Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.
When we look at our text, there is a common trend that goes throughout it and Paul’s thought process: one. In looking at three verses of our text, we see exactly what the focus is all about: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The word “one” appears seven times. St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is all about the Church; and because it is all about the Church, it is all about being one. While the world makes all sorts of prejudicial distinctions and divisions, in Christ we are all one. Now, in chapter 4, we hear of all that the Lord does to make and keep us united, one, as the Church—the body of Christ.
That is why Paul makes such the emphasis of “one” in our text. There in Ephesus and throughout the New Testament world, there was not that sense of oneness in the Church. There was the Church that followed the teachings of Christ. There was the Church that followed the teachings of the ruling Jewish leadership. There was the church that followed the teaching of what was relevant of the day. Each taught and practiced very similarly but also very differently. There could be no salvation found outside of the true Church, that of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus Himself tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that you can come to the Father through other teachings, or other persons, or anything else for that matter. Salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ and that is what the Church is founded upon: Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection for us.
There is one body—there is one Church. That Church is made up of all who believe in Jesus Christ. That Church does not bear the name of “Lutheran” or “Baptist” or “Roman Catholic.” Do not misunderstand: we hold firmly to our doctrine here, because we believe that it purely confesses our Lord, Jesus Christ. Otherwise, why hold to it? However we also condemn the false teaching that “only Lutherans are going to heaven.” People are not saved by the name on a church sign; they are saved because, by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, they trust that Jesus has died for their sins.
There is one Spirit who gathers us in. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that you are given faith and brought into the Church. It’s not by your actions because your actions and everything about you are sinful. It is the Holy Spirit who has gathered you and keeps you in the Church. If we were saved by our own actions, then it would be a free for all to God, with no wrong way to get there and everyone would be saved, regardless of what they believed or didn’t believe. However, that is not salvation that is found in the Church.
There is one hope. This is the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. This is hope of eternal life for Jesus’ sake. This is hope that the world cannot give, hope that is sure and certain and not because of us.
There is one Lord – Jesus Christ. This is the only-begotten Son of God. This is the One who would live a sinless life, the One who makes the sacrifice for your sins. This is the One whom we find our salvation, salvation that He offers to all.
There is one faith. The Christian faith is one faith, not many faiths. We sing in our hymnody, “I know my faith is founded/On Jesus Christ, my God and Lord;/And this my faith confessing,/Unmoved I stand on His sure Word.” Notice what our faith is centered on. It is centered on Jesus Christ and His Word. This one faith has nothing to do with us but everything to do with Jesus. That is what Paul impressed upon the Ephesians and that is what he continues to impress upon the Church even today.
There is one Baptism. It is Baptism by water and the Word “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Through this Baptism, you die to your sin and are born again in Christ, with sins forgiven. Through this Baptism, You are made a child of God. You are adopted into the family of God through the blood of Christ. Through this Baptism, you are united with all Christians in the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church.
Finally, there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” There are not many gods, but one God in three Persons. This one God has created us, redeemed us, and sanctified us. Only in Him do we find our salvation. The Church is united by what our God has done for us, is doing for us now, and will continue to do for us.
One. One body. One Spirit. One hope. One Lord. One faith. One baptism. One God and Father of all. This is what the Church is founded upon. This is what the Church is all about. This is what the Church gives to you. These are the gifts Christ gave to man. These are the keys to your salvation and that salvation is yours because the price has been paid in full by Christ, once for all.
Where do we find these gifts? We don’t find them in the things of this world. We don’t find them in our own merits or achievements. We find these gifts where we are told they will be found: in the Word and in the Sacraments. It is through the preached Word, by rightly dividing the Word of truth. It is by administering the Lord’s Sacraments according to His Word; the Word uniting us in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. It gives us spiritual maturity as we grow in that faith and knowledge. It further unites us to Christ, our Savior.
With the Church focused on being one, what is left for it to do? As Paul closes this portion of his letter to the Ephesians, he gives to us that answer. He says, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
That is why we speak the truth in love about the one faith God gives: it unites His people in His Word. Pure doctrine is not a barrier to Christian unity: it is the basis for Christian unity. We look forward to heaven, where the Church, united in Christ, is seen in the glory of Christ, singing praise around His throne. By Jesus Christ, you are united with Him, with sins forgiven. That is the joy you have in Christ’s Church. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.