ONE BAPTISM IN EPHESIANS 4:5
Based on John 3 , Matthew 3; Mark 1 and Luke 3, there were two baptisms from Pentecost Day (Acts 2 ) in the 33 A.D. until the year 61 A.D. But then Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians.
By Eusebio A. Tanicala, Ph.D.
Some argue that based on John 3:3-8, Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8 and Luke 3:1-17, there were two distinct baptisms from Pentecost Day of Acts 2 in the year 33 A.D. until the year 61 A.D. when Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians 4:4-6 which reads, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
It is argued that the two distinct baptisms are (a) Baptism or immersion in the Holy Spirit, and (b) Baptism or immersion in water which were mentioned by our Lord Jesus Himself in John 3: 5:-7, “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.’”
That these two (2) Baptisms or Immersions were binding and observed from Pentecost Day, year 33 A.D. until year A.D. 61 when the Epistle to the Ephesians was written by Apostle Paul. They claim that Baptism or Immersion in the Holy Spirit was jettisoned or discarded in the year 61 A.D. And what remains is water baptism or water immersion. But there is also “baptized into Christ Jesus” in Romans 6:3 and “baptism of suffering” (overwhelmed in suffering) in Mark 10:38-39, which are non-water elements. So the idea of water only baptism is too limited an understanding of scriptures.
JETTISON OR ELIMINATE?
If the above claims were true, then let them jettison some other items in the following groupings:
- “There is one Spirit.” But God the Father is Spirit (John 4:24). The Son in His deity is Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Spirit. Which of the three Persons do they jettison or discard and disappear from existence? Which one Spirit remains since 61 A.D. after Ephesian Epistle was written?
- “There is one Spirit.” But in Revelation1:4 and Rev. 5:6, we read of Seven Spirits (NKJV= capital S). Which of the Seven Spirits are jettisoned and disregarded since year 61 A.D. after Ephesian Epistle was written?
- Also, in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The “Lord” in this verse is the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is called the Spirit. That refers to His essence as deity or God. If the one remaining Spirit is the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Godhead, then Christ’s essence as deity is to be jettisoned or eliminated. Shall we eliminate or not believe any more in the deity of Christ? __Yes, __ No.
- “There is one Lord” v.5. This one Lord is Christ. But in Matt. 11:25-26, we read, “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, x x x Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” The Father is also Lord. If we insist one Lord means one singular item, one singular person, then they should jettison or eliminate the Father as Lord. Is it your belief that since A.D. 61, they eliminated the Father as Lord? __ Yes, __No.
- “There is one God and Father of all”. The first person in the Godhead is the Father who is called God. But the second person in the Godhead is Christ who is the creator and also called “Everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6. Christ is also called God. Do you jettison or discard Christ as Everlasting Father and as God? __Yes, __No.
USAGE OF THE WORD “ONE”
There are several usages of the term “One.”
First usage - It may mean singular, sole, one (1) and not two (2) or more items or persons.
Second usage - The word “one” may also mean a group of several items or persons closely related to each other, a pairing of tw0 (2) or more items or persons.
This word ONE (cardinal number 1) has several meanings. Please refer to an unabridged dictionary. The following quotation is from the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of the English Language:
“ONE (wun), adj. (1) Being a single individual or object being a unit. (2) Being an individual or thing thought of as indefinite. (3) Designating a person, thing or group as contrasted with another. (4) Single in kind; the same; closely united or alike. (5) Unitary.” (Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 883).
Please note the last part of usage #4: “Single in kind; the same, closely united or alike” and #5, “Unitary.”
“One” is not limited to “one or single item or single person”. The word ONE can refer to meaning #4 which is “Single in kind” so a group of persons belonging to the same kind can be called “one”. This usage is called “unity one” or “harmonic one” or “inclusive one.”
For example, Acts 17:26, “And He has made from ONE BLOOD every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” This is called the oneness, the unity, the fraternity of one humanity. There is one humanity of all races on earth. One creation of God.
Also, the word ONE can point to a group that is the “same, closely united or alike”. Since the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are closely united or alike, therefore the three are One. How is this? Among early century theologians, they have coined the saying: “What the Father is–the Son is; what the Son is–the Holy Spirit is; what the Holy Spirit is – the Father is.” In essence or substance, the three are the same. In major attributes or characteristics, the three are the same. That explains why the Triune Godhead is ONE God.
Please observe John 16:13-15, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
What belongs to the Father is possessed by the Son; what is possessed by the Son is claimed by the Holy Spirit. The Three Persons are One.
John 17:9-10, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”
John 10:30, “I and My Father are one.”
Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become ONE FLESH.”
Adam and Eve, as husband and wife, bound closely together as wedded and welded couple God’s arithmetic says “they are no longer two but ONE flesh.”
We find these same description in Malachi 2:15; Matt. 19:5-6; 1 Cor. 6:15-16; Ephesians 5: 30-31. The husband is one person and is flesh. The wife is one person and is also flesh. But there is a level or attribute of their existence and relationship that are closely related, they intersect, there is so much similarities and identifications that make the TWO as One. This unity and harmony of the husband and wife in the non-material, in the non-corporeal level make the TWO persons be counted One. That is the reason one plus one is equal to one. (1 + 1 = 1)
AGAINST ISLAM and INC-1914
Muslim propagandists and Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) -1914 cite John 17:1-6, focusing on the clause “that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” 1 Cor. 8:6, “. . . there is only one God, the Father. . .”.
Also Isaiah 45:5, “I am the LORD, and there is no other, There is no God besides Me.” They insist that the meaning is sole, single, singular person, referring to the Father only. However, our counter proposition is the usage of the word One to mean “harmonic one, unity one, inclusive one, composite one” because that is supported by the English Dictionary and also the Bible as we have submitted above.
Why is it that when interpreting Ephesians 4:5, we follow the argument against Islam and the INC-1914, on the unity, harmonic, inclusive and composite meaning of the word One? That two or three persons closely related to each other are counted as One. But when we talk or discuss the Immersion in the Holy Spirit, and immersion in water are united, harmonious, inclusive and composite elements in One New Birth? That the two elements are closely related in One New Birth so the two elements compose One Baptism. Why is there inconsistency? Those who jettison and discard immersion in the Holy Spirit change gear and are not consistent. One stand versus Islam and INC-1914; another color when discussing the Holy Spirit. Please be consistent.
Another weak argument brought out by those who discard “born of the Spirit” as part of the New Birth after A.D. 61, is to demand that he who takes the position of be born of the Spirit is the receiving of power when the Holy Spirit comes.
Many of those who take the stand that only water immersion is part of the Great Commission Baptism after A.D. 61 demand that there should be miraculous power possessed by those who believe in the New Birth that involves continuity of born in the Spirit. Yet those who discard the born of the Spirit or Immersion in the Holy Spirit believe that in Acts 2:38 there is a reception of the Person of the Holy Spirit by the one who is immersed in water, but don’t demand the presence of miraculous powers. Why? Why do some preachers pronounce upon a candidate in water baptism that he/she will receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit” but after coming out of the water, they change position and say that the influence or indwelling of the Holy Spirit is through the WORD only? That is another inconsistency.
Acts 1:8 says, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” The term “power” is a generic term. All who obey receive the person of the Holy Spirit. See Acts 5:32 and Galatians 4:6; 1 Cor. 1:7; 7:7 & 17; 1 Cor. 12:7-11. And every obedient disciple has a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Or everyone receives one or more gifts from the Holy Spirit as distributed by the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:6-8 lists down some non-miraculous powers or gifts like doing mercy, teaching, administration, and liberal giving. These are powers that were promised by Christ in Acts 1:8. So please stop interpreting Acts 1:8 that the term “power” always means “miraculous powers.” Ephesians 4:7-16 and 1 Peter 4:1-11 tell of gifts to be distributed to each disciple. These gifts are the powers that fuel individual disciples to contribute to the growth of the local church. To cut off or reject the empowerment offered by the Holy Spirit upon individual disciples is to reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit. That rejection of His gifts grieves the Holy Spirit. The miraculous powers are the ones that have stopped by the first decades of the second century of our era.
(NOTE: For a deeper study of Acts 1:8 on Powers, request a copy of article on “Powers” by emailing the writer).
A PROMISE, NOT A COMMAND?
Some brother's claim that the born of the Spirit (Immersion in the Holy Spirit) is only a promise, not a command. This is another false understanding of scripture. Christ Himself commanded it in John 3:5-7. “You must be born again” is an imperative sentence. It is also a requirement to entrance into God’s kingdom. Never has it been amended. It is also a promise. Forgiveness of sin and writing of God’s law in our hearts and minds are also promises in Hebrews 8:7-13. These promises continue on till the end of the world. The promise is for sons and daughters, young men, old men, male and female servants.