look over at chapter 2, verse 7. I told you that the prior context is the key to understanding what Paul is talking about here. What's the hope of our calling? What's the point of God saving us? It's not to give us a better life now. It's not about that. God's purposes so far transcend your 70 years here on this in forsaken sod. Chapter 2, verse 7, why did God save you as a Christian? It was for this, oh, blessed be God, "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Do you know what you have as a Christian? Do you know what I have as I stand here this morning? We have an inheritance that belongs to us. It is so certain that we will receive it, that we can speak about it, we can rightfully speak about it in the past tense. It's as certain to occur as anything that has happened in history. And what's going to happen is that in the eternal unfolding of ages upon ages, God has appointed you as a Christian to enjoy the riches of his grace, to luxuriate in the boundless wealth of his kindness in Christ Jesus and to know and to participate in his mercy and love and grace in an unbroken way that will be utterly perfect and deeper and deeper through the unfolding ages of eternity and that is your destiny. That's what belongs to you. That's what's going to happen. You as a Christian have that hope. I as a Christian have that hope. Do you know what? We're all passengers on the same train that is going into the station of eternal bliss and when, I'm speaking in metaphors here just to be plain, when we step off that train into heaven and we will be home, we will be where we belong. It will instantly be obvious to us that this is what we were appointed for before the beginning of time. There will be no sense of adjustment. There won't be any time of transition. It will be instantly a recognition and a fullness of grace and kindness and mercy that is just going to fill us to bursting with joy and satisfaction and peace that words in this human tongue cannot begin to describe. That's what belongs to you. That's what belongs to me as a Christian. So the greater eternal purpose for which we are hoping for, waiting for, expecting, that which history and God's providence is moving us inexorably toward the fulfillment of, we share that together. You'll be there. I'll be there. Everyone who is in Christ will be there.

So we have this common defining purpose about our existence that joins us together. We are destined to be together throughout all of eternity. What can that do but promote unity now? It informs the way that we view each other and the way that we interact with each other. We're bound together in our assurance of what lies ahead. We belong to one body now. We have a common Holy Spirit indwelling us now through whom we have our common access to God. We have a certain hope that we are all moving toward. Isn't this wonderful? Isn't it amazing what God has done for us and what he has given to us? Aren't you grateful? Don't you treasure it? And don't you see that as you understand these things as a Christian, don't you see that this becomes the prism through which you view everybody else in the body of Christ? We don't see a difference in status, age, gender. Those things are so insignificant by comparison to the fact that we share these things together. This changes the way you look at me. It changes the way I look at you. It changes the way we look at each other. You say, "Wow, they're on the receiving end of the same grace that I am. I have so much in common with them. God has been so good to both of us, all of us in Christ."

Do you see how this reinforces Paul's call to unity? That's what he's teaching on in this passage. Go back to chapter 4, verse 1. Paul says, "I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." I want you to show tolerance for one another in love. "Why should I tolerate So-and-so over there, Paul?" Well, let me remind you that the Spirit has given us a unity in the bond of peace that there is one body, there is one Spirit, there is one hope of your calling. He's teaching us to view each other differently. He's teaching us to think about ourselves in the context of the church not so individualistically, not so self-centeredly  but to see the commonness that we share in Christ. This redefines the way that we think about each other as Christians.

And yet, he's not done. Point 4: he goes on to say that there is one Lord. Look at verse 5, Ephesians 4:5, "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." What Paul has done now as we go from verse 4 to verse 5 is he has moved from the Spirit of God to the Son of God. He has transitioned away from the third person of the Trinity as he is commonly known, to the second person of the Trinity and he is referring to our Lord Jesus Christ. To speak of Christ, to speak of Jesus as Lord, says many things but certainly at the core of part of that, part of what's at the core of that, I should say, is that it's a statement of his authority. The Lord, the Master has all authority. He has all control. The church belongs to him and if you're a Christian, you have the same Lord that I do. Christ is your Lord. Christ is my Lord. We're united together under the common Lordship of Christ. He rules over us. In his singular person, in his vast wisdom, one person reigns over all of the individuals in the body of Christ. We are responsible to the same Lord. We appeal to the same Lord. We look to the same Lord. That should make us unified together in the body of Christ because we are all responding to the same Master.

Let's take it a little bit further. There is only one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5 says. We all came to God through the same Lord. Think about it, beloved: if you're reconciled to God here this morning, then there is only one way, we all went through the same turnstile to enter in. We went through the same door, the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, "I am the door." There is only one door to reconciliation with God, it's through the Lord Jesus Christ and so we all came to God through the same way. This passage utterly refutes the notion that there are many ways to God. There are not. There is one and he is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. False religion does not lead you to God, it leads you to Satan and hell. Other religions, Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, name it, they are taking you away from God because they are not coming through the unique person of the Lord Jesus Christ, fully God, fully man, who alone is the sacrificial Lamb that redeems sinners and reconciles them to God. Nothing but true Christianity really teaches that and so they have a different Lord. They are not part of the body. We, on the other hand, all came to God through the same Lord.

Look at Ephesians 2:13 where Paul emphasizes this. Ephesians 2:13 and, again, all we're really doing here is just helping you see how the prior context, what Paul has said at length, informs how we understand these brief summaries in verses 4 through 6. He says in chapter 2, verse 13, "now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall." One Lord. One Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Christ that you and I, though we are individuals and separate from each other in a human sense, we have one Lord and we have come near by one Lord who shed his one blood and he is our one peace who made us into one body. So we have a common Spirit indwelling us. We have been saved by the same Lord that produces unity. That produces harmony. That joins us together in a significant way. So our Lord Jesus Christ in his unique, non-repeatable work of peace should translate into unity in the church. There is more that we could say about it but Paul doesn't expound on it more than that. We won't either.

Let's go to point 5 here. We have seen that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, point 5: one faith. One faith. Paul goes on to remind his readers that they all came to God in the same way, by faith not by works. Some think that this passage is a reference to the whole body of Christian doctrine, that there is the faith that we are to contend for, for example, from Jude 3; it's a one word summary to refer to the whole body of divinely revealed truth. Now, certainly in the context of a message like this, I'm not going to separate from somebody who thinks that but I don't think that that's what Paul is talking about here in this particular point. I think that that's probably not what this verse means. What Paul is talking about is he's talking about faith as that inner response to Christ in which a sinner rests in him alone for salvation and the forgiveness of sin. You see, we all came to Christ through faith. We all came to Christ by exercising faith in him and that's what faith has meant earlier in the book of Ephesians.

That's the context for what Paul is talking about and I want you to see this. Faith in Ephesians up to this point has been talking about that which gives us access to God. Look at chapter 1, verse 15, for example. Paul, speaking in the plural to his readers says, "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints." He says, "There is this common faith that you have in Christ that has saved you." He's referring not to the objective body of doctrine, of biblical doctrine, he's referring to the fact that they all have had faith in Christ as shown by the fact that they all have love for all of the saints.

Now, keep going, this gets really cool. I love these kinds of principles of interpretation that just unfold Scripture for us just in the context of what we are studying. This doesn't take a specialized knowledge of Greek or fancy expensive books. You can read it for yourself and see it in the Bible and see that what I'm telling you is true. Look at how Paul uses the word "faith" in chapter 2, verse 8 in this familiar verse. He says, "It is by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." Your faith is the instrument through which you receive salvation. You've been saved through faith, "not as a result of works." So what he's saying is, he's saying, "You Christians have all come to God in the same way. You've all come through a humble exercise of faith in Christ. No one came on their own merits. No one did rituals and got in a back door, a separate door. We all had to come through the door of faith." He says it also in chapter 3, verse 12 which I think just really makes it crystal clear. I mean, you just keep getting closer and closer to the context of the verse that you're studying. He says, "in Christ," chapter 3, verse 12, "we have boldness," and what? "Confident access through," what? "Faith in Him."

So Paul here in chapter 4, verse 5 is saying that, "You have all come to Christ in the same way, every one of you. Every one of you had to humble yourself before the Lord Jesus Christ. You had to abandon any sense of merit. You had to abandon any reliance on your own goodness because you recognize that you don't have any. You had to set aside, you had to leave behind the world in order to come to Christ and to receive him and to rest in him alone for your salvation." If you're a Christian, you did that because there is no other way to Christ so we're united together by the fact that all of us who are truly in Christ have been broken before him because we saw ourselves as guilty sinners in need of a Savior. And when a group of people have had their pride broken and their sense of self-righteousness broken before the cross and have humbly asked for grace, they should be united together. What Paul is talking about here is that you all came to faith in Christ in the same way. You abandoned yourself. You left behind the world. You confessed your guilt. And we all came to Christ that way and that was the only way that we could be saved. The commentator Leon Morris says it this way and I quote, "Christianity does not know a variety of ways of being saved. There is one faith, faith in Jesus Christ who alone brings salvation."

So one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith. Paul proceeds to another unifying aspect of Christian experience. Look at verse 5 with me again, chapter 4, verse 5 when he says that there is, "one baptism." One baptism. Of all the 7, this is perhaps the most difficult one to be confident of our exact interpretation on. You and I hear the word "baptism," we're thinking over there of baptism by water and it's possible that that's what Paul means here. Some very good commentators believe that it's referring to water baptism where in Acts they were baptized in the name of Christ and that's a reasonable interpretation. I don't think it's the best interpretation here simply for this reason: in this context in verses 4 through 6, Paul is talking about spiritual realities. He's talking about things that are immaterial, by which I mean they have no substance; they are in the spiritual realm and they are not tangible entities that he's talking about.

Everything that he has been talking about here has had a spiritual dimension to it and I believe that what Paul is talking about here, he's talking about the baptism of the Spirit which places us into the body of Christ and you see similar language, look over at 1 Corinthians 12, if you would. 1 Corinthians 12. He doesn't use the word "baptism" anywhere else in the book of Ephesians and so we don't have that same kind of context to help us with the interpretation but in 1 Corinthians 12:12, he uses a lot of the same metaphors in the same sense to help us and I think this is the best interpretive guide to let Scripture interpret Scripture for us in terms of what he means by "one baptism." Verse 12, he says, "For even as the body is one," 1 Corinthians 12:12, "and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." He's talking about a spiritual baptism here where the Spirit of God places us in the spiritual organism, the body of Christ, and joins us in a living union with Christ. We're all baptized into one body, "whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." So we were all brought under the power of the Holy Spirit and he took us and placed us into the body of Christ. We were baptized so that it's no longer important whether we were a Jew or a Greek, whether we were a slave or a free man, a rich man or a poor man. All of that is subordinated to the greater reality that there has been this work of the Spirit of God that has brought us into union with Christ. I believe that's what he's saying. We all share in this common baptism of the Spirit which joins us together. Unity should be the result or the overflow of that.

One final thing that he says. In verse 6, there is "one God." One God. That there is, "one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." Paul wraps up this appeal for unity by emphasizing the oneness of God. It's an appeal to God's rule. Now, God rules over the universe. He rules over all of humanity, saved and unsaved alike. His Providence is at work in everything that happens. God is the unifying force to all of universal history and he's driving it to accomplish his ends. That's all true but that's not what Paul is emphasizing here. That's not our context, his rule over all creation. The context here, Paul is being more specific. Remember that Paul is exhorting the church to unity here. God is the Father uniquely of believers. He reigns over them. He reigns through them. He is present with them and in them and so the God who reigns over all of the universe is in a unique way the Father of believers at work in us accomplishing his purposes, ruling and directing and achieving that which pleases him, and all of that brings us together and binds us together. A different commentator, Peter O'Brien, who is just an outstanding biblical commentator, said and I quote, "God is transcendent over all his children. They are the instruments through whom he works and they constitute his dwelling place in the Spirit."

So, beloved, what we've seen here is we've seen this wonderful presentation of Christian truth as it bears on unity in the church and what I want you to see is this and we're kind of summing it all up together here: what Paul has done for us here is he has given us many different elements that show the oneness and the commonness of the salvation that we share together and each one of those elements should move us and draw us together. It should bind us together and wrap a great cord of God's work and God's love and God's grace around us so that we are all joined together in the body of Christ and we love each other and we appreciate each other and we pray for one another and we weep for one another and we rejoice with one another.

All of those things together, individually they point us to that but watch this as I close here. Don't close your Bibles yet but what I want you to see and I like this term, I use this term in all lot of different context: there is a great cumulative impact upon this. Each of these 7 elements have an eternal significance to them but when you bring them all together into one place, there is this massive cumulative impact that makes the very thought of division in the body of Christ something that is utterly unthinkable. We put them all together, Paul puts it all together in one sentence, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and you're all participating and under all of that. We say, "Wow." All of a sudden what salvation means explodes way beyond what it means for me personally. My view of the world now has to encompass the whole people of Christ, that I view them and the thought of disunion within a local body or disunion from people that are walking with Christ is utterly unthinkable to me. We love and support and defend each other rather than attack and bite and devour each other as Paul says in other parts of the Scripture. You have in Christ what I have in Christ. You have been saved by the blood. I have been saved by the blood. You have the indwelling Spirit, so do I. You came through faith, so did I. The same God who is at work in me is at work in you. There is nothing to fight about, is there? There is nothing to argue about. We're joined together by a blessed work of a Triune God. We should be united. Yet, somehow, it's not automatic which is why Paul says we much be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit. The unity is there but we must act to preserve and protect it and that's what he's going to show us in the unfolding verses that are yet to come. I hope you'll be with us as we continue to study God's word together.

Let me lead us in prayer as we close.

Our Father, preserve us and protect us and help us so that we might be those who preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Thank you for the greatness of our salvation that you have given to us. And Father, we are mindful that not everyone in this room is a true Christian. On the basis of this exposition, Father, present Christ to their hearts. Bring Christ to them. Convict them of sin and bring them, Father, to the point that you brought the rest of us, that they need to repent of sin, that they need to turn to Christ in faith and abandon this life and abandon this world for the sake of gaining Christ. Father, as the riches of salvation have been presented to them through your word, I pray that they would take a deep root in their heart that has a powerful force to direct them in the direction of repentance and faith in Christ. Father, those of us who are believers earnestly pray for those who are not. Father, we not only one unity with each other as we have unity with you, we would be reconciled, Father, with those who would come to Christ even today, even now. If you're here today and you're not a Christian, I invite you to come to Christ, to come to this Savior who will receive you and cleanse you from all of your sins. There are no magic words of a formula prayer that I can give you. You just go straight to Christ and tell him that you want to be saved from your sin and that you receive him as Lord and Savior and that you want to be a part of what's been presented to you in your hearing here today. Christ loves sinners and receives sinners just like you. Won't you come to him? Father, we commit these things to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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