Many churches teach the need for multiple baptisms including a spiritual baptism, a water baptism, and a Holy Spirit baptism. Why does the Bible teach “one baptism” and yet many churches teach the need for more than one (Eph 4:5)? The answer is that the leadership of these churches have been breaking the one baptism into parts and forming other baptisms. Furthermore, many people do not like water baptism as the Pharisees who rejected the baptism that John taught (Luke 7:30).
What is the one baptism in the Bible? The one baptism must be the baptism that Jesus commanded in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when He resurrected from the dead (Matt 28:19–20). As Jesus commanded, baptism is in His name, which is baptism in water, throughout the Book of Acts (Acts 10:47–48; cf. 8:38). No one receives salvation without the work of the Holy Spirit by being washed in Jesus’s name (1 Cor 6:11; cf. Rom 8:9–10). The one baptism must include the blessings that Jesus promised to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 1). Peter preached the one baptism in Jesus’s name for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
The power and authority of baptism comes by the command of Jesus Christ not man. The Bible never calls baptism a work of man. However, God works salvation raising the repentant believer from baptism into new life (Col 2:12–13). God accomplishes all the work of forgiveness through baptism (Col 2:13).
Baptism partakes of the power of God for salvation in the Gospel (Rom 1:16). Of first importance to the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that saves the believer (1 Cor 15:1–4). Baptism symbolizes the burial of the believer with Christ as the believer dies to oneself in repentance and is immersed in water uniting with Christ (Rom 6:3–5). For this reason, Christ revealed, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).
As the believer becomes a disciple by baptism, God adds the baptized to His church. In the Book of Acts, Luke reported that those 3,000 baptized were saved and added to the body of disciples — the church (Acts 2:41, 47). Likewise, Paul agreed when he wrote of the one baptism that is by the Spirit and joins the believer to the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13).
What should believers do about churches teaching more than one baptism? They should seek out the church that Jesus built and who teach the truth (cf. Matt 16:18). Jesus is the head of the body, His church (Eph 1:22–23). Disciples of Christ will seek out of the church of Christ.
For the unity of all saints in the church, Christians can unite and teach with one voice as Peter declared, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet 3:21; cf. 1:3). By baptism, believers appeal and call to God for forgiveness and salvation.
To all who love Christ and have yet to be baptized, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).