Pentecost 10 – August 1, 2021

“One for All, and All for One” – Ephesians 4:1-16


1. “All For One and One For All” – Three Musketeers motto

In 1844, French author Alexandre Dumas wrote a tale called “The Three Musketeers” that has been retold in print and movies over the years. The story is set in the mid 1620’s in the France of Louis XIII, but these three Musketeers – D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis… that’s four musketeers, isn’t it?? – they serve the Queen of France in her efforts to thwart her enemy, Cardinal Richelieu. These guards-in-arms are bold, brash, and brave. They also came to the aid of others in society who were easily preyed upon by the rich and powerful. Their motto, which became a rallying cry as they went up against their enemies, was: “All for one and one for all.” (OR was it “One for all and all for one?” It doesn’t matter – it’s ALL the same.) All three/four of these men, while each an individual, was united in their cause for justice. If one Musketeer was in trouble, the other two or three would race to the rescue. If two or three were being held captive, the other one would try to free them with the battle cry: “All for one and one for all.” The Musketeers found their way to the big screen more than 100 years ago, and in several different countries and languages. Over 25 films have been produced in total, more in animation, more even on television, with a series on Netflix as recent as seven years ago. Somehow, the characters and the stories have held their appeal across many generations. I think it’s their bravery and their style that connect in a 17th century superhero kind of way with us ‘regular’ human beings. But their motto is memorable, too. And that’s what I want to focus on today, because it sure seems to speak into or maybe flow out of that Epistle reading from Ephesians 4. The first few verses are about the ‘ones,’ and the last part is about the ‘alls.’


2. The appeal – “a life worthy”

Paul starts the chapter with an appeal. The Greek word refers to an encouragement, but a strong encouragement, an urging, a pleading for someone to do something. It’s like what you would do to urge your 3-year old daughter to try a new delicious food. It’s like what you would do to urge your brother to invest in a company that you are certain will pay a handsome dividend. It’s like what you would do to appeal to a friend to see a new version of “The Three Musketeers” at the movie theater. 

Paul’s appeal is for those who have already been called to faith in Jesus, who trust in Him for their forgiveness and salvation – it’s a call for them to live a life that matches their faith. Boy, if I were to poke you with the law on that topic today, I would say things like: 

How can you, as one who believes in God, use His name in so callous and careless a way? 

How can you, as a Christian, not care to thank Him in weekly corporate worship? 

How can you, as a follower of Jesus, gossip and slander and withhold the truth and so destroy the reputation of your neighbour? 

How can you, as a Godly husband or wife, treat your spouse with arrogance and ridicule? 

If you are a follower of Jesus, then follow Jesus! Live like He told you to live, and live like He showed you to live! 

That’s what Paul is saying: “Live in a manner worthy of your calling as a redeemed child of God.” Because that’s what you are! Paul spent the first three chapters of his letter making that absolutely clear. Three weeks ago we heard about every spiritual blessing that we have from God in Christ in Ephesians 1. Two weeks ago, we heard from chapter 2, and although we missed reading the more famous verse 8 – “By grace you have been saved” – we did hear about being brought near to God through the blood of Christ, and about being citizens of God’s kingdom and members of His household. Last week, in chapter 3, we heard about the wide, long, high and deep love of Christ – more than we can ask or imagine! So, now, as he gets into the more practical part of his letter, Paul says, “I’ve told you who you are. Live who you are!” (Oh, and he’s not talking to just one person… the ‘you’ is plural, so he’s talking to the whole lot of the Ephesian followers of Jesus, and by extension he’s talking to the whole lot of us.) “Live who you are… together!” He shakes out a few words before he dumps the whole load. He shakes out humility and gentleness and patience and bearing with one another in love, and then – get ready for it – maintain the unity of the Spirit. We are not asked to create the unity, but to maintain it, to keep it, and that unity of the Spirit implies many people living in harmony and in community, and it also introduces us to the “ones.”


 3. The ‘ones’

There are seven ‘ones’ listed in the next three verses, and seven is God’s number for completeness. While those seven ‘ones’ don’t comprise the sum total of Biblical doctrine, they do encompass what we really need to know.

   a. One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father

Let’s start with the second, the fourth, and the seventh ‘ones’ – one Spirit, one Lord (that would be Jesus), one God and Father. The church’s unity is rooted in our Biblical belief in the Triune God. Some religions are polytheistic, with many gods. Other religions are fiercely monotheistic, and would call us polytheistic because we consider the Father to be God, and Jesus to be God, and the Holy Spirit to be God. But truly, our faith – borne out of the ancient Jewish Shema – also says, “The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Yes, we consider the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to be God, but as we profess in the Athanasian Creed – there are not three Gods, but one God, and there are not three Lords but one Lord. I suppose we could adjust the Musketeer motto slightly to say about God: “One for Three, and Three for One.” Our oneness, our unity with one another is based squarely on the foundation of what we believe about God. It’s because we all believe alike that we gather together to hear God’s Word, to sing His praises, and to encourage and bless one another in that common faith. 


   b. One body

Let’s go back to the first “one” – one body. Paul uses that terminology, that imagery in other letters to refer to the church, the saints, the Baptized, those who believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation. In Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul refers to one body having many different parts, and each one of those parts having different gifts. Those gifts are to be used as they have been received, in the context of the church, and for the common good. No gift, no person is to stand above or below the others. Each of those gifts, each of those people are necessary for there to be growth and health and strength within the entire body. We are meant to complement one another – no matter how you spell that word. We are to compliment one another – encouraging and blessing others with our words. We are also to complement one another – filling out and completing or perfecting someone else in an area where they may be lacking, and willing to receive the same blessing where we need something. 

Consider how the human body cares for needy parts. If one finger gets cut with a knife, the fingers on the other hand quickly stop the bleeding and apply a bandaid. If the stomach complains of intense hunger, the hands prepare food, and the mouth and the esophagus deliver it to that needy internal organ. If an ankle gets twisted, the other leg and foot take the brunt of the body’s weight while that wounded ankle gets to limp along for a while until it heals. 

That’s what we in the Body of Christ are to be – all for one needy, hurting body part. I’ve had the opportunity to do that recently. But we can only do that when that body part says, “Ouch, I’m hurting.” Listen carefully to your brothers and sisters in Christ, listen carefully to even those outside the body of Christ, and extend compassion and care as needed. 

“There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.” We’re going to leave that ‘one’ for a moment, and move on… “one Lord, one faith…”


   c. One faith

One faith – Faith is described in Hebrews 11 as “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” If Jesus were sitting here in the front pew today, and I asked Him to stand up and talk to you for a bit and to show you the nail marks in His hands and feet and the spear mark in His side, it wouldn’t take faith to understand that He’s risen from the dead. But because we can’t see Him, our faith is what needs to receive that truth. Being sure of things you can’t see – that’s what Hebrews chapter 11 was all about. It doesn’t mention Noah, but Noah certainly needed faith in God’s sending of future flood waters if he was to build the ark to rescue all the animals. Hebrews 11 does mention Abraham’s faith when he was asked by God to leave His country to go to a new land that God would give him, and when he was asked by God to sacrifice his only son. It mentions Moses’ faith when he identifies as an Israelite rather than an Egyptian, and when he instituted the Passover on the night when the angel of death ravaged Egypt, and when he and the people crossed the Red Sea. It mentions other people of faith in a great and gracious and faithful God. Let me give you that as homework today – would you take 5 minutes to read Hebrews 11 this afternoon. It’s all about faith, one faith, or maybe we should say faith in one God. 


   d. One Baptism

One Lord, one faith… next is one Baptism. Baptism is that Sacrament of newness, of new life, when water is poured or sprinkled, or even when one is immersed in water to signify the dying of the old sinful person and the rising of the new, holy and righteous man or woman. Just as water and soap cleanse dirty hands or dirty feet on the outside, so the waters of Holy Baptism and God’s powerful Word cleanse a person on the inside. It’s God’s powerful word that does the cleaning, the forgiving, the washing. Some of the details aren’t all that important – like in a Baptismal font, or a Baptismal pool, or a river; like by this pastor, or that pastor, or by a nurse in a hospital; like on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday afternoon, in a crowded church or more privately as a family. What does matter is that Baptism takes place in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. That is the one Baptism that counts, that is the one Baptism that makes a person part of God’s Holy family. 


   e. One hope

One Lord, one faith, one Baptism… Now, let’s get back to one hope. If faith is the substance of what we believe – the one Spirit, the one Lord Jesus, the one God and Father – then hope is the future that we long for – also with certainty. Like faith, Paul writes that hope that is seen is not hope at all. Our hope is in the eternal life that Jesus won for us by His own suffering, death and resurrection. Our hope is in the rooms that Jesus is right now preparing for all who put their trust in Him. Our hope is to be in the presence of that one Spirit, one Lord, one God along with all of those who by one Baptism belong to the one body.  

The one faith, the one hope, the one Baptism, the one body – they are one for all, for people of all eras, of all ages, of all cultures and languages and countries of origin. One faith for all, one hope for all, one Baptism for all, one Body of Christ for all. One for all.


4. The “alls”

   a. The ‘people-gifts’

Now let’s get to the last part – about the “alls.” 

Paul says that Christ gave gifts to the church, people gifts, people in various and unique roles to carry out His will. The apostles were the twelve disciples – that included Matthias, the late addition to the twelve, and it also included Paul, himself, for he wrote that because he had a vision of the risen Saviour, he was also an apostle, even though untimely born. The prophets would generally refer to those men in the Old Testament era who spoke or wrote the messages of God to the people of Israel in the pre-Messiah times. Evangelists would be those who proclaim the Gospel in new areas, or specifically to non-believers. All of those had the specific charge to reveal God’s message and to point to Jesus as the Saviour. But all of those roles have a “best before date.” The prophets were “best before Jesus came.” The apostles and evangelists were “best before 100 A.D.” There may be some people today who speak a prophetic-style of message, and others who have a real heart for evangelism, but somehow we have left those people-gifts in the distant past. 

The shepherds and teachers (or pastors and teachers as most Bibles translate), are those who, still today, publicly, on behalf of the church, feed, protect, instruct, admonish, comfort and scold the flock of God with the Word of God. The one pastor-teacher is there for all the people of his church, but we could also say that all the pastor-teachers are there for each and every one who needs instruction and care.


   b. The broad purposes

The following verses inform us that those various people-gifts – in ancient times or in the present – were intended for a four-fold purpose. 

First, to equip the saints for the work of ministry. That is to say that a church’s ministry is not only about or all about what the pastor does. It is more, much more about what the people of the church do: bringing the Kingdom of God into the various spheres of their own world – work, play, family, friends, society. The pastor is to assist them, and equip them for being God’s people out there in an ever-changing and ever-darkening world – one for all.

A second purpose is to build up the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is built up both numerically and spiritually. The pastor-teacher (and all the church, really) is to welcome those who don’t know Jesus, and to lead them to a saving faith in the Triune God. That’s how the church grows numerically. The pastor-teacher is also responsible for building people up spiritually, leading children, youth and adults to a deeper faith in Jesus. That doesn’t mean that the pastor is the sole teacher of the faith, but he is to encourage and equip others to be teachers and mentors, too. 

A third purpose of the people-gifts is to have unity in the faith. This may again have something to do with instruction – leading people to understand and interpret our Christian faith in a common way… as being Christ-centered, Biblically-based, and with a law-Gospel, sin-grace focus. But unity in the faith could also have implications in the area of reconciliation of differences, or resolving disputes and disagreements, so that in matters of both faith and practice people live in harmony with one another. 

The fourth purpose is for people to come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That’s really the goal for any individual Christian… to become more and more like Jesus, every day, all the way through life. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would say to you one day, “You make me think of Jesus, your life makes me think of Jesus.” God has placed pastor-teachers into the church to develop maturity for all to live for the One = Jesus. 

Legend has it that a wealthy merchant travelling through the Mediterranean world looking for the distinguished Pharisee, Paul, encountered Timothy, who arranged a visit. Paul was, at the time, a prisoner in Rome. Stepping into the cell, the merchant was surprised to find a rather old man, physically frail, but whose serenity and magnetism challenged the visitor. They talked for hours. Finally, the merchant left with Paul’s blessing. 

Outside the prison, the merchant inquired of Timothy, “What is the secret of this man’s power? I have never seen anything like it before.” 

Timothy replied, “Paul is in love.” 

The merchant was bewildered, “In love?” 

“Yes,” Timothy answered, “in love with Jesus Christ.” 

“Is that all?” The merchant couldn’t understand. 

Smiling, Timothy replied, “Sir, that is everything.” 

All for the one… because the One lived and died and rose again for us all. Amen.

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