In Ephesians 3:4-6, Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that the reason he wrote this letter should lead them to understand the gospel (which he had explained in 2:11-22) in exactly the same way Paul himself understood it. This matters very much in the twenty-first century because most of Christendom now believes that “the gospel” means whatever a particular race or culture interprets it to mean. Paul, however, was a Jewish Christian writing to a congregation who were mainly Gentile Christians; unlike Paul, most of them had been converted from idolatry. This means they had distinctly different religious and cultural backgrounds, with little or no previous knowledge of the scriptures. Despite these differences, Paul is emphazing that they should understand the gospel exactly as he did! Verse six—
“Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (ESV)
— simply reinforces the point that what they believed about God and salvation, and what they did as Christians, should be the same things Paul believed and did, because they are part of the same body.
Paul’s next important point (vv. 10-11) is that God has revealed His wisdom about salvation “through the church;” this statement does not, however, authorize the church to “make policy,” nor does it empower any man or group of men to decide “doctrine” for the body (as the Roman Catholic denomination claims). Paul’s point is simply that it is in God’s design for the church – revealed in the new testament – that we can see His eternal purpose (providing for our salvation) being fulfilled. Verse 21 goes on to tell us that God is properly glorified “in the church,” and “in” (by) Jesus Christ – not through any activity, doctrine, or medium we could devise.
At chapter 4, verses 1-3 present the “key attitudes” that are necessary for true Christian unity to exist. These attitudes are all-too-often-overlooked whenever people are determined to have their own way in the church! Paul’s instruction for Christians to “walk worthily” of our calling tells us that we must train ourselves to make these attitudes and qualities part of our normal “routine” in making decisions in life. It’s important for US to notice the “outward” or “othersoriented” character of these attitudes: When they are properly applied, each one contributes to strengthening our relationships with one another (instead of simply satisfying our own personal whims). The ultimate result will be that the “unity of the Spirit” is preserved, along with the “ties” of peace that grow out of consistently practicing and applying these qualities.
Immediately after these “key attitudes” Paul lists seven “ones” (vv. 4-6) that emphasize and build on the unity in verse 3. These points have sometimes been described as the “planks” in God’s “platform” for achieving true Christian unity. It is ironic that Christendom manages to overlook the fact that its denominations embody the exact antithesis of the unity described here! The very fact that so many contradictory “bodies” exist in Christendom makes their claim of Christian unity a mockery. Surely it is no accident that Paul’s list begins with “one body;” in Colossians 1:13- 18, the same inspired apostle makes it plain that this “one body” is also the “kingdom of (God’s) dear Son” and THE church. This point emphasizes that these different descriptions speak of exactly the same “organization.” In God’s plan, there is only ONE church/body/kingdom – not a multitude of them! The emphatic, seven-fold repetition of the word “one” in these verses is calculated to drive home the point: Each of these “planks” is unique, totally immune to being “duplicated” by man!