Click here to download study notes: Ephesians 4 1-6 Study Notes, pt2
Ephesians 4:1-6, Christian Unity, pt1:
- The first 6 verses of Ephesians chapter 4 deal with the exhortation that the Christians in Ephesus are to “live a life worthy of the calling they have received” (4:1).
- We have a two-point outline:
- 1) the instruction of unity, v1-3
- 2) the teaching on unity, v4-6
- The Instruction of Unity: (v1-3)
- Firstly, Paul’s call for unity as a fellow believer! He is not using his apostolic authority. The call is “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received.” This is the main exhortation of our passage.
- But how are we to walk in a worthy manner?
- Firstly, “with all humility”, referring to “lowliness of mind”. Humility involves seeing yourself as you are, without arrogance or self-promotion. Linked to humility, is gentleness. It does not mean weakness, it refers to having the strength to humbly serve others.
- There is third command, “be patient.” We are patient by “bearing with one another in love.” The combination of “be patient” and “bearing with one another in love” implies that unity is hard work. This action is also characterized by love, which means there should be a trueness to our effort and not just common courtesy.
- Therefore, Paul urges believers “make every effort to keep the unity…” Be eager, “hurry in making every effort.” This means that unity is not something to be taken lightly, it is something to be sought eagerly.
- This unity is kept “in the bond of peace.” And the “bond of peace” is a way of speaking about the deep unity among people forged by Christ through his death and made real through the Holy Spirit.
- The Teaching on Unity: (v4-6)
- Now the following verses provide a theological basis for our unity. This reality is portrayed through seven “ones”; one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.
- So firstly, Paul calls our attention to “…one body and one Spirit” (4:4). The “one body” is the church, the body of Christ (1:22–23), even though the word “church” does not appear in this passage.
- In addition, we have the Holy Spirit, “one Spirit” who not only gives birth to the church, the body of Christ, but also baptizes each member into “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Therefore, the association of “one body” and “one Spirit” is based on theological foundation as well as the actual experiences of Christians in community. We share in one body, with one Spirit.
- The third ‘one’ is ‘one hope’ (4:4). The Greek could be phrased, “just as you were called to the one hope of your calling.” If we refer back to 1:18, Paul prays that his readers might know “the hope to which he has called you.”
- This points back to 1:10, where God will unify all things in Christ. So when God calls us, he calls us to embrace this particular hope as a matter of confident assurance. Apart from Christ we have no hope (2:12).
- In Christ, our “one hope” includes “eternal life”, where we will share together in the transformed new creation, where all things are brought back into wholeness through Christ.
- In the next verse, Paul hits us with 3 ‘ones’ “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (4:5). Now generally, “Lord” generally refers to Christ in Paul’s writings.1 Corinthians 8:6 may serve as an example… “There is but one God, the Father … [and] one Lord, Jesus Christ.”
- The use of “one Lord” in 4:5 with “one Spirit” in 4:4 and “one God and Father of all” in 4:6 points us to the Trinity, which later actually developed into Trinitarian theology. And so we are called and held by the Triune God.
- Which brings me to the next ‘one’, the “one faith.” This refers to intellectual content (what is believed) and relational context (whom we trust), which should point to the unity of the faith shared among common believers.
- There is also “one baptism”. This refers to the Spirit’s work of baptizing all believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). But it can also refer to the actual baptism by all who became Christians in Paul’s
- And in the act of baptism, there is “one faith,” signified by baptism, and “one Lord,” into whom all are baptized.
- And with connection to this, we have “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:6). This final “one” identifies one “God and Father of all.” This affirmation echoes the Jewish Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
- God is been identified as Father throughout Ephesians (1:2, 3, 17; 2:18; 3:14) and with special reference. A key aspect is in 3:14–15, God is the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” which draws a connection between God and all groupings of earthly and heavenly beings.
- Similarly, in 4:6 God is “over-all and through all and in all.” “All” in our context could refer to all church members, but it’s more likely that “all” picks up the broader connotation found in 1:10, where God is uniting all things in Christ.
- Furthermore, God is “over all” as sovereign of the universe, being the one who created all things. God is “through all and in all.” It doesn’t mean God literally dwells in all things, that’s pantheism! Instead, God is involved in all things, working his will in all things, and ultimately uniting all things in Christ.
- And so, Ephesians 4 begins with an extended explanation of how we are to live out our calling, but the text also reminds us that the dos and don’ts of Christian living, which can’t be separated from the theological foundation of our faith. Ephesians 4:3 urges us to keep unity, and the exhortation to preserve unity is supported by the sevenfold elements of Christian theology.
- As we get into specific moral exhortations, it can seem obvious how to live the story. We do what the text says! So in the case of 4:1–6, we choose to walk worthy of our calling.
- Ephesians 4:3 says we are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.” This means much more than to recognize the invisible, spiritual unity of all Christians. Rather, this verse urges us to eagerly desire and diligently pursue the actual unity of God’s people wherever and however we can.