The Ancient Faith
GOD’S SEVENFOLD UNITY
In Ephesians 4, verses 1-6, seven “ones” are mentioned. An understanding of these seven ones will bring about complete unity in the religious world. First, though, we will notice the Apostle Paul’s own introduction to the lesson. He spoke of himself as being “the prisoner of the Lord” (v. 1). Paul was literally in prison at the time he wrote because of his preaching concerning the salvation found only in the Lord. The Ephesians, to whom he is writing, had been an established church for about 10 years. He is encouraging them to continue in the things of the Lord that had saved them and would continue to save them.
They were to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith” they were called. Christianity is not an avocation, a hobby, but rather a vocation, or profession. This vocation must be learned and lived. In practicing their vocation, they were told to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” And to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (w. 2-3 NIV).
Noble efforts by religious men have been made to bring about the “unity of the Spirit.” This is in keeping with Jesus’ prayer when He prayed to the Father desiring “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). However, we need to be reminded that religious unity will not come about as the result of some great master plan devised in the heart of man. Jeremiah cried: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Religiously, the right way for man is found in the Word of God. What the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians concerning unity was given “by revelation” (Ephesians 3:3), and when one reads this revelation one can understand Paul’s “knowledge in the mystery (or gospel) of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).
“There is one body” (Ephesians 4:4). The writer, Paul, in this same writing explains what the one body is. God has put all things under Jesus’ feet and has given him “to be head over all things to the church which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22-23). And, again, Paul says: “And he is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). When Paul said there is one body, he was simply saying there is only one church. This was the first point to be stressed towards keeping the unity of the Spirit.
There is only one church spoken of in all the New Testament, not two, ten or a thousand. And, moreover, unless we are members of that one church we cannot be saved. Why? Elsewhere in this letter, Paul wrote: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Christ promised to save the body, not bodies, and that body He promised to save is His church.
Also, the church cannot be a denomination, for the church is one body. The church is not a part of the whole. The church is one. Some do not believe the church of Christ is that one church. If this could be proved, it still would not change the truth of God’s Holy Word which declares plainly that there is one church.
Matthew 16:16-18 says: “Peter answered and said, Thou (Jesus) art the Christ, the son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (not churches); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (or prevent it).” Jesus built His church, and that upon the basis of Peter’s confession, not Peter himself, that Jesus was “the Christ, the son of the living God.”
Jesus Christ built the “church of Christ,” and the final establishing of this church is recorded in Acts, chapter 2. It is in this chapter that one discovers “the Lord added to the church (or their number) daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). We have already learned that Jesus will save His church (Ephesians 5:23), and now we see that is where the saved were placed by the Lord. Now we can understand why Paul would say, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Ephesians 3:21).
The second of Paul’s seven “ones” was that there is “one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4). In Romans 8:10, the writer says, “But the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Of the physical body, James says: “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). The spiritual body is the one church. This church without the one Spirit is dead. Paul declares the Spirit is life because of righteousness. In short, if we want the life of the one Spirit in the church, then it will depend upon our doing all that is embraced in righteousness. David wrote: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalms 119:172). Jesus declared: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth (makes alive ): the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
Friends, if we, the body of Christ, wish to have the life of the Spirit, we then must submit ourselves to the words of the Spirit. And these words are found in God’s book, the Bible. Jesus said: “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). It is not enough to be in the one body, or the one church. We must also be motivated and guided by the one Spirit; anything else results in a dead body. Now consider these verses: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of the first-fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).
The third of the seven “ones” is the “one hope.” Paul expressed it like this: “even as you are called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4). Notice the following verses:
Hebrews 6:17-20—“Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”
Hebrews 7:24-25—‘“But this man (Jesus), because he continueth ever, hath an unchangable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
John 14:6— “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Colossians 1:5—“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.” What is the body, the church, without the Spirit, or life? And what is life without hope? And what a beautiful and wonderful hope we have in Christ. Let us rejoice and be exceedingly happy in our one hope.
There is “one Lord” (Ephesians 4:5). Many will accept Jesus as their Saviour and then refuse to recognize him as their Lord. Religiously, we have only one Lord, or Master. He is the one who literally died that we might live.
The Lord is Jesus (Acts 2:36). This means that the one body is not without a head. Sometimes one will ask: “Where is your religious headquarters?” The honest reply is that it is in heaven. No earthly headquarters for the church can be found, such as Rome, or Brooklyn, New York, or Salt Lake City, Utah. The headquarters of the church is where the head is found, and that is in heaven. Remember Jesus is in heaven (Hebrews 4:14).
Of Jesus, Paul wrote: “And hath put all things under His (Jesus’) feet and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus is in heaven and must remain there until the great Judgment Day. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Corinthians 15:25-26).
On the day of Pentecost (Acts, chapter 2), the birthday of the church, the Apostle Peter pointed out that “God hath made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Jesus is the one Lord. Jesus did not leave His people without rules or regulations. We have not been cast upon the sea of life without a spiritual chart or compass. “All Scripture is given by inspiration (through the one Spirit) of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect (or complete), thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17). “Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” said Jesus (John 15:3).
Inasmuch as the Bible is our only chart and compass from earth to heaven, then it behooves us to study and meditate upon it day and night (Psalms 1:1-2).
5— ONE FAITH
There is “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5). There are hundreds of religious faiths. However, there is only one true faith. Notice carefully Romans 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Any faith that does not come from the Word of God is wrong. This is why the church should always contend for the Bible and the Bible only. Religiously, we should speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.
Remember, Paul is telling us how to have the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). In telling us this, he emphasizes the one faith. The source of the one faith is the Word of God, and this Holy Word does not cause religious confusion. Confusion comes about only when this Word is ignored or refused.
When the Bible says that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), the church assembly is under consideration. However, this statement is also true concerning all religious matters.
Confusion in the religious world is caused by believing the evil propaganda circulated by the devil that we cannot all understand the Bible alike. Many believe this falsehood. But by so doing they belittle God and destroy the truth of His Word. There is one faith. God is not the author of confusion.
We can begin testing ourselves concerning the one faith by looking at the text we are considering (Ephesians 4:1-6). It begins by telling us there is one body, or one church. It further says there is one Spirit to motivate that one church (John 6:63). And the church has only one Lord, even Jesus. Now we see the same text says there is only one faith for the one church, and this faith comes from the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
There is “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). There is only one baptism that can be obeyed. This one baptism is water baptism (Acts 8:34-39; 10:47-48), by immersion (Romans 6:1-6). Although Ephesians 4:5 was written by the Apostle Paul some 30 years after the church was established, we are informed there is only one baptism.
It is true that the Bible speaks of other baptisms, such as that of John the Baptist, which passed with John (Acts 19:1-5), and baptism of the Holy Spirit and baptism in fire (Matthew 3:11-12). Concerning Holy Spirit baptism and fire baptism, one was a promise and the other a threat. We enjoy promises and avoid threats. The important point is, though, that the only baptism that was ever commanded is water baptism, and water baptism is the only baptism that can be obeyed.
Water baptism is for believers only, and one cannot become a believer without having first been taught the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Our Lord said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). And, again, “Go, you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them” (Matthew 28:19). Only those who are first taught, and then believe, are to be baptized.
Those who receive the one baptism are to be baptized “into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The purpose of baptism is clearly stated in the Bible. In Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Further, “and now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Baptism puts one “into Christ” (Galatians 3:27), and is “the answer of a good conscience toward God” (I Peter 3:21).
We have learned that the “one body” is the “one church.” Now we learn that through the teachings of the “one Spirit” everyone is baptized into the one church. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond (slave) or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Lord never makes a mistake and adds someone to the wrong church. Thus it is very important that we understand and obey the truth concerning baptism. We do not have to worry about joining the right church. The Lord Himself takes care of this. In Ephesians 5:23, we learn: “Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body.”
Thus, water baptism for the remission of sins, by the authority of Jesus Christ, permits us to be added to the church by our Lord, and this church is the only religious institution He ever promised to save.
The Apostle Paul concluded his lesson concerning the unity of the Spirit, by telling us that there is “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6). Diety (or God) is made up of three divine persons. Jesus Himself is Diety, or God. Many verses point this out. Notice John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus, v. 14), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Thus, we hear the expression—God the Son. This is for clarification. In Acts 5:1-4, one sees the Holy Spirit is also God. In verse 3 they lied to the Holy Spirit and in verse 4 this lie was said to be to God. Notice, though, in Ephesians 4:5 Paul says there is “one God and Father of us all.” In this verse he is speaking of God the Father, as opposed to God the Son, called the one Lord (verse 5). The one Spirit is found in verse 4. In this study of “God’s Sevenfold Unity,” you will notice that these three divine persons are carefully identified.
The expression “one God” is often found in the Bible. But here Paul emphasizes the oneness of the Father. Jesus prayed to the Father (John 17:1). In the next chapter of Ephesians (5:20), we are to give “thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Prayer is to God (the Father), in the name of Jesus Christ (our Lord). The Bible says: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). Further, “Wherefore he (Jesus) is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God (the Father) by him, seeing he (Jesus) ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). There is “one God” the Father, and “one Lord,” even Jesus, who is a mediator between God the Father and man, and is also our intercessor in prayer.
An individual would never allow another to take away from the oneness of God the Father. However, by the identical reasoning a person must never take away from the truth concerning the “one body” or church, found in the same text, or the “one faith,” or “one baptism,” or anything else found here. Whatever reasoning a person would use to change any of these seven “ones” he could also use to change concerning any of the others, including “one God.”
Now we have studied “God’s Sevenfold Unity.” We have learned how the Apostle Paul by divine revelation instructed us to keep the “unity (or oneness) of the Spirit.” We are persuaded that to understand and keep these seven “ones,” harmonizing one with the other, brings about that religious unity so desired and needed in the world.
[This study is from the Christian Expositor March 1987 Vol.1, No.1].