Ephesians 4:5 – “One Baptism”

Baptism is an oft-misunderstood topic, in spite of the Bible’s plain, simple teaching about it. However, the more plainly and simply something is taught in Scripture, the more the devil will try to confuse humans on that teaching. Nowhere is this truth seen more clearly than with the subject of baptism. While multiple baptisms are mentioned in Scripture, by the time Paul writes Ephesians, he says there is but one baptism. What, then, is the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5?

(1)  Baptism unto Moses (1 Corinthians 10:1,2). Referencing the Israelites’ crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14), this refers to a one-time event, in particular to Israel, which already has happened.

(2)  Baptism of suffering (Mark 10:35-40). Contextually, this is figurative of suffering for godliness and is spoken specifically to James and John. Furthermore, anyone could be overwhelmed with suffering, whether a Christian or not.

(3)  Baptism of John (Mark 1:1-5). This was preparatory for Jesus and His work and was temporary. When Paul encountered disciples who only had John’s baptism, he taught them further and they were baptized scripturally (Acts 19:3,4).

(4)  Baptism of fire (Luke 3:16,17). Administered by Jesus, this baptism references hell fire (see also Revelation 20:15; 21:8). This baptism is not to be desired and certainly is not commanded by God!

(5)  Baptism of the Holy Spirit (John 1:33; Acts 1:4-8). This was only administered by Jesus Himself (John 1:33). It was never commanded, but was a promise solely to the apostles (Acts 1:4-5,8). Following the pronouns in Acts 2:1-4 back to Acts 1:26, we see that only the apostles were immersed in the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

(6)  Baptism of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). Peter preached this (Acts 2:37,38), and Paul obeyed it in becoming a Christian (Acts 22:16; 26:19). Jesus ties this baptism to the gospel (Mark 16:15,16), and it is a re-enactment of the gospel (Romans 6:3,4).

The one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 cannot logically be any but that of the Great Commission. It is in water (John 3:3-5), washes away sins (Acts 22:16), and is for the salvation of the soul (1 Peter 3:21). It is a communion with the Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3,4) and is how a soul gets into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27). It is God’s work, not man’s (Colossians 2:10-12). Through Paul, the Holy Spirit commanded this one baptism, and all who would have hope in Jesus must obey this inspired command.

Chad Dollahite