There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;…
This is a frequently recurring theme in the Epistle to the Ephesians, and it is always treated with an emphasis that marks its supreme importance, and with a prophetic hopefulness that regards the higher development of it as one of the grandest features of the ideal future.
I. WHEREIN CHRISTIAN UNITY CONSISTS.
1. Externally it consists in the "one body." Plainly the "one body" is the Church, the community of Christians. It should be clear to an impartial reader of the New Testament that neither Christ nor his apostles contemplated the ideal of the kingdom of heaven on earth as we see that kingdom realized only in a Christendom torn and distracted with the bitter rivalries and mutual excommunications of innumerable sects. The Church of Christ, the Church in St. Paul's conception, was to be catholic - one great family, harmonious, mutually sympathetic and mutually helpful.
2. Internally it consists in the "one Spirit." So long as there is not oneness of spirit in the Church, the attempt to preserve external union by force is futile; nay, it is positively hurtful. It is best not to have a mock semblance of union when at heart we differ strongly. But if there is a unity of spirit, that should be regarded as the most essential thing. History shows that the greatest breaches of unity have been caused by the illiberal efforts of bigots to constrain uniformity. If we want true unity we must dispense with agreement in doctrine, form of worship and ecclesiastical order, and be content with oneness of spirit. This unity will be realized, not by increasing, but by minimizing, the points of uniformity; in comprehensiveness, not in stringent discipline; with larger charity, never with more absolute authority.
II. TOWARDS WHAT END CHRISTIAN UNITY IS TENDING. The Christian calling points to "one hope." All things make for final integration (Ephesians 1:10). We fail of our vocation if we are satisfied with a churlish isolation. There will be varieties of life in the future, no doubt, as there will be "many mansions." But all Christians will be united in the one city of God, even in the one house of our Father (John 14:2). It becomes, therefore, our manifest duty to heal the breaches of Zion. Controversialists should ask themselves whether they bring the millennium nearer by their pugnacious advocacy of pet doctrines, or drive it further off by deepening the fissures of a sorely divided Christendom; and ecclesiastical advocates of Church unity should consider whether it is likely they will win over to their side all the divergent sects by standing on the narrowest possible ground and erecting about it frowning ramparts.
III. ON WHAT ORIGINAL FOUNDATIONS CHRISTIAN UNITY IS BASED.
1. One Lord. We all have one and the same Christ, and in him we are one. In proportion as Christianity becomes less an affair of theological dogmas and ecclesiastical systems, and more a religion of personal devotion to Christ, shall we be able to realize our true unity.
2. One faith. All Christians must experience the same spiritual faith in becoming Christ's, and must walk equally by faith. Opinions and rules may differ, but we do not live by opinions and rules - we live by faith. Now, faith is the same spiritual act in child and in philosopher, in penitent and in saint, in the shouting recruit of the Salvation Army and in the grave Quaker, in the evangelical Methodist and in the devout restorer of medieval theology.
3. One baptism. There is one outward sacrament common to nearly the whole of Christendom significant of the washing and renewal all need and all can receive in Christ.
4. One God and lather. A common worship unites. Communion with our one Father makes us members of one family. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;