Thoughts from Stuart Poteet
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“There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
If I were to name a keyword of this passage it would be the word “One”. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, wants them to understand the oneness of our God. But beyond that, he is also hitting home the truth that because our God is one, we, His church, are also to be one. There is a beautiful unity and oneness that is found in the Trinity and is meant to be reflected into and throughout mankind.
Let’s set the stage a little bit here. In first-century Ephesus, the early Christians would have been surrounded by a culture that was highly divided. First off, the practice of polytheism (worship of multiple gods) was the norm and the culture of Ephesus was proud of their plurality and religious tolerance. The religion of Ephesus centered on the goddess Artimis. But at least 50 other gods were worshiped commonly in Ephesus. A person might worship at the altar of a Greek god seeking one thing and then turn to the altar of an Egyptian god asking for something else. Different god’s offered different levels of blessing and intervention into different spheres of human existence.
Secondly, because Ephesus was an ancient port city, the people were highly diverse. There were Greeks, Jews, Romans, and many other cultures. It was a melting pot of societies and cultures- all highly divided in their ideals, religion, culture, practices, and mentalities. Again, the motto of the time was tolerance. But under the surface of acceptance and tolerance, divisions ran deep.
Thirdly, as was common in most Roman and Greek cultures of the time, there were great divides between genders and social status. Male and female were not viewed as equals. Slaves and freemen were also miles apart in importance and respect. The slave, the women, the children, the crippled, and the old were seen as lesser in importance or worth. To say that Ephesus held layer upon layer of division and separation between its people would, in my estimate, be an understatement.
So why is this important? Because the words penned to the church in Ephesus in today’s passage would have been revolutionary and new. Paul cites the oneness of our God in the same breath as he tells the church that we are “one body” bound together by “one Spirit”. He points out the importance of “one faith, one baptism” as a unifying tool by the “one God and Father of all”.
In a culture and a time when divisions, differences, and distinctions separated people, the idea of one God unifying one people into one body was a breath of fresh air! (and in some cases was the spark that lit the tinderbox that was Ephesus!)
I often marvel at how similar to Ephesus our modern culture is. There are for certain some distinct differences, but we are not so dissimilar to our ancient brothers and sisters. I often look at the world around me and think, “How did we get so divided?” Brother against brother, mother against daughter, neighbor against neighbor, and so on. There are so many divisions in our culture it sometimes makes my head spin! You can hardly barely live in this world without the fear of offending someone over something. It can be exhausting!
That’s why I think the study of the Trinity and the perfect unity therewithin is so important to the modern Church. We must move from a place of cultural divisions into a place of divine unity. And we must be willing to ask the hard question, “Does my church look more like the world around us or the perfect unified Trinity? Do we actually reflect the Godhead in His union with each person of the Trinity- each existing as co-equal and of the same essence?”
But what does that actually look like in the Church? I believe that is what Paul wrote about when he said in Galatians 3:27-29, “For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.” We are one body, one people, bound in one hope, and for one Savior. We are the CHURCH- the body of Christ!
Now does that mean that we all cease to have distinction, differences, or diversity? BY NO MEANS! Just as the holy Trinity reflects distinctions between each of its persons, we too are to celebrate the distinctions between the different members of the body of Christ. Every person who has accepted Christ as their Lord is a part of the body and each part matters! In the way that a human body will always suffer for the loss of even just one part, we too are not complete without all our parts.
This is the beauty of the unity we can find in Christ and the unity that is purposed in the Church. We can be one with God and each other and still celebrate all the beautiful diversity and artistry that God has masterfully created in His body. But instead of that diversity and distinction separating us, it should draw us into mutual submission, mutual love, and mutual honor- just as we see displayed in the Trinity!
The oneness of our God is the blueprint- we are to model ourselves after Him in all ways. He calls us to be holy as He is holy. He calls us to unity as He is one. He calls us to love like He loves. He calls us to serve as He serves!
It’s a high calling, friends, and one I know we cannot aspire to apart from the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, in the blood of Christ, and through the will of the Father. We cannot do this without Him. It is not natural, easy, given, or even fully tangible. But it is divine! And as we lean into our understanding of the Oneness of our God and use it as a template for the oneness He desires in the Church, I believe that we will see His kingdom on earth a little more.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
In Your name we come asking for unity. We can’t manifest it on our own. We can’t contrive to accomplish it apart from You. Teach us what true unity looks like. Help us to avoid the traps of uniformity or division. Help us to strive for Your perfect unity. In Your name and for Your glory, AMEN!
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Behind the Scenes
This week we are discussing the Trinity, the Christian belief that God is three distinct persons in one God. The term Trinity is not in the bible, but the concept of a triune God is reinforced with many New Testament references to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God.
Our verse today is from Psalm 90, which interestingly is attributed to Moses, making it one of the oldest Psalms. Moses testifies in verse 2 that God existed before the earth was created, God created the earth, and that God has no beginning or end – “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Genesis 1 states that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” in verse 2 and later in verse 26, God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Even the Old Testament speaks of a Godhead made up of more than one person.
The concept of the Trinity is an important doctrine of the Christian faith, yet it is a mystery at the same time. Our human mind is asked to consider something that is difficult to grasp, yet it must be understood at a base level. Jesus brings this mystery to bear at His baptism, when the Father speaks from heaven about His Son and the Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove.
An excellent explanation of the Godhead from J.I. Packer is “they are always together and always cooperating, with the Father initiating, the Son complying and the Spirit executing the will of both, which is his will also.” In the Gospel of John, this cooperative work is evident in Creation and in Salvation. John 1: 3 notes that all things were made through Jesus and later Jesus states that no one comes to Father except through Him (John 14:6). The kingdom of God can only be seen and entered by those “born again of water and the Spirit” (John 3: 3-7). God, the Father, sent His son so “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3: 3-18).
Make It Real
There are many facets to the importance of the Trinity doctrine and if you’ve been taking in the devo texts this week you will have heard different and great perspectives from our devo team. Today I would ask that you consider what the Trinity means to the unity of believers and Jesus’ church.
The enemy is constantly driving dissension and disunity among believers inside families and the church community. He thrives on planting seeds of mistrust, gossip, envy, and pride. The Trinity doctrine gives us a picture of perfect unity before Satan and humanity ever existed. And for a brief time, humanity enjoyed that unity with God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.
Through the love of the Father, the obedience of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit, unity is possible. God is the perfecter of our faith and the source of unity among all who call Jesus their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit is the fabric that holds the true church together as He dwells within each believer. No system of organization or membership defines the unity that we’re discussing here.
Pray for the church. Pray that believers are reconciled with each other, that church hurts are healed, and that forgiveness drives out pride. Pray that the true Gospel is preached in our gatherings so that believers may be encouraged and that the lost would seek Jesus.
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 3:11
End in Prayer
Lord, show me where my pride and envy weaken my relationship with my brothers and sister in Christ. Give me strength to right wrongs, ask for forgiveness and let go of trivial hurts. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.