A sister in California asks what Paul means in Ephesians 4:5, when he says that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” This gracEmail concerns the “one Lord.”
* * *
The “one Lord” common to all Christians is Jesus Christ, God’s Son, our substitute and Savior. Jesus’ saving work included both his life of perfect human obedience in our place (“dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne,” as the hymn rightly puts it), and also his atoning death for our sins. We are saved by Jesus’ life (Rom. 5:10). Jesus lived out God’s will fully in his human body, then offered that body on the cross to make his people holy and perfect (Heb. 10:10, 14).
One way to describe Jesus’ representative work for sinners is to speak of his faith or faithfulness to the Father — a faithfulness we should have shown but have not, a faithfulness which is reckoned to all who place trust in Jesus for right standing with God. Paul literally says that we are “justified by the faith(fulness) OF Christ” and not by our own imperfect obedience to God’s commandments (Gal. 2:16). We believe God’s promise that he has set us right with himself through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ our representative.
By the sacrifice of his fleshly body, Jesus presented God with his perfect life of human obedience (Heb. 10:4-14). Jesus’ blood constituted the atoning sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 1:3; 9:11-14). There is no other sacrifice for sin, and no other offering which can set sinners right with God (Heb. 10:26). All that Jesus accomplished for sinners by his perfect “doing” and his perfect “dying” he did gratuitously, out of God’s kindness for sinners, and wholly undeserved by any of us. Our salvation is therefore “by grace” — for we do not deserve it, earn it, or contribute anything to it.