Although the phrase “the unity of the Spirit” does not appear until Ephesians 4:2, God’s desire to create oneness permeates Ephesians. By working through Christ, God’s power would make it possible.
With his opening statements, Paul unveiled God’s unification project. God predetermined how he would overcome sin’s destructive divisiveness. God’s audacious plan called for uniting all things in Christ, whether in heaven or on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10).
How could God forge unity out of disparate spiritual states? After all, God is light while people are dead in sin and under God’s wrath.
God pre-determined he would adopt into his household those alienated sinners who would hear the word of truth and rely upon Christ. Christ’s redeeming blood would transform them into becoming a holy and blameless people before God.
God would even seal them with his Holy Spirit guaranteeing their future inheritance. Yes, God would come near to his transformed people.
Yet there is more. Regardless of whether they were Jew or Gentile, they would enjoy the same access in one Spirit to their Father.
God’s unification project even called for uniting in Christ’s body all of his reconciled people in order to form one community. Even more amazing is that through his Spirit God would dwell within this community! Heaven and earth would be brought together.
Since God’s goal involves uniting all things in heaven and on earth under one head which is Christ, no wonder Paul instructed God’s people to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2). No wonder Christ provided gifts to the church to promote “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13).
So how do we maintain the unity that the Spirit created? Paul summarizes the answer with “live worthily of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). In other words, live up to being the people God has made us to be.
On the one hand, this requires us as the church to grow into maturity so that we will not be knocked around by human teachings and cunning. Maturity also entails growing up in Christ in order to speak the truth in love as each member lovingly serves.
On the other hand, living worthily of our calling involves doing good (Ephesians 2:10). Also, we must jettison sinful ways while learning from Christ (Ephesians 4:18-24). For if we work against the Spirit by living in sinful ways, we will grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-31).
What is the church? What is the gospel’s purpose? Why did Jesus die as he did? Why does the Christian lifestyle matter?
One answer is – these are all part of God’s unification project.