LIFE, THE UNIVERSE & EVERYTHING
THE SEVEN ONES
The fourth chapter of Ephesians begins with an appeal for unity among those who have been called into God’s family.
We consider it significant that the first thing mentioned in this appeal for unity is our attitudes. It takes “humility and meekness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love” and effort — diligence — “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Merely having the right doctrine is not enough.
But Ephesians 4:4-6 goes on to show us that merely having the right attitude is not enough either, for Paul describes the basis of unity: the seven ones. “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 us all.”
If we don’t have a grasp of these seven basic “ones”, along with the Christlike attitudes, unity is just a word, not a reality. So these are things we take seriously — and joyously! They matter to God so they matter to us. There is…
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one body. Colossians 1:18 says the body is the church, but when the scriptures speak of "church", it doesn't mean churchianity. Verses like Ephesians 5:23 and Acts 20:28 show us that the church is actually those people who have been saved, whose lives have been bought with the highest of ransoms — the very life of the Son of God. So when we were saved, we were added to that one body (Acts 2:47); therefore we don’t need to go and make our own church, or join one that someone else has made. We’re already in the church which Jesus built (Matthew 16:18), the body, because being united with him put us into his body (see 1 Corinthians 12:13 & Romans 6:5). We can’t beat that, so we don’t try. It’s really just a matter of finding others in the body (if we haven’t already) and joining them (as Paul did in Acts 9:18-19,26 & 21:4).
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one Spirit. As the body without the spirit is dead, so the Body without the Spirit is dead (James 2:26; Ephesians 2:22). Every child of God is born of the Spirit (John 3:3-8). This “one Spirit”, the Holy Spirit, has been at work ever since the beginning of creation, and we see that he is still moving (or ‘brooding’) over the new creation. His work has involved revelation, inspiration, confirmation, and sanctification (of the new creation, 2 Cor 5:17). If religious groups who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit are doing and saying things contrary to each other and the scriptures, what are we to conclude? It’s not the Spirit who is at fault.
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one hope. We do see a wide variety of hopes amongst religious groups today, but for God’s people, Ephesians 4 says there is only one hope. It’s a living hope, the hope of glory, of an inheritance, reserved in heaven for God’s children (1 Peter 1:3-4; Colossians 1:27). It’s where we are to fully fix our hope (1 Peter 1:13; Philippians 3:11-15), and everyone who has this hope in God purifies himself, just as God is pure (1 John 3:2-3). So it's a mistake to fix our hope on earth, for that's not where Christ is, nor where we are told to focus (Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 12:2).
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one Lord. The scriptures acknowledge that there are many lords, but for God’s people there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, and we’re happy to acknowledge that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; Matthew 28:18). It’s only a matter of time till every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Like it or not, every one of us has to deal with that reality, and it makes a whole lot of sense to do it sooner rather than later. Of course, Jesus made it clear that mere confession of his Lordship is not enough: read Matthew 7:21-27.
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one faith. The New Testament never uses the word in the plural—faiths. It only tells us about one faith, "the faith in Christ" (as it’s called in Acts 24:24), “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). “Faith” is a concept commonly misunderstood, so we should be sure we understand the word the way it is used in the scriptures. The Greek noun translates into English as faith, trust, belief, assurance. So "the faith" is that which is believed, trusted, which we are assured of, and in the scriptures it is the faith in Christ which the apostles went out proclaiming, having been sent out by Christ himself. Those who proclaim something different are not teaching the one faith upon which Christ's followers can unite.
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one baptism. It’s the baptism that Jesus sent his apostles out with to all nations, a baptism which must be preceded by faith and repentance (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:36-38; 8:12,36-37). We can see in the scriptures that Biblical baptism is immersion in water “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38), just as Christ’s blood was given “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). We can also see why: Romans 6:3-5 says that it is in baptism that we connect with the death of Christ, and baptism puts us “into Christ” (cf. Gal 3:27). We are aware that it’s common today to put baptism into the too hard basket, but we find attempts to dissociate it from faith, salvation and forgiveness of sins fly in the face of plain scriptures like Mark 16:16; John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27 and 1 Peter 3:21.
One God and Father
You wouldn’t think it from looking at the religious world, but God says there is one God and Father of all — and he ought to know. It’s often said that all religions are worshipping the same God, but the gods portrayed in each religion are so different in nature and character that if it were true that they’re all talking about the same being, then it would also be true that this being is a deranged multi-personality…or just plain deceitful. The God revealed in the Bible refused to endorse this “many paths to one God” idea, or the claim that there are many gods. He declares that there is only one of him, and that Jesus is the only way to come to him. (See Mark 9:7; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Malachi 2:10; Isaiah 45:5.)
None of these "seven ones" should be discounted as unimportant. To do so is to ignore Ephesians 4, and the crucial place the scriptures give them as the basis of unity, “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God”. True unity in Christ is impossible without them.