The Unity Worthy of Our Calling – 1
“THERE IS ONE BODY”
a. A general who molds and disciplines his army to the point that it functions as a single unit. He becomes known as a great leader.
b. A coach who teaches and trains his players so that they act as a team working toward one goal. He gains a reputation as an effective mentor.
c. A father who instructs and encourages his children so that they are a family. He enjoys the fulfillment of love and is considered quite a success.
d. Then what of a God who purposes and sacrifices and waits to have a people...only to have it fracture into hundreds of disparate groups?
2. In a sense, to be divided is to say that God has not done enough to produce unity.
3. But what a different view of reality the amazing paragraph before us proclaims!
a. It is so stately in expression and so beautiful in thought that some people think of it as part of an early hymn or confession.
b. “One body,” it begins, and then it offers six more profound “ones” in support of the truth of that initial claim.
c. “There is one body” is a foundational statement of the unity that is essential to the church and that is God’s goal for humanity.
4. Two beginning points
a. The unity Ephesians 4:4-6 describes is derived from the nature of God, not from any person or group of persons.
i. The body, faith, baptism, and hope are woven in between the Spirit, our Lord, and the Father as if these are the glue that holds the others together.
ii. The meaning is not all of the seven ones are of equal weight, but that the Father, the Lord, and the Spirit are the content and the ground of the others – and they are one.
iii. It’s not as if a few people got together and decided to unite; it’s that unity is the necessary reality that grows out of who God is and what he has done.
b. This text is applying a theme that is developed in Ephesians.
i. The letter says God has acted according to his eternal purpose, and that he has made known the mystery of his will, and that it is that all people can be partakers of the promise in Christ (1:9; 3:9, 11, 6).
ii. “According to the riches of his grace” dominates chapter 1, “by the blood of Christ” chapter 2, and “has now been revealed...by the Spirit” chapter 3.
iii. When we come to “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3), then, we’re not dealing with a new idea in the letter; we are dealing with what the main one means!
5. A key thought in Ephesians
a. An eternal plan: to unite everything in Christ, 1:10.
i. The word for “unite” means “to gather up under a single head as a tally at the end of a column of numbers or a conclusion in an argument, and so present as a whole.” (Martin, Ephesians, 17).
ii. The implication is that God saw things coming apart.
(1) In our most realistic and sober moments, we see that too. It looks to us like some awfully important things are unraveling.
(2) As Barclay put it, “This world is a disintegrated chaos; there is division and separation everywhere, between nation and nation, between man and man, and within man’s inner life.” (149)
iii. But God is not willing for things to not add up to be what he intended. It is his design that all the discordant elements be brought into one in Christ.
b. An expensive creation: one new man, 2:16.
i. The context speaks of two humanities, Jews and Gentiles – separated, alienated, far apart and hostile (2:12-14).
ii. A “dividing wall of hostility” existed because of “the law of commandments (2:14-15).
(1) What we’re thinking of is division by race, culture, and religion.
(2) R. P. Martin explains the depth of it: “The animosity that arose from fierce national identity was mutual. The Jews were despised as an odd-ball people, addicted to such strange customs as circumcision, Sabbath observance, and food laws that, for instance, forbade the eating of pork. Their worship of a single deity and their veneration of Moses’ law as unique did not endear them to the Greco-Roman world of religious pluralism and tolerance. On the other side, reverence for [the Law] became a mark of Jewish self-consciousness which quickly turned to national pride and a despising of other nations as benighted and outside the pale. So the battle lines were drawn, and ‘the dividing wall of hostility’ referred to in verse 14 is no exaggeration.” (Ephesians, 30)
iii. But Christ “himself is our peace.” By his blood, he breaks down the wall and creates one new man in place of the two by reconciling both to God in one body (2:15-16).
c. All things united in Christ. One new man. Where this “oneness” is ignored, devalued, or destroyed, think of what happens. An eternal purpose is rebelled against and undone. An expensive creation is marred and ruined and disgraced. We surely can’t be satisfied with such a thing!
6. The body, the church
a. But what does “in one body” mean? In this letter, when we read of the body, we are thinking about a spiritual body. It is the church.
i. Those who are being ruled by Christ are in it, 1:22-23.
(1) In 5:23 the same essential connection is referred to again.
(2) It means that Christ is the source, the enabling power, and the leader of the church.
(3) In biblical terms, to draw life from him, depend on him, and submit to him is to be part of his church.
ii. Those who have been saved by Christ are in it, 5:23, 25-26.
(1) Notice that he is the Savior of the church.
(2) He loves the body, gave himself up for it, and cleansed it. It is his.
(3) To be cleansed, saved, and belong to Christ is to be part of his church.
iii. Those who are reconciled to God are in it, 2:16.
(1) “Reconciled” means “to be brought to him.”
(2) The picture is vivid: persons who were separated from God by sin, lost and lonely, are given relationship to him like children brought home to their Father.
(3) But it is “in one body” – to be right relationship to God is to be in the church.
b. It is crucial that we allow our understanding of the church to be fashioned by these concepts.
i. Everett Ferguson observes, “Instead of speaking of a ‘body of Christians’ or a ‘body of believers,’ the New Testament speaks of the ‘body of Christ.’ That is, the biblical thought starts with unity, with oneness and wholeness. From the one Lord is created the community or oneness of his people ....Christians are not one because they decided to unite, but they are together because of being incorporated into Christ.” (402)
ii. When persons are cleansed of sin, brought to God, and lovingly ruled by the Lord as his own, they are the church.
7. One body
a. This leading fact in Ephesians 4:4 necessarily arises from the nature of the case.
i. By the definition of “the body” that the letter itself offers, there is “one.”
ii. The other “ones” in this text are here to explain and reinforce this one.
iii. By the nature of the case, there can only be as many bodies are there are of the other entities in this line of realities, and it will be characterized by all of the others together.
b. This is not an odd thought isolated to this passage.
i. The same truth is implied by any of the other images the New Testament uses to illustrate the spiritual nature of the church.
ii. If the church is a flock, there is one (Jn. 10:16), and the same is true if the church is a temple (1 Cor. 3:16), or a bride (2 Cor. 11:2), or a family (1 Tim. 3:15), or a nation (1 Pet. 2:9).
iii. Jay Lockhart sums up this way: “The idea that a person may be saved from sin and never be part of the church or that a person does one thing to be saved and another to become a member of the church is not found in the New Testament. Further, the concept that those in many denominations, teaching different and conflicting doctrines, make up the body of Christ is foreign to the New Testament. It is in direct opposition to the fact that the church is to have no divisions.” (Ephesians, 195-196)
8. “In the church and in Christ Jesus”
a. Why is there one body? So that any human being may be an equal sharer in the promise of God, 3:6.
i. Notice that to be partakers of the same promise makes us members of the same body.
ii. In Christ, we all have the same standing: we are fellow-heirs.
iii. We have a shared significance, a value that comes from outside ourselves.
b. Why is there one body? So that each partaker of his promise may be nourished and cherished by Christ, 5:29-30.
i. God wants us to be provided for and protected and kept precious like a member of a body would be.
ii. No more being left on our own strength or being counted as expendable!
c. Why is there one body? So that every person who shares in his grace may be have a part in the work of building up the body, 4:15-16.
i. This is a favorite way of describing how God wants the church to work (cf. Rom. 12:3f; 1 Cor. 12:12f).
ii. Not all have the same function, but all have some function. Not one can do all the work, but each one can do some of it.
iii. Other members of the body need us to function. It is in our own self-interest to serve. The Lord expects us to love him enough to do our part.
d. Why is there one body? So that all those who function this way as members of the body may be accountable to one another, 4:25.
i. The following verses show that this principle extends to other ways of having the same care for one another.
ii. Where there was coming apart, enmity, and hostility, there is now corporate identity and mutual concern.
iii. One new humanity...a new people!
1. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.” If he can bring “one” out of conflict and chaos, what a God he must be! What an expression of his wisdom one body is to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places!
2. Can you see that this is a vision too grand, too precious, for us to neglect? The purpose, work, and reputation of God are at stake!