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1 Corinthians 12:13


For in (by) one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  (1 Corinthians 12: 13)

This is a controversial verse; some versions translate the Greek preposition “en” as “by” and others as “in” or “with.”  Most in the Christian community take this as a reference to baptism with the Holy Spirit.  Most in the Restoration Movement see this as a reference to baptism in water by the agency of the Holy Spirit but there are other ideas also. We will look at two of these other ideas in this article, from people in the Restoration Movement in this article.  Should this verse be translated “in one Spirit” or “by one Spirit?” You decide.

I do not even pretend to know Greek, but I do have an interlinear translation.  If you have one also, check this out. Every verse in which there is a baptism- Spirit association, the preposition in the Greek is “en.”  This includes Matthew 3: 11, Mark 1: 8, Luke 3: 16, John 1: 33, Acts 1: 5, Acts 11: 16 and yes, even 1 Corinthians 12: 13. This preposition can be translated in, with, by, on, at, near, among, in the presence of, etc.  The Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich lexicon devotes 3 ˝ pages to this little preposition.  So there is a great range of meaning.  I believe, however, there is no warrant to translate 1 Corinthians 12: 13 differently as “by one Spirit” and there are several good reasons not to.

(1) The Holy Spirit is not the agent in the baptism in/with the Spirit in the first six examples cited.  Jesus is the agent.  (Matthew 3: 11; Mark 1: 8; Luke 3: 16; John 1: 33; Acts 1: 5 and 11: 16)  Why would the Spirit be the agent in this verse?

(2) The Holy Spirit is not the agent in baptism in water.  Jesus authorized men to baptize one another in water in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, as He, not the Spirit, was given all authority. (Matthew 28: 18- 20)

(3) The Holy Spirit does not speak on His own initiative, but only what He has heard from the Father and the Son.  (John 16: 13)

(4) The preposition is the same “en” in each place including 1 Corinthians 12: 13).  Why change the translation here?

(5) Water and the Spirit are the medium in the new birth (John 3: 5) and water and Spirit are the elements of the one baptism.  We must be immersed in water before we can be born of water.  We must be immersed in the Spirit before we can be born of the Spirit.

(6) Grammatical considerations of “en” + dative, which I am not qualified to address. “A common misconception is that because the Holy Spirit is involved, it is the Spirit who is doing the baptizing. This misconception is aggravated by the ambiguity of the English word “by” which is typically used in translation of en pneumati. But an understanding of the grammar is essential. en requires the dative, and the function of the dative, pneumati, is to express means or instrument. This construction is similar to the phrase en tw aimati tou Cristou (Ephesians 2: 13) in which the blood is the instrument Christ used to purchase the Christian. It is possibly because the label “means” or “instrument” sounds so impersonal that people hesitate to label the actions of a very personal Holy Spirit as such, but en can also designate a personal agent.14 Thus persons can be used as an instrument, and the person of the Holy Spirit is in fact the instrument used by Christ to baptize the believer, just as water was the instrument used by John to baptize believers (cf. Acts 1:5).”     Hampton Keatherly IV, One Baptism in Ephesians 4: 5


What is meant by “the ambiguity of the English word by”?

 The word has many synonyms:

As a preposition: at-on-to- with-in-per- beside-for- through

As an adverb: near- nigh- close-past- about- aside


Listing of all the passages that have a baptism- Spirit connection:

Matthew 3: 11- John baptizes “en” water; Jesus will baptize “en” Spirit

Mark 1: 8- John baptizes “en” water; Jesus will baptize “en” Spirit

Luke 3: 16- John water baptizes, Jesus will baptize “en” Spirit

John 1: 33- Jesus baptizes “en” Spirit

Acts 1: 5- John water baptized, ye shall be baptized “en” Spirit

Acts 11: 16- John water baptized, ye shall be baptized “en” Spirit

1Corinthians 12: 13- for also “en” one Spirit we all into one body were baptized


Plain Talk holds that 1 Corinthians 12: 13 affirms that we are all baptized in/with one Spirit into the body of Christ.  This is the majority view of most of the Christian community.  However many, who hold that view in the Christian community, do not support the necessity of baptism in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Plain Talk holds that the baptism in water and the baptism in the Spirit are both essential to the new birth and constitute the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4: 5

That we all were baptized in one Spirit into one body is consistent with .the pouring out of the Spirit upon all mankind and all receiving the gift of the Spirit, all made to drink of the one Spirit.


What about Al Maxey of the Restoration Movement?

“I'm thoroughly convinced that the "baptism" mentioned in this passage is not some ritual or rite or sacrament, but is rather simply a use of the Greek word to convey the idea of complete immersion into something. That "something" into which the people of God are completely plunged is JESUS, and, by extension, His universal One Body. And the One who places us WITHIN HIM is none other than the Holy Spirit. Thus, by the agency of the Holy Spirit we are all completely plunged into (immersed into) the Lord Jesus, with all who are thus incorporated into Him constituting the One Body universal of our Lord on earth. This passage, therefore, has nothing whatsoever to do with water baptism, but has everything to do with the power of the Holy Spirit to unite us with the Son of God, and in so doing to unite us with all others the world over who also have been added to Him. It is "the unity of the Spirit." As the passage states, "we were all immersed into the one body BY the one Spirit." This is an "immersion" effected BY the Holy Spirit, the purpose of which is to unite the many diverse parts into a unified, harmonious, functional whole body. Therefore, Paul immediately goes on to say that as a result of this spiritual "immersion," there is no longer the distinction of Jew or Greek, slave or free, or any other such human perception of separateness. We are all now ONE by the action of the Spirit, who has incorporated (immersed) us all into Christ Jesus.”  Al Maxey, Reflections, #353

Only in the RM will you find two individuals argue for the agency of the Spirit  (by the Spirit) yet arrives at diametrically opposed conclusion.  Foy E Wallace Jr. (deceased) holds that 1 Corinthians 12: 13 is a reference to baptism in water while Al Maxey holds it has reference to neither baptism in water nor baptism in the Spirit but the baptism of being “Plunged into Christ by the Holy Spirit”.  Foy E Wallace Jr. believed that only the apostles received the baptism with the Spirit, not even Cornelius.  His agenda was to counter the direct operation of the Spirit on the heart of man. Everything that Al Maxey attributes to the agency of the Spirit was accomplished by Jesus in His role of Baptizer; and Jesus as Baptizer is much more consistent with the Scriptures.  Al Maxey’s agenda is much more problematic, he is at the same time attempting to uphold the essentiality of baptism in water, limiting the baptism with the Spirit to Pentecost and Caesarea, while showing that the baptism, plunging, into Christ by the Spirit is all that really matters. Good luck with that!  There is no need to invent a third baptism; and when support for that baptism is based on the ideas of Plotinus, a Greek philosopher, it becomes more suspect. Reflections Issue # 505- October 4, 2011.  Al Maxey begins to sound like New Age thinking.

Then we have the view of Ray Downen from the Restoration Movement.

“The apostle Paul is properly understood in 1 Corinthians 12: 13 to be speaking of the spirit of humble obedience which was shown by EVERY obedient believer in Jesus as Lord.”  At another place he wrote, “The Greek original phrase in question in 1 Corinthians 12: 13 simply calls for us to be lovingly united because we all (every born again sinner) were baptized in the same spirit of humble repentance.”

Ray believes, as does most of the Restoration movement, that only the apostles and Cornelius and his household were baptized with the Holy Spirit. 

Of course he is right, every believer should be baptized in a spirit of humble obedience and repentance.  No argument.  The question is.  “Does that explain 1 Corinthians 12: 13.”  That question can only be properly answered by looking at context of the verse. 

The question is, “What is the one Spirit?”  Clearly the one Spirit in which we are baptized is the same Spirit in which we are made to drink.  Let go back to the verses preceding this statement in chapter twelve.

v. 3- refers to speaking by the Spirit of God.  This Spirit is then identified as the Holy


v. 4- speaks of gifts of the same Spirit.  This is the Holy Spirit, as the spirit of humble obedience and repentance gives no gifts to my knowledge.

v. 5- speaks of the same Lord

v. 6- speaks of the same God, so verses 4- 6 are speaking of the three person of the

        Godhead, not a spirit of humble obedience and repentance.

v. 7- refer to the manifestation of the Spirit

v. 8- the word of wisdom is given through the same Spirit

v. 9- the same Spirit gives faith; the one Spirit gives gifts of healing.  Here we have the term, “one Spirit” and it appears to be the same as “the same Spirit” which        is the Holy Spirit.

v. 10- no reference.

v. 11- here we find the term “one and the same Spirit” works all these things.  Verses 7-

          11 have reference to spiritual gifts given by one and the same Spirit. The Holy


v. 13- here we have the one Spirit in which we are baptized and made to drink.


That one Spirit is the Holy Spirit and not a spirit of humble obedience and repentance.  Brother Ray is way off base on this one as he is on the new birth where he tries to make the same argument.  A contextual study of the 1 Corinthians 12: 13 does not support his view nor his agenda, “Baptism in the Holy Spirit was to confer particular power upon a very few selected persons, or to signal God’s acceptance of those baptized in His Spirit.  Only a few received baptism in the Spirit.”   If he admits, as he should, that the one Spirit is the Holy Spirit, his agenda is nullified.  Brother Ray does acknowledge that in is the proper preposition in 1 Corinthians 12: 13.



Plain Talk holds that when an individual comes to faith in Jesus our Lord, he is begotten by God and given the right to be born again.  The love of God motivates that faith to obey by repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sin (thus his faith is perfected).  At that time Jesus pours out the Spirit richly and abundantly upon that individual so he is immersed in the Spirit.  As he comes forth from that experience he is born again, born of water and the Spirit.  He is child of God.  Not only is he forgiven but also he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ.  The Holy Spirit remains with him to dwell within him to lead, sanctify and renew him.

When we are baptized in water, Jesus also pours out and baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  This baptism in the two elements comprises the one baptism of Ephesians 4: 5.

I pray for Al and Ray as I pray for myself.  I pray that God will give us all a spirit of humility and a spirit of understanding and wisdom so that we may promote His will and not our own.  I personally know I have been wrong about many things and I pray that God can undo any harm that I have done.  I do not, even now, pretend that I have it all laid out; I can only press on with the measure of grace and energy He gives to me.  Father, have mercy on me, the sinner.


God bless,

Arland Pafford,


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Last Update   09/26/12