Unified in One Body
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. (12:12)
Paul again (cf. 10:17) uses the human body to illustrate the unity and interrelationship of the members of Christ’s Body, the church. Through verse 27 of chapter 12 Paul uses the term body some 16 times, and he uses the metaphor many other places in his writings (Rom. 12:5; Eph. 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12, 16; Col. 1:18; etc.).
The human body is by far the most amazing organic creation of God. It is marvelously complex yet unified, with unparalleled harmony and interrelatedness. It is a unit; it cannot be subdivided into several bodies. If it is divided, the part that is cut off ceases to function and dies, and the rest of the body loses some of its functions and effectiveness. The body is immeasurably more than the sum of its parts.
Christ’s Body is also one. There are many Christian organizations, denominations, agencies, clubs, and groups of every sort. But there is only one church, of which every true believer in Christ is a member. Paul is so intent on driving home the point of oneness in the church that he refers to Christ as the church: so also is Christ. We can no more separate Christ from His church than we can separate a body from its head. When Christ is referred to as the head of the church it is always in the sense of mind, spirit, and control. When a body loses its mind and spirit it ceases to be a body and becomes a corpse. It still has structure but it does not have life. It is still organized but it is no longer a living organism.
Through another figure for the church Jesus tells us the same truth. “I am the vine, you are the branches,” He said. “He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). A severed branch not only is an unproductive branch but a lifeless branch.
It is for that reason that the New Testament speaks of our being in Christ and of Christ’s being in us. He is more than simply with His church; He is in His church and His church is in Him. They are totally identified. The church is an organic whole, the living manifestation of Jesus Christ that pulses with the eternal life of God. The common denominator of all believers is that they possess the very life of God. Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). “He who has the Son has the life” (1 John 5:12), because “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17).
While He was on earth Christ was incarnate in a single body. Now He is incarnate in another body, the great, diverse, and precious Body that is His church. Christ is now incarnate in the world through His church. There is no true church life without Christ life. Paul did not say, “For to me, to live is being a Christian,” but “For to me, to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). He could say, in fact, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). This same Christ life is possessed by every believer, and every believer therefore is a part of Christ, a part of His Body, the church. The church is one body because so also is Christ. For illustrations of the implications of this solidarity, see Matthew 18:5 and 25:31–46, where our Lord teaches that what one does to a child of God he does to Christ Himself.
Baptized by One Spirit
For 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. (12:13)
In this verse Paul presents two important truths about Christ’s Body: its formation and its filling.
the forming of the body
The church is formed as believers are baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. The Holy Spirit is the agent of baptism but Christ is the baptizer. At Jesus’ own baptism John the Baptist tells us that it is Jesus Christ, “He who is coming after me [and] is mightier than I,” who would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11; cf. Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). As explained in the following verse, the baptism of fire is the judgment of hell, the burning of “the chaff with unquenchable fire.” As Savior, Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit; as Judge, He baptizes with fire. All believers receive baptism with the Holy Spirit; all unbelievers will receive baptism with fire. Therefore every living soul will be baptized by Christ.
Parenthetically, it should be noted that Paul is not speaking here of water baptism. Water baptism is an outward, physical ordinance believers submit to themselves and which is performed by other believers, in obedience to Christ’s command (Matt. 28:19; cf. Acts 2:38). Water baptism plays no part in conversion, but is a testimony to the church and to the world of conversion that has already taken place inwardly. Spirit baptism, on the other hand, is entirely the work of God and is virtually synonymous with salvation. The term baptizō (“to baptize”) is used in the New Testament to refer to figurative immersion in trouble (Matt. 20:22–23, KJV) or to spiritual immersion (Rom. 6:3–5) in Christ’s death and resurrection. As one can be immersed in water, so a believer is immersed spiritually into the Body of Christ.
It should also be noted that the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is not a correct translation of any passage in the New Testament, including this one. En heni pneumati (by one Spirit) can mean “by or with one Spirit.” Because believers are baptized by Christ, it is therefore best to translate this phrase as “with one Spirit.” It is not the Holy Spirit’s baptism but Christ’s baptism with the Holy Spirit that gives us new life and places us into the Body when we trust in Christ.
It is not possible to be a Christian and not be baptized by Christ with the Holy Spirit. Nor is it possible to have more than one baptism with the Spirit. There is only one Spirit baptism, the baptism of Christ with the Spirit that all believers receive when they are born again. By this the Son places all believers into the sphere of the Spirit’s power and Person, into a new environment, a new atmosphere, a new relationship with others, and a new union with Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:2, where Paul shows how the nation of Israel left Pharaoh and Egypt to become immersed and identified with a new leader, Moses, and a new land, Canaan).
The pouring forth of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost also reveals that this baptism was by Jesus Christ (Acts 2:32–33), in fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prediction (Matt. 3:11; etc.) and of Jesus’ own promise (John 7:37–39; 15:7–15; Acts 1:5). We are not told exactly how this is done, any more than we are told exactly how God can give a person a new heart and new life. Those are mysteries beyond our comprehension. But there is no mystery as to the divine roles in salvation. The Father sent the Son and the Son sends the Spirit. The Son is the divine Savior, and the Holy Spirit is the divine Comforter, Helper, and Advocate. The Son is the baptizer and the Holy Spirit is the agent of baptism.
Paul’s central point in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is that baptism with the one Spirit makes the church one Body. If there were more than one Spirit baptism, there would be more than one church, and Paul’s whole point here would be destroyed. He is using the doctrine of baptism with the Spirit to show the unity of all believers in the Body. Many erring teachers today have used a wrong interpretation of the baptism with the Spirit to divide off from the Body an imagined spiritual elite who have what the rest do not. That idea violates the whole teaching here.
For by one Spirit we were baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free. The apostle could not have stated the truth more clearly. One Spirit baptism establishes one church. There are no partial Christians, no partial members of Christ’s Body. The Lord has no halfway houses for His children, no limbo or purgatory. All of His children are born into His household and will forever remain in His household. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26–27). All believers in Jesus Christ become full members of His Body, the church, when they are saved. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4–6).
It is interesting that those who advocate Christians’ seeking the baptism by the Spirit in order to belong to the spiritual elite cannot seem to agree on how that is to be done. They have many ideas and many theories but no scriptural method. The reason is simple: Scripture contains no command, suggestion, or method for believers to seek or receive the baptism of the Spirit. You do not seek or ask for that which you already possess. The believers in Samaria who were converted under the ministry of Philip had to wait a short while to receive baptism with the Holy Spirit, until Peter and John came up to Samaria and laid hands on the converts (Acts 8:17). In that unique transitional situation as the church was beginning, those particular believers had to wait for the Holy Spirit, but they were not told to seek Him. The purpose for that exception was to demonstrate to the apostles, and to bring word back to the Jewish believers in general, that the same Holy Spirit baptized and filled Samaritan believers as baptized and filled Jewish believers—just as a short while later Peter and a few other Jewish Christians were sent to witness to Cornelius and his household in order to be convinced that the gospel was for all men and to see that “the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also” (Acts 10:44–45). Those special transitional events did not represent the norm, as our present text makes clear, but were given to indicate to all that the Body was one (Acts 11:15–17).
the filling of the body
When we were born again the Lord not only placed us into His Body, but placed the Holy Spirit in us. At salvation we are all made to drink of one Spirit. We are in the Spirit, who is in us. Just as there are no partially saved Christians there are no partially indwelt Christians. The Spirit is not parceled out to us in installments. God “gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34).
Like being baptized with the Spirit, being indwelt by the Spirit is virtually synonymous with conversion. It is a separate facet of the same glorious, transforming act. “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). A person who does not have the Holy Spirit does not have eternal life, because eternal life is the life of the Spirit. Thus Peter can affirm “that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:3–4; cf. Col. 2:10; 1 Cor. 6:19).
Well-meaning and otherwise sound Christian leaders have caused great confusion, frustration, and disappointment in the lives of many believers by holding out the prospect of a second working of grace—which is called by many names. Time and energy that could be used in simply obeying the Lord and relying on what He has already given is spent striving for that which is possessed completely and in abundance. A person cannot enjoy what he has if he is forever seeking a nonexistent second blessing. An inadequate doctrine of salvation will always lead to an erroneous doctrine of sanctification. It is an ironic tragedy that those who seek a second blessing of grace cannot enjoy either. They do not enjoy the first blessing, although it is complete, because they are continually seeking the second, which does not exist.
The idea of the second blessing probably originated in the Middle Ages with the teaching that a person is saved when baptized, even though as an infant, and later receives the Holy Spirit at confirmation after coming of age. Sincere and otherwise biblical evangelicals modified the idea as a means for trying to enliven lifeless Christians. Because the church was lethargic, carnal, worldly, and fruitless, they sought to infuse vitality by encouraging believers to seek an additional work of God. But the problem has never been the insufficiency or incompleteness of God’s work. Christ gives no salvation but perfect salvation. And it is tragic that so many are seeking some “triumphalistic experience” of “deeper life,” some formulized key to instant spirituality, when the Lord calls for obedience and trust in what has been given in His perfect work of salvation (Heb. 10:14).
The being “filled up to all the fulness of God” of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 3:19 has to do with living out fully that which we already possess fully, just as does the working out of our salvation (Phil. 2:12). When we trust in Christ we are completely immersed into the Spirit and completely indwelt by Him. God has nothing more to put into us. He has put His very self into us, and that cannot be exceeded. What is lacking is our full obedience, our full trust, our full submission, not His full salvation, indwelling, or blessing.
12 The extended comparison Paul uses here is between how the human body functions and how the church should function as the body of Christ (note that Paul does not use the word “church” [ekklēsia, GK 1711] until v. 28). He is thinking here of the church not as the body of Christ spread throughout the Greco-Roman world (as he does with the “body” metaphor in Eph 4:11–16; Col 1:18–20) but as the local church as it gathers for worship. Nor is he concerned here, as he is in Ephesians and Colossians, about the headship of Christ in the church. (Note the fact that ears, eyes, and nose are all parts of the head; cf. vv. 16–17; also, Paul refers to the head simply as a body part in v. 21.) Rather, Paul’s emphasis here is the parallel between how the human body functions and how the church should function.
The human body has many members or parts, even though there is only one body. Each part has a different function, but they all work together to make the body function as a unit. This is the way the church ought to function.
13 The sacrament that has incorporated us into Christ, i.e., into the church as his body, is the sacrament of baptism. All believers are baptized by one and the same Spirit into one body. In order to stress how wide a diversity is actually incorporated into that one body, Paul picks out two of the most obvious social distinctions in ancient society: Jews and Gentiles, and slaves and free people. If these sorts of people can all come together into one body, then anything that divides us as human beings—such as social status, economic level, ethnic distinction—should play no role in dividing us in the church.
Moreover, we have “all” (pantes, repeated from v. 12 and used twice in this verse) been given the same Spirit “to drink” (potizō, GK 4540). There is no special blessing of the Spirit that only some Christians receive; we all receive the Spirit and his blessings. The number of times Paul stresses in this section the universal gift of the Spirit to all Christians hints that some in Corinth may have claimed a “greater measure of the Spirit” than others. But according to Paul, the Spirit is a person, not a substance. We either have the Spirit or we do not, and if we have received Christ as Lord and been baptized into him, then we have been made to drink of the Spirit. Paul refers to God’s pouring out his love into our hearts by the Spirit (Ro 5:5), and Jesus refers to drinking of him as though drinking water (Jn 4:7–14; 7:37–39). This latter passage also relates our drinking of Jesus to our reception of the Holy Spirit.
12:12 / Paul starts with a simple statement that a body is a unified entity. He recognizes the complex make-up of the body with its many and various parts, but he points above all to the oneness of the body. Thus, he establishes an initial point of reflection for the use of the ensuing metaphor, “body of Christ.” By referring to the body as a unit, Paul forms an image that serves to explicate a powerful theological thesis, So it is with Christ! Christ means variety, but more importantly Christ means essential unity. Paul’s theme becomes “diversity in unity, and unity over diversity.” Modern interpreters sometimes read Paul’s vision in an artificially balanced way, so that “unity in diversity” and “diversity in unity” become equal and synonymous statements. They are not. According to Paul, in Christ unity dominates diversity and makes diversity genuinely meaningful and constructive. The problem in Corinth was diversity run wild.
12:13 / From the outset of this discussion it is clear that this metaphor is possible because of the unifying work of the Spirit. The emphasis on unity cuts sharply across all social boundaries. Then, as Paul develops the metaphor, he ponders the significance of “body” from alternating points of view.
Paul expands, or perhaps even mixes his metaphors, with the additional reference to being baptized by one Spirit into one body. Nevertheless, this expansion of the basic image of the body makes it clear that the power of the Spirit is at work, so that one sees that God creates the unity of the body despite the original complexity or even seeming incompatibility of the constituent parts. Ethnicity (Jews or Greeks) and social class (slave or free) are superseded and even consolidated by the power of the Spirit at work among humanity. In Christ, as a body, believers may come from one group or another—and in worldly terms those origins might be irrelinquishable or irrevocable—but in Christ such diversity finds meaning (or is made meaningless) as believers are unified despite differences. Paul’s ultimate concern is to emphasize unity.
Unity in diversity (12:12–13)
The phrase the body, introduced in verse 12, perfectly illustrates these two themes of variety and unity. Many members … one body is Paul’s summary of the matter. The way he ends verse 12 is highly significant. We would expect him to say: ‘Just as the body is one and has many members …, so it is with the church.’ In fact, he says, so it is with Christ. It is important not so to identify Christ with his church that we lose sight of his pre-eminence and transcendence. Nevertheless, Paul is clearly referring here to the way Christ today manifests himself by the Spirit to the world through his church. Bittlenger comments: ‘In order to accomplish his work on earth, Jesus had a body made of flesh and blood. In order to accomplish his work today, Jesus has a body that consists of living human beings.’ Paul is affirming both the rich variety and the deep unity in Christ himself. In this all Christians share as members of this one body (13) through this one Spirit.
This particular verse (13) has been the focus of much diverse and contradictory interpretation. Its context makes it clear that there can be no legitimate exegesis which divides Christians into two (or more) groups, let alone into first-class and second-class Christians. This by itself precludes the classical Pentecostal interpretation, which asserts that Paul here describes a two-stage initiation into Christ: regeneration (the first part of the verse) followed by ‘the baptism of the Spirit’ (the second part). John Stott has argued cogently against this position, stressing that the experience described in this verse is one shared by all Christians. The Greek preposition en, translated ‘by the Spirit’ at the beginning of the verse, ought to be rendered either ‘in’ or ‘with’ the Spirit. This then brings this verse into line with the six other passages in the Gospels and Acts where being baptized with/in the Spirit is clearly said to be the distinctive work of Jesus. Jesus is the baptizer, the Holy Spirit is the ‘element’ in which all Christians are baptized.
There is another side to the discussion aroused by verse 13. John Stott, for example, says that the two parts of the verse refer to the same event and experience. ‘The being baptized and the drinking are clearly equivalent expressions.’ If it is true that Paul is here talking of being baptized by Jesus with/in the Holy Spirit, we need to note the meaning of the word ‘baptized’ in such a context. It is likely that the word carries the double connotation of ‘being initiated into’ and ‘being overwhelmed by’. For example, contemporary secular Greek sources spoke of a submerged ship being ‘baptized’. That ship was not merely ‘initiated into’ water; it was thoroughly ‘overwhelmed by’ water. Indeed, we can go on to say that it was ‘made to drink of’ the water: i.e. the water was inside the ship as well as the ship being underneath the water. Paul seems, then, to be saying both that Christians are in the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is in Christians, parallel to our being in Christ and Christ being in us. By reverting to another metaphor used to describe the Holy Spirit, wind or air or breath, we can see the same truth: a new body is surrounded by air, but must also breathe in the air, if it is to carry on living and growing.
If all Christians have been initiated into and overwhelmed by the Spirit through the work of Jesus the baptizer, if Jesus has made all Christians drink of the Spirit, it is legitimate to ask today whether the church as a whole or a particular local church or an individual member is genuinely experiencing what Paul is describing. It is certainly not pastorally sensitive to assume this to be happening, let alone ‘to tell believers who know themselves to be spiritually inadequate that rivers of living water are pouring from them, to tell those who feel futile and fruitless in their Christian service that the outpoured energy of the Holy Spirit is freely at work in them’. ‘This is to run into complete unreality’, says Smail, and he goes on to show that the Corinthians had both received the preaching of the cross in faith (2:1ff.) and experienced the powerful results of that preaching in lives totally transformed: ‘you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (6:9–11).
In verse 13 Paul can appeal, not just to an event, but to an experience in the life of every Corinthian believer. This event, this experience, transformed them from pagans to Christians, introduced them into the community of Christian believers, and began ‘an experiential participation in the Spirit’s presence and power’. We need today to point one another with expectancy to Jesus the baptizer as the person who longs to take us all deeper and deeper into the reality of the Spirit’s power and presence. It is not a question of one special experience to be imposed upon all; but it is a reality to be experienced, and that experience can be continuous and daily. This expectant openness to experience the Spirit more and more on the part of every Christian will unite the body in eager dependence upon Jesus. We must not allow fear of wrong or superficial experiences to keep us from the birthright of the church from Pentecost onwards: ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’
It is worth pointing out that people in cultures less dominated by the analytical and cerebral emphasis of western education seem far more free to enter expectantly into such experience of the Spirit. Africans and Latin Americans, in particular, are far less prone to extricate their minds from the rest of their persons: they respond as persons. The Corinthians tended to set great store by the non-cerebral (see chapter 14), and they needed to be taught the importance of a proper use of the mind (nous): a timely reminder that their experience of being baptized in the Spirit by Jesus did not guarantee either their wholeness or their spiritual maturity.
It is probable that the African/Latin American understanding (however instinctive) is far closer to that of the Judaeo/Christian perspective of the Bible.
The reference in verse 13 to Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, reminds us of the many-coloured diversity of the body of Christ. Corinth was a cosmopolitan seaport full of people from many different cultures. That presented difficulties, but it offered immense potential for a full-blooded testimony to Christ. The more we today draw on the richness of the world-wide community of believers, the more pungent and attractive will be our testimony.
12:12–13. The apostle issued three statements which set up the basic structure of his analogy. First, the human body is a unit. It is one body, even though it has many parts. Second, just as one human body has many parts, so it is with the body of Christ. Paul often called the church “the body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4). Here he pointed to the unity in diversity that exists in the church as Christ’s body. Third, Paul explained how Christ’s body resembles the human body. To emphasize the diversity within the church, he mentioned racial and social diversity first; Jews, Greeks, slave, and free all contribute to the church. No matter what had previously separated these people, they all had been joined together in one body by means of the one Spirit.
Paul emphasized two experiences of the Holy Spirit that all believers share and that bring unity among them: (1) they are all baptized by one Spirit; and (2) they are all given the one Spirit to drink. Many interpreters argue that Paul was not referring to baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They divide baptism of the Holy Spirit from water baptism, and note that drinking of the Spirit is a metaphor for receiving the Spirit at conversion (John 7:37–39).
Also, in the modern church people often profess faith in Christ and remain unbaptized for long periods of time. As regenerate believers they have the Holy Spirit even though they have not been baptized. Thus, interpreters hesitate to equate baptized too closely with given the one Spirit. Further, no account of the Lord’s Supper refers to partaking of the Holy Spirit in the cup.
Even so, the text implies these ordinances and the New Testament church could hardly have conceived that followers of Christ would remain unbaptized or refrain from participating in the Lord’s Supper. Such believers would have been considered odd (Acts 10:47–48). These ordinances were signs and seals of the new covenant that all true believers were expected to undergo. For this reason, Paul spoke of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as experiences shared by all true believers that symbolized their union with one another in the Spirit and in the body of Christ.
Note the way these verses present Paul’s argument. Specifically, Paul assumed the unity of the church on the basis of the Spirit. Verses 14–24a especially do not argue for the church’s unity so much as they assume it. They argue for diversity. In the modern, fragmented church, many people consider diversity an obstacle to be overcome in the quest for unity. But from Paul’s perspective, unity was to be sought in the Spirit, not in uniformity. The church’s fullness and ability to function properly depend upon its diverse manifestations of the Spirit.
The Body and the Spirit
12. For as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, thus also is Christ.
- “For as the body is one and has many members.” With the conjunction for, Paul bridges a break between the present passage and the preceding verses and elaborates on his teaching. In the previous part, Paul noted that individual members of the church received a variety of spiritual gifts. He looked at the proverbial trees but failed to call attention to the forest. Now he takes in the totality of the individual members, refers to the body, and demonstrates its basic unity.
Paul compares the body, that is, the human body (see vv. 14–26), with Christ. We would expect Paul to compare the body and the church, not the body and Christ, but for him the church is the body of Christ (v. 27). Elsewhere Paul writes that Christ is the head of the church, which is his body (Eph. 1:22–23). In short, with the word Christ Paul presents a compressed theological thought of bringing body and head together. Paul uses a figure of speech, called metonymy, in which a part represents the whole unit. In other words, Christ represents the entire church. He identifies himself completely with the church, as is evident from Jesus’ question to Paul on the way to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Jesus taught that he and his people are one (Matt. 10:40; 25:45).
- “And all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, thus also is Christ.” The human body is a highly diversified organism. Each member has its own distinct function but also contributes to the working of the entire body. So it is with the body of Christ, in which every member has received some spiritual gift. In this body, the employment of each gift is designed to serve not the individual member but the entire church.
13. For indeed by one Spirit all of us were baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
This text presents a number of difficulties that stem from the expressions by one Spirit, baptized, into one body, and all were made to drink. The combination of these terms is unique. What did Paul have in mind when he wrote that all of us are baptized by one Spirit? And what is the significance of making everyone to drink of one Spirit? We comment on the italicized terms but admit that problems remain.
- By one Spirit. The Greek text has the preposition en that can be translated either “by” or “in.” Most translators have adopted the reading by to reveal means or agency. They think that this interpretation is the better of the two, for it avoids the awkwardness of having two quite similar prepositional phrases in the same clause: “in one Spirit … into one body.” I prefer the translation by.
Conversely, other translators believe that the Greek preposition en denotes sphere or place and thus translate it “in.” They point out that in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is never described as the baptizer. Rather, the Spirit is the sphere into which the baptismal candidate enters. The Gospels declare that Jesus baptizes his followers with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8).
- Baptized. When Paul writes, “all of us were baptized,” is he referring to a literal or a figurative baptism? If taken literally, Paul is talking about water baptism. However, the verb to baptize often conveys a metaphorical sense. For instance, Jesus asks James and John whether they are able to be baptized with a baptism similar to his own (Mark 10:38). Jesus is alluding not to his baptism in the Jordan but to his death on the cross (see also Luke 12:50; Acts 1:5; and 1 Cor. 10:2). It is preferable to state that Paul has in mind a figurative use of baptism.
Paul writes, “all of us were baptized,” and “all were made to drink of one Spirit.” These words extend to a circle that is far broader than the Corinthian community and includes all believers. This means that all true believers in Jesus Christ have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. The text teaches that regenerated Christians are incorporated into one body by the Holy Spirit but it says nothing about a subsequent baptism of the Spirit.
Some scholars interpret the text as a reference to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But this is difficult to maintain. First, in the present context Paul gives no indication of introducing a discussion on the sacraments. Next, the text simply does not allude to water baptism. Third, the assertion that the verb to make to drink refers to the drinking of the Communion cup cannot be sustained. And last, the Greek verb tense calls for a single occurrence of drinking, which is incongruent with the repeated observance of the Lord’s Supper.
The flow of this verse intimates that to be baptized means to become a living member of the church upon conversion. When spiritual regeneration takes place in individuals, they enter the body of Christ, that is, the church. Not the external observance of water baptism but the internal transformation by the Holy Spirit brings people into a living relationship with Christ.
- Into one body. Here Paul stresses the unity of the church in its diverse forms. He notes the racial, cultural, and social differences that existed in the Corinthian church: there were Jews and Greeks, slaves and free. Regardless of their status and position in life, these people came together to worship God in one church. If the church should practice discrimination, it would be in direct conflict with the law of love. All people who are spiritually renewed in Christ are equal to one another.
The preposition into denotes movement from the outside to the inside. Persons who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit leave the world when they become living members of the church. “For Paul to become a Christian and to become a member of the Body of Christ are synonymous.”
- All were made to drink. In verse 13, the adjective all appears twice not to indicate two distinct stages of the Christian experience but to reinforce the new status. In fact, the verse itself “rules out any interpretation of baptism which requires it to be complemented by a later rite for the impartation of the Spirit. For this reason, Paul once more writes the expression one Spirit and says that all believers were made to drink of this Spirit. We sense that the two verbs baptize and drink have much in common. By looking for a parallel, we see similar wording in one of Paul’s epistles: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27–28).
In the Corinthian and Galatian passages, Paul stresses the unity in Christ Jesus regardless of racial, cultural, social, and sexual differences. He states that all were baptized by one Spirit into Christ. And he adds that the believers have been made to drink of the Spirit (v. 13) and have clothed themselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27). Just as Christians are clothed with Christ, so they are saturated with the Holy Spirit. The Greek verb potizoō can mean either “I give to drink” (Matt. 25:35) or “I irrigate” (1 Cor. 3:6–8). The second meaning is appropriate, for Jesus also connects the Holy Spirit to the concept living water flowing from the believer (John 4:10; 7:38–39). When this spiritual saturation occurs, the individual believer enjoys a bountiful harvest, namely, the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).
The church is, like the human body, one (12:12–13)
That is to say, it is an organic whole. Verse 12 states this fact: “The [human] body is a unit, … so it is with Christ.” We would expect this to read, “… so also is the church,” and that is the idea. “Christ stands by metonomy for the community united through Him and grounded in Him” (Heinrici, quoted by Findlay). Since the church is the body of Christ, “Christ himself may be said to be a body made up of many members” (Barrett).
What is stated in verse 12 is confirmed in the verse following: “For we were [the word is emphatic] all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Through baptism in/by the Spirit all believers have become members of Christ’s body. The emphasis is on the oneness of all who are in Christ—whether they are Jews or Greeks, slaves or free men. The Greek expression translated “by one Spirit” should be understood as a locative construction, denoting the sphere (element) of the action, not its agency. A comparison of this verse with Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; and John 1:33 suggests that Christ is the baptizer. “Were … baptized” refers to “a definite act in the past, probably to the inward experience of the Holy Spirit symbolized by the act of baptism” (Robertson). It is the experience of every believer (“we … all”); therefore Christians are never commanded in the New Testament to be baptized in (with/by) the Spirit. Gould says the baptism referred to is water baptism, but it is thought of “not merely as an outward act in water; it has a spiritual side, the outward rite symbolizing an inward, spiritual reality. And just as the body is baptized in water, so the soul is baptized in the Spirit of God.” Bruce, who sees the matter differently, explains that “faith-union with Christ brought his people into membership of the Spirit-baptized community, procuring for them the benefits of the once-for-all outpouring of the Spirit at the dawn of the new age, while baptism in water was retained as the outward and visible sign of the incorporation ‘into Christ’ (cf. Gal. 3:27).” Stott says that the verbs “baptized” and “given to drink” must both “be taken as an allusion, not just to the Pentecost event, but also to its blessing personally received by all Christians at their conversion.” The two verbs probably describe the same experience under different figures. Findlay speaks of it as “an outward affusion and an inward absorption.” Believers are at once “immersed in” and “saturated with the Spirit.” Similarly, Barrett comments that “the Spirit not only surrounds us but is within us.”
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 310–314). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 367). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Soards, M. L. (2011). 1 Corinthians (pp. 263–264). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Prior, D. (1985). The message of 1 Corinthians: life in the local church (pp. 210–212). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, pp. 217–218). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Vol. 18, pp. 428–431). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 Vaughan, C., & Lea, T. D. (2002). 1 Corinthians (pp. 130–131). Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press.