For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;
and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:13
This is the key verse for the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. As always, the meaning of this verse is drawn from the context in which it appears. Three things to note:
This is not referring to water baptism
The literal meaning of the Greek word BAPTIZO is to immerse, submerge, soak, saturate in something. An example is plunging a garment into a container of dye to color the entire garment.
The word baptize (immerse) is also used figuratively in the Bible about a person being completely saturate or entirely immersed in or by an experience or circumstance. For example, John the Baptists literal baptizing his followers in water is extended to another “baptism” that is not with water, but the Holy Spirit to denote a complete, all-consuming experience. Figuratively then, being baptized “by fire” would change a person to the core.
Matthew 3:11 I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Jesus] that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
The context of I Corinthians 12:13
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” describes the agent (the Holy Spirit) and the method (immersion) and the act (placing into the Body of Christ). Speaking about the body of Christ in the context (later described as the church, which is His Body, Ephesians 1:22-23), Paul explains how God the Holy Spirit places the believer into His Son.
Being a Christian is synonymous with being “in Christ.”
The Bible knows nothing about a believer who is not “in Christ.”
Galatians 3:26-28 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Paul says: You were saved by faith in Jesus Christ (v. 26). You have also been baptized into Christ (v.27a) and as a result, you are to “wear” Christ every day like you would a shirt or coat (v. 27b). Thus, you are all one in Jesus Christ because you are in His Body (v.28).
We see then that water baptism does not place a believer into Christ’s Body, but the Holy Spirit who does that work. Most (if not all) Baptist churches require baptism by immersion in water for church membership and this is biblical. A few Baptist churches go a step further and believe that water baptism is necessary to become a member of the Body of Christ. That is unbiblical.
Galatians 3:26-28 + I Corinthians 12:13 makes it clear that God the Holy Spirit is the agent who, through a complete, spiritually immersive act, places us into the Body of Christ.
Useful references from Pastor George Zeller, Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, CT:
From Got Questions Ministries: