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One Baptism

by John Fischer

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace. There is one body
and one Spirit, just as you were called to one
hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith,
one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is
over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:3-6)

Seven things Paul lists as the source of our oneness from being placed into the body of Christ. Seven things that we all agree are non-negotiable: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. Take away any one of these and you have something other than the body of Christ.

With important things like the trinity and faith and hope in that list, is anyone wondering why baptism is included? You've got God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and big issues like faith, hope and the body, but what's the big deal with baptism? Isn't that just a little sign we go through when we get saved - kind of like an induction ceremony into the kingdom, soon forgotten?

Baptism is important because it's the story. It's the whole story all wrapped up into one event, and it's important because it is a portrayal of what saves and seals us. You go down; you go under; you come up. And it only has to happen once, because when you come up, you come up forever changed.

You go down. We have all sinned and fallen way short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We've got to go down before we can come up. We've got to repent. We've messed up big time and we need to be forgiven if we are going to have any part in the body of Christ. We've got to go down first.

You go under. This is where we surrender totally to the will of God. This is where we die with Christ. We go under, and for a moment, we are buried, under the water, like Christ was, in the tomb. You cross your arms. You yield your body to the one who is baptizing you, and you go down fully submerged. You could be held down until you drown. You realize that as you go down, backwards, that you are without any control over your situation. This is important because it shows complete trust. You willingly die with Christ, that you might also rise with Him.

You come up. This is the best part. You come up with water raining off your face and hair and you are alive, but you are different. When you come up, you come up with your sins buried and the Spirit of God inside you, and that Spirit insures your place with God, fills you with joy, and stays as a teacher and a guide to bring you to maturity and empower you to serve the Lord for the rest of your life. This change is permanent. You can't go back on it. The Spirit of God has sealed you forever into God's family. You belong to Him and nothing and no one can take you away. That's why there's only one baptism; it seals the deal.

Forgive me if you've already heard this story because I tell it often, but that's only because I love to tell it and remember. I was baptized in my church when I was nine years old. It was a "sprinkling" ceremony. I went down front one Sunday morning and the pastor dripped a few drops of water on my head. I returned to my seat with a tiny bit of water dripping down the side of my head. Not even enough to drip off onto my shoulder. That was it. Then years later, after watching so many new believers getting dunked into lakes, oceans and swimming pools during the Jesus movement, I suddenly had this desire to get all wet. So I arranged to be included in one of those baptisms in a small lake on the campus of Stanford University, and two of my friends put me down. And when they brought me up out of the water, I had a picture taken of that moment. It's been framed in my office ever since as someone might display their graduate degree for ministry. I always point to that picture as my credentials. That first baptism would have been fine, but the second one I think of as the real one - the one that took me under and lifted me out of the water all wet.

by John Fischer


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