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One Baptism

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 Dr. Jay Worth Allen

“Teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,

and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

(Matthew 28:16-20)

             A middle-aged brother who had recently been redeemed, who the Lord had brought out of a horrendous drug-filled, alcoholic life, who possessed a very elaborate testimony came to my good friend pastor Drew early one Sunday morning and said, “Pastor Drew, I’ve decided to put my testimony in the Austin American Statesmen. I think that people need to hear what God did for me.” Pastor Drew said in shock, “Brother, you can’t do that.” With that the middle-aged brother reached into his coat pocket, pulled out an article from that day's paper and said, “I already did.”

             Isn't it amazing what believers will do - on the basis of what they read in the scripture - if someone doesn’t tell them that they can’t do it. It’s remarkable.

             Diana (my lovely bride) and I have witnessed, in various locales around the globe, many dear believers who have been told there are certain things they shouldn’t believe God for. So, as a result they don’t believe God for those things. These dear believers have confidence in the people who told them not to believe, so they don’t believe. As a rule, the people who told these dear believers not to believe are dear believers as well; they are only following the traditions of their fathers - so they carry on the tradition of not believing - for certain things. The Lord is beginning to break down our traditions - which we have built up against His concern and desire towards His people - He is now beginning to make us aware again - anew in some cases - that He said what He meant and He meant what He said.

True Unity

            “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

             All unity is begotten by the Holy Spirit. There is no unity apart from the Holy Spirit. We humans tent to think in terms of singularity in regard to matters of life. But that distinction is not accurate according to scripture. In God’s economy everything is a unity - a whole made up of varying parts. This is true in everything God created. It is true in the nature of God and in God's nature - His natural creation. In God nothing stands alone. One man does not work by himself for the Lord - we all are working - as a unity - together as one. We, as the church do not need to pray for unity because unity already exists. We many not see it or walk in it, but unity is there nevertheless. The whole of God’s physical creation testifies to unity. A simple tree testifies to unity.

             Three properties make up a tree: trunk, leaves and sap. We see the trunk and the leaves but the sap is hidden. The sap is the life-giver inside the tree. We can't see the sap, but it’s there. The sap is essential to the life of the tree. Without the sap the tree is dead. If the tree looses it’s leaves - which most do - it may not be dead. If the tree looses a few branches or a bunch of its trunk is chopped away it still isn't dead. But if the tree looses it’s sap, it’s dead. The sap is the one element which gives life to the tree. And the sap is the one element we can not see. What is the believer’s sap? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cannot be seen. But He is essential to the life of God's people. He is our life giving source. Moreover, He’s the life giving source to all that is seen. Everything in God’s creation is threefold. God is a unity: Three as One - Father, Son, Holy Spirit - one God. Everything in God is a unity. As the tree is trunk, leaves and sap, we are spirit, soul and body. As the sap gives unity to the tree, so the Holy Spirit gives unity to the body- singularly and collectively. All unity is begotten by the Holy Spirit. There is no unity apart from the Holy Spirit. Unity isn't something we need to pray for or work towards - unity exists without our help. 

            The unity of the Spirit is expressed in the whole of everything God created. “There is one body.” Which is the body of Christ. “There is one spirit.” In some of your Bibles (King James) this noun “spirit” may be capitalized, although “spirit” isn’t capitalized in the original manuscript. The noun does not have an article before it, neither is it prefixed by the word hagios - holy.  Therefore the “one spirit” here is the “one spirit” which unites the believers, i.e., the “one body” - the “body of Christ.” The "one spirit" here is not the Holy Spirit. “There is one spirit.” And that “one spirit” like that “one body” is made up of many members which are bound together as one body by the Holy Spirit. The “one spirit,” is within the “one body” which is the “body of Christ” - united by the Holy Spirit.

             I am one spirit with Diana. I am one spirit with every believer in the body of Christ - the church. We are all “one spirit.” All believers. The word “spirit” here is the “one spirit” within the believers who are within the “one body.” There is “one body” and that “one body” has “one spirit.” When our spirit is resurrected - by the incoming of the Holy Spirit which begot us as a new man in Christ - we all become “one spirit” - with everyone within the “body of Christ.” That’s the reason we recognize the brethren. 

             I met a man the other day at a local coffee shop. While we waited for our caffeine and sugar fix, we struck up a conversation. It wasn't very long until we both realized our kinship. There was something about that man that witnessed to my spirit, and there was something about me that witnessed to his spirit - “one spirit,” “one body.”  During our exchange I used a scripture - in a funny timbre - describing our waitress bringing us coffee, “Yea, how beautiful are the feet of them that carry the Gospel of good things.” "Amen," he replied. Glory, the man was a believer too. It’s always interesting to me to see how we all show up in “one spirit.” I never asked the man what denomination he belonged to, and he never asked me. If either of us had asked what church house we frequented, our fellowship may have been broken immediately. We just talked, enjoying the fact that we were both “one spirit” in the Lord. I didn’t need to know what specific tag he was wearing and he didn’t need to know mine. He may have been a church of decaff and I may be a fellowship of espresso - which could have blown our whole fellowship.

We didn’t talk doctrine. We just talked.

One baptism

            “There is one body, and one spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). There is “one baptism.”

             Many of us, I am sure, have had a problem or two with the theme of baptism. Because there's more than one baptism found in the scripture. Baptism shows up in different fashions, different locations under differing circumstances throughout the scripture. There’s a multitude of baptisms. The baptism of Moses. The Lord’s baptism. The Spirit’s baptism. Water baptism. The baptism of John. Plus a bunch more. So what is "one baptism?" 

            First let's see what the word baptism implies? “Know you not that, as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?”(Romans 6). The word baptism can mean identification, immersion, washing, dipping and so forth. There are more than a few words in the scripture which we have translated into our English word baptism.

 Baptisma: a noun which indicates immersion, submersion and  emergence

                      (from the word bapto: to dip). The ordinance of John the  Baptizer.

Baptismos: a noun indicating ceremonial washings.

Baptiste: a noun to denote a Baptist.

Baptizo: a verb as in washing oneself.

             This is used in the New Testament for identification of the  believers with the Lord.

             So baptism, for the most part - as far as we, the church is concerned - is for identification of the believer to the Lord- baptizo.

                        Throughout the Old Testament we see the people of God experiencing baptisms. Plural. Baptism identified the people of God with the Lord. All of these baptisms were accompanied by experiences. In the course of these experiences, the people of God were identified with or baptized unto the Lord. At the same time they were baptized they were sanctified by the Lord from what they were - before baptism - and sanctified from the world unto the Lord. They were separated from the world and identified with the Lord through baptism. God, by bringing His people together, in a union - unity - with Himself, brought about their baptism to establish His people under a new authority. His authority. Not just to establish them under His new authority spiritually but to position them under His authority spirit, soul and body. “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Every covenant of God is accompanied by a physical sign. The rainbow, circumcision and baptism are physical signs of a spiritual covenant or experience.

             When Diana sees me coming in the front door, she sees Jay. See can’t see my spirit or my soul. She only sees my body. My body Jay. Yet my body is only part of me. When the time comes that I lay aside my body and “go into the presence of the Lord,” God is not finished with my body. My body will turn to dust. Yes. But on “that day” God will come down upon my dust and gather my molecules and bring my body together as a seed into the fruit which will be brought forth as a glorious body or body “like unto the body of His glory" (Philippians 3:21) - which I will possess in that day. I am one person. But I am three parts. I am spirit. I am soul. I am body. Yet, I am one. This is true for all believers. God has “sanctified us holy.” God is "sanctifying us holy." He is sanctifying us spirit. He is sanctifying us soul. He is sanctifying us body. We have been separated, as one into His glorious kingdom. Because of His sanctifying work.

             The issue of baptism is not really a problem for me. It wasn't a problem for the apostle Paul either. He said, “Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on into perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:1,2). Paul lists the first principles of our faith. If you will notice in his list, baptism is plural. “Baptisms.” The word could also be translated “washings.” Whichever translation you prefer, the word is plural. When I first realized "baptisms" was plural, I said to myself, “In the New Testament economy God said, ‘there is one baptism.’” So I began to rationalize. “Then the only baptism which is valid before God for eternity is the baptism of the Spirit. That's what Paul is addressing in Ephesians 4.” This is the way my mind works. And I wasn’t wrong. But, I wasn’t right either.

             Just as there are three identities within each of us (spirit, soul and body) there are also three baptisms for us. And these baptisms accomplish our perfect sanctification before the Lord. Three, yet “one baptism.”

             We, as believers are sanctified. But we, as believers still sin. The word sanctified - strictly translated - means: to set apart. That’s all. The Greek word hagas is translated throughout the scripture as saint, sanctify and holy. We are sanctified before the Lord. We, as the church are set apart for the Lord. We are holy before the Lord, because of the Lord's own Holiness given to us. So how many of us set-apart people still sin? All of us. If you think you don’t sin, you really have a problem - a real problem. When God sanctifies His people to Himself that sanctification should not suggest, nor does it suggest that His people have become perfect. God has forgiven us and has sanctified us unto Himself, but we’re not perfect individuals. When I finally understood that the only people who will make it to heaven are saved sinners, I sighed a big sigh of relief. Righteous (self-righteous) people will not go to Heaven. They can’t go. Jesus said He wouldn’t even call them to repentance, “I haven’t come to call the righteous to repentance, I’ve come to call sinners.” And sinners hear Him “gladly." Remember what the self-righteous, the folks who used the Law to secure their own righteousness, said about Jesus? “This man receives sinners. And He eats with them.” How terrible! They couldn't fathom that the only class of people God would redeem were sinful people. The only category of people who need grace are sinful people. "The scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." The Law neither justifies a sinner, nor sanctifies a believer. Grace bestows righteousness to the believing sinner, the Law demands righteousness of everyone. God has brought His grace and His salvation and His loving kindness to sinful unrighteous people. The Gospel is good news for bad people. Which is the “offense of the cross” Paul spoke about in Galatians 5. When we realize that we are in fact sinful people, then and only then can we receive the grace of God - the righteousness of God is imputed to us - we become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” Then the Lord wants to sanctify us spirit, soul and body and preserve us blameless unto the coming of the Lord - according to Paul - because we are a people in need of a Savior.

 The Spirit

            Our baptism - as a child of God - the first baptism we believers experience is the baptism of the Spirit into the body of Christ by the Father. “He that loves me not keeps not my sayings; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things have I spoken unto you, being present with you. But the Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you” (John 14:24-26). What were the apostles waiting for in the last chapter of Luke’s gospel? Jesus told them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for what? The promise of the Father. The promise of the Holy Spirit “whom the Father will send in My name.” The Father sent the Holy Spirit as soon as Jesus was seated at the Father’s right hand and glorified in the Heavenlies.

             Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father - having sprinkled His blood - being seated there in the heavenlies and glorified there in the heavenlies, which gave the Father the authority to send forth the Holy Spirit. “He that believes on Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. (But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom they that believed on Him should receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:38,39). The Holy Spirit could not be given - or sent - until Jesus was glorified before the Father in the heavenlies. When Jesus was glorified, then the Father could and did send the Spirit to dwell within the believers.

             By the Father sending the Holy Spirit - this took place in Acts 2 - which was prophesied in Acts 1:5 “You shall be baptized by the Holy Spirit not many days hence” -  the Father baptized those first believers and all who would come after by Jesus Christ - they were and we are immediately baptized by the Spirit, upon our belief in the Son (Galatians 3:25,26). The Father baptizes the believer, by the Spirit into the body of Christ. Which sanctifies the believer's spirit. This baptism of the Spirit does not necessarily need to be seen or felt. I can't say that this baptism will not be seen or felt. It may be or it may not be. One thing I’ve learned about God, is that no one tells Him how to do anything. As soon as we tell Him how He should do something He's likely to tell us that He doesn’t have to do it that way. Then He’ll demonstrate a new way. Then we begin to wonder if that new way was really God. God does what He wants, when He wants, in whatever way He wants.

             “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are new.” We usually stop there. “But all things are of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 18). Is everything in your life of God? You may be thinking soul. You may be thinking spirit. You may be thinking body. You may be thinking, “How can everything be dogmatically of God in the believer?” Because God is in the believer. And because God is in the believer, the believer is sanctified throughout. Through and through: holy. And “we know all things.” That’s what John said, “you have an unction from the Holy One, that teaches you all things, and you have no need that anyone should teach you, for you know all things.” Where do “we know all things?” In our spirit. Our soul doesn't know yet, but our spirit knows it all. The whole idea of growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is getting what’s in our spirit into our soul. Our problem is that we have heart knowledge and little head knowledge. God wants to get what's in our heart into our head. Because the soul governs the body. The spirit doesn't govern the body. The spirit governs the soul. The soul governs the body. We’re souls. That’s what we are. “God breathed into the man the breath of life and he became a living soul.” I am a soul. I have a spirit. I live in a body. That’s me. That’s you too. That’s all of us.

             The Holy Spirit dwells in us and we then become the holiest of all God’s creatures. The Spirit of God dwells in the spirit of the believer and sanctifies that spirit and the believer's spirit becomes the holiest of all before God. But we not only want our spirit sanctified - which is accomplished by this baptism of the Spirit into the body of Christ - but our soul and our body need to be baptized, too. 

The Soul

            The soul of man is what makes him function. The soul is what makes man think. The soul is what governs the activity of man. The soul requires something more than residence. The soul requires precedence. This requires God coming, by the work of the Spirit, to bring a precedence over the believer so that the believer might reign in righteousness by one man Jesus Christ.

             “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth, therefore, fruits befitting repentance, And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Which definitely speaks to the sovereignty of God. The stones raised up by God would have been authentic children of Abraham. “And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” What is the subject of this discourse? What is John baptizing in water to manifest? What does God want? Fruit. The fruit of righteousness. How do we receive the fruit? “I, indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” Not “unto fruit”, but rather “unto repentance.” John’s water baptism, which is not valid for the church today, was “unto repentance.” Why is this not valid for the church? Simple, John’s father was a Levitical priest, and because of that fact, John was also a Levitical priest (from father to son in the line of Aaron) who baptized Jesus for an explicit purpose at an explicit time for a mandated duty only Jesus could attain. Enough said. You go to the Word and look this up for yourself. We are not baptized with the baptism of John.

             “I, indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire” (Matthew 3:7-11). This is not the baptism which the Father brings. This is the baptism which Jesus, the Son brings.

             “Jesus,” John said, “is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” What does fire suggest? Power. The Lord Jesus is going to bring power. The Father brought position. When the Holy Spirit comes into the believer to dwell, He brings us into a position before God, by that indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Now the Holy Spirit is going to bring the believer power because Jesus is going to impart to the believer another baptism. This baptism will sanctify the believer’s soul.

             The Father baptizes first. Then the Son, Jesus Christ, sends forth the Holy Spirit to baptize the believer into the Spirit - which indeed is power. The effected, in the Father’s baptism was the spirit of the believer. The effected in the believer, in the Son’s baptism is the soul. There is an interesting distinction between Acts 1:8 and Acts 1:5. Acts 1:5 speaks to us concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” John baptized with water before the New Covenant, before Jesus lifted the cup and said, “This is the cup of the New Covenant.” Acts 1:8 speaks to us concerning the Holy Spirit coming upon us. “But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” With the Son’s baptism, the believer receives “power.”

             When the apostle Paul met a group of believers at Ephesus he asked them, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?” How does a believer receive the Holy Spirit? We believe. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Except a man have the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” So when we believe, the Holy Spirit comes in us and dwells - makes His residence - within us. Which is the Father’s baptism. But each time Paul laid hands on anyone in the book of Acts (on anyone who had believed) the scripture says that “the Holy Spirit came upon them.” These believers didn’t receive Christ. They received the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit came upon them." The Holy Spirit only comes upon someone who has already believed. If I want to lead someone to Jesus Christ - knowing the lost sinful condition of the person with whom I am sharing - I don't tell them, “You need to receive the Holy Spirit.” No. I tell them they need to receive Jesus Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name, under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But if a person has already believed - the Holy Spirit is indwelling him - he then needs to be empowered. So I say, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” Receive the Power of the Spirit. Which is the Son’s baptism.

             So the second baptism is the baptism from the Lord Jesus. The Son. Which baptizes the believer into the power of the Spirit. Which sanctifies the believer's soul. Which causes the believer to think differently. To act differently. To see things differently. All believers who have experienced this baptism begin to think differently. Which is why I had a hard time calling this baptism the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because there is only one baptism of the Holy Spirit. But as I read I began to realize that there is a little more to this subject than I expected. I realized that we can have more than one baptism and still have “one baptism.”

 The Body

            Now that our spirit and our soul have been baptized the next step is the baptism for our body. Our body needs sanctifying. We have our spirit sanctified. We have our soul sanctified. Now our body needs to be sanctified - spirit, soul and body baptisms.

             This order - spirit, soul and body baptisms - fell upon the house of Cornelius in Acts 10. When the Gentiles - as a body of people - were introduced into the body of Jesus Christ, they believed: they received; they were filled; they were baptized in water. A remarkable order. Don’t you think? Their spirit, soul and body were baptized. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

             “For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, who at one time were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, in which few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; the like figure unto which even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but answering of a good conscience towards 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” (1 Peter 3:18-22).

             The passage reads, “which even baptism does also now save us.” The word “save” here is the word “safes.” The word is diasozo: to bring safely through. This baptism - in water - which “does also now safes us” is not a baptism which saves us from the wrath of God. The Lord Jesus saved us from that. “For God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Wherefore, comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also you do” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11). But rather this is a baptism for our body - for safety not for justification. The apostle Paul did not believe water baptism saves or justifies us and stated it in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17: “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius . . . I baptized also the household of Stephanas; besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptized but to preach the gospel; not with the wisdom of words lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.” Paul preached a gospel of salvation by faith, not by water. Baptism, in water makes us safe - our flesh saved - in and from the world. That’s why we’re water baptized. This is also why Peter used Noah as an example. Noah's flesh was made safe through water. Our flesh is made safe by water. We are made safe from the world. “Which even baptism does also now save us.”

             We have been baptized by the Father: our spirit. We have been baptized by the Son: our soul. We are then baptized by the Spirit: our body. Noah then is a perfect “figure” of this body baptism. Noah - which included eight souls - was made safe from the wrath of God - the flood on the whole world. His body was saved through the water.

             Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Grace saved Noah’s spirit. Grace is always what saves. “Grace came bringing salvation.” Not water, but grace. “For you have I seen righteous before me in this generation,” is what God said to and about Noah. The water didn’t produce Noah’s righteousness. God produced Noah’s righteousness, water didn't. God said Noah was righteous before Noah went through the water. Before Noah’s water baptism. But Noah was not yet made safe from the water - flood - which was to come. Noah’s spirit had been saved. Noah was now a righteous man before God. Saved. But Noah had not been water baptized. Noah’s righteousness came before he and his family got into the ark. Before water baptism. The Bible doesn’t tell us if Noah was a preacher, an office manager or a fruit salesman before God “saw him righteous.” The only clue we have to the way Noah thought or acted before God made him righteous is: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Noah, who God saw as righteous, was one of those men on the earth. Noah was a man. ”There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10; vv. 10-12; Ps. 14:1-3; Eccl. 7:20). So the conclusion must be drawn that God - who never changes - saved a sinner. Noah, believed God and, I suppose one could say, as in Abraham, Noah’s belief was accounted to him as righteousness.

             Noah didn’t ask God to make him righteous - for God to save him - Noah didn’t say or do anything - God saw him righteous and that’s what saved or justified Noah. No words, no water, no nothing - as far as Noah’s portion was concerned - God did it all for Noah, just like us - “he who glories let him glory in the Lord.”

             So we see that Noah’s spirit had been saved. Noah’s soul had been saved as well. No matter how Noah acted before God called him righteous, he acts and thinks different now. Noah's the guy who began building a boat to save his family and a lot of other creatures from a flood, when the earth had never experienced rain. That's acting and thinking differently, don't you think? Noah’s a different man now. His thinking is different. Because his soul had been saved. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” Noah’s soul had been saved. Now God needs to save Noah’s body - or, make Noah's body safe. God made Noah safe when “Noah went in.” He went into the ark. Noah was made safe from the flood. “Which even baptism does also now save us.”

             This safety water baptism is also true of the children of Israel - when they came out of Egypt; when they crossed the Red Sea. Their spirit was saved by the blood of the lamb. “When I see the blood I will pass over.” Their souls were saved with, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. The Lord shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Their souls stopped reacting to their bodies’ dilemma. They began thinking and acting differently. They stood still in “peace.” Something they were not doing just moments before. “The Egyptians marched after them, and they were in great fear.” From “fear” to “peace.” Something happened inside of them. Something had saved them. Someone had baptized them. Someone had saved their souls.

             After God saved the children of Israel's spirit and their soul, God saved their bodies: “And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left.” God baptized the children of Israel through the water to save their bodies. God saved the children of Israel spirit, soul and body.

             As the children of Israel had to be baptized three times, so the church must be baptized three times. Or in three different ways. Yet, it is only “one baptism.”

             The third baptism for the believer then is water baptism. The baptism for the safety of the believer’s body. Water in the scriptures is a figure of the Holy Spirit. Who then, in this case is doing the baptizing? The believer is the one - in his body - who's getting wet, but who is sanctifying the believer's body? The Spirit. This is the Spirit’s baptism. Not the baptism of the Spirit, but the Spirit’s baptism. The same Spirit Peter says, by which “Jesus preached unto the spirits in prison.” This same Spirit - by which Jesus preached - is the authority on any believer, when any believer baptizes another believer in water. It is that same Holy Spirit who is the authority for the sanctifying of that body - the body of the believer who is being baptized. If the Holy Spirit is not present in that act of water baptizing, then you can dunk a guy in and out all you want and the water will not sanctify his flesh. When he comes out dripping wet, his flesh will not be saved. Because the water baptism was not done under the authority of the Holy Spirit. The baptism was not the Spirit’s baptism. The baptism was only a man’s baptism. This baptism may put the man’s or baby’s name on a church roll, but it will not baptism him safe - it won’t save him. But, if a believing man is baptized in water by another believer in - or under - the authority of the Holy Spirit, then that baptism will sanctify his body - the body of the water baptized believer - as a body unto the Lord. Baptized by another believer - not just an official preacher or priest - unless the preacher or the priest are believers, too.

             Did you know that water baptism had a lot to do with bringing confession into the church?         The early Christians hoped the convert who was water baptized would not sin again. Much to their surprise they found that this was not the case. So what could they do? They needed something which marked forgiveness, something which could remove the guilt and stain from the believer who sinned after water baptism. Thus the confession.

             The penitent would publicly confess his sins and his sorrow and then ask God for pardon. He or she would then wear sackcloth and smear ashes over their body - usually their face - to show sorrow. For grave sins such as murder, thief, adultery or idolatry this confession could be done only once: one forgiveness in baptism, one forgiveness in public confession, and then there was no future chance, only expulsion from the church.

             After a time some of the local pastors believed that this was much too rigid, and put limits to God’s infinite grace. The argument they gave was from the Lord’s own words, we are to forgive our brothers not seven times but seventy time seven. There was a split in the clergy for some years but eventually the forgiving pastors finally won over their demanding critics and confession for our numerous transgressions is still the norm.

             Sad to say, but this rigid non-biblical, no future chance expulsion from the church rule is still practiced in some overly fleshly zealous denominations today. Their desire is “to make a fair show in the flesh” so they won’t “suffer persecution for the cross of Christ . . . that they may glory in your flesh.” And, as a result, if you don’t follow their rigid fleshly rules “they would exclude you, that you might seek them.” (Galatians 4, 5, 6). In other words, you need to seek their forgiveness and their fleshly form of righteousness, not the Lord’s.

              Paul’s letter to the Galatians is full of allegories - 4:22-31 is a prime example, one which Paul addresses to justified but immature believers (cp. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2) who, under the influence of legalistic teachers, “desire to be under the law.” They were, observing “days, and months, and times, and years” - “Weak and beggarly elements,” which they desired “again to be in bondage.” Paul five times in Galatians raises the question: Is the believer under the law? (2:19-21; 3:1-3,25-26; 4:4-6,9-31) Paul’s answer: No we are not. For, as Paul states, if you keep one part of the law, you become “a debtor to keep the whole law.” And if you desire to be under the law, “Christ is become of no effect to you, whosoever you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:1-4). What is falling from grace? Trying to be justified for your sin apart from belief in Christ Jesus alone, is falling from grace.

             So we have baptisms. Plural. Which finds its testimony in the last verses of Matthew’s gospel. The great commission. The uniqueness of Matthew's gospel, other that the fact that he is writing in particular to Israel, is his concern with showing the children of Israel the righteousness of God. His message is the kingdom of heaven. His theme is the Lord Jesus. His conclusion is the righteousness of God. The end of Matthew - a portion which is not in another gospel - concerns itself with righteousness.

             “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” I’ve always thought this was strange. These guys had seen the Lord die on the cross, now He’s standing in front of them alive and they “doubted”. Strange. But

doubt is still the way of man. “And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” If your Bible uses the word “power”, which is the word, dunamis, the translation is not correct. The word here is, exousia, authority.  There is a vast difference between “power” and “authority.” If you have authority, you can demonstrate power. If you do not have authority, you’ll never have power. But you can demonstrate authority without using power. I was given the occasion of experiencing the proof this just a few days ago, when, in the speed of the moment I was stopped abruptly by a supportive officer of the law. (I do seem to have a problem with posted speed limits.) The officer - a hefty gentleman - walked up to the window of my car and said in a very polite tone, “May I see your driver's license?” Now the cordial intonation of his request gave me ample opportunity to answer him with either respect or animosity. I chose the former. Because I realized that the state of Tennessee stood behind this guy’s blue suit and badge. The state of Tennessee gave him his authority. Which meant the state of Tennessee was standing in the window of my car - because of his size, he really looked like the whole state of Tennessee standing in my car's window. Now if I had said, “I think you need to prove your right to ask for my driver's license.” He could has exercised his power. But instead I smiled and handed him my driver's license because I knew he had authority. I also understood that he could use the power of that authority at any time - part of his power was hanging at his side. I submitted to his authority so he didn't need to use his power. God teaches me in strange ways at times.

             I see a lot of people in church today waving around a lot of power trying to prove they have authority. The apostle Paul didn’t need to do that. The seven sons of Sceva tried it, and you see where it got them. The seven sons of Sceva went into the house of a demon possessed man and said, “we adjure you in the name of Jesus, who Paul preaches. Come out of him!” The demon jumped on them, all seven of them, ripped off their clothes and sent them out bleeding, running into the street. Remember what the demon possessed man said? “Jesus I know. Paul I know.” But who are you guys? Where’s your authority? They didn’t have any authority, but they tried to use power. Jesus said, “All authority is given unto Me.” So we - the believers - go out under the authority of the Lord Jesus. 

             “Go you, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Amen” (Matthew 28:16-20).  

            Matthew lists three baptisms here. The baptism of the Father. The baptism of the Son. The baptism of the Spirit. But in reality we only have “one baptism.” Which is the complete sanctifying work of God teaching us “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

             If I am a single entity, as spirit, soul and body and yet I am one man, then I am baptized in one baptism. Baptism of the spirit, of the soul and of the body - "of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." And God regards these three baptisms as “one;” as a unity. Without the totality of these three baptisms the work isn’t complete. I can make it to heaven because I believe (Romans 3:22), but I’ll find life pretty hard going while I’m here on earth. I’m not complete without the three at work as one. If I am only one out of three, or two out of three, I am not one. I need to be three in one to be one. So do you. Deuteronomy announces, “Behold O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Is he? Yes, He is. He is Father, Son and Spirit. He is one Lord. Yet He is three parts in the One. Some ancient Greek manuscripts read, “Behold O Israel, the Lord our God is a unity.” Everything God does is in harmony - unity. God’s work is never singular. The work of God is a unity. We, as believers, are a single unit in the Lord. Yet, we are many members of that single unit. Everything God does is in unity.

            What then is “one baptism?” The Baptism of the Father. The baptism of the Son. The baptism of the Spirit. “There is one body, and one spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

             There is “one baptism.”                        Send us your thoughts on this article