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                        One God

 

All the passages below are taken from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Christian Unity.” The sermon was preached at Westminster Chapel, London, between 1954 and 1962 and first published in 1980 and reprinted in 1998.

 

`One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.' (Ephesians 4:6)

 

These words complete the Apostle's great statement which began in verse 4: `There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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'. It is also the climax of Paul's appeal to the Ephesian Christians to `endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'. As we have seen, he gives them these seven reasons for doing so, and he divides these into three main groups. The first three centre on the Holy Spirit (one body, one Spirit, one hope of your calling); the second three on the Son (one Lord, one faith, one baptism); and now he comes to the climax---`one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all'.

     Nothing is so characteristic of the way in which the Apostle writes to the various churches as the way in which he always rises to this climax. We find, for instance, another example of this in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where after outlining the course of the Church's history, and showing how a temporary blindness had fallen upon Israel, he asserts God's great and sure purpose, and ends by saying, `O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen' (vv. 33-36) The Apostle does not stop at the Spirit of the Son, as so many Christian people are tempted to do; he always goes on to the Father.

     We must remind ourselves of the fact that the Apostle arranges these truths in an experimental order. As members of the Church we naturally think first of the work of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit brings us to the Son, because He was sent to glorify the Son. And the Son's chief desire and purpose was to glorify the Father. This needs to be emphasized at the present time because there is a tendency to fail to remember this. There is a popular school of theology which emphasizes the Christocentric aspect of salvation. In a sense it is correct in doing so; but we must never stop at the Son. The Apostle Peter in his First Epistle reminds us of this when he writes: `For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God' (3:18).

     The Apostle is concerned to show that everything in connection with our Christian salvation suggests the element of unity; and nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the doctrine of the Persons of the blessed Holy Trinity. Each Person in the Trinity is concerned about us and our salvation; each One deals with a particular aspect of this work, and each One co-operates with the Others. The Apostle is encouraging the Ephesian believers to remember this always. He does not begin by immediately talking to them about themselves; he reminds them, rather, of the great objective truth concerning their salvation. This is the key to most of our problems. I find more and more that most troubles in the Christian life are due to the fact that we are too subjective, and spend too much time in looking at ourselves and feeling, as it were, our spiritual pulses. The cure for most of the ills and diseases of the soul is to look at the grand objective truth, the glory of our redemption and salvation. Were we but to realize that the three blessed Persons in the Holy Trinity are intimately and actively concerned about us and our salvation, our whole situation would be entirely changed. The biblical teaching concerning salvation is that, even before time, in an eternal Council between Father, Son and Holy Spirit our salvation was planned and purposed; and in the fulness of time it was put into operation. As members of the Church, the Apostle teaches, we are in relationship to the Spirit and the Son and the Father. And this relationship makes the question of unity inevitable.

     This is also the only way to maintain that unity; not the setting up of vast organizations in order to try to produce it. The way to unity is to preach the Gospel, not to set up new offices and organizations. Unity results from a comprehension and understanding of the truth.

 

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     And now we come to the particular truth concerning `one God and Father of all'. For some strange reason we are constantly in danger of forgetting that the Church, after all, is `the church of God'. There are cults which talk about `the Church of Christ'---and there is a sense in which the Church is the Church of Christ---but the term used in the Bible is `the church of God'. We read, for instance, of `The church of God which is at Corinth'.

     How does this help us to understand this principle of unity? The first expression is, `one God'. This means that as Christians we realize that there is only `one God'. The pagan world to which the Ephesian Christians had once belonged did not believe in his truth. As the Apostle reminds the Corinthians, `We (Christians) know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there be gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him' (1 Cor 8:4-6). Here, also, in the interests of unity, the Apostle is producing the argument of the 'one God'. Belief in a multiplicity of gods always leads to division. One man worships Jupiter, another Mercurius, another Mars, or some other god. The towns and cities of the Pagans were cluttered with altars to the various gods, as Paul found at Athens. That, Paul taught everywhere, was the result of the work of the Devil; for there is only `one God'. And because there is only one God there must be essential unity among those who believe in Him.

The Apostle is not only teaching that there is only one God, but is also emphasizing the fact that God is one. This is a great mystery, but it is the essence of the doctrine of the Trinity. We do not believe that there are three Gods; there is one `God in three Persons, blessed Trinity'. The one great doctrine which the Jews had to preserve and to protect was this truth and doctrine concerning the unity of God, that `God is one'. This explains why some of the Jews at first found it difficult to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who claimed that He was one with the Father. This seemed to suggest that there are two Gods, but it is not so. Do not try to understand this; no one can understand this ultimate mystery. But it is the truth which we find in the Scriptures. God is One---there is one Godhead. But there are three Persons in the Godhead. This does not imply three Gods, not Tri-theism but Monotheism---three Persons in the one and Eternal Godhead. This truth is clearly in the mind of the Apostle here. We recognize the Spirit; we recognize the Son; we recognize the Father: but we say that the Three are one God.

     This is taught throughout the Scriptures. We read that the Spirit is in us, that Christ is in us, that God is in us. We read that the Spirit has done certain things, we read elsewhere that Christ has done the same things, and again that the Father has done the same things. That is but a way of emphasizing this truth that the Three are One in the Eternal Godhead---`God in three Persons, blessed Trinity'. It is a Trinity in Unity, it is a Tri-unity. This again enforces and emphasizes the principle of unity in the Church. As the three blessed Persons are one, so we who worship and belong to God are likewise of necessity one. We are to remember, therefore, to `maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' by looking at, and believing, and by being amazed at, this doctrine of the Trinity.

 

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     Certain practical conclusions can be deduced from this. The end and object of salvation is `to bring us to God'. Is it not extraordinary that one has to go on repeating and emphasizing this? The end of salvation is not to bring us to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, and did all He did, `to bring us to God', to God the Father. That is why we pray to God the Father rather than to the Lord Jesus Christ. We come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ; but the end of all is `to bring us to God'. We see this to be quite inevitable when we really understand the message of the Bible. At the beginning we find that God made man in His own image, and that man was subject to God. But sin and rebellion came in; and that led to the Fall, the effect of which was to separate man from God. So as sin is that which separates us from God, salvation is that which brings us back to God. The grand end and object of salvation is not only that we should be happy and have certain experiences and benefits. It does all that, of course, but if I do not realize that the chief end of my salvation is to reconcile me to God and to bring me to God and to enable me to enter into the presence of God, I have not understood it truly. It is at this point that Christianity differs from all cults and from all other religions. They always centre on man, and some benefit for man; but the Christian faith and teaching starts with God, and everything leads to God---‘one God'.

     This being the great end and object of salvation, all of us who are Christians therefore obviously come together to the same God; and if we come to the same God there can be no divisions. We all have one and the same object of worship. The Apostle has already dealt with this several times in earlier portions of this Epistle. In chapter 2, verse 18, he says, `For through him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit unto the Father'. The Jew was formerly a worshipper of God, while the Gentile was a worshipper of one of the pagan deities; but now all that has gone, and both Jew and Gentile `have access by one Spirit unto the Father'. If we realized this, unity would be quite inevitable.

     In heaven everything centres around God. We are taught this clearly in chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation. The beasts and the elders and all the holy angels worship and bow before and centre on God the Eternal Father. Before Him the angels veil their faces. There is perfect harmony in heaven. Indeed this is what makes heaven heaven; there is no disunity, there is no discord. Everything is in unison, everything is in harmony. God is all, and all are worshipping Him and bowing before Him. God is the centre. And therefore all is bliss and joy and perfection. But Paul reminds us that even here on earth we are all worshipping this one God, and as we realize the presence of God, all distinctions and all schisms immediately vanish and disappear. In the presence of the glory of God everything else pales into insignificance, and we are `lost in wonder, love and praise'. One God! We worship Him, the only God, and we all do so together. There is no need to argue about unity; the realization of the presence of God creates unity.

     Furthermore we can and should remind ourselves that we are all going to this one and the same God. We are now on earth and are together as members in the Church. Our salvation reconciles us to God, and enables us to worship Him. But we are not static; we are but `strangers and pilgrims' in this world, we are `marching to Zion'. We are all going to meet and to see the same God. `Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God'. We are going to the same eternal home. As the hymn from which we have already quoted reminds us:

 

          One the gladness of rejoicing

          On the far eternal shore,

          Where the one almighty Father

          Reigns in love for evermore.

 

0 that we might realize that we are all under the eye of God and all going to God! There is only one God, and nothing else matters.

 

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The Apostle, however, does not leave it at that; he says, `One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all'. It is most important for us to note that the word all is not in the neuter gender, but in the masculine gender. This is important because when he says `One God and Father of all' he does not mean all things---the creation, the universe, the cosmos and all it contains---but all persons. However, we must hasten to add that that does not mean every single individual that has ever lived or ever will live. There are those who are prepared to say that that is the meaning, and that they find in this verse an argument for what they call the `Universal Fatherhood of God'. God, they assert, is the Father of all, and we as Christians must not confine God's Fatherhood to ourselves only. A careful analysis of the statement shows that this cannot be its meaning. The Apostle is writing about the Church; he is not writing about the world. He is writing to those who belong to a `body', those who are `in Christ'; he is writing to Christian people whom he is exhorting to endeavour to `keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'. He is not thinking about the world in general, but about those who have been gathered out of the world, incorporated into the body of Christ, and who are members of His mystical body. The entire reference is to Christian people only; the `all' covers all Christian people and no-one else.

     Not only so, for the very last phrase here, `and in you all', is itself sufficient to settle the matter once and for ever. This phrase is never used about the unbeliever, the non-Christian. God is only 'in' the believer, `in' the Christian. But we can go further and give a clinching final proof. The next verse---verse 7---establishes our contention beyond any doubt whatsoever, that the Apostle is talking about the Church---`But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ'---and he proceeds to deal with the division of gifts and of labours within the body, the Church. So from the very beginning he is confining his attention to the Church, to Christian people, and is not saying anything whatsoever about those who are outside.

     God is not the Father of all men. Our Lord said of some men,

‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do' (John 8:44). God is the creator of all, and there is a kind of general fatherhood in that respect; but God's fatherhood, as stated here, is limited to those who are in Christ and in the Church. So while we do not believe in the Universal Fatherhood of God, and the Universal Brotherhood of man, we do and should believe in the Fatherhood of God in the case of all who belong to Christ. The Apostle began this Epistle by saying, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ', and his entire argument is that, through Christ, God has become our Father also. The stupendous fact that we must try to grasp is that God, this great, glorious and eternal God, is our Father. Paul has repeated this in chapter 2, saying, `Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father' (v. 18). Then in chapter 3 he refers to the `Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom every family in heaven and earth is named' (vv. 14, 15), and he is but repeating it here. Were we but to see and understand by the Spirit that we are the children of God it would revolutionize our whole thinking and our entire living. The Apostle Peter, using a different expression, says that we have become `partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4). This does not mean that we have become gods, but that we have been given a principle of life which comes out of God Himself.

     This is what it really means to be a Christian. A Christian is a man who is born-again, born of the Spirit, born of God. This principle of divine and eternal life is put into him; he is therefore a child of God. God is his Father. This of necessity introduces the principle of unity. As Christians we are all the children of God, children of the same Father, who belong to the same family. We belong to the household of which Paul has reminded us at the end of the second chapter where he says, 'Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God'. We have been adopted into God's family, and He has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father' (Gal 4:6). How little we think about these things, and how infrequently we speak about them! How concerned we are about externals and things that are on the periphery and the circumference of our Christian life. If we came back to these centralities, if we but realized the meaning of this particular statement that God is our Father, and that we belong to His family, and that He looks upon us as His dearly beloved children, our entire outlook would be changed and unity would follow inevitably, as night follows day. [131-138]

 

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