4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV)
The Apostle Paul continues on with his theme of unity in Christ, culminating with today’s verses.
One of the local news stations has “weather on the nines”, where they report out the weather on every minute increment that ends in 9 (:09, :19, :29, you get the picture).
Today, as we look at these three verses, we see God doing “life on the ones”.
Paul stresses the importance of unity in Christ:
- One body
- One Spirit
- One hope
- One Lord
- One faith
- One baptism
- One God and Father of all
Notice that there are seven “ones” listed here. Why seven? Paul knew his audience, and knew that they knew that seven was often associated with completeness and perfection in Scriptures (creation in seven days, seven days in a week, etc). Paul’s point of using seven “ones” is to show that we are complete in Christ. There is no need to have any divisions among ourselves, as we have unity in Christ.
Paul addresses this same topic with the Corinthian church:
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17 NIV)
The point of sharing all this is not to have a warm and fuzzy feeling, and everyone sit around and hold hands and feel good about God or about ourselves, or for those of us who claim to follow Christ, to “just get along with each other”.
The point of unity is about being on the same team, honoring and serving the Lord together. Life is not all about us; it’s all about Him. How quickly we forget that sometimes, and seek to differentiate ourselves from other believers.
So how do we achieve unity? It starts with us, individually, humbling ourselves before the Lord and before each other. Humility leads to gentleness, gentleness leads to patience, patience leads to forbearance, and forbearance to love (verse 2)
John Wesley, one of the great preachers of the 1700’s, was concerned about the rise of denominations in the church. Wesley tells of a dream he had. In the dream, he was ushered to the gates of Hell. There he asked, “Are there any Presbyterians here?” “Yes!”, came the answer. Then he asked, “Are there any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists?” The answer was Yes! each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of Heaven. There he asked the same question, and the answer was No! “No?” To this, Wesley asked, “Who then is inside?” The answer came back, “There are only Christians here.”
May we not put anyone or anything ahead of or in a place of higher importance than Christ. God has created unity through the Holy Spirit; let us strive to keep that unity in Christ, focusing on what we have together in Him. Unity is one of the distinctions of our faith, and what many who do not follow Christ look for and admire. If we don’t have unity in Christ, we are no different than any other human institution, and offer no reason for others to seek Him.