One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)One Lord, one faith.—From the idea of “the calling,” the Apostle passes naturally to Him who calls—the “one Lord”—and to the method of His calling to Himself, first, by the “one faith,” and then by the “one baptism” at which profession of that one faith is made. It is on the indwelling of Christ in each heart by faith that the spiritual unity of all Christians—primarily with Him, secondarily with one another—depends; and that spiritual unity is “put on” in baptism (Galatians 3:27), in which we are “buried with Him and risen again” (Colossians 2:12), growing into the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). Again we note that, with but few exceptions, all Christians, even in the divided condition of the Church, are still united in the “one baptism;” and if we look to such expressions of the one faith as are contained in the baptismal profession (e.g., of the Apostles’ Creed), it is clear that our divisions, great as they are, turn mainly on the fourth subsidiary Article on the “Holy Catholic Church,” and not on the three primary Articles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In these the mass of Christendom has still one faith.
THE THREEFOLD UNITY
Ephesians 4:5The thought of the unity of the Church is very prominent in this epistle. It is difficult for us, amidst our present divisions, to realise how strange and wonderful it then was that a bond should have been found which drew together men of all nations, ranks, and characters. Pharisee and philosopher, high-born women and slaves, Roman patricians and gladiators, Asiatic Greeks and Syrian Jews forgot their feuds and sat together as one in Christ. It is no wonder that Paul in this letter dwells so long and earnestly on that strange fact. He is exhorting here to a unity of spirit corresponding to it, and he names a seven-fold oneness-one body and one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. The outward institution of the Church, as a manifest visible fact, comes first in the catalogue. One Father is last, and between these there lie the mention of the one Spirit and the one Lord. The ‘body’ is the Church. ‘Spirit, Lord, God,’ are the triune divine personality. Hope and faith are human acts by which men are joined to God; Baptism is the visible symbol of their incorporation into the one body. These three clauses of our text may be considered as substantially including all the members of the series. We deal with them quite simply now, and consider them in the order in which they stand here.
I. The one Lord.
The deep foundation of Christian unity is laid in the divine Christ. Here, as generally in the New Testament, the name ‘Lord’ designates Christ in His authority as ruler of men and in His divinity as Incarnation of God. It would not be going too far to suggest that we have in the name, standing as it does, for the most part, in majestic simplicity, a reference to the Old Testament name of Jehovah, which in the Greek translation familiar to Paul is generally rendered by this same word. Nor can we ignore the fact that in this great catalogue of the Christian unities the Lord stands in the centre of the three personalities named, and is regarded as being at once the source of the Spirit and the manifestation of the Father. The place which this name occupies in relation to the Faith which is next named suggests that the living personal Christ is the true uniting principle amongst men. The one body realises its oneness in its common relation to the one Lord. It is one, not because of identity in doctrine, not because of any of the bonds which hold men together in human associations, precious and sacred as many of these are, but ‘we being many are one bread, for we are all partakers of that one bread.’ The magnet draws all the particles to itself and holds them in a mysterious unity.
II. One faith.
The former clause set forth in one great name all the objective elements of the Church’s oneness; this clause sets forth, with equally all-comprehending simplicity, the subjective element which makes a Christian. The one Lord, in the fulness of His nature and the perfectness of His work, is the all-inclusive object of faith. He, in His own living person, and not any dogmas about Him, is regarded as the strong support round which the tendrils of faith cling and twine and grow. True, He is made known to us as possessing certain attributes and as doing certain things which, when stated in words, become doctrines, and a Christ without these will never be the object of faith. The antithesis which is so often drawn between Christ’s person and Christian doctrines is by no means sound, though the warning not to substitute the latter for the former is only too necessary at all times.
The subjective act which lays hold of Christ is faith, which in our text has its usual meaning of saving trust, and is entirely misconceived if it is taken, as it sometimes is, to mean the whole body of beliefs which make up the Christian creed. That which unites us to Jesus Christ is an infinitely deeper thing than the acceptance of any creed. A man may believe thirty-nine or thirty-nine hundred articles without having any real or vital connection with the one Lord. The faith which saves is the outgoing of the whole self towards Christ. In it the understanding, the emotions, and the will are all in action. The New Testament faith is absolutely identical with the Old Testament trust, and the prophet who exhorted Israel, ‘Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength,’ was preaching the very same message as the Apostle who cried, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’
That ‘saving faith’ is the same in all Christians, however different they may be in condition and character and general outlook and opinion upon many points of Christian knowledge. The things on which they differ are on the surface, and sometimes by reason of their divergencies Christians stand like frowning cliffs that look threateningly at one another across a narrow gorge, but deep below ground they are continuous and the rock is unbroken. In many and melancholy ways ‘the unity of faith and knowledge’ is contradicted in the existing organisations of the Church, and we are tempted to postpone its coming to the day of the new Jerusalem which is compact together; but the clarion note of this great text may encourage us to hope, and to labour in our measure for the fulfilment of the hope, that all, who by one faith have been joined to the one Lord, may yet know themselves to be one in Him, and present to the world the fair picture of one body animated by one spirit.
III. One baptism.
Obviously in Paul’s mind baptism here means, not the baptism with the Spirit, but the rite, one and the same for all, by which believers in Christ enter into the fellowship of the Church. It was then a perpetual rite administered as a matter of course to all who professed to have been joined to the one Lord by their one faith. The sequence in the three clauses of our text is perfectly clear. Baptism is the expression and consequence of the faith which precedes it. Surely there is here a most distinct implication that it is a declaration of personal faith. Without enlarging on the subject, I venture to think that the order of the Apostle’s thought negatives other conceptions of Christian baptism, such as, that it is a communication of Grace, or an expression of the feelings and desires of parents, or a declaration of some truth about redeemed humanity. Paul’s order is Christ’s when He said, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’
It is very remarkable and instructive that whilst thus our text shows that baptism was a matter of course and universally practised, the references to it in the epistles are so few. The inference is not that it was neglected, but that, as being a rite, it could not be as important as were Christian truths and Christian character. May we, in a word, suggest the contrast between the frequency and tone of the Apostolic references to baptism and those which we find in many quarters to-day?
It is remarkable that here the Lord’s Supper is not mentioned, and all the more so, that in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the passage which we have already quoted does put emphasis upon it as a token of Christian unity. The explanation of the omission may be found in the fact that, in these early days, the Lord’s Supper was not a separate rite, but was combined with ordinary meals, or perhaps more probably in the consideration that baptism was what the Lord’s Supper was not-an initial rite which incorporated the possessors of one faith into the one body.Acts 1:24. The argument here is, that there ought to be unity among Christians, because they have one Lord and Saviour. They have not different Saviours adapted to different classes; not one for the Jew and another for the Greek; not one for the rich and another for the poor; not one for the bond and another for the free. There is but one. He belongs in common to all as their Saviour; and he has a right to rule over one as much as over another. There is no better way of promoting unity among Christians than by reminding them that they have the same Saviour. And when jealousies and heart-burnings arise; or when they are disposed to contend about trifles; when they magnify unimportant matters until they are in danger of rending the church asunder, let them feel that they have one Lord and Saviour, and they will lay aside their contentions and be one again. Let two men who have never seen each other before, meet in a distant land, and feel that they have the same Redeemer, and their hearts will mingle into one. They are not aliens, but friends. A cord of sympathy is struck more tender than that which binds them to country or home and though of different nations, complexions, or habits, they will feel that they are one. Why should contentions ever arise between those who have the same Redeemer?
One faith - The same belief. That is, either the belief of the same doctrines, or faith of the same nature in the heart. The word may be taken in either sense. I see no reason why it should not include "both" here, or be used in the widest sense, If so used it means that Christians should be united because they hold the same great doctrines; and also, because they have the same confidence in the Redeemer in their hearts, They hold the same system as distinguished from Judaism, Paganism, Mohammedanism, Deism; and they should, therefore, be one. They have the same trust in Christ, as a living, practical principle - and they should, therefore, be one. They may differ in other attachments; in temperament; in pursuit; in professions in life - but they have a common faith - and they should be one.
One baptism - This does not affirm that there is one mode of baptism, but it refers to "the thing itself." They are all baptized in the name of the same Father, Saviour, Sanctifier. They have all in this manner been consecrated unto God, and devoted to his service. Whether by immersion, or by pouring, or by sprinkling, they have all been baptized with water; whether it is done in adult years, or in infancy, the same solemn act has been performed on all - the act of consecration to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This passage cannot be adduced to prove that only one "mode" of baptism is lawful, unless it can be shown that the thing referred to here was the "mode" and not "the thing itself;" and unless it can be proved that Paul meant to build his argument for the "unity" of Christians on the fact that the same "form" was used in their baptism. But this is evidently not the point of his argument.
The argument is, that there was really but "one baptism" - not that there was but one "mode" of baptism. I could not use this argument in this form, "Christians should be one because they have been all baptized by 'sprinkling;'" and yet the argument would be just as forcible as to use it in this form, "Christians should be one because they have all been baptized by 'immersion.'" There is one baptism, not one "mode" of baptism; and no man has a right to "assume" that there can be but one mode, and then apply this passage to that. The "essential thing" in the argument before us is, that there has been a consecration to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, by the application of water. Thus, understood, the argument is one that will be "felt" by all who have been devoted to God by baptism. They have taken the same vows upon them. They have consecrated themselves to the same God. They have made the same solemn profession of religion. Water has been applied to one and all as the emblem of the purifying influences of the Holy Spirit; and having been thus initiated in a solemn manner into the same profession of religion, they should be one. (See Matthew 3:6 note and Matthew 3:16 note.)One Lord; Christ, viz. as Redeemer, Head, and Husband of the church, to whom, by God’s appointment, she is immediately subject, 1 Corinthians 8:6 John 13:13 Acts 2:36.
One faith; i.e. one object of the faith of all believers, viz. the doctrine of salvation, which is but one.
One baptism; both as to the outward symbol, and the thing signified by it.
One faith; there is but one grace of faith; there are indeed different sorts of faith; there is the faith of miracles, and an historical, temporary faith, but there is but one true grace of faith; and which, though it is in different subjects, and its degrees and acts are various, yet as to its nature, it is like precious faith in all; and has the same author and object, Jesus Christ, and springs from the same cause, the free grace of God, and has equally in all everlasting salvation connected with it, and consequent upon it: and there is but one doctrine of faith; the Gospel is so called, because it consists of things to be believed, is the means of implanting faith, it proposes the object to be believed in, and requires the exercise of it upon it, and should be mixed with faith whenever heard. Now this is but one, and is all of a piece, and consistent with itself, and so should the professors of it be, and love one another in the faith.
One baptism, there were divers baptisms under the law, but there is but one baptism under the Gospel; for John's and Christ's are the same: there are, besides, figurative or metaphorical ones, which are so in an improper sense, as the baptism of the Spirit, and the baptism of blood, or of sufferings; but there is but one baptism, literally and properly so called, which is water baptism; and which is to be administered in one and the same way, by immersion in water; and on one and the same subjects, believers in Christ; and in one and the same name, the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and to be performed but once, when rightly administered.One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Ephesians 4:5. Continuation. There are not several Lords, but One, who is Lord of all believers, even Christ; not several kinds of faith, but one faith, inasmuch as all place their confidence upon the atoning death of Christ, on account of which they are justified and obtain salvation (Romans 3:23 ff.); not several kinds of baptism, but one baptism, namely, into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5).
εἷς κύριος at the head; because μία πίστις and the ἓν βάπτισμα accomplished in the case of those who have become believers are consequentia of εἷς κύριος.
To make of πίστις the doctrine of the faith (Grotius, Zachariae, and others), is at variance with linguistic usage; comp. on Galatians 1:23; Romans 1:5. The ἑνότης τῆς πίστεως is here represented as present, but in Ephesians 4:13 as future. Both with justice; inasmuch as here the Christian faith in the narrower sense is intended, the fides salvifica, which in all Christians was essentially the same, while at Ephesians 4:13 it is the Christian faith in the wider sense, within the compass of which there was diversity of convictions (as respects the validity of the law, the resurrection, veneration of angels, asceticism, partaking of flesh offered to idols, and other matters).
Of the Lord’s Supper, the unity of which might likewise appear as a suitable element in the connection (1 Corinthians 10:17), Paul does not make mention: according to Calovius, because it was comprehended “uno baptismatis sacramento ex paritatis ratione;” according to Harless, because Paul was mentioning only the fundamental conditions of the Christian fellowship, as they exist from the outset, at the first entrance upon it; according to Olshausen, because the specific act of the Supper, the partaking (rather, the communion, 1 Corinthians 10:16) of Christ, is included in εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις; according to de Wette, because it was less a something conditioning the unity, than something representing this unity itself. But, in opposition to Calovius and Olshausen, it may be urged that, if Paul had adopted the synecdochic point of view in the selection, he would not have needed to mention πίστις, since baptism presupposes faith; in opposition to Harless, that the fundamental conditions of the Christian communion which Paul mentions are such, not specially for the beginning of it, but for its whole duration; in opposition to de Wette, finally, that the Lord’s Supper is, precisely as a representation of the unity, at the same time a powerful ethical incitement thereto, and hence would have been admirably appropriate in the series of points adduced. The ground of its not being mentioned is rather to be sought in the fact that the adducing of the Lord’s Supper would have disturbed the threefold triad of the elements adduced, and have broken through the whole rhythm of the passage. And the holy meal might the more easily remain unmentioned, because it was at that time not yet an observance subsisting by itself, but was combined with the common meals; hence, doubtless, in a context where the Lord’s Supper is spoken of, the εἷς ἄρτος (1 Corinthians 10:17) is brought forward as a symbol of the unity of Christians, but in another context the thought ἓν δεῖπνον κυρίου or μία τράπεζα κυρίου—because the Supper was not something subsisting alone like baptism, which as the constituent element of Christian standing could not remain unmentioned—did not so necessarily suggest itself.
 Most mistakenly of all, Schenkel holds that Paul did not regard a uniform observance of the Supper as necessary, and would not stand in the way of the varied development of a rite. In that case, doubtless, Paul would have done well not to mention baptism either.Ephesians 4:5. εἷς Κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα: one Lord, one faith, one baptism. “One Lord,” that is Christ, He alone and He for all equally whether Gentile or Jew. “One faith,” i.e., one belief having Him as its object; πίστις having here its usual subjective sense of saving trust, not = that which is believed, the Christian doctrine or creed (Grot.)—a meaning which is at the best very rare in the NT and not quite certain even in most of the passages usually cited in support of it (Acts 6:7; Galatians 1:23; 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 2:7; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:6; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:21), but most probable in Jdg 3:20. “One baptism”—the rite, one and the same for all, by which believers in Christ are admitted into the fellowship of His Church, and which is described as “into Christ” (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), into His name (Acts 10:38; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5), into the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). No mention is made of the Lord’s Supper. This is the more remarkable in view of the fact that elsewhere it is referred to as a token of unity (1 Corinthians 10:17). Various explanations of the omission have been given—e.g., the desire to preserve the rhythmical form of the sentence, together with the fact that the Lord’s Supper did not as yet stand by itself, but was combined with ordinary Christian meals (Mey.); the fact that it was more a representation than a condition of unity (De Wette); the consideration that it is not like baptism an initial, fundamental rite, but one that comes to be observed after admission (Harl.). None of these reasons can be called satisfactory, nor have we the materials for an adequate explanation.5. one Lord] Jesus Christ; Possessor and Prince of all His people equally.
one faith] Is “faith” here the “Christian creed,” or “trustful acceptance” of Christ, “saving faith”? Probably the latter, in view of the great rarity of the former meaning of the word in St Paul (Galatians 1:23; Php 1:27; present perhaps the best cases, and even these are not quite clear). The words here thus mean, “one and the same way of access to and union with the One Lord.”
one baptism] The one Divine Seal upon the one God-given faith in the One Lord. This holy Seal is “one” in respect of the Unity of the Triune Name (Matthew 28:19) “into” which, and which alone, all partakers of the covenant of Christ are baptized. The “one baptism for the remission of sins” is baptism into that Name, or into its equivalent (Acts 2:38), the Name of the Son of the Father and the Giver of the Spirit.Ephesians 4:5. Μία πίστις, ἕν βάπτισμα, one faith, one baptism) into Christ, the Lord. Sometimes baptism, sometimes faith, is put first; Mark 16:16; Colossians 2:12.
The principle of faith; not that which is believed - the body of Christian doctrine, which does not promote unity. See on Acts 6:7.
The external sign of faith, but of no significance without the Lord and the faith. Baptism is emphasized instead of the Eucharist, because the latter assumes and recognizes unity as an established fact; while faith and baptism precede that fact, and are essential to it. Baptism, moreover, is not administered to the Church as a body, but to individuals, and therefore emphasizes the exhortation to each member to be in vital union with the whole body.
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