Next Steps: One Baptism:

Ephesians 4:1–6 (NIV)

Main Idea As a consequence of God’s great plan of salvation and the believers’ new identity in Christ, Paul begins a series of admonitions for the readers. He appeals to them to maintain the unity that already exists in the one body God has created. This unity is an essential and natural by-product of the common faith they confess, but it must also be maintained through developing the social virtues associated with selfless love. – Clint Arnold

Ephesians 4:1–6 (NIV) 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

In this section… Paul takes his readers back to the fundamental instructions on living the Christian life. He reminds them how they began and what it was all about. There are three things which emerge as basic: the meaning of their call to follow the king; the grace which has equipped each of them to play their part in serving him; and the unity they already have, but which they must make every effort to guard. This is the basic manual for living the Christian life, and we need to go back and read it regularly. What then is this ‘call’ or ‘calling’ which he speaks of at the start of his appeal in verse 1, and returns to in connection with Christian hope in verse 4? He isn’t referring here to the specific ‘calling’ or ‘vocation’ that different Christians have—this one to be a teacher, that one to run a small business, someone else to be a nurse, and so on. He is referring to the even more basic ‘calling’ of the gospel itself, summoning people to believe in Jesus as the risen Lord and king and to give him complete and undivided allegiance for the rest of their lives. A key part of this calling is the Christian hope, which works like this. Because King Jesus has conquered death itself, all who give him their faithful allegiance are assured that the same victory will be theirs as well. At every moment, in every decision, with every word and action, they are to be aware that the call to follow Jesus the Messiah, and give him their complete loyalty, takes precedence over everything else. – N.T. Wright

The outward sign of this faith and the ‘visible word’ expressing the work of Christ was baptism. Instituted by the Lord himself, it was an experience that every Christian shared. All had passed through the same initiation. Whether in a world with deities for each city or nation or aspect of life, as the world of Paul’s day, or in a world which to all practical purposes has renounced God, such conviction about him should bind people more closely than any human tie. Christians believe that they ‘live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world’ (Barclay), and even more, that God indwells them and is working out his purpose through them. Where can such depth and breadth of unity be found as in the fellowship of those who share this faith and experience? It follows inevitably that unnecessary divisions are folly, and weaken the church’s witness in the world to such a glorious faith. - Francis Foulkes

It is essential to work on developing Christlike virtues that enhance unity. In this passage Paul speaks of the importance of cultivating humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, and peace. Developing these virtues is an important aspect of what it means to “make every effort” to maintain unity within the church. Conversely, we must rid ourselves of those characteristics that hurt our brothers and sisters, make them defensive, or create a spirit of tension within the community. Practically, we should carefully examine our lives in light of the following considerations:

  • If we are quick to get angry, we need to work on patience.
  • If we have a tendency to be proud, arrogant, egocentric, and boastful (and who doesn’t struggle with these?), we need to work on humility.
  • If we are insensitive, bullish at times, rough, bossy, or quick to impose on others, we need to work on gentleness.
  • If we struggle with being intolerant with the shortcomings of other people, we need to work on bearing with one another in love.
  • If unity among fellow believers in our own local churches is not a priority for us, we need to make it a priority.

Carnality is the problem that drives most situations of dissension and leads to church splits. Our own egos and immaturity can easily inflame a situation and make it much worse. What may begin as a resolvable issue can become an enormous and seemingly irresolvable conflict simply because of the ego investments of the participants in the dispute.