Given the many different types of water baptism in the New Testament - that of John the Baptist - that of Jesus himself - that of the early church in Acts chapter two - and what we know of Pharisaic baptism - how can Paul speak in Ephesians 4 about one baptism and that be applied to water? Does it not make much more sense that the one baptism is similar to that mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 - of Spirit baptism?:

KJV Eph 4:5  One Lord, one faith, one baptism

KJV 1Co 12:13  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

  • Good question. Up-voted.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 6 '17 at 0:41
  • Can you edit to indicate which specific verses you are referring to?
    – user33515
    Dec 6 '17 at 3:34
  • Baptism isn't just water. It's water and the Spirit. That's why the redeeming blood of Christ, the regeneration of the Spirit are to be found in baptism: the water, the blood and the Spirit. These three are one. To put them at odds is itself at odds with Scripture and the perennial understanding of baptism. Dec 7 '17 at 23:17
  • In the scriptures they are clearly considered distinct. For example Cornelius was baptized in the spirit before he was water baptized. But again, water baptism was pre-Pauline. And Paul doesn't teach "baptism in the Spirit" either. That was Jesus' baptism. He taught that the saints are "baptized BY one spirit INTO Christ". The baptism in the Spirit is Pentecost which was for the Jews in preparation for the arrival of the kingdom of God (which has not yet arrived, as God planned).
    – Ruminator
    Aug 14 '18 at 22:02

The OP asks the meaning of the phrase "one baptism" in Ephesians 4.5.

The phrase in context reads as follows:

(1) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (2) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (7) But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it… (Ephesians 4.1-7, NIV)

The Greek of verses 4-6 reads as follows (UBS, 5th edition):

4ἓν σῶμα καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα, καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν 5εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα, 6εἷς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ πάντων, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν.

So the short answer is that "baptism" in this instance is completely unqualified. Paul says nothing directly associated with that word to indicate exactly what he meant. Baptism means… baptism. That's it.

However in context we can make some observations. First, this is not the only word which is unqualified and therefore ambiguous. For instance, what does "faith" mean? Is Paul talking about the individual faith that a believer has in Jesus? Or is he referring to the faith of the church at large, in a credal sense? He may be thinking of the teaching of the early church passed on in a catechismal sense. (We get a hint of this process in passages such as Philippians 2.6-11 and 1 Corinthians 15.3-8.) The fact is that we don't know for sure and are not told.

The second observation leads on from the first. In this whole passage, the focus is elsewhere. The reason these words are unqualified is because the overwhelming emphasis is on the number 1. Seven times in verses 4-6 Paul declares the oneness of the Christian faith. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

This follows on from the previous chapters where Paul has argued for the comprehensive nature of God's salvation in Christ. For example, Christ is the one who by his body the church will powerfully fill all things (Ephesians 1.22-23). He is the one who has brought together in his one body the separated Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2.11-22). So in chapter 4 Paul wants to apply these wonderful truths. You are one body in Christ; so live out that oneness in all your relationships (Ephesians 4.1-3).

So Paul's answer to this question would surely be, "It's irrelevant!" What's important is that whatever kind of faith is discussed, let it be a discussion that builds unity in Jesus. And whatever baptism is in focus, let the focus be on how baptism is always connected with Jesus, always into Jesus.

As was mentioned in the comments, it's unhelpful to draw a stark contrast between water and Spirit baptism. If we do that, we rob water baptism of its significance. Why have water baptism at all, if the only reality is at the Spirit level? The sense one gets from the New Testament writings is that it was a complete package. Water pointed to the Spirit. The Spirit was experienced in the act of water baptism. A good example is found in 1 Peter:

[Those on the ark] were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. (1 Peter 3.20-21)

Here Peter starts with the story of Noah and the flood, and argues that this is a foreshadowing of baptism: in the same way God saved Noah and his family through the water, so we are saved through the waters of baptism. He makes the connection between water and salvation so strongly that he feels the need to pause for a moment and clarify. It's not that the water itself saves us, as if we can wash our sins away like we wash dirt off our hands. But then he's straight back to his original point. The water itself is a pledge of our clean conscience before God, and this is true because of the resurrection of Jesus. Of course they are not the same, but they are so closely wound together that sometimes it's hard to see where one ends and the other begins.

We need to have the same humble confidence in the power and significance of baptism in our time.

  • Peter was a minister of the gospel of the circumcision to the circumcision (Gal 2:7) so nothing of his example is normative for the gentile assembly. IE: You can't define Paul by Peter or the others of the twelve or even by the earthly Jesus. Unlike the 12, Paul was not sent to baptize. The 12 were, but Paul wasn't. Mixing up the mission of Jesus and the 12 with Paul is one of most significant errors of our day.
    – Ruminator
    Mar 23 '18 at 16:03
  • Hi @Ruminator, Thanks for your comment, but I disagree with nearly every sentence in it. Overall I don't believe I've mixed up Peter and Paul. I accept that the different threads in the early church story must be given due weight. But I also think that your extreme of a complete division between Peter and Paul is wrong. For instance the evidence is that Paul preached to both Jews and Gentiles, and many of the churches he wrote to had mixed membership. However the rules prevent us from having extended debates in the comments. I'm happy to discuss this further in the chat room if you wish. Mar 24 '18 at 12:44

1 CORINTHIANS 1:17 — “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. . . "

In this setting Paul is addressing a problem in the church at Corinth. Some of those Christians were inordinately enamored with the person who had immersed them — even to the point of adopting the baptizer’s name as a religious appellation (vv. 12-13). In view of such a perversion, the apostle was thankful that he had personally immersed only a few of these people (vv. 14-16).

It was within that context that Paul said: “For Christ sent me not to baptize.” The word “baptize” here denotes “to administer the rite” of baptism (J.H. Thayer, Greek Lexicon, p. 94). Paul was not sent to be an administrator of baptism; his primary mission was to proclaim the gospel. But the inspired apostle was not disassociating baptism from the gospel; rather, he was suggesting that no special adoration was to be attached to the one administering the rite.

Sometimes baptism refers to the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) which was bestowed upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and which later was granted to the household of Cornelius in order to demonstrate divine approval of God’s acceptance of the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-17).

Usually, however, when the term “baptized” is employed, the reference is to a water ritual associated with the remission of sins—whether during John the Baptizer’s ministry (Mark 1:4), or later in the Christian age (Acts 2:38). On the day of Pentecost, there were thus two “baptisms”—one upon the apostles (2:4), Holy Spirit baptism and another in water for penitent believers (2:38, 41).

It appears strange to some, therefore, that Ephesians 4:5 stresses the fact that there is but “one baptism.” What is the one baptism? Spirit baptism, or water baptism?

It is clearly water baptism for the following reasons:

The baptism of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) was water baptism—as evidenced by the fact that it had a human administrator. It was to last till the end of the world. Consequently, Holy Spirit baptism is eliminated. F.F. Bruce says: “baptism in the New Testament is always baptism in water unless the context shows it to be something else; that is to say, the word is always to be understood literally unless the context indicates a figurative meaning." There is nothing in this passage to indicate a figurative usage. This passage is a strong argument against Holy Spirit baptism today.

  • The Great Commission was for the last days of the temple-centric dispensation which ended in 70 AD, not for the Church age which began with Paul: 1Co_1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. Paul brought "faith without religious activities".
    – Ruminator
    Aug 16 '18 at 9:19

If the Greek word "baptizo" had rightfully been translated, instead of just being transliterated there might not be such confusion surrounding "baptism" today. Strongs Gr. 907 "'βαπτίζω" meaning to dip under, to submerge, or immerse. The KJV had a political problem on their hands during the 17th century AD as the practice of sprinkling had replaced the practice of immersion and the King had not been immersed. So their fear of the king's reaction caused them to misstep and they incorporated the Greek word into the English translation. It means to be immersed. See Biblehub

The next issue is the misunderstanding of "type" or "kind" of baptism / immersion. John was immersing those who came to him at the river Jordan for repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah. John's father, Zechariah was the High Priest at the time of his and Jesus' conception. Zechariah was burning incense at the altar of incense when Gabriel appeared to him (Luke 1:9-20). The people outside the temple were very worried when Zecharia did not reappear for some time because if the High Priest had not done everything exactly according to the law he would be killed in the Holy of Holies. See articles here and here.

Therefore, Zecharia's son John through his mother's lineage to Aaron (Luke 1:5) was the last true Levitical High Priest, and the only one who could anoint the Messiah transferring the Levitcal priesthood to that of the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:11-12) under Christ Yeshua.

"11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." (KJV)

So, John's form of baptism was water immersion for a time period that was preparing people for the next age under the new covenant of the gospel of Christ.

The scribes and Pharisees came to observe what he was doing at the river so that they could report back to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, and John told them in Matt. 3:7-12,

"7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (KJV)

In the context of this setting, the scribes and Pharisees were not seeking repentance, and were not being immersed in the river. John was speaking directly to them. This was not a generic statement that would apply to all people of all time.

John called them for what they were - a generation of vipers. John was not speaking to them of salvation, but was prophesying their doom. John's actions of immersion were compared to the action of judgment from God - wrath to come. The warning that Christ was going to immerse them in the Holy Spirit with fire and would purge his threshing floor; the warning that the axe was already at the root of the tree was the immersion into their destruction.

They were immersed into God's fiery judgment at the destruction of that temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. God's fury is fire (Lam. 2:4). The use of the word fire in prophesy was always a judgment action for the wicked. It was metaphorical, sometimes carried out literally in that judgment (Sodom & Gomorrah), and sometimes carried out as a destructive army flooding over the land (Jer. 46:7-8). But, it was always expressed as the fire of God's fury.

So being baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire was a pronouncement of judgment, not of their salvation, and is not to be misconstrued as a new type of baptism for salvation. Matt. 3:7-12 is being misapplied by many today.

And, then we have the involvement of the Spirit in the baptisms in Acts, where the promise from Joel was fulfilled of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. By carefully reviewing Paul's interaction with the men of Ephesus in Acts 19 we can see a distinction.

"4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." (KJV)

Paul baptized them, and then he laid his hands upon them. The gift of the Holy Spirit was not an automatic result of the water baptism / immersion. The apostle had to lay his hands upon them to give that Holy Spirit gift. These spiritual gifts were for a time period during the first century AD (Acts 2:38-39)

"... For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, ... (KJV)

so that the people could have affirmation from God that what they were hearing was truly God's word, authorized by Him for the changes in the Law. They did not have the written texts of the NT scriptures. They had to have confirmation, and the miracles were always used to confirm the word (Acts 2:22).

We can also see that the gift of the Spirit was not available to Simon, who wanted to purchase it for his profit (Acts 8:9-22). Paul told Timothy to be careful to "lay hands suddenly on no man" (1 Tim 5:22), meaning he was to check with the Spirit to see who would be worthy of the gift. All of the miraculous gifts ceased in that generation -the end of the Jewish age under the law of Moses - which was completed at the destruction of Jerusalem.

Do we really see these miraculous gifts today of healing, speaking in foreign languages, etc? Then we have to acknowledge that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of Joel's prophesy (Joel 2:28-29) was finished when that which was perfect / complete was made available - the written word, the books of the NT.

The command is still the same (Mark 16:16). When we are baptized into Christ, we are being put into the assembly of Christ of the one and only faith, the one and only Spirit, and the one and only baptism.

Gal. 3:27,

"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (KJV)

Water baptism / immersion is the command. It has not changed, it has only been misunderstood. We have the Spirit through the study and knowledge of the word of God. Being of the same mind, being of the same body we become "one" with Christ and our Father in heaven (Phil. 1:27).

More on baptism at my blog: ShreddingTheVeil

  • 1Co_12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body [ie: Christ], whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. Not by water. "Faith without religious activities".
    – Ruminator
    Aug 15 '18 at 15:08
  • @Ruminator, clinging to that doctrine in the face of the evidences for all commands to be baptized / immersed in water is not wise. The Spirit does the work at the baptism of putting us into the one body. It does not eliminate the actual baptism process. John 3:5..."born of the water and the spirit..." The water is necessary and was foreshadowed at the Passover in Egypt. Ex. 12:22, "...take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood ..." Strong's Heb. 2881 'tabal" to dip or plunge. Dipping the hyssop into the blood of the lamb > dipping / immersing into the blood of Christ.
    – Gina
    Aug 15 '18 at 23:19
  • Cont'd @ Ruminator... Rom. 6:3 "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" It is through the act of immersion into the water that we are entered into Christ's death, burial and resurrection. We have to do that part, then the Spirit adds us to the book of life.
    – Gina
    Aug 15 '18 at 23:21
  • 1
    Please restrain from spreading your preterist view for just a moment and just answer the questions please. It's almost impossible to ask a preterist anything without them bringing up 70 ad and certain things not applying after the 1st century. That's all nonsense. I do agree about the doctrine of water baptism still Applying today though. Do you have any solid evidence on the claim about king James?
    – diego b
    Aug 21 '18 at 15:54
  • 1
    @Gina actually it's yoyr new modern hyper preterist view that was completely foreign to the early church and the scriptures. What do you say to the objection thay people male about people like Abrhaam and the prophets saved without baptism
    – diego b
    Aug 22 '18 at 0:21

Water baptism was "fulfilled" by Jesus since it was a "baptism of repentance; believing that Jesus was coming" (Acts 19:4) performed by John "under the law." John said in Matthew 3:11 "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance...[but] He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with FIRE." He also said in John 1:33 "And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water...the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" and in John 3:30 "He [Holy Ghost baptism] must INCREASE, but I [water baptism] must DECREASE."

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 [paraphrasing] that "Every JOT and TITTLE would be fulfilled that was done under the law" which included John's water baptism of "repentance; believing that Jesus was coming" (Acts 19:4)!

Before Jesus' ascension, He told the disciples in Acts 1:5 "For John verily baptized with water; BUT [look up the definition] ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" which "fulfilled" water baptism "not many days hence."

Unfortunately, Peter DIDN'T LISTEN and gave a 'formula' to receive the "FREE GIFT" in Acts 2:38 which he found out was IN ERROR in Acts 11:15-16 when he "REMEMBERED" what Jesus said in Acts 1:5.

Therefore, we see all those ERRONEOUS water baptisms throughout the Book of Acts!

However, AFTER receiving "revelation" in Acts 11:15-16, Peter NEVER water baptized again but Paul allegedly performed the last water baptism in Acts Chapter 19 but listen to the two questions Paul asked the "certain disciples" (v1) in verses 2 and 3. "Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?" (v2) THEN IMMEDIATELY (v3) "How were you baptized?" indicating that there was "AN ASSOCIATION" between "receiving the Holy Ghost" and "being baptized!"

After the "certain disciples" replied that they "Had only been baptized unto John's baptism, Paul NEGATES John's baptism in verse 4 when he says "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should BELIEVE JESUS WAS COMING" [paraphrasing]. Now bear in mind that Paul had JUST SAID that the water baptism of John's was only one of "repentance; believing that Jesus was coming" which these "certain DISCIPLES" had already had, yet Paul turns right around and performs ANOTHER John's baptism of "repentance; BELIEVING THAT JESUS WAS COMING."

What was wrong with Paul? Why did he ask them "Have you received the Holy Ghost since your believed?" and asked "How were you BAPTIZED?" if he didn't know that Holy Spirit baptism was now the "one baptism" mentioned in Ephesians 4:5? Why would he NEGATE John's water baptism of repentance; BELIEVING THAT JESUS WAS COMING" and turn right around and perform another on these "certain DISCIPLES?" Didn't Paul know that "JESUS HAD COME?"

There are TOO MANY LIES "entwined in Scripture!"

I've had oppossers say "They had to be water baptized AGAIN into the name of Jesus!" Didn't Paul just say water baptism was John's baptism and one of "repentance; believing that Jesus was coming" (Acts 19:4)? Didn't John say "His mission [water baptism] was about to DECREASE as Jesus' (aka Holy Spirit baptism) would INCREASE" (John 3:30). Didn't John say "...HE would baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (John 1:33)? Didn't Jesus say "EVERYTHING done under the law would be fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18)? Wasn't John's water baptism "under the law?" Didn't Jesus say "John baptized with water BUT ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:5)? Didn't Jesus say "But ye shall receive POWER after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you..." (Acts 1:8)? Doesn't Ephesians 4:5 say "one baptism?"

It's obvious that water baptism was fulfilled because Paul defined "baptism" as Holy Spirit baptism throughout the Epistles after "revelation!" In Romans 6:4 Paul defines baptism as Holy Spirit baptism when he said "LIKE AS Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father" which is Holy Spirit baptism. In I Corinthians 12:13 he says "For we were all baptized into ONE SPIRIT..." which is Holy Spirit baptism. In Galatians 3:27 Paul said "For as many of you who were baptized INTO Christ (aka Holy Spirit) have put on Christ." In Colossians 2:12 "Buried with Him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the OPERATION OF GOD..." which is Holy Spirit baptism.

JESUS didn't LIE in Matthew 5:17-18! HE fulfilled water baptism which was done "under the law" in Acts 1:5 when He used the "JOT" - "BUT" but Peter didn't listen as evidenced in Acts 11:15-16 when he "REMEMBERED!"


  • The question was not about the continuation of water baptism so it was not actually answering the question.
    – Ken Banks
    Mar 28 '18 at 15:15
  • The question was concerning the "one baptism" mentioned in Eph 4:5 being the same as in I Cor 12:13 and the answer is YES and was NOT about the continuation of water baptism. There is ONLY "one baptism" which is Holy Spirit baptism because Jesus "fulfilled" John's water baptism of "Repentance; believing that Jesus was coming" (Acts 19:4). An explanation was given as to why but because mainstream Christianity continues to water baptize a "Repentance, believing that Jesus is coming" baptism; it's unacceptable? What is this? A mainstream Christianity site? Apr 5 '18 at 18:53
  • Ever heard of new "REVELATION" (Galatians 1:12)? Apr 5 '18 at 18:59

John baptized the Jews into repentance in preparation to receive their messiah and to serve as a nation of priests in the kingdom of God (which never appeared, yet):

Mat_3:7  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Luk_3:7  Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Heb_10:22  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Jesus baptized the apostles in holy spirit to perform signs and wonders, validating their ministry:

Act_2:22  Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

2Co_12:12  Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Heb_2:4  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

The spirit baptizes the believer into the body of Christ:

1Co_12:13  For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

So yes, there are many baptisms but for the gentile believer, only the baptism by the spirit into the body of Christ is in view in Eph 4:1-4:

Col 2:10  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:  Col 2:11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:  Col 2:12  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

For more info:

Paul's One Baptism water vs Spirit Baptism

KJV unless otherwise noted

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