Posted by: The Simple Guy | January 30, 2010

One Baptism

Ok, it is becoming my pattern to set the mood with a video.  Mostly because music is a big part of my life, and as such, most discussions or thought processes attach themselves to a song in my head.  May not always make sense to you, but . . . well . . it is my blog.  8)

Let me say first off before this video that I am not intending to offend anyone here, the song is all in good fun.  Notice, he picks on himself first.

So, I have been in a theological exchange via e-mail lately with a Lutheran about baptism.  Neither of us were convinced of the other’s perspective.  However the conversation was fruitful for me because I spent a lot of time thinking about salvation, and the person and work of Jesus.

I am not going to attempt to summarize my brother’s position.  I am sure if you want to know what he thinks you can go to his blog.

By the way, I’m not sending you over there to fight with him, or stir things up.  He and I disagree, but he was very patient with my questions.  He took a lot of time in trying to help me understand how he sees this subject.  We concluded the conversation on good terms.

However, this post isn’t really about our discussion.  I just wanted you to know how I started spending serious time on this one.

There are those of us who say that baptism is just a symbol, an initial act of obedience.  We would say that nothing supernatural happens at baptism, other than the obedience of a Christian.  To a certain extent that is always miraculous.  We are new creatures.

Some would have a couple of problems with this.  First, they would say that while salvation is by faith, the means by which God (Jesus specifically) saves us is through baptism.  It is not something we do (not a work) but something He does to us.  Similar I guess to how He uses the foolishness of preaching to bring the message.  The preacher, missionary, or co-worker, etc who tells us the Gospel is a tool God uses to bring us to repentance.  The baptizer is a tool God uses to baptize us.  So they would say that an important part of salvation happens at baptism.  The second problem would be that they understand our position (we say we are obeying Christ) as works.

Let me add in here, that there are many words used in scripture for wash, clean, dip, and yes baptize.  Also, the word for baptize in Greek can be translated as each of these.  So what does the word mean?  Well I think the key to understanding this is that the word baptize carries a meaning the others don’t.  It carries with it the connotation of identification.  Not just cleansing, or dipping, or immersion.  Baptism carried the connotation of identification through immersion.  If you dipped a linen cloth in purple dye, it became purple.  This was the only one of those words that could be used that way.

Another sticky area, is that I have heard people talk about the baptism of the Spirit, separately from what we would call “water baptism”  However Eph 4 speaks of one baptism.

As I was studying this topic, I also came across these two statements Jesus made, and found them a bit puzzling.

Matthew 20:22-23 MKJV
(22)  But Jesus answered and said, You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They said to Him, We are able.
(23)  And He said to them, You shall indeed drink of My cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.

Luke 12:49-51 MKJV
(49)  I have come to send fire on the earth. And what will I do if it is already kindled?
(50)  But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am pressed down until it is accomplished!
(51)  Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.

Now these both occur after John baptized Jesus.  What baptism is Jesus talking about here?   It gets somewhat confusing, as plainly Jesus’ baptism is different form ours. . .

Then it hit me.  Every baptism I had been considering as the “one baptism” in Eph 4 was our baptism.  However, I think the baptism being spoken of is His baptism.  Not with John, but the one he was “pressed down” with.

He identified with me.  Because of this baptism, I can be saved.  If it was not for this baptism I wouldn’t have any hope.  I think our identification with Christ is secondary to His identification with us.  If there is “one baptism” that’s it.

Being baptized “in Christ” or “into His death” takes on a whole new meaning when you think of it that way.

What do you think?



This is not the forum for debating with or bashing Lutheran baptism.  I don’t want to go there.  But I am open to what you think about what I said.



  1. I’ve never thought about the “one baptism” in precisely the same way that you did here, but my first casual thought is that you may be right. I think, however, that I’d more go with the interpretation that the “one baptism” is baptism into Jesus Christ–not into Paul, not into Apollos, not into the church at Ephesus, but into Jesus Christ. In keeping with that, I’d see water baptism and Spirit baptism as two parts of the same thing; the water baptism being the sign and symbol of the Spirit baptism. Incidentally, my view on water baptism is that it’s a God-given means of expressing faith in Jesus who saves. Real faith in Jesus needs expression. The Lord gave us two ways of expressing initial faith: confession with our mouths and water baptism. Once we understand that, we can understand 1 Peter 3:21 better. Water baptism “saves us’ in the sense that it expresses initial faith in Jesus who saves. Some people would say they were saved by walking down an aisle, not meaning that the walking saved them, but that it expressed their initial faith in Jesus who saved them. In that same manner, the God-given act of baptism saves us.

    Thank you, Craig, for bringing up topics that stretch me (and presumably others), and for bringing them up in a humble effort to see more truth, not in a proud desire to win more arguments.

    I’ll think and pray about your interpretation of the one baptism.

  2. Jim,
    Thank you for the kind words. It is my desire to provoke unto love and good works. Sometimes we just provoke one another. 🙂
    I agree that faith needs expression, and I would be with James who questions faith that does not work.
    Let me know what you come up with as you ponder and pray about this. I love to learn about Him. We are supposed to learn together.


  3. Hey Craig,

    Sorry about being so sluggish in responding! I have been focused on some other things the past few days.
    Regarding the issue of baptism, just a couple short blips.
    I, like Jim, had not viewed the “one baptism” statement as concerning Christ’s “baptism of suffering” and so I too will have to consider that more thoroughly.
    Also, I agree that baptism is an act of identification with the resurrected Lord and when one is baptized they are in effect declaring that they are trusting in the resurrected Christ as their justification and cleansing from sin.
    I believe the greatest danger of water baptism is the very real tendency for people to place their focus on it because of it being an act that they can perform rather than trusting fully in the atoning work of Christ. I am reminded of Paul’s words when writing to the Corinthians, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (1Cor.1:17) Nothing must be allowed to eclipse the preaching of the cross, for in it is the power of God unto salvation, not in baptism.

  4. The following link gives the most exhaustive coverage of this passage that I’ve found:
    Having said that, he doesn’t consider the view you proposed, nor the view that I proposed. He assumes that the one baptism is either Spirit baptism or water baptism; concludes that it’s Jesus baptizing us with the Spirit. He points out that the great majority of commentators disagree with him.

    As I see it, Craig, the chief argument against your view is its novelty: that the great majority of readers don’t/haven’t seen it as a possible meaning for the passage. In Bible interpretation, a novel interpretation is sometimes right but usually wrong. Of course, that’s almost as strong an argument against the view I proposed.

    I’m still unsure of the meaning; am now leaning toward thinking that the “one baptism” is baptism into the Father, the Son and the Spirit; a baptism that is done physically by a pastor or other believer, and is done spiritually by Jesus himself.

    Whatever interpretation we take, I think we can agree on certain things:
    1. Baptism should unite, not divide, true Christians.
    2. Baptism is the God-given initiation into life as a believer.
    3. There’s a sense in which Jesus is baptized for us, a sense in which Jesus baptizes us in the Spirit, and a sense in which someone baptizes us in water as a sign of new life in God (especially in Jesus).

  5. Jim,
    Thanks for your comment and the link. I will look at it when I get the chance.
    I am leery of novel interpretations, don’t get me wrong. Actually, that is one reason I put it out there for people like you, Tom, Civilla, Bobby, and others to review.
    However, my main objective in studying scripture is to find out Who God is and what it says. I am certain you are the same.

    Yes, we can agree on those three things.

    Again, I very much appreciate your thoughts and comments.


  6. “He identified with me. Because of this baptism, I can be saved. If it was not for this baptism I wouldn’t have any hope. I think our identification with Christ is secondary to His identification with us. If there is “one baptism” that’s it.

    Being baptized “in Christ” or “into His death” takes on a whole new meaning when you think of it that way.

    What do you think?”

    Craig, I won’t keep responding here. Found this post through someone who went over. But I think our positions are coming closer now. our identity with him is indeed very secondary to his identifying with us. In the Christian faith it isn’t so much who you know, as who knows you. Good post.

  7. Bror,
    You are welcome here any time.
    I’m sure we will get along as long as we keep first things first. Not what I know, or who I know, but Who knows me.
    I hope you didn’t feel that I misrepresented your view.

  8. No, Craig, I thought you did a fairly good job summarizing my position.
    And I sort of like your idea here that the one baptism is Christ’s baptism his life, death and resurrection. Now strictly speaking I don’t think that is what Eph. 4 is talking about. I think it is talking about that baptism by which people become members of the church. But if I was going to preach Eph 4 I think this would do well, because it is Christ’s Baptism that is the one baptism we are baptized into, making it unnecessary for us to ever be rebaptized. It is also this baptism that has saved all mankind before and after he instituted baptism in Matt. 28. It was the culmination of Christ Circumcision, that fulfilled the covenant made to Abraham with his circumcision.

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