to the Ephesians
ONE SPIRIT, ONE LORD, ONE GOD AND FATHER
"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." - EPH. iv. 4-6.
THE three Persons of the Godhead are here remarkably
brought out in connection with that unity of the Spirit which you are to
endeavour to keep in the bond of peace. The Holy Ghost is in the first of these
three verses. The Son is in the second. The Father is in the
1. (ver. 4). The apostle uses a favourite image here. The church is represented by the individual man; and the unity of the church is represented as like the unity of a man. In the one man there is duality: body and soul; an outward material frame and an inward living principle of intelligence and will. So also is it in the one church. It is outwardly manifested in the visible and palpable form of men evidently living holy and loving lives, for Christ's sake and his Gospel's. It is inwardly animated by the Holy Ghost in them all. There is an outward oneness of character and walk, as there is an outward oneness in the corporeal structure of a man. And there is an inward oneness, as of the soul in man. And this double unity is effected by no mystical process. It is brought about by a calling; a hopeful calling; the one hope of your calling.
2. (ver. 5). The one individual man, having a body and a soul, but still one, is one also as having and owning one head. Made one body and one spirit, through the one hopeful calling common to all, you are further one as recognising one Lord. And there is but one method of union with him, and with one another in him, faith, one faith; and one seal of that oneness of faith, one baptism.
3. (ver. 6). Thus called, in one hopeful calling, to be one body animated by one Spirit; thus united to one and the same Lord by one and the same faith, confirmed by the seal of one and the same baptism; they who constitute the one church come to stand in one and the same relation to the Suprem ; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
There is, then, first, the one Spirit, making you, in one hope of your calling, one body, of which he is the living soul. Next, there is the one Head or Lord, to whom one faith unites you inwardly, while one baptism seals your union outwardly. Lastly, there is the one God and Father; your God by nature; your Father by grace; who now is not only, in virtue of his own sovereignty, over you all alike; but is also, in virtue of the mediation of his Son, through you all alike; and in virtue of the ministration of his Spirit, in you all alike. Thus the unity begins and ends with the Spirit. It is from first to last the unity of the Spirit. It is originated and consummated by the Spirit.
1. Its origin is the one hope of your calling. The calling is one; and its hope is one. There is a reference here to (i. 18) the prayer on your behalf "that ye may know what is the hope of his calling." It is spoken of as God's calling there; here it is yours. But it is the same calling that is meant in both passages; God's calling you; his calling you hopefully. It is the Gospel call which is meant. In that call the unity of the Spirit begins. For it is to all of you one and the same; and, when rendered effectual, it begets in all of you one and the same hope.
The Gospel call finds you all on the same footing, as all alike sinners dying in despair. When embraced it places you all on the same footing, as all alike now sinners living in hope. So, by means of this one hope of your calling, the one Spirit forms you into one body. Striving with you, he presses home upon you all alike the same overtures of mercy, peace, and reconciliation. He urges against you all alike the same sentence of condemnation which you have all alike deserved. He proclaims to you all alike the same message of forgiveness which you may all alike freely, without money and without price, receive. And then, besides not only striving with you, but moving and working in you, by one and the same process of conviction, enlightenment, and renewal, he effects in all of you one and the same result. It is one and the same sense of sin that he awakens in all your consciences, when he causes you to look on him whom you have pierced, and mourn. It is one and the same sight of Christ that he gives to all your understandings, when your minds are opened to perceive the divine method of salvation by him, and to approve of it. It is one and the same gracious consent that he wins at last from all your hearts, when, overcoming all your reluctance, your hesitation, your dislike and doubt, he makes you all alike a willing people in the day of the Lord's power.
2. As by means of the one hope of your calling the Spirit forms you into one body, so, in doing that, he brings you under one head - one Lord, Christ. He unites you all alike to this one Lord. You are all one in your common oneness with this one common Lord, Christ. It is not merely that you all alike consent to acknowledge this one Lord. Such a unity might be of your own making; like the coming together and combination of many independent men under one common chief. But it is still the unity of the Spirit that is here intended. Your oneness, as having one Lord, is the Spirit's doing. This is plain from its being connected with faith. For faith is the Spirit's work. And if it is in respect of there being one faith that there is one Lord, this unity of a common headship - of there being one Lord - is something more than a mere human act of will; it is a divine operation; a divine effect. There is to all of you alike one and the same Lord, because there is wrought in all of you alike, by the one Spirit, one and the same faith. No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost. If you are all one in calling Jesus Lord, it must be by the Holy Ghost working in you all one faith. There is one Lord in whom you are all one, because you are all one with him, by one faith.
Viewed in this light, the common relationship to Christ as one Lord, which we all alike have as believers, is seen to be very close and sacred. It is no ordinary lordship, like the ascendency which one master mind may wield over many admiring, consenting followers. It is, in a sense, the lordship of a natural oneness, a oneness of nature. There is now wrought between this one Lord, and all of you alike, a real oneness of nature. It is not merely that one and the same relation comes to subsist between him and all of you alike, there being the same reciprocity of authority on his part, and submission on yours, as regards all of you alike. It is that. But it is at the same time also something different and something more. It is that one and the same real, intimate, incorporating oneness, comes to exist between him and all of you alike; so that he is, not outwardly merely and relatively, but inwardly in the apprehension and grasp of your one faith, one and the same Lord of all of you alike; because you are all of you alike one with him. As the one Lord he is thus the one common life of all of you alike; making his life in God, his own very life in God, your life: the one common life of all of you alike. As the one Lord, apprehended, appropriated, by the one faith, he is the mind, and heart, and soul of all of you alike; leavening you all alike throughout and thoroughly with his own frame and temper of spirit; enlisting your sympathy; assimilating your nature to his own; so that you all alike come to think and feel in unison with him. As the one Lord he enters into and possesses the whole inner man of all of you alike; so that all of you alike have Christ dwelling in you by faith. As the one Lord, he identifies you all alike, not in law only, or in a legal form, but in a true and real personal union with himself; so that you, all of you alike believing, do really and truly, all of you alike, die with him in his death, and rise with him in his resurrection to newness of life. Thus there is one Lord and one faith. The one faith makes the Lord one and the same for all.
And this union fitly symbolises itself in one baptism, as its sign and seal. For you are all alike baptized, in one and the same baptism, into one and the same Christ. And you are all alike baptized into him, as the one Lord. You are all of you alike baptized into his death and his resurrection; your baptism signifying and sealing, for all of you alike, your joint participation with him in his being delivered for your offences, and in his being raised again for your justification. Your baptism has, for all of you alike, one and the same signification. You are, all of you alike, baptized in one and the same faith, into one and the same Lord. There is one and the same Lord for all of you alike; one and the same faith embracing him; one and the same baptism sealing the embrace.
3. Over and above all this oneness; springing out of the one Spirit by means of the one hope of your calling uniting you into one body; this oneness of your having one Lord; apprehended as yours by one faith; sealed as yours by one baptism; a still higher unity is yours; one God and Father of all. One God and Father of you all; his Father and your Father; his God and your God. So the one Lord in whom all of you with one faith believe, and into whom all of you, with one baptism, are baptized, would himself lead you up to the highest ground and platform of this unity of the Spirit; your one common relation, his and yours together to the Supreme. For after all, ultimately, this unity - the unity of the one Spirit hopefully, because effectually, calling you; and the one Lord owning your one faith and confirming it in your one baptism, must have respect to God the Father. The Spirit, in this matter, glorifies the Son; and the Son glorifies the Father. By the one Spirit, in and through the one Lord, you are brought up face to face to meet, all of you together, the one God and Father of all. And how does he present himself to you, and so present himself to you as to make this your unity of the Spirit in the Son consummate and complete?
All of you alike now with one eye see, and with one mind and heart and voice own, his sole and absolute supremacy. In the view of all of you alike he is now, as the one God and Father of all of you alike, " above all." You all of you feel him to be so ; you all of you would have him to be so. You are of one mind and heart in owning, and rejoicing to own, the one undivided sovereignty of your one God and Father. Your one Lord, by the working of the one Spirit in you, makes you one with himself in this; so that you, in and with him - all of you alike - are ever saying, "Father, thy will be done." "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight."
And this you are the rather inclined and enabled to say, because the one God and Father, whom, in and with the one Lord, the one Spirit moves you, all of you alike, to own as over you all, is to be apprehended as also "through you all." With one heart and soul,you all alike worship this one God and Father of all, as above all. With one heart and soul, you also welcome him as through all. Yes. You now, all of you alike, know this one God and Father of all of you alike, not as one afar off and aloft, to be adored from a distance in trembling fear; but as one who conies among you and is present with you. All of you alike having one Lord are to recognise this one God and Father of all, his and yours, as not only over, but through and among you all.
Still farther, he is to be recognised by all of you alike, as not only above you all and through or among you all, but really and truly "in you all." He is so, and he can be so, only by his Spirit. It is the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, who alone enables you to realise the great fact of the one God and Father of you all being not only above you all and through or among you all, but in you all. This, in fact, is the crown and consummation of the Spirit's work in bringing about the unity which is his own. Through the one Lord he leads you up to the one God and Father of you all; and to him above, and through, and in you all.
If the unity of the Spirit is such a unity as this, it is, and should be, a visible unity. It may be visible in an individual believer; in his holy profession and consistent walk. Every one of you singly and separately may exhibit this unity of the Spirit as imparting to your character a certain unity, not otherwise, not naturally belonging to it. David had some apprehension of this when he said (Ps. xxvii. 4), "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after." And again (Ps. Ivii. 7, and cviii. 1), "My heart is fixed, 0 God ! my heart is fixed." For in myself, and when I am left to myself, that can scarcely be true of me. Waywardness, wantonness, fickleness, in a word, unfixedness, is rather my natural turn of mind. No doubt, a strong worldly necessity or a keen worldly ambition may sometimes steady me and make my worldly life to a considerable extent a unity. Even then, however, the nnity is only partial, often fitful. Nature resents the pressure of one continuous strain in one direction, and relieves herself, it may be, by random sallies of caprice.
The unity of the Spirit, even in the individual believer, is of a different sort. It does no violence to his nature, by giving any one part of it exclusive prominence. It keeps his nature whole and entire, elevating all its parts harmoniously. Hence, the most natural of all men is the child of God; the most various; and yet always one and the same. The unity of the Spirit in him is no monotony; no harping on a single string. It is large and free, as the breath of heaven, or the experience of earth. He goes forth among his fellows with the impress, not of a dead uniformity, but of a living unity, stamped upon his whole character and life. None can mistake either the one or the other. He need not be stiff and formal, the slave of martinet routine. He may adapt himself to circumstances, and interest himself in the concerns of all around him. He may become all things to all men. Only it will be clear that it is with the one view of Paul: "that I might by all means save some." Only let this be clear, 0 my brother! Settle it with yourself, that, as called to this divine oneness in the Lord, you are as he is in the world. Then let all men know, by your whole walk, that you are so. Your own single testimony will be a demonstration such as men will not be able to gainsay of the unity of the Spirit.
Ah! let us each, in this matter, begin at home. We mourn over the comparatively little that there is of real and true brotherhood among the children of God. And there is too good ground for humiliation as to this. But what is the readiest and most effective remedy? Let us, each of us, individually and privately realise more of this unity of the Spirit in our own individual experience; more of its elements; more of its essence; more of its identity with the divine unity itself. Then, when we meet, coming fresh, each of us individually, from the secret place of the Father where we habitually dwell, we shall better recognise and understand one another. There will be less embarrassment, less reserve, more of the full communion of the saints. And when we separate to go about our several occupations in the world, and mingle with all sorts of persons, they will see in each of us apart, and when they come to compare notes, in two or three of us together, indications of a certain fixed unity of feeling, sentiment, aim, and end, having constant reference to God and his will, such as they cannot account for otherwise than by admitting that these men have been with Jesus.
Tor the sedulous keeping of such a unity as this, the cultivation of these precious graces, lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, the mutual forbearance of love, must be above all things indispensable. A lowly esteem of self, with, as a consequence, a large and loving tolerance for others, is its best preservative. Nothing can be more damaging, more ruinous, to it than spiritual pride. The very slightest touch of that satanic breath or spirit is sure to mar the heavenly vase, and may go far to break it. I call it a satanic breath or spirit. And well may it be so called. For it was that which marred and broke the unity of heaven. Ah, there was no lowly meekness, no loving patience among those who would not, at the Father's command, worship the First-begotten. For the secret of this meek and quiet spirit is this worship of the Son. That gives the death-blow, as nothing else can, to spiritual pride. I cannot, if I am really adoring the Son, especially if I am adoring him as redeeming me, a poor sinner, by his most precious blood, I cannot be keeping any publican at arm's length, or saying, Stand by, for I am holier than thou.
Therefore, 0 my friends, be ye ever thus adoring, worshipping the Son; that will make you and keep yon lowly and meek, long-suffering, forbearing towards one another in love. And so it will conduce greatly to your keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. For the Spirit's unity is his making you one with Christ and with God; and there is no pride in Christ or in God; nothing but grace; no bidding of any sinner away; but the bidding of all sinners to come near. Pride, spiritual pride, must be fatal to a unity like that. But the worshipping of the Son is fatal to pride. Therefore, I repeat, be ever worshipping the Son; believingly, gratefully, lovingly, be worshipping him evermore. Your worship of him will do what all believing, grateful, loving worship does. It will assimilate you more and more to him whom you worship. It will make you more and more one with him in his meekness and lowliness of heart; more and more one with him in his cry to the weary, Come unto me; in his weeping at Bethany; in his saying, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." It is at the Father's command that you worship the Son, and your worship of the Son, being very well pleasing in his eyes, commends you to the Father's love. The Father himself, says Christ, loveth you, because ye have loved me, believing that I came out from him. This special love of the Father, as the one God and Father of you all; above you all; through you all; in you all; is the highest culminating perfection and consummation of the unity of the Spirit. He makes you one, in your joint possession of this one God and Father of you all; in your joint participation of the fulness of his love, as above, and through, and in you all. To have one God and Father thus ever near, on every side, above, around, among, within; to have such oneness in and with so great a God, so gracious a Father; is indeed unity of a high sort. It passeth knowledge. But it is to be reached experimentally, in the way of a growing love to the Son for the Father's sake, and a growing worship of the Son at the Father's command. For thus you win, as it were, more of the Father's love, in very proportion to the love he has for the Son. You come to have, if I may so say, a warmer place in the Father's heart.
So the unity of the Spirit comes to be more and more, in your conscious experience of it, that of truest fatherhood on God's part, and truest sonship on yours. Need I add that it will be more and more that of truest brotherhood among yourselves? For it is the unity of which the Elder Brother speaks when he prays for all who may believe on him; "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us;" "that they may be one, even as we are one."
Though the consummation of this unity of the Spirit is thus high; so high that it might seem as if you could not attain to it, yet, let me remind you, the commencement of it, the initial step, is low, low enough to be within the reach of all. For it is your being called in one hope of your calling. Though the Spirit, in perfecting this unity, would raise you to the very throne and heart of the one God and Father, he begins the process on the level of your utmost depths of misery and sin. For he begins with the Gospel call as a call full of hope. To whom? To the lost, the guilty, the unclean, the undone; full of hope to them now; just as they are; in their low and desperate estate. It is the one Gospel call: that call of rich, free, sovereign love; which is ever one and the same to all; the same to you, 0 my brother sinner, as to me; not less needed by me than by you; not more free to me than to you. It is that call which the Spirit uses as his first and only instrument, in his great work of bringing together in one in Christ the mighty multitude out of every people and kindred and nation and tongue, who, accepting, all of them, one and the same gracious pardon now, are to sing, all of them, one and the same song of praise hereafter. He is using that Gospel call now; using it with me; using it also with you. Oh! Grieve him not. Resist him not. Is he not moving you to compliance now? Then today, while it is called today, harden not your hearts.
Go To Chapter Seven
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