More Words, Phrases, and Clauses of 1 Corinthians 12:13
"By One Spirit"
I saved this one for later for at least two reasons: first, it isn’t that important in determining the teaching of this text, and, second, it is a little more controversial mainly among local only proponents. Scripture can mean only one thing, but sometimes there are two interpretations that might both fit the context and neither change the doctrine of the passage, so both are feasible. I believe that someone can argue contextually and grammatically for two different views here. At the end, I’ll tell you what I prefer. In both cases, the positions are sometimes guided by one’s understanding of the preservation of Scripture. I believe God preserved His Words in the languages in which they were written and that the KJV is an accurate translation of those Words. Others place a higher degree of importance on the exact Words of the English of the King James. I don’t want to get into a KJV discussion right now, but I give that as some background information.
Universal Church People and "By One Spirit"
Before we look at the two possible views of "by one Spirit," we will consider how the universal church people take this. They take views sometimes significantly different. W. Harold Mare in Expositor’s Bible Commentary writes (p. 264):
The church, the invisible church, . . . . has been united by the one Spirit into one spiritual body in baptism.Bob Deffinbaugh says the same:
Our membership in Christ’s body begins at the time we are saved, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit, who baptizes us into the church by identifying us with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.In a sermon series that is found online, John MacArthur agrees too with Mare and Deffinbaugh:
Paul is saying that the same Spirit has immersed every believer in the same unity with Christ that constitutes His body. The baptism Paul is referring to is a spiritual reality that brings the believer into a vital union with Christ. The word means "to immerse." And as somebody could be immersed in water, so somebody could be immersed in the body of Christ. In other words, you are in a new environment, a new atmosphere, a new union, a new identification, a new oneness with Christ.A little later in the same sermon, he says:
It is the fact that when you believe God, He places you into the Son by His Spirit. That is the baptizing by the Holy Spirit.This earlier MacArthur clashes with the later MacArthur commentary, in which he says that it isn’t the Holy Spirit doing the baptizing, but Jesus that is doing the baptizing. This is major, because it is a decision about Who is doing the baptizing, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. In his commentary (p. 312), he says:
Because believers are baptized by Christ, it is therefore best to translate this phrase as "with one Spirit." It is not the Holy Spirit’s baptism but Christ’s baptism with the Holy Spirit that give us new life and places us into the Body when we trust in Christ.So now MacArthur says that we are baptized by Christ. He didn't announce his change that I have ever heard. You see Christ baptizing in the verse, don’t you? You don’t? Why not? It isn’t in there. First he says that the Spirit baptizes believers in Christ, and now He says Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Does the verse say that Christ is doing the baptizing? No. But MacArthur knows that the prediction in the Gospels and Acts made by John the Baptist and Christ says that Jesus does the baptizing in Spirit baptism. Therefore, even though 1 Corinthians 12:13 doesn’t say that we are baptized by Christ (Christ baptism), he reads that into the text. This is the same thing that Gordon Fee does in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (p. 606, NIC-NT Commentary). The baptism by Christ into the body of Christ is read into the verse to attempt to fit what we see in 1 Corinthians 12:13 with what we read in the Gospels and Acts.
Most universal church advocates say that Spirit baptism or Christ baptism, or whatever it is exactly to them, is the reception of the Holy Spirit and they will often reference Romans 8:9. I believe Romans 8:9 is the best verse in Scripture on the indwelling Holy Spirit. They therefore bring together the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the same activity of the Spirit. No verse in Scripture actually teaches this and you won’t find it in Romans 8:9, which simply says that the Spirit of God dwells in believers.
Local Church People and "By One Spirit"
One large segment of local church people teach that the Holy Spirit is one agency of water baptism. They teach that the Holy Spirit is responsible for the unity that occurs from water baptism. Forest Keener explains it this way:
It has been argued by some, who realized the error of the Catholic interpretation, that the Spirit here was "a spirit of unity," and should be translated spirit not Spirit. Such a conclusion is not necessary, and I do not believe it is either accurate or logically justified. The Spirit here is the Spirit of the context. He is the Spirit who, according to verse 3, leads one to confess Christ, in verse 4 bestows diversities of gifts, and in verse 7 manifests Himself for the overall profit of the church. He is the same Spirit who, in verse 8, gives the word of wisdom to one and the word of knowledge to another, and who in verses 9 and 10, gives gifts of faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers tongues, and interpretation. He is the same Spirit who, in verse 11, sovereignly divides gifts to men, individually as it pleases Him. It is, by every contextual standard of interpretation the "Spirit" of the context and thus, the Holy Spirit who is mentioned here.Then there is the position explained by A. W. Pink:
Pneuma is always written in the Greek with a small "s," and it is a question of exposition and interpretation, not of translation in any wise, whether a small "s" or a capital "S" is to be used in each instance where the word for spirit is used. In many instances it is translated with a small "s"—spirit, (Matthew 5:3, etc). In others, where the Holy Spirit of God is referred to a capital is rightly employed. Furthermore, the Greek word pneuma is used not only to denote sometimes the Holy Spirit of God, and at others the spirit of man (as contra-distinguished from his soul and body), but is also employed psychologically; we read of ‘the spirit (pneuma) of meekness’ (1 Cor. 4:21), and of ‘the spirit (pneuma) of cowardice,’ (2 Tim. 1:7,) etc. Again in Philippians 1:27, we read ‘stand fast is one spirit.’ Note that in Philippians 1:27 even the translators of the A. V. have used only a small "s" for ‘spirit—as they most certainly ought to have done in 1 Corinthians 12:13. One other point concerning the Greek: the preposition translated ‘by’ in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is ‘en,’ which is translated in the N. T. ‘among’ 114 times, ‘by’ 142, ‘with’ 139, ‘in’ 1863B. H. Carroll and Thomas Strouse agree with this view. They believe that "by one Spirit" should be understood as "in one spirit." Why? This exact Greek phrase is translated that way in Philippians 1:27 and means a "spirit of unity," which is the idea is being communicated in this context. As Pink says above, "in" is the vastly predominant translation of the Greek preposition en. The noun pneuma can be translated "spirit" or "Spirit" depending only upon the context. Since I believe in original language preservation, I can understand "by one Spirit" as "in one spirit," and that is what I believe. Strouse, who uses only the King James Version and believes in the perfect preservation of Scripture, writes concerning this phrase:
times. Comment is needless. ‘In one spirit were we all baptized’ should be the rendering of 1 Corinthians 12:13. The ‘baptism’ here is not Holy Spirit baptism at all, but water baptism. Note: Whenever we read of ‘baptism’ in the N. T without anything in the verse or context which expressly describes it, (as in Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:5, etc.), it is always water baptism which is in view.
Paul employed the expression "by one Spirit" (en heni pneumati) in Phil. 1:27 as "in one spirit," referring to "the spirit of unity." Since pneumati is anarthrous in I Cor. 12:13, Paul differentiated pneumati ("spirit") from the seven previous articular references to "the Spirit" (to pneumati) as deity.Water baptism identifies a believer with one body of Christ. The baptism brings the believer, whether bond or free, Greek or Jew, into identification with one church.