Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 1, 1964
NUMBER 21, PAGE 8,13c

The Unity Of The Spirit - II.

L A. Mott, Jr.

The consideration of this subject was begun in the last article with the raising of the question, "Is unity in religion a desirable goal?" The scriptural answer, we have seen, is a qualified yes. Unity is not desirable on just any terms. Unity must be effected on the basis of the terms laid down by God. Otherwise, even if unity was established God would not be pleased.

This series of articles is a study of Eph. 4:1-16 which, this writer feels, more than any other single text sets forth in a comprehensive manner God's plan for bringing about religious unity. Paul begins with the fundamental admonition that we are to "walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called." But Paul's immediate concern is with a single specification under this general heading of walking worthily of our calling: "giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

We then come to the next major section of the text and the thought with which we are concerned in this article.

The Basis Of Unity

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in all.

This is the divine foundation for unity. It is a platform with seven planks. There are seven bonds of union. They are:

(1) One body. This refers to the church (Eph. 1:22, 23). It is the first bond of union. All Christians are in the same body — the one body of Christ. (2) One Spirit. This is the counterpart of the one body. There is one Spirit dwelling in the one body to give life to the body (cf. James 2:26; Eph. 2:22).

(3) One hope. All Christians have one and the same hope.

(4) One Lord. The word kurios means "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has the power of deciding; master, lord" (Thayer). Christ bought us; hence we belong to him as his slaves (I Cor. 6:19, 20). He rules over us This is a bond of union. All Christians are slaves of one and the same Lord.

(5) One faith. Is this objective (what we believe) or subjective (the act of believing; faith in the heart)? The difference as far as this passage is concerned, is of little consequence. There is one faith in both senses. We will all hold to the same creed (objective); we all have the same faith in our hearts (subjective). Hence this is the fifth bond of union.

(6) One baptism. This brings us into the one body (I Cor. 12:13).

(7) One God. There is one object of worship We all worship and serve one and the same God; hence, the seventh bond of union.

Let us emphasize that this is the foundation of Christian unity. This is the starting point. Those in the church were once separated; but now they have these bonds of union between them. They are all one in the body of Chris t. In Eph. 2:14-16 Paul shows that God reconciled both Jew and Gentile in one body, making of the two one new man. This is also the thought of Gal. 3:26-28. Before their conversion, Christians were widely separated; great religious, political, social, and cultural differences kept them apart. Some were Jews; some were Gentiles. Some were slaves; some were freemen. Other differences also existed. But now in Christ God has abolished all of these distinctions; he has made all "one in Christ Jesus;" all are spiritual equals.

First Corinthians 12:13 seems particularly significant at this point, for we have three of the seven bonds mentioned together again in combination. According to the King James Version we have the following: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." This is God's plan for bringing about unity. The one Spirit uses the one baptism to make us member of the one body. Some other spirit might use some other baptism to make us members of some other body. But God's plan for unity is that the one Spirit use the one baptism to make folk members of the one body.

Returning to Eph. 4, I raise the question, "Why in this context, does Paul mention these seven points?" He urges us to give diligence to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Why does he now make the statement, "One body (Actually There is' is not in the Greek text, as the italics in our versions indicate.), and one Spirit, etc."

The purpose of this will be understood if we consider the use Paul made of these items to meet the divided condition in Corinth. The situation and how Paul met it is described in the following: "Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (I Cor. 1:12, 13). Paul rebukes the Corinthian condition by making an appeal to the bonds of union between the Christians. His point is: You all belong to one and the same Lord and he is not divided. Since Christ is not divided, and all of you belong to him by virtue of his death (cf. 6:19, 20) and your baptism, how can you consistently split up into little sects?

Paul's purpose in listing these seven bonds of union in Eph. 4 is the same. Here he is appealing for "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." He argues: How can you be separated one from the other and have nothing to do with each other when you are all members of the same body; have dwelling in you the same Spirit; have beating in your breasts the same hope; are all slaves of the same Lord; have the same faith in your hearts; have received the same baptism; and all worship the same God? Division is absurd under these conditions and upon this foundation!

Paul does not say, "Let there be one body," as some brethren seem to think. These seven items already actually exist as bonds of union between Christians. This is not addressed to denominations, but to Christians, who already have these bonds of union formed between them. Paul is appealing to Christians upon this foundation which already exists to "keep the unity of the Spirit " This is an admonition to Christians to be united within the one body; to get along with each other in peace and unity. Any other condition, he argues, is absolutely senseless and absurd, in view of the bonds of union between Christians.

These seven ones, then, are the starting point, the foundation for Christian unity. Upon this foundation we are to keep the unity of the Spirit. Any union upon another foundation would not please God.

It is clear that modern movements between Catholics and Protestants, and sometimes within Protestantism, are missing the point entirely. The modern theologians have the cart before the horse. They are trying to learn how to unite before they even get on the divine foundation. What each of these sectarians needs to do first is to be baptized into the one body. Then each of them would have these seven common bonds with all others in the one body. Then and only then need they be concerned about the ways and means of establishing and maintaining complete unity between all members of the one body.

Paul's discussion of unity in Eph. 4:1-16 is complete in every way. In his third and final point he reveals how Christians, all of whom are in the one body, are to be united one with the other; how, after these seven bonds have been established between them, they are to "keep the unity of the Sprit in the bond of peace." We will consider this in the next article.

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