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Ephesians 4:5 – One Baptism

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.

Scripture references: Acts 1:5; Acts 2:4; Acts 10:44-47, 11:15-17; Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 4:5; Matthew 28:19