People who justify wrong ways use twisted logic. “God is one,” they say, at least where I live, “so all paths lead to God.” They apparently borrow the phrase that said, during the Roman Empire, all roads lead to Rome.
Somehow they miss Jesus’ statement that he is the only way to God, John 14.6.
The apostle Paul ends his great list of sevenfold pillars of unity among Christians this way: “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” Ephesians 4.6. God is one, and he unites all Christians in one great unity of faith, worship, and work.
The first thing that needs to be noted here is to whom “all” refers. As always, context determines the meaning.
Paul is writing to Christians. His theme is the worldwide church. His immediate context urges the spirit of unity among brethren, vv. 1-3. He pairs the one God, which comes last in the list, to the first item, “one body,” which is the church, Ephesians 1.22-23. (Yes, there’s a chiasmus here: “one Lord” is Jesus, in the center of the list.) Paul prefers the phrase, “church of God,” to describe the one body, so it’s no surprise that he makes this pairing. As well, the church is God’s family and he is Father of all saints.
Also, in this context, Paul follows up this list by saying this about “all” Christians, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” Ephesians 4.7. He goes from the unity of many saints to the diversity of gifts to each saint that contribute to this unity.
If the fourfold mention of “all” refers to all people, then we either have Paul claiming pantheism or universalism when he says that God is “in all.” Rather, Paul is saying that what unites Christians is that we have the same God and Father. Is that not a powerful motive for getting along?
Three things are said of the one God.
First, this one God is “over all.” He is sovereign Lord. It is true that God is over all creation. But as his Kingdom subjects, we demonstrate that sovereignty in a special way by consciously submitting to his will. Jesus said the Kingdom would be taken from Israel and “given to a people who will produce its fruit” Matthew 21.43. Our confession is “Jesus is Lord” see v. 4; Romans 10.9; 1 Corinthians 8.6; 12.3, and we live out that confession by our total submission to him as Lord.
Second, the one God is “through all.” What a wonderful truth that God uses his people on earth as his agency to proclaim salvation. We participate in his plan to redeem all mankind. God would have all people to be saved. He desires to be Father of all human beings, by virtue of their obedience and new birth in Christ. So he works through all the saints to offer his salvation to the world. Even in the New Testament, during the time of miracles, and after the new covenant came into effect, no one was ever saved without a Christian teaching the Good News. What a sobering thought that God is working in this world to save through his chosen ones!
Third, the one God is “in all.” He is not a distant God. Paul had already written that “in [Christ] you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” Ephesians 2.22. He had also just prayed “that Christ will dwell in your hearts through faith” Ephesians 3.17a. The language reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 14.23: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.” This is a privilege reserved for the obedient. The full Deity is “in” the saint, Romans 8.10; 1 Corinthians 6.19; 2 Corinthians 13.5; 1 John 4.4.
Let every follower of Christ praise the all-wise God for his salvation as we submit ourselves to him, purify ourselves to be vessels of honor and receive his fellowship in our hearts.
See the editor’s extra notes on the passage of Ephesians 4.6.