The God of the Church:
The Basis of our Christian Unity
(A Consideration of the Trinity and One of Its Practical Imports)
In an important declaration of Christian unity found in Ephesians 4:1-16, the apostle Paul affirmed the reality that there exists a doctrinal unity and harmony within the body of Christ. Paul believed that there were a series of doctrinal truths that unified the Christian church, some of which he identified in Ephesians 4:4-6,
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
It is clear from just a simple reading of these three verses that Paul has purposefully constructed them to articulate the important reality of unity to the church. These are not just statements that have been patch worked together haphazardly and then included here for effect, but rather they are purposefully designed and placed to evoke from the Ephesians a nodding of the head in agreement. How can one deny, question, or argue about Paul’s call to Christian unity in 4:1-3 after reading and truly understanding the significance of these next three verses?
As one begins to examine more closely Paul’s construction of these statements, it becomes clear that the Trinity provides the skeletal structure of Paul’s comments. Notice the inclusion of the Spirit, the Lord, and the Father. The seven statements can really be divided into three distinct sets, each comprised of three statements regarding each member of the Trinity.
The first three statements, one body, one Spirit, and one hope, include and are related to the Holy Spirit, appearing in 4:4. The second set of three statements, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, include and are related to Jesus Christ, appearing in 4:5. The third set of statements at first seem to break this mold, but in all reality it is patterned after them because after making the seventh statement regarding the Father, the apostle Paul says “who” and then makes three statements related to the Father, appearing at the end of 4:6. This both sets Him in the flow of the pattern, as well as makes Him distinct as the fountainhead of the Godhead.
It is here that we begin arriving at the heart and purpose of Paul’s skillful design of this passage. In speaking of the church’s unity, Paul returned to what he viewed as the foundation of all Christian doctrine and practice and that is the Trinity. The Trinity is more than just a central part of a Christian creed or doctrinal statement, it is the very core of everything that is Christian. Without the Trinity, there is no Christianity. The purpose of the apostle begins to surface then, that the unity of the church is simply a reflection of the unity of the Trinity.