Since we have no hope of salvation without being in Christ, we need to understand what it means to be in this most desirable place.
Before time began, God created a plan of salvation for all men (Ephesians 1:3-4). He knew that free will would lead us all to sin (Romans 3:23), and that we would require a Savior to die for our sins (Hebrews 9:11-22).
Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of the world (Revelation 7:9-17; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, he went to the cross to shed his blood for the remission of our sins (Romans 5:6-11).
To be in Christ is to be in the church. Jesus lovingly constructed the church, which is his body (Ephesians 1:22-23) and his family (Ephesians 2:19). We are there by his grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). We owe him everything and gratitude should propel us to share the Gospel with the world (Matthew 28:18-20).
Since all spiritual blessings exist in Christ, we join with our new family, leaning on one another (Galatians 6:2) and uniting in Christ. We need to put an emphasis on this point.
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1, NKJV). Paul became an apostle BY the will of God. We are saints, set apart BY Christ, as well.
If we read Ephesians 1:3-6, we see that the Lord added us to the body and we receive bountiful blessings, as a result. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
The Jews and Gentiles were historically at odds with one another. Yet Christ brought them together in the Cross (Ephesians 2:11-17). He created “in Himself one new man from the two” (Ephesians 2:15). Christ did the work and we obey him to receive the available blessings.
Because of the work of Christ, “we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Accordingly, we are “joined together” in him (Ephesians 2:21).
Collectively, and individually, we spend our time glorifying Christ by walking “worthy of the calling” of holiness (Ephesians 3:20-4:1).
By this point in the Ephesian letter, Paul has meticulously stressed that Christ has built everything we need in his body to be saved, united and joyous. We come to the next section and we see the culmination. We must be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). This is deeply profound.
We don’t get together and decide to agree to disagree on doctrine and create our own unity. No! When we all get INTO Christ and we live by faith, we become united. When we are all looking at one another, pointing fingers, we have taken our eyes off Christ.
Unity means that we unite in the Spirit, which is perfect and larger than humanity. “The church’s unity is described as the unity of the Spirit, which signifies a unity that God’s Spirit creates and therefore not the reader’s own achievement.”/1
It is not OUR unity but the Lord’s unity. Jesus and God did not decide to agree to disagree on doctrine (John 17:20-23). They were united in peace and purpose.
Moreover, since unity is IN Christ, we, as God’s children cannot ever hope to unite spiritually with someone who is outside of Christ. It is impossible. Yet, God’s people pretend they can unite with people in the world and call themselves God’s people.
Clearly, God will not be happy with such temerity.
1/ Peter O’Brien, “The Letter to the Ephesians,” Pillar New Testament Commentary, ed. D.A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 259.