Baptism in the Spirit and Unity in the Church
There is so much about baptism in the Spirit to rejoice in, it’s unfortunate its meaning has been clouded by controversy. Look at what is plain in the text, all Christians are united together into one body. ALL Christians. To make sure we realize what he is saying, he chooses two of the oldest human divisions, race and social status. For in one Spirit we were all baptized, Whether Jews or Greeks [race]. Whether slaves or free [class].
I don’t have to tell you how divisive racism is across the world and in our own little community here. Contemporary examples are everywhere. As the World Cup comes to South Africa, it will highlight the terrible history of apartheid in South Africa. White v. Black. In Rwanda, Hutu vs. Tutsi. 800,000 people killed in 1994 in a racial genocide. Racism permeates the human heart. It would take something really dramatic to unify people across racial divides. Or what about class warfare? The battle between the haves and the have-nots exemplified in famous revolutions like the French revolution, the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and the Chinese revolution under Mao. Millions killed in class warfare. These wars have shaped human history. What could possibly unite social classes?
That is the glory of this verse and others, 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28
The baptism of the Spirit is about real spiritual unity by virtue of our shared experience IN the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can do what government and education and social programs and any other human endeavor cannot do: make us one. The old divisions no longer define us nor divide us as our identity is now mutually found in Christ.
The challenge is to display relationally what is true spiritually. No wonder we are just verses away from the famous chapter on love. What is love but the relational expression of our spiritual unity in Christ? In love, I will serve my brother. In love, I will use my gift for the common good. In love, I will forgive, forbear, encourage, edify, uplift, give, and otherwise do all I can to ensure the unity of the one body of Christ and to do this across the old human barriers; racial, social, whatever. Avoiding attitudes like the one I heard on a trip some time ago where a man described his view of evangelizing people of another skin color than his, you all reach your people and we’ll reach our people.
I sure am glad Christ didn’t have that attitude when he died for red, yellow, black and white. It’s not them and us, in Christ it is “we”, and that includes fellow Christians who define baptism in the Spirit a different way. It’s not, “We’ve got the most. We’ve got the most.” Because of baptism in the Spirit, “we got the same. We got the same.”
We are all one in Christ. One Spirit. One Baptism. One holy church.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2010 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.