By Frank Jamerson
For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
This passage is often used to prove that a person must be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Both the context and teaching in other passages show that this cannot be the meaning of the verse.
First notice that the word en (translated “in” or “by”) is used in other verses in this chapter. “Wherefore I make known unto you, that no man speaking in (en) the Spirit of God saith, Jesus is anathema; and no man can say Jesus is Lord, but in (en) the Holy Spirit” (v. 3). The speaking “in” the Holy Spirit is obviously speaking by the direction of the Holy Spirit. In verse nine he said, “to another faith, in (en) the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings in (en) the one Spirit.” The gifts given “by” or “in” the Spirit were those imparted by the Spirit’s power. He was the source of those gifts.
The same word is used in the verse quoted in the beginning of this article. It is “by” (en) the direction of the Spirit that we are baptized into the body of Christ. Every person who is in the body entered in this manner. This is not baptism with the Holy Spirit, but baptism that the Holy Spirit commands.
Other passages shed light on the meaning of this verse. Paul wrote the Ephesians that Christ loved the church enough to die for it, “that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). The word “by” is from the word en, just as “by” in 1 Corinthians 12:13. It is “by the word” that the church is “cleansed with the washing of water.” This harmonizes perfectly with other Bible teaching that men are baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), to “wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16) or “into Christ” (Gal. 3:27). The writer of Hebrews made a similar statement when he said that the sacrifices and offerings according to the Old Law were taken away that Christ may establish a new law. “By” (en) that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). It was “by the Holy Spirit,” “by the word” or “by that will” that we were cleansed of our sins when we were “baptized into one body.”
Other passages also show that 1 Corinthians 12:13 cannot refer to Holy Spirit baptism. There are only two examples of Holy Spirit baptism in the New Testament. The apostles received it on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the household of Cornelius in Acts 10. In both cases, those who received it spoke in tongues. The verse under discussion (1 Cor. 12:13), says that “all” were baptized into one body, but did all the church in Corinth speak in tongues? Paul asked, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers ? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:29,30). The obvious answer to these questions is “No.” Since all in the church in Corinth did not speak in tongues, they did not all receive Holy Spirit baptism.
When Phillip went to Samaria and “preached good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and woman” (Acts 8:12). Were they saved? Certainly they were! Had they received the Holy Spirit baptism? No! When the apostles heard that Samaria had received the word they sent Peter and John to them to lay hands on them that they may receive the Holy Spirit, “for as yet, he was fallen upon none of them; only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:14-16). Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” is in water (Acts 10:47,48) and is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
Holy Spirit baptism was never administered “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and it was never “for the remission of sins” or “into the one body.” The Spirit, through the word, commands men to be baptized into Christ. When we obey that word, it is “by the Spirit” that we are baptized in water into the body of Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 13, p. 389
July 2, 1992