The Holy Spirit does NOT supernaturally “baptize” anyone into some “mystical universal, invisible church.”

There is only one “proof” text for such a notion and it is found in 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.

Universal Protestantism, which began with Martin Luther, teaches that a sinner who trusts Christ as Savior is, at that point, mystically baptized by the Holy Spirit into the universal invisible church.  Since there is no such entity as a “universal” church in Scripture, there is absolutely no need to interpret this passage as such.  To make this definition fit, we would have to compromise the common understanding of the church in 114 references for one presumably vague verse.  The proverbial tail begins to wag the dog at this point.  The entire “Holy Spirit baptism into a universal church” theory rests upon this one verse.  Here are just a few thoughts concerning 1 Corinthians 12:13:

  1. By one Spirit,” is easily interpreted within the context of this chapter. Notice that 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 is dealing with spiritual gifts by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, causing the body of Christ to be able to function:

1 Corinthians 12:1  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

1 Corinthians 12:4  Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:28  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:31  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

The Apostle Paul is not dealing with the doctrine of baptisms in this Chapter, he is addressing gifts from the Lord Jesus via the Holy Spirit.  For this doctrinal truth we can simply compare Ephesians 4:3-8 with 1 Corinthians 12:4, 28:

Ephesians 4:3-8  Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  (4)  There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;  (5)  One Lord, one faith, one baptism,  (6)  One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  (7)  But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  (8)  Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

1 Corinthians 12:4  Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:28  And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Many “scholars” are confused because they associate the word, “by” with John the Baptist’s statement that the Lord Jesus would baptize “with” the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11).  It must be made clear that the Holy Spirit has not been seen in holy writ to be the administrator of any kind of baptism, whether spiritual, or of water, or otherwise.  The Baptist’s statement in Matthew Chapter 3 clearly reveals that the Lord Jesus is the administrator of the baptism with the Holy Ghost.  The Lord is seen to be the administrator and the Holy Spirit is the substance, as a local church pastor is the administrator of baptism while the water is the substance.  In other words, just as we are baptized by the pastor with water, the church was also baptized by Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit.

Notice how the words, “with” and “by” are used in other verses concerning the Holy Spirit:

  1. With” the Spirit or Holy Ghost:

Mark 1:8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

Luke 1:15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

2 Corinthians 3:3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

None of these references reveal that the Holy Spirit is an administrator, but is the substance.  We are clearly shown that we are filled, baptized, etc., WITH the Holy Ghost (substance), not BY the Holy Ghost (administrator).  Once again we must repeat:  the Holy Spirit is never seen as the administrator of any kind of spiritual baptism, but is seen as the substance of that baptism.  We will discuss Holy Spirit baptism in the, “Church’s Anointing,” section of this chapter.

  1. By” the Spirit or Holy Ghost:

Matthew 12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

Acts 13:4  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.

Luke 4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

2 Timothy 1:14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Romans 5:5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

In every instance we see that when “by” the Spirit or “by” the Holy Ghost is used, it refers to the Spirit’s leadership and/ or enabling.  This doctrine becomes clear when we understand the fact that when the, “…Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13).

Looking specifically in the book of 1 Corinthians, we can see that the word, “by” when used with the word, “Spirit” is simply defining the leadership and/ or enabling of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life, specifically in and through the (local) church:

1 Corinthians 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and [that] no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 12:8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

1 Corinthians 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

Now we arrive at the previously cited “proof” text of the Universalists:

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.

This verse, just as all of the ones formerly listed, applies to the Holy Spirit’s leadership and enabling.  It is the Spirit of God who guides the new believer in all truth.  1 Peter 3:21 tells us that water baptism is the, “…answer of a good conscience toward God…”  How else are we led to the baptismal waters if not by the Spirit of God Himself?  He led us by reproving our hearts concerning sin, pointed us to faith in the Lord Jesus’ finished work on the cross, renewed us, cleared our conscience of offense toward God, so He has also guided us by His Truth into the local church through the baptismal waters.

Acts 2:41  Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

  1. Baptized into one body.” The door to church membership is opened through scriptural water baptism.  Paul has been addressing this local church throughout the entire First Epistle to the Corinthians, so, in order to maintain the correct perspective and avoid introducing a false doctrine, we must stay true to the context.  Here is the introduction to 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:1-2  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,  (2)  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

Notice the comparison between, “the church of God which is at Corinth,” and, “with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”  The Apostle is simply saying that this epistle is specifically written to the local church at Corinth, but its teachings are applicable to all believers in every other church.  The word, “place,” in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary is defined:

“A particular portion of space of indefinite extent, occupied or intended to be occupied by any person or thing, and considered as the space where a person or thing does or may rest or has rested, as distinct from space in general.”

Concerning the word, “place,” in this verse, Strong’s Concordance says:

1) place, any portion or space marked off, as it were from surrounding space

1a) an inhabited place, as a city, village, district

1b) a place (passage) in a book

2) metaph.

2a) the condition or station held by one in any company or assembly

2b) opportunity, power, occasion for acting

Obviously this word points to certain localities wherein saints are designated to assemble, also known as church meeting houses or other places of assemblage.

In 1 Corinthians Chapter 5 (along with Matthew Chapter 18) we see the authority given to the (local) church to expel its wayward members.  In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians we also find that this same erring brother had repented and was accepted back into the fold.

1 Corinthians 5:13  But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Galatians 6:1 also admonishes us,

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Most would agree that these verses cannot apply to the “universal” church.  There is no means of discipline in the so-called universal church.  Also, there is an extreme doctrinal problem with applying these passages to a universal mystical body: this would mean loss of one’s salvation!  According to the universal proponents, when we are saved we are “baptized” by the Holy Spirit as an administrator into the substance of the universal invisible “church.”  To be expelled would mean that one would have to be saved again in order to be restored.  In other words, we would have to be un-baptized by the Holy Spirit and re-baptized into the mystical body when we repent.  As nonsensical as this may be, it is just as fallacious to try and fit a universal, invisible “body” into 1 Corinthians 12:13.

It is also drivel for us to believe that a body can be invisible or mystical.  As seen previously, by definition a body has to be visible, real and made-up of members, just as a husbandry, building, fold or assembly.

1 Corinthians 3:9  For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

1 Corinthians 12:27  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

If a “body” is universal, mystical and invisible, then verses 25-26 make no sense at all:

1 Corinthians 12:25-26  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  (26)  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

  1. The word, “We.” Protestant Universalists believe that the use of this word by Paul supports a universal invisible “church” because he was not a member of the Corinthian congregation.  This is an attempt to build a (false) doctrine from one word which is a primary characteristic of the cults.  It is true that Paul was not a member of the Corinthian church when this epistle was written, but that certainly does not mean that the use of the word, “we,” has to express inclusivity.  As addressed earlier, Paul is using this word in an editorial sense.  For example, one could say, “We get right with God when we repent of sin and confess it to Him.”  The use of the word, “we,” does not automatically tell us that the speaker is not right with God, but means that he is simply speaking in an editorial sense concerning repentance.  Besides, if the “we” in verse 13 would have to necessarily imply that Paul was included, then the “ye” in verse 27 would inevitably indicate that Paul, as well as all others, would have been excluded:

1 Corinthians 12:27  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

This would have to be interpreted as the Apostle Paul not being a member of a local church.  By default, it would also make us to believe that the city of Corinth held the only church.  Both ideas are nonsense.

In order to gain a better understanding of the editorial use of, “we,” in verse 13, we can compare it to the editorial use of the word, “I,” in Chapter 13:1-3.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3  Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  (2)  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.  (3)  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Obviously, the Apostle is not saying that all of these hypothetical examples apply to him exclusively.  Again, this is an editorial usage of the word, “I.”

As another example, we can see where Paul editorially uses the words, “we,” and, “ye,” sometimes when referring to the same group:

1 Thessalonians 5:5  Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

The Protestant interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:13 has spilled over and caused much confusion in the Baptist ranks.  As God’s called-out people, we should hold to the old way and the true doctrines of God within the contextual confines of Scripture.  Why would we desire to take one verse (1Co 12:13) out of context at the behest of baby-baptizers in order to make it fit into a Protestant pattern?  There are several motives for this, such as promotion, avoiding persecution, etc., but whatever the reason, it is costing us the inheritance that we will soon see the Lord has for us specifically through His church!

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About oldpathstn

Pastor of Old Paths Baptist Church

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