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. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
As God is!
As it is by Divine ordination in creation!
So also it is by the inheritance of the same decreeing God with the church!
Unity revealed in multiplicity!
God is one, but also three! The richness of the glory of the life of God is revealed in Scripture as consisting in a threefold distinction of Personal existence in a most absolute unity of nature and essence.
Indeed, God is one!
One in essence is He! One in thinking and willing and acting. One in all His adorable attributes. One in truth and faithfulness, one in righteousness and holiness, one in grace and mercy. One in all the wonders of His might and radiations of His majesty. The one simple, not complex, God is He; in Whom all the glorious virtues of His Holy Being are one. Like the white sunbeam shining through the raindrop appears to our eye in sevenfold color, while the seven colors are still the one sun-ray; so is God the richness of glorious virtues, but all these together are yet the one, eternally to be praised Being. And this unity of Being is the very ground for the perfection of His unending covenant life.
Yet God is also three in Persons! The Father living that one life as Father. The Son as Son, and the Holy Spirit as Spirit living that one life with the Father. So that of the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit the eternal God lives the unending, glorious life of the only true covenant God. Were He three and not one, there would be no bond of perfect fellowship. Were God one and not three, there would be no interchange of life, but stark monotony. The distinction of Trinity of Persons on the background of unity of Being is the richness of the life of God which He purposed to reflect also outside of Himself in all the works of His hands.
Thus it is also with the life of all creatures! There is in the individual existence of the creature as well as in the creatures mutually a rich distinction with harmonious unity according to the mind of the Creator. This unity with distinction is the law of the life of the creation. Also here the lack of unity would break the harmony of fellowship, while the lack of rich distinction would leave only a stark monotony.
So it is also with the life of the church of Jesus Christ!
This is what the Word of God in our text is all about!
Two things must be kept in mind as we meditate on it. The text is highly instructive; but in the light of its context is also. extremely practical., The church is to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith she is called. (Verse 1). In all humility and meekness, and longsuffering, forbearing one another in love. (Verse 2). The richness of goodness and grace of God which is her portion, she is to reveal in the unity of the Spirit. (Verse 3). But shall she be able to comply with this admonition, it lies in the very nature of the case that the richness of the unity of the Spirit must be real, spiritual, reality. Of this ideal, and reality in principle the apostle speaks.
Behold, then, first of all, the unity in which the rich distinction rests!
There is one body! Not many, but one body is she! The realization and revelation of one Divine thought! An organic whole! Nor is she an aggregate of different unrelated parts, but an organism of dependent members. Quite different is she from a society. The latter comes into being in a mechanical way, the members adding themselves to each other and to other members by agreement—while the former, the church, has one life principle from which she has her existence. The society consists of a membership which can be increased or diminished—while the church as organism cannot be increased or decreased without destroying her unity. All the members of the church serve the whole, while each is dependent on the other. The members have significance only when they are in their proper place in the whole and so long as they serve the whole. As in the human body “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee; and the head cannot say to the feet, I have no need of you.” So it is in the church, the body of Christ! The members are dependent on the whole and on each other. How important it is for the church in the world that she thoroughly understand this to fulfill her calling!
And one Spirit!
As there is one soul in the body, which thinks, wills, desires; which brings the whole body into subjection, which rules the movements of the body, directs and leads it, so there is one Spirit, ‘the Spirit of God, as He is given to the ascended and glorified Redeemer, and therefore is the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ Who lives and has taken up His abode in the church.
Mark well, there are not all kinds of opposing spirits which live in the members of the church, but there is one Spirit. One Spirit is in all, ruling the thinking and willing of all the members of the whole body of Christ. There is therefore in all the members only one mind; and this one mind is the mind of Christ. Moreover, to be noticed too is the fact that no one possesses this Spirit of Christ alone and separate from the body. Each has the riches of the Spirit only in connection with and in his own place in the body of Christ.
Even as ye are called in one hope of your calling!
The apostle brings the unity of the Spirit into immediate connection with the one hope to which we all are called. The reason for this is not difficult to discover. The one hope we have, to which we aspire, comes from that one Spirit of Christ. Hope, you understand, not first of all in the sense of an activity on our part; but more particularly as object to which we are called—is the glory merited by Christ and prepared by Him for His people. Through this one Spirit of the glorified Lord comes the hope as the object of our expectation and longing. This object of hope is for all alike, namely, the perfect conformity to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as complete deliverance from the body of this death in which we now dwell.
One Lord we have! Whose possession we are! To Whom we belong in life and death, in body and soul. To Whom we were given of the Father, and Who purchased us with His own blood. Who rules over us and in us by His Word and Spirit. The Church, therefore, has not many lords, and heads. Nor are there in the Church lords and subjects—but all are subjects of that one Lord.
One faith! Many things may cause the unity of the church to be hid from our vision but there can be no question that the essential unity of faith exists among all true believers in Christ. And that unity of faith is seen, first of all, in its object and contents. The church has one confession which she holds up as a banner in the midst of the world describing what she believes. But her faith is not limited to her confession. It is also as a living, spiritual bond uniting her subjectively to Christ, and to all the members of His body. Out of that one faith she lives out of Christ and becomes partaker of all His benefits.
One baptism! Not does the apostle have in mind here the form, but rather the essence of baptism. By this one baptism we are separated from the world, and ingrafted into Christ, having part with Him in His suffering, death, and resurrection. We are become the friends of God and are of His party in the world of darkness. We have been clothed with His uniform, and are designated as lights in the world, walking worthy of our vocation.
One God and Father of all! This is the apex, the highest point of all, the vertex to which all the other aspects of unity point, and in which they all find not only their source but also their purpose. God Himself is the fountain, cause, origin of the glorious unity of the church. He willed this beautiful unity before the world began in Divine wisdom. He chose us in Christ Jesus. He ordained the Son to become Head and Mediator of that one church. He prepared Christ and sent Him to suffer and die, but also to rise again and ascend to highest glory for the church. He gave His one Spirit to Christ and dwells in Him and through Him in the church, filling her with all spiritual blessings. To this the apostle climbs in revealing the great unity. He, one God and Father of all is above all—above the church with her Head. He is through all—i.e., through all the glorious body, working and filling with His grace. And He is in you all—living in us through the Spirit of Christ, and tabernacling with us.
Such is ideally and principally the unity of the church!
A unity richly distinguished!
Unto every one of us is given grace! The entire body and each member of the body of Christ receives grace.
Grace! That spiritual gift which God through Christ gives to the church! It includes all spiritual gifts, all the grace, in which the church participates and to which she falls heir. The entire church receives grace which’ is essentially one. The reference undoubtedly is to the reception of the one Spirit, one hope, baptism, communion of friendship with God, the Father of all. Grace includes justification, sanctification, forgiveness of sins, adoption unto children, spiritual knowledge of God, life of the resurrection, eternal life. This all is the one grace which all receive and in which all participate.
Yet all do not possess this grace in the same way and in the same measure! That all do not receive in the same measure is due to the fact that in the body of Christ all do not occupy the same place. Each receives grace in such measure as coincides with his place in the organism. As in the human body all members are not the same but are richly distinguished; so it is in the body of Christ. All the members are not the same. All serve the same purpose, but not in the same manner and in the same capacity. One is great, another small; one is on the foreground, another on the background; one teaches, another is taught; one rules, another serves. There is communion and exchange. Thus each member is in particular blessed and increases and grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Thus the church shines in richly distinguished beauty. Each member receives and uses the one grace in his own manner and place. This goes to the smallest particular. Though we cannot now see the place which each has, yet we know it is true to the smallest detail—the simple housewife to the greatest prophet—the smallest babe to the greatest apostle.
But is not the apostle speaking too idealistically of the church? Where should we look for the church which is so wonderfully united, and so richly distinguished? How is it that wheree’r we look we see the church most usually in history a divided and a splintered group?
Indeed, there are several factors which explain not what she is, but how the church so often hides this unity and the unity is disturbed! First of all, we should mark that the church is not yet perfect according to the Divine plan. Is it not true that part of the church is triumphant in heaven, while another part enjoys this victory only in principle and is therefore militant on earth? Is it not also true that part of the church is not yet born and must still come into historical existence? And, are there not various conditions which hinder the church in the realization of her unity? such conditions as include the elements of place, time, difference of language, separation of race and color. And, most of all as we look at a particular manifestation of the church such as our own, where we would expect to see more of this unity richly distinguished than anywhere else—is not the element of sin the disturbing element disrupting the unity and withholding her from reaching perfection? Sin—that disturbing factor that brings with it separation, corruption, and death—which still dwells with us as a body and as individuals. Sin—whose intent is to destroy, disrupt the peace and unity of the church and disturb the love-life of the church. Sin—that seeks the honor of self, not that of Christ; that would rather see the destruction of the brother than to humble itself and to be longsuffering and forbearing.
And for the same reasons often the rich distinction that ideally characterizes the unity of the church bedims the radiations of those distinctions. When the eye will no longer see, but is jealous of the ear; and the foot will no longer bear, but wills to be borne; and the hand will no longer work because it wants another place in the body. When all would be teachers, and no longer to be taught; when all would be rulers, and no longer subjects; when there are those who seek no longer what is in Christ, but seek themselves.
But so it should not be! And so it shall not forever be!
Therefore the apostle admonishes to strive to keep the unity in the bond of peace, and sets before us the ideal for which each by grace and all together by grace should seek to attain unto it.
When you look in on a battleship cruising along you do not see its symbolic unity, nor the wonder of its rich distinction. Some men are reading books, others are sunning themselves, and others are playing games. But when the command comes: Man Your Stations! then all run to their places whether they be high or low. Then you see the unity and rich distinction of the battle-ship. And the apostle very really sounds the command: Man Your Stations! No more clearly is this order sounded than in our text. And no more necessary is obedience to this command than today!