CLEARLY SEEING THE ONE BAPTISM
By John Aldworth
Published 10 December 2012.
Ephesians 4:5: (There is) One Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Col. 2:12: Buried with him in baptism, wherein ye are also risen with Him through the operation of the faith of God, who raised Him from the dead.
It’s amazing what you see when you are “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). New truth actually leaps off the page when you observe the clear dispensational demarcation lines as set out in the Bible. This was brought home to me recently when re-reading prison epistle verses about the “one baptism” in Ephesians and Colossians that for several years I had erroneously interpreted in the light of earlier passages in Romans and Corinthians.
What’s wrong with that, you ask? Don’t nearly all commentaries and most Bible reference systems point you backwards to earlier scriptures to interpret God’s latest statements in the “present truth” revelation recorded by Paul in the “prison epistles” of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy Titus and Philemon? Yes, they do and, frankly, they shouldn’t.
You see, it is a cardinal rule of “right division” that truth from a former dispensation should not be read into a later one; nor should “present truth” (see 2 Pet. 1:12 for the meaning of this description) be read back into God given revelations of an earlier calling.
Actually there is a different calling in each different dispensation. The calling for Gentiles to be “graffed” into Israel’s olive tree to form the “Church of God” of the Acts period Pentecostal Dispensation (Rom. 11:11, 19) is very different from the “high calling” (Phil. 3:14) for believers in the Dispensation of Grace and the Mystery revealed to the “prisoner of the Lord” (Eph. 3:1-3) in his Roman prison cell. These latter saints are called to be members of “…the church which is his body, the fullness of Him which filleth all in all” (Eph. 12:22-23).
Determining the “present truth” about baptism should be a vital issue for every saved person. Sadly, it is not. Far too many people who receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour let the church they choose to attend decide the issue for them. If that church practises water baptism they get water baptised; if it also teaches “baptism with the Spirit” they go for that too. Most churches have two forms of baptism – water and Pentecostal Spirit baptism – and some have three – water baptism, baptism with the Spirit and baptism by the Spirit into “one body”, which they usually believe is the church they are attending.
Yet Eph. 4:5 is adamant: “There is (only)… one baptism”. Right dividers studying to shew themselves approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15) often see this truth but err, as I did until recently, in thinking this one baptism is found in Rom. 6:3-6 and 1 Cor. 12:13. It is not. The phrase “one baptism” occurs only in Eph. 4:5 and its meaning must be determined from the context in which it is found. That context is the “form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) found in the prison epistles and comprising the teaching of the Mystery revelation given to the Apostle Paul. The defining verse for the “one baptism” is found in Col. 2:11-13:
“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. Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God who raised Him from the dead.”
Now it is true that both in Col. 2:12 and in Rom. 6: 4 believers are told they have been “buried with Him in baptism” and that the latter verse emphasises that is “in death”. In Col. 2:12 these words are omitted, the meaning being carried by the words “buried with”, which translate the Greek word sunthapto, meaning to “inter in company with” and necessarily inferring prior death.
Importantly, the emphasis in Col. 2:12 is not upon death. It is upon the fact that we of the prison epistles calling are “…risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead” .
Those of the Mid-Acts dispensational persuasion – and not long ago I was one of them - speak of being baptised into “death, burial and resurrection” of Christ and cite Rom. 6:3-4 as the proof scripture. But nowhere in Rom. 6 are we told that we “risen with Christ”. Rather the theme of the whole chapter is that Church of God believers should no longer live in sin (vs 2) because they have been buried with Christ by baptism into his death: “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” (Rom. 6:6).
Only by comparison, by simile (something which is similar but not the same), are these believers connected with Christ’s resurrection. Note in Rom. 6:5 that being “found in the likeness of his death” is spoken of as an accomplished fact but being “found in the likeness of his resurrection” is only held out as a future hope. “We shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Evidently “being risen with Christ” was not an experience that happened to believers in the Acts period. By contrast the Colossian believers of the “high calling” are told they are already “…risen with Him”.
There are also important differences concerning life, conduct and sin. In Romans 6 Christ’s resurrection is held out only as an example for then believers to follow: “as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”.
The word “should” and the context make clear that whether Acts period believers really walked in this newness of life or not depended on their choice. They could “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin” (vs 11) or elect not to do so. They could choose to “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” (vs. 12) or to let sin rip.
They could yield their bodily members as “instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” or as “instruments of righteousness unto God” (vs. 13). Whatever their choice, they still had to struggle with “the infirmity of their flesh” (vs. 19). Thus we see that the “newness of life” resulting from being baptised “into his death” (vs. 3 and 4) is merely a new ability to choose whether to sin or not (see Rom. 6:14). It does not deal with the issue that by nature - here described as “the infirmity of the flesh" - believers, even after salvation, still want to sin.
But in Colossians 2:11 the root cause of sin – the desire to do it – is dealt a death blow:
“In whom (Christ) 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…”
Now the “infirmity of flesh” was a huge problem to the Acts period believers, just as it still is today for those who have not come to trust in the “one baptism” of pure grace in Eph. 4:5. Then as now, the “Pentecostal baptism” of Rom. 6:3-4 leaves believers struggling with their own nature. Note that Paul himself said he had to “… keep under his body and bring it into subjection, lest … I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:27).
Perhaps he succeeded but certainly many others failed. Galatians and 1 and 2 Corinthians are replete with examples of their sin. In fact sin so blinded nearly all believers in the post-Acts period that they refused to recognise when God spoke new truth. They rejected the word of the new dispensation of grace and the Mystery and turned against Paul. Thus the Apostle writes in 2 Tim. 1:15: that “all those that be in Asia be turned away from me”.
Now to reject the “latest word” from God is serious sin indeed. Yet millions of so-called Christians do the same today and reap spiritual death in their lives as a consequence. Worst of all, like the Acts period believers, they cut themselves off from the very truth they most need – that is of course the “one baptism” and the “circumcision made without hands”. Note carefully that in Col. 2:10-14 the “body of the sins of the flesh” is “put off” by God Himself. For those who believe, his spiritual knife cuts deep to perform the “circumcision made without hands”. The sinful nature is excised and the desire to sin does not survive this divine operation.
Back in Romans 6 the Apostle Paul besought the Pentecostal period believers to “...reckon yourselves dead unto sin”. How many succeeded I wonder? I tried for years, mistakenly believing this injunction was “present truth” for me. I failed and, if you’re willing to ‘fess up about it, probably so did you. But now in the Apostle Paul's prison epistles we find better news. In the One Body, One Baptism calling of Ephesians 4 believers no longer need to reckon themselves dead unto sin. God does the reckoning for them. In fact twice he reckons us as dead. Firstly, in Col. 2:13 while we were yet unsaved He pronounced us “dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh”. Then He quickened us: “And you … hath He quickened (them) together with Him (Christ), having forgiven you all trespasses.”
Quickening is the act in which God makes a believer alive with the sinless, holy life that in Christ Himself. Please note, this miracle is achieved by “the faith of the operation of God”, not by a believer choosing whether to sin or not. Secondly, God, for the second time pronounces us “dead” in Col. 3:3-4, this time in the sense that our life in Him is hid, not made apparent in a blaze of glory. The verse states:
“For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear then shall ye also appear with Him in glory”.
That we are “quickened with Christ” is a new revelation, stated for the first time in the Bible in Eph. 2:5 and Col. 2:13. It is truth that until revealed to Paul in his Roman prison cell was “not made known unto the sons of men” (Eph. 3:5). Importantly, we grace-called belieivers are now quickened – that is made to live in and with Christ - only because through faith we are “risen with Him”. In other words, the distinctive dispnsational truths of this very different “one baptism” must be believed before they bear spiritual fruit in the believer.
To repeat, in Col. 2:11-13 we learn that not only have we been “quickened” but that we are also “risen” with Christ. This is necessarily so. After all, how can we be “seated together in heavenly places in Christ” if we have not been raised with Him? It is wrong to read this marvellous truth back into Rom. 6 where it is not stated and does not belong.
ARE THERE TWO BODIES OF CHRIST?
This issue is often raised as an objection to the truth that the dispensation of grace and the Mystery were revealed only after salvation was sent to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28), and not before. It results from failure to see that the doctrinal truth of each dispensation comprises a one-stop shop, a package deal. Again, truths from former dispensations should not be added in, nor truth from the new revelation read back into an earlier dispensation.
It is true that 1 Cor. 12:13 states: “For by one Spirit are well baptised into one body … and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” and that 1 Cor. 12:27 says “Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular”. But neither verse has anything to do with the “one body” and the “one baptism” of Eph. 4:5. Proof of that is whereas the Pentecostal Corinthian believers were baptised into one body by the “Spirit” and were “all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13), the “Spirit” has no such role in the baptism of Col. 2:12. Instead believers are: “Buried with Him in baptism wherein ye also are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God”. They are also told that they are risen with Him because God actually raised them together with Him (that is, when He arose) (Eph. 2:5-6).
Please realise that the whole subject matter of 1 Cor. 12 and 13 concerns the spiritual gifts of the Pentecostal Acts period. If the Spirit baptism of 1 Cor. 12:13 is valid today then those baptised are also “made to drink into” the “one Spirit”. And in 1 Cor. 12 the Spirit is distributing supernatural gifts. So, if you are baptised “into the body” in 1 Cor. 12:13 you are also baptised into speaking with tongues (that is, supernaturally uttering foreign languages you have not learned), prophesying, doing miracles and healing people with a sure fire laying on of hands that always works.
But all that stopped at the end of Acts and no genuine God given spiritual gifts of discerning of spirits, speaking in divers tongues, healing, words of knowledge and wisdom, prophesying or working of miracles exist today. Even the Pentecostals have largely stopped seeking to recover them because the pathetic manifestations they do achieve are widely recognised as bogus. Indeed they are at best poor counterfeits of the originals clumsily manifested by devils.
True, the Spirit baptism of 1 Cor. 12:13 baptised both Jewish and Gentile believers into “one body” but that body was the “church of God which is at Corinth” (see 1 Cor. 1:2). The “church of God” is also named as the church of the entire Acts period calling (see Acts 15:9, Gal. 1:13, 1 Cor. 1:2 and 10:32). Clearly then the “church of God” cannot be not the same church as the “…church which is his body the fullness of Him which filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23), since this latter church is part of the Mystery revelation “…which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” (Eph. 3:5).
May I ask: Have you received the one baptism or a baptism that is something else? Thankfully, to receive the “one baptism” you don’t have to go into the water baptismal tank again or have hands laid on you. All that is needed is simply to believe the truth as it stands in Col. 2:11-13.