Contemporary Issues in Ecclesiology – The Study of the Church
"Spirit versus Water Baptism"
The issue of “Spirit versus Water Baptism in relationship to contemporary ecclesiology focuses on interpretation of Scriptures found in the New Testament. The issues include the definition of the “Body of Christ “ in I Corinthians 12:13 and Roman 12:3-5, John the Baptist baptism versus the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:8, and the “out pouring of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 1: 8, 2:16-17, and Acts 10: 46.
I. The Definition of the “Body of Christ.”
- Scriptures under consideration.
1 Corinthians 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.”
Romans 12:3-5 “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
- Contemporary view.
- For the sake of unity many define the “Body of Christ” as universally inclusive based on spirit baptism of all believers at the moment of conversion (MacArthur, 17). They argue that the Spirit baptism found in I Corinthians 12:13 is identical with regeneration whereby “we are made one with Christ, incorporated into the body of Christ” (Hoekema, 21).
- In its decree of Ecumenism, the Vatican II Council asserted, “that the baptized are members of Christ’s body … all who have justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian” (Wendea, 1). They further asserted that those baptized outside of the Catholic Church are in fact members of the Mystical Body of Christ the Catholic Church (Wendea, 1-2).
- In summary, the contemporary definition of the “Body of Christ” follows two lines of thought. 1) All those who have been regenerated through faith and repentance have received the “Baptism of the Spirit” and are a part of the “Body of Christ” of all the ages and 2) all those who have experienced “water baptism”, either as infants or adults, are members of the Mystical body of Christ.
- The Landmark view.
- The Baptist Missionary Association of America Doctrinal statement, X. Church, A. defines the nature of the church as “A New Testament church is a local congregation (Acts 16:5; I Corinthians 4:17) of baptized believers in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41) who are united by covenant in belief of what God has revealed and in obedience to what He has commanded (Acts 2:41, 42)” (Baptist New Service, 23). Article X, D. defines the ordinances of the church as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. “Baptism is the immersion in water of a believer as a confession of his faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19; Romans 6:4) and is prerequisite to church membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper… both ordinances must be administered by the authority of a New Testament church (Matthew 28:18-20; I Corinthians 11:23-26” (Baptist New Service, 25).
- “Up to and shortly after, the day of Pentecost the church was always referred to with the definite article: “The church” because at that time there was only one church in existence. Consequently all the Scriptures that speak of the church prior to the eighth chapter of Acts, make no reference to any particular church because there was only one and it was “The church” (Reed, 37). In Matthew 18:17 concerning a “brother who has been offended in a private matter, after taking the first two steps towards reconciliation, is to take his problem to “The church” (Reed, 37). In Acts 8:1-3 because of persecution of the Jerusalem church the members were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. And in Acts 9:31 the phrase “The church” (singular) is no longer used but the phrase “The churches” (Plural) is used to describe the churches throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria (Reed, 39)
- Therefore, it is the view of Landmarkism that the baptism referred to in I Corinthians 12:13 and Romans 12: 3-5 is not an indwelling or “Spirit Baptism” at conversion but “water baptism” after conversion into the fellowship of the local church. The letters of I Corinthians and Romans are addressed to the church at Corinth (I Corinthians 1: 2) and the Saints at Rome (Romans 1:7).
II. John the Baptist baptism versus the baptism of Jesus.
- Scripture consideration.
Mark 1:8 “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”
- Contemporary view.
- John’s Baptism is generally thought of as the baptism unto repentance and the baptism of Jesus being associated with spiritual gifts bestowed upon believers (Lloyd-Jones, 23).
- Another view is that the “the believer must seek a post-conversion baptism in the Spirit in order to obtain power for Christian service and to receive the full complement of the Spirit’s gifts” (Hoekema, 15). Regeneration is “baptism into the Body of Christ” (all the saved) but the baptism of Christ is “obviously distinct from the separate from becoming a Christian, being regenerate, having the Holy Spirit dwelling within you … you can be a child of God and yet not be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Lloyd-Jones, 24-25).
- The Landmark view.
- When challenged about the actual beginning of the church, Landmarkers, argue that the word church come from the Greek word Eklesia which means, “Called out. In connection of Peter’s statement before the church in Jerusalem concerning the replacement of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-22) the day before Pentecost, “beginning from the baptism of John” the called out has reference to those John the Baptist baptized in the River Jordan. In other words, John prepared the material that Jesus would call out to be His Church. John 1:35-51 “tells of two of John’s baptized disciples following Jesus from the baptismal water of the river Jordan. They in turn found others and invited them to come and follow the Lord. And one by one these baptized disciples of John were “Called Out: beginning from the waters of the Jordan River throughout all Judea and thus the first New Testament church came into being” (Reed, 22).
- The disciples of the Lord baptized before Pentecost. John 4:1-2, “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” “Did the disciples baptize by their own authority; by John’s authority; or be the authority of the church? It is easily and reasonably understood that they never baptized by their own authority and in this case baptism was entirely separate from that of John. (John alone baptized with direct, God-given authority). We therefore are led to the conclusion that the disciples baptized with limited church authority. (Limited because the great commission had not been given at this time). If it was church authority there was a church to grant that authority and thus there was a church before Pentecost” (Reed, 25). “The disciples were doing the actual act of baptism, but they were performing the baptisms by the authority of Jesus Christ. The fact that He had to give them authority to baptize does away with the idea that any believer in Christ has that authority” (Ashcraft, 87, Glory in the Church).
- The Disciples had the Holy Spirit’s power before Pentecost. Matthew 10:19-20, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” “This Scripture shows that they had the Holy Spirit before Pentecost and therefore there had to be a church before Pentecost” (Reed, 25).
- Christ was the Head of the church before Pentecost. John 13:14, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet” (Reed, 25).
- The Lord ordained twelve before Pentecost and gave them authority “send them forth to preach” (Mark 3:14) The Lord also observed the Lord’s Supper with those He ordained and gave them the instruction “As oft as ye do this…” (I Corinthians 11:25) and He gave the Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 to the same disciples less Judas Iscariot (Reed, 24,26).
- Jesus’ Baptism of the Holy Ghost (Mark 1:8) is a fulfillment of the promise made to the established church in Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” “The Pentecostal experience heralded the coming of the Holy Spirit’s special administration of the church which Jesus had organized” (Silvey, 114-115). Upon the day of Pentecost, the church received the special indwelling power of the Holy Spirit as Teacher, John 16:13b; Administrator, John 16:13a; Sustainer, John 16:7, special power by which the church could accomplish the divine Purposes for her, I Corinthians 2:4. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did take His abode within the disciples as a body-the church” (Silvey, 115). The emphasis of the Holy Spirits’ baptism of the church at Pentecost was that the church was now empowered (in the power of the Spirit) to go to work! The church was no longer to wait in Jerusalem but go into all the world (Acts 1:8). (Silvey, 116).
- In conclusion, contrary to contemporary views, Landmarkers believe the Scriptures to teach that John the Baptist had direct authority from God to prepare the material for Jesus to establish His church during His ministry on earth before Pentecost and the baptism of the Holy Ghost found in the book of Acts is the empowering of the Local church (there was only one established church on the day of Pentecost) to go into all the world with the message of Jesus Christ.
III. “Out pouring of the Holy Spirit”
- Scriptures under consideration.
Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Acts 2:16-17 “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:”
Acts 10:46 “For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,”
- Contemporary view.
- Speaking with tongues is the highly desirable evidence that one has received the “baptism in the Spirit” (Hoekema, 32).
- “The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the birth of the Spirit (John 3:5). This spiritual baptism is necessary to put someone into the kingdom of God (God’s church, the bride of Christ) and is evidenced by speaking in other tongues (other languages) as the Spirit of God give utterance. It was prophesied by Joel (Joel 2:28-29) and (Isaiah 28:11), foretold by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11), purchased by the blood of Jesus, and promised by Him to His disciples (John 14:26; 15:16). The Holy Ghost was first poured out on the Day of Pentecost upon Jews (Acts 2:1-4), then upon the Samaritans (Acts 8:17), and later upon the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46; 19:6). “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call’ (Acts 2:39)” (United Pentecostal Church, 4).
- The Landmark View.
- The church at Jerusalem “received additional power on the day of Pentecost in order to meet the needs arising at that time-power to speak in other tongues, to witness to multitudes assembled from seventeen nations at Jerusalem, and power to inaugurate a world-wide mission program (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-8). Prior to that time the church had operated under a limited commission (Matthew 10:15)” (Jackson, 9).
- Jesus gave the apostles ability to perform unusual “sign” or manifestation gifts, as mentioned in Matthew 10:1 and 8 to authenticate their message and give them immediate reception. But with the completion of the New Testament these gifts were no longer needed (I Corinthians 13:9-10), (Ashcraft, 154,Identifying Missionary Baptist Distinctives).
- In conclusion, contrary to the contemporary view that the “baptism of the Spirit” is some additional power received by believers after conversion or some special sign of salvation, Landmarkers view the ”baptism of the Holy Spirit as God’s way of equipping the church that Christ established during His personal ministry on earth to do the work of evangelizing the world with the “Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Ashcraft, Robert, Glory in the Church, Mabelvale: Ashcraft, 1986.
Ashcraft, Robert, Identifying Missionary Baptist Distinctives, Mabelvale: Ashcraft, 1985.
Directory and Handbook, Baptist News Service, Baptist Missionary Association of America, 2005.
Hoekema, Anthony A., Holy Spirit Baptism, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1972.
Jackson, D.N. Studies in Baptist Doctrines and History, Texarkana: Baptist Publishing House, 1974.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994.
Mac Arthur, John. Jr., The Church the Body of Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973.
Reed, Roy M., The Glorious Church, Texarkana: Bogard Press, 1955.
Silvey, Deward O., The Lord’s Unconquerable Church, Little Rock: Baptist Publications Committee, 1972.
Created and Researched by Pastor Dennis Baker
Zion Baptist Church
3485 New Baumgartner Rd. - St. Louis, MO 63129 - Phone: 314-846-1867