INTERPRETING THE WORD ACCURATELY
Dr. Vic Reasoner


The Fallacy of Teaching Two Baptisms
2 Timothy 2:15

It has been claimed that there are two baptisms; that the Holy Spirit baptizes believers into the body of Christ and that subsequent to the new birth, Christ baptizes believers with the Holy Spirit. However, according to Ephesians 4:5 there is only one baptism.

Theologically, it is absurd to divide up the Trinity and teach that the Holy Spirit baptizes every believer into Christ at the new birth, but that Christ has not baptized every believer with the Spirit at that time. If there is a baptism by the Son and a baptism by the Spirit, why not also a baptism by the Father?

Methodism never used the phrase "the baptism with the Spirit" to mark the moment one is entirely sanctified, even though their teaching is sometimes misrepresented by holiness advocates. The more honest writers from within the holiness movement acknowledge that their emphasis is not that of Wesley, but they sometimes claim to have "improved" on his teaching. John Wesley said, "I never yet baptized a real penitent who was not then baptized with the Holy Ghost." He noted that the "One Baptism includes the Outward Sign and the Inward Grace."

The biblical teaching concerning Spirit baptism is located in four passages or clusters of parallel passages. As we examine every passage in Scripture which refers to Spirit baptism, we will discover that this artificial distinction between Christ's baptism and the Spirit's baptism does not exist.

1. A parallel passage in the four gospels is a promise by John the Baptist that Christ will baptize with the Holy Spirit. In Matt 3:11 and Luke 3:16 the statement is that "he will baptize you [en] the fire of the Holy Spirit." [en] can be translatedin, with, or by.

In Mark 1:8 no preposition is used, but "Holy Spirit" is in the locative case. The locative case refers to position. Christ baptizes us into the sphere of the Holy Spirit.

While the declaration made in John 1:33 may not be exactly at the same time as the statement was made in the three synoptic gospels, John also uses the preposition [en] .

2. Two parallel passages in Acts record the promise of Christ that his disciples will be baptized [en] the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 11:16).

3. Romans 6:3-4 describes being baptized into [eis] Christ Jesus and raised to a new life. The preposition [eis] was derived from [en] and gradually took over its functions until [en] dropped from usage in modern Greek.

This passage does not specifically mention the Holy Spirit and commentators are divided as to whether this is a reference to water or Spirit baptism. Although many people see the word "baptize" and immediately associate it with water, it is questionable whether Paul is speaking of the ritual of water baptism here. When we are baptized into Christ Jesus we are uniting with him in his death and resurrection. Through this baptism we die to the old life of sin and are raised from the dead that we may live a new life. A similar statement is found in Galatians 3:27, "for as many as were baptized into [eis] Christ, have put on Christ."

James D. G. Dunn says "baptism into Christ Jesus" is a metaphor. "It is drawn from baptism, but does not itself describe baptism, or contain within itself the thought of the water-rite, any more than did the synonymous metaphors of putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27) and being drenched with the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13)."

4. 1 Corinthians 12:13 declares that we were all baptized into one body by, in, or with [en] one Spirit. According to a misguided exegesis, this passage describes the initiation of the forgiven sinner into the Church. This initial baptism is by the Spirit; Christ will then baptize the believer with the Holy Spirit as a later event. The text does not allow for this interpretation for the following two reasons:

  1. because this initial baptism is [en] the Holy Spirit. This same preposition has been the usual preposition used in the passages (listed under #1 and #2) which supposedly teach a subsequent baptism. No valid distinction can be made between a baptism by the Spirit and a baptism with the Spirit. The Greek preposition [en] can have either meaning.
  2. Nowhere else in the New Testament does the Spirit do the baptizing, therefore [en] should probably not be translated "by." The Spirit is not the agent, but the element into which we are baptized. It is likely that here, as well, the Spirit is not the agent by which we are baptized, but, as Gordon Fee translates the phrase, "we are all immersed in the one Spirit, so as to become one body."

  3. because this same verse gives further explanation that at the same time as this initial baptism we were all given one Spirit to drink. The distinction that we enter the body of Christ initially and that we receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit later contradicts the teaching of this verse. Both the verb "baptize" and the verb "give to drink" are exactly the same form (aorist indicative passive). This indicates that both actions occurred at the same time.
  4. Gordon Fee writes that the clause "and were all given one Spirit to drink" does not describe a second experience of same kind. Instead it is used metaphorically for baptism and both clauses should be interpreted as a form of parallelism making essentially the same point.

    Actually this second verb, [potizo] (I give to drink), metaphorically carries the same meaning as to be filled. We drink of the Spirit and are filled with the Spirit at the same moment we are baptized with the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. The command to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18 is present passive imperative - keep filled or maintain the fullness of [en] the Spirit.

Having looked at every scriptural passage referring to Spirit baptism, we conclude that Christ is always the baptizer. He baptizes with the Spirit into the body of Christ or into the realm of the Spirit and the Church (the body of Christ).

By making the baptism with the Holy Spirit an experience subsequent to entrance into the kingdom of God, the modern holiness movement has obscured the significance of water baptism. Water baptism and Spirit baptism are two halves of one act or the one baptism. That one act or baptism is entrance into the kingdom of God. Baptism consists of an inward effusion of the Holy Spirit, outwardly typified by the application of water as its emblem. Water baptism, properly understood, is an outward sign of this inward grace. This is one event, not two; it is an act of initiation which occurs at the time of regeneration (see The Hole in the Holiness Movement, p. 46; see also Thomas C. Oden, Life in the Spirit, Systematic Theology: Volume Three, pp. 181-2).


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