Exegetical Notes on Ephesians (3)- (4:5)

“one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (4:5)

The triad according to Witherington might reflect a form of traditional utterance which might have been used in a baptismal service.[1] O’Brian also echoes what Witherington has mentioned but further suggests that it might not be the only affirmation.[2] On the word ‘Lord’, O’Brian explains that the early Christians used as associated with Yahweh of the OT. It is one of Paul’s favourite designations for Jesus and it accords him with the early Christians in the use. Accordingly in this letter alone it is used in some twenty references.[3] The reference to Jesus as Lord in this manner speaks of him being exclusively the believer’s one Lord over against the notion of other gods as well.[4]

The three triads can be understood as a whole. The two concerning ‘one faith’ and ‘one baptism’ come in response to the understanding of ‘One Lord.’ Bruce explains them as the ‘one Lord’ is “the object of his people’s faith (Eph. 3:12) and it is into him that they have been baptized (Rom. 6:3; Gal 3:27). The “one faith” is not their common body of belief (even if it is mentioned in a creedal context); it is their common belief in Christ.”[5]

O’Brian further comments on the understanding of the ‘one faith,’ where it comes in connection with ‘One Lord’ and has to do with the common belief that we have which is Christ. O’Brian sees this more an objectives sense in meaning where he states that “The former is probably objective, as many commentators suppose, referring to the substance of one’s faith (Jude 3), their common body of belief.” If it is subjective then O’ Brian contends that “it denotes the act or attitude of believing in Christ which is common to all members of one body.”[6] I concur with this explanation as the flow of the triad alludes to this. It is too reductionistic to assume that this ‘one faith’ assumes a creedal belief but as unity is stressed in the context of this verse it assumes the belief of what Christians hold essential, namely Jesus, the ‘one Lord.’[7]

The last phrase, which is ‘one baptism,’ simply denotes the understanding in connection with “one Lord” which is baptised in Jesus.[8] This must be explained further because it is through the rite of baptism in water, the initiating symbol of the Christian’s union with Jesus.[9] O’Brian further notes that in Gal 3:27-28 and 1 Corinthians 12:13 have this same expression of baptism having to do with union.[10]


[1] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians and the Ephesians. p.286

[2] O’Brian, Peter. The Letters to the Ephesians. p.282

[3] Ibid., p.283

[4] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians and the Ephesians. p.286

[5] Bruce, F.F. The Epistles to the Collosians to Philemon and to the Ephesians.,p.336

[6] O’ Brian, Peter. The Letters to the Ephesians. p.283

[7] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians and the Ephesians. p.286

[8] Bruce, F.F. The Epistles to the Collosians to Philemon and to the Ephesians.,p.336-337

[9] Witherington III, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians and the Ephesians. p.286-287

[10] O’ Brian, Peter. The Letters to the Ephesians. p.284

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