If the word church is not referencing to the body of Jesus Christ as is the word congregation, how can you support the traditional claim "church of Christ". Also, since water baptism is the Old Testament ritual of purifying, a work a person must engage in to present him or herself as ready before God, and since Ephesians 4:5 says there is only one baptism, which according to even John the Baptist declared would be the baptism of the Holy Ghost and with fire performed by Jesus Christ, which baptism are you saying is necessary for salvation?
This question is comprised of two parts, the first directed toward the designation for the church and the second directed toward the nature of the “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5.
The first question contains a false assumption that “. . . the word church is not referencing to the body of Jesus Christ as is the word congregation. . . .” The truth is that the church and the body of Christ are the same thing. (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24.) For a fuller discussion of this subject refer to the sermon on the Undenominational Nature of the Church on this web site and to the lessons on the church. The question also contains another error when it makes a distinction between “church” and “congregation.” The word “congregation” is never used in reference to the church in the KJV, and it is used only once that way in the ASV (Hebrews 2:12). This distiction, however, is misleading, because the word translated “congregation” in Heb. 2:12 is from the same Greek word translated “church.” Both the word “church” and the word “congregation” can refer to the body of Christ.
The two errors are followed by an inquiry that asserts that the term “church of Christ” is a “traditional claim.” To the contrary, the term “church of Christ” is neither a “claim” nor a “tradition.” It is a scriptural appellation. Though in the plural (referring to more than one local church), it is used in Romans 16:16. The word “church” in the expression is not capitalized because it is not a name in the formal sense of a name. It is a part of a description meaning the church that belongs to Christ. In Matt. 16:18, Christ refers to it as “my church,” which is the same as the church that belongs to Christ. In Acts 20:28, Paul describes the church bought with the blood of Christ as “the church of the Lord,” which is the same as the church of Christ. In Heb. 12:23, the church is described as the “church of the firstborn.” Since Christ is God’s Firstborn, it is a reference to the “church of Christ.” However, “church of Christ” is not the only scriptural designation of the church. It is referred to as the “church of God” in 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:32; 11:16, 22; 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5, 15 (church of the Living God); and 1 Pet. 4:17. In passages too numerous to list it is called simply “the church.” Never in the New Testament is the church ever referred to by any religious practice such as Baptist, any principal of organization such as Presbyterian, or by any human name such as Lutheran. In scripture the church always belongs to Deity and is called a name that honors Deity.
The second question, like the first, is preceded by a number of misstatements. First, water baptism was not the Old Testament ritual of purifying oneself in order to “present him or herself ready before God.” In fact, there was no water baptism in the Old Testament. Second, the ceremonial washings of the Old Testament were not “works” in the sense in which this inquirer most likely uses that term. Third, John the Immerser is misrepresented in that he was not addressing the one baptism of Eph. 4:5 in the statement to which reference is made.
There were ceremonial washings primarily of priests and sacrifices. Every priest attending the altar was required to wash his hands and feet before beginning his official duties (Ex. 30:19-21). A laver was made for this purpose (vv. 17-21; 38:8) as part of the tabernacle furnishings. It was located between the altar and the tabernacle (40:30).
In the Temple of Solomon, ten lavers and a “molten sea” were provided for washing parts of sacrificial carcasses (1 Kings 7:23-37; 2 Chron. 4:2-6). The “sea” was for the priests to wash in and replaced the laver in the tabernacle; the ten lavers were used as baths for rinsing the portions used for burnt offerings (2 Chron. 4:6). The Greek word loutron occurs twice in the New Testament. In Eph. 5:26, Paul says that Christ gave Himself for the church “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing [laver] of water with the word.” In Titus 3:5, he says that Christians are saved “by the washing [laver] of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” In both passages the term is used metaphorically of baptism by which Paul says we are saved. Since this was written both in and after Eph. 4:5, the one baptism mentioned there must be the water baptism of the great commission (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38).
There need be no confusion because several baptisms are mentioned in the New Testament: (1) of John the Immerser; (2) of the Holy Spirit; (3) of suffering; (4) of fire; (5) for the dead; and (6) of the Great Commission. An examination of these baptisms leads to the conclusion that the baptism of the Great Commission is the baptism of Eph. 4:5.
THE BAPTISM OF JOHN THE IMMERSER (Matt. 3:1ff; Mark 1:4-11; Luke 3:2-28; John 1:15-36; Acts 19:1-5). John’s baptism can best be described as in preparation for the coming of Christ. The prior passages reveal (1) that the location of his ministry, the wilderness of Judea, where he baptized in the Jordan River in Aenon near Salim because there was much water there; (2) that he was commissioned by God to administer his baptism thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 (Luke 1:76; Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; John 1:33); (3) that the purpose of John’s message was (a) repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, (b) prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight, and (c) to bear witness of Christ by pointing others to him as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,” and after Christ came John was to diminish while Christ was exalted; (4) that those who responded to John’s baptism were commanded to (a) have faith (implied as they were Jews, Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:12; John 1:19, Acts 19:4), (b) repent (Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:5, Acts 19:4), (c) confess their sins (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:5) and (d) be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark1:4; John 1:26,31,33; Acts 19:4); and (5) that the duration of John’s baptism was to end with his ministry. When Paul found some in Ephesus who had been baptized only with John’s baptism, he taught them correctly and they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5). John’s baptism was not in the name of Christ, but rather pointed to the Christ (Acts 19:4). Clearly, John’s baptism was limited in time and could not be the baptism to which reference is made in Eph. 4:5.
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (Matt. 3:1ff; Acts 2; 10; 2 Cor 11:5). There are two explicit examples of Holy Spirit baptism: the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and Cornelius’ household (Acts 10). There is one implied example: the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 11:5). Holy Spirit baptism was administered by Christ (Matt. 3:11; John 15:26) or the Father (John 14:26). In all cases of Holy Spirit baptism, the purpose was never to save. The Holy Spirit baptism fell on the apostles (1) to teach them all things (John 14:26); (2) to bring all things to their remembrance (John 14:26); (3) to enable the apostles to accurately bear witness (John 15:27); (4) to guide them into all the truth (John 16:13); and (5) to show them things to come (John 16:13). The purpose of Cornelius’ Holy Spirit baptism was to convince both the Jews and Gentiles that the blessings of salvation were now for all men (Acts 10:44-45; 15:8-9). Holy Spirit baptism is implied in Paul’s statement that he was not a whit behind the chiefest apostles (2 Cor. 11:5). Paul demonstrated that he possessed those things associated with Holy Spirit baptism by (1) writing inspired scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:37); (2) laying on hands thus imparting the Holy Spirit to others which was done only by apostles (Acts 8:18; 19:6); and (3) being unharmed by a viper (Acts 28:3; Mk. 16:18). Holy Spirit baptism was a promise. It was not a command to certain ones for certain purposes (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). Holy Spirit baptism was first administered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It extended chronologically to the conversion of Saul and the conversion of Cornelius. There is no Biblical record that it was ever administered at any other time at any other place for any other purpose. Being thus limited in time and purpose, being a promise and never a command, being administered by Deity and never by human agency, it cannot be the baptism of Eph. 4:5.
THE BAPTISM OF SUFFERING (Luke 12:50). Jesus spoke to James and John of a baptism he was to baptized with and that he was straightened until it was accomplished. The path from Gethsemane to Calvary demonstrated the truth of this statement. Jesus’ soul was sorrowful even unto death (Matt. 26:38; Mark 14:34). Luke tells us that as Christ prayed his sweat became as it were of great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Hebrews 5:7 describes this baptism: “who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” Clearly this was a baptism that the Lord alone could bear and that he had to bear alone. It cannot be the baptism of Eph. 4:5.
THE BAPTISM OF FIRE (Matt. 3:11; 25:46; Mark 9:44, 46, 48; Rev. 20:14). John the Immerser taught that there would be a baptism with fire. The baptism of fire will be administered in eternity in hell (Rev. 20:14) by God who judges the world through Christ (Acts 17:30-31; Matt. 25:31-46; Rom. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 20:11-15). The purpose of the baptism with fire is to punish the wicked and disobedient men, angels and Satan from His presence (Matt. 25:41-46; 2 Thess. 1:8-10; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). The baptism with fire will be administered at the end of the Christian dispensation and will last eternally (everlasting punishment, Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:8-9). Clearly this baptism cannot be the baptism of Eph. 4:5. It is not administered during the Christian dispensation and it is never administered by human agency.
THE BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD (2 Cor. 15:29). This statement has created much discussion for many years. Many, including some quite fanciful, have been the suggestions for its meaning. Without addressing such because of space, the following seems to fit the context best. The text is set in the context of the “Resurrection Chapter” of the Bible in which Paul responds to some who claimed there was no resurrection from the dead (2 Cor. 15:12). Paul eloquently argues that based on Christ’s resurrection there will be a resurrection at the end of this world (2 Cor. 15:13-57). It is in this context that Paul speaks of being baptized for the dead. To prove the resurrection of the body Paul alluded to their baptism. Baptism is itself a burial and a resurrection. Some of the Corinthians were denying a resurrection of the body. Paul inquires, “What then of your baptism?” It portrayed that which they now questioned. Why were they baptized for (Greek, huper, with reference to) the state from which they would come forth by resurrection, if there were no resurrection? Their view actually nullified their baptism.
BAPTISM OF THE GREAT COMMISSION (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; etc.). The baptism of the great commission is the only baptism that is a universal command of God to which all accountable men are amenable. The element of the great commission baptism was water (Acts 8:26-40). Phillip and the Eunuch came to a certain water, the Eunuch inquired what hindered him from being baptized, both went down into the water, Phillip baptized the Eunuch, and they came up out of the water. Paul’s baptism implies water because he was told to be baptized and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). Great commission baptism is a burial into the death of Christ ( Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Great commission baptism brings one into Christ (Gal. 3:27) and from it one arises to walk in newness of life ( Rom. 6:4). Great commission baptism saves (though obviously not baptism only) (1 Pet. 3:21). After great commission baptism one is added to the church (Acts 2:47).
Which of these six baptisms is the baptism of Ephesians 4:5? What “one” means in connection with the other six “ones” of Eph. 4:4-6 is the same thing it means in connection with “one baptism.” Whatever the one baptism is it is the only one authorized by God. Everything else is erroneous or Paul’s statement is not true.
By process of elimination the baptisms of John the Immerser and of the suffering of Christ are by their very nature and purpose fulfilled. The baptism of fire is yet to come and is applicable only to the wicked, ungodly, and disobedient. The baptism for the dead involves an argument for the resurrection of the body. This leaves the baptism of the Holy Spirit and great commission baptism.
Holy Spirit baptism can be eliminated because it was not universal, being limited by example to the apostles and Cornelius’ household explicitly and Paul implicitly, it was administered by Christ, and it was a promise and not a command. Finally, Holy Spirit baptism was limited in time to approximately the first four or five years of the church’s existence, from Pentecost to Paul’s conversion to Peter’s preaching to the household of Cornelius.
This leaves great commission baptism. Does the evidence warrant the conclusion that this is the “one baptism” of Eph. 4:5? Absolutely. Paul wrote Ephesians about A.D. 62, some 28 years after the last recorded instance of Holy Spirit baptism. Further, the great commission baptism is in water, all men are subject to it, it is administered by men, it is the only baptism that saves, it is the only baptism that is related to the forgiveness or remission of sins, it is the only baptism that transports one into Christ, it is the only baptism that results in the Lord’s adding the baptized believer to the church, and it lasts until the end of the world. Clearly, it is the baptism of Eph. 4:5.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)