“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”
Ephesians 4:5-6 NLT
This section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians continues the theme of unity. And in these two verses he presents a fundamental view of God. Paul sets out the bottom line. The bedrock of our faith. A picture of God that is total and complete in every way. I see a picture before me today of an onion, and Paul is peeling away the layers, exposing truths that are seismic and fundamental to our beliefs. We have to peel away each layer to be able to appreciate the next. This view of God is so profound and true that if we cannot accept in turn each of Paul’s statements, then there is no point in continuing. This is a creed with five truths that underpins all other creeds.
So for the first layer, Paul says there is “one Lord“. Believe it or not, in the world today there are many “lords”. And all except one are the wrong lord. We can make a loved one “lord” of our lives. Or even the devil. We have a privileged class in the UK of “lords”. And a part of our government here in the UK is the “House of Lords”. Many people make a “lord” out of their hobbies, or jobs. But Paul said there is only one Lord who really matters and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. If we hold a view that Jesus was anything other than the Son of God, a Member of the Holy Trinity, both human and divine, then there is no point in proceeding to the next layer of Paul’s “onion”.
The next layer refers to “one faith“. A sad phenomenon in some established churches today is the willingness to have “multi-faith” services. The bizarre spectacle of a Rabbi, Imam, Priest, Buddhist monk, and a Clergyman holding joint prayers is directly at conflict with the God-truth of there being “one faith”. But is this what Paul was bothered about? No. I believe Paul was pointing out that true faith was not only believing that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, that He died for our sins and that He sent the Holy Spirit to be His representative here on Planet Earth, but Paul was also pointing out that the faith we have extends to an unshakeable belief and assurance that God knows what is best for us, and regardless of our circumstances we will continue to have faith in Him. For an example, Abraham showed true faith when he placed his son on the altar as a sacrifice to God. True faith involves obedience to God regardless of the circumstances.
We continue to the next layer by considering what “one baptism” means. The New Testament mentions two types of baptism – baptism in water (Acts 8:36-39) and baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16). The fact that Paul mentions baptism here is therefore significant. It is an essential, non-negotiable, part of what being a Christian is all about. In Acts 2:38 we read, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“.
The next layer of our onion is the all-encompassing declaration of who God is. There is only “one God“. I can remember a Muslim man I worked with telling me, some years ago, that we both worshipped the same God. But the God of the Christians, Paul’s God, our God, is different to Allah, the Muslim God. very different. Sadly, even amongst Christians there are different views of who God is. Some Christian denominations worship a God that is different to the One described in His Book, the Bible. But one thing is very clear. God is a God of love and grace. He is infinitely patient and kind. “The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” (Psalm 145:8).
Finally, Paul continues with the statement that God is “Father of all“. God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. And as with any family, children can be naughty and rebellious. Well, that is how we started off in our natural lives. The religious jargon is that such behaviour is “sin”. Sadly, most people deny that they have a Heavenly Father. But saying we don’t have a Heavenly Father is the same as saying we don’t have a natural father. One day everyone will stand before God to give an account of their lives – most people will get a nasty shock if they continue to deny He exists! But it is so sad for those who don’t believe in God’s Fatherhood. He is the perfect Father. Loving. Fair. Helpful. A Guide when we need Him. Gracious. Merciful. God’s parental attributes could fill a book – well they do – His Book, the Bible. And the more we read it, the more we find out about Him. Imagine what it would be like to be in a situation where we never knew our natural father. But he left us a book about his life. I can guarantee we would read, and re-read the book he left us, to try and find out as much as we could about him. So it is with our Heavenly Father. He left us a book all about Him. And just for good measure, He threw in a shedload of information about our elder Brother, Jesus. Oh – and don’t forget the Holy Spirit – there’s a lot about Him in there as well. Three for the price of one?
The rest of these verses describe God as being, “over all, in all, and living through all.” Paul included these words just to make sure that what he had been saying was total. Complete. Nothing missed out. The word “one” is mentioned four times in these verses. Someone once said that if God said something once, we should take note. If He said it three times then we had better sit up and do something about it. Well, here is Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying something four times. Something important, don’t you think?