One [Unifying] Baptism

by Pastor Kevin Sadler

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“Three boys are in the schoolyard bragging of how great their fathers are.
“The first one says, ‘Well, my father runs the fastest. He can fire an arrow, and start to run, I tell you, he gets there before the arrow.’
“The second boy says, ‘Ha! You think that’s fast! My father is a hunter. He can shoot his gun and be there before the bullet!’
“The third one listens to the other two and shakes his head. He then says, ‘You two know nothing about speed. My father works in the government department. He stops working at 5:00 and he is home by 3:45!!’ ”1

Speaking of something to boast in, a truth that all of us can and should glory in, is our spiritual baptism. It is an unspeakable blessing of God to be baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit. This baptism unites us with our Savior and His death, burial, and resurrection, and it further unites us with one another in the Church, the Body of Christ.

Not More than One Baptism

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

These verses contain “the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3), and these seven truths are to unite believers, members of the Church.

First, there is “one Body.” There is one singular Church for this current dispensation of grace. Though there are many different denominations and countless local assemblies in the world, there is only one Body. The one Body is the one true Church, the universal body of believers of this present age. It is made up of anyone and everyone who has trusted the gospel of the grace of God, that Christ died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Eph. 1:12-13).

Second, there is “one Spirit.” There are not separate Spirits or different Spirits that indwell the many members of the one Body, but the same Spirit. One Spirit, the Holy Spirit, indwells the Church as a whole and every individual in it (Eph. 2:22).

Third, there is “one hope of your calling.” We who are in the Church do not have different hopes; we all have the same hope of heaven (Eph. 2:6). There is a different hope held out in the Bible for Israel: an everlasting kingdom on the earth. However, our one hope and eternal calling in Christ is heaven.

Fourth, there is “one Lord.” The same Lord over you is the same Lord over me and all of us in the Church: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the Body (Eph. 1:22-23), and we are each called to submit to Him and His loving Lordship.

Fifth, there is “one faith.” We do not follow multiple or different faiths. There is not one faith for one part of the Body and another faith for a different part of the Body. There are other faiths to be found in the Bible that were to be followed and obeyed in the past, however. For example, for 1500 years, in order to be accepted of God, Israel was required to trust and obey the law. However, in the dispensation of grace, there is one faith, one body of truth for us to trust and follow: the faith that was committed to the Apostle Paul for the Church under grace (Eph. 3:1-9).

Sixth, there is “one baptism.” There are multiple baptisms taught in the Bible: the baptisms and washings required under the law, the water baptism of John the Baptist, the water baptism of Peter at Pentecost, and numerous spiritual baptisms. However, in the dispensation of grace, there is one baptism, the baptism that the Holy Spirit performs at our salvation (1 Cor. 12:13).

Seventh, there is “one God and Father of all” of the Body. There is one God in three Persons—all three Members of the Godhead being mentioned in this passage—and we all worship and serve the same God. God the Father is “above all” the Body, works “through all” the Body, and is “in…all” the Body.

It is important to look at the “one baptism” in light of the other six ones in the list, because there obviously are not multiple Bodies, various Holy Spirits, nor several hopes of our calling; there are not lots of Lords, numerous faiths for us to follow under grace, or more than one God the Father. There is only one of each of these for us. Likewise, there are not multiple or two different baptisms, but only one for the Church today. And this baptism is spiritual; it is a Spirit baptism.

“In Christ” is a blessed prepositional phrase and is stated frequently in Ephesians (Eph. 1:1,3; 2:6; etc.) and throughout Paul’s epistles. How does one get “in Christ”? The answer: by the Holy Spirit’s baptism. The Holy Spirit identifies, unites, and places us into Christ the instant we trust the gospel of grace.

We firmly believe in baptism. However, there is only “one baptism” today; Ephesians 4:3,5 teaches that the spiritual baptism is what is to unite us as the one Body of the Church today. The one baptism is to be what it stands for, proclaims, and causes us to rejoice in continually, because the truth of this baptism is an extraordinary blessing.

A Spiritual Circumcision

“In Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11).

Colossians 2:10 states the wonderful truth that “ye are complete in Him [Christ].” In Christ, we are made whole. By faith alone in Christ, trusting His finished work, we lack nothing for salvation. Nothing is missing and nothing can be added. We are not saved by Christ plus something or plus anything. It is not Christ plus water baptism. Christ is all we need, and salvation is in Him alone.

However, our completeness in Christ which Paul teaches here in Colossians 2 is dependent upon baptism—the one spiritual baptism, that is. Having stated that we are complete in Christ in verse 10, Paul then expounded on that completeness.

In verse 11, Paul wrote, “In Whom,” meaning in Christ, we “are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.” Being in Christ by way of our spiritual baptism means that we share in what was accomplished through His death. We are joined to His death and resurrection by the Spirit and receive the eternal benefits of His finished work, for example, “In Whom [Christ] we have redemption through His
blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14).

In our union with Christ and being identified with His death, we are “circumcised,” and this circumcision is “made without hands.” This is teaching that the moment we were joined to Christ by the Spirit’s baptism, a spiritual circumcision also took place. Paul’s explanation of this circumcision is found in the second half of Colossians 2:11: “in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.”

“The body of the sins of the flesh” refers to the old, sinful, fallen human nature which dominates and reigns over the unbeliever. But the “putting off” of this old nature takes place “by the circumcision of Christ,” or as the result of Christ’s death on the Cross and our union with it when we believed.

Paul is giving us positional truth of our salvation and completeness in Christ. When we believe the gospel of grace, before God, our old, fleshly, sin nature is crucified and put off by Christ’s death on the Cross. Having been baptized by the Spirit into Christ’s death and triumph over sin (Rom. 6:3), we have been freed from the old, sin nature and its dominion over us.

The Holy Spirit baptizes us, places us in union with Christ and His death, and the death of Christ puts off and removes the body of the sins of the flesh in the sight of God. Thus, by virtue of our union with Christ and His Cross, we are now a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), we are wholly God’s, and we are complete in Christ.

A Spiritual Baptism

“Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, Who hath raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).

Verse 12 does not refer to physical water baptism any more than verse 11 is referring to physical circumcision. When Paul states in verse 12 that the believer is “Buried with Him in baptism,” this baptism does not refer to water, and water baptism does not bring about this truth. To add water to these verses is to rob the Church of the blessed spiritual realities that the Holy Spirit affords us and intends to convey in Scripture.

The word baptism does not mean water. It means identification and union. Paul used the word baptized in this way in 1 Corinthians 10:2 when he wrote that Israel was “all baptized unto Moses.” That is, Israel was identified with Moses and the law.

There is only one baptism today, so when Paul teaches the Church that we are “Buried with [Christ] in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him,” he is pointing out a spiritual reality of our being joined, not only to Christ’s death (Col. 2:11), but also to His burial and resurrection (v. 12). Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish such a work as this, to transcend time and space and supernaturally, spiritually, eternally place one who lives in the 21st century in the tomb of Christ and unite us with His burial and glorious resurrection.

The word “with” describes our connection to Christ. With is a word of connection and union; it is our lifeline to Christ by the Spirit. The Bible says that when Christ died, we died with Him. When Christ was buried, we were buried with Him. And when Christ was resurrected, we were resurrected with Him. Our death, burial, and resurrection with Christ is no less a reality than His own physical death, burial, and resurrection.

Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is the complete, all-sufficient payment for sin. And, by the Spirit, the moment we believe, we have been spiritually baptized and joined to His victorious finished work, and thus, we are complete in Him.

All of this, as Paul puts it, is “through the faith [faithfulness] of the operation of God” (v. 12). Under grace, baptism is not by the operation or instrumentality of man; it’s entirely the operation of God. God performs it. God is faithful to carry out our baptism for us when we believe Christ died for our sins and rose again. Man does not have anything to do with it. Baptism is like salvation today: entirely of God, entirely by His grace, and received entirely by faith alone.

We walk by faith and not by sight under grace (2 Cor. 5:7). Our spiritual baptism is not something we can see, but it does take place instantaneously at the moment of our salvation. It is something the Spirit has revealed to us in His Word, and we are called to trust that God, Who does not fail, did our baptism for us when we believed. And when we rest in this baptism, grow in our understanding of it, and rejoice in it, we give honor to God and His work of one baptism in the dispensation of grace.

How Am I Crucified with Christ?

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20).

Every believer can say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and it is due to the one baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This statement has past, present, and future ramifications.

First, the believer being crucified with Christ is a past event. By the Spirit’s baptism, when Christ was crucified, we were crucified with Him. The “I” in “I am crucified with Christ” is the old self, the evil “I,” you could say. This “I” was crucified with Christ, and it no longer has a valid claim on us. Now, by the one baptism, we are no longer in Adam but in Christ, and we are “alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).

In the eyes of God, there was a decisive crucifixion of the old, sinful self with Christ. We know from Romans 6:6 that God wants us to move forward by faith with the knowledge of this past event: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” The old man, which still remains with us (Eph. 4:22), does not have dominion over us because it has been defeated and rendered powerless by the Cross. By faith, we can now allow Christ to reign over us so that we live a life of “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

Second, the believer being crucified with Christ is a present experience. In the original Greek, “I am crucified with Christ” is in the perfect tense, indicating a past event with present, ongoing effects. Christ’s death and our death with Him via baptism is to have an abiding effect on our daily life.

The positional death of the old man and the stripping of its power by the Cross allows the believer in daily practice to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). Living in light of our power over sin and the old man by our new life in Christ is what it means to be crucified with Christ as a present experience.

Third, the believer being crucified with Christ has a consequence on our future. As Romans 6:8 reminds us, “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Having been crucified with Christ, we are free from sin’s condemnation, we are complete in Christ, and we will live with Him eternally. Being crucified with Christ, our salvation and hope of glory is secure.

By our baptism into Christ, the old, sinful “I” is crucified with Christ, but as Paul went on to write, “nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). The old, rebellious “I” is crucified and dead in God’s eyes, and now the new, righteous “I” lives. God desires this truth of the exchange of the old life for the new life in Christ, which takes place at salvation, to redirect the entire course of our lives, so that we live in our new life and leave the old behind.

As a result of our uniting baptism into Christ, we are in Christ and Christ is in us, and “Christ liveth in me.” We are one with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). As Paul wrote in Colossians, we have “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). And now that we live in Christ and Christ lives in us, our lives as believers are about the life of Christ being lived out through us.

One Baptism Makes Us One

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28).

Having trusted Christ as our Savior, we “have been baptized into Christ.” This is not water baptism. Only the Holy Spirit can baptize a person into Christ. Paul is referring to the one spiritual baptism by which we are placed into a permanent union with Christ and are forever identified with Him.

The baptizing work of the Spirit unites us to Christ, and it also places us into the Church, the Body of Christ. As 1 Corinthians 12:13 states, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free….”

In Christ, Galatians 3:28 tells us that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female.” Paul wrote of the most well-defined distinctions in the social structure of his day, where sharp lines of distinction and walls of separation were set up between groups of people. He wrote of these sharp distinctions to contrast how these things are of no consequence in Christ.

In Christ, none is superior or inferior to another. In the Church, a believing Jew is not more privileged than a believing Gentile, a believing slave is not inferior to a believing free person, and a believing man is not superior to a believing woman.

Instead, as Paul wrote, “for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). The one spiritual baptism binds together all the members of Christ’s Body and makes us one in Him. At salvation, we are brought into a blessed unity in the Church—the saved with the Savior and the saints with the saints. The person who becomes one with Christ through the one baptism becomes one with every other believer in the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:5). And this oneness will never end.

God’s revelation concerning baptism today is that there is “one baptism” and that it is spiritual and performed by the Holy Spirit. May we glory in this uniting baptism and tell others of its glory!

1. Jokes, One, accessed April 5, 2024,

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