There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism(Ephesians 4:4,5).

Question: This passage teaches that there are how many bodies, Spirits, Lords, and faiths? Is the answer not “one” for each question? And then, how many baptisms? If there is but one Lord Jesus, then at the writing of this passage to the Ephesians there is only one baptism. Right?

From The Many To The One. Historically, there have been several Biblical “baptisms” (“immersions” or “dippings”). There were divers washings imposed in the OT Priestly worship until Christ became our High Priest (Hebrews 9:10,11). The word baptism continued in the NT for the sinful Pharisaic ritualistic washings of oneself condemned by our Lord (Luke 11:38 as in 2 Kings 5:14, "dipped himself," Septuagint). A different baptism was introduced from heaven (Matthew 21:25) during the earthly ministry of Jesus and referred in Acts 1:5; 11:16; 19:4, to the unique baptism performed by John “the Baptist.” This baptism was no longer acceptable after all authority was given to Jesus (Acts 19:4,5). Distinct from all these baptisms is the "baptism" enjoined by Christ after the cross (e.g., Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15,16), a "baptism" to be undergone by believers, identifying with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.i And then there is another baptism introduced and performed strictly by the Lord Jesus which is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Two Baptisms At The “Beginning”. Peter refers to the inaugural Pentecost event in Acts 2 as “the beginning” (Acts 11:15). This was after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ and on this day there were two baptisms: (1) the Holy Spirit baptism of the apostles performed directly from heaven by Jesus and (2) the water baptism commanded by the Spirit and the Lord Jesus through these men (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 38). Baptisms of the OT were nailed to the cross (Hebrews 9:10; Colossians 2:14-17). John the Baptist’s baptism had ended when belief in Jesus as Lord was commanded(Acts 19:4,5).

The One Baptism Of Ephesians 4:5. When did the apostle write this statement that there was now but one baptism? An ancient writer, Ignatius of Antioch (37-107 A.D.), attributes Ephesians to Paul and Timothy.ii If so, then the letter to the Ephesians at the earliest would have been written from prison in Rome (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20); this was around the year 61 or 62.iii   Cornelius’ Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 10; 11) followed by Peter’s command to be baptized in water is the last recorded instance of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit (estimated at about the years 37-40 ADiv). So if there was only one baptism in Ephesus, what was it? Was it not the Lord’s commanded baptism in water?

The Ephesian’s Sanctifying and Cleansing Baptism (Ephesians 5). Actually, we are told what the “one baptism” is in the following chapter (Ephesians 5): the one baptism is identified as the water baptism. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church(Ephesians 5:25-27a). Water baptism is the only “washing of water.” It cleanses and sanctifies by the Holy Spirit’s word.v Vincent’s Word Studies comments, “the word” is “To be connected with having cleansed (the church) by the laver of water.” Augustine aptly comments, “Take away the word, and what is the water but water?” Hence, the one baptism in Ephesians is the “water baptism” commanded by the Lord's Spirit through the apostles (1 Corinthians 12:13).

This One Baptism Saves The One Body of Christ.     The one body of the Ephesians is the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23). Water baptism is the only baptism that sanctifies and cleanses. It is part of the new birth (John 3:3,5). The “washing of water” is the same word that’s used for the “new-birth washing” in Titus 3:5; i.e., baptism.vi But according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The Ephesians were reminded that the same Jesus who loved them, the church, had cleansed them, the one body, by the one baptism in water by the Word. This is the action that fits Jesus’ prayer, “Sanctify them through Thy Truth; Thy Word is Truth(John 17:17). We are sanctified (made saints) through the Word. Water baptism is commanded by the Spirit’s Truth (Acts 10:47,48).vii

This Water Baptism Justifies.And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Ye are washed”— The Greek middle voice expresses, “Ye have had yourselves washed.” In Acts 22:16 it is used also in the Middle Voice, in the command given to Saul of Tarsus, "arise and be baptized”; the significance again of the Middle Voice form is the command to "get thyself baptized."; i.e., have someone to baptize you like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:36).  

        Water baptism is the only baptism that matches this washing . The Holy Spirit baptism does not do it. “Washed” accompanies both sanctification and justification. The Holy Spirit’s command of “water baptism” is the only baptism that’s reveals the sanctifying righteousness of God that is by faith (Romans 1:16,17; Mark 16:15,16). It is the only baptism that justifies from condemnation through the righteousness of God. It is the only baptism in Christ that puts on the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27).   It is the only baptism that is in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Holy Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11, above paragraph).

Peter was very clear when he told the people on Pentecost to ‘repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’ Acts 2:38. Baptism is not a ritual to impress men, it is an act of obedience as one yields to God. ‘There is also an antitype which now saves us - baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh), but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ 1 Peter 3:21. Connect this with Colossians 2:11-12.”viii

Conclusion. There is one baptism thats a basis for unity in the church.  The “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) is the same baptism of the Great Commission (Mark 16:15,16; etc.). It is not the baptisms of the Old Testament, nor the baptisms in the “synoptic gospels” of Jesus (Acts 19:1-7). Neither is it the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is the baptism commanded by the words of the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is a spiritual baptism in that the Holy Spirit commands its deed. It is the baptism that adds one to the church (Acts 2:41,47) which is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18). “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14).

HYPOCRISY? Someone has written, reasonably I think, that to teach that the “one baptism” is the baptism of the Holy Spirit while practicing and requiring a second baptism in water as an “ordinance” of the denomination is hypocrisy. The Holy Spirit’s word teaches but one baptism and that’s the one that one obeys and which is for the “remission of sins” and the one that “adds one” to the Lord’s church..


Throw Out The Lifeline

i E.g., Acts 19:5; Romans 6:3,4; 1 Corinthians 1:13-17; 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12.

ii http://www.datingthenewtestament.com/Ephesians.htm

iii https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_to_the_Ephesians

ivhttp://biblehub.com/timeline/acts/1.htm; http://www.generationword.com/bible_school_notes/Timeline%20of%20Acts.htm; https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/pnt/pnt02.cfm

vSee my article on the Holy Spirit as the Word of God [Rhema].

vi According to Strong’s Dictionary is from G3068, louo, which word was used for the “baptism” of the priests in the OT (Exodus 40:12, ABP, etc.). See article on baptisms in the OT. Robinson claims the word can mean laver [our baptistry] or washing.

vii Testimony from a Baptist Manual; “then” and “now” for water baptism’s importance. The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches states concerning church membership, "It is most likely that in the Apostolic Age, when there was but 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,' and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed with all the rights and privileges of full fellowship. In that sense, 'baptism was the door of the church.' Now it is different." My question to the wise therefore is, “By whose authority was it changed from the Spirit’s Truth? Is this change from heaven or men?” (compare Matthew 21:25).

viii T. Thornhill, The Etna Enlightener vol.6 no.17.