Presented at Trinity Fellowhip on 03/28/1999
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you 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."
We saw last week that the first step to walking worthily of our calling is to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:2-3). What is that unity? Well, those who are part of it are known by having certain things in common: "One body and one Spirit, just as also you 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." Because these things are unique, we are unique. Because they are important, that unity rightly understood in the first step in worthy walking. They are therefore central to our identity and hence to our mission. So we had better make sure we understand them.
Scripture lays it down as a simple fact: there may be many congregations and many denominations, but there is and can be only one Body of Christ. It is recognizable, discernible, across all those lines. How do we recognize it? How do we discern those individuals, congregations, and denominations that are truly part of it? By the other "ones" in this passage. Those animated by the same Spirit, sustained by the same Hope, called with the same Calling, in fealty to the same Lord, believing the same Faith, marked by the same Baptism, and worshipping the same God, are all part of this Body. And because this reality is described by the Body metaphor, it follows that their relation to it is organic. I need you like I my hands need my feet. Therefore, I should take care of you like my hands to my feet. We are part of one Body.
We are made part of this one Body by one Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Power, the Spirit of Christ. His job is to convict of sin, to call to faith, to regenerate, give new life to, the believing sinner, to represent Christ in his life, to glorify Christ. This Spirit makes you a Christian; He indwells all true Christians. But I have written a whole book about this truth (THE PERSON AND WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, Broadman, 1994), so I won't say much about it now.
Hope in Scripture is not the wishful thinking we sometimes mean by hope, but rather a firm expectation based on faith in the character, power, and faithfulness of God. What then is the hope we have in common as Christians? It is every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3); it is to know God and find that knowing to be life eternal (Jn. 17:3); it is to be eternally fulfilled as living stones in the walls of the eternal Temple God is building to the glory of his Son. We are one Body because we are all hoping for the same thing. And what gives us that hope? Our calling. "All the Father gives me shall come to me, and the one who comes to me I shall certainly not cast out" (Jn. 6:37). "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (6:44). "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son ... and whom he predestined, these he also called, and whom he called, these he also justified, and whom he justified, these he also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30). "For I am confident in this one thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). Why does this calling give us hope? Because he who called us is faithful, and he shall bring it to pass.
Those who are true Christians, who are part of the true Church, are those who have the same Lord. You cannot serve two masters. So the bottom-line question is whether your master is Jesus. Those who serve the same master have in that common service a common bond: they share their deepest allegiance.
There are many NT summaries of the faith once delivered to the saints. It must minimally include the affirmation that Jesus is Lord; that he has come in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:2); that he is the only begotten Son of the Father who was given as a sacrifice for sin (Jn. 3:16); that he died a propitiatory death on the Cross and that God raised him from the dead; that if we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised him from the dead, we shall be saved (Rom. 10:9-10); that this salvation is offered by grace through faith, and that not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-10). Those who believe this faith are unified by that commitment along with the others we have mentioned. It is not doctrinal conformity on every jot and tittle, but it is one faith that flows from one Lord and one Gospel, the Gospel of Grace.
It is ironic that Baptism, which was designed to mark off the believer from the world, has historically been adapted to the use of marking them off from one another. Believers are divided over whether to dunk, sprinkle, or pour; on whether infants should be included through their parents' faith or whether the rite should be reserved until they have made their own confession. How then can we say there is one Baptism which is a mark of the one Body? Well, what are the unifying biblical features that define Christian baptism? It is a baptism symbolizing repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). It is done with water in the name of the Trinity (Mt. 28). Whatever our differences, if it is done thus it becomes a mark of our separation from the world and of our transfer of loyalty to Christ, a declaration of our allegiance to him. In that sense, it is a Rubicon we have all crossed, and thus it makes us part of the one Body.
This is the summary of all the "ones." It is the source of them all. And it is the goal of them all. Hear, oh Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One! Polytheism is the sign of a schizophrenic soul, a divided spirit. To the extent that there are rivals for the position of our one God, we live inconsistently with our profession. But if there is one God and Father who sent his Son and their Spirit, then we may indeed maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
If you are a Christian, then these things are what make you one. They are what make you unique, what distinguishes you from the world and unites you to all your true fellow believers of whatever denomination. Is this where you find your identity? In "one body and one Spirit, just as also you 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?" To the extent that this is true of you, you are a true Christian. To the extent that it is inconsistently true, you are a compromised Christian. And if it is false, you are not a Christian at all. Let us therefore meditate on, focus on, turn our hearts toward these things until we truly know the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams