Thursday, February 1, 2018
Eph. 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
The nature of the church is repeated time and again by Paul. He has already prayed that the church would begin to comprehend the beauty of being united in diversity. Now, he breaks this out in a seven-fold declaration of oneness. These can be broken down into two groups of three, and then a final affirmation of the unity of God.
The first three, or triad refers to the visible signs of the church:
One Body...Beginning with the incarnation of Christ, in a human body, the church is called to be “the body.” This includes those who have served faithfully in the past, in the present and in the days to come. We are a part of a community which is much larger than ourselves, or that is visible to the naked eye. We are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses and we participate in the present, as faithful members of the one body.
One Spirit...The Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father, through the Son unites the people of God together. Only because of the Spirit may we become partakers of the divine nature, or have koinonia (fellowship) with the Triune God. This unity comes from the Triune God and unites humanity to God, and to one another. The Spirit makes all of this unity possible.
One Hope...The visible hope of the church is seen in her kingdom engagement. Not only does the church have hope in Christ, but this hope is reflected to the world. When the barriers that typically exist within society are broken down within the church, then hope can be embraced. Yes, kingdom engagement, but also the hope of resurrection. The hope of heaven and eternal life gives us all hope as we struggle with all that we face in this life.
The second triad may have been a traditional baptismal affirmation.
One Lord...For Jews this would have been a dramatic declaration, for it would be an affirmation that Christ is God. Also, as opposed to Caesar, it was a declaration that Jesus is Lord — and no one else. It repudiates the gods of this world and affirms the Lordship of Christ.
One Faith...There is one faith into which Jews and Gentile alike are united. No matter the background, whether pagan or Jewish, this faith unites all together into one. This is the affirmation of this faith, and is the birth and belief in the church as the body of Christ.
One Baptism...This becomes the outward sign of the mystery of unity. In baptism there is union with Christ and with all of Christianity. This becomes a declaration of oneness to the world.
The culmination of this oneness is an affirmation that there is only...
One God...who is the Father of all. There is no picking and choosing which children belong to the Father, for all come from the Father. And then there is the affirmation of our Trinitarian God who is “above all and through all and in all.” There is no other god that can compare! This is Augustine’s affirmation of “From the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.” “All things are ‘from God,’ who owes his existence to no one. All things are ‘through him,’ as though to say through the Mediator. All things are ‘in him,’ as though to say in the One who contains them, that is, reconciles them into one. (Augustine, On Faith and the Creed 19)
Paul has put incredible effort into his affirmation of unity within the body of Christ. He is writing about it with great detail and praying for the church’s understanding. Such passion has gone into bringing together people from all corners of the earth into this new body, the church.
The church is Christ’s chosen instrument to reflect the kingdom of God to this world. Somehow I think the church in Ephesus may not have been understanding this well, or Paul would not have felt it necessary to reiterate the point so many times. But what about us? It’s far too easy to allow ourselves to live within our own comfort zones and not do the hard work of being unified in as the body of Christ. Time and again the church has not reflected the unity of the kingdom but has allowed divisions to arise. We have made excuses for our own behavior and tried to place God’s approval on our segregation.
Together with Paul we need to embrace and assert oneness within the body. Transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we live in unity with our sisters and brothers within the kingdom of God. The outward reflection of that unity is seen in one body, united through the Spirit, and living in one hope. This is a positive reflection of the kingdom seen in our every day behaviors.
At the same time we embrace the truths of our baptism, affirming Jesus as Lord, and living into our faith. Only in this way do we put aside the gods of this world and the ego-centrism that grows in our hearts and displaces oneness. Oneness is only possible when every focus of our lives is on Christ and drawing nearer to him.
We press on toward the goal, straining to know Christ and reveal the unity of the Triune God in and through the bride of Christ.
Lord, please, make us one, in you. Amen.