Words by Colonel Jostein Nielsen.
Immediately it may seem equally difficult to find an answer to what the ‘one’
baptism is, as it is to find answers to what the ‘one’ faith is. Looking at the discussions that have taken place through the history of the church, it often narrows down to a question about infant Christening or adult baptism, and whether the rituals should be perceived as symbolic or if the ‘act of grace’ happens in the ritual elements or in the ritual act itself.
Paul actually referred to several types of baptism. He asked the disciples in Ephesus what kind of baptism they had received. When Paul learned that it was John’s baptism, he spoke to them and the result was that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (1). Following this, Paul laid his hands upon them and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
When Paul referred to the ancestors, he wrote that ‘they were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea’ (2). This indicates that baptism is a transition into a new phase of life with a new direction.
In his teaching on keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (3)where he also writes about one baptism, I do not think Paul neither had the baptism in the water or the baptism of the Holy Spirit in mind. I believe he solely thought about the fact that we are ‘baptized into the death of Jesus’. This baptism is the ‘one’ and same for all born again believers. How the different churches choose to celebrate this is subordinate to the fact that ‘we have been united with him in a death like his’ (4). Jesus also spoke about his own death as a baptism (5).
I believe that the context of ‘one’ baptism strengthens this interpretation. The ‘one’ hope assumes that I have grown into Christ in a death that is like him, so that I also will be united with him in a resurrection like his (6). Because, if I claim to have ‘one’ Lord, this can only happen after my ego has died with him to enable me to live in him. In view of this I can only see one real baptism. How churches choose to symbolize this is without any value if it does not lead people into living the resurrection life as new creatures in Christ Jesus.
‘Manna’ for today:
There is only ‘one’ baptism that unites us with Christ and with one another.
(1) Acts 19:3-4
(2) 1 Corinthians 10:2
(3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism… Ephesians 4:3-5
(4) Romans 6:3-4
(5) Luke 12:50
(6) Romans 6:5
* Thanks to Bodil Østergreen for letting me use this picture of the cross she bought in Assisi. On FB she writes: God stretches out his hand to you. You can choose whether you want to accept God’s hand and stretch your hand to your fellow human beings.