by Bobby L. Graham
In Ephesians 4:4, does 'Spirit' refer to the oneness of spirit among believers or the Holy Spirit?
The need for oneness among all of the Lord's people has already been demonstrated in the earlier chapters of Ephesians. For example, reconciliation of the once-estranged Jews and Gentiles is accomplished by the Spirit in the one body (Eph. 2:14-22). Likewise, the provision of unity by the Holy Spirit for their benefit is a clear teaching in these earlier chapters (Eph. 1:13; 2:18, 22; 3:5, 16). Here in chapter four, the apostle details that oneness by setting forth God's plan for it to exist.
Because it is from God and is also of the Spirit's provision, it is called "the unity of the Spirit" in Ephesians 4:3. The verses immediately following (vv. 4-6) describe the divine plan provided by God, which the Lord's people are to keep. We do not initiate that unity but, by faith, merely keep what God has provided through the Spirit's revelation (John 16:13; Eph. 3:5).
Paul has already dealt with the spirit, i.e., attitude, which should characterize all following the leading of the Spirit's revelation in the early verses of chapter 4. He has emphasized their need for lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, and loving forbearance in Ephesians 4:2, so that they might endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
In such a context as we have in Ephesians, it would be unthinkable and irrational in a plan provided by God for the Holy Spirit to be missing when He is the divine agent of revelation (Eph. 3:5). After all, Paul mentions both the one God and the one Lord. Where would that leave the Holy Spirit if "Spirit" does not reference Him? Behold the completeness of God's plan!
To alter any of the parts of this divine plan by increasing them to two or more or by eliminating them is to prevent the unity planned by God. For example, multiplying religious bodies so there is a plurality with their various creeds, doctrines, and practices is to render impossible the achieving of the Spirit's unity (by creating a fabricated body totally unlike that of the New Testament). Such is likewise true with plural "Gods," "Spirits," "faiths," "Lords," "baptisms," and "hopes."
Oneness requires "one" of each. To introduce any other basis for faith and practice is to foster division and denominationalism. To obey or submit to the divinely revealed plan in the love/lowliness that is described as the unifying attitude/spirit in verses 2 and 3 is to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Such a response is part of what the apostle calls for in 4:1, "to walk worthy of the calling…."
Author Bio: Bobby actively participates in fill-in preaching, Belize trips, teaching an hour each day at Athens Bible School, and in gospel meeting work. He and his wife, Karen, have three children: Richard, Mary Katherine Winland (Darren), and Laura Paschall (Jeremy). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.