“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2, NASB).
The New Testament clearly sets forth the seven essential values of the Christian faith; and, in his letter to the Christians living in the city of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul appeals to these seven essential precepts as the foundation of Christian unity, saying:
… walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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.Ephesians 4:1-5, NASB
We submit to you the idea that, when God’s forever family–Greek: [ekklesia] “the called out people of God,” typically translated “church”–demonstrates the faith, the love, and the humility that we need in order to agree with one another on these seven essential values of the Christian faith, then we will have the unity with one another that Jesus prayed for, that the apostles commanded, and that God’s people experienced back in Bible times; even though we may still disagree with one another on any number of other things. These seven essential truths serve as a foundation for cultivating community within and among the ekklesia because the “essential seven,” as we sometimes refer to them, actually define for us the perimeters, or the boundaries, of God’s kingdom. That is, they define the essential belief system of every child of God and, therefore, help us identify the people with whom we are called to share our Christian walk as brothers and sisters in Christ:
One body – the ekklesia, God’s forever family, the kingdom of God, the church, the saved body of Christ:
Jesus said, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16, NASB). Later He prayed, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23, NASB).
According to Bible teaching, the church of Christ upon the earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one. In other words, there is just one church–the “ekklesia”–and every authentic Christian is a member of it; regardless of whatever particular “earthly” fellowship they may find themselves currently attending. The Bible says:
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.I Corinthians 12:12-13, NASB
The Bible tell us that, on that historic “Day of Pentecost” when the church first came into being, the Apostle Peter boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ–explaining the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Christ–at the Temple in Jerusalem, saying, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Peter then went on to admonish the crowd saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” And then we read that “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” and “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:38-29, 40-41, & 47, NASB).
From this beautiful passage of scripture we learn that the body of Christ, is made up of all the saved people of God. When one is saved, at the moment of baptism (see: one baptism below), he or she is immediately added to the one body of Christ, God’s forever family, the church. We also learn from this passage that it is the Lord Himself who adds people to the saved body of Christ. No other man or woman, or group of people–regardless of the religious power or position they may think they hold–has the right to determine who is or who is not a Christian, a member of the body of Christ.
Of course, people do institute their various “earthly” religious organizations and denominational “churches” with all their rules and regulations, and their articles of incorporation and corporate by-laws, by which they determine who is and who is not a “member” of their particular organization. But only the Bible can speak to who is, or who is not, an authentic child of God; and only the Lord can add people to His forever family. As the Apostle Paul stated: “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Timothy 2:19, NASB).
The one body of Christ cannot be identified by any particular outward designation, sign, label, brand, or denominational title. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21, NASB) — or “the reign of God is within you” (Young’s Literal Translation). The body of Christ is not a physical, corporate, religious institution designed and facilitated by men. It is not some kind of legal, corporate entity with a particular set of by-laws and articles of incorporation to which it must adhere. It has no earthly headquarters, no central administration, and no earthly leaders to which it is accountable (see: one Lord below). The body of Christ, the church, is not a religious “organization”–it is simply the saved people of God, wherever they reside the world over!
To locate the authentic body of Christ, the eternal kingdom of God, here upon the earth, one must look not to the various religious institutions of men, but to those people whose hearts belong to Christ. We must look through the eyes of faith and love for those people whose hope is not in themselves or in their own works, but only in the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Christ (see: one hope below). We must look for those people whose faith is rooted firmly in the teachings of Christ–recorded for us by the apostles and prophets of the first century (see: one faith below)–not the denominational doctrines and traditions of men, or the corporate by-laws and articles of incorporation instituted by men. And the most significant means by which God’s forever family, the one body of Christ, can be identified is seen in the words of Jesus Himself, when He said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB).
One Spirit – the Holy Spirit of God, divine person of the “Trinity” – God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit – Three in One!
“… that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17, NASB). The Holy Spirit is given as a gift when we are baptized (Acts 2:38). He dwells in us (I Corinthians 6:19, Romans 8:11) to help us “put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:12-14, NASB), to “help our weakness” and “intercede for us” in prayer (Romans 8:26-27, NASB), and to help us grow in all the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23, NASB). He is the guiding source of inspiration behind all scripture: “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (I Peter 1:21, NASB). Jesus called Him, “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26, NASB). The Apostle John tells us that “the Spirit is the truth” (I John 5:6, NASB). The world may be filled with people who are deluded by false spirits continually propagating “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB). But the children of God are “filled with Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, NASB), and are “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14, NASB). And so, with eyes set squarely on the inspired word of God—the Bible—they are able to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (I John 4:1, NASB); and will only submit their hearts and lives to the truth delivered to them by the one Spirit, while rejecting all others.
One hope of your calling – our eternal, life-giving, personal relationship with God made possible through the sacrificial gift of His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ:
That for which we live, and the means by which we are able to attain it, can be summed up in Jesus’ words:
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.John 14:1-3, NASB
People may seek to find hope in the various institutions, belief systems, and religious doctrines and traditions of men. Some attempt to find hope in their own ability to discern truth from error and to “get it all right” when it comes to understanding the Bible or practicing their religious doctrine. In the same vein, some seek hope in their ability to know good from evil and then somehow manage to “measure up,” or be “good enough,” to earn or deserve God’s favor and blessings. Some people even go so far as to say it doesn’t really matter what one chooses to believe because “there are many avenues to God” and that, “regardless of the road we’re on, we’re all going to the same place anyway!” But every authentic child of God knows and understands that there can be but one hope — His name is Jesus Christ. These people put their hope not in themselves, or in their ability to discern Biblical doctrine and “get it all right,” or even in their own performance, good works, commitment, devotion, and ability to somehow manage to be “good enough.” Rather, they put ALL their hope in just ONE thing–the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They claim absolutely no righteousness of their own, but only “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Romans 3:22, NASB). They seek, as the Apostle Paul said, to “be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9, NASB). And they greatly rejoice in the fact that “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB).
The authentic, New Covenant children of God hear the voice of their Shepherd and know that His voice is their only hope–and the only hope for all humanity. For Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6, NASB).
One Lord – Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the only true and living God:
The Apostle Peter stated it well when he said, in his first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36, NASB). Later, the Apostle Paul would say:
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9-11, NASB
It is sometimes easy to breath the words, “Jesus is Lord”… but then quickly supplant the lordship of Christ with earthly authorities–religious and otherwise. People tend to flock to charismatic personalities and influential leaders who are happy to guide them and even dictate for them their personal belief system and faith. Others bow the knee to their religious organizations and institutions and the accompanying doctrines and traditions that seem to offer some sense of structure and stability. But every authentic Christian knows that to recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, and to truly own Him as such, precludes surrendering to the lordship of any other. Jesus said:
But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.Matthew 23:8-10, NASB
It is pretty obvious that, in today’s world, people completely ignore, perhaps even rebelliously disobey Jesus’ words in this passage. Who is your teacher? The authentic children of God do not refer to any one man, or group of men, as their teachers. We are simply brothers and sisters in the Lord sharing the Word of God with one another, discussing various viewpoints–sometimes even agreeing to disagree with one another–and helping each other come to a more thorough understanding of God’s will for us; as revealed to us in the pages of the Bible. Who is your father figure? There are men willing to supplant that fatherly relationship that God wants to have with each and every one of us and redirect that intimacy, affection, and authority toward themselves. But the authentic children of God will never redirect their love and devotion for God toward another, or attribute the title that God the Father has taken for Himself to someone else. Nor will they ever give the authority that comes with that designation to anyone else. Who are your leaders? While the mainstream (and not so mainstream) religious denominations all around us are happy to designate influential men and women among them as their “leaders,” an authentic Christian will never give that title, or the authoritative power and control that comes with it, to anyone other than Christ–the blatant errors in translation and misinterpretations of Hebrews 13:17 not withstanding–because Jesus’ words are clear!
The Bible teaches that “there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, He who is able to save and destroy…” (James 4:12-13). While many bow the knee to their various religious institutions, and the respective “teachers,” “fathers,” and “leaders” who control them, willingly surrendering to their assumed power and authority, every authentic child of God recognizes only one Sovereign ruler over his or her heart and life–the Lord Jesus.
One faith – as presented in the Good News—the Gospel—the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles and prophets, as presented in the pages of New Testament.
The apostle Paul said:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’Romans 1:16-17, NASB
Paul also said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17, NASB). Concerning this one faith we share, which is the result of the “word of Christ” planted within our hearts, the prophet Jude says:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.Jude 1:3, NASB
From this statement we learn that the “one faith” is both singular and distinctive; it can be identified from the many and varied faiths to which people may adhere. Furthermore, “the faith” of which Jude speaks is not some massive collection of religious beliefs whereby some particular denominational institution can be identified. “The faith” is that which lies at the very center of every authentic disciple’s heart—a profound trust in, and surrender to, the message of the Gospel… the sacrificial life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We know this to be true because, in writing to the people at Corinth, the Apostle Paul said, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2, NASB). Jesus, and His sacrifice for us, is the heart, the core, the essence, indeed, the very substance of the “one faith” set forth in the Holy Scripture. Paul went on to remind the Corinthians, and us as well:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.I Corinthians 15:1-4, NASB
From this passage we’re reminded that our faith is altogether focused on Christ and what He has done for us. And, while a living faith works, our faith is never in our works. Our faith is not in our religious beliefs, doctrines and creeds. Our faith is not in our church or any religious institution among men. The “one faith” for which we contend is nothing more or less than the finished and complete work of Christ.
One baptism – the baptism commanded by Jesus when He said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16, NASB).
It is the baptism exemplified by the Ethiopian eunuch when, after hearing the Gospel, he cried out, “‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ … and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38, NASB). It is baptism “for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38, NASB) in that “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3, NASB). It is baptism of, by, and into the Holy Spirit, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13, NASB). It is the baptism that “now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21, NASB). It is not some outward, legalistic work of law or religious regulation; but rather an expression of our personal faith in that we were, “buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12, NASB). It is the outward manifestation of our new birth into the family of God; as Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5, NASB).
One God and Father – the only true and living God, creator of heaven and earth, giver and sustainer of life… Who:
… after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NASB); “and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB). The Apostle Paul said, “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him” (I Corinthians 8:5-6, NASB).
We know that the ekklesia—the called out body of Christ that we read about in scripture—is still here, alive and well, on planet Earth today. It exists among all the authentic, New Covenant children of God worldwide—those who simply want to follow the teachings of Christ as set forth in the pages of the New Testament, free from all the denominational doctrines and traditions of men. But we are also aware of Satan’s substitutes; and they are many. These multitudes of denominations are meant to mimic the authentic body of Christ as they not only multiply their erroneous teachings, but supplant the worship of Christ; redirecting unto themselves the dedication and adoration in people’s hearts that should only belong to Christ.
How to tell the difference between the ekklesia–the authentic body of Christ–and Satan’s substitutes is not always easy, especially for someone who has just recently been “born again” into the family of God and who is just beginning his or her new walk with the Lord. We all want to think the best of people, don’t we? So, if folks are kind, if they seem compassionate and nurturing, if they appear to us as sincere, knowledgeable, and dedicated to the word of God, then we are more than likely willing to give them the benefit of the doubt; so much so that we tend to forget the Apostle Paul’s warning that, “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” (2 Corinthians 11:14-16, NASB). Some of these man-made religious institutions look very similar to the real deal. But, as Jesus said:
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.Matthew 7:15-20, NASB
In this passage of scripture, Jesus is speaking directly about “false prophets” and their teaching. From His words, it becomes quite obvious that any so-called “prophet,” or “priest,” or “pastor,” or any kind of church leader or minister claiming to speak for God–as well as any church, movement, or religious organization–who does not believe, teach, and practice what the Bible itself teaches regarding the seven essential values of the Christian faith, as set forth by the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians, cannot possibly be a teacher of truth!
God’s forever family, all around the world, stands united in these seven basic Biblical truths, the constitutional values of the Kingdom: One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father. While, as the Apostle John reminds us, “many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7, NASB), the authentic children of God keep their eyes on Jesus and His teachings–found in the divinely inspired and providentially protected Word of God. Remember, “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:4-5, NASB).
“Speaking the Truth in Love”