Question: What does the Bible mean when it says, “one faith, one baptism…”?
Answer: This phrase comes from Ephesians 4. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus, and here he is exhorting them to live in a way that reflects who they are in Christ (see Ephesians 4:1). It was not simply a decision they made to become Christians, they were responding to the very call of God. Paul goes on to talk about the high calling they received from God (see Ephesians 4:2ff). They’re called to reflect God’s own character! That includes his humility, gentleness, patience, love and unity.
When Paul talks about the unity that these believers have, he says that it comes from the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:3). Paul encourages them to make “every effort” to preserve this unity, by reminding them of the many gifts they share in common (see Ephesians 1:3):
- “one body:” They have all been reconciled to God through faith in Christ (see Ephesians 2:11-22), and have become part of the same body of Christ—the church.
- “one Spirit:” They have all been marked by the same Spirit as belonging to God (see Ephesians 1:13-14), and they experience his same power at work in their lives (see Ephesians 1:19-20).
- “one hope:” They have all become adopted children of God (see Ephesians 1:5), and therefore look forward to the same inheritance (see Ephesians1:14,18)—eternal life in heaven.
- “one Lord:” They have all heard the good news and have bowed their knee to the same King Jesus (see Ephesians 1:9-10), giving him alone the same place of honor in their lives.
- “one faith:” They have all been given new life from God “through” the same gift of believing in Christ (see Ephesians 1:13) that joins us to him and all the benefits of the salvation he offers (see Ephesians 2:1-10).
- “one baptism:” They have all made the same public declaration of their allegiance to Christ, symbolizing that they have died with Christ, risen to new life (see Romans 6:1-4) and that their sins have been forgiven (or washed away) (see Ephesians 1:7).
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all!
I could just have answered your simple question, but it helps to see the phrases in context and to understand why the author was using them in the first place. I pray that as you read about these things the Bible says all Christians share in common, you find a deep joy rising in your own heart too!
–Pastor Tim of Unlocking the Bible