Ephesians emphasizes the need “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Messiah, until we attain to the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:12-13). In trying to understand “the unity of the faith,” a difficulty arises in the fact that, outside of Ephesians 4, the term for “unity” (ἑνότης; enótes) appears nowhere in the New Testament. Since words only have meaning in context, the scarcity of ἑνότης doesn’t give the interpreter much to go on. However, the idea of unity among a faith community has precedent in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which describe the Qumran sect as a tight-knit “unity” based on communal rules that encourage righteous behavior. Similarly, Ephesians uses “unity of the faith” to signify a cohesive assembly of Jesus-followers whose behavior is founded on a set of beliefs that promote holiness.

The outset of Ephesians 4 encourages “bearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity (ἑνότης; enótes) of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:2-3). Since this reference to “the unity of the Spirit” precedes the reference to “the unity of the faith” (4:13), there seems to be a relationship between the “Spirit” and “faith.” A specific set of realities, all of which are marked by oneness, lead to the state of unity: “One body and one Spirit (ἓν πνεῦμα; èn pneuma)… one Lord, one faith (μία πίστις; mía pístis), one baptism, one God and Father of all” (4:4-6). The one Spirit binds the one body of Christ, which is a community of that adheres to the “one faith” in one Lord (Jesus) and one God (the Father). The affirmation of “the faith” leads to behavior that reflects the love of Jesus, whose death was a “fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:2). To this end, believers are to avoid sexual immorality, impurity, foolish talk, covetousness, idolatry (5:3-21)—expelling these negative acts from the body of Christ allows the congregation to be “filled with the Spirit” (5:18).

An idea similar to “the unity of faith” appears at Qumran; the Dead Sea Scrolls call its community of believers the “Yahad” (יחד), or “Unity.” A text known as the Community Rule lays out specific communal legislation for members so that “they may abstain from all evil and hold fast to all good” (1QS 1:4), and thus “lay a foundation of truth for Israel, for the Yahad… a most holy dwelling (literally, “holy of holies” [קודשׁ קודשׁים; qodesh qodeshim]) for Aaron and house of perfection and truth in Israel” (5:5; 8:8-10). As “children of light,” the members of the Yahad “walk in the ways of light” and become a dwelling place for God (3:20-24). Ephesians uses these same words of those who attain “unity” in Messiah: “Now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all good and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5:8-9). More, believers in Yeshua are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” as a “holy temple in the Lord… a dwelling for God in the Spirit” (2:20-21). These similarities show that Ephesians envisions a messianic Yahad whose behavior reflects the “unity of the faith” in Jesus the Messiah.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. well, I must say how much I love knitting ... especially what is called the 'Fair Isle' style, or the 'Nordic' style, both of which use two colours or more to create the beautiful patterns, so, I believe this is an apt description of the weaving in, or 'knitting of the heart's together' as in Corinthians 2:2. [For my concern is] that their hearts may be braced (comforted, cheered, and encouraged) as they are knit together in love, that they may come to have all the abounding wealth and blessings of assured conviction of understanding, and that they may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly that mystic secret of God, [which is] Christ (the Anointed One).
  2. I am convinced that the unity of God in Christ follows these rules of the covenant: If we will learn how to forgive the sin around us while we are learning how to live, our father in heaven will forgive us. If we will not submit to this law, then we have no salvation from God. This idea is upheld by these passages from all four Gospels. Matthew 6:14-15, Mark 11:25-26, Luke 6:36-37, John 20:21-23. This is unity. And this is the essential Gospel message from Jesus. The Dead Sea Scrolls community knew these truths and they died for them. The message from Jesus is not vague. It is close to us, in our hearts and minds and mouths. Let us learn about the son of God and his message.
  3. “Indeed, our Lord put His full sanction to EVERY jot and title of the Law and the prophets; enforced the precepts written by Moses as binding upon all the Jewish people. He (Jesus) quoted the writings of nearly every prophet, from Moses to Malachi recognizing their FULL AUTHORITY as the Word of God as apostles and evangelists of our Lord, we ALWAYS FULLY RECOGNIZED their DIVINE ORIGIN and quoted and wrote and preached FROM THEM as AUTHORITY on ALL QUESTIONS OF FAITH.” - Apostle Paul.
  4. If you are talking about unity that all believe in the same in Jesus Christ, then all should have one faith, one baptism and one Lord (Christ).I question is there one faith, when those within a group disagree so much that they leave the group and become another group? They are not unified then are they? Some don't believe Baptism is necessary. I Cor.1: 10-17 Paul states" I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one other so that there may be NO Divisions among and that you may be perfectly UNITED in mind and thought. They were divided by some saying they followed Paul, Apollos ,Cephas, or Christ. Paul questions ,"Is Christ Divided?" Maybe I have been taught wrong but we have so many divisions or some call it denominations, when there should be church & one faith. I learned in my studies here that there were different Jewish groups in Israel, that lived differently with their on traditions.Rabbis had different interpretations & rules or traditions. It is human nature for people to disagree since the beginning of time.It is human nature to want change & or practice different traditions. But, morals on how one is to live, what is right or wrong in the eyes of God or what He wants, should never change. It's frustrating if you think about it because you don't want to do anything that would not be acceptable to God.Maybe I overthink but how did it all get so divided? When tradgies happen, many times people put their differences aside & can work together in unity. Why can't this be all of the time?
    • Thanks for your comments and questions, Judy. Since biblical texts are, often, open to more than one interpretation, disagreement and debate is built into its reception. But debate doesn't need to mean division, and you're right that Christianity hasn't done a great job of avoiding divisions.
  5. Interesting: there’s a book, ‘Ephesians: A Jewish Perspective’ by S. Kyle Moline (2005) that I recommend for serious learners of Yahweh’s Word.
  6. You have mentioned Ephesians 2 in your article so perhaps this is a good place to mention a question I have been mulling. In Chapter two, Paul makes the point that Gentiles are brought in to the household of God through Christ And that Christ does this by abolishing the enmity, “which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” v15 establishing peace between the two groups ,circumcision and uncircumcision. Both to be in one body of unity. The unity is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the foundation stone. Not the Law and prophets, although it was the Law and prophets ( Moses and Elijah ) that witnessed Jesus’ glorification to the disciples at the transfiguration. Most certainly, Jesus in no way ever did not follow the Law since that would have disqualified Him as the prophet like Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18. However, He did say “It is finished!” on the cross. And elsewhere (2 Corinthians 3:6) in reference to the new covenant, Paul writes that it is the spirit of the Law that gives life, not the letter of the Law. To me, this sounds like a new relationship with the law given at Sinai. Dr. Schaser, I would love to know your take on v 15.
    • Thanks for your comments, Lois. When Jesus says "it is finished" in John, this does not refer to the Law being finished. Rather, it refers to Jesus' salvific work (his death on the cross) being finished. In 2 Cor 3, Paul is making a distinction between outward manifestation of the Law, and the inward manifestation brought about by the new covenant. In doing this, Paul just underscores the attention to inwardness that's already expressed in the Torah (e.g., Deut 10:12-16). Ephesians 2 states that the "Law of commandments" has been brought down for the sake of Gentiles, so that they can be a part of God's family without following the Law (which was never given to them in the first place); however, this reality for Gentiles doesn't preclude continued Torah observance for Jesus-following Jews (cf. Acts 3:1; 10:14; 18:18; 21:17-26).
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

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