After last week’s excursus, we’re ready to return to our examination of what the New Testament says about baptism. The next passage to discuss is found in Ephesians 4:
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6)
What’s the big deal about baptism? Why do some people talk about it so much? This passage helps us see why. When Paul wants to discuss the essentials of Christian unity, one of the seven things mentioned is baptism. In fact, we can go through the New Testament and note how many times baptism is mentioned compared with other Christian practices, like the Lord’s Supper. Baptism is mentioned much more frequently. Does that mean it’s more important than the Lord’s Supper? By no means. But baptism holds a central place in Christian doctrine.
One complication is the fact that the Bible mentions more than one baptism. There is John’s baptism. John said Jesus would baptize with the Spirit and with fire. Jesus spoke of his suffering and death as a baptism. Does that mean we can’t be sure of what Paul is saying here?
I think we can be sure. We’ve already seen that John’s baptism was superseded by baptism in the name of Jesus. And baptism in the Holy Spirit isn’t something we’re told to seek. God poured out his Spirit on all flesh, and we can now receive the Spirit in our lives by being baptized in water. Paul is talking about baptism in the name of Jesus.
It’s ironic then that baptism has often been a source of division, when it’s one of seven things that Paul points to that should be the basis of our unity. May we be drawn together through this reenactment of Jesus’ death, through this new birth into a renewed life. May the one baptism help us be one body.