There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
The apostle proceeds to state the nature and grounds of the unity which is to be so carefully guarded. It has its basis in the fact that the Church is one, and does not consist of two rival societies.
I. "THERE IS ONE BODY." The body with its many members and its many functions is yet one. Similarly, "we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5); so that believers, no matter how separated by race, color, language, station, opinion, interest, circumstance, experience, are members of this one body. The body cannot, therefore, be an external visible society, but a spiritual body of which Christ is the Head. It may not be so easy to realize this unity in the midst of the multiplication of sects and denominations, each with its well-defined lines, of doctrine and order, and each more or less sharply distinguished from its neighbor. Yet there is still but "one body" -there is amidst accidental diversities a substantial unity, a unity that covers all truly essential elements. The diversity arising from temperament, culture, habit, has had its due effect in the development of truth; for some parts of the Church have thus given prominence to some truth which other parts have allowed to fall into the background. The beauty of the Church is manifest in this very diversity, just as it requires all the hues of the rainbow to make the clear, white ray of colorless sunshine. The duty, therefore, of believers is to regard the differences that keep them apart, not as hindrances to loving intercourse, but as helps to the fuller development of Divine truth and the fuller manifestation of the mind of God to the Church.
II. "ONE SPIRIT." As in the human body there is but one spirit, with a single vivifying power, so in the Church there is but one Spirit, animating all its members, as the common principle of life. "By one Spirit were we all baptized into one body," and "were made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). "We have access by one Spirit unto the Father." There is, therefore, no room for a conflicting administration. "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4); and therefore all sins against unity are sins against the indwelling Spirit. Sectarian or divisive courses have a tendency to grieve the Spirit. Indeed, it is a mark of a separating apostasy that it has not the Spirit (Jude 1:19). Let us remember that the one Spirit who animates the body of Christ produces as his own choicest fruits - "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22). These are graces with a distinctly unifying tendency.
III. "ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING."
1. Its nature. Here it is not the thing "hoped for," as it is in Colossians 1:5 and Titus 2:13, but the emotion of hope, the expectation of future good. All believers have the same aspirations, the same anticipations of coming glory, as the effect of the Spirit's indwelling. The hope is subjective.
2. Its origin. The hope is "of your calling." It springs out of the effectual call of the Spirit, who begets us to "a lively hope" (1 Peter 1:3), being himself the Earnest and Seal of the future inheritance. We naturally hope for what we are invited to receive.
3. Its effect. Just as two strangers meeting for the first time on the deck of an emigrant ship, both bound for the same new land, and purposing to pursue the same occupation, are united by a common interest of expectation, so believers are drawn together into unity by a consideration of their common hopes.
IV. "ONE LORD." As the Head of the Church, the supreme Object of faith, and into whose Name all saints are baptized. There are two ideas involved in this blessed lordship - ownership and authority.
1. Ownership. Jesus Christ is not only Lord of all, but especially Lord of his own people. We are not our own, for we have been redeemed and bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20), even with his precious blood. For this end he both died and rose and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living (Romans 19:4).
2. Authority. Therefore we are subject to him, ore' reason to his guidance, our conscience to his precepts, our hearts to his constraining love. There is no part of our being, there is no event of our lives, that is not subject to this authority which brooks no rival. It is this subjection of all believers to one Lord that marks the inner unity of the Church; for loyalty to a common Lord makes them stand together in a common hope, a common life, a common love.
V. "ONE FAITH." Not one creed, though all believers do really hold all that is essential to salvation, but one faith in its subjective aspect, through which the one Lord is apprehended. It is one in all believers, for they are all justified in exactly the same manner, and it is in all a faith that "purifieth the heart," "worketh by love," and "overcometh the world." It is not, therefore, an external unity that this faith builds up, but a union of a spiritual character, wrought by the grace of God. This principle or grace of faith has a thoroughly uniting tendency, because it brings us near to the Savior, and the nearer we stand to him we stand the nearer to one another.
VI. "ONE BAPTISM." There is but one baptism, once administered, as the expression of our faith in Christ; one initiation into the one body by one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13); one dedication to the one Lord. All believers are baptized unto the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27, 28). Christendom owns but one baptism. It has been remarked as strange that the Lord's Supper - "the one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17) - should not have a place among the unities, as it is essentially the symbol of union among believers. But it differs from baptism in two important respects:
(1) baptism is individual, the Lord's Supper is social;
(2) it is by baptism, spiritually regarded, we are carried into the unity of the one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); it is by the Lord's Supper we recognize continuously a unity already accomplished. Thus baptism is included among the seven unities, because it embodies the initial elements that enter into the unity.
VII. "ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL, who is above all, and through all, and in all." The unity of the Church finds its consummation at last in him, who originated the scheme of grace and from whom all the other unities are derived. If God be our Father, then are we members of one family, brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, and are therefore bound to live together in unity. The counsel may well come to us, "See that ye fall not out by the way" (Genesis 45:24). All the unities are secured by the relation of God the Father to the Church. He is "over all" its members, and therefore there can be no rival sovereignty. The Church "is the habitation of God through the Spirit." He is "through all," in respect of pervading and supporting energy; he is "in all," as the Source and Spring of constant light and grace and goodness. There is here no pantheism. Thus there are seven unities, like so many distinct obligations, to incline believers to the unity of the Spirit, which can only be preserved in the bond of peace. Believers ought, indeed, to be of one heart and one soul. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;