Spirit baptism: The alleged reference
in 1 Corinthians 12:13, part 1
1 Corinthians 12:13 is the lynchpin upon which the structure of the universal church dispensational (UCD) doctrine of Spirit baptism is based [i]—deprived of the verse, it is very difficult to even attempt to defend it exegetically. The verse reads, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”[ii] UCDs argue that “in this dispensation those who place their faith in Jesus Christ have been baptized into the body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, and are now seen as one in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12–13). . . . According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, it is the Spirit who baptizes Jew and Gentile into one body.”[iii] “Every believer is baptized by the Spirit . . . The Spirit forms the church . . . by baptizing all believers into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, 13).” [iv] However, 1 Corinthians 12:13 teaches nothing of the kind. In the verse, Paul teaches that the members of the church at Corinth, led by the Holy Spirit, were all baptized in water to join the membership of that local assembly—the particular congregation, not a non-extant universal church, being the body of Christ—and that all the members of that assembly partook of the common blessing of the Lord’s Supper. The theological division between UCDs and historic Baptists on the significance of 1 Corinthians 12:13 may be resolved into the following questions: a.) Is the body of Christ the visible congregation or a universal, invisible church? b.) Does Christ baptize with the Spirit, or does the Holy Spirit baptize? c.) Was Spirit baptism a completed historical phenomenon at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, or is it a event that takes place regularly throughout the entire dispensation of grace? The following few posts will deal with these questions.
a.) Is the body of Christ the visible congregation or a universal, invisible church?
The body of Christ, referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:13, is the particular, local assembly. It is not a universal and invisible church because no such entity is found in the New Testament. While a discussion of the many proofs of the unscriptural nature of the universal church dogma would go beyond the boundaries of the present composition,[v] and, besides, this blog has elsewhere carefully refuted the universl church position, it will briefly be noted that the word translated church, ekklesia, never is used for a universal, invisible entity in any of its 115 appearances in the New Testament.[vi] The LXX, in accord with the significance of the word in classical Greek, likewise employs ekklesia of local, visible assemblies, not of anything unassembled[vii] and invisible.[viii] While the family of God is a universal, invisible entity that consists of all believers everywhere (Galatians 3:26), a church is a particular, local, visible congregation. The major metaphors for the church also demonstrate that the idea of a universal, invisible church is false. The church is Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:27), His temple (1 Timothy 3:15), and His bride (2 Corinthians 11:2).[ix] Bodies are very local and visible—a bunch of flesh and bones scattered around the globe is not a body. A temple is in one particular location, available for everyone to see; bricks scattered all over the place are not a building at all. And certainly every man on his wedding day rejoices that his bride is very local and visible, not invisible or cut into little pieces which are scattered all over the earth! Christ’s church is not a building, a denomination, or something universal and invisible; it is a particular assembly of baptized saints.
Furthermore, the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 12:13 demonstrates that the body metaphor refers to the particular congregation. 1 Corinthians 12:27, the only verse in the New Testament that defines the body of Christ, addresses the particular congregation at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2) and states, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” The Pauline exhortation to unity in 1 Corinthians makes it evident that the apostle employed the body metaphor to emphasize the need for real oneness among the brethren in the city of Corinth. His purpose was not to teach some sort of theoretical church-unity between believers at Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and everywhere else. In 12:14-27, Paul tells the members of the Corinthian congregation that each of them is required for the smooth function of the assembly—one is like an eye, the other like a hand, another like a nose, and their united functionality underneath the direction of Christ the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23) is necessary for their congregational “body” to work effectively, just as united functionality of literal body parts is necessary for a healthy human body. The local sense of “body” in v. 14-27 is directly tied to the statement of v. 13 by the explanatory word “for” and requires a local sense of the body metaphor in 12:13. Furthermore, universalizing the Pauline image to make members of the congregation at Corinth into parts of a body cut up into pieces all over the world would not only violate the necessarily localized nature of a living body but do nothing to advance Paul’s purpose of promoting Corinthian unity—rather, a universal body would have further contributed to Corinthian division, as today the Protestant universal church doctrine, when adopted by Baptist churches, contributes to a neglect of, disrespect for, and a failure to adequately strive for genuine, Scriptural unity within particular assemblies. 1 Corinthians 12:13 cannot refer to the Spirit placing someone into the universal, invisible church as the body of Christ, because the body of Christ is the local, visible assembly in the context of 1 Corinthians 12 and in the rest of the New Testament.
Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 12:25 states that there should be no schism in the body (cf. Ephesians 4:3-4). If all believers are the body of Christ, and unity is commanded in the body, then it would be a sin for a Bible-believing Baptist to separate from any believer whatsoever, whether he is part of the church of Rome, one committing the grossest forms of sexual immorality, or a terribly compromised neo-evangelical, for such separation would be sowing discord in the body of Christ. Ecclesiastical separation from any believer would be sin. However, such a conclusion directly contradicts the Biblical imperative to separate from disobedient brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14), and the example within 1 Corinthians itself of separation from an errant believer (5:1-5). The UCD position cannot consistently apply the Biblical standard of unity to its universal “church” and practice the Biblical doctrine of separation.[x] Indeed, an examination of the nature of the genuine unity in orthodoxy and orthopraxy commanded within the assembly (Ephesians 4:3-16) demonstrates that the tremendous discord of doctrine and practice within the alleged universal “church” has very little to do with the Bible. Since the body of Christ is the visible and local assembly, the conflict inherent in the UCD view is removed by the historic Baptist doctrine, for an imperative for unity within an assembly of the Lord’s people is entirely consistent with the removal of a disobedient or doctrinally errant brother from a congregation by church discipline.
[i] In the words of the UCD John F. Walvoord: “[T]he Scriptures make it plain that every Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. Salvation and baptism are therefore coextensive, and it is impossible to be saved without this work of the Holy Spirit. This is expressly stated in the central passage on the doctrine, ‘For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit’” (pg. 423, “The Person of the Holy Spirit Part 7: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Salvation.” Bibliotheca Sacra 98:392 (Oct 41) 421-447. Indeed, “1 Corinthians 12:13 . . . [is] [t]he major passage, which may be taken as the basis of interpretation of the other passages . . . [namely, the] eleven specific references to spiritual baptism . . . Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12” (pg. 139, The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, John F. Walvoord).
While 1 Corinthians 12:13 is important to the PCP advocate as well, it is only so as an allegedly supportive element of the PCP position, not as the central verse for the entire theological construction.
[ii] kai« ga»r e˙n e˚ni« Pneu/mati hJmei√ß pa¿nteß ei˙ß e≠n sw◊ma e˙bapti÷sqhmen, ei¶te ∆Ioudai√oi ei¶te ›Ellhneß, ei¶te douvloi ei¶te e˙leu/qeroi: kai« pa¿nteß ei˙ß e≠n Pneuvma e˙poti÷sqhmen.
[iii] pgs. 193-194, “Does Progressive Dispensationalism Teach A Posttribulational Rapture?—Part I,” John Brumett. Conservative Theological Journal, 2:5 (June 1998).
[iv] Note on Acts 2:4, Scofield Reference Bible, ed. C. I. Scofield. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1945.
[v] Interestingly, UCD John Walvoord wrote, “The principle cause of disagreement . . . on the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit . . . is found in the common failure to apprehend the distinctive nature of the church” (pg. 138, The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit). The false doctrine of a universal, invisible church is indeed a tremendous barrier to a recognition of the correct view of Spirit baptism, the historic Baptist position, and an unsound prop of the UCD and PCP positions. For representative refutations of the universal church dogma, see Ecclesia, B. H. Carroll (Emmaus, PA: Challenge Press, n. d. reprint ed.; also available at http://thross7.googlepages.com), The Myth of the Universal, Invisible Church Theory Exploded, Roy Mason (Emmaus, PA: Challenge Press, 2003), and Landmarks of Baptist Doctrine, Robert Sargent, vol. 4 (Oak Harbor, WA: Bible Baptist Church Publications, 1990), pgs. 481-542. One notes that even non-evangelical scholars such as “James Dunn[,] [who] needs no introduction, for his prolific scholarship ensures that he is one of the most well known NT scholars in the world . . . [believes that] particular and local assemblies are the church of God in Paul, and any idea of the universal church is absent” (pg. 99, book review of The Theology of Paul the Apostle, James D. G. Dunn. Grand Rapids/Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998, by Thomas R. Schreiner. Trinity Journal 20:1 (Spring 1999)).
[vi] The word appears in Matthew 16:18; 18:17; Acts 2:47; 5:11; 7:38; 8:1,3; 9:31; 11:22, 26; 12:1, 5; 13:1; 14:23, 27; 15:3-4, 22, 41; 16:5; 18:22; 19:32, 39, 41; 20:17, 28; Romans 16:1, 4-5, 16, 23; 1Corinthians 1:2; 4:17; 6:4; 7:17; 10:32; 11:16, 18, 22; 12:28; 14:4-5, 12, 19, 23, 28, 33-35; 15:9; 16:1, 19; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 8:1, 18-19, 23-24; 11:8, 28; 12:13; Galatians 1:2, 13, 22; Ephesians 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23-25, 27, 29, 32; Philippians 3:6; 4:15; Colossians 1:18, 24; 4:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 4; 1 Timothy 3:5, 15; 5:16; Philemon 2; Hebrews 2:12; 12:23; James 5:14; 3 John 6, 9-10; Revelation 1:4, 11, 20; 2:1, 7-8, 11-12, 17-18, 23, 29; 3:1, 6-7, 13-14, 22; 22:16. The small minority of uses where an individual congregation in a particular location is not in view (cf. “Christ is the head of the church,” Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18) do not prove the existence of a universal, invisible church any more than “the husband is the head of the wife” or “the head of the woman is the man” (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; see below) establish that there is a single universal, invisible husband or a universal, invisible man made up of all individual husbands or men scattered all over world. Rather, these verses employ the word church as a generic noun, as a reference to any or every particular church (or husband, man, etc.) in the class church (husband, man, etc.). The common category of the “generic noun . . . focuses on the kind. . . . emphasizes class traits . . . [and] has in view . . . the class as a whole” (pg. 244, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Daniel B. Wallace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996).
[vii] cf. the verb e˙kklhsia¿zw, “to hold an assembly, convene, assemble.” (BDAG); “summon to an assembly” (Liddell, H. G. & Scott, R. Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed., New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996); “attend an assembly; attend a church service” (Patristic Greek Lexicon ed. G. W. Lampe (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007, 20th ed). The verb is always employed in the LXX and related Koiné literature (at least until after the time of the post-NT development of the concept of a catholic church) for a visible and local assembly, not some sort of invisible and unassembled “assembly.” See Leviticus 8:3; Numbers 20:8; Deuteronomy 4:10; 31:12, 28; Esther 4:16, LXX; Josephus, Antiquities 4:302; 6:56; 8:277; 10:93; 12:316; 17:161; 19:158; War 2:490; 7:47; Philo, On the Migration of Abraham 1:69; On Joseph 1:73; On the Decalogue 1:39; Freedom 1:6.
[viii] Deuteronomy 4:10; 9:10; 18:16; 23:2-4, 9; 31:30; Joshua 8:35; Judges 20:2; 21:5, 8; 1 Samuel 17:47; 19:20; 1 Kings 8:14, 22, 55, 65; 1 Chronicles 13:2, 4; 28:2, 8; 29:1, 10, 20; 2 Chronicles 1:3, 5; 6:3, 12-13; 7:8; 10:3; 20:5, 14; 23:3; 28:14; 29:23, 28, 31-32; 30:2, 4, 13, 17, 23-25; Ezra 2:64; 10:1, 8, 12, 14; Nehemiah 5:7, 13; 7:66; 8:2, 17; 13:1; Judith 6:16, 21; 7:29; 14:6; 1 Maccabees 2:56; 3:13; 4:59; 5:16; 14:19; Psalms 21:23, 26; 25:5, 12; 34:18; 39:10; 67:27; 88:6; 106:32; 149:1; Proverbs 5:14; Job 30:28; Sirach 15:5; 21:17; 23:24; 24:2; 26:5; 31:11; 33:19; 38:33; 39:10; 44:15; 46:7; 50:13, 20; Solomon 10:6; Micah 2:5; Joel 2:16; Lamentations 1:10.
B. H. Carroll’s book Ecclesia provides a number of helpful instances of the classical use of e˙kklhsi÷a [transliterating the word as ecclesia], documenting that the word, in classical Greek, signified “an organized assembly of citizens, regularly summoned, as opposed to other meetings.” Note:
Thucydides 2:22: - “Pericles, seeing them angry at the present state of things… did not call them to an assembly (ecclesia) or any other meeting.”
Demosthenes 378, 24: - “When after this the assembly (ecclesia) adjourned, they came together and planned … For the future still being uncertain, meetings and speeches of all sorts took place in the marketplace. They were afraid that an assembly (ecclesia) would be summoned suddenly, etc.” Compare the distinction here between a lawfully assembled business body and a mere gathering together of the people in unofficial capacity, with the town-clerk’s statement in Acts 19:35, 40.
Now some instances of the particular ecclesia of the several Greek states -
Thucydides 1,87: - “Having said such things, he himself, since he was ephor, put the question to vote in the assembly (ecclesia) of the Spartans.”
Thucydides 1,139: - “And the Athenians having made a house (or called an assembly, ecclesia) freely exchanged their sentiments.”
Aristophanes Act 169: - “But I forbid you calling an assembly (ecclesia) for the Thracians about pay.”
Thucydides 6.8: - “And the Athenians having convened an assembly (ecclesia) … voted, etc.”
Thucydides 6,2: - “And the Syracusans having buried their dead, summoned an assembly (ecclesia).”
This historical reading concerning the business assemblies of the several petty but independent, self-governing Greek states, with their lawful conference, their free speech. Their decision by vote, whether of Spartans, Thracians, Syracusans or Athenians, sounds much like the proceedings of particular and independent Baptist churches today (Ecclesia, B. H. Carroll, pgs. 35-36).
Thus, the uses of the word in the LXX and other pre-Christian works supports the evidence from the instances of e˙kklhsi÷a in New Testament itself that the word always signifies a particular, visible assembly. “[A]n inductive study of all the ecclesia passages [in the LXX demonstrates] that in the Septuagint it never means ‘all Israel whether assembled or unassembled, but that in every instance it means a gathering together, and assembly. . . . [T]he New Testament writers neither coined this word nor employed it in an unusual sense. The apostles and early Christians . . . wrote in Greek to a Greek-speaking world, and used Greek words as a Greek-speaking people would understand them. . . . [I]t is a fiction that ecclesia was used in [the New Testament in] any new, special sense. The object of Christ’s ecclesia, and terms of membership in it, were indeed different from those of the classic or Septuagint ecclesia. But the word itself retains its ordinary meaning. . . . [In contrast to ecclesia], the word panegyros [was employed to designate] a general, festive assembly of all the Greek states. This general assembly was not for war but peace . . . not for business but pleasure—a time of peace, and joy, and glory. In the happy Greek conceit all the heavenly beings were supposed to be present [at the panegyros]. How felicitiously does [Paul] adapt himself to the Greek use of the word [in Hebrews 12:23], and glorify it by application to the final heavenly state. . . . [Thus, there] is a general assembly . . . [in heaven where] warfare is over and rest has come [designated by panegyros, but never by ecclesia].” (pgs. 34-36, Ecclesia, Carroll).
[ix] It is true that the bride metaphor is employed for the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-3) as a synecdoche for all the people of God who will inhabit it. However, at that time they will all be present in the future heavenly festive assembly (Hebrews 12:23). There will indeed be this coming gathering of all the saints to the eternal heavenly City, but it will still be quite local and visible, it does not yet exist, and it certainly does not prove that saved people on earth in the United States, Colombia, Vietnam, and the Central African Republic are somehow currently members of the same, never-assembling and invisible congregation, assembly, church, or ekklesia.
[x] There are many other practical impossibilities and ecclesiological errors that come from the universal church view. Dr. Thomas Strouse has well explained a number of them:
The ramifications of the biblical teaching that the local church is the body of Christ, that Spirit Baptism was a temporary phenomenon, and that the mystical body of Christ does not exist are broad and serious. If there is no con-current Spirit Baptism and no mystical body then there is no divine authority for organizations or efforts outside of the local church to practice the Great Commission. Since the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20) requires evangelism, baptism, and instruction in the Word of God, para-church organizations have no divine authority for their existence. If there is no divine authority for para-church organizations then there is no divine authority for para-church Bible colleges/seminaries, mission boards, or structured church fellowships, associations or conventions. These so-called “handmaidens” to the local church have no authority “to help” the Lord’s candlesticks because the latter have His presence (Rev. 1:13) as their respective Head (Eph. 1:22-23) and all power to accomplish His Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). The impact of these para-church “handmaidens” on the Lord's candlesticks has been biblically and theologically disastrous. Scholars operating in the realm of the “big” universal church offer unbiblical and therefore confusing theological restatements of the Scriptures. Their weak ecclesiology impacts other doctrines such as bibliology, soteriology, and eschatology. They foster notions such as “God has preserved His Word in all the extant manuscripts through the scholars of the mystical body of Christ,” “all the saved are in the universal Church,” and “Christ will rapture the Church.” To them “true” scholarship occurs in the para-church university or seminary where theologians, trained by other para-church theologians, postulate the “truth” of Scripture. The local church is ill equipped and the pastor is ill prepared to do the real work of the ministry in the realm of scholarship, they maintain. These scholars, whether they have any affiliation with a local church or not, have earned doctorates from accredited para-church academic institutions, and therefore think that they have the last word on theology. Their condescending attitude toward the Lord's assemblies is supposedly justified because they are the “doctors” of theology since they are in “the big church.” This disastrous impact undermines the authority of the Bible and usurps the ministry of the Lord’s ekklesia. Scripture states that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15), that the ekklesia is to “commit [theological training] to faithful men” (II Tim. 2:2), that the church member “is to study to shew [himself] approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15), and that the assembly has been given Christ’s gift of “pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). The local church as the divinely ordained doctrinal training institution is the Lord’s “college.” College comes from the Latin collegeum that means a group of colleagues who have banded together around a particular guild or trade. The particular “guild” in which the local church is engaged is the scholarly pursuit of studying the Scriptures (cf. Acts 17:11). Para-church organizations not only produce disastrous results in theological academia, but also in the area of missions. Para-church mission boards usurp the privilege and responsibility of local church missions. The Great Commission is the divine mandate to plant immersionist assemblies both locally and worldwide. Only the Lord's candlesticks can produce NT churches. Para-church mission boards cannot baptize converts and cannot commission missionary candidates. Nevertheless, these same boards develop a hierarchy of unbiblical offices, such as “missions president/director,” and dictate to “their” missionaries and to the pastors of supporting churches, their policies, practices, and doctrines. The NT teaches, in contradistinction, that the church at Antioch acted as Paul’s “mission board” and sent out Barnabas and the Apostle (Acts 13:1 ff.). To be sure, other churches such as the Philippian church helped support Paul’s missionary endeavors on his second journey (Phil. 4:15-16). Much of the same criticism could be leveled toward highly structured Baptist fellowships. The unbiblical mindset of the universal church produces the necessity for organized hierarchy outside of the local church. Fellowships, associations and conventions, which develop organizational structure beyond the local church, end up usurping the autonomy of each of the Lord’s assemblies. The presidents, regional directors, etc., of these non-authorized structures tend to dictate to the churches resolutions which in turn become “suggested” tenets for orthodoxy and fundamentalism. Some pastors feel intimidated and hesitate to reject these suggestions, ultimately embracing the “traditions” of men (Mk. 7:7) and incorporating these tenets in their particular ekklesia. The NT does teach that there is a place for churches to fellowship around “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Furthermore, the churches of Galatia were united in biblical doctrine around the Lord Jesus Christ, while retaining their respective autonomy (Gal. 1:2; 3:27-28). Once the Lord’s churches recognize that the unproved assumptions of Spirit Baptism and the mystical body of Christ have no biblically exegetical defense, then they may realize the authority, importance, and dignity the Lord gives exclusively to His candlesticks. The Scriptures teach that the church at Jerusalem had the divine authority in precept and set the precedent to practice the Great Commission. Christ gave the precept of the Great Commission to the apostles who were representatives of the 120 disciples who made up the Lord's ekklesia on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:20). This ekklesia began to evangelize, baptize and instruct Jews and Gentiles as the Book of Acts gives ample precedent. The Scriptures make some amazing and outstanding claims for the Lord's churches. For instance, Paul taught that Christ, Who is Head over all His creation, completely fills His body, the local church (Eph. 1:23). He revealed that the saints in the local churches teach the angelic realm redemptive truths (Eph. 3:10). He averred that local churches, like the Ephesian church, grow up in Christ to become mature bodies through doctrinal teaching (Eph. 4:11-16). He proclaimed that the Lord Jesus Christ both loved and died for individual church members (Eph. 5:25) and that He will cleanse the church members through the washing of the word to present each ekklesia as glorious (Eph. 5:26-27). Elsewhere, the Apostle taught that the local church, the one with a bishop and deacons, was the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:1-15). The Lord spoke through the Apostle John and gave His apocalyptical revelation to seven local churches (Rev. 1-3). When one realizes that the Scriptures teach the local church is the Lord's sole institution for His presence, worship and service, then one recognizes the glory, dignity, and honor that should be attributed to each and every one of Christ’s assemblies. (“Ye Are The Body of Christ,” Dr. Thomas M. Strouse. Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, Newington, CT. elec. acc. http://www.faithonfire.org/articles/body_of_christ.html)