By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

There is one body and one Spirit, just as 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 above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 [NKJV]

Here is a really spiritual question to ask you: as there are many voices crying out for yours and your church’s fellowship, how do you know to which voice you should listen?

Without being remotely judgmental (that’s not my nor the text’s purpose), what criteria should we set – or that the Bible sets – for encouraging us to further our involvement? So many voices. And just to name a few, and all good voices:

Promise Keepers! This is a WONDERFUL ministry among men in particular, and yet there are no denominational boundaries to the group. Is that Biblically ok? How about a “men’s breakfast” among area churches, several of which churches deny the doctrines we hold precious? How about a Conference, one to which many of its members have connections with churches, which like the men’s breakfast, have no Biblical foundation but are simply a “community gathering?”

Here’s a tough one: what about “missions” and “missionaries”? In this modern age of rapid communication, is it possible that our mission board or any one of its missionaries is aligned with doctrines which, if in our presence, would make us cringe? How do we know where to go?

Our text tells us so! It helps clarify our oneness, the spiritual (and subsequently by practice, the physical) unity of believers, as listed by these 7 descriptions:

#1 ONE BODY (v. 4)

Please note that the English supplies “there is” in italics, meaning the writers of our translation believed that the addition of those two words would be helpful in the flow of the text. However, they recognize that “there is” is not in the original text.

If I may interrupt: when I was first saved, I would read the Bible just like any book of literature. So when I came to Ephesians 4:4, I noted that the text is putting words in italics…for emphasis! Therefore I read it this way: “THERE IS one body…”. However, that is not the intent of the author. I learned the hard way after a very embarrassing public reading of the Word.

The word “one” shows the unity that our Savior prayed for. So that leads to a stupid question: what is the “body”? Is it a bunch of parts randomly put together? NO! But Paul uses a magnificently simple picture to portray a dynamic truth.

Look with me to Romans 12:1-6, in particular verse 5: “so we, being many, are one BODY in Christ, and individually members of one another.” This is the unity of the local body of believers! I attend a small (Baptist) church located in the hill country of Smyrna, New York. Among our membership are a variety of personalities and talents. During this season that we have been without a pastor, I have had the privilege to help out with the pulpit duties. But as some of you may remember, I contracted the Covid virus at the end of last November. I was unable to perform ANY duties for the church during the busy month of December. And yet what happened? The church – one body in Christ – recognized that they were individually members of one another! Each one worked together as one!

Look also at 1 Corinthians 12:18: “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the BODY just as He pleased.” During that time I could not come to church, as many members came together to work as one, one member stood out (unbeknownst to most). But let’s be clear here: did Jim sing solos during this time? NO! Thank you, Lord. He knew that is not where he fit in the BODY. But he did help (quietly, behind the scenes) finance many of the programs of outreach of the church that Christmas season. One BODY.

#2 ONE SPIRIT (v. 4)

There is one Holy Spirit, Whom we know as the third Person of the Trinity. But I would ask you, and Paul would remind us: what is the function of the Holy Spirit in regards to the unity of the church?

A classic passage is 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to bring us to Christ, placing us into the universal BODY of Christ!

While in 1 Corinthians 12, look at verses 4, 7, 8:

“4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit….

7-8 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit…”

The Holy Spirit then gives gifts to be used within the BODY. No one gift is more important than another. Why, the pastor is not more important than the janitor! The Spirit gives the gifts!

But be aware of the guiding text of 1 John 4:1:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

How do we “test the spirits”? We determine if they are in agreement with the Word of God!

So we have ONE BODY and ONE SPIRIT. Now #3 ONE HOPE (verse 4):

Webster defines hope as “a feeling that what is wanted will happen”. Is this scriptural? Is this helpful in our study today?

Paul told Titus that we are “looking for the blessed HOPE (Titus 2:13a).

Let us look at one passage: 1 John 3:1-3:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this HOPE in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” [my emphasis]

This is a “know-so” hope, not a feeling. It is based upon God’s word! The old salts had a saying, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Perhaps that should be revised to read, “God said it, that settles it whether I believe it or not.” HOPE!

#4 “ONE LORD” (verse 5)

The word “LORD” means “Master” or, if you will, “Boss” (without attempting to be irreverent by placing human terms for an Heavenly position). He not only is in control, He is the One to Whom belongs the leadership.

Revelation calls Jesus “King of kings and LORD of lords” (19:16). Colossians 1:18 says “He is the Head of the BODY, the church.”

Here is an interesting progression:

Salvation…Maturity…LORDSHIP…Gifts recognized…Usefulness in the local church as the church submits to His LORDSHIP!

Some would argue that “salvation” and “LORDSHIP” take place at the same time. There are scriptures encouraging both views. In either case, there is ONE LORD to Whom the believer must surrender daily, and in so doing, the local church and the universal church are beneficiaries of that surrender!

#5 “ONE FAITH” (verse 5)

“Faith” can be two thoughts, perhaps, here combined. FIRST, it is a TRUST in the Scriptures and the Lord to do marvelous things. We all remember Romans 10:17: “So then FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

SECOND, it also is the entire BODY OF TRUTH concerning God’s Son! Jude 3 says, “contending for THE FAITH which was once delivered to the saints.”

How was it delivered? Through the Word of God! The key here is the AUTHORITY of God’s Word – the local church is in submission to ONE FAITH in Christ, in His Word, through trust in His Word.

Note that it does NOT say “MANY FAITHS”. The mindset of “ONE FAITH” becomes both very narrow and thus hopefully very bold.

#6 “ONE BAPTISM” (verse 5)

Remember 1 Corinthians 12:13? “For by one Spirit are we all BAPTIZED into one body…”

The key here is ONE baptism. This baptism shows the complete and once for all security of the believer.

We should all be familiar with John 10:27-29:

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

The believer is securely (figuratively) in Jesus’ hand. Jesus is securely (figuratively) in His Father’s hand. This is the complete security of the believer.

Finally, #7 “ONE GOD AND FATHER (verse 6)

There are TWO fathers in Scripture. There is here in verse 6, “one God and Father”. And John 8:44reminds us of the other father: “you are of your father, THE DEVIL…”. Which one is YOUR (F/f)ather?

Our “ONE God and Father” looks back to CREATION, where He is the Father of all creation. It looks back to His SOVEREIGNTY, to His right to be in charge. It looks back to His OMNIPRESENCE, to His right to be EVERYWHERE and LORD of EVERYONE.

The key in the context of verse 6 is that God has the right to be God, the Head of the Church – both local and universal.

Let’s close looking back to the original question: WHERE IS OUR UNITY? It is found in our ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT, ONE HOPE, ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, ONE GOD AND FATHER.

This is not an easy path, for the individual believer as well as for the local church. It causes each of us to TAKE THE TIME (ouch!) to be disciplined in study, in nature, and not haphazard but purposeful in direction (ouch!).