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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Oneness

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ONENESS.—The term ‘oneness’ (ἑνότης, translation ‘unity’) occurs only in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where it is twice used (Ephesians 4:3; Ephesians 4:13) in what may be called a moral sense, i.e. to express not a physical but a mental or spiritual idea. In that Epistle, where the writer has in view the Gentile world, fundamental ideas of unity are set forth more distinctly and emphatically than anywhere else in the Bible. There is one God, one Lord, one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6). Christ’s work is to ‘gather together in one’ (Ephesians 1:10), or, as it may be rendered, unite under one head, all created beings in earth or heaven. God had made ‘of one’ (Acts 17:26) all nations of men, but in the course of history divisions had prevailed and walls of partition (Ephesians 2:14) had been built. These separations were to cease. In the Kingdom of God, Jew and Gentile were reconciled, these two types being made ‘both one’ (Ephesians 2:14) in a union based on the deeper reconciliation of both to God (Ephesians 2:16). Hence the formation of one Body in which the individuals resemble the Head, and the whole is animated by unity of faith and character and life (Ephesians 4:13; Ephesians 4:16). These conceptions, so eloquently unfolded, are presuppositions of Christianity, and are implied, if not explicitly taught, in the Gospels. In Luke, in particular, emphasis is laid on the work of the Redeemer in the saving of the outcast, the sinful, and the lost. This is the subject of the three parables in ch. 15 and of the parable of the Banquet in ch. 14. To these may be added the parable of the Good Samaritan (ch. 10), the story of Zacchaeus (ch. 19), and the description of the Kingdom of God as containing men from all parts of the world (Luke 13:29, cf. Matthew 8:11). These correspond with the saying of St. Paul (Galatians 3:28), that ‘all are one in Christ Jesus.’ In Mt., again, we have the doctrine of the Church (Matthew 16:18), of the mystic presence of Christ with His people (Matthew 18:20, Matthew 28:20), and of the power of union in commanding answer to prayer (Matthew 18:19). And in the closing verses (Matthew 28:18) the universal Headship of Christ is fully announced.

It is in St. John’s Gospel, however, that conceptions of oneness are most pointedly set forth. We note the following:

1. The oneness of Christ and God (John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11; John 17:22). The declarations, ‘I and the Father are one,’ ‘he that hath seen me hath seen the Father,’ may or may not be designed to teach identity of essence; they at least express a practical identity as far as human relations are concerned. They imply the moral perfection of Jesus so that His life and example become the manifestation of the Divine; and not moral perfection only, for His character and teaching constitute the revelation of the Father Other passages indicate the mutual knowledge and love of the Father and the Son, and their mutual indwelling (John 17:21-25); but the main lesson is that Christ is for us the revealer and representative of God.

2. The oneness of Christ and His people.—This thought is embodied in the allegory of the Vine (John 15:1-8). The branches are a part of the vine, and when separated are dead. The unity is therefore that of a common life, and it is indicated in the phrases that express mutual indwelling. The idea is substantially the same as in the figure of the Body which is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:23), and even in the figure of the Temple or spiritual house of which Christ is the foundation and His people are as living stones (1 Peter 2:5, Ephesians 2:21). This oneness is not of equality; for the vine is greater than the branches; the head is the source of the life, and occupies a position of authority. Jesus possessed the Spirit without measure, and His life marks the ideal towards which His followers are to strive (Ephesians 4:13). But it is a oneness of life, though in the conditions of normal human existence the Divine is often obscured, and at best is only partially exhibited. This oneness of Christ and His people is represented as parallel to the oneness of the Father and the Son; in respect of mutual knowledge (John 10:14-15), community of life (John 17:21), and the love which issues from the Father and the Son (John 15:9). Hence the loving obedience of the disciple to his Lord should correspond to the consecration of the Son to the Father (John 15:10).

3. The oneness of Christ’s people as constituting a Body or Church, is expressed in the metaphor of the one flock (John 10:16 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ), divided amongst Jewish and Gentile folds. And to the same effect is the assertion that Christ is to ‘gather together into one’ the children scattered abroad (John 11:52). The first of these texts contradicts the claim of a particular organization to be the sole Church of Christ. Both of them belong to a far loftier sphere of thought, which conceives the Church as a great spiritual organism, embracing those of every land and age who are redeemed and sanctified, and who by the power of God live for His Kingdom and glory.

4. But the conception of a catholic Church one and holy carries us away from any visible condition of things; and the moral oneness of faith and love which every company of Christians should exhibit presents itself as an unrealized ideal. The first years of Christianity were indeed a period of singular oneness (Acts 4:32). But harmony gave place to discord as new questions of thought and practice had to be faced. Consequently we find St. Paul pouring out his heart in pleas and prayers for oneness of mind and heart and soul (Philippians 2:2). In anticipation of such troublous times, Christ makes oneness a main burden of His last prayer with His disciples (John 17:11; John 17:21-26), as He makes mutual love the sum of His closing commandments (John 15:9-13). Such oneness, resting on the basis of Divine fellowship and the possession of Christlike excellence, becomes a means of the attainment of perfection (John 17:23). For, without social relationship and the mutual support of interdependent men, human nature cannot truly realize itself or completely fulfil the end of its creation.

Literature.—A. Maclaren, Holy of Holies, 168 ff., 199 ff.; Rendel Harris, Union with God, 41 ff., 127 ff.

R. Scott.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Oneness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/o/oneness.html. 1906-1918.

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