The Holy Spirit Does NOT Baptize Us Into Christ

In Romans 6, Paul describes being baptized into Christ, with no mention of the Holy Spirit in the chapter. Romans 6:7 gives as its answer to antinomianism not a new enablement by the Holy Spirit which allows us not to sin (so much) Romans 6:7 is about being justified from the power of guilt because of legal identity in Christ’s death is about the indicative of being united to Christ in His death.

All the New Testament texts teach that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, and none of the texts teach that the Spirit is the agent who places the elect into Christ. Should the texts be understood (even if they don’t say) that “John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with both water and the Spirit, and (also) the Holy Spirit is the one who baptizes when Jesus baptizes? So when Jesus baptizes with the Spirit, it’s really the oppoiste of that, so that the Holy Spirit who baptizes with Christ?

I agree that it is not possible to receive Christ without receiving His Holy Spirit, but that in no way proves that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ. We should not assume that the “reality” of regeneration by the Spirit has priority over God’s legal imputation with Christ’s death and justification. “We have have been baptized into Christ” is NOT about the water ritual. The baptism on view in I Peter 3 and Colossians 2 and Romans 6 Is NOT ‘an outward sign of an inward change…. Water does not fulfill the type of physical circumcision…

One, I am not giving “the baptist view” Most baptists I know are as likely to assume that “baptism” means also water as any paedobaptist. (See for example, though I like Robert Haldane’s commentary, his remarks on Romans 6.)

Two, I believe in Holy Spirit baptism, but Holy Spirit baptism does NOT mean that the Spirit “baptizes into” Christ, at least not so far as any Bible text teaches. I Cor 12:13 correctly translated reads –”in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The text does not say “by the Spirit” or teach that the Holy Spirit is the baptizer. The I Cor 12:13 agrees with the other six Spirit baptism texts in teaching that Christ is the agent who gives the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not give Christ, and the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in Romans 6. Yes, even many baptists assume that the Holy Spirit is the agent in Romans 6, but they also wrongly agree with many paedobaptists who assume that any text with the word “baptism” must have reference to the work of the Spirit and read that idea into Romans 6 and Colossians 2 and I Peter 3.

Do you assume that there’s water somewhere (at least implied) in Romans 6 and in Colossians 2 and I peter 3? There is no text anywhere that talks about “baptism by the Spirit”, and these three specific texts a) don’t refer to water but instead to something that actually saves and b. don’t refer to the Spirit or to the new birth. All three texts are about legal identity with Christ’s death. They don’t use the word “imputation”, but their legal context has nothing about the Holy Spirit or regeneration (or water)

I never teach that Romans 6 or Colossians 2 or I Peter 3 are about the Holy Spirit,. I teach that the three texts are NOT about water. If not water, then what? Not water, but the Father’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect. I agree that other “baptism” texts ARE about water, and about some texts, I might still be agnostic. We could go from “John the Baptist with water, but Jesus with the Spirit to the Great Commission. But in the meanwhile, we need to stop assuming “water” or “water as a reference to the Spirit”. That paradigm does not fit all the biblical evidence.

Since I deny that the new birth comes before God’s imputation of Christ’s death and say that it’s Christ’s death imputed which results in having Christ and life, am I also begging the question about what “union” means? I hope not. Christ, who was far off, is brought near by the news of the gospel (Romans 10:8), and united to the elect when God credits them with His righteousness (which is the value and merit of Christ’s death) and effectually calls them . The elect don’t first get Christ and then get His righteousness . The elect cannot first “put on Christ”, and only after that get “baptized into His death” Being placed into Christ’s death is in order to being in Christ and then having Christ in us. Being baptized into Christ in Romans 6 (which is NOT regeneration by the Spirit, which is NOT baptism by the Spirit) is another way to talk about God’s imputation. And this means that Christ baptizing the elect with or into the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13) is not first, but the result of legal union with Christ.

Berkhof—-“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”

Cal Beisner— “First, the term baptism did not mean, primarily, a ritual application of water. Second, commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6 baptism does not denote the rite: (a) consistent application of that sense in the immediate context (verses 1-10) would yield the conclusion (contrary to other passages of Scripture) that all, without exception, who undergo the rite are regenerate, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified, and (b) Paul himself, who certainly views circumcision and baptism as type and antitype (Colossians 2:11-12), had already written in the same epistle that it was not the rite of circumcision but the spiritual reality designated by it….
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Paul Helm—Is not the granting of Christ’s gifts also a work of Christ? Is this giving not something that Christ does? Giving us gifts is not atonement, Giving us gifts is the result of atonement. But in giving justification Christ is at work.
Bavinck: Christ took on himself the task of really and fully saving his people. Christ will not abdicate as mediator before Christ has presented his elect– without spot or wrinkle – to the Father. The application of salvation is not less an essential constituent of redemption than Christ’s acquisition of salvation‘Take away its application and redemption is not redemption’. Christ continues his prophetic, priestly and royal activity. The application of salvation is Christ work. By an irresistible grace Christ gives himself and his benefits to his own. (Reformed Dogmatics, 3-523)

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6 Comments on “The Holy Spirit Does NOT Baptize Us Into Christ”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    When the Westminster Confession speaks of “being baptized by the Spirit into one body”, that confession has zero biblical support. Christ is the one who baptizes into and with the Spirit. Neither I Corinthians 12: 13 or any other text says that the Spirit baptizes into one body. Look at Ephesians 4 and all the other texts you think teach that,

    Check out your most trusted commentaries on I Corinthians 12—not by the Spirit, but with or into the Spirit, as in the other NT references. Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68: “when he ascended on high, he gave gifts to men.” Every reference to “baptism with the Spirit” (including I Cor 12:13) has Christ as the one who gives the Spirit, not the Spirit as the one who gives us Christ. Effectual calling by God the Father does not assume that it’s the Holy Spirit who includes us into Christ.

    In Mark and John, the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus “will baptize in (the) Holy Spirit”; while in Matthew and Luke, he “will baptize with Holy Spirit and fire”. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus Christ during his baptism, and Christ was anointed with power (certainly this is not a baptism by the Spirit into Christ). The phrase “baptized in the Holy Spirit” occurs two times in Acts, first in Acts 1:4-5 and second in Acts 11:16. Luke 24:49, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high”.

    Matthew 3:11: …He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…”
    Mark 1:8: …He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…”
    Luke 3:16: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…”
    Luke 24:49: …stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (see fulfillment in Acts 2).
    John 1:33: …the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”
    Acts 1:4-5: …you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…”
    Acts 2:14-18: …I will pour out my Spirit…” (quoting Joel 2:28-29).
    Acts 8:14-17: …prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit…”; …as yet the Spirit had not yet come upon any of them…”; …they received the Holy Spirit…”; …the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands….”
    Acts 9:17: …Jesus…has sent me…that you may…be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
    Acts 10:44-48: “The Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word…”; …the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out…”; …people who have received the Holy Spirit…”
    Acts 11:15-16: …the Holy Spirit fell upon them…”; …you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…”
    Acts 19:1-6: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit…?”; …the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied…”
    1 Cor 12:13: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free…”

    Even if it could be proven that at least one adult child born to one parent professing to be a Christian was a regenerate adult, that would not be a reason to conclude that all adult children born to parents professing to be Christians are part of the new covenant or part of the visible church. Even if it could be proven that at least one infant born to one parent professing to be a Christians was a regenerate infant, that would not be a reason to water all infant children born to parents professing to be Christians.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    had a tooth pulled today

    question was, if the tooth broke when the crown off the day before Christmas

    or in the days after, so that i “could have done something differently”

    but what does the order matter now?

    some would say this about the order of salvation
    but of course i do not agree

    2 Peter 1: 1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ
    Romans 8:10–”Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin,the Spirit is life BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
    Galatians 4:– And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

    Ursinus: At first view it seems absurd that we should be justified by anything without us, or by something that belongs to another. We explain how the satisfaction of Christ becomes ours. Unless Christ’s righteousness be applied unto us, we cannot be justified by it, . God himself applies Christ’s righteousness unto us, that is, God makes the righteousness of Christ over unto us, and accepts of us as righteous on account of Christ’s righteousness.

    A. A. Hodge–In Protestant Soteriology, there is– 1st. clear distinction between the change of relation signalized by justification, and the change of character signalized by regeneration. . 2nd. The change of relation, the remission of penalty, and the restoration to favor involved in justification, necessarily precedes, and makes certain the change expressed by regeneration. The continuance of judicial condemnation precludes the exercise of grace. Remission of punishment must precede the work of the Holy Spirit. We are pardoned in order to be good, never made good in order to be pardoned.

    Election is not the Atonement, but God’s election decided for whom Christ Atoned. (God does not love the elect because of Christ’s death, Christ’s death for the elect was because of God’s love). The atoning death is not the justification, but all for whom Christ died have been or will be justified.

    Romans 4: Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.

    ”Raised” is not the cause of the justification of the last elect person to be justified, but the justification of that last elect sinner is the cause of “raised”. Abraham’s justification while he was not yet circumcised is also the cause of “raised”

    One point of clarification. I deny that anybody is justified before God without believing the gospel, as I deny that any non-elect are in the new covenant. The elect are not born justified. The elect are not “eternally justified”. Christ’s righteousness is not justification. God’s imputation of righteousness results in faith. Nobody is justified (logically or temporally) before faith in the gospel. I do not teach two kinds of justification.

    Bavinck–Under the influence of…. Amyraldianism, there developed the neonomiam representation of the order of redemption which made forgiveness of sins and eternal life dependent on faith and obedience which man had to perform in accordance with the new law of the gospel. Parallel with this development, Pietism and Methodism arose which, with all their differences, also shifted the emphasis to the subject, and which either demanded a long experience or a sudden conversion as a condition for obtaining salvation.

    Bavinck–As a reaction against this came the development of anti-neonomianism, which had justification precede faith, and antinomianism which reduced justification to God’s eternal love. Reformed theologians usually tried to avoid both extremes, and for that purpose soon made use of the distinction between “active” and “passive justification.” This distinction is not found in the reformers; as a rule they speak of justification in a “concrete sense.” They do not treat of a justification from eternity, or of justification in the resurrection of Christ, or in the gospel, or before or after faith, but combine everything in a single concept.

    Bavinck–Efforts were made to keep both elements as close together as possible, while accepting only a logical and not a temporal distinction. However, even then, there were those who objected to this distinction inasmuch as the gospel mentions no names and does not say to anyone, personally: Your sins have been forgiven. Therefore it is not proper for any man to take as his starting point the belief that his sins have been forgiven.

    Bavinck– There is no reason to recommend speaking of eternal justification. If one says that “justification as an act immanent in God” must of necessity be eternal, then it should be remembered that taken in that sense everything, including creation, incarnation, atonement, calling, regeneration, is eternal. Whoever would speak of an eternal creation would give cause for great misunderstanding. Besides, the proponents of this view back off themselves, when, out of the fear of antinomianism, they assert strongly that eternal justification is not the only, full, and complete justification, but that it has a tendency and purpose to realise itself outwardly. This amounts really to the usual distinction between the decree and its execution. The counsel of God and all decrees contained therein as a unit are without doubt eternal “immanent acts”, but the external works of God, creation, preservation, governing, redemption, justification, etc., are in the nature of the case “transient acts.” As works they do not belong to the plan of God’s ordering but to the execution of it.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    I Peter 3: 19 Christ also went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison 20 who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In it a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 22 Now that He has gone into heaven, He is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Beisner—I believe many of the Scripture passages on which the Federal Visionists rely for their theology of baptism use the term (or its cognates) to denote not the rite but the spiritual reality signified by it (for instance, Romans 6:1ff; 1 Peter 3:21). The nineteenth-century Presbyterian James Wilkinson Dale’s five-volume study on baptizo persuades me that in many instances the original readers of the New Testament would not have taken baptize or baptism to denote the rite at all. See Dale, Christic and Patristic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Writers (1874), Classic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of Classical Greek Writers (1867), Johannic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures (1898), and Judaic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of Jewish and Patristic Writers (1869) (all reprinted, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995, 1989, 1993, and 1991, respectively)

    Peter Leithart— “Many preachers cannot take Paul at his word. These preachers say that ‘baptism’ doesn’t refer to the ‘sign’ of water but to the ‘thing’ that the water symbolizes. Paul wasn’t referring to the baptismal rite itself. This raises three basic questions: First, if Paul didn’t mean baptism, why did he say baptism? Second, how do these commentators know that Paul wasn’t referring to baptism? Third, and most fundamentally, what kind of assumptions about the world drive this interpretation? Why would anyone doubt that Paul is talking about water?”

    Beisner—Leithart’s case depends on assuming that the rite is more fundamental in the term’s usage than the transforming experience or overwhelming influence that the rite signifies. But if Dale’s arguments are sound–and I am persuaded that they are–the opposite is true. To answer Leithart’s questions: First, Paul did mean baptism–and the term baptism did not mean, primarily, a ritual application of water. Second, commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6:1ff baptism does not denote the rite: (a) consistent application of that sense in the immediate context (verses 1-10) would yield the conclusion (contrary to other passages of Scripture) that all, without exception, who undergo the rite are regenerate, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified, and (b) Paul had already written in the same epistle that it was not the rite of circumcision but the spiritual reality designated by it that differentiated the true (inward) Jew from the false (outward) Jew (Romans 2:28-29)

    p 324

  5. markmcculley Says:

    there isn’t a single, solitary biblical text which says that the Spirit baptizes anyone into anything. It is always and in every text Jesus Christ who baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit, the result of which is that we are incorporated into the Body of Christ.

    Some have argued from 1 Corinthians 12:13 that Paul is describing a baptism “by” the Holy Spirit into Christ or into his body. Part of the motivation for this is the seemingly awkward phrase, “in one Spirit into one body,” hence the rendering, “by one Spirit into one body.” But what sounds harsh in English is not at all so in Greek. Indeed, as D. A. Carson points out, “the combination of Greek phrases nicely stresses exactly the point that Paul is trying to make: all Christians have been baptized in one Spirit; all Christians have been baptized into one body” (Showing the Spirit, 47).

    The translation of the ESV is certainly the most accurate in 1 Cor. 12:13. It reads:

    “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (emphasis mine).

    Much the same terminology appears in 1 Corinthians 10:2 where Paul says that “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Here the cloud and the sea are the “elements” that surrounded or overwhelmed the people and Moses points to the new life of participation in the Mosaic Covenant and the fellowship of God’s people of which he was the leader (see Grudem, Systematic Theology, 768).

    In the other texts referring to Spirit-baptism (Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16), the preposition en means “in”, describing the element in which one is, as it were, immersed. In no text is the Holy Spirit ever said to be the agent by which one is baptized. Jesus is the baptizer. The Holy Spirit is he in whom we are engulfed or the “element” with which we are saturated and deluged, resulting in our participation in the spiritual organism of the church, the body of Christ. Look closely:

    “I [John the Baptist] baptize you with [Greek, en] water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He [Jesus] will baptize you with [Greek, en] the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).

    Identical language is used in Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; and in John 1:33. Then, when speaking of what would occur at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit would be poured out, Jesus himself echoed the words of the gospel authors and said: “for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with [Greek, en] the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:5). Peter says the same thing as he reflected on what happened when the Gentile Cornelius came to saving faith in Jesus (Acts 11:15).

    Clearly, it is Jesus who baptizes his people “in” or “with” the Holy Spirit as the “element” in/with which we are immersed or saturated, the result of which is our spiritual incorporation into the body of Christ.

    If the biblical authors had intended to teach that the believer is baptized “by” the Spirit they would most likely have used another preposition, probably hupo followed by the genitive, not en with the dative. This is what we see in such texts as Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:5, and Luke 3:7 where people were baptized “by” John the Baptist; or texts such as Matthew 3:13 and Mark 1:9 where Jesus was baptized “by” John; or Luke 7:30 where the Pharisees had not been baptized “by” John.

    I can only conclude that those responsible for writing the BFM 2000 were misled by a mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 12:13. As I said, the Holy Spirit doesn’t baptize anyone in anything. I encourage all to read again the prophecy of John the Baptist that Jesus “will baptize you with [lit., “in”, the Greek preposition en] the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16).

    Dan Wallace, noted Greek scholar, disagrees and argues that the preposition en is an example of “means”. He writes: “the Holy Spirit is the instrument that Christ uses to baptize, even though he is a person” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 374). However, Wallace is also clear that it is still Christ himself who is the agent of the baptism, i.e., he baptizes, not the Spirit. So, even if one accepts Wallace’s understanding (which I don’t), the point is still the same: Jesus Christ baptizes either “by means of” or “in” the Spirit, but the Spirit himself, contrary to the BFM, and contrary to numerous statements of faith in evangelical churches everywhere, never baptizes anyone.

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