“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
It’s so straightforward. Seven times Paul reiterates the word “one.” And it is –first of all- the” body”, that he is talking about, It’s a metaphor that constantly suggested itself to Paul. One organism made up of many parts. And the foot cannot rebel against the elbow (etc.) because the body only works properly in synchronised unity. I saw a bizarre clip from a Jim Carrey film where his body was literally fighting against itself, hands, feet and brain in a tangle of rebellion.
Quite brilliant (performance) and utterly ludricrous (concept).
The verse here is in the context of telling us how we may “attain to the unity” of the Spirit within the body of Christ, the Church. So he begins by underscoring that word “one” seven times. I suspect that the word is important.
And this is how we do it. We “were called to one hope” and so we travel together on the same journey, in the same direction.
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
This refers to the picture of a “Roman Triumph” when a conquering hero, trailed by his captives, would throw gifts out to the adoring masses in an ancient version of the ticker-tape parade. Also, the word “grace” comes from the same root as the word “gift.” So Christ is the conquering hero, and we receive the grace-gifts that he throws to us. They are not flung wildly, but carefully “given as Christ apportioned it.”
And what, precisely, are these gifts? They are people. As Paul makes clear: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
This passage has been so highlighted in our generation that its force may become blunted by its very familiarity.
But here’s the story: Christ has given people-gifts to His people. The emphasis here is not on the specialness of those people (real or imagined!), but on the effect they produce. Christ gave those different kinds of people, (pioneer ground-breakers, mystics, poets, revealers, announcers, carers, instructors…can you think of more words like these?) for one specific job.
It is to equip the Body of Christ “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith…” The whole thrust of Paul’s teaching here is on us, us the Body of Christ. We have a job to do. It is to be Christ in the world, “washing their feet”, “standing with those of no standing”, “listening to the voice of the refugees.”
”Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”