Summary: We are one and united in Him, yet we are many, each gifted according to grace (#12 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ‘s gift.”
According to the musical group, “Three Dog Night”, ‘one is the loneliest number’. Well, if numbers can be lonely then I guess that’s stating the obvious, huh? I suppose what they meant was if you have a lover you’re two, but if you don’t you’re one, and that’s lonely.
Which is also stating the obvious.
Quite contrary to the world’s thinking however, oneness in and of all things is God’s goal in the plan of salvation. At the end of Ephesians 1 and the last verse of Philippians 3 there are references to Him ultimately subjecting all things to Himself.
It is easy for us to slip into error when thinking about unity and think of it as uniformity. Some number of things that are grouped together and look exactly the same with no differences at all. Like a box of nails or a row of buttons on a shirt.
But that is not at all what unity is in Christ. In fact, while making us one, united, by the same process He also makes us more of an individual than we ever could be apart from His Spirit.
Throughout the New Testament we see a number of analogies to define the church. The Bride of Christ, the family of God, sheep, branches; but probably the most poignant and powerful is the reference to us as Christ’s body. Paul uses this analogy several times; Romans 12, I Corinthians 10 and 12, Colossians 1, and of course, here in our text.
This reference lends itself to some very clear and understandable pictures of our place in Him and our connection to one another, and our intended function as a whole.
We’ve all heard sermons, I’m sure, on the importance of every part. Some are hands and some are toes. But all are important. If you stub your toe or slam your thumb with a hammer, you don’t just shrug it off and go on ~ you whine and run for help and pamper that part until the pain subsides.
If a body part is severed it no longer serves the body. It rots. Etc, etc.
So I’ll try to steer clear of all those graphic mind-pictures today and not burden you with them again. Let’s just talk about the concept of oneness that the analogy provides.
Notice here in verses 4 - 6, Paul is laying out the basics of the Christian faith that unite us all, despite our denominational distinctives.
Fortunately, when Paul wrote, there was only The Way. The disciples of Jesus all over, who as yet had no major differences to cause contention. No one knew that they weren’t supposed to speak in tongues. No one had been told that there was any other way to baptize than immersion. There had been no carpet installations to split over, no one had drawn up any dress codes for morning worship, and there were no parsonages to put used furniture in. So he didn’t have to address himself to the issues that divide us today.
And what he did have to say, still applies. The true church, we have all agreed in the past, and I know we still do, does not exist within the boundaries of one denomination or one group of churches.
The church of Jesus Christ is comprised of all believers everywhere, from the very first convert to the last, whenever and wherever that may take place.
Notice I did not say ‘all churchgoers’. I said all believers, and by that I mean all who come under the designation of ‘called ones’, or ‘holy ones’, in New Testament teaching.
So there are Christians in every church denomination that sets forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith laid out for us in I Corinthians 15:1-4, that Jesus was crucified according to the scriptures, buried, and that He rose on the third day according to the scriptures; and the promise of Romans 10:9-11 concerning faith from the heart and confession from the mouth regarding those fundamental truths.
J. Vernon Magee once estimated that about 75% of church members are not saved. I don’t know how he came up with that number; but Billy Graham once said that about 80% of people who respond to his altar calls are already on local church membership lists. That is traceable, because at those crusades they have people who come down to the front fill out information cards that they then share with local pastors so follow-up can be done.