The apostle Paul addressed the question of Christian unity in Ephesians 4:1-16. The key to understanding this passage is the word "therefore" with which verse one begins. The unity of which Paul writes in Ephesians 4 must be understood in the broader context of the entire letter. Only those to whom the provisions and characteristics of chapters 1 to 3 apply can expect to enjoy the unity described in chapter 4.
The New English Bible correctly translates the words "unity of the faith" in Ephesians 4:13 as "the unity inherent in our faith." The unity of which Paul writes is that which Christians enjoy based upon their common faith, the beliefs which they share in common. This type of unity is a characteristic of our relationship with other Christians from the moment we become believers. It is not something we are required to manufacture. This unity is a spiritual quality of the body of Christ, and it applies only to those who share a common faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is based, not on our efforts to bring it about despite our differences, but on the common body of belief which we share as Christians -- that body of belief which Paul developed in chapters one through three of this letter.
In other words, spiritual unity IS, and those who share a common faith recognize that it exists. It may need to grow and mature and develop into its ultimate completeness and fullness, but it is there nonetheless. Spiritual unity is never jeopardized by drawing attention to the cardinal truths of the faith and even inquiring as to the degree to which other professing Christians hold those truths in common with us.
The Irreducible Minimum
Paul's instruction that we be "no more children... carried about by every wind of doctrine" is undergirded by two presuppositions.
First, it presupposes that even the youngest, most immature (but genuine) believer possesses a body of essential faith, truth and knowledge, albeit undeveloped at the moment
Second, it presupposes that false doctrine exists; that even as there is a body of essential truth which spiritual children will learn to appreciate more and more, at the same time there is a body of error, of false teaching, which they will need to recognize and guard against.
Christian faith is based upon a foundation of absolute truth. There is an irreducible minimum to our body of belief without which the term "Christian" is meaningless. What constitutes this absolute foundation, this irreducible minimum? It begins with the admission that human beings are helpless and hopeless because of sin and the fall. It continues with the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ, who was the Son of God and God the Son, makes salvation from sin possible through his perfect life of obedience to the law and by his death on the cross, in which He bore our guilt and the punishment which it rightly deserved, based on the law of God. That salvation becomes ours, individually, by faith alone, apart from any works or merit in ourselves. That is the truth without which there is no unity. There is more involved in being a Christian, of course, but this basic body of truth is essential and foundational.
Unity Tested, Not Threatened
When EAF raises questions about whether or not this truth is believed and taught by those in positions of authority in our denomination(s), we aren't threatening the unity of the spirit. We are testing it. And if there is no affirmation of these cardinal truths, then there is no spiritual unity to be threatened.
There is no true unity in a group of people who disagree over such fundamental questions as the fallenness of humanity, the judgment of God upon sin and unredeemed sinners, and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, in which He took upon Himself the wrath of God and the punishment for sin which rightly belongs to every human being and which ultimately will fall on those who die in their unbelief. EAF is divisive only if we assume that the veneer of peaceful coexistence, within a manmade organization, between those who accept this body of truth and those who reject it or redefine it, is preferable to the discomfort which accompanies the recognition that not everyone in the organization is building on the same foundation.
EAF maintains that there are those within the Anabaptist/Mennonite community who dispute and disagree with the fundamentals of the faith just outlined. Thus we take issue with those who portray us as the source of disunity in this communion. By drawing attention to the magnitude of differences that exist here, EAF exposes underlying disunity. We don't create it. Our critics may object to our methods, they may prefer that we not raise issues that provoke questions and make people uncomfortable. But they cannot, in good faith, accuse us of divisiveness.