Saturday, November 21, 2015

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (Ephesians 4:5)

“(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.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, NASB95)

Contrary to the belief of many, there are not many paths to God. There is not a multiplicity of faiths all leading to the same end. Scripture declares that there is only one Lord who is Jesus Christ and there is only one faith which is found in Him though His death, burial and resurrection.

The hope we have of verse 4 is because of the Lord of verse 5 who is Jesus Christ sent by God the Father. Throughout verses 4 through 6 we see loud and clear that not only is God one, but so is the salvation which He gives. There is no other way to be saved and once we are saved we are knit together by God into one body which He has called us to preserve in the unity that we have according to our hope in the power of His Spirit. With all of the stuff that rises up and with the pressures from within and without we are called to look to God, walk according to His power in us by His Spirit and submit to His Son as our one and only Lord. In this we are also going to have to be diligent in our dealings with others both for the building up of the body and the demonstration that this is to the world which is watching.

Paul said that there is one Lord who is Jesus Christ. There is also only one faith, which while it includes the message of salvation by faith it is also more comprehensive to include the teaching of God’s Word and even more specifically the body of doctrine that we find revealed in the New Testament. In Jude 3 we read of this teaching that had been handed down as “the faith.” “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3, NASB95) This was not an evolving faith or one that was subject to addition or change, but one that was once for all handed down. Jude wrote this in the face of those who were coming along later seeking to distort the apostles teaching as we read in verse 4, “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4, NASB95)

And there is one baptism. While there is some difference in how this verse is understood, there is unanimity that we are only identified in Christ through His death, burial and resurrection. It is reasonably held that this passage speaks specifically of water baptism since the presence of the Spirit is already mentioned a verse earlier and it is in accord with the observance of the early church where water baptism and the receipt of the Holy Spirit went hand in hand with salvation. As people were saved they were baptized and they received the Holy Spirit. All of these happened right then and there. Even on that first day when over three thousand souls were saved we read, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:37–41, NASB95) Here Peter was obeying Christ’s command of Matthew 28:19 where we read, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20, NASB95) Even in this commission we see one Lord, one faith (teaching), and one baptism.

But not being specific it is also possible that Paul was referring back to the presence of the Spirit in verse 4 and the Lord’s teaching that while John baptized with water there was a time coming when believers would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). This of course happened just as Jesus said on Pentecost and it has been the perpetual state of all who have come to salvation since. At the time we trust Christ for salvation our entire identity changes. Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-4 of this new identification, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3–4, NASB95) And more than that we are also baptized into one body with all other believers as we read in 1 Corinthians, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, NASB95)

Whether this baptism be one, the other, or both each of these truths are taught in Scripture and they all point to the incredible work that God has done in us through His Son. Truly the oneness we have is because we have our one Lord Jesus Christ, we have the solitary and complete teaching of Scripture which was laid down unchangeably for us, and we share in the reality that we are all identified in one body with His death, burial, and resurrection.

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