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Q. How do we reconcile the One Baptism as Ephesians 4 talks about with the different kinds mentioned in Scripture?

Hi Dr. Deffinbaugh,

I was wondering if you could help me with a question I have. I sincerely appreciate your Biblical insight.

Ephesians 4 speaks of “One baptism,” yet there are many baptisms mentioned in Scripture. My main hangup is with 1 Cor 12:13 and Matthew 28:19. How can there be just one baptism if Christ commanded water baptism in the Great Commission, yet there is also the fact of being baptized into the Body of Christ. Some say that 1 Cor 12:13 nullifies water baptism as there is to be just one baptism, which is 1 Cor 12:13.

Please share your thoughts as you are able.

Sincerely, *****


Dear Brother *****,

First of all, I don’t have a doctorate, so it’s just plan Bob.

I think the answer to your question might be found in Acts, chapters 10 and 11. Note the “two” uses of baptism here:

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days (Acts 10:44-48, NAU).

12 “The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. 13 “And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:12-18).

Peter is divinely instructed to go to the home of Cornelius, a Gentile. While he is still preaching the gospel, the Holy Spirit fell upon this group of new believers, just as it had happed to the Jewish believers at Pentecost. Both groups were “baptized by the Holy Spirit.” And so it was that Peter, seeing the God had baptized these Gentiles in the same way the Spirit baptized the Jews at Pentecost, he baptized them with water.

And when Peter is called on the carpet for going to a Gentile home and preaching the gospel, he repeated the story. His argument was, “When these Gentiles received the Holy Spirit (in the same way we did), I remembered that Jesus said that John the Baptist baptized with water, but He would baptize with the Holy Spirit. And since it was obvious that the Spirit had baptized these Gentiles, how could he refrain from baptizing them with water?

So there are two baptisms: There is the “one baptism” of the Holy Spirit, and the believer’s water baptism. When Ephesians speaks of “one baptism” Paul is talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That happens only once. But when a person comes to faith (and is baptized by the Spirit), water baptism is the symbolic act that believers carry out, professing their identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. One “baptism” is done by the Holy Spirit. The other baptism is done by men. And both symbolize a person’s union with Christ.

To put it concisely, there is only one Spirit baptism, whereby the Spirit baptizes a new believer into one body (the body of Christ), and thus the new believer professes his or her new union with Christ by symbolically acting out their participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

I hope this helps,


Related Topics: Baptism

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