What is meant in Ephesians 4:5 that there is 'one baptism'?

Ephesians 4:4–6 says: "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." There are a couple different types of baptisms mentioned in the New Testament: water baptism and spiritual baptism. Because of this fact, the idea of "one baptism" seems confusing.

Water baptism is done in actual water, while spiritual baptism is done by the Holy Spirit. When one is baptized, it means they are submerged into whatever they are being baptized by, whether it be water or the Holy Spirit. Therefore, baptism indicates full commitment—being fully immersed. People who have been baptized are transformed people. Jesus spoke of baptism for those who follow Him (Matthew 28:18–20).

Salvation is based on God's grace and received through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, proven by His resurrection (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 10:9). Water baptism is an outward act to show an inner transformation. Just as Jesus was submerged in death and rose again, so our former sinful lives are symbolically put to death when submerged in the water. Our hearts are symbolically cleansed and our sins washed away; we die to our sin so that me might live in Christ (Galatians 2:20; Acts 2:38). Baptism is an outward sign of us being made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17–21). Paul describes the symbolic element of water baptism in Colossians 2:12, which says: "Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead."

John the Baptist prophesied of one coming who would baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16; cf. John 1:33). Jesus was the fulfillment of a prophecy God gave John the Baptist, which said that He on whom John saw the Spirit descend from heaven and remain was the one who would baptize with the Spirit, the Christ, the Son of God: "And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased'" (Matthew 3:16–17; cf. John 1:29–34).

It is the Holy Spirit who draws us to God and it is God's kindness that leads us to a place of repentance (John 6:44; Romans 2:4). When we are born again, it is a spiritual transformation—we are brought into God's family and indwelled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19; 12:13; Ephesians 1:13–14). This spiritual baptism, this indwelling of the Spirit, was promised by Jesus (John 14:16–17, 26; 15:26; 16:7–15). After Jesus rose from the dead, during the forty days He spent on earth prior to His ascension, Jesus : "ordered them [the disciples] not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, 'you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now'" (Acts 1:4–5).

In Acts 2, Jesus's promise was fulfilled as the Holy Spirit came, as a baptism of fire—just as it was prophesied to John the Baptist: "When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1–4). After the Spirit was poured out on the disciples, their lives were never the same—they were spiritually empowered to be bold witnesses, performing miracles and enduring persecution for the cause of Christ (Acts 4:8–12). The Spirit was given to all new believers, both Jew and Gentile, and brought unity to the newly formed church (Acts 10:44–48; 19:1–7). It is the same today; all who put their faith in Jesus are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13–14; Romans 8:9).

Paul uses the phrase "one baptism" in a line up that also includes "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God" (Ephesians 4:5–6). His focus is on unity in the church. The Spirit of God is at work within us, reminding us that we are God's children and this passage reminds us that we have the same salvation testimony—one Lord and one salvation (Romans 8:16). There is a singular salvation through Jesus. Paul encourages the church to live in unity so that we may be built up into Christ and faithfully live the new lives He has given us (Ephesians 4; cf John 17).

Related Truth:

What is Christian baptism?

What does water baptism symbolize?

In whose name are we to be baptized—Jesus' name (Acts 2:38), or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)?

Is believer's baptism / credobaptism taught in the Bible?

Is baptism related to circumcision? Is baptism the New Covenant version of circumcision?

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