A popular worship song from many years ago began with the lyrics, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” Perhaps you remember it, or maybe you’ve heard the recent remake by the artist, “For King and Country.” In any case, the lyrics continue with a prayer for the restoration of our unity. But wait a minute… isn’t that a contradiction? Why should we pray for unity to be restored if we’re already one in the Spirit?
Actually, these words express both an insightful Christian truth and a significant Christian responsibility. The truth is that we are one in the Spirit. The responsibility is that our unity must be seen in our lives. Ephesians 4:3 tells us to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. So what is this unity? And how are we to show it in our lives? A closer look at Ephesians 4:2-6 will help answer these questions.
Ephesians 4:2-6 – “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”
First of all, notice that verse 3 does not say “make every effort to form the unity of the Spirit.” Why not? Because the unity of the Spirit is already formed. Remember, we are one in the Spirit. We can’t add to the unity that God has already formed.
In verses 4-6 we have the basis or the ground of our unity in the Spirit. There is a seven-fold oneness to our unity. There is:
– one body
– one Spirit
– one hope
– one Lord
– one faith
– one baptism
– one God
To better appreciate these essential ingredients for our unity in the Spirit, take a look at this diagram:
Although all seven aspects of our unity are essential (they’re all contained within the largest sphere), as we move from the outer sphere towards the center we come closer to the “heart” of unity. For example, both non-Christians as well as Christians may subscribe to “one God,” but only true Christians are members of the body of Christ and have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Let’s look at these three spheres in a little more detail.
One God and Father
“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all” (v6). God is the Creator of all. He has authority over all. He sustains all, and He controls all. His presence is everywhere. All Christians hold this truth, but then again, so do many other religions.
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism
“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” All true Christians believe that Jesus alone is Lord. We hold to one faith as taught in the Holy Scriptures. Although we may differ in how we interpret some biblical passages, we all “defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” (Jude 3). 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 provides the basic content of the one faith that Christians profess: “I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
What about one baptism? Is this “Spirit Baptism” or “water baptism?” Most likely it is water baptism, because the Spirit is mentioned as we move further in towards the center. Water baptism symbolizes what the Holy Spirit has done in our lives. Notice that it doesn’t say “one mode of baptism!” Christians may differ as to the mode, but all agree that Christian baptism has one meaning: “I’m a Christian!”
One Body, One Spirit, One Hope
The inner sphere shows us that our unity is even deeper than the confession of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.
“There is one body.” All true Christians are joined together in the one Body of Christ, and He is the Head of that Body (Ephesians 4:15-16). It doesn’t matter whether we’re Congregational or Catholic or any other kind of Christian. If we love Jesus and have trusted in Him for salvation, we’re part of that one Body. This is not an organization that we join or maintain, it’s a living organism that God has created.
“There is one Spirit.” Although there are many different spiritual gifts and many ways the Spirit manifests these gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11), there is only one Holy Spirit. Regardless of how we view these spiritual gifts, all Christians are one in the Spirit.
Finally, only true Christians can claim the “one hope” of sharing Christ’s glory forever (Ephesians 1:18). This is the basis of our unity in the Spirit.
Preserving the Unity
We are one in the Spirit, and nothing can destroy the unity that God Himself has formed. But we’re also told to “make every effort to keep ourselves united in the Spirit.” How do we do that? As individual members of the one Body of Christ, we should do everything possible to recognize and reflect our oneness in Christ. We may differ in our concepts of local church government, or our ideas of spiritual gifts, our our views of when and how our Lord will return, but these things shouldn’t divide us as brothers and sisters in the Lord. These things are not the basis of our unity. Members of an earthly family can hold different opinions, but still maintain family unity in love. They’re a family! How much more should we, who are members of the one Body of Christ, reflect our unity by “binding ourselves together with peace.”
Practical steps to unity
Keeping the unity is not always easy! But we’re to “make every effort.” How do we start? Verse 2 shows us that we begin with ourselves.
“Always be humble and gentle.” We become humble when we see ourselves as God sees us. Our natural tendency is to think of ourselves as the influential church member we’d like to be, or think that our worship style is the only “right” way to worship. But God sees our true motives. “Gentle” is sometimes translated “meek.” Meekness is not the same as weakness. Meekness is the result of a mind and spirit that are kept under control.
“Be patient (or long-suffering) with each other.” Long-suffering has been defined as “a spirit that can welcome unpleasant people with graciousness, and fools without complaint!” Yes, there are difficult people, even in the Body of Christ! So be patient!
“Make allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” This goes even further than patience. We’re not just to tolerate our brothers and sisters – we’re called to love them – in spite of their faults, quirks, and opinions. Love involves helping, not judging. As we make every effort to love one another, the unity of the Spirit is kept in the bond of peace.
As people who are one in the Holy Spirit, we’re called to be holy people. It’s not always easy to keep the unity of the Spirit, but the Spirit who makes us one body also empowers the new life He gives us. Let’s continually demonstrate that we are one in the Spirit!
By: Dave Reid – Growing Christians