Ephesians Meditations No.30
Eph 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
When one looks across the world at the Christian Church, at the divisions of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and then numerous Protestant denominations, it is hard to take on board this verse in its practical outworking. Yet, as we commented in the previous meditation, if you put aside all those ‘institutional’ divisions, then each town or area would have had its own expression of ‘local church’ as is clearly seen in the New Testament, for it couldn’t have been any other way. Itinerant ministries might have linked them in fellowship and understanding, but they would still, otherwise, have been independent groups all around the world, so perhaps we need to see past the ‘institutional’ divisions and see the reality that Paul is speaking about.
“There is one body and one Spirit.” That is how God sees the church. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of local church expressions there may be, they all constitute one body, the body of Christ, the Christian Church, and Jesus is head over all as Paul said earlier in the letter: “the church, which is his body.” (Eph 1:22,23) and will go on to say a number of times later in this letter. In his companion letter, to the Colossians, he says similar things: “And he is the head of the body, the church.” (Col 1:18). So, as God sees the reality, every local church is a part of the overall body, and Christ is head over it, and he energises and directs it (if it is open to him), by his Spirit. Yes, that is the truth, that Jesus wants to guide, direct and energise the local church by his Spirit, so it does the same things that he did (Jn 14:12) by the power of his Spirit. That may be one of the biggest challenges possible to the church today! But it IS the truth according to Scripture. The key question is will we seek the Lord to bring ourselves into line with the Scripture?
But Paul hasn’t finished: “just as you were called to one hope when you were called.” That is interesting! He reminds them and us that we were called by God and it was the same calling whoever we are and wherever we live in the world. Now we need to understand that when the New Testament uses the word ‘hope’ it is not a vague wish as we so often mean, but it is a specific future thing that will come. The emphasis on the word hope is simply the future aspect. When we have been born again by the Spirit of God, as Paul already indicated, we move into a life that is directed by God and God has plans for us to lead the most fulfilled life possible: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (2:10). But that is only because, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” (1:5) and we, “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” (1:13,14) and this is all about, “the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (1:18,19) and He, “made us alive with Christ.” (2:5) so that “in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,” (2:7). Do you see that all of this that we have previously considered is ‘future language’, about the outworking of what Christ has achieved, and which is to be worked out in our lives? That is the hope we have which, of course, includes eternal life, although that is not the thrust of the teaching in this little book; it is the outworking of Christ’s work on the Cross in bringing the Church into being.
Paul had started listing the ‘one’ things we all have in common. Now he continues the list: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.” We all submit to the same Lord who is ruling on high with one purpose, we all have the same faith (responding to Him), we are all baptised on the basis of Jesus forgiveness brought to us through the Cross and are all immersed into his body by the Spirit, we all worship the same God who is the same Father of all of us. Just to push home the point, he continues about God, “who is over all and through all and in all.” i.e. it’s ALL about God and His Son Jesus Christ and it’s the same for ALL of us who call ourselves Christians.
As sinful human beings we emphasise our differences of procedures, of living out our corporate expressions of church, and some of us are silly enough to over-emphasise particular doctrines, or even rely on the teaching of men, and thus we allow the enemy to create divisions and mistrust in our minds. However the truth is that we ARE all one – because God says so! Therefore the people who worship down the road may do things differently from us but, if they are born again, they ARE part of the body of Christ. Yes, there are difficulties where there are different shades of belief about the Scriptures, or about facets of Christ’s work but, and this is the hard part, we are still one with them if they are born again and we had better be careful if we deny the sonship of other believers. Let’s be careful that we don’t offend God!