Heavenly Citizenship #1784

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20–21, NKJV)

Citizenship identifies a person as a legal member of a nation. It qualifies that person to participate in the rights and privileges of that nation. In contrast to “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (“whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their minds on earthly things,” Phil. 3:18-19), Christians are qualified “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). By faith, we eagerly wait for the Savior’s return, living in hope of the glorious resurrection in anticipation of our heavenly estate (Heb. 11:14-16). Christ will subdue (subjugate, defeat) death in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Kingdom citizens will be delivered up to God the Father to dwell forever in the eternal city of God (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Rev. 21:22-27). These great assurances compel the wise and faithful of heart to answer the gospel call to be saved, to become citizens of heaven (Acts 2:37-41; Col. 1:13). Christians set their minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). Let us live for the glory of heaven daily, not for things that end in destruction.

Conclusion: God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity #1783

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)

Over the past week we have commented briefly on God’s “One-derful” plan for unity from Ephesians 4:4-6. It is the plan for unity that has God’s endorsement, and which binds Christians together in peace as we diligently guard it (Eph. 4:3). To summarize, God’s platform of unity consists of the following planks: One Body: Unity of Relationship (the church, Eph. 1:22-23); One Spirit: Unity of Life (new life in Christ, revealed in truth, Jno. 3:5; Jno. 16:12-13; Gal. 5:25); One Hope: Unity of Destiny (an eternal inheritance, 1 Pet. 1:3-5); One Lord: Unity of Authority (submission to Christ’s will, Col. 3:17); One Faith: Unity of Revelation (the gospel is the faith once for all delivered, Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3); One Baptism: Unity of Forgiveness (God’s plan of salvation, Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 10:47-48; 22:16); and, One God and Father of All: Unity of Worship (true worshipers, Jno. 4:23-24). Unity in Christ is possible as we trust and follow the wisdom and word of God (1 Cor. 1:10). Human wisdom leads to hopeless division (1 Cor. 1:11-13). The unity of believers for which Christ prayed honors God, does His will, and blesses every soul who participates in it (Jno. 17:20-21; 14:21, 23-24). May me diligently keep this unity with Christ and His people (1 Jno. 1:3-7; 2 Jno. 9-11).

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One God and Father of All #1782

one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:6, NKJV)

The ancient world had many, many gods. Paul acknowledged the obvious, “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)” (1 Cor. 8:5). Times have not changed. There are literally millions of gods in Hinduism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) teach there are many gods over many worlds ((Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, VI:474-475), even as their Book of Mormon says there is one God (Alma 11:26-31). But, the one true God has revealed His power and deity through creation (Rom. 1:20). He has revealed His character and His will through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-2). There is no other God than the God of the Bible (Isa. 44:6). While there are many things about God we do not know, we can understand what He has revealed of Himself in nature and in His Scriptures. He is our Creator (“Father of all,” Acts 17:25, and heavenly Father of His schildren, Matt. 6:9). He is Sovereign (“above all,” Acts 11:26). He sustains our lives (“through all,” Acts 17:28). And, He lives with His people (“in you all,” Jno. 14:23). He is the great Unifier of Christians in the (one) body of Christ, the church (Eph. 1:20-23). His reward is with all who diligently seek Him and worship Him in spirit and truth (Jno. 4:23-24; Heb. 11:6).

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One Baptism #1781

one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)

While the one baptism unifies, the many contradictory teachings and practices of baptism found on the religious landscape divide believers. The Scriptures speak plainly about the what it is, who it is for, and what it accomplishes. The one baptism is the great commission baptism and is for the whole world (Matt. 28:19). The one baptism is water baptism, not Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 8:12-13, 16, 35-36; 10:47-48). The one baptism is immersion in water, not sprinkling or pouring (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). The one baptism is for those who believe the gospel, repent of their sins, and confess their faith in Christ, not for innocent babies without the capacity of faith (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38). The one baptism washes away our sins and saves us (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). The one baptism accomplishes this because the sinner is baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3). The one baptism brings a person into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:27). The one baptism is “into one body,” the church (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41, 47). The one baptism is not a work of man that earns salvation, it is a work of faith in God’s grace (Tit. 3:4-7; Col. 2:12). We can have the unity God arranged for Christians by accepting what the Bible says about the one baptism which Christ commands and blesses.

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One Faith #1780

one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)

The one Lord has not sanctioned thousands of conflicting messages. There is one faith, which is the gospel of Christ. When Paul preached “the gospel” he preached “the faith” (Gal. 1:11, 23). We must speak the same faith as we endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The “one faith” that achieves unity is the revealed gospel that saves those who believe (Rom. 1:16). Nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of “Catholic faith,” “Protestant faith,” “Orthodox faith,” “Mormon faith,” “Evangelical faith,” or any faith capable of saving the soul other than “the faith” that was once for all delivered in the first century (Jude 3). All these are false faiths that impose and codify division (Col. 2:20-23). If they were all “one faith” they would not be separate faiths teaching and practicing different gospels (Gal. 1:6-12). It is an affront to divine truth (and to human logic) to suggest many faiths are somehow one faith. Only the one faith – the gospel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13) – produces true faith that saves from sin (Rom. 1:17). All other faiths are destructive, divisive deceptions (2 Pet. 2:1-3). The gospel call is to walk worthy of the “one faith” that makes known the will of God, and that unites the saved with God and with one another (Eph. 1:9; 4:1, 11-16).

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One Lord #1779

one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)

God’s “One-derful” plan of unity continues in Ephesians 4:4-6 with the emphatic declaration there is one Lord. That simple truth is forgotten whenever religious, moral, and social division occurs. I am not Lord. You are not Lord. Not “Lord Krishna,” not “Lord Buddha,” not any other person who has lived or is living now. Only Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cor. 8:6). Through Him we have life and all things. He alone has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” by God the Father (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Christ’s word is truth and settles every issue concerning “life and godliness” (Jno. 1:14; 8:31-32; 2 Pet. 1:3). He rules, and by His authority (the “name of our Lord Jesus Christ”) we can “speak the same thing,” reject dissensions and be joined together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). This takes faithful effort by each Christian, no question about it (Eph. 4:15-16). Division arises when we follow men or women instead of following Christ (1 Cor. 1:11-12). We must ever remember that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Humble submission to the one Lord will guard unity and glorify God: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One Hope #1778

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)

Hope is more than desire. It is also an expectation of things to come. A popular song says, “Everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to go now.” Its lyrics depict a wholly worldly value of life on earth and of the life to come. While some search for “heaven on earth,” others envision heaven as living their best moment on earth over and over. Both are illusions formed by the fantasies of human imagination. The gospel of Christ provides a singular hope that unites all who heed its call. “In Christ we have obtained an inheritance” that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for Christians (Eph. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:4-5). (Note that heaven’s inheritance is obtained “in Christ,” not in the world.) Ours is a “living hope” that combines desire and expectation “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in Christ is our refuge that anchors our souls through life’s storms (Heb. 6:18-19). The hope that unites Christians is “laid up for you in heaven,” and is found “in the word of the truth of the gospel” which calls us out of sin’s death into a life of grace and truth (Col. 1:5-6). The Lord Jesus Christ is “our hope,” for what He has promised, He will fulfill (1 Tim. 1:1). Our sure hope is that where Jesus is now, we will be with Him throughout eternity (Jno. 14:1-3). This is why we put your hope in Christ, not in the fleeting and false hopes of the world (Eph. 2:12-13). We urge you to also put your hope in Christ.

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One Spirit #1777

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)

The work of the Holy Spirit and His presence in the body of Christ through it is a powerful ingredient of unity among believers. Through the new birth of “water and the Spirit” He gives life to our spirits and entrance into the kingdom of God (Jno. 3:3-5). We have access to the Father “by one Spirit” through the “word of truth, the gospel of (our) salvation” which He revealed, inspired, and miraculously confirmed (Eph. 2:18; 1:13; 3:3-6). When we are led by the Spirit, walking according to the truth He revealed, unity with God and with fellow Christians is attainable and sustainable (Gal. 5:16-18, 22-24). But, prospects of unity are doomed when we fail to live in the Spirit (that is, walk by His word, the gospel, Gal. 5:25-26). And so, we must take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” and fight the good fight of faith to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 6:17; 1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 4:3). The one Spirit has equipped us with truth – exactly what we need to protect the unity that belongs to Him and that He directs (Eph. 4:3). Let us walk in truth and rejoice in the unity it accomplishes.

God’s “One-derful” Plan for Unity: One Body #1776

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)

God has revealed His platform for unity in Christ. It is not ecumenism. It is not unity in diversity. It is not all-inclusive and all-accepting. The first plank in God’s “One-derful” platform of unity is “one body.” Paul identified this “one body” in this Ephesian letter. He wrote that Christ is “head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). One head, Christ. One body, the church. The fullness of Christ is found in His body (church), not outside of it. (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Furthermore, Christ reconciles sinners (Jews and Gentiles) “to God in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14-16). Unquestionably then, the church is composed of those who are reconciled to God. (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Yet again, Christ is the head of the church and “the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). Undeniably, those who are saved are in His body, added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47). (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Christ loves His church and died for it (Eph. 5:25-27). (Is the church important? Absolutely!) Every Christian has a relationship with God in the “one body” of Christ (the church). And, we share a relationship of brotherhood with fellow Christians in the one body (church) of Christ. His one body – one church – is the relational unity we have with God and with His fellow Christians.

Unity of Believers #1775

endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3, NKJV)

Jesus prayed for the unity of those who believe on Him through the words of His apostles in John 17:20. In fact, He prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jno. 17:21). The plans for unity men have devised are a far cry from this. Many Protestant denominations advocate some form of ecumenism (or in today’s vernacular, “acceptance” and “inclusion”), both doctrinal and moral. This is unity in diversity, which essentially means we will “agree on the core issues of the gospel and agree to disagree on everything else.” The Father and the Son do not agree to disagree (see John 17:21). Our question is: Who decides what are the core issues of the gospel? You? Me? A church? A council of churches? Someone else? Very problematic. The lowest common denominator prevails in these quasi-unity movements. The apostle Paul said Christians must endeavor to keep (watch, guard) the unity that proceeds from the Spirit of God, and to do so with the uniting principle or bond of peace (v. 3). The Holy Spirit has revealed the gospel of Christ that calls us all to partake of the promise in Christ (Eph. 3:4-6). We will find our answers to what Bible unity looks like in the Bible, not in the creeds of churches and the philosophies of men (Col. 2:8).