The Context of 1 Corinthians 12:13
The Context of Scripture
If this is Spirit baptism here in 1 Corinthians, as understood by either the Protestants or the Charismatics, it should look like Spirit baptism in the rest of Scripture. It doesn't, which is a major reason why it can't be Spirit baptism. We've already pointed out that Spirit baptism is predicted in the gospels (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16). That prediction is that the Jesus will administrate the baptism with the Holy Spirit as the medium and already saved, immersed individuals as the recipients. Spirit baptism was predicted in the Old Testament as well.
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions
Acts 2:17, 18 says that this was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
Jesus talks about the same event in John.
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
The Lord Jesus Christ promises His disciples that after He ascends into heaven, He will send the Holy Spirit. He reminds them again of that in Acts 1:4-8. By reading this Acts passage, you can see for sure that those Old Testament passages, the early gospel passages, and the promises by Jesus in John are all speaking about the same event.
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
First, nowhere do we see the Spirit doing the baptizing. Second, in no place do we see Spirit baptism being the same thing as the indwelling of the Spirit. Third, we do not see this experience of Spirit baptism occurring simultaneous with justification, but subsequent not only to justification, but also to water baptism. Fourth, nowhere is this revealed to be an ongoing experience.
We see the outpouring in Isaiah and Joel to be the same as the gospel predictions and Christ's promises. They are fulfilled as an event in Acts---the coming of the Holy Spirit as sent or poured out by Christ. This is what we should assume that Spirit baptism would be in the future. This event is not what we see in 1 Corinthians 12:13.
The Context of the Whole Epistle of 1 Corinthians
To start, 1 Corinthians is an epistle to a church, one in Corinth. It is a problemed church, started by Paul and loved by him, so he helps the membership out by writing them. He isn't writing all believers. He is writing people in one location who are members of one church. That should be kept in mind in everything that we read in 1 Corinthians. You can apply it to your church because it was written to another of Christ's churches.
The church at Corinth is having divisions that we see back in chapter one. The church has differences. The people have had different leaders and they have their favorites. They are of different nationalities, ethnicities, races, genders, traditions, socio-economics, and religious backgrounds. Some have a bad home life, while others seem to be squared away in their families. They possess differing gifts or mixtures of gifts even as parceled out by the Holy Spirit.
A major goal for Paul is bringing these people in this church together. He wants to bring them together with biblical, spiritual truths. He wants to unify them around the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. He strives for a cohesive body of working, serving body parts. If they submit to God through His Spirit, they can have this. If they do, it will look like love, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, supernaturally enabling them to put behind them some differences and to learn to use profitably and selflessly some others.
1 Corinthians 12:13 is a sliver of the work Paul is doing in his epistle to picture and encourage the unity that is already there spiritually between believers. It isn't presenting some novel truth in 1 Corinthians, but one he is dealing with---unity. And baptism has already been established as water---water baptism by Paul, by Apollos, by others. Paul thanked God he had water baptized none of them. They had been baptized unto Moses in the sea. What had been used for disunity, water baptism, was really a picture of unity. Just like the Lord's Table was a picture of unity---one bread---it too had been used for disunity, the fighting described in chapter eleven. These ordinances of Christ, baptism and the Lord's Table, were beautiful pictures of the unity of the church that Paul desired. The church of God at Corinth should unify in accordance with the ordinances that its members have obeyed.
More on Context Next Time