Ephesians 4:3-6; One Faith – our faith in Christ.
length: 68:51 - taught on Mar, 25 2021
Thursday March 25, 2021
We now move on to the next phrase in the list of the seven-fold foundation of unity: one faith.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
When studying any text or doctrine, the student must be careful not to bring his own assumptions and biases into the conclusion.
What are trying to find is what God has said and its direct meaning, concisely and clearly. We first lay down the foundation that the word of God is inerrant, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in its original writing. Fortunately, we have 99.9% or more of that original writing in our possession thanks to the thousands of copies made of the text. For now, we’ll skip proving canonicity and conclude we have the text. However, this still does not guarantee our accurate interpretation of the text.
When we conclude a certain interpretation, we have to ask two questions: 1) How do we know? 2) How do we know that we know?
First, we use inductive Bible study, meaning that we take the particulars of a certain passage or passages that comprise our doctrine and we draw out a general meaning.
We can listen to a Bible study and first we use observation (what does it say?), then interpretation (what does it mean?), and then application (what does it mean to me?). However, this all depends on the proper and correct interpretation or accuracy of the meaning.
The inductive method avoids starting our study of the text with a premise or universal statement. The reason why this is good is that we avoid bringing any preconceived conclusions and allow the text to speak to us. However, even this can be inadequate. Why? All of us bring some preconceptions and prejudice to the study of the text. It is a consequence of our flawed nature. The best weapon against it is to first know that we have it.
The solution is hermeneutics, or the science of interpretation. It comes from the Greek word hermeneuo - to translate or interpret. Hermes was, in Greek mythology, the messenger of the gods, considered to be the inventor of language, an interpreter, and even a liar and trickster.
Basically hermeneutics forces us to remain within certain boundaries concerning the inspired text. It must be translated literally, grammatically, and historically. One must take into account its literary style and that it aligns itself with true categories of theology clearly expressed in the word of God.
When it comes to the gospel, specifically the passages in the Bible concerning the gospel, which are many, it is vital that we don’t add any preconceived ideas, and it is to the gospel that this is done more often than not. We know why the gospel is a target for misinterpretation. Satan loathes the gospel as the one means to set men free from his grasp and influence. But why has the gospel been so easy a target? The mind of man recoils at so daring an expression of generosity.
One faith: either refers to our common faith in Christ (Bruce) or the body of doctrine based on scripture (Ironside).
Both are foundational to the church, but by the nominative pistis, it is impossible to definitely distinguish. More good commentators believe it refers to our faith in Christ which would result in our one baptism.
Vincent: "The connection with the preceding verses is as follows; "I exhort you to unity, for you stand related to the Church, which is one body in Christ; to the one Spirit who informs it; to the one hope which your calling inspires; to the one Lord, Christ, in whom you believe with one common faith, and receive one common sign of that faith, baptism. Above all, to the one God, and Father."
Expositors says, "It is a positive statement, ... giving the objective ground or basis in fact on which the walk in lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, and loving forbearance is urged, and of which it should be the result."
We have a common body of scripture from which all doctrines come. If we leave aside conjecture, assumptions, allegorical interpretations where we can make the words say anything we want, realizing that God has spoken to us literally and simply, we can easily find common minds and a common faith. And in that pursuit, all of us knowing that we are called to be humble, meek, patient, forbearing, and loving, then unity is easy and natural.
Whether the Holy Spirit through Paul has in mind the body of doctrine that we call “the faith,” or our faith in Christ as our Savior, we can each have our own opinions. How painfully ironic it would be to let such a thing cause division in the church when it comes from a section of scripture clearly devoted to the unity of the church. We will proceed with the doctrine of faith in Christ for salvation.
There have been, and continue to be, many variations on what brings a sinner to salvation.
In some cases the variations are small and in others they are very different. We won’t waste time studying all of them. First, and foundationally, the Bible is clear that salvation is by faith in Christ. This we know well.
What confuses and sometimes causes war, is whether something should be added or further defined. Are there types of faith, or rather, degrees of faith? Can a person believe in Christ as his Savior and not be a saved man because he didn’t believe deeply enough? Does a person have to repent of sins first and then believe? Does a person have to be baptized in water after faith? Does a person need to verify his salvation by good deeds performed in time? Is it true that if the Lord Jesus is not Lord of a man’s life, i.e., he continues in sinful areas, then his professed conversion is false?
One thing to notice is that all of these questions come from men and not the Bible.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider them. All of us are called to defend our faith. Defending the faith always causes us to learn more. Yet, understanding that all of the questions surrounding salvation come from men, should lead us to go to the Bible and expect the answer to be straight and simple rather than confusing and anxious.
Zane Hodges, graduate and professor of New Testament Greek and Exegesis at Dallas Theological Seminary (1959 - 1986), wrote extensively on this subject.
“In the late 1980s, Hodges and John F. MacArthur presented differing views over the gospel through various books, generally known as the "Lordship salvation controversy". Hodges propagated the Free Grace position, which teaches that the free gift of eternal life is without cost to the believer, that it comes through simply believing in Jesus Christ and there is no need of any repentance or obedience to be followed. A distinction is recognized between believing (which results in receiving eternal life) and submission to the Lordship of Christ (which is part of the sanctification process). Free Grace Theology also teaches that once a person believes in Jesus Christ, they cannot lose their salvation. MacArthur argued instead for Lordship Salvation, claiming that salvation is by faith alone, and it would lead to repentance and results in good works, and that a true Christian would not continue sinning without remorse but would instead obey God's commands to do good works. MacArthur viewed biblical faith as always including the notion of surrender and obedience, while Hodges taught that biblical faith was the conviction that something is true.
Hodges rejected the view of repentance as a "change of mind", holding instead the view that it is a God-fearing decision to turn from sin: "Repentance is the decision to turn from sin to avoid, or bring to an end, God's temporal judgment" (Harmony with God, p. 57). Hodges stresses that repentance facilitates faith in Christ, but is not a condition for eternal salvation, nor is it part of faith itself. "It is one thing to say that repentance facilitates faith in Christ—the Bible teaches that. It is quite another thing to say that repentance is a requirement for eternal life. That the Bible does not teach" (Harmony with God, p. 93).
Initially in his book Absolutely Free! and later in more detail in his book Harmony with God Hodges took the position that the process of repentance may be a preparatory step in coming to salvation and should be evident in the life of a believer, but eternal life is received by believing in Jesus, not by turning from sin. Hodges points out that the gospel of John, which he claims is the only book of the Bible written to lead the unsaved to Christ, never uses the term "repentance." In Harmony with God Hodges says there is only one answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" Hodges emphatically states, "[Paul’s and Silas'] answer said absolutely nothing about repentance. Instead they gave the famous and simple reply 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved' (Acts 16:31)."” [end article quote]
The first instance of an attack upon the gospel was from Israelites who claimed to be Christians.
It may well have been because they struggled with the transition from the Law of Moses to grace.
And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
Thankfully, the Jerusalem Council settled the matter.
And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."
6 And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."
A letter was drafted and sent along with the brethren back to Antioch.
and they sent this letter by them,
"The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.
24 "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, 25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In vs. 24, stating, “to whom we gave no such instruction,” suggests that the false teachers claimed to be the voice of the Jerusalem church or at least appealed to the authority of Jerusalem for what they taught.
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 "Therefore be on the alert”
The false teachers of Act 15 would have insisted on faith in Christ, but to it they added circumcision.
We find that almost all attacks on the gospel do not deny faith, but they do add to it, and this transforms the essential nature of the gospel - salvation as a grace gift to man.
[Zane Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege] “Herein lies one of the great ironies in the history of Christian thought. The law could not guarantee “life” to men (GAL 3:21) and was fundamentally a ministry of condemnation and guilt (ROM 3:19, 20; 2 Cor. 3:6-9). But despite the fact that the New Testament pronounces the law a failure in producing true holiness (see ROM 8:3, 4), the heart of man continues to feel that its basic principle is the only workable one. According to this all too human perspective, man will not live as God desires him to live unless he is threatened with uncertainty about his eternal felicity. But as popular as this notion is, it is false. It reflects, in fact, a disastrously weak view of the power of God’s truth both to create a genuinely new creature at the moment of saving faith and to transform the saved individual into the likeness of Christ. It also hopelessly misjudges the comparative power of fear and gratitude as motivations for right conduct. Beyond that, it fails to take into account the powerful inspiration furnished by objectives that are centered in eternity itself.” [end quote]
The misconception of works or proving through works is native to the human soul which lives in a world where nothing is had by grace, but it is also encouraged by the enemy of the human soul.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Paul understood, as few men have, that blindness to the gospel is fundamentally satanic at its core.
The devil’s chief aim in this world is to blind mankind from the truth and simplicity of the gospel because once it is believed it changes a person completely and releases them from Satan’s prison.
The fundamental question of the Christian, “Can I really be sure of my salvation?” If good works are an essential fruit or product, and therefore a condition, then the answer must be no. Not until death could anyone really know if they performed truly good works. 2Co 5 states that Christ will judge if the work is good or bad. If only He can do so, then we would all have to wait until we come face to face with Him to find out. Some large denominations teach just this and use it as a fearful way of hopefully keeping their members in line.
“It does not matter how the insistence on good works is articulated. The result is inescapably the same. If works are elevated to the level of a co-condition with faith, then they are clearly indispensable to assurance. If they are only seen as the inevitable outcome of true saving faith, they become equally indispensable to assurance. For only their presence in the life can verify the authenticity of the faith from which it is claimed they must flow.” [Hodge]
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”