Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 3, 1956

Unity Of The Spirit

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

When Paul wrote to the Ephesian saints, he affirmed that there is "one baptism." People were expected to understand what the one baptism was, else there could be no unity of thought and behavior with reference to it. The prevailing division on the subject is not to be attributed to the Bible, but to man's failure to study the Bible with a sincere desire to know the will of God on the matter. Misunderstanding or unbelief of the teaching is the cause of division — not different understandings. We either understand or misunderstand. We cannot understand differently. There can be different and conflicting misunderstandings but only one understanding.

There are a number of baptisms spoken of in the New Testament, but the apostle writes to the Ephesians that there is "one baptism." Which of the baptisms of the New Testament is the "one baptism" common to all? Which baptism remains? Only one of the baptisms must be required of us today for the Holy Spirit through Paul has said that there is "one baptism." By the process of elimination we shall see which baptism remains; we shall allow the Bible, not our wishes to do the eliminating.

Baptism Of John The Baptist

This is the first baptism mentioned in the Bible. This baptism was administered by John the Baptist. (Matt. 3:5.) It was called "John's baptism." (Acts 19:3.) It was the baptism with which Jesus was baptized. (Matt. 3:15-16.) The design of John's baptism with reference to Jesus was different, (it had an exceptional design with reference to Jesus, — "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness") for in it God pointed out to John, the Son of God. "Behold the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came baptizing in water. And John bare witness, saying, I have beheld the 'Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, upon whomsoever thou shalt see the 'Spirit descending and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit, and I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." (John 1:29-34.) This was not the general design; that is, the design with reference to the Jewish people for they "were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." (Matt. 3:6.) They were baptized in water "unto repentance" (Matt. 3:11) "of repentance unto remission of sins." (Mark 1:4.)

That this "baptism of John" is not the "one baptism" is seen by studying the case of these Ephesians in Acts 19. These people to whom Paul wrote that there is "one baptism" would not think that John's baptism was that one baptism for some of them had been baptized with John's baptism. (Acts 19:3.) But upon being instructed, by the inspired apostle, of the design of John's baptism and the necessity of "believ(ing) on him that should come after him, that is on Jesus" "they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:4, 5.) (Note: "When they heard this" — heard what? "that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on — Jesus — they responded to the requirement to believe on Jesus by being "baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.") This passage eliminates John's baptism — it is not the "one baptism."

Baptism Of Holy Spirit

The next baptism mentioned in the New Testament is Holy Spirit baptism. "He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire." (Matt. 3:11.) Is this, as many claim, the "one baptism"? Much confusion exists in the religious world at this point. Here prayerful diligence to attain the unity of the Spirit is necessary. We need to clear our minds of human traditional views. Forget what the preachers have been saying and come to the Word of God to see what claims are there made for Holy Spirit baptism.

The first thing we need to note is that Jesus is the administrator. This baptism and its administrator is by John put in contrast to his baptism and himself. John was authorized by God "to baptize in water" (John 1:33) and later men were authorized by Christ to baptize. (Matt. 28:18, 19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38.) This baptism was also in water (Acts 8:36; 10:47) but never do we find God or Christ authorizing man 'to administer Holy Spirit baptism. No one can receive Holy 'Spirit baptism until Christ administers it. If Holy Spirit baptism is the baptism that we are to recognize as the "one baptism," where does the responsibility lie when some fail to receive it? But water baptism is commanded. (Acts 10:47, 48.) It is to be administered by man, by the authority of Christ. (Matt. 28:18, 19; Acts 2:38.) This irresistibly presses us to the conclusion that the "one baptism" is water baptism — the baptism of the great commission which was authorized (in the name) of Christ.

Another thought closely related to the above--Holy Spirit baptism is a promise for which those to whom the promise was made were to wait. (Acts 1:4, 5.) This language is addressed to the apostles. From it we learn that not only had John the baptist prophesied that Christ would baptize in the Holy Spirit, but that Christ had expressed the promise to the apostles. This promise was to be fulfilled "not many days hence." The apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:4.) Holy Spirit baptism is not the "one baptism" — it is not general, but special. That it was not common to all in the apostolic age is evident from the language used by Peter in connection with the case of Cornelius. He had to go all the way back to Pentecost (the beginning) to find a like case. Acts 11:5, "And as I began to speak the Holy Spirit fell on them even as on us at the beginning." Many thousands of people had been baptized in the period from Pentecost to the case of Cornelius. Had they received the "one baptism"? Yes. But the baptism that they had received was not Holy Spirit baptism for nothing like that had occurred. If 'Holy Spirit baptism is the "one baptism" common to all, that which all had received, then there is no significance in Peter's language. Holy Spirit baptism is not the "one baptism."

Baptism In The Name Of The Lord Jesus

That the "one baptism" is the baptism authorized and commanded by the Lord Jesus is abundantly evident in the scriptures? These people at Ephesus to whom Paul wrote that there is "one baptism" had been "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:6.) The baptism authorized (in the name) of Christ is the baptism of the commission in Matthew 28:18, 19; Mark 16:15, 16. This baptism is unto remission of sins. (Acts 2:38.) It is in water. (Acts 8:36; 10:47, 48.)