UNITY: Unity in Obedience

By Roy E. Cogdill

It is just as essential that we be united in our obedience as it is that we be united in faith. The same passage that teaches that there is “one faith” teaches also that there is “one baptism.” That means just what it says and it is just as true as “one God,” “one Lord,” and “one Spirit.” it would be just as right to preach and believe “many Gods” – and one as good as another, “many Christs”- and one as good as another, “many Spirits”-and one as good as another, as it is to preach .1 many faiths”-and one as good as another, or two kinds of baptism and three different ways to be baptized “according to the convenience and preference of the candidate,” as human creeds sometimes read. Unity involves obedience, or practice, just like it involves the same faith, the same rule by which to walk, the same source of authority, and the same object of worship.

God does not require one thing of one person and something else of another. He is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:tt). He does not accept one act as obedience one time and an entirely different act the next time. He has given no commandment that can be obeyed in a variety of ways. “The convenience and preference of the candidate” is not the standard of what constitutes obedience to God’s commandment to be baptized. It is the will and Word of God that must govern our obedience and He has but one standard for all.

There is One. Authority in Baptism

Bible baptism originated in Heaven’s will. It did not come by the will and wisdom of man. It is commanded to all men and is age lasting (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:t8-20). Because Christ commanded on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came and repentance and remission of sins was preached by the apostles of Christ for the first time (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 2:36-41), those who heard the word were “pricked in their hearts” (Acts 2:37), and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They were commanded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). The name of Jesus represents the authority of Heaven (Matt. 28:18-20). Baptism in the name of Jesus involves reverence for His authority and obedience to His word. Men should be baptized because Christ commands them to be every one of them. When men are not baptized they are rebelling against the will of Christ. When men are baptized it must be an act of obedience to Christ and to please no one else.

When the Gospel was preached for the first time to the Gentiles also (Acts 10), at the house of Cornelius, they were commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48). Whether Jew or Gentile the same Lord by the same authority commands baptism. This removes baptism from the realm of church authority. Man cannot be scripturally baptized by the authority of any church. It must be by the authority of Christ.

There is One Element in Baptism

The New Testament has recorded several baptisms. There was the baptism of John, the Baptist, to begin with, but it served its purpose and is no longer acceptable as obedience to God. This is evidenced by the example of Apollos in Acts 18:24-26. He spake and taught accurately the things of the Lord but he knew only the baptism of John until Aquila and Priscilla took him unto them and taught him the “way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). Anyone that still believes in and practices the baptism of John needs to be taught the way of God more perfectly. Apollos had made some disciples in Ephesus and when Paul found them and asked, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” their reply was, “Unto John’s baptism.” Paul explained that John’s baptism was not in the name or by the authority of Christ and “when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5). They did not plead that they were satisfied with their baptism. When they learned that their effort to obey God did not meet the divine standard, they just did it again in the right way. While John’s baptism was in the right element -water-it was not upon the right authority.

Then in the New Testament we read of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was simply the coming of the overwhelming power of the Spirit. God had promised this to both Jew and Gentile-“all flesh” (Joel 2:32). John had taught his disciples of it (John 1:33-34; Luke 3:16). Jesus had also promised it to the apostles (John 14:1617; 14:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:4-8). This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost to the Jews (Acts 2:14; 2:16-20; 2:32-33). It was fulfilled to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius and is recorded in Acts 10:44. Peter testifies concerning this in Acts 11:15-17. He said the Holy Spirit “fell on them, as on us at the beginning” and connected this with the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:16). So the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled to “all flesh’. and having served its purpose it never recurred or at least its recurrence is not recorded in the Scriptures. In A. D. 63, or thereabout, Paul said in writing to the Ephesians, “one baptism.” Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit is one and baptism in water is one, if a man had both he would have one too many baptisms, for one and one still make two, and there is just “one” now. We do not need the baptism of the Holy Spirit today for the reason that it came upon the apostles – revelation – for the will of the Lord has already been revealed. Neither do we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the reason it came upon the Gentiles, for this incident recorded “bears them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:7-9). Surely we can believe the testimony of the divine record on this point and do not need the experience to occur all over again to convince us. These instances record the fulfillment of the promise and it has served its purpose and does not need to recur. Men are not being baptized today with both the Holy Ghost baptism and water baptism.

In Acts 10:47-48, Peter commanded those who had heard the Word and believed to be baptized in water. Jesus had commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel and baptize those who believed the preaching (Mark 16:15-16; Matt. 28:18-20). Baptism in the name of Jesus is a command and must be obeyed. The baptism commanded by Jesus was to be administered by men and men never administered the baptism of the Holy Spirit for only Jesus did that. Jesus taught that men, in order to enter the Kingdom of God, must be born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). Paul teaches that men are saved not by their own works of righteousness but by mercy from God in the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). When our bodies are washed in plain, unmixed water in the obedience of faith in baptism, our hearts are cleansed by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus (Heb. 9:13-14; 10:19-22). Baptism in water is in order to obtain a good conscience and not just the washing of the body in water to get the body clean (1 Peter 3:20-21). Hence, in baptism the agency of the Holy Spirit and water are united. “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13).

It follows as clearly as the noonday sun follows the dawn that baptism commanded by Christ unto all men and women throughout this age is in one element, and that element is water. It is the “washing of water in accordance with the Word” (Eph. 5:26).

Truth Magazine XX: 31, pp. 486-487
August 5, 1976