Encountering certain disciples in Ephesus, Paul asked them, “Into what then were you baptized?” (Acts 19:3). When these twelve answered that it was “John’s baptism” they had received, the apostle explained that John’s was a temporary baptism meant to prepare the people for Christ (4). Accordingly, these Ephesians were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (5). Not all baptisms are equally valid; there is only “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) that matters now.
In the context of baptism (Romans 6:3-6), Paul told some Christians, “God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (17), meaning that the reason one is baptized – heartfelt obedience to a certain form of teaching – is just as consequential as the act of baptism itself.
Remarkably, John’s was “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4), which is exactly what baptism in Jesus’ name is for, as Peter preached, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
Although John’s disciples were baptized “for the remission of sins” they were not “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27), nor “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). Baptism for a correct reason remains invalid if all the correct reasons are not involved. If baptism for remission of sins is insufficient where baptism into Christ is lacking, then, so, too, is baptism into Christ insufficient where baptism into the body is lacking.
It is possible for one to be baptized for salvation’s sake (Mark 16:16; 1st Peter 3:21), in order to die with Christ (Colossians 2:12), but fail to grasp that, just as importantly, one must have as baptism’s purpose entrance “into one body” (1st Corinthians 12:13).
Since “the body” is “the church” (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23), it is imperative that one understands the singularity of the church, in contrast to manmade denominations, before submitting to baptism.
Since Jesus Christ is “the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23), being in that one body is a legitimate concern. Baptism accomplishes that objective, but only if the one receiving it understands.
By Bryan Matthew Dockens
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