Summary: 28th in a series from Ephesians. The seven ties that bond us together as believers are based on the unity of God Himself.
I need your help this morning. Let’s see if you can help me complete the following sentence:
Birds of a feather [flock together].
I’m sure all of us are familiar with that idiom that some sources indicate may go all the way back to the Greek and Romans cultures. It indicates that people who are similar tend to stick together. There are all kinds of different types of ties that can bond us together with others:
• There are family ties. For instance here are three photos from a recent husband of the year contest that depict the ties that bind husband and wife together.
• There are ties based on common interests. For instance you can go to just about any bar in town and find a bunch of guys hanging around watching Monday Night Football together because of their common interest in football and beer.
• There are ties based on common causes or beliefs. Many of you here are either Republican or Democrats based on your beliefs about political issues. Or some of you are Independents because you don’t know what you believe. [Just kidding].
You’ll remember that Paul began chapter 4 of Ephesians by describing the unity that the Holy Spirit establishes for followers of Jesus Christ and four attitudes that we need to develop in order to preserve that unity. He’s going to continue that train of thought in verse 4 by describing for us some common bonds that we share with other believers that are the basis for that kind of unity. Let’s read our passage out loud together:
There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)
This is one of those passages that is fairly straightforward. And if we’re not careful, we can get so caught up in the details that we’ll miss the big picture. So we’re going to spend our time this morning trying to focus on the overall idea that Paul is trying to communicate here. Let’s begin with a couple of general observations about the passage:
• The key word in this passage is obviously the word “one”. This particular word indicates something that is united as one rather than something that is divided or consists of separate parts. It is a word that would be applied to one team, but not to one individual player who is part of that team. So I could use the word to say that the University of Arizona has one football team, but I couldn’t use it to say that Willie Tuitama is one player on that team. So even the word “one” conveys a sense of unity.
• Paul uses the word “one” seven times in this passage and I don’t think that’s an accident. The number seven in the Bible normally indicates completeness – like seven days make a complete week. I’m convinced that the seven “ones” Paul writes about in this passage are intended to indicate something that is complete – just what that is we’ll get to in just a moment.
Paul is describing for us in this passage seven things that all believers have in common that make them birds of a feather. But these bonds are much deeper than any ties based on common causes or beliefs, deeper than any ties based on common interests and even deeper than any family ties.
In fact, these are the deepest ties possible because they find their roots in God Himself. A careful study of these seven common bonds reveals that they are far more than just some random listing of what we have in common, but that Paul actually groups them in a manner that reveals the work of all three parts of the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in the lives of believers. These three distinct groupings are pretty obvious even in our English translations, but they are even more pronounced in the Greek.
I don’t think anyone here would argue with the premise that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit work in perfect harmony and unity to accomplish the purposes of God. In a February 2001 article in Christianity Today, John Ortberg described how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other. He rightly pointed out how each Person of the Godhead defers to the others.
The primary function of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Jesus Christ. Dale Bruner, in his essay on the trinity, describes this as the “shyness” of the Holy Spirit. He never calls attention to Himself, but rather comes in the name of the Son, bears witness of the Son and gives glory to the Son.