GOD HAS MADE a unity for His saints and He enjoins us
to endeavor to keep the unity. Like every other achievement wherewith God
graces us, this unity is in spirit. To keep the unity is an individual
matter, and should be the divine service of each saint. In this endeavor
we ought not to have the idea that we are to establish a union with other
saints, but simply seek that we do not mar the unity which the saints are
constituted by God. Each saint is united by his spirit, and though the
major problem of unity was circumcision and uncircumcision, yet even these
have been united by God, for He has provided the tie of peace between
these two elements. The chief parties of separation have been reconciled,
and He in Whom are all our blessings is the Peace. Moreover, we have so
learned Christ, having heard Him and been taught by Him, through His
apostle Paul, that only the conduct of any saint ought to preclude
fellowship. The spirit of our mind has been rejuvenated, and we have put
on the new humanity, hence the requisite factors to keep the spirit's
unity ought to be in being.
The significance of maturity is indicated by the unity of the spirit; it
is a oneness first with Christ, the Lord, and so also between all the
saints. To keep the unity we need to first acknowledge Him alone as our
Lord, and hence of the details of our life. To see the unity only as
embracing those who realize the special truths of Ephesians is to fail to
understand the question. We may have more intimate fellowship with those
of like understanding, but that is not the limit of the spirit's unity. In
this respect the outward aspect is not in point, for whether outward unity
be apparent or not, the spirit's unity is in being. Yet our obedience is
to endeavor that we outwardly keep the unity, and to do so we ignore all
other unities and associations, for any such alliances create but a
superficial communion, which, in fact, amounts to division.
The spirit's unity is defined by, and based upon, seven features which are
fundamental to the present economy, and therefore of the Ephesian epistle.
Before each of these the word ONE is used, and so they are made thoroughly
unique. These embody the saint's relationship to each other, and also to
the Lord. Whilst each item has connection with both relationships, yet the
first three, body, spirit, and expectation, refer most particularly to the
saint's relationship to each other; then we have the central feature of
the ONE Lord. The one faith and one baptism refer particularly to our
relationship to the Lord, yet also linking us to the one God and Father.
Both the Lord and God sustain a connection with each component, for They
are the Creators of the one body which is united by the serene disposition
of the one spirit and hence has the one expectation.
The figure here is of the saints' relation to one another; they are
members of one organism, and they cooperate in mutual sympathy, being
dependent and helpful according to the constraints of love. The
established peace extends the illustration to the special feature of this
economy which makes the body to be a joint-body, even though essentially
the latter is based upon the vivifying, rousing and seating of an election
from the nations and from Israel. This item of one body covers the members
from these two divisions of humanity.
This is the loving and gracious disposition inculcated by the doctrine of
the present economy; it displays the boundless grace and love which we
have received from God and so accords with God's attitude. Thus the one
spirit speaks of the quality of our mind renewed by God's teachings to us
through Paul. They are the scale of our life's activity. The fact of our
being one body necessitates this common spirit. It is not that we have the
spirit of Christ, or are baptized by the spirit, but it is that the nature
or character of our activities are those which accord with the truth of
our being one body, and in this all factors of division, whether arising
from the flesh or racial features, should be inert, for we have one spirit
to exemplify the grace which is toward us.
This harmonizes with the one body and one spirit. In chapter one, verse
eighteen, it is referred to as the prospect, which is the realization of
our expectation. By the enlightening of the eyes of our heart, that is,
the center of our being, we perceive the prospect to which we are called.
And so we are able to understand that the entry into it requires means
which constitute us to be pre-expectants in Christ Jesus. Hence we look to
meet the Lord in the air, and whilst so doing we wait for Him to call us
to our citizenship which belongs to the heavens. We know He is able to do
this. Our expectation is thus incidental to our calling.
The one body, one spirit and one expectation are features which concern
unity as regards the saints' relationship to one another because they are
Christ's and hence have one Lord.
This absolutely excludes any question of delegated authority in the
spirit's unity. In this economy the evangelist, pastor or teacher, who
accurately understands and honors the office, appreciates that he has no
authority, and that his labors are entirely to dispense to and to up-build
the saints. Beyond this the saints are peers of the one who ministers to
them. Only the elders and supervisors represent Him in matters of order
It ought to be obvious that the ONE Lord is the center and vitality of the
spirit's unity. To Him we become related because of the one baptism by
spirit. For Him we slave and accord Him the fullest and all rights and
authority over us.
By the figure association this refers to the specific doctrine of this
economy. It is spoken of in chapter one, verse fifteen; the faith (or
teaching) which relates to you. This signifies that all ought to believe
the same. And so we should, if all saints accurately appreciated this
teaching and how it establishes Christ Jesus as Lord. The unity of faith
should be attained through this teaching and the teachers, for both should
direct us to our Lord, and to all His concerns in regard to this economy.
Until we rise to the discriminations necessary to correctly partition the
word of truth, we shall fail to achieve the unity of faith. Teachers ought
to have established themselves in this respect before embarking upon their
work, but few have the full-orbed view necessary, and generally are
lacking in apprehending what is the faith which relates to the present.
This is no mere ceremonial matter, but a vital factor which makes real our
unity with Christ. It is the baptism in spirit into His death and so into
the life we have in Him. Thus we are cleansed and unified, sealed and made
safe; the spirit makes its home in us, and we are enabled to acknowledge
Him as our Lord, and to follow the lead of His spirit.
No one, in this economy, is commissioned to be baptizing; not even the
apostle Paul was commissioned to engage in this. He was to preach the
evangel, and it is through the preaching that the one baptism ensues, for
the word of the evangel conveys this baptism to the chosen and shows that
to them it is association with Christ Jesus in His death to sin and
subsequent entombing and resurrection there-from. Thus one baptism gives
us the spirit of life which is in Him and so His righteousness. All His
glories become for us since relation to Him is an actual reality for us
and for Him.
Such an item has special aptness in regard to the nations; those of Israel
were well instructed as to ONE God and needed but to realize that their
ONE God was also God of the nations. But the nations were atheists
(without God Eph.2:12), yet had gods many (1 Cor.8:5). To the nations,
then, this item would come with particular force; they have now One God
and He is Father; unity is with Him and the Lord as well as with the
saints. From Him come all blessings through Christ Jesus, and all conduct
is before Him.
This ought also to correct orthodoxy on the subject of the Trinity. The
crude notions of the nations were not fully shed, but were dressed in new
form to apparently agree with some phrases of the scripture. Yet they
missed the truth of ONE God and Father.
That God is also our Father is well known, but only in a superficial
sense. Rarely do we find it understood with the full significance required
by the evangel of God. The evangel has brought us the spirit of sonship;
in this we should realize the tender affection God has for us, and the
dignity and maturity afforded by our being sons of God, for we have passed
from being merely children of God. To own God as our Father, in the sense
required by God's evangel, is the highest expression of our faith which
can be uttered by us. Its reality, in this economy, is significant that we
are His in that relationship which has its full height shown at the
consummation, for it is to God, as the Father, that Christ Jesus our Lord
becomes subject when relinquishing the Kingdom at the consummation. Such a
feature emphasizes to us that God as our Father is no mere nominal
expression, but rather it states the adultness which comes to us through
the glory of the evangel. Moreover, it indicates our submission to God
since He is in fact our Father, caring for, providing for and loving
immeasurably His sons.
The major barrier to our endeavors regarding this unity of the spirit is
lack of obedience to our Lord. It ought to be within the apprehension of
every saint that the word one precedes each item enumerated, and yet in
the initial stage we appear to ignore it; later we lack the humility to
adjust our faith and understanding to this fact, and rather do we adopt a
degree of militancy to demonstrate our own particular views, with the
result that demarcations are enlarged and so emphasized. Nay, we even
might begin to formulate a demonstration that the spirit's unity was not
purposed to be outwardly displayed until we meet our Lord, and so enter
into our allotment and its participation. But it should be apparent that
it is our own lack which has produced the existing situation; saints of
prior generations failed before us, and we either follow them, or if we
have any penetration and seek to adjust, then there comes a point when we
also begin to spoil matters, even as did our fathers. Let us attain
maturity and so glorify the unity God has made.