What is the “one baptism” the Apostle Paul says we have in common in Ephesians 4? Perhaps the answer is found in the first encounter Paul had with the Ephesian disciples recorded in Acts 19.
“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.” (Acts 19:1–7, NIV)
The disciples who were already in Ephesus when Paul got there had not received the Holy Spirit, because they had not been baptized into Jesus. Their baptism was about repentance and cleansing. It was a common Jewish cleansing ritual that John the Baptist used to call people to repentance.
Cleansing from sin is good. Dying to sin is better.
Christian baptism is about dying to your old life and being raised to new life in Christ. It is tied to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection and it is the means of grace that you receive by faith. Repentance and cleansing is great for getting “sins” forgiven, but dying and being raised again as a new creation “in Christ” removes the sin nature and makes a sinner a saint.
When you are baptized, you are adopted by the father, united with the Son and baptized in the Holy Spirit. When the Father says to Jesus at his baptism, “You are my Son in whom I am well pleased”, he is saying that to you. As the Spirit descended on him at his baptism, so he does on you. What’s true of the Son is true of you now. Dead and resurrected; alive and filled with the Spirit; you are “in Christ”.
Sunday we will talk more about the beautiful picture and promise baptism represents and explore the depths of what it means for you. If you have never been baptized, or if you thought it was just about cleansing, it will be enlightening! You will want to sign up to be baptized at our Thanksgiving service on November 21st.