The "One Baptism" - countering Landmark claims

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Ordinary Guy (TM)
Help, I am being accosted by Landmark Baptists. They say that the one baptism in Ephesians is a water baptism into a local church instead of a spirit baptism into Christ.

Here are two representative articles:

One Baptism
By Rosco Brong, D.D.

"There is... one baptism." (Eph. 4:4, 5)
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into
with reference to) Jesus Christ were baptized into (with
reference to) his death?" (Rom. 6:3.) "Our fathers.., were all
baptized into(with reference to) Moses in the cloud and in the sea."
(I Cor. 10:1, 2.)

Use of scriptural terms in an unscriptural sense is a favorite trick of modernists that has been adopted by some so-called interdenominationalists who pride themselves on their supposed orthodoxy or fundamentalism. So it has become fashionable in certain circles to speak of a "spiritual baptism" of which the Bible tells us exactly nothing.
Satan has never introduced among God's people a heresy so ridiculous but that he has been able to find men willing to prostitute some degree of scholarship in its defense. So it has been with the practice of baby baptism, pouring, and sprinkling as substitutes for believer's baptism. There have been a few scholars of limited ability or honesty, or both, who have tried to justify these unscriptural practices by perverted interpretations of scripture.

A Lost Battle

But among competent scholars the scriptural meaning of"baptize" and "baptism" is no longer a matter of debate. Everyone knows that the ordinary literal meaning of baptize in the New Testament is to dip, plunge, or immerse in water--and whatever figurative meaning the word may occasionally have must be derived from and based upon this literal sense.
Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley, whatever their doctrinal errors, were at least, unlike some of their followers, scholarly enough to admit that scriptural baptism was immersion, and that sprinkling in its place was an innovation for the sake of convenience rather than obedience.

Figurative Baptisms

An elementary principle of honest translation and interpretation is that the literal or ordinary meaning of a word is always to be preferred if it makes good sense in the eontext; figurative or unusual meanings are to be adopted only when demanded by context.
Undoubtedly in Matt. 20:22, Mk. 10:38, and Lu. 12:50 Jesus was speaking of a figurative baptism or immersion in the sufferings of the cross. So the baptism in fire mentioned in Matt. 3:11 and Lu. 3:16 is evidently not a dipping in water. Some interpreters think the reference is to the "fiery trial" of I Pet. 4:12; others refer the language to the lost in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), in which case the baptism is quite literal, except that it is in fire instead of water.

In The Holy Spirit

The Bible also speaks of a baptism in (NOT "with") the Holy Spirit. Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lu. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5, ll:16--these six times and nowhere else do we read that Jesus was to baptize in the Holy Spirit. This baptism in the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost, symbolizing the dedication and accreditation of the church as an institution, even as baptism in water symbolizes the dedication and accreditation of the individual believer.
Just as an individual believer is scripturally baptized in water only once, so the church as an institution was baptized in the Holy Spirit only once, that is, on the day of Pentecost. The additional manifestation in the house of Cornelius was simply to convince Peter and other Jewish church members that Gentile believers rightfully belonged in the same church.

Not An Individual

Never in all the New Testament is a single individual said to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This was a baptism of the church as such, not of single believers as such. Let us not confuse fillings with the Spirit or gifts of the Spirit with baptism in the Spirit.
If we are members of a scriptural church, in scriptural succession from that first (Baptist) church in Jerusalem, then our church was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, once for all. If we have not such a church, no fake "Pentecost" will change the fact.

Baptized "Into" Moses

A preposition is a weak peg to hang a doctrine on, but the phrase "baptized into Jesus Christ" in the King James version of Rom. 6:3 has long been a favorite with baptismal regenerationists. They are conveniently or willfully ignorant of the fact that identical translation of the same Greek preposition eis in I Cor. 10:2 makes "our fathers.., all baptized into Moses."
Of course, nobody is ever dipped into Christ, any more than anybody was ever dipped into Moses. The Greek preposition in both these passages should be rendered "with reference to" or"because of," either of which translations will give good sense, while "into" gives nonsense.

Wild 'Wuestern' Whimsy

A reader wants to know what I think of the so-called "expanded translation" by Kenneth S. Wuest of Rom. 6:3 and Eph. 4:5. I quote:
"Do you not know that all we who were placed in Christ Jesus, in his death were placed?" (Rom. 6:3.)
"One Lord, one Faith, one placing into [the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit]." (Eph. 4:5, brackets included.)
I answer: that is not translation, expanded or otherwise: that is mere wild Wuestern whimsy.
The Greek word transliterated baptize does not mean to place or place into in any such free and easy sense. It means to dip, plunge, or immerse in water--unless the context obviously demands another element.
No reputable Greek scholar ever dreamed of such "translation'' in former years, but now, driven to desperate expedients to promote the "invisible church" fantasy, modernistic Bible dictionaries and commentaries of pseudoscholarship are chirping a chorus of "spiritual baptism"--a thing as invisible and nonexistent in the Bible as the invisible church itself.

"Shut Up To Moses"

Amusingly consistent only in its inconsistency is the same Wuestern "translation" of I Cor. 10:2:
"And all had themselves immersed, surrounded by the cloud [on both sides], thus shut up to Moses [as their leader]." (Brackets are part of quotation.)
"Shut up to Moses," indeed! At least, thank God, we are not shut up to Wuest. If that is translation, a dozen generations of formerly respected English translators missed their calling.

Only One Baptism

According to the Bible (Eph. 4:5), there is only one (literal) baptism, and that is the baptism in water instituted by John the Baptist by divine commission, received by the Lord Jesus, and by Him committed to His church to be observed as an ordinance for disciples (believers) only, as a first act of obedience, to be followed by the observance of all His commandments.
When men speak of a fictitious "spiritual baptism" not mentioned in the Bible, and belittle the one baptism (in water) that is taught in the Bible, we can be sure that their strange doctrine is not the work of the Holy Spirit.

More About Baptism

Reply to Query: The Article, "One Baptism--In W.ater," published in the Ashland Avenue Baptist, has drawn criticism from a number of readers--some friendly and some hostile. Answering such criticism, brother. Brong submits the following review with some additional facts from the scriptures
Let us simply recognize that nouns and verbs, in the very nature of language, are more nearly dependable in meaning than are prepositions. Specifically, we MUST take the Greek preposition eis in different senses in different contexts; we NEED NOT take the noun or verb for baptism or baptize in any other than the literal or nearly literal sense of dip, plunge, immerse, submerge, or overwhelm--and ALWAYS in water unless the context DEMANDS otherwise. This assumption makes possible harmonious interpretation of the scriptural doctrine of baptism without difficulty.
But if we insist on "into" as the unvarying English translation of eis, even though Webster's Third New International Dictionary gives 11 main definitions of"into," we shall have all sorts of trouble. Did the men of Nineveh repent "into" the preaching of Jonah? Did Jesus speak of giving someone a drink "into" the name of a disciple? (Matt. 12:41, 10:42.) Did Peter tell repenters at Pentecost to be baptized "into" remission of sins? (Acts 2:38.)
This last reference involves the use of eis in connection with baptism certainly parallel with Matt. 28:19, Rom. 6:3, Gal. 3:27, etc. Even more pertinent is I Cor. 10:2, where we read that the Israelites were baptized eis Moses. The construction here is exactly parallel with baptism eis Christ and eis the name of the Lord Jesus. There is no more reason to imagine a "spiritual baptism" "into" Christ than a "spiritual baptism" "into" Moses.

To Avoid Confusion

No doubt there is a real spiritual and scriptural experience FIGURED or SYMBOLIZED in scriptural (water) baptism, but we ought not to confuse the figure with the thing figured. From such confusion the Campbellites teach baptismal regeneration and ultra-dispensationalists teach that"water baptism" was a "temporary rite" no longer to be practiced.
Romans 6:5 seems to me simple enough: "For if we have become planted with (Him) in the LIKENESS of his death, yet also we shall be (in the likeness) of his resurrection." The baptism which figures the burial of Jesus in His death, and His resurrection, also figures our own spiritual death and resurrection as well as the death and resurrection of our bodies. With all this wealth of meaning in Christ's ordinance of baptism, it is no wonder that Satan tries to destroy it!
If we have here only a "spiritual" baptism, a "spiritual" likeness, a "spiritual" death--have we also only a "spiritual" resurrection? Some would say so, but the Bible teaches otherwise. See I Cor. 15:12-19, 29.

And also,



by Forrest L. Keener

"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."

This is a verse which has, through the years, received a huge amount of attention. I have read a great deal of material on the subject, and even distributed a lot of tracts with which I am less than totally pleased. I will try, in this brief tract, to state what I feel is the extremely simple and pointed truth of this verse. May I say to begin with, I don't think we need to be an egoistical or a translation expert to understand it; it is just not that complicated. It says precisely and simply what it seems to say.


I have read many discourses which approach this verse as if we needed some particular insight into great mysteries, or an ability to dig out very obscure interpretations of other Bible verses, to understand this one. These approaches normally lead to some "necessary implication" of a "universal body." This wrong interpretation of I Cor. 12:13 ("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.") is supported by a wrong interpretation of Ephesians 4:3 and 4, ("Endeavouring 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;") and in turn that wrong interpretation of Ephesians 4:3 and 4 is supported by the same wrong interpretation of I Cor. 12:13. The fact of the matter is that neither of these verses so much as hints at any kind of a universal body. In fact, the words universal and body are so antagonistic to each other, that we should be forced into laughter, by merely hearing them so used. The word body always means something that is localized by union and united by locality, while the word universal, as used in this respect, means something that is everywhere. Infinitude of locality always necessitates a spirit, as opposed to a body. Why the complication then? It is because of the carry-over of Catholicism, even through Protestantism, in so much of our "Christian literature."

If it were not for the Catholic teaching that the "body of Christ" is literally the visible universal (Catholic) church, or the Protestant teaching that the "body of Christ" is literally the invisible universal ("Holy Catholic") church, no such notion would ever exist among evangelical Christians. They certainly would not, in a million years, arrive at it, merely by reading I Cor. 12:13, Eph. 4:3,4 and Eph. 5:25-27. The fact is that to arrive at a universal church interpretation of these verses, a man must start with this Catholic presupposition and use these verses as proof texts to support it. I want to take each of the determinative words of I Cor. 12:13 and show that this passage does not even suggest universalism. Then, I want to very briefly expound the verse in its simple contextual meaning.


"For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body." It has been argued by some, who realized the error of the Catholic interpretation, that the Spirit here was "a spirit of unity," and should be translated spirit not Spirit. Such a conclusion is not necessary, and I do not believe it is either accurate or logically justified. The Spirit here is the Spirit of the context. He is the Spirit who, according to verse 3, leads one to confess Christ, in verse 4 bestows diversities of gifts, and in verse 7 manifests Himself for the overall profit of the church. He is the same Spirit who, in verse 8, gives the word of wisdom to one and the word of knowledge to another, and who in verses 9 and 10, gives gifts of faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers tongues, and interpretation. He is the same Spirit who, in verse 11, sovereignly divides gifts to men, individually as it pleases Him. It is, by every contextual standard of interpretation the "Spirit" of the context and thus, the Holy Spirit who is mentioned here.


"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." It is thought, by the universalist, that this word, if properly translated, forces us to believe that this verse has the Holy Spirit baptizing us into Christ literally, and thus the baptism could not be water baptism, and the body referred to could not be a local church. This is interpretation either by presupposition, or by panic, or some of both. The word by need carry no such meaning. It simply means we are led by the Holy Spirit to unite with that body (local church), exactly as we are led by the Spirit to confess Christ in verse 3. This is how Simeon, in Luke 2:27, came into the temple at the time of Christ's dedication. ("And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,") He came by the influence of, or the leadership of, the Holy Spirit.


"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." Again the "body" of this verse is the body of the context, that is the church at Corinth. This is what Paul is, throughout the chapter, illustrating by the human body. The first question that should be asked here is this: Is the word "body" in this verse, that is the body of Christ, being used literally or figuratively? Is Paul saying we are literally being placed by this baptism into the physical, fleshly, actual, biological body of Christ? Of course not! He is using the human body, in this chapter, to illustrate the truth of necessary union and interdependency within the church, and he is using this metaphor, "body of Christ," to illustrate the relationship that the local church has with Christ as her "head," which is simply to say He has complete authority over the church. To make the use of the words body or head more literal than that is to violate the whole nature of the chapter and indeed the entire epistle. Let it farther be understood that we are to think locally, that is of the church at Corinth, and locally as these truths apply to us in any church. Only in this setting can verses like 25 and 26 have any applicable reference to the context. Members of a local, visible assembly are to have the same care one for the other, suffer with each other and rejoice when another is honored. If there were such a thing as an invisible, universal body (whatever that might possibly be) this conduct would surely not be possible for them. So the term body here is a metaphorical term describing the relationship that the members of the church at Corinth had with each other under Christ their head. He is talking specifically of the body, that is the church, at Corinth. Oh, but someone asks, does Christ have many bodies? This is a foolish question. Once we see the metaphorical use of the word body;in this passage we understand that the usage is generic or institutional and thus is not numerical in any sense of being either singular or plural.

Let me illustrate this truth in this way: Christ took a piece or loaf of bread, on the night before His crucifixion, He broke it and said, "Take eat, this is my body." He was simply saying this piece of bread, which you are to eat, pictures my body. But He said "This is my body." Now, are we to understand that this was the only piece of bread about which that statement could be made, or that all pieces of bread are a composite part of one great piece? Absurd! When we see that the statement is a metaphorical one, and could be rightly made of any qualifying piece of bread, that is unleavened bread consecrated to the purpose of symbolizing Christ's body, we see the truth that applies in I Cor. 12:13. Any proper qualifying piece of bread, at any proper time, and in any proper place and setting, could be referred to as "His body," and in the singular, without violence to any other piece. The very same thing applies easily and automatically to any true church, and it does no violence to any other true church, nor does it so much as hint that they are composite parts of the same thing. Moreover, it does not hint at the foolish idea that the local church is only the manifestation or as some prefer to say, the only visible manifestation of the "real thing," "the true church," or the "universal church." Notice this truth as applied to the human body in I Cor. 12:15: Can the foot say "... I am not of the body..." What body? It speaks of the human body as an object, not an individual. So is the normal case in all metaphorical usages.


"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." Some have said the word WE here of necessity includes Paul, who was obviously not a member of that local assembly, and thus the usage of WE; supports a universal interpretation. Nonsense! If the word WE in verse 13 necessarily included him, the word YE in verse 27 of the same chapter would necessarily exclude him. The principle, that we are each part of a local body, applies to Paul, and thus he uses the word WE in an editorial sense. However, throughout the epistle and especially in the context, he excludes himself from this body of which he is speaking in this chapter. Notice verses 1,2,3, and 27. In none of these places does he imply that he is including himself in the body to whom he is speaking. To understand his editorial use of the word WE in verse 13, notice the use of the word I in chapter 13, verses 1-3. His usage here is hypothetical as if he had not love and became as sounding brass, but he does not really include himself in that group. For an example of the use of the word WE, which does not include both first and second persons, notice I Thes. 3:1. Notice I Thes. 5:5, where he, in the same verse, uses YE and WE referring to the same group. So don't let the word WE in I Cor. 12:13 be used to erroneously point you in a universal direction. It implies no such thing!


"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." The universalist's interpretation of this verse is essentially this: The Holy Spirit places (baptizes) us into the "true church," "The Body of Christ." They make this a statement of regeneration, that is to say salvation is the Holy Spirit baptizing us into the "true church," the universal body of Christ. But where in Scripture is salvation referred to as "baptism" either in or by the Holy Spirit? While it is true that baptism is used metaphorically to describe salvation, salvation is never referred to as baptism in or by anything or anyone, unless I Cor. 12:13 is the only place. No ground is laid for it anywhere in Scripture. The believers of Luke 3:16 and Acts 1:5 were promised the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was fulfilled to them in Acts 2:1-4, but no one would claim that this was their regeneration. Salvation is not the context of I Cor. 12:13, the context is conduct in the local church. Again, salvation is not the context of Eph. 4:4. In reading Eph. 4:1-3 you find that mutual conduct among the members of the church at Ephesus is the context. This will be the case everywhere in Scripture you see the illustration of the body used. Regeneration is never the context. I thus conclude that no place in Scripture ever refers to salvation as baptism in, or by, the Holy Spirit. These people in the church at Corinth had been led by the Holy Spirit to confess Christ, and had by the same Spirit been led to identify themselves with that particular body, by water baptism. It was by the ordinance of water baptism that they had come into the fellowship of that body (the church at Corinth).


The message and exhortation of I Cor.12:13 and 14 is this: Cease your individual competition in the attempted display of spiritual gifts. Notice the first and last verses this chapter are clearly this, and every verse in between is right on that line. This verse is simply saying: All of you whether Jew or Gentile, whether bond or free have been led by the Holy Spirit to, by water baptism, unite yourself with this body (the church at Corinth). Now stop competing for position and pre-eminence, as if you were a unit within yourself, and accept the place in the body to which God has sovereignly appointed you, because you are by the design of God all dependent upon each other.

If this simple truth is missed, we not only entertain a totally wrong concept of Bible doctrine and definition of the biblical word church, we miss the glorious practical appeal for church unity and inter-submission within our church. Any notion of a universal church becomes an escape from the obligation to the local church, and to proper conduct within the local body, the true and only church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

They seem to hate any concept of the universal church, even so much that they are willing to do exegetical gymnastics.


Staff member
Pergy, I'm scanning your post while having stopped for lunch (I'm on my iPhone). How/why are being exposed to these Landmarkists? Are they supporting churches? If you're on another message board you're like a fish swimming upstream.


Ordinary Guy (TM)

Yes, among the churches that support me, many are infected with strains of Landmarkism or New Covenant Theology.

Many constantly try to "fix" their missionary (me) or desire me to conform to their minor emphases in theology or ecclesiology (which may feed my pugnaciousness). I feel like they sometimes try to squeeze me into their "box" and I make some of them uncomfortable (and I like doing this to some of them, I admit, hee hee).

I am mobilizing missionaries and recruiting, and talk regularly to about 15 people who are actively preparing to go out. But, by and large NONE of them are from the more Fundy, Landmark churches. My efforts at missions mobilizations are failing among my supporting chuches that most strongly identify themselves as Sovereign Grace Baptist or adhere to any gradation of Landmarkism.

I guess, I have an identity problem and don't know exactly where to fit in...

My sending church is AWESOME and labels themselves "Sovereign Grace Baptist" but affirms the 1689 and is not Landmark or NCT, though they were more Fundy in the 50's and 60's. They have been a bulwark of support. I cannot imagine a better church-missionary relationship.

I have tried to fellowship closer with more confessional Reformed Baptists, in order to broaden my circles but I find many of them to be rigid and formal and having an unhealthy attitude about missions (missionaries as Third World Pastors Model versus, missionaries as members of church-planting teams, not to work in established churches but who try to establish new churches and raise up indigenous leadership). Though, I think that is changing (thanks to Dr Bob Gonzales and others).

I mostly fit in with F.I.R.E, the Fellowship of Independant Reformed Evangelicals (FIRE: Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals), but still have many ties with more fundy-type churches and landmark churches. Maybe I like the banter, and I try to appreciate the generous prayers and supporters and the genuine love from these belivers, even though I get hounded sometimes about my ecclesiology, etc.

So, Bill, if you know me, can vouch for me and can connect me, help me find a pool to swim in where the lifeguard doesn't throw me out or I am not tempted to always pee in their pool. But right now, I am into some major bantering between me and a group of Landmarker Calvy Baptists who deny the universal church, believe in Baptist Successionism and, I think, are anti-missionary society, etc.


Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I pity you. Some errors are so boring that refuting them is torture, because one has to encounter them.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
I pity you. Some errors are so boring that refuting them is torture, because one has to encounter them.

Ha ha. And the thing is, I am unprepared to refute many of their claims because I am left saying, " actually believe this?"
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