Written Word

How Are We Baptised By One Spirit Into One Body?

“For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

This article builds on two previous articles which dealt with the words of Jesus: “you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” Briefly, Jesus’ words were fulfilled on Pentecost when he was glorified and gave the Holy Spirit. Now that the Spirit has come, he resides in the heart of every believer and, in his sovereignty, he distributes spiritual gifts “just as he determined.” (1 Corinthians 12:11) (See also Why Be Baptised?)

The direction of Paul’s teaching in chapter twelve is twofold: (1) the body of Christ is one body and (2) within that one body there is diversity. Unity and diversity are from God and can exist in harmony. Everyone in the body of Christ has been placed there by the Spirit, who is involved in conversion from beginning to end. Through his ministry the Spirit: (1) convicts us of our sinfulness, (2) enlightens our understanding, (3) illuminates our spiritual darkness, (4) teaches us about the Lord Jesus Christ, (5) shows us our need for the Saviour, (6) moves us to obedience and (7) baptises us into the one body of Christ.

How does the Spirit baptise us into the one body of Christ? We will arrive at a correct answer when we compare Scripture with Scripture. The apostle Paul writes: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) How does the Holy Spirit enable us to make that confession of faith? Earlier in his epistle Paul reminds the Christians how they had come to faith in Jesus Christ. He asks, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe.” (1 Corinthians 3:5) It was through the teaching given by Paul and Apollos that they “came to believe.” What was happening when Paul and Apollos were teaching? Through the message they proclaimed the Holy Spirit worked in the heart of those who heard and helped them to believe; hence their confession that “Jesus is Lord” is attributed to the Spirit. The Spirit’s ministry did not make redundant the ministry of Paul and his fellow workers. The word of God still had to be proclaimed. This point is well established in the Roman epistle. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” (Romans 10:14-15)

When the Corinthians heard the gospel how did they respond? “And many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptised.” (Acts 18:8) Those who believed the gospel were baptised in water, trusting the atoning death of God’s Lamb for their forgiveness. Without any difficulty Paul can speak of their conversion, (and ours) in these words: “For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) When the Corinthians “believed [the gospel] and were baptised [in water]” they were said to have been “baptised by one Spirit into one body.”

Every immersed believer has been baptised by one Spirit into the one body of Christ. And the racial, social and gender differences that divide society do not exist within the body of Christ: “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-27)

The Spirit unites the people of God by having baptised them all into the one body where they have access to “the one Spirit to drink.”