Sunday, 4 September 2016
…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; Ephesians 4:5
Paul continues the thought of the previous verse. There, it noted the “unity of the Spirit.” Now the second member of the Trinity is named; “one Lord.” Further the idea moves from the calling (what we are expected to do in verses 1 thru 4), to the One who calls and how that position is realized.
The church is established on Christ and it is built up in Christ. He is the Foundation and the Capstone of the church, and He is its Lord. We are brought into the church through faith in Him and what He has done. But the “one faith” mentioned here is not that which is believed (meaning the tenets of doctrine), rather it is the principle of faith. There is one faith for all who are members of the household of God. We place our faith in the work of Christ, and we are brought into “the faith.” And this leads to “one baptism.”
Despite the general belief by most that this is speaking of the external rite of baptism, this is not at all what is being spoken of. Rather, it is the “baptism of the Spirit” which comes by faith in Christ. Paul said in chapter 1 –
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14
This sealing is the baptism which is being referred to. This is confirmed by the words of Jesus in Mark 16:16 –
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
The formula here shows what the conditions are. If one believes, he is baptized and thus saved; He has received the baptism of the Spirit. If one does not believe, he has not received the baptism and will be condemned. Salvation is conditioned on belief and baptism; condemnation is conditioned on not believing. Therefore, Jesus cannot be speaking of an external rite. The “belief” and the “baptism,” though not synonymous, are equated as one occurrence. This is confirmed then in Paul’s words of Ephesians 1:13, 14.
He shows this elsewhere as well. In Galatians 3:27, he says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This is not speaking of water baptism, but of the baptism of the Spirit. One is clothed in Christ through faith in His work. In Acts, the household of Cornelius first received the Spirit by hearing the word and believing. Only then did they later submit to water baptism as an external sign of the inward baptism already realized. This same thing is referred to by Paul in Colossians 2:12 and Romans 6:3-5. In each instance, he is speaking of the work of the Spirit and equating it with “baptism.”
Finally, faith is placed first at some times (Mark 16:16), and at other times “baptism” is placed first (Colossians 2:12). Thus, these are one occurrence with two separate parts. The rite of water baptism is not what is being spoken of here. Rather, that is an ordinance for the church; it is an outward demonstration of the inward change which has already taken place.
Life application: Why is it important to understand that water baptism is not what is being spoken of here? Because if this is misunderstood, then other nutty ideas immediately result. Two obvious ones which are taught in some churches are, 1) Water baptism is a condition for salvation. 2) There is a second baptism of the Spirit for some people. Major denominations teach these incorrect doctrines which then lead to supposed superiority of some people over others. But Paul shows in this verse that there is one baptism which places all on a level field before the Lord. Doctrine matters.
Lord God, it is so wonderful to know that by mere faith in what Christ has done, we are sealed with Your Spirit. We receive our “baptism of the Spirit” at that moment, dying with Christ and being raised by Your mighty power. We are dead to the law and all that stood opposed to us, and we are raised to newness of life in Him. What a marvelous thing to consider – all because of the work of Another! Thank You for what You have done for us through Christ the Lord! Amen.