Hugh’s News & Views (“For by One Spirit We Were All Baptized . . .)



Two recent essays (April 19 and April 26) dealt with the one baptism of the Bible (Ephesians 4:5). The first addressed the “how” and “who” of that one baptism; the second addressed the “why” of the one true baptism set forth in the New Testament. We showed from the Scriptures that the one baptism is the baptism authorized by Christ in the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), baptism administered by men, in water, of penitent believers in Christ, in order for the persons to be saved from sin and inducted into the one body of the saved, the church.

A passage concerning baptism that has been puzzling to some and wrongly interpreted by others is I Corinthians 12:13 where the apostle Paul says: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (NKJV). Is Paul referring to something in this text that is different from what we see taking place in, for example, Acts 8 where Philip the evangelist baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in water? Is I Corinthians 12:13 speaking of some sort of “spiritual” baptism that is done “by” or “in” the Holy Spirit and that is different than the baptism authorized by Christ in the great commission?

Consider very carefully the following: If the baptism of I Corinthians 12:13 is different than baptism in water, then we are forced to acknowledge that there are two baptisms: one in water and the baptism of I Corinthians 12:13. But, of course, this “explanation” totally contradicts Ephesians 4:5.

Still further, if a preacher (or church) practices water baptism, but believes that the baptism that actually saves is the baptism of I Corinthians 12:13 and that this “saving baptism” precedes water baptism, then the preacher and the church are advocating two baptisms. On the other hand, if a preacher (or church) practices water baptism, but teaches that the “saving baptism” of I Corinthians 12:13 follows water baptism, then the preacher and church are again teaching two baptisms. But, if a preacher (or church) says that the “saving baptism” of I Corinthians 12:13 takes place concurrently with when a person is baptized in water, then water baptism becomes essential in order for the “saving baptism” of I Corinthians 12:13 to occur, and without water baptism (such as administered by Philip to the eunuch in Acts 8) the “saving baptism” of I Corinthians 12:13 does not and cannot take place! But, again, the Bible clearly affirms that there is but “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5)! Any explanation of I Corinthians 12:13 that conflicts with Ephesians 4:5 cannot be the right explanation.

With reference to I Corinthians 12:13, the great Bible scholars, J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton, wrote:

“Paul here proves the unity of the church by the method of its creation. One Spirit, acting through the apostles and all other evangelists and ministers (I Thess. 1:5), had begotten people of different races and nationalities and conditions (John 3:5), and had caused them to be baptized into the one church, and had bestowed itself upon them after they had been thus baptized (Acts 2:38). Thus it [the Spirit, hf] had made them one organism” (Commentary on Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, The Standard Publishing Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio [n.d.], p. 124).

The highly esteemed David Lipscomb said of the passage:

“The baptism is that commanded by Christ and the Holy Spirit, but inasmuch as it is done by the disciples under the direction of the Holy Spirit, it is said that the Spirit baptizes. God sent his Son, his Son sent the Holy Spirit as the abiding guest of the church of God, and he (the Spirit, hf) is ever present to guide and help every one walking under the guidance of the word of God” (A Commentary on First Corinthians, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1935, reprint 1960, p. 185).

Howard Winters has observed:

“When one is taught by the Spirit (through the Spirit-inspired Scriptures) to be baptized in the name of Christ (Mt. 28:18-20), he is baptized by the Spirit, not in the sense that the Spirit is the administrator or the element, but as the one who has revealed (authorized or directed) the baptism.” A little later he succinctly summarizes the matter by stating: “There can be no question then but that the baptism here (in I Corinthians 12:13, hf) is the baptism taught by the HS (Holy Spirit, hf) throughout the NT (New Testament, hf), the baptism of the great commission, the baptism in water, the only baptism ever authorized by the Father, Son, and HS (Holy Spirit, hf)” (Commentary on First Corinthians, Carolina Christian, Greenville, S.C. 29606, 1987, p. 169).

Thus, I Corinthians 12:13 is but further instructive teaching to Christians as to what transpires when one is baptized with the one baptism commanded by Christ in the great commission (Matthew 18:18-20; Mark 16:15-16): immersion in water, administered by men, to penitent believers, in order to be saved from sin and inducted into the spiritual body of Christ, the church!

Hugh Fulford
May 10, 2016

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