The first observation we should make here is that Ephesians 4:4-6 is perhaps the most important section of the second half of Ephesians. I say that because this section forms the very basis, foundation, and ground for unity. What exactly unites us? Some today answer “love,” others answer “our shared experience,” and still others answer “a common goal.” Many today, even evangelicals, insist, “Doctrine divides, love unites.”
Many years ago while preaching a week of meetings in a certain church, the pastor came to me with a burden about how his denomination was drifting towards Liberalism. Asking me what he should do, I answered immediately, “Get out. You must separate yourself from those who deny the Truth.” Appalled at that, he responded, “Oh, I could never do that. Our denomination views love and unity as supreme, so I could never pull out.” But that is serious error. Love is never spoken of in Scripture as being superior to Truth. Not even I Corinthians 13, that great “Love Chapter,” implies such an idea. Yes, it says that without “love” certain things, such as knowledge, faith, and giving are empty and meaningless, but neither does it say that love is meant to stand by itself or is meant to replace all those things.
May we ask a simple question: How can love unite people who deny Christ with those who embrace Him? As we saw in our previous study, how can there possibly be unity apart from the unique revelation of God through Christ? If you remove the very essence of Christianity, the very foundation of the faith, you have nothing. Only when we understand the doctrine of unity in Ephesians 1-3 can we understand the duty of unity here. May we say it clearly and with no ambiguity: doctrine must be the ground for unity. Of course, that principle is frowned upon in our day and is ironically considered “divisive,” but it’s still true.
To put this another way: doctrine makes up the building block of unity, while love provides the energy to build. One without the other is useless. If all we have is doctrine, the building materials will lay around and accomplish nothing. What good is Truth if you don’t use it? What good is right Theology if there is no energy? On the other hand, if all you have is “love,” you’ll have everyone running around looking for materials with which to build, but they will find nothing lasting. It is really here that most of Christianity is today. Everyone is looking for something around which to unify, but the last thing they consider is doctrine. We must, therefore, have both: Truth and love. This is why Paul says later in Ephesians, “Speaking the truth in love” (4:15).
Once we accept the fact that doctrine is the ground for unity, a question immediately arises: what doctrine is the ground for unity? This is vitally important. Some base their unity on what translation of the Bible another uses, or where someone went to Bible College or Seminary, or what position another takes on a particular minor doctrine or practice, or what view someone takes of the Second Coming of Christ, and on it goes. But such divisions are not taught in Scripture.
What then is the basis? What doctrine is the ground of unity? What doctrine forms the foundation of our faith? The answer is in Ephesians 4:4-6. These verses list seven spiritual realities that unite all true believers. Contained in these seven principles is the very essence of Christianity, that is, its foundational truths. If we could boil down Christianity to its bare elements, here they are. Our unity and fellowship must be based on these. If someone accepts these, there can be unity, even when there is disagreement on minor points of doctrine or practice. But if one or more of these is rejected, there can be no unity and fellowship. May we again recall our definition of unity: the unanimous agreement concerning the unique revelation of God through and in Jesus Christ. And these seven spiritual realities are rooted in Christ and His Word. In the next seven installments, we’ll examine each of these and note two things about each one: its meaning and its application.