THE ONE BODY – 1 Corinthians 12


For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12‭-‬13 RSV

The great Pauline teaching that the church comprises the spiritual body of Christ is among the most important teachings revealed to man.

God’s device of accounting people righteous is that of forming them into a corporate unity, of which Christ is head, all the saved being members of it, the body itself being identified as “Christ,” and therefore partaking of the perfect righteousness of the Son of God himself.

God saves people, not by injecting righteousness into them (on the grounds of their faith and/or obedience), but by transferring them “into Christ,” identifying them “as Christ,” and making them, in fact, to be Christ.

By this heavenly device, man becomes truly righteous and thus saved, not as John Doe, but as Christ.

Faith and obedience of the gospel are the conditions antecedent to God’s transfer of sinners into Christ, baptism being the action through which God effects the actual entry into Christ; but neither the faith of the sinner nor any act of obedience is the ultimate ground of his redemption, that all-important ground being the perfect faith, obedience and righteousness of the Christ himself. 

Any man failing to fulfill the prior conditions of being “in Christ” is not a part of the body in view here, as evidenced in the next verse.

Throughout the New Testament, Christian baptism is revealed to be one of the two essential elements of the new birth, without which no man may see the kingdom of God.

These are: obedience to the ordinance of baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus joined these two essential elements by his requirement that people be “born of the water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5ff).

Peter joined them on Pentecost by the command that all people should “repent and be baptized … and … receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38ff).

There is no doubt whatever that Paul’s words here refer to the same twin essentials of the new birth, the same being a prior condition of participation in the body of Christ.

In one Spirit … This is actuallyby one Spirit,’ making the Holy Spirit the agent or administrator of baptism.

In a similar way, Christ was named as the actual administrator of the rite of baptism, even though his disciples actually did the baptizing (John 4:1,2).

The unity of the godhead makes it correct to refer any action ordained and commanded by God, to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit; and when the action is obeyed, it is proper to say that any one of them did it.

This truth does not exclude the reception of the indwelling Spirit in Christian hearts, as Paul dogmatically emphasized that in the very next clause, “made to drink of one Spirit.”

We were all baptized … and were all made to drink of one Spirit … the word `baptized’ relates to the actual act of baptism.

The mention of the Spirit as the administrator of baptism in this verse provoked Hodge to declare that the baptism in view, therefore, is the baptism of the Holy Ghost!

If that is true, it would make Paul here declare that all of the Corinthians were baptized in the Holy Ghost, or had received the Holy Spirit baptism!

Who could believe such a thing?

It is true of course that all of them had themselves baptized, and in consequence had all received the gift ordinary of the Holy Spirit, common to all Christians; but to suppose that those carnal Corinthians had “all” participated in the baptism of the Holy Spirit is impossible.

Of course, the design of many scholars is to get water baptism out of this text altogether; but that is also impossible.

All made to drink of one Spirit … This refers to the reception of the ordinary gift of the indwelling Spirit by the Corinthians in consequence of primary obedience to the gospel.

There is no evidence that all the disciples at Corinth, or any of them, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 3:2 RSV

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