All Christians can unite around water baptism

Published 11:16 am Thursday, May 28, 2020

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QUESTION: What is the one baptism which Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4?
This is a very good question and I appreciate the writer and their desire for truth and knowledge. As we consider this question, it is one like most that I receive in which it is best to let the Word of God answer for itself. There are some biblical questions that are more difficult to discern an answer to than others. To the novice Bible student and even to some more learned individuals this is one of those questions. There is little doubt that this question is in response to the statement of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul said, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” As we study this text it is necessary to examine various other scriptures to determine the correct answer; doing otherwise leaves the Bible student lacking for an answer or drawing to an improper conclusion to the question.
The New Testament will give us the answer if we will only study and allow it to do so. As you read through the New Testament, there are various baptisms that are mentioned. But which one is the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5?
In Matthew 3:10-12, we read of the baptism of fire. However, we know the baptism Paul spoke of in Ephesians is not the one mentioned here. The baptism in Matthew 3 appears to be a reference to fires of an eternal hell. The Baptism in Matthew is said to occur in the future; but the one baptism which Paul speaks of is occurring in the present.
The one baptism which Paul spoke of cannot be the baptism of suffering we read about in (Matthew 20:20-23) because Jesus was speaking to James and John specifically and they would be the recipients of it. The one baptism Paul speaks of is a baptism that all Christians have experienced and are united into one body, the church of Christ.
Many claim Paul is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, we see that it cannot be the baptism in the Holy Spirit because that specific baptism was for a select few and would be done to them (Acts 1:4,5; 2:1-4; John 14-16). The one baptism mentioned in Ephesians 4:1-6 is something that all Christians have experienced and choose to do according to scriptures (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Acts 2:38).
There are many which think it is the same baptism that Jesus obeyed in Matthew 3. It cannot be the water baptism administered on Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17) because this baptism was for the purpose of fulfilling all righteousness. We need to remember that Jesus was to do the complete will of God. We should also remember that Jesus had no sin and the water baptism Paul spoke of was in no doubt for the remission of sin and for the purpose of admission into the body, the Church, and into Jesus (Gal. 3:26-27, Romans 6:1ff). The “one baptism” Paul spoke of was a baptism that all Christians have experienced because they were in all need of salvation from sin.
It cannot be the baptism of Moses because that was a “baptism” that the children of Israel experienced through the Red Sea before entering into the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:1-4). No Christian experienced that baptism.
It cannot be the water baptism administered by John the Baptist/Immerser and Jesus during their personal ministries (Mark 1:4; John 4:1-2). That baptism of repentance was for the remission of sins and was intended for the Jewish population. After the cross, John’s baptism was no longer in effect because one of the qualifications of it was to believe on Him (Jesus) who was to come (Acts 19:4). The 12 men at Ephesus were baptized with the baptism of John after it had become null and void and needed to be baptized under the water baptism of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Therefore, the only other baptism that is left is the water baptism under the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). All Christians can unite around this one baptism because all were baptized into Christ and into His body (Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The element of this baptism is “water” as is seen in Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 3:21.
(Tony Hoss is minister of Centerview Church of Christ, Elizabethton.)

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