ENDEAVOURING TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT: A STUDY OF EPH. 4:3-6

ENDEAVOURING TO KEEP THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT: A STUDY OF EPH. 4:3-6

Eph. 4:3 reads, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. There are several words that should be considered if we are to understand what the Holy Spirit has given us in this verse. For example, the Spirit is one, but a “unity” implies more that one. That is to say, in order to have a unity there must be at lease two to unite. Also, what does the word “of” in the phrase “unity of the Spirit” tell us.

UNITY

The Greek word translated “unity” is “henotees” and is used only in verses 3  and 13 of Eph. 4.  Eph. 4:13 reads,  which reads, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith…..”.  The Companion Bible suggests that “oneness” is the literal meaning and because, as stated above, the Spirit is one and “unity” suggests more than one, I believe Dr. Bullinger’s suggestion has great merit.  But it is clear that in Eph. 4:13 where the word is used  of more than one, it could be understood to mean “unity”. I believe that because when used of the Spirit it must be understood as “one”, so too in verse 13, the word should be understood as “one”. So then this phrase would read “the oneness of the Spirit”.

“OF”

What does it mean to endeavour to keep the oneness of the Spirit? I believe the answer lies in the word “of” which, in my opinion, is the Genitive of Character defined in the Companion Bible Appendix 17 as, “Here the emphasis is always on the adjectival particle, which appears in the original as a noun in the Genitive Case, Ps. 2:6, “Heb. ‘the hill of My holiness’ = My holy hill’. Eph. 2:2, ‘Children of disobedience’ = disobedient children. II Thess. 1:7, Greek ‘angels of His might; ‘His mighty angels’”.

So in Eph. 4:3 we read of the character of the Spirit described in this passage as “oneness”. I believe Paul is exhorting believers to endeavor to keep that same character of oneness that is spoken of in this passage of the Spirit.

“IN”

“Endeavouring to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace“. The Greek preposition translated “in” in the phrase “in the bond of peace” is “en”. The definition of “en” as given in the Companion Bible Appendix 104 viii, reads in part, “denotes being or remaining within, with the primary idea of rest and continuance”. So as one endeavours to keep the oneness that, in this passage characterizes the Spirit, one does so as he remains in the bond of peace.

“THE BOND OF PEACE”

Once again I believe a consideration of the word “of” in the term “bond of peace’ will be helpful. I believe it is the Genitive of Character defined in the Companion Bible as, “Here the emphasis is always on the adjectival particle, which appears in the original as a noun in the Genitive Case, Ps. 2:6, “Heb. ‘the hill of My holiness’ = My holy hill’. Eph. 2:2, ‘Children of disbedience’ = disobedient children. II Thess. 1:7, Greek ‘angels of His might; ‘His mighty angels’”. In the term “bond of peace” then, we have the peaceful bond.

The Greek word translated “bond” is “sundesmos”. The word is used four times. Let us look at the other three occurrences. The first occurrence of “sundesmos” is in Acts 8:23 which reads, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “bond” tells us that it is a “medical term for a ligature”. The word is also used in Col. 3:14, which reads, “And above all these things, put on charity which is the bond of perfectness”.

But, in my opinion, the verse that is most helpful in our understanding of the word “sundesmos” is found in Col. 2:19 where it is translated, “bands”, “And not holding the Head, from Which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God”.

THE SEVEN “ONES” OF EPH. 4:4-6

We read in Eph. 4:4-6 of seven things that are one. Let me quote that passage, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lordone faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all”.

How do these verses connect to the previous verse? That is to say, the previous verse, i.e. verse 3, speaks of endeavouring to keep the same character of oneness that is found in the Spirit. How does this list of seven things that are one connect to that exhortation to endeavour to keep that oneness? The reader will note that there is an attempt in the KJV to connect verse 3 with what follows with the words, “there is”. The phrase “there is” is an Ellipsis which is a figure of speech defined in the Companion Bible as, “When a gap is purposely left in a sentence through the omission of some word or words”. In my opinion, the words “there is” does not really connect verse 3 with verses 4-6. That is say, the thought that we must endeavour to keep the oneness that is characterized by the Spirit, is not connected to the list of things that are one by the words, “there is”. I suggest therefore, that the ellipsis should read, “Even as there is”. In other words, we should endeavour to keep the oneness that characterizes the Spirit even as there are also seven other things that are one.

With that said, let us consider the seven ones of verses 4-6.

ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL

For reasons which will become more clear as we continue in this study, I would like to begin the discussion of the seven ones with “one God and Father of all”. There is, and always has been, and always will be, only one God Who is the Father of all believers in every dispensation. John 1:12 reads, “But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”. And Romans 8:14 is also helpful, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God”. Believers of every dispensation are children of God and He is their Father.

I am suggesting therefore, that the “one God and Father of all” is a universal truth, not a dispensational one. That is to say, it transcends dispensations. Bearing that in mind, let us continue with another of the ones of this passage, i.e. “one Lord”

ONE LORD

Just as there is and always has been and always will be only one God Who is the Father of every believer of every dispensation, so too is the same true of “one Lord”. That is to say, for the believer, God is Lord. That is true of believers of every dispensation. Here again, we have a universal truth. And with that in mind let us consider the “one baptism”.

ONE BAPTISM

Before we begin the discussion of the one baptism I would like to call the reader’s attention to the paper on this web-site on the various baptisms of the Bible which will give the Scriptural reasons for my belief that the underlying reason for baptism is to identify and separate unto God the one being baptized. Assuming that to be the case, what is this one baptism of Eph. 4? What baptism is it that helps believers “keep the oneness that is characterized by the Spirit”?

I believe that the “one baptism” of Eph. 4:5 is the baptism into Christ spoken of by Paul in Gal. 3:27, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ”. In this passage it is clear that to be baptized into Christ is the same as to have put on Christ. What does the phrase “put on Christ” mean? It is obviously a figure of speech as we cannot put on another Person. Figures of speech are used to emphasize a truth. What truth is being enhanced by the phrase, “put on Christ”? In my opinion Paul is saying that one who puts on Christ identifies with Him to such a degree that he becomes one with Christ. Believers of every dispensation are identified with Christ through baptism. That is a universal truth

But some would object to the suggestion that this speaks of a universal truth because Paul wrote of that baptism in an Acts period epistle and therefore would not be applicable to believers of the dispensation of the mystery. Let us examine that thought.

To be baptized into Christ is to be identified with and separated unto Him. Believers of every dispensation have “put on Christ” and because to put on Christ is to be baptized into Christ, we must conclude that believers of every dispensation have been baptized into Christ. In other words, to have put on Christ and therefore to be baptized into Christ is a universal truth, i.e. it is equally true in every dispensation. Therefore, baptism into Christ is as much a blessed spiritual experience in the present dispensation as it was in the previous one.

ONE FAITH

The Greek word translated “faith” in this verse is “pistis”. The Companion Bible gives the following definition of “pistis”, “The living divinely implanted principle”. What is the “divinely implanted principle” Paul had in mind when he wrote of the “one faith”, i.e. faith in what or in Whom? Or we might put the question this way: what faith unites believers?

In my opinion, it is the faith that saves unto resurrection life. There is one faith that saves unto resurrection life, it is faith in God and in His message of salvation. Once again, believers of every dispensation share one faith unto salvation. Therefore, the one faith of Eph. 4 which shows the characteristic of the Spirit, to which we should all endeavor to keep, is a universally held faith by all believers.

ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING

Most assume that the term “hope of your calling” refers to the high calling of the church which is His body. It is important, in my opinion, to recognize that the phrase concerns primarily one hope, not one calling. Further, as we have seen, the previous ones (and as we shall see, the following ones as well)  are  not dispensational but universal truths. I suggest we consider the term “one hope of your calling” more fully in order to come to the truth of the meaning of this term.

Let us consider the word “of” in the term “one hope of your calling”. The Appendix number 17 in the Companion Bible lists and defines nine different ways in which the Genitive case is used. The only one of those nine that could apply to the term “hope of your calling” is the Genitive of Relation, defined in part as, “Frequently the ‘of’ is equivalent to ‘pertaining to‘”. In other words, we may understand the term “the hope of your calling” as “the hope pertaining to your calling”. What is the hope pertaining to our calling? The one hope of the calling of all believers is the same, it is the hope of resurrection. While it is very true that not all believers are called to one place, it is the one hope of all believers that they will be resurrected. I am suggesting therefore that the one hope of the calling in this particular context is the hope of resurrection.

Let us consider the following facts that we have gleaned from the context. 1) The other “ones” are universal truths. 2) Whatever this hope is, it is given as part of an exhortation to keep the oneness which is characterized by the Spirit. 3) Note that Paul speaks of the hope pertaining to this calling. With those three things in mind I believe we may conclude that the one hope of the calling of all believers is resurrection. That is 1) in keeping with the other “ones” which are universal truths. It is 2) the same for all believers and therefore aids in the keeping of the oneness of the Spirit and 3) it is the hope that is the subject  that is one, not the calling itself.

ONE BODY

Most assume that the term “one body” used in this passage refers to the one body of Eph. 2. The term “body” is sometimes used as a metaphor for a group in which all of those in the group are equal. The context will show in what way they are equal. For example, the one body of Eph. 2 is a metaphor which expresses the equality of Jews and Gentiles. The first two occurrences of the phrase “one body” are found in Romans 12:3-5 and also provide examples of the metaphor being used to express equality of believers, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members of another“. Paul’s point is clear. His point was that one member of the body is no better than any other member of the body. Therefore, I believe that the suggestion that the metaphor of the one body is used to enhance the concept of equality of believers. 

My point is that the term “one body” is used to refer to a group of believers who are one in their equality. That being the case, there is absolutely no reason to assign which body is meant in Eph. 4. That is to say, in the context of Eph. 4, the one body refers to all believers who are one because they are in Christ. Because the context has nothing to do with oneness in terms of equality, as the term is used elsewhere as a metaphor, there is no reason to go further than Paul does. Paul wrote that believers are one body. In the same way that students are said to be a body, or congress is a body, so too believers are a body. By trying to put the term as used in Eph. 4 in a box, i.e. in a particular way that believers are equal, we do not add to the truth, we only confuse the truth of the fact that all believers are in Christ are are one.

ONE SPIRIT

The KJV has “Spirit”, with the upper case “S” indicating the Holy Spirit. But there is no definite article in the Greek and therefore no reason to assume that it is the Holy Spirit that is meant. Because these seven “ones” are those that are one even as is the Holy Spirit of verse3, I believe that in this verse God in His office of Holy Spirit is not what is meant by the word “spirit”.

The Companion Bible note on the word “spirit” points us to Appendix 101 II. 5 which reads in part, “The new nature in the child of God, because ‘begotten’ in us by God, as in Jn. 3:3-7….”. Let us consider Jn. 3:3, “Jesus answered and said unto him (Nicodemus), Verily, verily, I say unto thee, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’”. In verse 4 we have recorded Nicodemus’ question, “how can a man be born when is is old”. And our Lord’s answer as recorded in verse 5 reads, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’”. The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase “water and spirit” tells us that it should read, “of water, yea, spiritual water”. In John 3:6 we read, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”. In other words, as one is born again (should be “from above”) he receives from the Holy Spirit the spirit which is given to every believer. I believe the reader will be greatly blessed as we consider the passages that speak of this spirit or “new man”.

(The Greek seldom uses upper case letters, so the upper case letters one reads in the KJV or in the NIV is interpretation, not translation. I have changed the upper case letters in some passages for reasons that are explained in the paper on this web-site  A Study Of Spirit (please see the section on the new nature in that paper).

In Romans 5:5 we learn that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the holy ghost” (i.e. the spirit of Jn. 3).

In Rom. 8:9 we read that “ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God dwell in you”.

Rom. 8:14, “For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God”. And in verse 16 we read also, “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God“.

We learn in I Cor. 2:12 that “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God”.

Eph. 1:13b-14, “In Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession...”. The Greek word translated “with” in Eph. 1:13 in the phrase, “ye were sealed with” is in the dative case and should be translated “by” or “unto”. So we were sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. The context tells us that “the promise” was the promise of resurrection. II Cor. 5:5 is also in the context of resurrection. Therefore, by putting these three verse in which the Greek word translated “earnest” is used we can see that the Holy Spirit has sealed all believers unto the day of resurrection by giving each of us the spirit of Jn. 3.

Eph. 3:16, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.

II Peter 1:3-4, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”.

What are the blessings the believer receives by being born from above, and receiving the spirit of Jn. 3? The “love of God is shed abroad in our heart (Rom. 5:5); “ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit” (Rom. 8:9); “that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16); ” that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Cor. 2:12); it is the believer’s warranty of resurrection Eph. 1:13b-14); “He may strengthen you with power” (Eph. 3:16) and so that we may “participate in the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).

Believers of every dispensation are recipients of these blessings. This is in perfect harmony with the fact that all seven of the “ones” listed in these verses are universal truths.

CONCLUSION

Eph. 4:3 exhorts believers to endeavour to keep the oneness that is characterized by the Holy Spirit, Who is, of course One. As Paul, through the Holy Spirit lists seven things that are also one, he points to seven blessings that unite all believers of every dispensation which should help them as they endeavour to keep the oneness of the Spirit.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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