I began a conversation recently about what the bible has to say about different types of baptism. A friend of mine reminded me of a passage from Ephesians chapter 4, which says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (vs 4-6).
I told him that he had given me the perfect place to start the discussion regarding baptism into Christ. I think he got confused at that point so I promised him I would send him the link then we could speak about it more.
Baptism into Christ is also known as salvation. There is only one baptism in the context of verse 5, because verse 5 is talking about salvation. Because of the work of the Spirit in our lives, we can know God, though his grace, and through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus.
What is the role of the Spirit in salvation? It is two-fold: the Spirit convicts us of sin, and then he leads us to repentance.
There was a time, according to Ephesians 2:1, when we were dead in our sins. A sinful person has no knowledge of God in their heart, and no inclination to move toward God in their mind. When mankind fell in the very beginning, our kind began a journey of self-discovery that led to separation from God.
What we took in with our senses became truth, what our minds constructed was reality. We hear of God, we may even see him at work in the world, but we tend to explain these things, these miracles, away. This is generally call science, which we made to explain the things God does in the physical world.
When we chose Knowledge over Life in the garden, we could no longer see what God intended for us to see. We became blind to the spiritual realm. We can’t “know” ourselves into a right relationship with God. The work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, in baptizing into Christ, involves lifting that veil so that we get a glimpse of what is Real, what is True, what is Eternal. The work of the Spirit in convicting us of sin is to show us who we are without Christ, and at least a little bit of what God offers if we will follow him.
In John 16, Jesus is telling the disciples that it is almost time for him to go. I’m sure there were some confused looks. Other verses that you can look up on your own indicate that the disciples thought Jesus would usher in a new age and bring with him the Kingdom of God. But Jesus basically said, no that’s coming at a later date that only the Father knows.
Jesus said, “But if I go, I will send [the Helper] to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” John 16:7, 8.
Can we convince our own selves that we are sinful? Can anything we do on our own lead us to God? If so, Christ would not have needed to die – if our knowledge can lead us to repentance, it was all for nothing. No – the Spirit shows us our need, and at that point we have a choice. We can see the Truth and choose to walk away, or we can choose to accept the salvation that the Spirit offers.
When we decide to follow Christ, the Holy Spirit becomes one with our spirit, he renews us, brings us to life. Titus 3:5 says, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Regeneration is what the Spirit offers us. Regeneration is bringing to life that which was once dead. Just like God breathed into Adam, so the Spirit breathes into us when we accept Christ.
At that point, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into Christ. I Corinthians 12:13 says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” By the Spirit, we are baptized into the Body of Christ.
So, to be baptized by the Spirit into Christ means that you are saved, by the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Christ. But it is by the work of the Holy Spirit in each individual that it all comes about.
My understanding of this process that I began all those years ago is recent. Oh, I knew the concepts, was tested on them and wrote papers about it in college and seminary. That was my problem though – I approached God through knowledge, while my spirit wasted away. I was saved, but I did nothing to nourish my spirit, even thought I was challenging my mind.
Don’t fall for that – we are created in God’s image - body, soul, and spirit. We must engage God through all three if we are to know Him and experience all he has for us.