The Two Aspects of Our Oneness in Ephesians 4
We only need to keep
the oneness of the Spirit,
but we must attain to
the oneness of the faith
The Apostle Paul begins Ephesians 4 by exhorting us to “walk in a manner worthy of our calling,” as he says,
…with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
— Ephesians 4:2-3
So here at the beginning of the chapter we have “the oneness of the Spirit,” which the apostle exhorts us to “keep.” Later on in this same chapter, however, he speaks of another aspect of our oneness; he states that the believers must be perfected by the gifted brothers unto the work of building up the Body of Christ (vv. 11-12),
…until we all attain to the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
— Ephesians 4:13
Here we have “the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God.” Moreover, we are not told to keep this oneness, but to “attain” to it, or, as some versions say, to “arrive” at it.
And the apostle goes on to describe the result of attaining to this aspect our oneness; when we do, he says, we will
…no longer be infants, tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the deceit of men, in craftiness, with the wiles of a system of error; but holding to truth in love, we [will] grow up into Him in all things who is the Head, Christ.
— Ephesians 4:14-15
So, what is the difference between these two aspects of our oneness with our fellow believers in Christ?
The oneness of the Spirit is the oneness we have with all of our fellow believers by virtue of our new birth in Christ; because we are now all in Christ and all share in His divine life and nature, we are spontaneously one with each other in Him. And because this is a oneness we already have, we are only told to “keep” it.
In contrast, we do not have the oneness of the faith by virtue of the new birth alone. Rather, to have this oneness requires us to grow and be perfected in our understanding and apprehension of the faith as well as in our knowing of Christ Himself. That is why the apostle tells us, not to “keep,” but to “attain to,” the oneness of faith.
For example, so often when we first meet one of our fellow believers, there is a very sweet feeling as we begin to fellowship in the Lord and recognize we are both in Christ and share His life. This is the oneness of the Spirit.
But, before too long differences may arise over certain teachings and our views about the faith, and that disrupts our sweet fellowship in the Lord. This happens because we do not yet have in our experience the virtues of Christ that would enable us to keep the oneness of the Spirit, nor do we yet have the growth in Christ of attaining to the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God.
In fact, the basic, fundamental reason for the divisions among believers today is our lack of growth in Christ. (See) Or, to look at it in a positive way, ultimately our oneness with our fellow believers does not depend on our determination or our intention; it is all a matter of our need to experience the humanity of Christ so that we may keep the oneness of the Spirit, and of growing in Christ so that we may attain to the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God.
When that happens the divisions among the believers will disappear, and we will stand firmly together for the testimony of Christ.
Lord, grant us to experience You more and to grow more in You today!
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— 2 November 2023 —