The book of Ephesians is one of the four prison epistles of Paul, generally accepted to be written by him during his imprisonment in Rome – more than once Paul refers to his status as a prisoner in the book [Eph 3:1, 4:1]. The Church of Ephesus is rather well recorded in the Bible – Paul first came into contact with the city at the end of his second missionary trip [Acts 18:19] and later stayed there for 3 years [Acts 20:31]. In fact, outside the ministry of Paul, the Church of Ephesus was also mentioned in John‘s epistles – the Book of Revelation – when the seven churches were addressed [Rev 2:1-7]. As a result, we do know quite a bit about the Church of Ephesus – though it is notable that the writing style of the book of Ephesians may seem more general than the other Pauline epistles which were very localized. Perhaps it is because the book of Ephesians touches largely on the great topic of the Church and the fullness of Christ, and the believers’ riches in Christ – topics which are really universal regardless of time and space.
It is perhaps a little odd to study this verse separate from its brothers – 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, who is over all and through all and in all [Ephesians 4:4-6]. This is an often quoted passage in reference to unity of the Spirit, and indeed, the crucial word here is one, which appears seven times, talking about seven different things that are so closely linked to each other. Through verse 5, we will look at three of these seven – Lord, faith and baptism.
One Lord evidently refers to our Lord Jesus Christ – as usual, the Spirit [Eph 4:4] and the Father [Eph 4:6] are mentioned together as well – One Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of the virgin Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate to redeem us of our sins – the Lord Jesus Christ, who rose again on the third day and now seats at the right hand of the Lord. He is the one and only Son, whom God gave because of His great love for us – for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16]. No matter who we are, our Lord is the same and he treats us equally – There is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him [Romans 10:12].
One faith refers to the same belief – the faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour [Eph 1:15], the belief in the gospel of Christ and the doctrines of the Christian way – which is the same one from Church to Church and from person to person; the same confidence and trust in Christ Jesus.The faith that is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see [Heb 11:1|Article]. The faith that reconciled us to God by Christ’s physical body through death to present us holy [Col 1:22-23]; the faith that justified us and brings us peace through our Lord Jesus Christ [Romans 5:1-2].
And lastly, one baptism into Christ in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Many schools of theology, many denominations and many churches have long argued over these two words: one baptism, largely over the issue of whether this was referring to the mode of baptism or not; as there are various methods of baptism adopted by different denominations and churches throughout history. I shall sidestep the entire argument altogether for I’m not an expert on the topic of baptism – whether or not this verse is saying that there is only one mode of baptism, I don’t know – but what I do know is that this verse surely does tell us that there is only one baptism – in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter who performed the baptism – whether John the Baptist or Christ Jesus or anybody else – for under the gospel it is but one baptism. Paul makes it very clear in 1 Cor 1:13-17 that it is not in his name that he performs the baptisms, and it should not matter that it was him or anybody else who had performed the baptism – Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name [1 Cor 1:13-15].
Implications of One
The word one appeared seven times in these 3 verses; and there are great implications of this word that we can apply today. While the implications of one is general and applies across the three verses, I’m only going to mention these implications in brief – it is far better to study them in full when all three verses have been studied. The time will come.
1. United. Because there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one Father, one spirit, one hope, one body – it comes to the consensus that there is also only one Church. The Church of Christ. The Christian Church. No matter the denomination, no matter the style, no matter the location, no matter the language, or the time of congregation. Jesus said, on this rock I wil build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it [Matt 16:18]. There is but one overarching Church, and Christ himself sustains it, and the body of Christ will continue to be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ [Ephesians 4:13].
2. Consistent. It is fixed. It is not going to be this today and that tomorrow. The Unity of the Spirit is not a claim that is flimsy or weak, or that will crumble tomorrow due to our disbelief. It is rooted in the oneness of God. The oneness of faith. The oneness of baptism, of hope, of body etc. And this is very consistent with the God whom we know and trust in – He is one, he doesn’t change [James 1:17], he cannot betray himself [2 Tim 2:13], he keeps his promises [Deu 7:9] – and thus in his consistency we are assured, in his reliability we can safely trust. Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live [1 Cor 8:6].
3. Unique. If there is one, then all others are invalid. All lords are false lords but Christ. All faiths are false beliefs but that which is rooted in Christ Jesus our Lord. All baptisms are false baptisms except that which is performed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is that simple, yet that hard to proclaim. There have been church pastors who have claimed this on the pulpit (thus renouncing other religions), and unfortunately a church member uploaded the video clip onto the internet and caused an uproar in my country, forcing the pastor to have to come out and apologize to the believers of other religions. It is a tolerant society that we live in today, and when we choose to say that there is one faith, there is one God, and there is one Lord – we will be scorned upon as intolerant, ignorant and arrogant. Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [John 14:6]. Indeed, there is only one way. It is a unique way. It is the true way.
It does seem a bit odd indeed that I chose to study the middle verse of this set of verses first – perhaps because it is the shortest – and there’s a nagging feeling that this study is severely incomplete, and a conclusion is thus not appropriate. The discussions of the oneness of God, the Spirit, the body, and hope would likely be similar to the discussion of the oneness of Lord, faith and baptism. Studying those 4 remaining ones will be interesting, but the implications of the term one is something that we can consider. It’s a single way, but it’s a highway to heaven. Its called Jesus.