In Ephesians chapter four the apostle Paul is addressing a real problem that existed in the church of the first century. The problem was division among the brethren. As it was with his letter to the Corinthian church he wanted the Christians to be united. He encouraged them to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v 3). We do this, he says, by walking worthy of the calling with which we were called “with all lowliness and gentleness, with long suffering, bearing with one another in love” (vv 1-2).
Sure, they all had different individual callings but they were to be used together for the edification of the whole church, not just for individual glory and honor. The goal was unity, maturity and steadfastness. The church was meant to be a group of individuals “called out” of this world to supply love, strength and encouragement to all the other “called out” (vv 11-16).
However, in verses 4-6 Paul speaks of some things in which we have no freedom as Christians to our own personal ideas, interpretations, or indulgence. Some contend that these things Paul speaks of are so unique in nature that there cannot be another (real or imagined); while others teach that these things (more or less) are open to individual interpretation and live in accordance to his ideal. But what exactly is the apostle Paul saying here? He says there is:
One Body – Are there not many different bodies? Yes. But there is only one body that belongs to Christ and to which true Christians are added. Since the church of Christ and the body are one and the same thing (Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18; Eph 5:23) and since there are many different denominational bodies that claim Christ as their head what is Paul talking about? The one “true” body belongs to Christ (Col 2:17) and every other, while it may claim to be His (and is indeed a body of some type), is not the one “true” body. 1 Corinthians 12 is a great study of this subject.
One Spirit – While the Bible speaks of many different “spirits” (i.e. spirit of an unclean devil, spirit of infirmity, spirit of bondage, spirit of adoption, spirit of slumber, spirit of the world, spirit of your mind, spirit of fear, spirit of antichrist, spirit of error) there is only one true Spirit from above that is able to teach us and guide us to heaven. And while most of the spirits spoken of throughout scripture are those that come from the world and individual selfishness, many claim that these spirits are the one “true” spirit.
One Hope – Do people place their hopes and dreams on many things that the true Christian recognizes as being hopeless dreams? There are many hopes that men have but only one that will result in what we really want and need (Rom 8:24).
One Lord – Do people serve many different lords? Do people call on lords to save them? The world is filled with idolatry, service, and worship to lords that cannot save. Paul means here that there is one “true” Lord in whom we have hope. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). He even spoke of those who would call Him Lord but not obey Him (Matt 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).
One Faith – How many faiths are there? The dictionary defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” The Greek word means to have a “persuasion” or “conviction.” The Muslim has a faith; so does the Buddhist, the Jew, the Hindu, the Spiritualist, the humanist, the Atheist, the Deist, the Pantheist and so on. So what does Paul mean here? There is only one “true, saving” faith (Rom 1:5)!
One Baptism – Are there and have there been many baptisms? The Bible speaks of no less than seven (i.e. John, Jesus, Fire, Moses, Cross, Holy Spirit, for the remission of sins). While there was a time when all these baptism were valid and had a purpose by the time of Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus there was only one valid baptism and it was the one that would save them (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38-40; Acts 19:1-5; 1 Pet 3:21).
One God and Father of All – Here is the culminating statement! For the Christians at Ephesus they needed to remember that their heavenly Father was the one true and living God (1 Thess 1:9). He was above all, through all and in them all. So they needed to be united on these truths and work together for edification and eternal life.
Aren’t you glad there are no divisions among us today? Oh yeah, right! Why are there divisions among us today? Because people are following or are a part of many different bodies, spirits, hopes, lords, faiths, baptisms, and gods. Let us take a moment for honest introspection and ask ourselves who are we serving, what do we believe, is it helping to unify the brethren, am I contributing to the edification of the saints? Am I on the right path to heaven? Think about it!