Ephesians 4:5 – One Baptism

By Wayne Jackson

The words “baptism” or “baptized” are employed in several different senses in the New Testament.

Sometimes baptism refers to the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5) which was bestowed upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and which later was granted to the household of Cornelius in order to demonstrate divine approval of God’s acceptance of the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-17).

Usually, however, when the term “baptized” is employed, the reference is to a water ritual associated with the remission of sins—whether during John the Baptizer’s ministry (Mark 1:4), or later in the Christian age (Acts 2:38). On the day of Pentecost, there were thus two “baptisms”—one upon the apostles (2:4), Holy Spirit baptism and another in water for penitent believers (2:38, 41).

It appears strange to some, therefore, that Ephesians 4:5 stresses the fact that there is but “one baptism.” What is the one baptism? Spirit baptism, or water baptism?

It is clearly water baptism for the following reasons:

  1. The baptism of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) was water baptism—as evidenced by the fact that it had a human administrator. It was to last till the end of the world. Consequently, Holy Spirit baptism is eliminated.
  2. F.F. Bruce says: “baptism in the New Testament is always baptism in water unless the context shows it to be something else; that is to say, the word is always to be understood literally unless the context indicates a figurative meaning” (Questions Answered, p. 106). There is nothing in this passage to indicate a figurative usage.

This passage is a strong argument against Holy Spirit baptism today. Underline “one baptism,” and jot this note: The age-lasting baptism of Matthew 28:19. No Holy Spirit baptism today.

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.