A Journey Towards Unity – Ephesians 4:4-6

As our journey towards the end of the Easter season, expectantly anticipating the day of Pentecost, it’s good to continue to press into the oneness that is at the heart of our God, who is a father. God, the father of all, desires for all of his children to be re-united (see Genesis 3-4 for the context of us being one family) and to not just give lip service to reconciliation, but to actually labor towards it, sacrifice for it, make space in our lives for it. The journey today takes us to the next set of verses from Ephesians 4, and it has an emphasis on the word “one”… the very thing that radiates from the heart of a good father who desires a healthy family.

The One Body – Ephesians 4:4-6

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 there is one God and Father of all people, who is Lord of all, works through all, and is in all.

Once again, Paul brings to the forefront the oneness of the Church, Christ’s body, the unity that we have in Christ Jesus. To understand more deeply the unity that Paul is fighting for, it would be helpful to understand a tangible reality of the division between Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s day.

In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about a dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. In the first century, the Jerusalem Temple complex actually had a wall of separation that was 4.5 feet high, and the Greek inscription on it read: “No foreigner [i.e. Gentile] is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death which follows.”

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The Balustrade kept those who were not Jews out of the inner courts of the temple

Paul, who is writing from prison (verse 1), was likely imprisoned because he had brought a Gentile into the “balustrade and embankment” of the Jerusalem Temple (Acts 21:27-29). Yet there is no place in the Old Testament law that calls for a dividing wall like this to be built within the sanctuary. This wall, like many other literal or hypothetical walls in the past (and present), came about (and come about) through the racial and social hatred of different sects or groups. The Old Testament has always presented a picture of the Israelites bringing “all nations” to the Temple to worship God (Ps. 22:27; Is. 2:2; Zech. 14:16). This “wall of separation” (the balustrade) was still standing as Paul wrote this letter.

In today’s text, notice the emphasis Paul places on the words one and all. Paul lived this! The body of Christ is one, it cannot be divided, just as the Spirit of God is one and cannot be divided. In Christ Jesus, who is Lord of all, we share one hope. We are all baptized into one faith. God is the one Father of all who come to Christ Jesus by this faith. It is through God’s nature, his love, that unity is possible.

A Prayer For Us Today

Our Father, thank you for including us into the body of believers. Forgive us where we have become so accustomed to our divisions, with countless traditions and churches all claiming the “right way.” You are the only right and narrow way, who broadly receives many unto yourself. Help us, in our weakness, to display the reality that is already true in you, that you are one. Reconcile us according to your great name, and help us celebrate our diversity, honor our various traditions, and exalt the name of Jesus. Amen.

For Those Who Want To Go Deeper

The body of Christ has been divided by well-intentioned Christians for centuries, and only in Christ can we be reconciled. How have you divided Christ’s body? What part can you play in helping to destroy the “wall of separation” that stands between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox believers? What would it look like to be one, to have unity among Christians in your city?1

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