QUESTION: Is the baptism referred to in Ephesians 4:5 baptism in water or baptism in the Spirit?

Answer: The word “baptism,” as it occurs in this passage, has no qualifying word associated with it. It is therefore most naturally understood in its ordinary, every-day meaning, which is immersion in water. Wherever another meaning is intended the context makes that meaning clear. Moreover, the readers of the Epistle would be, for the most part, not theologians, but more or less unlettered believers, and it is hardly conceivable that they would attach to the word “baptism” any recondite meaning.

In answer to the question, “Is the `one baptism’ in Ephesians 4:5 baptism in water?” Prof. F. F. Bruce, in The Harvester of August, 1966 had this to say:

“Yes, I think so, and for this reason among others. The seven ‘uniquenesses’ (as Dr. Rowland C. Edwards has aptly called them) of Ephesians 4:4-6 are divided into three rhythmically equivalent sections (3-3-1) each of which is dominated by one of the Persons of the Godhead (one Spirit… one Lord… one God and Father’). If the ‘one baptism’ were baptism in the Spirit to the exclusion of baptism in water, it would naturally have come in the same section as ‘one Spirit,’ whereas it comes in the same section as ‘one Lord’ and ‘one faith.’ This is appropriate to baptism in water, which involves a confession of faith in our one Lord.”

It will be noted that in verse four mention is made of the “one body.” The very existence of that “one body” presupposes the baptism in the Spirit, for it is by that “baptism” that the body has been formed. A reference to it in verse five, therefore, would seem to be a repetition and unnecessary.

The thought of baptism in water falls quite naturally into the sequence of thought in verse five: “One Lord,” — the One to whom we owe allegiance; “one faith,” — the one way in which believers are united to the Lord; “one baptism,” — to be submitted to as a public expression of our identification with the Lord and of our allegiance to Him. (If we take, as many do, the “one faith” to be the body of doctrine committed to the saints, this logical association of ideas is not really affected.)

— F. W. Schwartz