You do not start with fellowship, you must start with doctrine. There is no fellowship apart from the doctrine. The order is absolutely vital…*
It is the age of ecumenicity, with endless talk and writing about unity, union and re-union. How important it is therefore that we should consider what the Apostle has to say concerning this theme. There is much loose talk with regard to it; but our concern should always be scriptural; we must get to know exactly what the New Testament teaches about this matter.
The first thing, therefore, which we must look at is the character, or the nature, of the unity. We start by observing that the Apostle is not merely appealing for some general spirit of friendship, brotherliness, or camaraderie. Neither is he appealing only for some common aim or a series of common aims as against something which is a common enemy. These negatives are important because so much of the modern talk about unity is entirely in such terms. It is all very vague and nebulous. Frequently the call to unity is stated in terms of the fact that the world of today is sadly divided. As on the one hand there are atheistic powers, Communism and Humanism, so on the other hand, we are told, it is the business of all who in any way believe in God to come together and to act together. We must not be too particular in regard to what we believe, but we must have the spirit of fellowship and of friendship and of working together against the common enemy.
Clearly we must examine this attitude, and must keep this modern idea of unity in our minds as we follow the Apostle’s teaching in this chapter. We must stress at once one thing which is of the utmost importance. Whatever be the unity of which the Apostle speaks, it is a unity that results directly from all he has been saying in the first three chapters of the Epistle. You must not start in chapter 4 of the Epistle to the Ephesians. To do so is to violate the context and to ignore the word ‘Therefore’. In other words you cannot have Christian unity unless it is based upon the great doctrines outlined in chapters 1 to 3. ‘Therefore’! So if anyone comes to you and says, ‘It does not much matter what you believe; if we call ourselves Christians, or if we believe in God in any sense, come, let us all work together’, you should say in reply, ‘But, my dear Sir, what about chapters 1 to 3 of the Epistle to the Ephesians? I know of no unity except that which is the outcome of, and the offspring of, all the great doctrines which the Apostle lays down in those chapters’. Whatever this unity may be, we are compelled to say that it must be theological, it must be doctrinal, it must be based upon an understanding of the truth.
*Sargent, T. (2007). Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Anthology of Quotations from ‘the Doctor’ (305). Milton Keynes, England; Colorado Springs, CO; Hyderabad, AP: Paternoster.
*Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1972). Christian Unity: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:1–16 (36–37). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.