Clinton church of Christ

One Baptism

September 23, 2013

John Allan

Ephesians 4:5 teaches that there is one lord, one faith, one baptism. In previous lessons we have observed that Jesus Christ is the one lord, and that the “one faith” refers to the New Covenant. In this lesson we turn our attention to the “one baptism.”

The related words “baptism” “baptize” and “baptized” appear many times in Scripture. Baptism is used literally at times and figuratively at other times. Reading through the New Testament reveals that there is clearly more than one baptism mentioned in its pages.

In Mark 10:38-39 as well as in Luke 12:50 baptism appears to be a metaphor for suffering and death. There was also a thing known as “John’s baptism” we can read about primarily in the Gospels. We can also read that there was a promise made of a baptism of the Holy Spirit. There was a baptism for which there are many examples in the book of Acts. The New Testament even speaks of Israel being baptized into Moses when they crossed the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2).

In an often-debated passage, there is reference to people being baptized for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29). There could even be other references that I have simply failed to call attention to; but even if there are the point is obvious: there is more than one baptism talked about in the New Testament, meaning we have some work to do if we are going to determine which one is the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5. Since Paul said there is “one baptism” we must try to make sense of it in light of what the Bible says.

There are three of these baptisms we have referenced that merit the most consideration, and our time will focus on them. They are Holy Spirit baptism, John’s baptism, and immersion into Christ for the remission of sins. As we aim to determine what the “one baptism” is that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 4:5 we will also come to a conclusion in which we have confidence.



For reasons we will explain, we can eliminate “Holy Spirit baptism” from consideration as being the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5.

It is certain that baptism with the Holy Spirit was, indeed, promised. You can read about that in Mark 1:8 where John the Baptist said concerning Jesus Christ “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”

In Luke 3:16 the Bible says “John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:”

As a bit of a side note here: because of the immediate context (Luke 3:17), I understand the baptism with fire of Luke 3:16 to be reference to Judgment from God. It is evident that this would not be the “one baptism” Paul spoke about.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit had been promised, and that promise was delivered. The promise of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is mentioned in connection with the apostles on the Pentecost day of Acts 2 (see Acts 1:5). It is also mentioned by Peter in connection with Cornelius and his household in Acts 11:16 (see Acts 11:15-18). Since Peter had to think all the way back to Pentecost for a similarity to what happened in Acts 10, we conclude that Holy Spirit baptism was not a frequent occurrence. It accompanied the opening of the Lord’s Church to Jews at Pentecost, and the opening of the Lord’s Church to the Gentiles in Acts 10-11.

Holy Spirit baptism was not a frequent occurrence, and it is not the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5.



Next we consider John’s baptism. A closer look will help us see that this is not the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 either.

Scripture tells us that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). This baptism was in force during the time that John the Baptist was preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus Christ. People in that time should have submitted to John’s baptism (Matthew 3:7, Matthew 21:25-27). Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus had no sin, but he was baptized in order “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

John’s baptism was from God for that period of time. If Jesus had refused to yield to it (even though he had no sin) his enemies could have tried to use this against him. They could have said “Well if John’s baptism is from God, why didn’t you submit to it?”

It is important to understand that John’s baptism is no longer in force. The Bible explains this to us, it is not something we have to guess about.

At the Pentecost day of Acts 2, in keeping with the Great Commission given to them, the apostles preached the gospel and taught baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), with the promise of the Gift of the Holy Spirit. This was not the baptism of John. The baptism of John had now served its purpose and was no longer in force.

When we consider Apollos in Acts 18 and some men in Ephesus in Acts 19 this conclusion is confirmed. In Acts 18:24-28 we read about Apollos; he was a man who spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord but there was one problem: he only knew John’s baptism. Acts 18 tells us that Aquila and Priscilla “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” They taught Apollos that the baptism of John was no longer in force. From there, Apollos went on convincing the Jews and “shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (see Acts 18:28).

In the next chapter, Acts 19, the apostle Paul found some disciples at Ephesus. It appears that these were disciples of Apollos. Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. Their answer showed Paul that something was wrong. They said “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” Paul learned that they had been baptized “unto John’s baptism.”

“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. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (Acts 19:4-6).

We put this information together and understand that there came a time when John’s baptism was no longer in force. The problem in Acts 19 is that people had been baptized with John’s baptism after John’s baptism was no longer in force. Since it had already ceased to be in force, it cannot be the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5.



We have already been introduced to the “one baptism.” It is the baptism that Jesus commission the apostles to preach in Mark 16:16. It is the baptism taught by the apostles in Acts 2:38. It is the baptism of which we said earlier there are abundant examples in the New Testament.

This “one baptism” is baptism in Jesus’ name. We need to understand that being baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5) or “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38) does not contradict Jesus’ command to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). It does acknowledge the deity of Christ, which is at the heart of the gospel (Matthew 16:16, Acts 2:29-32), but a fact that was rejected by many.

There is no amount of getting wet that will allow us to receive the free gift of salvation if we refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ!

It must also be understood that this baptism is for the remission of sins. The theological preferences of many people cause them to refuse to accept that baptism is “for the remission of sins”, but Scripture says it just as clearly as it can be said.

Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”

Romans 6:1-6 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”

1 Peter 3:21-22 “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”

This conclusion we have reached is one that we can hold with all confidence. The Bible teaches that this baptism was in force with the establishment of the Lord’s Church here on earth. While other baptisms had their purpose, they also had a duration. Meanwhile, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins is the baptism we read about in Scripture that continues to be in force: it is the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5.



Because our emphasis in this lesson was to show which baptism is the “one baptism” there are, of course, many course, many more things that could be said about this one baptism than time permits.

For example: a careful consideration of Scripture shows that this baptism is for people who are capable of hearing the Gospel preached, and of making the appropriate response. This means it is not designed for infants, nor for children who have not reached the maturity to be able to do these things.

Scripture also shows that this proper baptism is an immersion in water: the Bible pictures it as a burial, and to bury something you have to cover it, not merely sprinkle a little bit over it.

Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is for those who have heard and believe the Gospel message (Mark 16:16), have repented of their sins (Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38), and have confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32).

If we can aid you in obeying the Gospel today, we urge you to submit to that “one baptism.” If you have been baptized, but you strayed, we urge you to return to the Lord through repentance and prayer as Acts 8 teaches.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 23rd, 2013 at 3:24 pm and is filed under Sermons.

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