Introduction: Paul in this passage expands the idea of 3:20, 21. God’s purposes and the things he will accomplish far outstrip anything that we even imagine to ask for; and he will do these things through the power that even now is operative in the whole being of those who have been united to Christ by faith. He wants these churches to consider how God will effect his glory “in the church and in Christ Jesus” both throughout all generations in this world and then throughout eternity. He begins this passage with the summarizing statement, “therefore.” That he is in dead earnest and lives in full confidence of the truth of his words is emphasized by his present status as “a prisoner for the Lord.”
I. Paul admonished them to walk worthily of the calling with which they were called (Verses 1-3). Their calling was effectual. It was not limited to a general call in an external way setting forth the terms of repentance and faith. Peter issued a universal and general call when he preached, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” and the warned “Save yourselves from the crooked generation;” but he referred to the special call when he said, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-40). Peter in that specific provision and Paul here in this admonition refer to an internal and transformative call in which their minds and hearts were opened to see and then to affirm and embrace the riches of redemption through the blood of Christ. It involves all the holy purposes of God. The intrinsic holy power of the calling is seen in the sentence structure, “the calling with which you have been called.” The call that results in salvation is a distinct kind of call.
A. To walk worthily means that they should manifest the qualities of character that were operative in God in their being brought to salvation.
- They should display humility toward all for they were treated with humility. Christ left the glory of his heavenly manifestation of splendid deity to take the form of a servant. He humbled himself to the death of the cross that he might redeem us (Philippians 2:5-8).
- Gentleness as a cloak for omnipotence was necessary for our reconciliation to God. Christ spoke of both humility and gentleness when he invited the burdened to take his yoke on them for “I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:30). The prophecy of Isaiah 40:11 said, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” In understanding the grace that has saved us, we will learn to place high value on gentleness.
- Patience marks God’s toleration of his elect in their state of darkness and rebellion. While we wandered and lived under the dominion of darkness, God was patient (2 Peter 3:9, 15). In God’s providential arrangements for the salvation of his people, patience means salvation. If God is patient with us as a matter of his sovereign decree, then we emulate God’s own saving attributes when we cultivate patience. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love . . . As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers we are dust” (Psalm 103:8, 13, 14).
- Even so has the Lord borne with us in love. Even as we walked according to the course of this world, “out of the great love with which he loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4), he raised us up with Christ. God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).To walk worthily of the gospel is to embrace the love with which we have been loved and treat our brothers accordingly.
B. To walk worthily means that as a church they should work to reflect the perfect intra-trinitarian relationship evident in the covenant of redemption. The “unity of the Spirit” can refer to the unity given by the Spirit or the unity that is characteristic of the Spirit’s operations in eternity. The bond of peace could refer to the principle of reconciliation that is effected by the gospel and applied to the church by the Spirit. The phrase also could refer to the place of the Spirit in the eternal relations of the Trinity. In light of his subsequent discussion, it seems that Paul is emphasizing that the Spirit performs in the church a function that is parallel with his mode of existence in the Trinity. The unity that he creates as a participant in the covenant of redemption reflects the divine symmetry that is eternally present in his eternal procession from the Father and the Son. The Spirit is the eternal giver of unity and he does so in the church in light of the work of reconciliation.
II. The Trinitarian doctrinal foundation of his admonition is expanded in verses 4-6. Having introduced the idea of unity as a work of the Spirit, Paul now expands his exhortation to embrace aspects of the work of each person of the Trinity.
A. How does the Spirit move us toward unity?
- “There is one body and one Spirit.” By the work of the Holy Spirit, all those who are called are placed in one body, the church, the bride of Christ. We have diversity of gifts from this Spirit, but are given gifts in order to contribute to the body’s unity. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Again Paul uses the word for “call” twice, indicating that specific effectuality of the call given by the Spirit. The goal of the call in this instance is the “one hope” to which believers are called. The one hope is the future participation in the holy love eternally enjoyed within the Trinity. I Colossians 3:14, Paul wrote, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” The love relationship within the Trinity establishes the perfect harmony, perfect symmetry, eternal and infinite joy into which the elect are called. The church will participate in that perfect unity, harmony, joy, and symmetry and in pursuit of walking worthily of the calling with which we have been called should look toward that unity in our relationships and ministries now.
B. How does the work of the Son contribute to this unity?
- The Son has been made the Lord of redemption through his suffering and death done in perfect obedience. At his name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Paul, in light of the verses that follow, has in mind the ascension of Christ as a testimony to the success of his redemptive mission. He alone was qualified to do such a work and he alone has accomplished it. In light of the Son’s assignment and its perfect completion, there is “One Lord.”
- There is “one faith.” Faith peculiarly refers to the body of truth surrounding the person and work of Christ and the trust that sinners must place in this Lord in light of this truth for salvation. No one manifests the grace of faith apart from consent to the body of faith. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
- Although the entire body of the “faith” contains all the articles of Christian belief from both Testaments and concerning all three persons of the Trinity, here Paul is talking about those truths explicitly concerning the saving work of the incarnate Lord.
- Although election from the Father is true, and should be a dearly treasured reality, one’s faith is not placed in the Father for his election. Faith is placed in Christ and his atoning expiatory death.
- Although the effectual calling of the Spirit is a treasured item of Christian truth, one’s faith is not placed in effectual calling, but only in the Person and work of the one who has been made Lord by his completion of redemption.
- There is one baptism. This baptism directly relates to the lordship of Christ and faith in him. Any attempt at baptism that is not a reflection of the completed work of Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection and the spiritual participation in that by faith is no baptism at all. Those who have faith in Christ alone, moreover, should give testimony to that faith in their baptism as an entrance into the unity of the body, a local church. This ordinance is commanded by Christ to reflect the unity of the church in the absolute dependence of each member on the completed work of Christ.
C. How does the Father evoke unity in the church? There is only one who is God and Father. The language of Paul shows us that nothing can exist either in creation or in redemptive purpose apart from the presence and will of the Father. “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7)
- He is over all. That is, nothing exists in creation or eternity of which he not the originating source.
- Of creation he is the originating power and source, and he accomplished it through his Son (Hebrews 1:1, 2; Colossians 1:15, 16)
- In the Trinity, there is only a single essence of deity—uncreated, eternal, immutable, infinite, absolutely holy and righteous, the very essence of truth and beauty and power—while in the distinction of persons, the Father eternally generates the Son, and from the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds. “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:26) “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26).
- He is through all. His presence is pervasive. All of him occupies all of space so that there is no where, where all of him is not. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). All the distinct parts of creation find their arrangement and their coherent interaction from his power and purpose. His presence is the teleological power both in eternity (Ephesians 1:11) and within the entire framework of created being (Isaiah 45:5-12).
- He is in all. He is immanent. The internal cohesive factor of all things in their individual existence is the presence of God. Nothing in creation has being on its own but is dependent on the continuing sustaining power of the Father working his will. In the ineffably mysterious, yet perfectly coherent interaction of the persons of the Trinity, this work of the Father is engaged simultaneously by the Spirit and the Son: “My Father is working until now, and I am working. . . . For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me” (John 5:17, 36).
- By that determining authority, power, and purpose the Father has determined that the church bought with the blood of his Son and called under the power of the Spirit will achieve its perfect unity. “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18).
III. He gives particular focus on the work of Christ which he was sent to do by the Father and which is executed in the elect by the Spirit. (Verses 7-10)
A. Specific grace for unity was given to each person in a sovereign manner by Christ. To each member of his body, Christ measured out the specific gift of grace designed for that person.
- “To each of us was given” – None is in the church by accident, but by the purpose of God, the redemption of the Son and the calling of the Spirit.
- Christ has apportioned the particular measure, to each the portion designed for him and for which he or she was designed, of grace both for salvation and for functioning within the body of the church.
B. This comes as a result of his victory and his consequent reception back to heaven. There would have been no ascension had there been no victory. The host of captives that he led in his ascent was the elect of all the ages. Paul has in mind his statement in 2:6: “raised us up with him and seated us with him in heavenly places,” where presently he is our presence in his representative humanity and he is our advocate with the Father.
C. His reception to the place of redemptive authority in heaven could not have been given him (Hebrews 1:3) apart from his descent from heaven. He descended in humility, was rejected of men, smitten of God for our transgressions, went to the grave in order to render its verdict null and void, was raised again for our justification, and lives forever to intercede for us. He descended so that he could ascend as Savior and Lord of the church and the giver of gifts for its full development in grace.
D. By his victorious ascent he fills all things. Paul has emphasized the idea of fullness in this letter (1:10, 22; 3:19). Christ’s humiliation in his descent to these lower regions, that is, the earth with its curse and where the thought of the hearts of men are only evil continually has now given way to his glory. This glory is of the Redeemer about whom the Father has said, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Now the ends of the earth are his possession. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:6, 8, 12).