One of our readers challenged me to view water baptism as invalid for today. The reader gave Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:6 as evidence that water baptism is invalid. Is this true? Has water baptism been cut out of the body of Christ? Let’s look at the Scriptures to see what they say.
Ephesians 4:4–6 NASB
4. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
Paul makes a statement that there “is” one baptism (vs. 5). Is Paul saying that water baptism Christ commanded as a part of disciple making is now invalidated by Paul’s statement of “one baptism”? That is impossible! Paul cannot invalidate the command of Jesus. Secondly, Paul never states that water baptism is invalid. Thirdly, Paul himself baptized converts to Christ, and Paul did not state that this part of discipleship was now ended. So what did Paul mean by saying that there is “one baptism”?
Paul states in Ephesians 4:3 that Christians are to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” As a unity, Christians are in “one body”. They have “one Spirit”, they have “one hope”, “one Lord”, “one faith”. And in this “one body” Christians have “one baptism”.
Paul is not talking about an individual confession of faith. He is also not talking about the public confession of faith made in water baptism. Paul is exclusively referencing the unity of that one BODY baptism that unites all Christians into the body of Christ.
The reader wrote that Don Samdahl of doctrine.org gives “excellent” truths that she has learned, but Samdal’s doctrine that he teaches is Hyper-Grace, and it falls far short of the Scriptural truth. Let’s examine some of his truth claims about water baptism. Samdahl claims that Paul did not consider water baptism to be of great importance since he had declared that “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.” (1 Cor. 1:17) Did Paul’s words mean that he was dismissing water baptism and that it would at some unknown time be rejected as invalid? Let’s take a look at this claim.
Paul starts out in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 talking about the grace of God given to the Corinthians, the gifts given to them, and the faithfulness of God by which they were called into fellowship with Jesus Christ, God’s Son and their Lord. But by verses 10-13 Paul is very concerned about the divisions in the body about which he had been informed. The concern for Paul is that the Corinthians had not acted as one body of Christ, but have taken sides that led to quarrels and division. Some said they belonged to Paul (they were OF Paul), some said they were OF Apollos, and some said they were OF Cephas. Paul emphatically demands to know if Christ is divided! Paul does NOT want to be a source of division. He wrote that he did not die for the Corinthians, and they were not baptized into the name of Paul. Because of the Disunity and Divisions, Paul wrote that he thanks God that he did not baptize the Corinthians except for Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas. Why? Because Paul wrote “so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.”
Notice that Paul did not write that he thanks God that he did not baptize very many people because water baptism had been done away with now that Paul had come!” Instead, Paul clearly states that he does not want to be elevated in their eyes as if Paul is special and not one within the body of Christ WITH them. Then comes the verse that Samdahl quoted. Paul says, “FOR Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” Paul affirms that the command of Christ is to make disciples through the gospel and through teaching converts to be obedient to Christ. Paul refuses to claim a division that would make Paul the emphasis rather than Jesus Christ. Paul clearly tells the Corinthians in 1 Cor 2:1, 4 that he did not come with a superiority of wisdom nor in persuasive words. Paul came in weakness and in fear and trembling (1 Cor 1:3). Paul did not add to Christ’s command nor did he take away from it. Paul said that he was “determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Because of this emphasis on Christ and because Paul did not want to lift himself up as a source of division, Paul said that he was glad he did not baptize many people. Jesus sent him, just as Jesus sent the other 11 disciples, to preach the gospel and to make disciples teaching them to be baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Samdahl’s claim is that the gospel was changed through the commissioning of Paul. This claim states that repentance and baptism were a message given only to the Jews by Jesus and His apostles, and that repentance and baptism are not for the church today. Samdahl says that the church only has to believe that Christ died for us and rose from the dead. However, Paul himself said:
Romans 10:8–10 NASB
8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Public confession of Jesus as Lord is absolutely necessary for salvation just as Jesus said.
Matthew 10:32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
Water baptism was the vehicle that was used to publicly confess Jesus as Lord. It was also used to show repentance from sin and identification with Jesus. Is water baptism necessary for salvation? No. The thief on the cross was not water baptized in the name of Jesus. However, the thief confessed Him as he hung beside Jesus. Jesus said that the thief would be with Him that very day. Jesus confessed the thief as one who would be “with” Him.
If water baptism is not necessary for salvation, then why is it an issue when the Hyper-Grace movement denies water baptism as valid for today? It is problematic because of three things:
1. It cuts out water baptism from Jesus’ great commission while Jesus commanded the making of disciples who would follow all of His commands (Matthew 28:19, 20).
2. It sets Paul up in a position of the Executive Apostle, whose words can be taken out of context in order to negate the commands of Jesus.
3. It de-emphasizes obedience to Jesus by ignoring repentance and public confession.