I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:1-6
As we confess in the Apostles Creed, there is only one body of Christ, one Church — the communion of saints — made up of all who trust in Christ Jesus as Savior. And, there is only one Savior, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all who dwells in the hearts of His children by the Spirit.
It is the Spirit of God, working mightily through the Word of God and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, who brings us to faith in Christ Jesus and keeps us in that faith. He brings us into the family of God and unites us with Christ our Savior. Thus, when we have faith in Christ Jesus and are baptized in His name, we are united to Him and are one with all other true believers in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:26ff.; Eph. 2:11ff.).
We do not create this unity; the Spirit does, through the Word. Such unity does not occur through church mergers and outward cooperation; it occurs where the Spirit brings people to faith in Christ and keeps them in that faith through Word and Sacrament. So then, this oneness, this unity, is of the Spirit’s working, for He brings us to faith in Christ and keeps us trusting in our Savior.
It is as Luther says in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith: in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the last day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.”
The way, then, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is to continue in the faith created in us by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit through the Word. If we are one with Christ Jesus and members of His body, the Church, we will also be united to all other true believers of all time (cf. 1 John 1:3ff.).
And, we endeavor to live in this Spirit-created unity by continuing in the Word and holding fast to the truth (cf. Matt. 28:18ff.; Eph. 5:22ff.; 2 Tim. 3:14ff). We are long-suffering, enduring one another’s sins and shortcomings with all patience, forgiving our fellow believers as Christ has forgiven us (cf. Eph. 4:32; Gal. 6:1f.).
We consider and remember that Christ is our Redeemer and that He has brought each and every one of us to faith. Therefore, we encourage each other to continue in that unity by encouraging each other to continue in the Word and hold fast to Christ Jesus, our Head.
O gracious Father, thank You for bringing us into Your family and Church through faith in Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and for giving us unity with all other true believers. Grant that we continue in that unity in Christ, and move us to dwell within it in patience, with longsuffering and forgiveness, and in the bond of peace with our brethren. Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]