Poetically we know one as the “loneliest number”. It is a concept we learn very early in life when we discover “me”. One can be a number or type of pronoun. Calculating with “one” is a major part of math that is done in science class. In the New Testament “one” stands in contrast to “many” the example here is “one Lord”. In Greek, it is used with other words to be “everyone” or “one another”. Greek has three different words that are used for one – heis, mia, and hen; these are male, female, and neutral forms of the word.
When Many are One
Ephesians 5:31 uses marriage to stress the point that “many can be one”. This verse on marriage was first stated in Genesis 2:24. Paul, however, expands this idea to cover the Body of Christ in numerous places: Romans 9:25, 1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:12,13,14-27; Galatians 3:28; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 3:15; Ephesians 2:14. To show the importance of one Paul uses the concept of marriage again but he does this with a negative – why not to visit a prostitute – 1 Corinthians 6: 15 – 17.
This whole line of thought may seem to contradict my earlier statement about one not being many! It is just the opposite, it shows us how we are to act within the Body of Christ. Jesus is coming for “A” bride. One bride!
Now, we are made of many parts but that does not mean we should not be one. Jesus being (your) Lord is more important than slight variations in personal or church doctrine.
Things That are One
Yes, Paul does talk of many things that are “one” but if you really look at what he says it will beat up many of the things Christians chose to fight about. In Acts and his letters Paul spends time addressing divisions in the Body. He condemns false teachings and teachers and corrects Peter and Barnabas about separating themselves from other believers. (Using Bible Gateway can make a hunt for these very easy.) Here are some of the things that Paul declares and teaches are one (not many): God, Father, Spirit, Lord, gospel, faith, baptism. Many of those “ones” are in Ephesians 4. In Ephesians 6:16 Paul reduces warfare and who we are to be fighting very nicely to the “evil one”.
This phrase is complicated! My Strong’s concordance puts the words “one” and “another” into the dreaded appendix section, while the Goodrick and Kohlenberger concordance (Zondervan NIV Concordance) does list them individually for better referencing. It also has a reference tool so you can find the words meaning in the Strong’s. This helped, but that shows there are three main words for “another”: Allelon which comes from allos and heteros. Allos and allelon should/could be understood as “another of the same sort” while heterosis “another of a different sort”.
I will use 1 Corinthians 12: 7-11 (NIV) as an example. I am adding the bold and alternate words.
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
8 To one (hos) there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom,
to another (same sort) a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,
9 to another (different sort) faith by the same Spirit,
to another (same sort) gifts of healing by that one (heis) Spirit,
10 to another (same sort) miraculous powers,
to another (same sort) prophecy,
to another (same sort) distinguishing between spirits,
to another (different sort) speaking in different kinds of tongues,
and to still another (same sort) the interpretation of tongues.
11 All these are the work of one (heis) and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Hos is a “female” word for who, etc. The “one” in vs.7 and the second “one” in vs. 11 are added for better reading in the NIV.
Reflection: Doing this is challenging some thoughts on the Gifts of the Spirit.