A gracEmail reader asks whether we are baptized “in” the Holy Spirit or “by” the Holy Spirit, since the Greek preposition en used in 1 Corinthians 12:13 can mean either, and what difference it makes anyway.
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Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 12:13 stand in contrast to his remarks about Israel’s “baptism” earlier in the same epistle (1 Cor. 10:1-3). There he pointed out that all the Exodus generation of Israelites were baptized “in” the cloud and sea, “into” (or “unto”) relationship with Moses. Later, in 12:13, he notes that all Christians are baptized “in” the Holy Spirit — by Jesus, I believe — “into” one body of Christ.
John the Baptist had announced that he baptized in water but that Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; John 1:33). John made this statement to the general population before Jesus ever began choosing the Apostles. Jesus promised the Apostles, shortly before he ascended to the Father, that they would soon be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Peter later reported that the extended family of the Roman soldier Cornelius also had been baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-17).
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul also assures us, as persons baptized in the Holy Spirit by Jesus himself, that we all are truly members of his one body, without regard to fleshly, earthly distinctions or barriers (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 2:18; Col. 3:9-11). Baptism in the Spirit is not a blessing confined to the Apostles, or to the Apostles and the Cornelius household. As persons baptized in the Holy Spirit, we may continue to draw refreshment, power and spiritual nourishment from that same inexhaustible source (Ezek. 47:1-12; Zech. 4:1-6; John 4:13-14; John 7:37-39).