The One Baptism


The One Baptism

May 2nd, 1965 @ 7:30 PM

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Ephesians 4:1-6

5-2-65     7:30 p.m.



On the radio, on WRR, the radio of the city of Dallas, you are invited with us who are in this great First Baptist Church, several thousand of us here, to open your Bible to the fourth chapter of Ephesians.  And we shall read together the first six verses of the fourth chapter of Ephesians [Ephesians 4:1-6].  And this is the pastor bringing the message tonight on The One Baptism, The One Baptism.

For some period of time I have been preaching about the church, and this will doubtless be the last Sunday that that series will continue.  But before I close, I want to preach on The One Baptism.  Now when I begin preaching on the Holy Spirit, I will come to this text, this passage again, and I will preach again on this text and on this passage when we are preaching on the presence, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the regeneration in our souls. 

But tonight I want to preach on something that pertains to that word, the idea of it.  Now the fourth chapter of Ephesians, reading together verses 1 through 6, 1 through 6; now, all of us out loud, reading together:

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

[Ephesians 4:1-6]


Now in the exegesis of this passage, in the explanation of it, practically all of the commentators of the whole wide world, and all of these who discuss it, will go out of their way, and to go any out of their way, to emphasize the fact that this one baptism refers to the Spirit baptism.  I wonder how many baptisms there were when Paul wrote that.  You see when you give yourself to the idea that there can be half a dozen baptisms, pouring baptism, sprinkling baptism, effusion baptism, immersion baptism––when you give yourself to that idea––why, naturally, when you come to a passage like that, you have to do everything in your power to emphasize the fact that he’s not talking about baptism.  He’s talking about a regenerating power of the Holy Spirit of God [Ephesians 4:5].  That’s all right.  That’s fine.  I also think that it refers to the regenerating power of the Spirit of God.  By one baptism are all of us made members, by one Spirit are all of us baptized into the body of Christ.  That’s fine, and when we begin the series on the Holy Spirit that shall be made much of.  But I’m just pointing out to you tonight that there is an idea in a word; that’s, where the word came from, to express an idea.  And the idea in baptism is always one and the same.  The idea; where did it come from?

Well let me––this is all important, the idea; the idea makes the word.  Apart from the idea, words are meaningless.  But the expression of an idea is found in the word.  That’s what I’m coming to, the idea in this word “baptism,” one baptism.  Now let’s take the word “wheel,” wheel.  A wheel expresses an idea.  There is an idea that lies back of a wheel.  “Well,” a fellow says, “well, I don’t believe that,” so he gets him a square.  And he says, “This is a wheel, a square.”  Could you conceive of four squares on an automobile, rubber?  It would really be a bumpy ride.  You can’t do that.  There is an idea in a wheel that you cannot separate from the word itself, for the word is the idea, and the idea expresses itself in the word––a wheel, something round that will roll.

Take the word “ball,” a ball.  Can you imagine a thing that’s flat being called a ball?  Something flat, a ball; the word ball carries with it the idea of something rotund, something round, something round.  A column; it is inconceivable of a column being crooked; a column.  You can’t imagine a column being crooked, a column.  A column has to be perpendicularly straight to be a column.  Now I’m just saying that in baptism there is an idea.  An idea lies back, and however you may spiritualize it, or however you may apply it, and however you may use the idea to illustrate things, yet there is in the word itself an idea.  One baptism, now that idea came from heaven.

When John the Baptist was preaching on the banks of the Jordan River in the wilderness of Judea, the people came to him and said, “We never saw such a rite before.”  The first time one man ever took another man and immersed him in water was when John the Baptist did it.  Iōannēs ho baptistēs: John, there were many Johns, John  ho baptistēs, the one who baptizes.  It set him apart from every other John and every other man in the world.  The Jews had many ablutions, many washings, many dippings: pots, pans, hands, feet, head, whole body, many.  But the first time a man ever took another man and washed him was when John the Baptist did it in the Jordan River.  So the Sanhedrin sent a committee, an official committee, down there on the banks of the Jordan to ask John, “Are you the Christ?”

“No”  [John 1:19-20].

“Well, are you Elijah?”


“Well, are you the Prophet that is to come?”

“No” [John 1:21].

“Well, where did you get this innovation then?  And by what right and by what prerogative do you introduce this new departure?” [John 1:22-25].

And John the Baptist replied, “He that sent me to baptize, He said unto me” [John 1:33].  The idea was from heaven.  God thought it up.  God did it.  I don’t think John the Baptist knew what it meant.  All that baptism meant to John the Baptist was the ceremony of cleansing, of purification.  I know that by reading the third chapter of John, when the disciples of John got into an argument with the disciples of Jesus over purification [John 3:25].  And when they brought the question to [John] it was about baptism [John 3:26].  John never saw what God intended in the idea of baptism—burial and resurrection—for the Lord hadn’t died [John 19:30-34], and He hadn’t been raised from the dead [John 20:1-18].  But the idea is in God [John 1:33].

And there is an idea in baptism.  And there are not five baptisms.  There are not three baptisms.  There are not two baptisms.  There is one baptism; one!  And the idea of that one baptism, the thing itself, is the idea that was applied to the work of the Holy Spirit.  “I baptize with water,” said John, “but He will baptize with the Holy Spirit, and with fire” [Matthew 3:11].  So there’s an idea in baptism, and it’s the idea I’m going to preach about tonight.

First of all, baptism is accorded the highest honor.  In the third chapter of the Book of Matthew, baptism is accorded the highest honor.  Here in the third chapter of Matthew, here is the only place to our knowledge that all three Persons of the Godhead are present and active, the only place in the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.  The Son is baptized, and the Holy Spirit comes in power upon Him, and the words of the heavenly Father are spoken in commendation [Matthew 3:16-17].  The only place all three of Them are present and active is in this unusual rite that John the Baptist was sent to perform from God in heaven [John 1:33].  The Son submits, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit descends, and the voice of the heavenly Father commends; the Three.  It is accorded the highest honor [Matthew 3:16-17].

In this third chapter, the chapter in Matthew, are the first words that Jesus speaks in His public ministry.  When John demurred and hesitated, “I baptize You?” [Matthew 3:13-14]. And the Lord said, “Just so now, suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” [Matthew 3:15], the first word that our Lord spake in His public ministry.  And the last word that our Lord said in this Gospel of Matthew, the great and final commission is the same subject: “Baptizing in the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19].  It is accorded the highest honor.

Second, it is commanded in the highest, in the greatest name.  “Go ye therefore making converts, disciples, winning to Jesus all of the people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19].  It is commanded in the greatest and highest name.  Why should it be commanded in the name of the triune God, why?  Because all three Persons in the Godhead hath wrought our salvation.  God the Father loved us and planned it from before the fall of the world [John 3:16, Ephesians 1:4].  And the Son of God also loved us and came down to this world that He might effect, that He might execute, that He might implement, that He might bring to pass that salvation born in the heart of Almighty God [Hebrews 10:5-14].  And the Holy Spirit loves us, and He prepares our hearts for the reception of that redemption provided for us by a loving God and a sacrificing Son [John 16:7-15].  So all three of Them are in our redemption––the Father who loved us and planned it [John 3:16, Ephesians 1:4], the Son who loves us and came to die for us, to execute it [Hebrews 10:5-14], and the Holy Spirit who loves us and opens our hearts for the appropriation of what God hath done in our behalf [John 16:7-15].  It is commanded in the name of the triune God, the highest name spoken in heaven or known in earth.

Again, it is symbolic of the greatest doctrines.  “Know ye not,” writes Paul in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ” [Romans 6:3], the idea now, here you follow the same exegesis.  People who believe in a half a dozen baptisms will go a thousand miles around to explain this is Spirit baptism.  Fine, wonderful; but back of the word itself is this idea, that’s where it came from.  And when you apply it to the Spirit, the idea is in the fact, the actuality, that John the Baptist brought from heaven.


And we who have been baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death.

Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been buried with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 

[Romans 6:3-5]


It is symbolic, the idea of baptism, of the greatest doctrines.  It refers to our past redemption, what Jesus did when He died for us on the cross [Romans 6:3].  It refers to our present regeneration, what the Spirit has done for us in giving us a new life and a new hope [Romans 6:4].  And it refers to the glorious and incomparable promise of a resurrection from the dead; buried and raised [Romans 6:5].  It refers, and is emblematic and symbolic of the greatest fact of our faith; namely, that Christ who died for our sins was raised for our justification [Romans 4:25, 6:5-6].  The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates His authority.  It authenticates His power.  It manifests His deity [1 Timothy 3:16].  It is a declaration to the world that this is the Son of God [Romans 1:4]; the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the greatest fact of our faith [1 Corinthians 15:1-5].  And that is symbolized in our raising from the watery grave, our resurrection in baptism [Romans 6:3-5].

Another thing: it symbolizes not only the greatest fact of our faith, but the greatest fact of our experience.  We are dead with Christ, and buried with our Lord, and we are raised to a glorious new life in Him [Romans 6:3-5].  And Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, dead with Chris:; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  Baptism is a picture and a symbol of the greatest fact of our experience: dead with Christ, dead to the world, dead to sin, raised to a new hope and a new resurrected life in Him [Romans 6:3-11].

Again it is symbolic of the greatest fact of our future hope.  If the Lord comes and we are translated, blessed be His name if the Lord delays and we fall into the dust of the ground and the heart of the earth, we believe God shall speak to the ashes, to the dust, to whatever our bodies fall into in corruption and decay, and we shall live again in His sight; the trumpet shall sound, and God shall speak, and we who die in Jesus shall be resurrected from the dead [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17].  That idea is in the emblem and symbolic meaning of baptism; the idea [Romans 6:3-5].

It is a symbol of the whole gospel message of the Son of God.  That is what it is.  In 1 Corinthians 15, beginning at the first verse, Paul says, “My brethren, I make known unto you, I repeat, I declare unto you the gospel wherein you are saved; namely, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures: He was buried and the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-4].  That is the idea in baptism: as Christ died for our sins, and was buried, and has been raised to declare us saved and righteous, all of us who place our trust in Him, so in baptism are we buried with our Lord in the likeness of His death and raised with our Lord in the likeness of His resurrection [Romans 6:3-6], the incomparable, glorious gospel meaning summed up in the idea of that one baptism.

Now when you break it and when you change it, oh! the things that follow after.  First of all, it loses its meaning.  There is no meaning at all in any other form or kind of baptism except what a man in a philosophers chair might decide to give it; for the meaning of baptism lies in its mode, its form.  It is a burying with our Lord and a raising with our Lord [Romans 6:3-5].  And when you break the mode, when you break the kind, when you break the symbol, when you break the meaning, it has no meaning other than what a philosopher might give to some other kind, some other mode, some other way.

When God gave to Moses the pattern of the tabernacle, He said to him, “And see thou make all things, do all things, according to the pattern showed thee on the mount”  [Exodus 25:9, 26:30].  And Moses faithfully executed everything that God did according to the pattern the Lord showed him on the mount [Exodus 40:33].  So with us in the true church of Jesus Christ; we ought to be faithful, faithful to the pattern, to the idea that God gave us from heaven; that we do it exactly with the meaning and message that God gave it when John the Baptist came with it from the Father in glory [John 1:25-33].

Well, what does it matter?  And that’s the attitude of practically all of the whole world.  What does it matter?  What does it matter?  This is what matters.  Had it not been for the changing of the mode of baptism, you could never have had a state church, and you would never have had the blood and the persecution that has been the crying castigation and accusation of the Christian church almost ever since it became adopted by the court of the Roman Empire.  Well, how are you going to have a state church when you have to get up and preach to people, and get them won to Jesus, and then on a confession of faith they are baptized?  How are you going to have a state church?  How are you going to have a regenerate church, when anybody is brought and everybody is brought into the church in infancy?  There is no other.

Whenever you destroy the meaning of baptism, and whenever you destroy God’s program for it, what happens is this: the church can become congruent with the state.  You are born into the state by virtue of having been given life in a certain town or district.  And in the same hour or in the same day that you were born a citizen of the state, you can also be made a member of the church by the christening, by the sprinkling of the baby.  So it became possible to have the state and the church congruent, the same thing.  And just as you have a citizenship paper that says this child is born in this country and in this place, then you have another paper, you have a baptismal certificate and the child is born a member of the church.  And how could you have a regenerate church?  And how could you have otherwise than the church identified with the state and the state identified with the church?  And in that thing came all of the blood and all of the persecution that has stained the annals, and the pages, and the chronicles of history ever since Constantine in 320 AD.

But had you kept it as God wrote it here in the Book, and had we been faithful to it as a Christian people from the beginning, you would never have had a state church.  You would never have had a Christendom congruent with the power of the state.  You would never have had persecution.  You would never have had the blood and the sanguine wars that have stained the pages of the story of God’s people in the earth.  For the Lord said you are to be saved.  “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the peoples” [Matthew 28:19].  You are to be saved first, you are to be regenerated first, you are to love Jesus first, you are to make a confession of your faith in Jesus first; and then you are to be baptized in the name of the triune God [Acts 8:36-38].  And then as obedient servants of Jesus, we’re to be taught all the things the Lord hath commanded us to keep [Matthew 28:19-20].  That’s why the idea is all-important.  We must hasten, we must hasten.

Not only is baptism accorded the highest honor [Matthew 3:16-17], not only is it commanded in the highest name [Matthew 28:19], and not only does it symbolize the very heart of the great doctrines of the faith [Romans 6:3-11]; but in baptism we are following the sublimest of all examples.  And the Lord Jesus left His home in Nazareth, and walked sixty miles down to the banks of the Jordan River, muddy, dirty.  That is as dirty and as muddy a river as flows in this earth.  And He walked sixty miles down to the banks of the Jordan River where John was baptizing, and asked baptism at the hands of John [Matthew 3:13-15].  What an amazing thing!  What an astonishing thing!  What an unusual thing!

When Elisha said to Naaman the leper, “You go down and dip yourself seven times in the Jordan River and your flesh shall come again to you, clean like unto the flesh of a little child” [2 Kings 5:10], Naaman went down there and looked at that river.  Oh, what a stream!  Did you know that river in just a few short miles falls from twelve thousand feet, the top of Mount Hermon, to one thousand two hundred feet below sea level, down there at the Dead Sea?  It just rushes down like that––and mud, mud, mud.  And when Naaman was told to wash in the Jordan River, no wonder he ejaculated “Man, man,” said Naaman, “are not Abanah and Pharphar, the rivers in Damascus, the waters in my town, cleaner, better, purer, finer, more potable, more drinkable than all of the waters in Israel? [2 Kings 5:12].  If I’m going to wash, let me have a clean tub.”  I don’t blame him.  Who wants to wash in dirty water?  I don’t blame him.  Let me get back to this microphone.  And I don’t blame him, I said.  I don’t blame him.  Abanah is one of the most beautiful crystal streams you ever looked upon; Pharphar is just like it; through the clear, silver sands, like the salt.  But the Jordan was muddy.  But the Lord Jesus walked sixty miles down to the banks of the Jordan to set for us the sublimest example.  “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” [Matthew 3:15].  And the Lord, though sinless, was baptized with the rest of the sinners, and identified Himself with our humanity, and authenticated the ministry of John the Baptist [Matthew 3:13-17], who said [Matthew 3:5-6], “I got the idea from God” [John 1:33].

And now I must close with one other thing: to be baptized is a part of the most holy urge that one could ever feel in his soul.  And you know the example I’m going to use.  In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, “And beginning at the same Scripture,” fifty-third chapter of Isaiah,


And beginning at the same Scripture, Philip preached unto him Jesus, Jesus.

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch, said, Look, see here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized?

And Philip answered and said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. 

[Acts 8:35-37]


First, we are to be converted.  First, we are to be saved.  First, we are to look to heaven. 

And the eunuch answered Philip and said, I do believe with all of my heart.  And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down to the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him.  And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way, glory hallelujah, amen, rejoicing.

[Acts 8:36-39]


Happy day, happy day,

When Jesus washed my sins away!

He taught me how to watch and pray

And live rejoicing every day;

Happy day, happy day,

When Jesus washed my sins away!

[“O Happy Day!” Philip Doddridge]


The picture in baptism––the washing, the cleansing, the regeneration of our souls by the blood of the Crucified One [Romans 6:3-5].

I have time to add this.  For years and years I preached out in the country.  For years and years I preached out in the country.  And I was I don’t know how long in my ministry, ten years before I ever baptized in a baptistery.  I preached out in the country, and I baptized in the creek.  And when Sunday afternoon would come and I baptized in the creek, I always waded out in middle of the river, waded out in the middle of the pond, wade out into the middle of the creek.  And I’d take my Bible with me.  And I’d open that Bible and standing there in the middle of the creek, I’d preach the gospel of the Son of God, and then give an appeal.  Wade up to the bank of the creek and make an appeal for Jesus.  I did that every time we had a baptismal service. 

And one of those times, one of those times, wading out in the middle of the river, preaching the gospel of the Son of God from that open Book, then wade back up to the edge of the shore and lift up my hand and give an appeal; that Sunday afternoon when I made the appeal, there came to the edge of the river, there came a man, and his wife, and his children, and his aunts, and his cousins, and his in-laws, and his kinspeople, the whole hollow, it was named for him.  That was such-and-such hollow.  And from one end of it to the other, all of those people lived, that family, and family, and families.  They all came forward there at the edge of the river.  And their leader, the patriarch in that family, said to me, “Preacher, today all of us have decided for Jesus.  All of us have decided this day to give our hearts to Christ.  And all of us are coming down here and we want to give you our hands in confession of our faith.  And we want to be baptized, right now.”  I said to him, “You want to be baptized now?  Why, why have you come to be baptized now?”

“No,” he said, “no.”  “Well,” I said, “these women and these children, they don’t have any clothes for preparation, and you don’t, and no one of you does.”  He said, “That’s all right, pastor.  That’s all right.  Our hearts are ready.  We’re prepared in our souls, and we want to be baptized right now, right this afternoon, right now.”  So I told the congregation of the church assembled on the bank of the river, and we received them on their confession of faith, and I baptized them.  And when I did, I thought about that eunuch: “See, here is water; see, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36].

“I don’t have any clothes.”  That’s no hindrance.  “I haven’t come prepared.”  That’s no hindrance.  The eunuch said, “I want to be baptized right now, right now.”  “And he went on his way rejoicing” [Acts 8:36-39].  Dear people, I haven’t been to that little church in years and years.  But the last time I was there, that old patriarch was the superintendent of the Sunday school and the leading deacon in the church.  And all of those folks up there who lived in that hollow, all of them were there, faithful in that little country church.  Oh, that’s God’s way.  That’s the Spirit’s way.  That’s the blessedness of an obedient Christian and disciple of the Lord Jesus.  That is the one baptism [Ephesians 4:5].

Now brother singer, while we make this appeal, and while we sing this song, somebody you, giving your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.  I take the Lord as my Savior tonight. And I want to be baptized like it says in the Book [Matthew 28:19], and here I come.”  A couple you, a family you, one somebody you, as the Spirit shall lay the appeal upon your heart, make it tonight.  Come tonight.  Oh, may this be a night of salvation and blessing and addition!  May God speak to you?  And come.  In the balcony round there’s time and to spare.  On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, preacher, and here I come.”  “Pastor, this is my wife, my children, all of us are coming tonight.”  However God shall say the word, press the appeal, decide now, and on the first note of the first stanza, when you stand up, stand up coming, coming.  “Here I am, and here I come.”  While we stand and while we sing.