The one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 3:11
Several hundred years before the virgin birth of Christ, the prophet Joel predicted that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). Some argue that the promise of Joel 2:28 is proof positive that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still in force today, because if it were not, God would not be keeping His promise to pour His Spirit out upon all flesh. However, the fulfillment of this promise occurred in the book of Acts when the Jewish apostles (Acts 2) and the Gentile household of Cornelius (Acts 10) received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Since “all flesh” (as it relates to human beings) is either Jew or Gentile, and since God poured out His Spirit upon the Jews (Acts 2) and Gentiles (Acts 10), “all flesh” has representatively received the outpouring of God’s Spirit, just as Joel predicted.
Several factors preclude identifying Holy Spirit baptism as the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5. In the first place, Christ was the administrator of Holy Spirit baptism, “…This is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:33,34). The baptism that will last until the end of the world is to be administered by men (Mat. 28:19-20).
In the second place, the purpose of Holy Spirit baptism was narrow in its application. It was never intended for all believers. Some have argued that the entire number of the 120 disciples mentioned in Acts 1:15 received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit described in chapter Acts 2:1-4. However, careful investigation of the remote and immediate context proves the assertion to be false. The promises made by Jesus in the upper-room discourse that He would send the Holy Spirit were made exclusively to the apostles (John chapters14-16). Moreover, Jesus assembled with the apostles just prior to His ascension and promised them that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit when they received power from on high in the city of Jerusalem (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:2-8). Furthermore, the grammatical law which demands that a pronoun be connected with its nearest antecedent limits the reception of the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to the apostles. The “they” and “them” of Acts 2:1-4 matches “the apostles” of chapter 1:26. Also, the phrase, “But Peter, standing up with the eleven” (Acts 2:14) demonstrates that only the apostles received the outpouring on Pentecost.
Exploring the reasons why the apostles received the baptism of the Holy Spirit helps us to see why Holy Spirit baptism is unnecessary today. Jesus provides these reasons in His lengthy discourse in the upper room:
- To aid them, defend them, and assist them as their Comforter and Advocate (John 14:16)
- To teach them all things (John 14:26)
- To bring all things to their remembrance that Jesus had said unto them (John 14:26)
- To provide them with testimony from the Spirit about Jesus (John 15:26)
- To convict the world of sin (John 16:8)
- To guide them into all truth (John 16:13)
- To show them things to come (John 16:13)
- To glorify Christ (John 16:14)
All of these things would work together to confirm the apostolic message as having come from God (Mark 16:20; Romans 15:19; I Corinthians 2:4; I Thessalonians 1:5; Hebrews 2:4).