d.) The Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 12:13
1 Corinthians 12:13 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.”[i] The clauses of this passage will be examined in order, and their significance evaluated.
The historic Baptist position affirms that this clause refers to the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit, as do both the PCP and UCD doctrine. This clause, on the Biblical, historic Baptist view, refers to the Holy Spirit leading the members of the church at Corinth to submit to water baptism. Although the members of the Corinthian assembly boasted about the amazing spiritual gifts given them by the Spirit, and caused division in the assembly on their account, the apostle Paul reminded the congregation that the Holy Spirit had led the members of their church to submit to a common immersion with the phrase “by one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13 affirms that the Holy Spirit is the Producer of congregational unity around the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Various commentators and writers have advanced the idea that by in the verse should be translated as in, and consequently affirmed either that the correct translation is “in one Spirit” or “in one spirit.” The question of a reference to the Holy Spirit, or a “spirit,”[ii] and of the rendition of en as by or in will be addressed in order.
Thomas Strouse, Baptist seminary professor and advocate of Spirit baptism as a completed historical event, commented concerning 1 Corinthians 12:13:
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.[iii]
Strouse affirms that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to a “spirit of unity” that the assembly possessed when its members received water baptism, rather than to the Holy Spirit leading the members of the assembly to receive immersion. However, the idea that 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to “a spirit” of unity rather than the third Person in the Trinity cannot be sustained exegetically.
First, the immediate context provides overwhelming support for a reference to the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Consider 12:3-13:
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 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.[iv]
The eleven references to the word pneuma, “Spirit/spirit,” in 1 Corinthians 12:3-13, uniformly refer to the Holy Spirit. Changing “by one Spirit” to “in one spirit of unity” in v. 13 is very contrary to the context. For that matter, the “one Spirit” of v. 13 is the “one and the selfsame Spirit” who “worketh . . . as he will” in v. 11. The explanatory words “for” in v. 12, 13 connect the reference to the “one Spirit” (hen Pneuma) of v. 13 immediately back to the “one . . . Spirit” (hen . . . Pneuma) of v. 11. Since v. 11 refers to the Holy Spirit, v. 13 refers to the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, that the second half of 1 Corinthians 12:13 refers to “drink[ing] into one Spirit,” the Holy Spirit, not a “spirit of unity,” confirms the reference to the Holy Spirit in the first half.[v] The overwhelming evidence of eleven references to the Holy Spirit in the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 12:13, the fact that v. 13 explains and develops the reference to the Holy Spirit in v. 11, and the evidence of the second half of v. 13, prove that 1 Corinthians 12:13a refers to the Holy Spirit, not to a “spirit of unity.”
Furthermore, the word “spirit” is not employed anywhere in Scripture as a reference to a “spirit of unity.” If 1 Corinthians 12:13 referred to such a thing, it would be absolutely unique in Scripture in doing so. An alleged parallel to Philippians 1:27 fails because the latter passage refers to the human spirit, as is made obvious by the immediately following reference to another portion of the human person, the mind or soul: “I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit [en heni pneumati], with one mind [mia pseuche] striving together for the faith of the gospel.”[vi] Philippians 1:27, along with the similar reference in Acts 4:32 to “the multitude of them that believed [being] of one heart and of one soul,”[vii] do indeed emphasize unity in the assembly, as in both verses the inner beings, the minds, souls, hearts, and spirits, of the members of the church were to be in agreement as they strove together to serve the Lord. Nonetheless, Philippians 1:27 and Acts 4:32 do not refer to a “spirit of unity” anymore than they do to a “soul of unity” or a “heart of unity.” Thus, unless one wishes to make 1 Corinthians 12:13 into a reference to being baptized and drinking into the human soul and spirit—which would require a definite mental stretch to produce any reasonable signification—there is no parallel whatever between 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Philippians 1:27 in the use of the word pneuma, “Spirit/spirit,” as a reference to a “spirit of unity.” None of the 385 references to the word pneuma in the New Testament refer to a “spirit of unity.” A very large number of the references to pneuma—including ten instances other than 1 Corinthians 12:13a in 12:3-13—refer to God the Holy Spirit.
Strouse’s statement, “Since pneumati is anarthrous in I Cor. 12:13, Paul differentiated pneumati (“spirit”) from the seven[viii] previous articular references to ‘the Spirit’ (to pneumati) as deity” cannot be sustained. Several rules of Greek grammar demonstrate that there is no reason to require an article to make “by one Spirit” have a definite signification. Daniel Wallace, in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,[ix] writes:
The function of the article is not primarily to make something definite that would otherwise be indefinite. . . . It is not necessary for a noun to have the article in order for it to be definite. . . there are at least ten constructions in which a noun may be definite though anarthrous. . . . [A] proper name is definite without the article. . . . There is no need for the article to be used to make the object of a preposition definite. . . . [they are only] occasionally indefinite . . . Thus, when a noun is the object of a preposition, it does not require the article to be definite: if it has the article, it must be definite; if it lacks the article, it may be definite. The reason for the article, then, is usually for other purposes (such as anaphora or as a function marker). . . . [Furthermore,] [a] one-of-a-kind noun does not, of course, require the article to be definite (e.g., “sun,” “earth,” “devil,” etc.). One might consider pneuvma as monadic when it is modified by the adjective a‚gion. If so, then the expression pneuvma a‚gion is monadic and refers only to the Holy Spirit.
A reference to the name of the monadic Spirit of God,[x] with Spirit as the object of the preposition “by,” has no need of the Greek article to express definiteness. To argue otherwise neglects important characteristics of Greek syntax.
Furthermore, not all of the references to the Spirit of God in 1 Corinthians 12:3-13 contain the Greek article. In 12:3, the Holy Spirit is twice mentioned without an article, both instances following the same preposition (en) employed in 12:13.[xi] Furthermore, the Spirit of God is referred to without the Greek article following en (and in a variety of other constructions, naturally, 7:40, etc.) elsewhere in 1 Corinthians (2:4, 13; 6:19). In fact, the construction en heis, “in/by one,” never is followed by the Greek article in the epistles of Paul or, for that matter, in any of the New Testament outside of Luke’s gospel[xii]—but one could not properly supply the English indefinite article after any of the Greek nonarticular en heis constructions.
1 Corinthians 12:13a of necessity refers to the Holy Spirit. The connection of v. 13 to v. 11 and the eleven uses of pneuma for the Holy Spirit in the immediate context compel this conclusion. Arguments in favor of an alternative reading of the text as a reference to a “spirit of unity” fall far short of dismantling the contextual evidence for a designation of the Holy Spirit. Scripture does not refer to a “spirit of unity” with the word pneuma anywhere in the Bible. Syntactical asseverations against a reference to the Spirit of God in 1 Corinthians 12:13a entirely fail to establish their conclusions. Reference to the great God, the Holy Spirit, must not be removed from 1 Corinthians 12:13a.
[i] 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.
[ii] Believers with a strong view of God’s providential working in the translation of the King James Bible often also consider that the use of a capital “S” in the King James Bibles that they read and study from should be considered hermeneutically. While this providential argument should not be ignored or belittled, because as modern capitalization practices became standardized an upper-case “S” in 1 Corinthians 12:13 indeed became the capitalization practice found in the Authorized Version, in the original 1611 KJV the “s” was lower case in 1 Corinthians 12:13, as it was in a great number of other verses referring to the Holy Spirit (such as 1 Corinthians 12:3, “spirit of God,” v. 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, “spirit,” 2 Corinthians 3:3, “spirit of the living God,” 3:18, “spirit of the Lord,” etc. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit universally lacks capitalization in the 1611, e. g., 1 Corinthians 2:14; 7:40, “Spirit of God.”). See The Holy Bible: 1611 edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson 2003 (reprint ed).
[iii] “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.
[iv] 12:3 dio\ gnwri÷zw uJmi√n, o¢ti oujdei«ß e˙n Pneu/mati Qeouv lalw◊n le÷gei aÓna¿qema ∆Ihsouvn: kai« oujdei«ß du/natai ei˙pei√n Ku/rion ∆Ihsouvn, ei˙ mh\ e˙n Pneu/mati ÔAgi÷wˆ. 4 Diaire÷seiß de« carisma¿twn ei˙si÷, to\ de« aujto\ Pneuvma. 5 kai« diaire÷seiß diakoniw◊n ei˙si÷, kai« oJ aujto\ß Ku/rioß. 6 kai« diaire÷seiß e˙nerghma¿twn ei˙si÷n, oJ de« aujto/ß e˙sti Qeo/ß, oJ e˙nergw◊n ta» pa¿nta e˙n pa◊sin. 7 e˚ka¿stwˆ de« di÷dotai hJ fane÷rwsiß touv Pneu/matoß pro\ß to\ sumfe÷ron. 8 wˆ— me«n ga»r dia» touv Pneu/matoß di÷dotai lo/goß sofi÷aß, a‡llwˆ de« lo/goß gnw¿sewß, kata» to\ aujto\ Pneuvma: 9 e˚te÷rwˆ de« pi÷stiß, e˙n twˆ◊ aujtwˆ◊ Pneu/mati: a‡llwˆ de« cari÷smata i˙ama¿twn, e˙n twˆ◊ aujtwˆ◊ Pneu/mati: 10 a‡llwˆ de« e˙nergh/mata duna¿mewn, a‡llwˆ de« profhtei÷a, a‡llwˆ de« diakri÷seiß pneuma¿twn, e˚te÷rwˆ de« ge÷nh glwssw◊n, a‡llwˆ de« e˚rmhnei÷a glwssw◊n: 11 pa¿nta de« tauvta e˙nergei√ to\ e≠n kai« to\ aujto\ Pneuvma, diairouvn i˙di÷aˆ e˚ka¿stwˆ kaqw»ß bou/letai. 12 Kaqa¿per ga»r to\ sw◊ma e≠n e˙sti, kai« me÷lh e¶cei polla¿, pa¿nta de« ta» me÷lh touv sw¿matoß touv e˚no/ß, polla» o¡nta, e≠n e˙sti sw◊ma: ou¢tw kai« oJ Cristo/ß. 13 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.
[v] However, an advocate of the “spirit of unity” position would likely also wish to deny that the second half of 1 Corinthians 12:13 is a reference to the Holy Ghost. Note the further comments below on the “drink into one Spirit” clause.
[vi] aÓkou/sw ta» peri« uJmw◊n, o¢ti sth/kete e˙n e˚ni« pneu/mati, miaˆ◊ yuchØv sunaqlouvnteß thØv pi÷stei touv eujaggeli÷ou.
[vii] Touv de« plh/qouß tw◊n pisteusa¿ntwn h™n hJ kardi÷a kai« hJ yuch\ mi÷a: kai« oujd∆ ei–ß ti tw◊n uJparco/ntwn aujtwˆ◊ e¶legen i¶dion ei•nai, aÓll∆ h™n aujtoi√ß a‚panta koina¿.
[viii] While Strouse appears to have stopped counting at an earlier point, probably verse four, there are nine, not seven, references to the Holy Spirit from 12:3-12:12. There are indeed seven in 12:4-12. It is not clear why one would stop references to pneuma at v. 4 when two additional references to the word occur in v. 3.
[ix] Pgs. 210, 243, 245, 248, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Daniel B. Wallace. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.
[x] It is true that the phrase pneuvma a‚gion is not found in the instances where pneuvma is found 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, but the references in v. 4-13 are controlled by v. 3, where the Spirit is specifically designated with His monadic title of pneuvma a‚gion, as well as His unique status as pneuvma Qeouv.
[xi] oujdei«ß e˙n Pneu/mati Qeouv lalw◊n le÷gei aÓna¿qema ∆Ihsouvn: kai« oujdei«ß du/natai ei˙pei√n Ku/rion ∆Ihsouvn, ei˙ mh\ e˙n Pneu/mati ÔAgi÷wˆ.
[xii] The complete list of e˙n ei–ß references in the NT is Luke 5:12, 17; 8:22; 13:10; 20:1; Romans 12:4; 15:6; 1 Corinthians 10:8; 12:13; Galatians 5:14; Ephesians 2:16, 18; 4:4; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 3:15; James 2:10; Revelation 18:8, 10. Note that all 13 of the references outside of Luke are not followed by the article, while Luke uniformly employs one.