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Unity in the Body of Christ


I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

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Eph 4:1-32. Exhortations to Christian Duties Resting on Our Christian Privileges, as United in One Body, though Varying in the Graces Given to the Several Members, that We May Come unto a Perfect Man in Christ.

1. Translate, according to the Greek order, "I beseech you, therefore (seeing that such is your calling of grace, the first through third chapters) I the prisoner in the Lord (that is, imprisoned in the Lord's cause)." What the world counted ignominy, he counts the highest honor, and he glories in his bonds for Christ, more than a king in his diadem [Theodoret]. His bonds, too, are an argument which should enforce his exhortation.

vocation—Translate, "calling" to accord, as the Greek does, with "called" (Eph 4:4; Eph 1:18; Ro 8:28, 30). Col 3:15 similarly grounds Christian duties on our Christian "calling." The exhortations of this part of the Epistle are built on the conscious enjoyment of the privileges mentioned in the former part. Compare Eph 4:32, with Eph 1:7; Eph 5:1 with Eph 1:5; Eph 4:30, with Eph 1:13; Eph 5:15, with Eph 1:8.

2, 3. lowliness—In classic Greek, the meaning is meanness of spirit: the Gospel has elevated the word to express a Christian grace, namely, the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so; the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore lowlily, of ourselves [Trench].

meekness—that spirit in which we accept God's dealings with us without disputing and resisting; and also the accepting patiently of the injuries done us by men, out of the thought that they are permitted by God for the chastening and purifying of His people (2Sa 16:11; compare Ga 6:1; 2Ti 2:25; Tit 3:2). It is only the lowly, humble heart that is also meek (Col 3:12). As "lowliness and meekness" answer to "forbearing one another in love" (compare "love," Eph 4:15, 16), so "long-suffering" answers to (Eph 4:4) "endeavoring (Greek, 'earnestly' or 'zealously giving diligence') to keep (maintain) the unity of the Spirit (the unity between men of different tempers, which flows from the presence of the Spirit, who is Himself 'one,' Eph 4:4) in (united in) the bond of peace" (the "bond" by which "peace" is maintained, namely, "love," Col 3:14, 15 [Bengel]; or, "peace" itself is the "bond" meant, uniting the members of the Church [Alford]).

4. In the apostle's creed, the article as to THE Church properly follows that as to THE Holy Ghost. To the Trinity naturally is annexed the Church, as the house to its tenant, to God His temple, the state to its founder [Augustine, Enchiridion, c. 15]. There is yet to be a Church, not merely potentially, but actually catholic or world-wide; then the Church and the world will be co-extensive. Rome falls into inextricable error by setting up a mere man as a visible head, antedating that consummation which Christ, the true visible Head, at His appearing shall first realize. As the "SPIRIT" is mentioned here, so the "Lord" (Jesus), Eph 4:5, and "God the Father," Eph 4:6. Thus the Trinity is again set forth.

hope—here associated with "the Spirit," which is the "earnest of our inheritance" (Eph 1:13, 14). As "faith" is mentioned, Eph 4:5, so "hope" here, and "love," Eph 4:2. The Holy Spirit, as the common higher principle of life (Eph 2:18, 22), gives to the Church its true unity. Outward uniformity is as yet unattainable; but beginning by having one mind, we shall hereafter end by having "one body." The true "body" of Christ (all believers of every age) is already "one," as joined to the one Head. But its unity is as yet not visible, even as the Head is not visible; but it shall appear when He shall appear (Joh 17:21-23; Col 3:4). Meanwhile the rule is, "In essentials, unity; in doubtful questions, liberty; in all things, charity." There is more real unity where both go to heaven under different names than when with the same name one goes to heaven, the other to hell. Truth is the first thing: those who reach it, will at last reach unity, because truth is one; while those who seek unity as the first thing, may purchase it at the sacrifice of truth, and so of the soul itself.

of your calling—the one "hope" flowing from our "calling," is the element "IN" which we are "called" to live. Instead of privileged classes, as the Jews under the law, a unity of dispensation was henceforth to be the common privilege of Jew and Gentile alike. Spirituality, universality, and unity, were designed to characterize the Church; and it shall be so at last (Isa 2:2-4; 11:9, 13; Zep 3:9; Zec 14:9).

5. Similarly "faith" and "baptism" (the sacramental seal of faith) are connected (Mr 16:16; Col 2:12). Compare 1Co 12:13, "Faith" is not here that which we believe, but the act of believing, the mean by which we apprehend the "one Lord." "Baptism" is specified, being the sacrament whereby we are incorporated into the "one body." Not the Lord's Supper, which is an act of matured communion on the part of those already incorporate, "a symbol of union, not of unity" [Ellicott]. In 1Co 10:17, where a breach of union was in question, it forms the rallying point [Alford]. There is not added, "One pope, one council, one form of government" [Cautions for Times]. The Church is one in unity of faith (Eph 4:5; Jude 3); unity of origination (Eph 2:19-21): unity of sacraments (Eph 4:5; 1Co 10:17; 12:13): unity of "hope" (Eph 4:4; Tit 1:2); unity of charity (Eph 4:3): unity (not uniformity) of discipline and government: for where there is no order, no ministry with Christ as the Head, there is no Church [Pearson, Exposition of the Creed, Article IX].

6. above—"over all." The "one God over all" (in His sovereignty and by His grace) is the grand source and crowning apex of unity (Eph 2:19, end).

through all—by means of Christ "who filleth all things" (Eph 4:10; 2:20, 21), and is "a propitiation" for all men (1Jo 2:2).

in you all—The oldest manuscripts omit "you." Many of the oldest versions and Fathers and old manuscripts read, "in us all." Whether the pronoun be read or not, it must be understood (either from the "ye," Eph 4:4, or from the "us," Eph 4:7); for other parts of Scripture prove that the Spirit is not "in all" men, but only in believers (Ro 8:9, 14). God is "Father" both by generation (as Creator) and regeneration (Eph 2:10; Jas 1:17, 18; 1Jo 5:1).