Keep -- One -- All
by Pr. Dave Mann
As can be seen in Ephesians 4:1 (as a prisoner for the Lord), this is one of the four epistles that Paul wrote from prison – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. When he was arrested, Paul may have thought, “Never let go to waste an unexpected clearing of your calendar. Get some important work done!” These four letters represent some of Paul’s best writing. In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul laid out masterfully the work of grace that God has done for us through the cross. In the final three chapters, Paul addresses our response made possible because of God's action in Christ.
I want to draw attention to three keywords in the opening paragraph of chapter 4 – "keep, one, all."
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. Paul does not exhort us to seek unity, to strive toward unity, or to long for unity. He assumes that there is unity in the Spirit and thus he exhorts us to keep it. The unity of the Spirit is a gift of God because when we are justified in Christ, we have the same Holy Spirit given to every believer. The unity exists by the action of grace through the cross of Christ. If that unity is not evident to us believers, then we are clouding the truth with our actions, words, or thoughts. It is there, just covered up and obscured.
The word one is used seven times in the next sentence, to underscore the truth of the unity of the Spirit. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all. How can there not be unity when there is only one God and one Spirit? There are more aspects of the Christian faith that could be added to this list – one redeeming cross, one only begotten Son, one Name by which we must be saved – but I think Paul leaves off at seven iterations of one because seven is the perfect number. No more are needed.
Then, to complete his thought, Paul adds four mentions of the word all – one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. No one is left out. Everyone who believes is included in the body of Christ and filled with the one Spirit.
O Lord, the one and only true God, maker of heaven and earth, thank you for the marvelous grace of salvation. Thank you for the gift of the unity of the Spirit. Help us to keep that unity foremost in our minds. May we all allow your one Spirit to direct us to follow your ways, in Jesus’ name. Amen.